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Here's a tool that gives you access to what you really need to know while debugging a driver. With Tracks, you decide what kind of information you want to track-- variable contents, who called the current function, timing information, and more--all while your driver's running. When a problem arises, you can easily tell where your driver's been and what it's been doing, so you can find out just what went wrong.

If you've ever written a device driver, you know how hard it is to keep track of what's going on. Learning the value of variables and other data as the driver runs usually requires a lot of time in a debugger.

When a driver crashes, trashing the stack in the process, it's often impossible to determine the last routine that was executed. Finding the bug can take many hours, especially if the crash appears only periodically. Even after you've found the bug, each crash requires recompiling, building, restarting, and retesting. Anything to help locate bugs more quickly and accurately could save a lot of time and frustration.

That's why Tracks was written. Whether you're writing your first or your fiftieth driver, it can help you track down those nasty bugs that always show up. The simple macros in Tracks make it easy to log all kinds of information from a driver written in C or C++. You can record strings, data blocks, longs, and even formatted data types. Tracks can write debugging information directly to disk as it comes in, or it can keep the information in a circular buffer and dump it to disk on command--a MacsBug dcmd (debugger command) lets you do this even after a crash.

You can completely control what information is logged, and your driver won't even know it. If you know a routine works, you can turn off calls from it at any time-- including while your driver's running.

On theDeveloper CD Series disc, you'll find TestDrvr, a sample driver that demonstrates how to implement Tracks functionality in a simple (and useless) driver. Also enclosed is the complete source for the Tracks utilities, as well as all the necessary support tools. In the following sections, you'll find out about how Tracks works, what kind of information the Tracks macros log, and what the code does. You'll also get some pointers on installing and using Tracks. If you're eager to start using Tracks, take a look at "Tracks in Action."


Tracks works somewhat like a message service that can accept telephone calls on 128 different lines from the target driver. You decide where to install the lines and what kinds of messages each line will deliver. You can control which lines to listen to (or not) and where to save incoming messages.

The invocations of macros--or calls--that send information to Tracks are calledtracepoints.  You assign each tracepoint a number between 0 and 127, called adiagnostic ID (diagID), and a name. The diagID represents one bit in a 128-bit flag that can be set or cleared from the Tracks control panel device (cdev). When a tracepoint is encountered, data is logged only if the corresponding bit has been set.

Being able to set or clear tracepoints on the fly allows you to tailor the type of information being traced. By assigning a meaningful name to each tracepoint, you'll know which ones to set or clear, and the name of the tracepoint will be recorded with any Tracks output. Tracksbreakpoints  are tracepoints that will drop you into your debugger.

Because the diagID doesn't have to be unique, a tracepoint can represent a single Tracks call, a type of Tracks call, or a grouping of Tracks calls. A type of Tracks call, for instance, might be all error- reporting calls. A grouping might be all tracepoints in a particular routine.

This kind of flexibility allows you to group your information into logical and functional units. It's up to you to create as many or as few tracepoints as you need. For instance, if you're working on a new routine, you may set a whole bunch of Tracks calls all to the same diagID. When you test the routine, you can set some or all of the other switches to off and focus on the messages from that routine. Later, when you know the function works, you can keep that switch off.

Numbering for ease of use. There aren't any limits on how you group your diagIDs. You might assign all messages to one tracepoint or simply start at 0 and increment by 1 from there. The key is that once you know something works, you want to be able to turn off tracing in that area. By assigning unique diagIDs to groups of Tracks calls, you can quickly tailor your tracing.

For convenience, there are four groups of 32 tracepoints each (0-31, 32-63, 64-95, and 96-127) that you can turn on or off with a click. (The Tracks cdev contains buttons for levels 1 through 4, which correspond to these four groups.) Most new users start out tracing all information. But as more and more Tracks output is added, information overload can be a problem, and it's great to be able to limit Tracks information easily.

