TSDuck v3.37-3645
MPEG Transport Stream Toolkit
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Developing TSP plugins

Plugin development workflow

When some new kind of transport stream processing is needed, several solutions are possible:

  • First, check if an existing plugin or a combination of existing plugins can do the job.
  • Check if an existing plugin can be extended (by adding new options for instance).
  • As a last resort, develop a new plugin, which is relatively easy.

New plugins can be developed either as part of the TSDuck project or as independent third-party projects.

Developing independent third-party plugins

If you create your own third-party plugins (ie. if you are not a TSDuck maintainer), it is recommended to develop your plugins outside the TSDuck project.

Do not modify your own copy of the TSDuck project with your private plugins. This could create useless difficulties to upgrade with new versions of the project.

Consider developing your plugins in their own projects, outside TSDuck. You do not even need to get the full source code of TSDuck. It is sufficient to install the TSDuck development environment.

An example of a third party plugin project is provided in the directory sample/sample-plugin.

Developing plugins for the TSDuck project

To develop a new plugin named foo, follow these steps:

  • Create a source file named tsplugin_foo.cpp in the tsplugins subdirectory.
  • On Linux or macOS systems, this new source file will be automatically recognized by the Makefile and the new plugin will be built.
  • On Windows systems, create a project file named tsplugin_foo.vcxproj in the msvc subdirectory. The fastest way is to copy another plugin's project file. Then, edit the file (this is an XML file) and replace the names of the project and source file. Finally, under Visual C++, add the new project in the solution (File / Add / Existing Project).

Development guidelines

Don't write a plugin from scratch. Use an existing plugin as code base (beware however of the pitfalls of careless copy / paste). The simplest code bases can be found in the plugins null (input), drop (output) , skip (basic packet processing), nitscan (reading content of PSI/SI), svrename (modifying PSI/SI on the fly).

Always create plugins which perform simple and elementary processing. If your requirements can be divided into two independent processing, create two distinct plugins. The strength of TSDuck is the flexibility, that is to say the ability to combine elementary processing independently and in any order.

Class hierarchy

In the source file of the plugin, create a C++ class, derived from either ts::InputPlugin, ts::OutputPlugin or ts::ProcessorPlugin. If your plugin implements two capabilities (both input and output for instance), implement the corresponding two classes.

See the class diagram of ts::Plugin for a global view of the plugin classes.

Specialized plugins which manipulate exiting tables derive from ts::AbstractTablePlugin. Examples of such plugins are pmt, pat, nit, etc. The actual plugin subclasses focus on the modification of the target table while the superclass automatically handles demuxing, remuxing and creation of non-existing tables.

Specialized descrambling plugins derive from ts::AbstractDescrambler. This abstract class performs the generic functions of a descrambler: service location, ECM collection, descrambling of elementary streams. The concrete classes which derive from ts::AbstractDescrambler must perform CAS-specific operations: ECM streams filtering, ECM deciphering, control words extraction. Most of the time, these concrete classes must interact with a smartcard reader containing a smartcard for the specific CAS.

Invoking tsp from a plugin, the ts::TSP callbacks

In its constructor, each plugin receives an associated ts::TSP object to communicate with the Transport Stream Processor main executable. A plugin shared library must exclusively use the tsp object for text display and must never use std::cout, printf or alike.

When called in multi-threaded context, the supplied tsp object is thread-safe and asynchronous (the methods return to the caller without waiting for the message to be printed).

Joint termination support

A plugin can decide to terminate tsp on its own (returning end of input, output error or ts::ProcessorPlugin::TSP_END). The termination is unconditional, regardless of the state of the other plugins. Thus, if several plugins have termination conditions, tsp stops when the first plugin decides to terminate. In other words, there is an "or" operator between the various termination conditions.

The idea behind joint termination is to terminate tsp when several plugins have jointly terminated their processing. If several plugins have a "joint termination" condition, tsp stops when the last plugin triggers the joint termination condition. In other words, there is an "and" operator between the various joint termination conditions.

First, a plugin must decide to use joint termination. This is usually done in method ts::Plugin::start(), using ts::TSP::useJointTermination(bool) when the option --joint-termination is specified on the command line.

Then, when the plugin has completed its work, it reports this using ts::TSP::jointTerminate(). After invoking this method, any packet which is processed by the plugin may be ignored by tsp.

TSP design

This section is a brief description of the design and internals of tsp. It contains some reference information for tsp maintainers.

This section is not useful to plugin developers. tsp is designed to clearly separate the technical aspects of the buffer management and dynamics of a chain of plugins from the specialized plugin processing (TS input, TS output, packet processing).

Plugin Executors

Each plugin executes in a separate thread. The base class for all threads is ts::tsp::PluginExecutor. Derived classes are used for input, output and packet processing plugins.

Transport packets buffer

There is a global buffer for TS packets. Its structure is optimized for best performance.

The input thread writes incoming packets in the buffer. All packet processors update the packets and the output thread picks them at the same place. No packet is copied or moved in memory.

The buffer is an array of ts::TSPacket. It is a memory-resident buffer, locked in physical memory to avoid virtual memory paging (see class ts::ResidentBuffer).

The buffer is managed in a circular way. It is divided into logical areas, one per plugin thread (including input and output). These logical areas are sliding windows which move when packets are processed.

Inside a ts::tsp::PluginExecutor object, the sliding window which is currently assigned to the plugin thread is defined by the index of its first packet (_pkt_first) and its size in packets (_pkt_cnt).

Flat (non-circular) view of the buffer:

output->_pkt_first proc_1->_pkt_first
| |
| proc_N->_pkt_first | input->_pkt_first
| | | |
+-> | output | proc N | ... | proc 1 | input | ->-+
| +----------+----------+-------+----------+---------+ |
| |

When a thread terminates the processing of a bunch of packets, it moves up its first index and, consequently, decreases the size of its own area and accordingly increases the size of the area of the next plugin.

The modification of the starting index and size of any area must be performed under the protection of a mutex. There is one global mutex for simplicity. The resulting bottleneck is not so important since updating a few pointers is fast.

When the sliding window of a plugin is empty, the plugin thread sleeps on its _to_do condition variable. Consequently, when a thread passes packets to the next plugin (ie. increases the size of the sliding window of the next plugin), it must notify the _to_do condition variable of the next thread.

When a packet processor decides to drop a packet, the synchronization byte (first byte of the packet, normally 0x47) is reset to zero. When a packet processor or the output executor encounters a packet starting with a zero byte, it ignores it. Note that this is transparent to the plugin code in the shared library. The check is performed by the ts::tsp::ProcessorExecutor and ts::tsp::OutputExecutor objects. When a packet is marked as dropped, the plugin is not invoked.

All ts::tsp::PluginExecutor are chained in a ring. The first one is input and the last one is output. The output points back to the input so that the output executor can easily pass free packets to be reused by the input executor.

The _input_end flag indicates that there is no more packet to process after those in the plugin's area. This condition is signaled by the previous plugin in the chain. All plugins, except the output plugin, may signal this condition to their successor.

The _aborted flag indicates that the current plugin has encountered an error and has ceased to accept packets. This condition is checked by the previous plugin in the chain (which, in turn, will declare itself as aborted). All plugins, except the input plugin may signal this condition. In case of error, all plugins should also declare an _input_end to their successor.