Year end Eideticker update

Just before I leave for some Christmas vacation, it’s time for another update on the state of Eideticker. Since I last blogged about the software, I’ve been working on the following three areas:

  1. Coming up with better algorithm (green screen / red screen) for both determining the area of the capture as well as the start/end of the capture. The harness was already flood filling the area with these colours at the beginning/end of the capture, but now we’re actually using this information. The code’s a little hacky, but it seems to work well enough for the test cases I’ve been using so far.
  2. As a demonstration, I wrote up a quick test that demonstrates checkerboarding on mobile Fennec, and wrote up a quick bit of analysis code to detect this pattern and give an overall measure of how much this test “checkerboards” (i.e. has regions that are not fully painted when the user scrolls). As I understand this is an area that our mobile team is currently working on this problem quite a bit, it will be interesting to watch the numbers given by this test and see if things improve.
  3. It’s a minor thing, but you can now view a complete webm movie of the captured movie right from the web interface.

Here’s a quick demonstration video that shows all the above in action. As before, you might want to watch this full screen:

Happy holidays!

An API for AMT data

The AMT released their GTFS schedule information to the public earlier this week, which is awesome. Not coincidentally, Montreal is going to have a Transportation Camp tomorrow, wherein people will hack on transportation software and discuss open data issues.

GTFS information is useful and standard, but in its raw form it can be a bit difficult to wrangle with. So in advance of the event, I thought it might be helpful/useful to put a simple JSON API to the data, based on my routez software. Should be useful for creating an app or two! There’s two endpoints that are currently defined:

/api/v1/stop/<stop code>/upcoming_stoptimes

This will give a set of upcoming departures at a particular AMT stop (represented by its code). Example:

/api/v1/place/<lat,lng>/upcoming_stoptimes?distance=<distance in meters>

This will give a set of AMT stops within range of that endpoint, along with upcoming departures. Example:,%20-73.57567/upcoming_stoptimes?distance=1000

Eideticker areas to explore

So I got some nice feedback on my Eideticker post yesterday on various channels. It seems like some people are interested in hacking on the analysis portion, so I thought I’d give some quick pointers and suggestions of things to look at.

  1. As I mentioned yesterday, the frame analysis is rather stupid. We need to come up with a better algorithm for disambiguating input noise (small fluctuations in the HDMI signal?) from actual changes in the page. Unfortunately the breadth of things that Eideticker’s meant to analyze makes this a bit difficult. I.e. edge detection probably wouldn’t work for something like Microsoft’s psychedelic browsing demo. I suspect the best route here is to put some work into better understanding the nature of this “noise” and finding a way to filter it out explicitly.
  2. Our analysis code is still rather slow, and is crying out to be parallelized (either by using multiple cores of the same CPU or a GPU). Burak Yiğit Kaya recommended I look into PyCuda which looks interesting. It looks like there are other possibilities as well though.
  3. Clipping capture by green screen/red screen. This should be doable by writing some relatively simple code to detect large amounts of green and red and then ignoring previous/current/subsequent frames as appropriate.
  4. Moar test cases! It was initially suggested to use some of the classic benchmarks, but these only seem to barely work on Fennec (at least with the setup I have). I don’t know if this is fixable or not, but until it is, we might be better off coming up with more reasonable/realistics measures of visual performance.

You might be able to find other inspiration on the Eideticker project page (note that some of this is out of date).

You obviously need the decklink card to perform captures, but the analysis portion of Eideticker can be used/modified on any machine running Linux (Mac should also work, but is untested). To get up and running, just follow the instructions in, dump a pregenerated capture into the captures/ directory (here’s one of a clock), and off you go! The actual analysis code (such as it is) is currently located in src/videocapture/videocapture/ while the web interface is in

I’m going to be out later today (Friday), but I’m mostly around on IRC M-F 9ish-5ish EST on #ateam as `wlach`. Feel free to pester me with questions!

P.S. I didn’t really cover infrastructure/automation portions above as I suspect people will find that less interesting (especially without a video capture card to test with), but you can look at my newsgroup post from yesterday if you want to see what I’ll likely be up to over the next few weeks.

Eideticker update

Since I last blogged about Eideticker, I’ve made some good progress. Here’s some highlights:

  1. Eideticker has a new, much simpler harness and tests are much easier to write. Initially, I was using Talos for this task with the idea that it’s better not to have duplicate code where it’s not really required. Seemed like a fine idea in principle, but in practice Talos’s architecture (which is really oriented around running a large sequence of tests and uploading the results to a central server) was difficult to extend to do what we need to do. At heart, eideticker really only needs to do a few things right now (start up Firefox, start videocapture, load a webpage, stop videocapture) so it’s best to keep things simple.
  2. I’ve reworked the capture analysis API to use numpy behind the scenes. It’s still not quite as fast as I would like (doing a framediff analysis on a 30 second animation still takes a minute or so on my fast machine), but we’re doing an order of magnitude better than before. numpy also seem to have quite the library of routines for doing the types of matrix algebra useful in image analysis, which should be helpful as the project progresses.
  3. I added the beginnings of a fancy pants web interface for browsing captures and doing visualizations on them! I’m pretty happy with how this is turning out so far, it’s already been an incredibly useful tool for debugging Eideticker’s analysis system and I think it will be equally useful for understanding Firefox’s behaviour in general.

Here’s an example analysis session, where I examine a ~60 second capture of the fishtank demo from Microsoft, borrowed from Mark Cote’s speedtest library. You might want to view this fullscreen:

A few interesting things to note about this capture:

1. Our frame comparison algorithm is still comparatively dumb, it just computes the norm of the difference in RGB values between two frames. Since there’s a (very tiny) amount of noise in the capture, we have to use a threshold to determine whether two frames are the same or not. For all that, the FPS estimate it comes with for the fishtank demo seems about right (and unfortunately at 2 fps, it’s not particularly good).
2. I added a green screen / red screen at the start / end of every capture to eliminate race conditions with starting the capture, but haven’t yet actually taken those frames out of the analysis.
3. If you look carefully at the animation, not all of the fish that should be displaying in the demo are. I think this has to do with the new native version of Fennec that I’m using to test (old versions don’t exhibit this property). I filed a bug for this.

What’s next? Well, as I mentioned last time, the real goal is to create a tool that developers will find useful. To that end, we have plans to set up an Eideticker machine in Mozilla Mountain View office that more people can use (either locally or remotely over the VPN). For this to be workable, I need to figure out how to get the full setup working on “demand”. Most of the setup already allows this, with one big exception: the actual Android device that we want to capture video from. The LG G2X that I’m currently using works fine when I have physical access to it, but as far as I can tell it’s not possible to get it outputting proper video of an application unless it’s in an unlocked state (which it obviously isn’t most of the time).

My current thinking is that a Panda Board running a Vanilla version of Android might be a good candidate for a permanently-connected device. It is capable of HDMI output, doesn’t have unwanted the bells and whistles of a physical phone (e.g. a lock screen), and should be much reliable due to its physical networking. So far I haven’t had much luck getting it the video output working with the Decklink capture card, but I’ve only just started trying. Work will continue.

If I can somehow figure that out, and smooth out some of the rough edges with the web interface and capture API, I think the stage will be set for us all to do some pretty interesting stuff! Looking forward to it.