Monday, 19 December 2011

Mixtikl on Android - reprise

The port of Mixtikl to Android is now complete.

I thought I'd share how I ended-up porting Mixtikl to Android, as this has been a long road!

When I first started looking at porting Mixtikl to Android, there were a couple of blocking issues;
- no support for C++ template library (though eventually STLPort arrived!)
- the original Mixtikl made heavy use of Modal code for dialog handling
Both of those two items made a port with Android a non-starter.

However, when Airplay (now renamed to Marmalade) added Android support, we were able to attempt a port of Mixtikl; as Airplay contained both C++ template library support, and supported modal code.
Ultimately however, the audio had too many problems (very, very high latency, mono only etc.) and this made the Airplay-based port too low quality to allow us to release.

Time moves on however, and a while back, Google added full support for the C++ standard template library to the Android NDK. And, critically, they added support for both OpenSL (to Android 2.3), and 32-bit ARM code generation (via armeabi-v7a). Given those changes, we spend a month or so removing all the modal code from Mixtikl (not an easy undertaking: you have to bear in mind that Mixtikl is > 500K lines of C++ code!).

So, given those changes in both the Android NDK and Mixtikl's own internal architecture, we were able to start and complete a full native port of Mixtikl to Android.

The bulk of Mixtikl remains in C++; all the graphics are drawn via the same C++-based graphics engine we use on all platforms. The interaction with Java is just a thin JNI layer that looks after drawing primitives and some native dialog interfacing. The OpenSL support is just a thin adaptor layer between our audio engine and OpenSL.

Mixtikl performs brilliantly on Android in my opinion; though as noted elsewhere the Android OpenSL implementation is missing a big trick in regards latency management; and we have to configure Mixtikl to run with slightly higher latency that we would like in order to avoid any potential audio break-up.

I should note that debugging C++ code on Android remains a pain, you have to rely on trace statements, though it is at least possible now to use gdb and the bt command to trap crashes when they happen and see where the code died in the call stack.  The good news is that Mixtikl is very solid as 99% of the code is cross-platform and very well tested, so I've hardly had to touch gdb!


Unknown said...

This is phenomenal, my droid has been waiting for this since the day I bought it. I'll be hovering over the purchase option from now until release!

Pete Cole said...

Thank you kindly! :)

Best wishes,