Please check the status of this specification in Launchpad before editing it. If it is Approved, contact the Assignee or another knowledgeable person before making changes.

  • Launchpad Entry: usplash-polish

  • Packages affected: usplash, usplash-theme-*


The Usplash design will get some good scrubbing, a better split between libraries, binaries and daemon, better theming support and proper connections to the rest of the system (eg: cryptsetup, fsck)

Release Note

No release note will be needed, the user just sees that Ubuntu got a bit shinier. When explaining what changed, I think we occasionally get overly technical.


Usplash has grown, many features were added without having a proper design. It is time to clean it up and integrate it with the rest of the system.

Use Cases

  • Jani maintains an Ubuntu derivative, he wants usplash themeing to be easy
  • Dennis is Ubuntu user, he wants to easily switch themes
  • Reinhardt uses cryptsetup and doesn't like that usplash shuts down when cryptsetup asks for his key.


You can have subsections that better describe specific parts of the issue.


This is the design I have worked out so far:

Improvements to usplash

* More drawing code in libusplashtheme instead of themes

* Modifying the theme struct to all the changes and to make it easier to use

* Usplash switcher - easy switching btween usplash themes
 - Add to gdmsetup
 - Somewhere in KDE as well

* Better messaging protocol
 - Messages have the format (pid_of_sender, context_id, type, message)
 - Messages can have progressbars associated with them
 - Simple messages go throgh the FIFO, messages which require an answer go via
   a unix domain socket
 - usplash_write can take away complexity so both upstart and scripts can use
 - Messages/progressbars can be removed by subsequent messages

* Display
 - Still one main progressbar
 - Small progressbars associated with messages, up to the theme how to display
  o Default theme: on the same spot as ok/fail, as simple progressbars
  o Not displaying a few temporarily when the screen is full is ok, just pop
    them back

* Cancelling
 - Naive cancelling as first step
  o Cancellable messages will have 'press ESC to cancel next to them
  o Pressing ESC causes the lastone of those to be canceled
 - Maybe in the future have the F1-F12 keys be canceling keys

 - Main user of progressbars and cancellable messages
 - FSCK can somehow pipe output on a different FD, somehow this needs to be
   sent to usplash
 - Patch initscripts so canceling is allowed (ctrl C) iff the chck is done
   because of max_mount_count or max_mount_time

* Starting/Exiting usplash
  - Should usplash quit on VT switch?
  - Should init call usplash or the should the DM do that?
  - Magic escape key?

Splitting up usplash
Usplash will be split into several components:
- usplash: the daemon and helper programs such as usplash_write
- libusplashthemeN: the theming lib
- libusplashtheme-dev: headers for --^
- libusplashclient: abstraction lib for talking to usplash, used by
  usplash_write but other apps can use it as well
- libusplashclient-dev: headers for --^

The wire protocol
Messages are sent as raw struct usplash_message 

struct usplash_message {
    pid_t     pid;
    char      ctx_id;
    char      msg_type;
    char      msg[80];
    char      progress;
} usplash_message_t;

The pid should be the pid of the sending program, or more accurately, the
program that needs to be signaled on canceling. Together with the ctx_id, every
message has a unique id. The msg_type is on of the following:

* MSG_NORMAL: normal message
* MSG_PROGRESS: message with separate progress bar
* MSG_INPUT: to ask for user input
* MSG_PASSWORD: ask for a password
* MSG_CONFIRM: ask for a confirmation ('hit enter to')
* MSG_QUIT: make usplash quit

possibly or'ed with MSG_CANCELLABLE for messages that should be cancellable.
To advance the global progress bar, pid_t and ctx_id should be 0.

The progress field can be set to STATUS_OK for an "ok" text instead of a
progressbar, or STATUS_FAIL for a fail text.

