dev builds
themes manual
device status forums
mailing lists
IRC bugs
dev guide

Search | Go
Wiki > Main > AllocatingRAM (r3)

Different ways to allocate RAM usage for your feature

Rockbox has a "No Malloc" policy you can read about at WhyNoMalloc but sometimes you really do need to grab some buffer possibly temporarily. This page will explain the different methods available.

Compile-time RAM layout

As an example, this list shows the sections in a compiled rockbox.elf, indicating how RAM is allocated at compile-time. The section arrangement varies somewhat between platforms and is determined by the linker script (firmware/target/arm/as3525/ in this case, for the Sansa e200v2). The interesting parts for memory allocation are audiobuf, codecbuf, and pluginbuf.

Size Name Description
32 B .vectors ARM interrupt vectors
460 KiB .text Machine code
102 KiB .rodata Read-only (const) global data
8 KiB .data Global data
8 KiB .stack Stack for the initial thread
384 KiB .bss Global data initialized with zero
5679 KiB audiobuf Audio buffer for audio and/or miscellaneous data
1024 KiB codecbuf Codec buffer for codecs and their data
512 KiB pluginbuf Plugin buffer for plugins and their data
7 KiB .iram Machine code and global data (.icode, .irodata, .idata), in fast IRAM
97 KiB .ibss Global data initialized with zero, in fast IRAM

When a plugin is loaded, its code and data go in the start of pluginbuf. Codecs work the same way.

Global variables

By far the easiest method:
static char my_buffer[BUFFER_SIZE];
This can be used anywhere. In a codec or plugin, space will be reserved in codecbuf or pluginbuf until the codec/plugin is unloaded. Otherwise, space will be reserved permanently in .data, .rodata, or .bss.
  • DONE Easy, fast, no overhead.
  • choice-no Can't be freed or resized.
  • choice-no Size must be known at compile-time.

Allocate from soundbuf

char *my_buffer = buffer_alloc(BUFFER_SIZE);
This takes some space from the front of soundbuf. It can't be used by plugins or codecs, since it can't be freed. This method is useful when the size required is known at boot-time.
  • DONE Easy, fast, no overhead.
  • choice-no Can't be freed or resized.
  • choice-no Playback must be stopped to allocate more.

Use the rest of the codec/plugin buffer

size_t size_available;
// In codec:
void *my_buffer = ci->codec_get_buffer(&size_available);
// In plugin:
void *my_buffer = rb->plugin_get_buffer(&size_available);
This is used by codecs/plugins to get the rest of the codec/plugin buffer. This space is reserved for the codec/plugin anyway, so you may as well use it!
  • DONE Easy, fast, no overhead.
  • choice-no Limited to the size left in the buffer, which depends on the platform.

Steal the sound buffer

size_t size_available;
void *my_buffer = rb->plugin_get_audio_buffer(&size_available);
If a plugin stops playback, it can use the sound buffer.
  • DONE Lots of space.
  • choice-no Playback must be stopped the entire time the sound buffer is used.

dynamic allocation like "malloc()" (bufalloc())

Most frowned-on method of allocation, use this carefully... The buffer is allocated as a handle in the playback buffer and could be moving around the buffer as playback advances.


  • free/resize able
  • playback doesnt need to be stopped


  • the buffer may move, so you HAVE to call bufgetdata() to use the buffer
  • might fail if there is no room on the playback buffer
r3 - 29 Mar 2011 - 03:45:15 - SeanBartell

Copyright by the contributing authors.