PartCodes are used to identify consecutive Tracks calls that have the same diagID. PartCodes should start at 0 and increment by 1 for each additional Tracks call with the same diagID. For example, say you wanted to dump the contents of all three parameters you receive on entry to a function. You'd probably want all these to have the same diagID. The first Tracks call should have a partCode of 0, the next call a partCode of 1, and so on. The partCode makes it more evident if some Tracks information is lost. Data can be lost if the circular buffer fills before writing to a file, and data can be locked out if Tracks is already in use.


To log data from your driver, you call one of five simple macros from your driver code. Each macro logs a different kind of information. All the calls must have access to your driver's global storage and follow the numbering conventions just described for the diagID and partCode.

T_STACK, one of the most useful calls, records the current function and who called it. If the driver is written in C++, a special unmangler automatically prints out the arguments that were passed to the function. If called from every major routine, T_STACK will leave the proverbial trail of bread crumbs. T_STACK's partCode is always 0.

T_DATA(diagID, partCode, &dataBlock, sizeof(dataBlock));
T_DATA is used to dump a block of memory, formatted in hexadecimal and ASCII.

T_TYPE(diagID, partCode, recordPtr, sizeof(Record), "\pRecord");
T_TYPE records a data structure. The address, size, and a Pascal string with the name of the structure must be passed to the macro. The format of the data structure must be defined in an 'mxwt' resource, stored in your driver or in your MacsBug Debugger Prefs file. If the resource to define the structure isn't found, the data will be treated as a T_DATA call. Since the templates are used only to format data, you don't need to use MacsBug.

T_PSTR(diagID, partCode, "\pA string you'd like to see");
T_PSTR simply records a Pascal string.

T_PSTRLONG(diagID, partCode, "\ptheLong = ", theLong);
T_PSTRLONG records a Pascal string and a long. Usually the string is used to tell you what follows. Feel free to cast whatever you can get away with to the long.


TestDrvr is a simple driver skeleton that checks the status of the keyboard. If the Option key is down, it logs one type of data, and if the Command key is down, it logs another type of data.

To see Tracks in action, follow these condensed instructions:

  1. Put DumpTracks into your MPW Tools folder and TestDrvr into your System Folder or Extensions folder.
  2. Put Tracks into your System Folder or, in System 7, into your Control Panels folder.
  3. Restart your Macintosh.
  4. Open the Tracks cdev, click the Driver Name button, and locate the file TestDrvr.
  5. Turn on Tracks and click the Level 1 button to turn on tracepoints 0-31 (only 0-3 are used).
  6. Press the Command key or the Option key to begin to log data. The Bytes Buffered field should change.
  7. Click Write Buffer to send TestDrvr output to disk. Only data written to disk can be examined.
  8. Start up MPW and type "DumpTracks" to see what was just traced.

Look over the TestDrvr source code if you haven't already done so. Don't forget to remove TestDrvr when you're done. For information about the output from the example, see the section "Examining Tracks Output" under "Using Tracks."


This section is for folks who are really wide awake and ready for the gritty details. (If you're not one of those folks, you may want to jump ahead to the "Installing Tracks" section.) The Tracks file contains a cdev, an INIT, and the Tracks driver. The Tracks driver has three key responsibilities: maintaining the cdev, sending messages to the target driver, and accepting data from the target driver via the trace procedure (TraceProc). Figure 1 shows the flow of data between Tracks and the target driver.

The Tracks driver's first responsibility includes sending status information to the cdev and responding to cdev commands like "clear buffer" and "write file." Because the cdev displays the status of fields that can change at any time, the cdev monitors the driver and updates fields as they change.

The Tracks driver doesn't always need periodic (accRun) messages. When the driver gets a message to turn its periodic write-to-file flag on or off, the driver sets or clears its dNeedTime bit in the dCtlFlags. (Recall that BitClr, BitSet, and BitTst test bits starting at the high-order bit.)