Connecting to usplash
For messages that don't need an answer, a simple fifo can be used for
communicating with the usplash daemon. For messages that need an answer, a unix
domain socket will be used. This all will be abstracted by libusplashclient and

libusplashtheme will contain all code themes need for drawing their elements. A
theme will consist of areas with solid colors, areas with static images, areas
with dynamic images, progressbars and text. The theme struct will be:

struct usplash_theme {
    int version;
    char *name;
    struct usplash_theme_variant* var;

        void (*init) (struct usplash_theme *theme);
        void (*draw_root) (struct usplash_theme *theme);
        void (*draw_messages) (struct usplash_theme *theme, int nmsg, struct usplash_message **msges);
        void (*animation_step) (struct usplash_theme *theme);
} usplash_theme_t;

struct usplash_theme_variant {
    struct usplash_theme_variant next;
    short background_color;
    struct usplash_image background_image;
    struct usplash_font font;
    struct usplash_progressbar bar;

    short text_x;
    short text_y;
    short text_width;
    short text_height;
        short text_background;
        short text_foreground;
        short text_success;
        short text_failure;

    short progressbar_x;
    short progressbar_y;
} usplash_theme_variant_t;

struct usplash_image {

} usplash_image_t;

struct usplash_font {
    char *name;
    int height;
    int index_mask;
    int *offset;
    int *index;
    uint32_t *content;
    wchar_t default_char;
} usplash_font_t;

The public API consists of 3 parts:  - theming API - connection/msg API
/sbin/usplash_write   - wrapper binary to call from scripts

The theming api will include default drawing functions for themes, as well as
additional functions for making custom drawing functions easier:

void def_init(struct usplash_theme *theme);
void def_draw_root(struct usplash_theme *theme);
void def_draw_messages(struct usplash_theme *theme, int nmsg, struct usplash_message **msges);
void def_animation_step(struct usplash_theme *theme);

void draw_image(struct usplash_image *img, int x, int y);
void draw_partial_image(struct usplash_image *img, int x, int y, int w, int h, int orig_x, int orig_y);
void draw_progressbar(struct usplash_progressbar, int x, int y, int percentage);

The client API consists of the message struct and values, as described above,
as well as the following functions:

bool is_usplash_active(void);

Returns true if usplash is running, false otherwise. This function should be
called by client programs before calling other functions. Other usplash
functions should not be called if usplash is not running.

usplash_message_t* usplash_message_new(const usplash_msg_type t, const char* msg, const char progress, const char ctx_id);

Returns a pointer to a newly allocated message struct, or NULL if allocation
failed or usplash is not active. The allocated struct can be freed with free().

char* usplash_message_send(usplash_message_t *msg);

Sends the message, returns a pointer to the returned text for INPUT/PASSWORD
messages, or NULL for others or if usplash is not runnning

/sbin/usplash write can be called as follows:

/sbin/usplash-write --input|--msg|--password|--confirm|--text|--ok|--fail|--quit [--pid pid] [--ctx cid] [--progress progress] [message]

pid will default to the result of getppid(), cid defaults to 0 (so
/sbin/usplash_write --pid 0 --progress X will advance the global progress bar)

It will return 0 on success and print any output on stdout. Return code will be
1 if usplash is not running, 2 if an error occured.

Test/Demo Plan

Get it in quickly so people can test it. Initial code is already there.

BoF agenda and discussion

Use this section to take notes during the BoF; if you keep it in the approved spec, use it for summarising what was discussed and note any options that were rejected.


It will be good to have an ability to show boot messages during boot (as it was in old versions of ubuntu) --Sorib

  • Boot without the 'quiet' option if you want that. --ColinWatson

    • SuSE and others have the option to watch the output after pressing ESC, F2 or whatever. The splash-image is then displayed in the background with the text in the foreground. This gives a very sophisticated impression. Anyway, a splash/messages toggle-button would be a nice addition (though probably with a very low priority). --Sokraates
    • I totally agree with Sokraates, sometimes you want to see boot messages when you already booted and thus it is too late to use the 'quiet' option --MatteoZandi

Alternative to usplash: "splashy" ( --Gunblade2


UsplashPolishSpec (last edited 2008-08-06 16:38:02 by localhost)