Xibo Digital Signage on ARM (Beagleboard / Overo)

Xibo (pronounced eX-E-bO) is an open source, multi-display, multi-zone, fully scheduled digital signage solution written in Python (there is also a dotnet version). This is a client /server solution that can run on Windows or Linux.

If you are not familiar with Xibo you can visit http://xibo.org.uk/ or/and read my introduction XIBO: An Open Source Digital Signage Server/Client.

Since I had not seen digital signage solution running on low cost ARM development platform such as Beagleboard, Pandaboard or Origen, I decided to give the Xibo python client a try using qemu to emulate Gumstix Overo COM (OMAP 3530). Porting Xibo to ARM could provide several benefits compared to x86 platform:

  • Lower hardware cost
  • Lower power consumption (and electricity bill)
  • Smaller form factor allowing easier integration in displays and in transportation (e.g. buses, subway trains).
  • Easier to implement new digital signage features such as touch screen support, 3G connectivity, location based advertisement (with GPS), etc…

Please note that usually the hardware cost is not very critical in digital signage as most of the cost is related to maintenance (e.g. content update).

Since I just wanted to see if Xibo could run, the initial goal was to run a simple layout with pictures and text so I disabled Berkelium the library to render webpages (more on that later). [Update: I’ve now cross-compiled Berkelium so that you can run the full version of Xibo on ARM]. The host computer runs Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty) and I used Xibo 1.3.1 (development release) client and server.

Here are the steps I followed:

  • Setup QEMU to emulate the Overo COM and run the ARM Internet Platform (ALIP)  image based on linaro.
  • Cross-compiled libavg for ARM and copy the binaries files in the qemu image, since this is needed by the python client. After the steps described in Cross-compile libavg for ARM are completed, copy the files as follows:

    mkdir mnt
    sudo mount -o loop,offset=$[106496*512] overo_sd_alip.img mnt
    cp libs/lib/python2.7/site-packages/libavg/* mnt/usr/lib/python2.7/site-packages/libavg/ -rf
    cd mnt/usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/
    mv libavg libavg-old
    ln -s ../site-packages/libavg libavg
    cd ../../../../..
    sudo umount mnt

  • Start qemu for the Overo board:

    sudo qemu-system-arm -M overo -m 256 -drive file=./overo_sd_alip.img,if=sd,cache=writeback -clock unix -serial stdio -device usb-kbd -device usb-mouse

  • Install the Xibo Python Client, by running the following script (xibo-install.sh) as root in the qemu terminal:
  • Alternatively, instead of running ./configure.py, you could configure the Python Client manually:

    cd /opt/xibo/pyclient/client/python
    cp site.cfg.default site.cfg
    vi site.cfg

    And change xmdsUrl to match your server IP, xmdsKey to a key of your choice (will be used during server installation below) , set requireXmds=true and change width and height to set the window resolution.

  • Modify the source code of the Python client to disable the BrowserNode plugin.Edit XiboClient.py in /opt/xibo/pyclient/client/python and comment out the following line:

    self.player.loadPlugin(“libbrowsernode”)

  • Run Xibo Python Client:

    sudo ./run.sh

After a while you should be able to see the Xibo splash screen.

Xibo Console and Splash Screen in Qemu
  • Install and Configure the server on Linux and/or Windows.

You can do this part at any stage during installation, e.g. while your computer builds libavg.

If you want to install the server on Windows XP, you can follow the instructions I provided in XIBO: An Open Source Digital Signage Server/Client (for server installation). To install xibo in Linux (e.g. on the host where the emulator is running), refer to http://wiki.xibo.org.uk/wiki/Install_Guide_Xibo_Server. After that you’ll need to create a layout, add media files and schedule the layout for the client. You can learn how to do that in Xibo Open Source Digital Signage Tutorial / Demo. Remember to license the client in Xibo dashboard.

I only tried a layout with 2 pictures (no videos due to performance issues) and a text zone in the bottom. The 2 pictures zone could show perfectly, but the text zone could not. The reason is that the text is converted to an html file (accessible in /opt/xibo/pyclient/client/python/data) . So even for text display, the Berkelium library is needed contrary to what I expected initially. So finally, I converted the text zone into a picture zone in order to achieve the result below.

Xibo Client Running in Qemu for OMAP 3 with 3 Picture Zones

Xibo Python Client can run successfully in an ARM platform running Linux. Further work would be needed to achieve full functionality:

  • Cross-compiling Berkelium.
  • Cross-compiling libbrowsernode.
  • Try Xibo Client on real hardware.
  • Performance Optimization for the target platform (e.g. Hardware Video decoding).