BitClr(&dCtl->dCtlFlags, 2L);/* Clear bit 5 = dNeedTime bit. */
BitSet(&dCtl->dCtlFlags, 2L);/* Set bit 5 = dNeedTime bit. */

The Tracks driver can send one of two messages to the target driver: "enable tracing" or "disable tracing." The enable message passes the target driver a function pointer that points to an address within the Tracks driver code as well as a pointer that points to the Tracks driver's own globals. The target driver needs to save both of these because they're needed by the Tracks macros. The macros use the function pointer to call the Tracks driver directly, passing it the globals pointer along with tracing data.

When the target driver gets the disable message, the saved function pointer is set to nil. (For the code to handle enable and disable messages, see the "Installing Tracks" section.) The Tracks macros in the target driver check to see if the function pointer is nil, and if it isn't, the target driver calls the function pointer within Tracks with arguments that correspond to the particular Tracks function. The macro that checks and invokes a non-nil function pointer is defined in the following code. The macros used in the target driver's code reference this macro. Notice that for a Tracks call to compile, it needs to access your globals by the same name, in this case by the name globals. Macros are used so that they can easily be compiled out of the final product.

Figure 1How Tracks Interacts With the Target Driver [IMAGE Lowe2.GIF]

#define TRACE(diagID, partCode, formatID, data1, data2, data3) \
{ register ProcPtr func; \
func = globals->fTraceProcPtr; \
if ( func != nil ) \
(*((pascal void (*)(long, unsigned char, unsigned char, \
unsigned char, long, long, long))func)) \
(globals->fTraceArg, diagID, partCode, formatID, \
data1, data2, data3); }

The actual routine the macro executes, located in the Tracks driver, is shown below. The address of this routine was passed to the target driver in the enable message, and the first argument (long refcon) is actually the pointer to the Tracks driver's globals, which the Tracks driver expects the target driver to pass back to it each time. The macro calls right into the Tracks driver code.

pascal void TraceProc(long refcon, unsigned char diagID,
    unsigned char partCode, unsigned char formatID, long data1,
    long data2, long data3)
register TraceGlobals       *globals;
register Boolean            okLocked;
register Boolean            breakOnExit = false;    

    globals = (TraceGlobals *)refcon;   // Set up driver globals.

    if (diagID < 128)        // Valid diagIDs range from 0 to 127.
        // Check the need for a break on exit (breakpoint was set).
        breakOnExit = BitTst((Ptr)globals->fBreakMask, (long)diagID);
        // Check to see if the information passed should be logged.
        if (BitTst((Ptr)globals->fTraceMask, (long)diagID))
            // The tracepoint was set--check that the buffer is ready.
            if (globals->fBufferEnabled)     // Is the buffer ready?
                // Test and set "locked-out" flag.
                okLocked = UTLock(&globals->fTraceLock);

                // If trace request was locked out, set locked-out
                // flag.
                if (okLocked)
                    // Log incoming data to circular buffer.
                    HandleTraceData(globals, diagID, partCode,
                        formatID, data1, data2, data3);
                    globals->fLockedOutFlag = true; // Locked out!
// Handle a breakpoint, if any.
    if (breakOnExit)
        // We can assume there's a debugger installed.
        if (globals->fBreakOnceThenClear)
            // Signal cdev that debug mark was turned off.
            globals->fDebugMarkUnset = true;
            DebugStr("\pTrace User Breakpoint (Once)");
            DebugStr("\pTrace User Breakpoint");

The above routine checks to see if the diagID specified is enabled (checked in the cdev). If it is, HandleTraceData handles the data passed in the way indicated by the formatID. The formatID specifies what type of data is being passed--a Pascal string, a Pascal string and a long, a data block, a stack peek request, or a formatted type dump. Adventurous programmerscould add their own formats (for instance, to record floating-point numbers) by modifying the HandleTraceData routine and DumpTracks and then creating a new macro. Adding a new format isn't trivial, though. Usually, it's easier to make an existing format do the job. Since this routine can be called at interrupt time, it needs to test and set a "locked-out" flag, which it does with an assembly language routine called UTLock that uses the 68000's BSET instruction. BSET helps ensure that the routine won't get into trouble by executing more than one instance of itself. If the routine gets locked out, DumpTracks will notify you that some data was lost.

