Webcam support in Squeak (for VOLPC)

Jonathan Corbet corbet at
Tue Mar 6 19:14:25 EST 2007

Bert Freudenberg <bert at> wrote:

> > I'm curious as to why that is.  The read() interface is not the
> > preferred way to go, but it should not perform notably worse than  using
> > mmap().
> When you mmap, the capturing does not block but works in parallel to  the
> processing, which should be significantly more effective, no?

When you read, the driver goes into "speculative read" mode and
continues to acquire frames for a short period.  This will continue for
as long as the application continues to consume the frames in a timely
manner.  There is very little difference in efficiency between read()
and mmap() as long as the application is keeping up with the frame rate.

> Diego found more than 90% of time is spent in kernel land (not  captured by
> gprof). We now reach about 16 fps at 320x240. This  includes capturing,
> converting to 5-5-5 RGB which is Squeak's native  format, bitblt to
> Squeak's framebuffer, convert to 5-6-5 to match X,  then XShmPutImage. If
> the profiling is correct, then the first and  last step take 90%.

Something is wrong with the profiling, the kernel doesn't do anywhere
near that much work.  A B1 system can sustain 640x480 at 30fps in
mplayer; if things are coded right the system can handle the video
stream out of the camera.  

My suspicion is that all the format conversions are killing the
performance.  It might be possible to get rgb555 directly out of the
sensor, if that would be helpful.  But that still leaves you with one
conversion, and the OLPC just doesn't have a lot of spare horsepower for
that kind of work.  If there's any way you could get Squeak to work with
rgb565 and cut out both conversions, I suspect you would be a lot


Jonathan Corbet / / corbet at

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