TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Winter 92 - BE OUR GUEST

BE OUR GUEST

BACKGROUND-ONLY APPLICATIONS IN SYSTEM 7

C. K. HAUN


One of the least heralded new features of System 7, but nonetheless a very important one, is full support for faceless background applications (FBAs). An FBA is a full-fledged application that's invisible to the user. It has its own event loop, and it receives time and some events like any other application, but it doesn't have a menu bar, windows, dialogs, or other graphic components. An FBA is a normal file of type 'APPL'.

FBAs are, by a stretch of the imagination, similar to UNIX® daemons. The purpose of an FBA is to provide services to other applications or to monitor the system. For instance, an application that periodically checks your hard drive for files that haven't been backed up lately is a perfect candidate for FBA status. Thus, an FBA can be a silent partner to your application, INIT, cdev, desk accessory, or driver.

An FBA is the best way to provide certain services. For example, an FBA paired with a desk accessory can enable the DA to send Apple events, something a DA cannot usually do. (See the AECDEV/AEDAEMON sample in the snippets provided with the DTS Sample Code on theDeveloper CD Series disc.) An FBA can replace an INIT that patches traps to get time and provides services, or it can replace a driver that depended on periodic run messages to operate. Converting to an FBA not only frees you from having to patch to get the time you need, but also gives you a fully supported and documented interface and design. You get all the advantages of a full application, without the overhead of a user interface.

An FBA can also be an application manager for a suite of applications. With an FBA, you can control the launching of and communication between applications, using LaunchApplication and Apple events.

Writing an FBA is simple. An FBA is a subset of a standard Macintosh application, consisting of a minimal event loop and the code to handle two types of events, null events and high-level events. No other events are sent to an FBA. This makes a great deal of sense, since every other event (keystroke, mouse click, and such) is designed for foreground applications.

The SmallDaemon backgrounder shell included on theDeveloper CD Series disc shows just how simple the basics of an FBA are:

Boolean         gQuit = false;
EventRecord     gERecord;
unsigned long   gMySleep = 50000; /* A long, long time */
main()
{
    /* Routine for installing my Apple event handlers. 
       Need to install the four required
       handlers, plus handlers for any other events
       I want to accept. */
    InitAEStuff();
    while (gQuit == false) {
        /* A normal call to WaitNextEvent. I want
           only highLevelEvents, since all other
           events relate to interface actions, and I
           have no interface. */
        if (WaitNextEvent(highLevelEventMask, &gERecord, gMySleep,
               0)) {
            /* I'll get only null and high-level events. */
            switch (gERecord.what) {
            case nullEvent:
            /* No null processing in this sample. */
            break;
            
            case kHighLevelEvent:
            /* Get a high-level event (an Apple event) and process */
            /* it. */
            DoHighLevel(&gERecord);
            break;
            }
        }
    }
}

As you can see, there's not much there. The first thing you'll notice is that an FBA doesn't start up any managers. All the managers you normally start are based on user interface actions. Thus, they should not  be called in an FBA--in fact, calling them will cause your FBA to crash. There's one exception to this rule: you can initialize QuickDraw, butonly to provide yourself with off-screen grafPorts or to use some QuickDraw functions. Do not do any actual screen drawing from an FBA.

You'll also notice that you don't pass a mouse region to WaitNextEvent. That's obvious, since you're never in the foreground and have no windows or mouse control to track. And the only events you'll be handling are null events and high-level events (Apple events).

The next step is to make sure the system knows that you're a background-only application. You do this with a SIZE resource, by setting the canBackground and onlyBackground bits to true. When the Finder launches your FBA, it checks these bits and finds that you're a background-only application.

Some tips and techniques to keep in mind:

  • Always remember that an FBA is invisible to the user. An FBA doesnot  show up in the Process menu or in the Finder About window. Also, its heap memory is added to the system size thermometer bar in the Finder About window, even though it has its own application heap. The user often will have no idea that it's running, so be friendly.
  • Being friendly means yielding time. Have a very large sleep time when you're not actually doing some processing. If you don't, users will think that their machine has slowed down inexplicably. You can always use the new Process Manager call WakeUpProcess to get yourself back into fast processing when you need to.
  • Being friendly also means making sure you're occupying thesmallest  heap size you can possibly run in. Again, users may never know that your FBA exists, so if you eat up a bunch of memory in your FBA, users will not understand why they've lost so much memory. Be conservative.
  • Putting your FBA in the Startup Items folder in the System Folder is also a good idea. That will ensure that your FBA is launched right after Finder startup and will put the FBA high in the Process Manager's heap, preventing fragmentation of application memory space.
  • Use WakeUpProcess to get your FBA running. Keep your sleep time at maximum normally, and when you need to start doing null processing (in response to an Apple event or PPC completion routine, for example) use the Process Manager to wake yourself up. WakeUpProcess can be called at interrupt time. Then, when you've finished processing, drop back to a maximum sleep time.

For further information and help with writing an FBA, refer to the Process Manager chapter ofInside Macintosh Volume VI. Then try it--you'll like it!