The routine also checks to see if a breakpoint has been set for that diagID. If it has, just before the routine exits, it invokes the debugger. Two kinds of breakpoints are supported--"once-only" and "immortal." The once-only kind of breakpoint flag is cleared after being tripped. Tracks breakpoints can be cleared or set only through the Tracks cdev--not from your debugger.

An interesting routine in drvr.c is StackPeek, which is called by T_STACK macros. StackPeek examines the stack frame to find what the current procedure is and who called it. StackPeek searches backward until it finds the return address of the function that called T_STACK. From there, it searches the actual code, looking for the last instruction (an RTS, a JMP(A0), or an RTD), which is followed by the name of the function. It then finds the length of the function name and repeats the process for the caller, which is just one stack frame deeper.


The following are instructions for adding Tracks capabilities to a driver written in C or C++. Currently the only way to view Tracks output is through the DumpTracks MPW tool.
  1. Install the Tracks files on your hard drive. Put a copy of Tracks into your System Folder or, in System 7, into your Control Panels folder. Put DumpTracks into your MPW Tools folder and add the 'dcmd' resource in Tracks.dcmd to your Debugger Prefs. Finally, make a copy of TracksInfo.h and put it with your driver code.
  2. Add two variables to your driver's global storage area. These must be accessible from every place you want to trace from. You may need to redo your globals so that these variables are always able to be accessed in the same way. The globals should look like this:

     typedef struct 
    your stuff 
     ProcPtr fTraceProcPtr;
    Ptr fTraceArg;
    } Globals, *GlobalsPtr;
  3. In your initialization routine, you'll need to set the fTraceProcPtr to nil.

     globals->fTraceProcPtr = nil;

    Tracks calls attempted before this is done will result in fireworks. If your driver's global storage isn't referenced by a parameter calledglobals, you can change the word "globals" in the file TracksInfo.h to whatever the global storage is referenced by. The Tracks macros require you to be consistent in your global storage references.

  4. Include TracksInfo.h in the header file where you define your global storage block.
  5. Add two csCodes to your driver's code. They need to look like this:
    case kInstallTrace: 
    globals->fTraceProcPtr = ((TraceDataPtr)paramPtr)->TraceProc;
    globals->fTraceArg = ((TraceDataPtr)paramPtr)->TraceGlobals; break;
    case kRemoveTrace: globals->fTraceProcPtr = nil;
    globals->fTraceArg = nil;
  6. Add two resources to your driver's .r or .rsrc file: 'DrvN' and 'STR#'.

    Resource 'DrvN' ID 128 contains a Pascal string with the name of your driver (which starts with a period). The 'DrvN' resource lets the cdev know which driver to send the "turn on" and "turn off" messages to.

    Resource 'STR#' ID 777 is a string list that should contain the names of tracepoints you create. It's for the tracepoint names in the cdev and for DumpTracks output--not for use by your driver. The 'STR#' resource can be partially filled, blank, or even missing.

    When you add a Tracks call with a new diagID, you'll want to give it a name and add it to the string list. Changes show up the next time the cdev is opened or DumpTracks is used. If the 'STR#' resource is missing, the tracepoint name will show up in the cdev as a number--the diagID. DumpTracks will warn you when there's no name associated with the diagID.

    Warning: The diagIDs range from 0 to 127, and in ResEdit the string list is set up to start at 1. This means that if you add a Tracks call with a new diagID of 5, you need to change entry number 6 in the string list.