 

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33 Replies to “Xibo Digital Signage on ARM (Beagleboard / Overo)”

  1. Hello, I am completely on board with you on this project. I have been tasked with creating a cheap solution for digital signage. I am highly anticipating the release of the RaspberryPi ARM boards http://www.raspberrypi.org . The end goal would to be like you said and with combination of XIBO and RaspberryPI create an extremely cost effective solution for digital signage. I currently have a BeagleBoard to test configurations with, but my skill sets in the programming areas may not be advanced enough to continue to cross compile the remaining libraries. Do you know of any projects to convert: libavg, Berkelium, and libbrowsenode to the ARM architecture? I am going to make every attempt I can to complete this project. If you can provide any further details, I would greatly appreciate it. On a side note I was quoted almost $60k for some digital signage (cisco digital media manager) for up to 10 TVs. A solution to this project would be a god send to smaller companies and the educational environment. As we typically don’t have the budgets required for enterprise solutions. I greatly appreciate the work that you’ve already done. Can we continue to move forward to finish out the rest of the Python Client for ARM?

    Best Regards,
    Evan Duncan

    1. Hi Evan,

      For libavg, I’ve already done it. You can check the page http://www.cnx-software.com/2011/10/03/cross-compiling-libavg-for-arm/.
      For Berkelium for ARM, at least one guy worked on it: http://groups.google.com/group/platformtalk/browse_thread/thread/1c2e203054c4366b#. Maybe I’ll carry on a bit later.
      libbrowsernode is very easy to cross-compile once you’ve got the berkelium lib The instructions are available on Xibo website at http://wiki.xibo.org.uk/wiki/Libbrowsernode_Build_Instructions.

      I don’t have any hardware to try that, so I’m only using the emulator. If you try Xibo on Beagleboard let me know the results…

      Price-wise, there are many low cost digital signage solutions made in Hong Kong/China. Players purchased from the manufacturer should cost around 150 USD (or less) even for low quantities (50 pcs) and the content manager software is usually provided free of charge. Xibo can run on 200 USD PC. Of course, if you port this to the RaspberryPi, then the price can’t be beaten.

      Jean-Luc

  2. Hi ,
    thanks a lot for your usefull article.
    I had installed xibo as python client on ubuntu desktop 11.04, and it works great !
    But, how can insert the command on ubuntu to automatic launch the xibo client every time the system startup ?

    thanks in advance.
    Gianluca

  3. @cnxsoft
    Good Morning Gianluca,

    I have been slowly but surely getting the beagleboard working with xibo. I’m having trouble with building the Mesa libraries though.
    When I run:

    CFLAGS=”-I/usr/include”
    X11_LIBS=”-L/home/ubuntu/edev/beagleboard/libs/lib/arm-linux-gnueabi -lX11″
    X11_INCLUDES=”-I/usr/include”
    X11_CFLAGS=”-I/usr/include”
    ./configure –target=arm-linux-gnueabi –host=arm-linux-gnueabi –prefix=/home/ubu$
    #make

    I get the following errors:
    ./build.sh: 3: -lX11 : not found
    configure: error: unrecognized option: ‘–target=arm-linux-gnueabi’

    I copied the xorg libraries and X11 folder from /usr/lib to ~/edev/beagleboard/libs/lib/arm-linux-gnueabi.
    I went to ./configure –help to look for switches to figure it out myself but I couldn’t find -target. Plus its saying -lX11 not found. Any suggestions?
    -Evan Duncan

  4. @Evan Duncan
    Hi Evan,

    Did you follow the instructions at http://www.cnx-software.com/2011/10/03/cross-compiling-mesa-3d-graphics-library-for-arm/ ?

    I think there is also a problem with WordPress, it will reformat the command (I’ll have a look at this): It should be –target and –host (not -target, -host)

    Do you have libX11.so in /home/ubuntu/edev/beagleboard/libs/lib/arm-linux-gnueabi ?

    On Beagleboard, I don’t think you really need to cross-compile Mesa since it should already part of the rootfs (if you use ALIP).

    PS: I have also tried to cross-compile Berkelium for ARM, but still have some issues:
    http://www.cnx-software.com/2011/10/15/cross-compiling-berkelium-and-chromium-os-for-arm/

    Jean-Luc

  5. @cnxsoft
    Jean-Luc,

    I extremely appreciate your efforts. I have had a day of compiling errors I’ve been trying to sort through on the beagleboard. I downloaded the Raspberry PI VirtualBox VM from the official RaspberryPI Forum, but I’m not quite sure how to use ScratchBox2 yet. I like working on the beagleboard because I know its

    If you would email me eduncan@asumh.edu I would like to send you a config.log from a Mesa build error that I got on the beagleboard. You might be able to look at it and figure it out very quickly.