C. K. HAUN has been programming Apple computers since 1979, writing commercial education, utility, and game applications for the Apple II, IIGS, and Macintosh, with some occasional dark forays into the Big Blue world. (It paid the rent.) He currently works in Developer Technical Support and focuses mainly on Apple events and the Edition Manager. Besides working to provide the best possible support to developers, he's been trying to organize the Silicon Valley chapter of Heck's Moofers, a motorcycle club devoted to the precept that computer nerds on bikes can raise heck too, darn it. And yes, that really is  his mustache.*

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Bookends 12.7.8 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
VirtualBox 5.1.14 - x86 virtualization s...
VirtualBox is a family of powerful x86 virtualization products for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers... Read more
FileZilla 3.24.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.24.0: New The context menu for remote file search... Read more
BusyContacts 1.1.6 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
BusyCal 3.1.4 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. Its unique features... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.8.3 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator detects... Read more
MarsEdit 3.7.10 - Quick and convenient b...
MarsEdit is a blog editor for OS X that makes editing your blog like writing email, with spell-checking, drafts, multiple windows, and even AppleScript support. It works with with most blog services... Read more
WALTR 2 2.0.9 - $39.95
WALTR 2 helps you wirelessly drag-and-drop any music, ringtones, videos, PDF, and ePub files onto your iPhone, iPad, or iPod without iTunes. It is the second major version of Softorino's critically-... Read more
Paperless 2.3.9 - $49.95
Paperless is a digital documents manager. Remember when everyone talked about how we would soon be a paperless society? Now it seems like we use paper more than ever. Let's face it - we need and we... Read more
Adobe After Effects CC 2017 14.1 - Creat...
After Effects CC 2017 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous After Effects customer). The new, more connected After Effects CC... Read more

Super Mario Run dashes onto Android in M...
Super Mario Run was one of the biggest mobile launches in 2016 before it was met with a lukewarm response by many. While the game itself plays a treat, it's pretty hard to swallow the steep price for the full game. With that said, Android users... | Read more »
WarFriends Beginner's Guide: How to...
Chillingo's new game, WarFriends, is finally available world wide, and so far it's a refreshing change from common mobile game trends. The game's a mix of tower defense, third person shooter, and collectible card game. There's a lot to unpack here... | Read more »
Super Gridland (Entertainment)
Super Gridland 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Match. Build. Survive. "exquisitely tuned" - Rock Paper Shotgun No in-app purches, and no ads! | Read more »
Red's Kingdom (Games)
Red's Kingdom 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mad King Mac has kidnapped your father and stolen your golden nut! Solve puzzles and battle goons as you explore and battle your... | Read more »
Turbo League Guide: How to tame the cont...
| Read more »
Fire Emblem: Heroes coming to Google Pla...
Nintendo gave us our first look at Fire Emblem: Heroes, the upcoming mobile Fire Emblem game the company hinted at last year. Revealed at the Fire Emblem Direct event held today, the game will condense the series' tactical RPG combat into bite-... | Read more »
ReSlice (Music)
ReSlice 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Audio Slice Machine Slice your audio samples with ReSlice and create flexible musical atoms which can be triggered by MIDI notes or... | Read more »
Stickman Surfer rides in with the tide t...
Stickson is back and this time he's taken up yet another extreme sport - surfing. Stickman Surfer is out this Thursday on both iOS and Android, so if you've been following the other Stickman adventures, you might be interested in picking this one... | Read more »
Z-Exemplar (Games)
Z-Exemplar 1.4 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.4 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
5 dastardly difficult roguelikes like th...
Edmund McMillen's popular roguelike creation The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth has finally crawled onto mobile devices. It's a grotesque dual-stick shooter that tosses you into an endless, procedurally generated basement as you, the pitiable Isaac,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Twelve South Releases RelaxedLeather Cases fo...
Inspired by the laid-back luxury of burnished leather boots and crafted in rich tones of taupe, herb and marsala, RelaxedLeather cases deliver smart, easy protection for the iPhone 7. Each genuine... Read more
Week’s Best Deal: New 2016 13-inch 2.0GHz Mac...
Amazon has the new 2016 13″ 2.0GHz non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for a limited time for $225 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro, Space Gray (MLL42LL/A): $1274.99 $225 off... Read more
Back in stock: Apple refurbished Mac minis fr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
Apple Ranked ‘Most Intimate Brand’
The top ranked ‘”intimate” brands continued to outperform the S&P and Fortune 500 indices in revenue and profit over the past 10 years, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2017 Report, the largest... Read more
B-Eng introduces SSD Health Check for Mac OS
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based independant Swiss company- B-Eng has announced the release and immediate availability of SSD Health Check 1.0, the company’s new hard drive utility for Mac OS X. As the... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free: -... Read more
4-core 3.7GHz Mac Pro on sale for $2290, save...
Guitar Center has the 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro (MD253LL/A) on sale for $2289.97 including free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Their price is a $710 savings over standard MSRP for... Read more
128GB Apple iPad Air 2, refurbished, availabl...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 128GB iPad Air 2s WiFis available for $419 including free shipping. That’s an $80 savings over standard MSRP for this model. A standard Apple one-year warranty is... Read more
13-inch 2.7GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 2015 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina Apple MacBook Pro on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro (MF839LL/A): $... Read more
Laptop Market – Flight To Quality? – The ‘Boo...
Preliminary quarterly PC shipments data released by Gartner Inc. last week reveal an interesting disparity between sales performance of major name PC vendors as opposed to that of less well-known... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Manhattan, NY Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our most Read more
Senior Workstation Administrator - *Apple*...
…with extraordinary HR. QualificationsJOB SUMMARY/OVERVIEWThe Senior Workstation Administrator - Apple supports the mission of TriNet by providing advanced level Read more
Intermediate *Apple* macOS Systems Integrat...
**Position Summary:** SC3 is actively seeking an Intermediate Apple macOS systems integration administrator that will be responsible for providing Apple Mac Read more
*Apple* & PC Desktop Support Technician...
Apple & PC Desktop Support Technician job in Los Angeles, CA Introduction: We have immediate job openings for several Desktop Support Technicians with one of our Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.