Add a few Tracks macros to your code, rebuild your driver, and you're set to start using Tracks. When you're ready to ship your driver, simply #define GOLD in TracksInfo.h and remove the two Tracks resources and any 'mxwt' resources from your driver.


Tracks can be controlled via dcmd or cdev. The dcmd lets you turn tracing on and off and write the circular buffer to disk. The Tracks cdev, shown in Figure 2, lets you control all the Tracks functions.


Figure 2 A Look at the Tracks cdev

To begin tracing data, open the cdev, click the Driver Name button, and select a driver that has Tracks code installed at the Standard File prompt. If the target driver is set up properly, you'll see the name of the driver next to the button. To turn on tracing, click the On button and check the tracepoints you want traced. Tracepoints are represented by the list of 128 checkboxes. As soon as information is retrieved, the number in the Bytes Buffered field will change. To stop sending data to Tracks, click the Off button.

To set breakpoints from Tracks, either click in the Tracks cdev just to the left of the scroll bar, opposite the desired tracepoint, or Option-click a checkbox. A tiny bug will appear, indicating a breakpoint. When a breakpoint is hit, you'll need to step a few times to return from the Tracks code to your driver. Since the default type of breakpoint is once-only, a breakpoint must be reset each time after it's encountered.

Like all good circular buffers, the Tracks buffer will hold the most current data. The default (and minimum) setting is 4K. If you want to change this size, you need to turn off Tracks and clear the contents of the buffer before clicking the arrows button. Generally, it's better to have a large buffer if you can afford it. But if you aren't logging a lot of data, and periodic write-to-file is turned on, you can have a small buffer and not lose any information.

An excellent use of the circular buffer is to catch sporadic bugs that might not occur for hours (or days). For example, set up a test to run continuously until the problem is detected. Plan to let the test run over the weekend with write-to-file turned off. When you come in on Monday, the circular buffer will have the last 4K of data--or whatever size buffer you used--leading up to and including the occurrence of the problem.

Before you can examine any Tracks data, you need to send it to a file by clicking the Write Buffer button. To clear the file, click the Reset EOF button. The data is always written to the Tracks Prefs file, which hangs out in your System Folder or, in System 7, in your Preferences folder. Use the Reset EOF button instead of throwing the Tracks Prefs file away, since settings information is also stored there.

If you check the Periodic Write-To-File box, data will be written to the disk approximately every second (60 ticks), assuming there's data to send. Be forewarned that data can come out at an alarming clip--in minutes you can create a multimegabyte file. The periodic writes-to-file occur even when the cdev is closed, until you turn it off or your hard drive becomes full.

If your driver crashes, you can write the circular buffer to disk via the Tracks dcmd. Just type "Tracks write" from your dcmd-supporting debugger.

Once data has been written to your Tracks Prefs file, you can examine it using DumpTracks. Figure 3 shows a sample (from the TestDrvr example) of a couple of simple Tracks calls and the type of output you'll get. Notice that each routine that wants to use a Tracks macro needs to have a pointer to the globals passed as an argument with the same name--in this case,globals.

The first line of a record holds a time stamp. Because other calls with the same diagID will follow immediately, it's shown only when the partCode is 0.

The second line shows the diagID and the name of the corresponding tracepoint, shown in parentheses.

The "(diagID - partCode) TYPE_OF_TRACE" line (the third line) is followed by the data for that Tracks call. Figure 3Comparing Tracks Output With the Calls [IMAGE Lowe4.GIF] Notice that the T_TYPE call formats the contents of the driver's DCtlEntry. To be able to display formatted types, DumpTracks needs to read the 'mxwt' format from Debugger Prefs. Also notice that the DCtlEntry has a QHdr structure inside it, which was also displayed.


Debugging a device driver can be time consuming and difficult. Tracks provides you with a tool to help keep your drivers under control. How you set up tracing really depends on what kinds of things you'd like to monitor--error conditions, your own driver statistics, or whatever. If you suspect bugs will be, or are, a major source of headaches, you'll save time by adding lots of Tracks calls.