    Do you think that it will be possible to run Xibo on the RaspberryPI or do you think it will be very limited due to the ARMv6 Architecture? Again, all your work is appreciated. I’ve learned a great deal through this project.
    -Evan Duncan

  6. Hello,

    Great job getting Xibo to work on ARM. However, I am wondering if it is possible to get it working on Android (with ARMv7) instead of ALIP as in this article? Do you think it is possible to wrap up your ARM versions of libavg and Berkelium using NDK and run the client in SL4A (python)? It sounds like dependency hell to me though. I am new to Android so I would really appreciate your advice, any advice.

    Cheers,
    Max

    1. Hi Max,

      Actually I have not fully finished porting Xibo on ARM as I still have issues with Berkelium.

      Regarding your question about getting it in Android, I don’t know enough to give a proper answer. Android support Python (via SL4A), C/C++ programming via the NDK and Berkelium makes use of the Chromium browser, but Linux uses X11 for display management and Android another display manager. I don’t think that’s so easy or many other Linux applications would have been ported to Android that way. If you use the NDK the libraries would also need to be recompiled for different hardware platforms, so you’d lose the benefit of having cross-platform software (except for the Python part).

      To better understand the challenges, you can check the presentation slides below explaining possible method and issues to port Linux app to Android.
      http://www.cnx-software.com/2011/10/20/leveraging-androids-linux-heritage-at-android-open-2011/

  7. @cnxsoft
    Thank you, sir.

    I totally agree that X11 to SurfaceFlinger conversion sounds daunting. There is also the OpenGL to OpenGL ES issue too. Guess the idea of porting libavg to Android isn’t a good idea after all. Coding up a player from scratch might be a lesser challenge, maybe.

  8. Hi all, I am trying to use a beagleboard to run xibo client, I get the HW today , is running Angstrom. My question is Do I need to compile the libraries that you mention here? I am planning to install ICS what do you recommend? I need to make a demo in ten days… do you recommend that I should try with another option?

  9. thanks a lot, I will try with other option for the demo, after that I will continue trying to run xibo in beagleboard. I will tell you my advances.

  10. i cross-compile the libavg-1.7.1 for the Ebv beagle Board
    i use arm-none-linux-gnueabi-
    and when i go to configure :
    CFLAGS=”-I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/gtk-2.0 -I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/glib-2.0″ CXXFLAGS=”-I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/gtk-2.0 -I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/glib-2.0/ -I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/lib/glib-2.0/include/ -I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/pango-1.0 -I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/cairo/ -I/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi/include/librsvg-2″ LDFLAGS=”-lgdk_pixbuf-2.0 -lavcodec -lavutil -lavformat -lswscale -lSDL -lpango-1.0 -lpangoft2-1.0 -lrsvg-2″ ./configure –target=arm-linux-gnueabi –host=arm –with-sdl-prefix=/usr/arm-linux-gnueabi –prefix=/home/albert/CodeSourcery/Sourcery_G++_Lite/lib

    i get this error:

    configure: WARNING: if you wanted to set the –build type, don’t use –host.
    If a cross compiler is detected then cross compile mode will be used
    checking build system type… i686-pc-linux-gnu
    checking host system type… arm-none-linux-gnueabi
    checking target system type… arm-unknown-linux-gnueabi
    checking for arm-none-linux-gnueabi-gcc… arm-none-linux-gnueabi-gcc
    checking whether the C compiler works… no
    configure: error: in /home/albert/Bureau/libavg-1.7.1':
    configure: error: C compiler cannot create executables
    See
    config.log’ for more details

  11. hi!
    can u pleas help me!
    i”m currently launching my digital signage with .3 adverts and it’s working perfectly fine, but the problem i have is that i can’t get out of the advertisment even if im pressing keys on my keyboard,the only thing i have 2 do is to switch off my Pc.
    can u help me by showing me how to get out without switching off my PC?
    thank you

  12. I run xibo-install.sh file in beagleboard-xm but some script is not running.
    Is it xibo run on beagleboard-xm actually? not in qemu emulator.
    Give me a reply please.
    Thank you.

  13. @Keyur
    I don’t have Beagleboard-XM, but I don’t see why it should not run on the actual hardware, although it’s unlikely it would be very smooth, as there’s no GPU acceleration. For displaying text and pictures, it should be just fine.

  14. how to run internet in qemu emulator for beagle board image.
    i tried so much but that is not done.
    please help me. what should i do?
    thanks

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