Take a look at the TestDrvr sample source code. Once you get Tracks going in your own code, you should find that you're debugging your drivers in a fraction of the time it used to take.


breakpoint  A tracepoint that enters your debugger.

diagnostic ID (diagID)  A number between 0 and 127 that represents one bit in a 128-bit flag. In Tracks, a diagID is assigned to a tracepoint. The flag determines whether trace data will be logged or not. A diagID can represent a single Tracks call or a grouping of calls.

DumpTracks  An MPW tool that lets you see Tracks output.

partCode  A number used to identify consecutive Tracks calls that have the same diagID.

tracepoint  An invocation of a macro in your driver code that sends out information to the Tracks driver.

Tracks  A programming utility--containing the Tracks cdev, INIT, and driver--used to debug drivers in development.


  • Inside Macintosh  Volume II, Device Manager chapter (Addison-Wesley, 1985).
  • Designing Cards and Drivers for the Macintosh Family , Second Edition (Addison-Wesley, 1990).
  • "Using Object-Oriented Languages for Building Non-Applications in MPW" by Allan Foster and David Newman (MacHack '91 proceedings, available on CompuServe).
  • "Writing a Device Driver in C++ (What? In C++?)" by Tim Enwall, develop  Issue 4, October 1990. (One caveat if you want to build the sample driver: Be sure to use to MPW 3.1 and System 6.)
  • Black Holes and Warped Spacetime  by William J. Kaufmann (W. H. Freeman and Co., 1979).
  • The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin  by Idries Shah (E. P. Dutton & Co., 1968).

BRAD LOWE attends Chico State, where he claims to be majoring in fashion merchandising, although informed sources say he's been sighted frequently in computer science classes. An Eagle Scout, he enjoys hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and scuba diving. His newest toy is a paraglider, which he flies--on his free weekends--over obscure regions of Northern California. *

Tracks was written by Jim Flood and Brad Lowe for Orion Network Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of Apple Computer, to help develop and debug Orion's SNA*ps Access driver, part of the SNA*ps product family. SNA*ps allows you to connect your Macintosh to an IBM SNA (System Network Architecture) network and communicate with SNA-based hosts, midrange systems (such as AS/400), and even personal computers. *

For more information on the 'mxwt' templates, see the MacsBug documentation. *

THANKS TO OUR TECHNICAL REVIEWERS Neil Day, Jim Flood, Craig Hotchkiss, Gordon Sheridan*


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13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $994,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $994.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $105 off MSRP. Price valid... Read more
Is The iPad Pro Really A Serious Laptop Repla...
Probably not, at least for productive professionals and other power users. Steve Jobs declared that we’d entered the “post-PC Era” with the advent of the original iPad in 2010, a phrase we don’t hear... Read more
Wednesday Deal: 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros f...
Adorama has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $130 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1199.99 $... Read more
uBar 3.0 for Mac OS X – Custom Dock Replaceme...
Brawer Software has announced the release of uBar 3.0, an important update to their popular app and window manager for Mac OS X. uBar allows users to position it whichever side of the screen they... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description:Customer SupportSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
Software Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Apple (U...
…the team that is revolutionizing the watch! As a software engineer on the Apple Watch team, you will be responsible for building world-class applications and frameworks Read more
*Apple* Online Store UAT Lead - Apple (Unite...
**Job Summary** The Apple Online Store is a fast paced and ever evolving business environment. The User Acceptance Testing (UAT) lead in this organization is able to Read more
Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - *App...
**Job Summary** We are seeking an enthusiastic electrical engineer for the Apple Watch team. This is a design engineering position that entails working with Read more
Touch Validation Design (EE) - *Apple* Watc...
**Job Summary** Help launch next-generation Touch Technologies in Apple products. The Touch Technology team develops cutting-edge Touch solutions and technologies that Read more
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