TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Universal Headers Gotcha
Volume Number:11
Issue Number:5
Column Tag:Compiler Settings

The Devil’s In The Details

Don’t get surprised by the Universal Headers

By Bill Karsh,

Note: Source code files accompanying article are located on MacTech CD-ROM or source code disks.

There is a particularly insidious problem in Apple’s Universal Headers. Whether you are affected at all, and how devastating it is, depends upon how you use their headers in your projects. Fortunately, the problem only affects 68K code generation. Here are the details, and what you can do as a work-around until new headers become available.

Which Header Versions?

The problem appears in the headers I got with Think C/C++ version 7, although these headers themselves do not seem to have a version number. The problem persists through the latest headers I got with MetroWerks CodeWarrior 5. These are version 2.0a3. Undoubtedly, you are using an affected version (I think they all are).

Structure Alignment Problem

The problem is a structure alignment conflict. Most compilers today let you apply some options regarding how structures are defined, throughout the whole of a project, or while certain pragmas are in effect. For example, you find a pop-up menu in CodeWarrior’s Processor Preferences panel, that let’s you select options called “68K,” “68K 4-byte,” or “PowerPC.” You can also use pragma statements like these:

#pragma options align=mac68k
#pragma options align=mac68k4byte
#pragma options align=native
#pragma options align=power
#pragma options align=reset

These can be used to override a globally set option. I believe that the last option stays in effect until either the next alignment statement, or the end-of-file is encountered.

In Symantec C++, the Compiler Settings page has a radio button group called “Struct Field Alignment,” that sets alignment options for a project.

Generally, the chosen alignment determines how much padding (extra space) is inserted into structures between fields, and how much padding is appended to the end of structures. Deciding which option you would want is a matter of trading-off between compactness of the data (less space) and higher performance (fields aligned on natural addresses for the field’s data-type). We won’t go into those decisions here. What is immediately essential is understanding two things.

First, these options are available to you (settable in an options page or by pragma statements) independently of whether you are generating PowerPC (ppc) code or 68K code.

Second, structures defined by the Mac OS, that is, defined in Apple’s headers, must have no extra padding in them. When the compiler comes across the definition of any Mac OS structure, like GrafPort, BitMap, or whatever, the current alignment option must be mac68k. If the current setting were anything else, your code, and the system software, would disagree on the offsets to various fields in a GrafPort, for example. That’s a disaster.

Inside Mac Headers

If you look inside virtually any Apple header, you will see one of the following examples near the top of the file:

#if defined(powerc) || defined (__powerc)
#pragma options align=mac68k


#pragma options align=mac68k

Near the bottom you will see one of:

#if defined(powerc) || defined (__powerc)
#pragma options align=reset


#pragma options align=reset

The intent here is to force the alignment type to mac68k while any Mac OS structures are defined. Then, align=reset puts the alignment back to whatever was in effect before. Can you see the problem? The pragma statements are made conditional upon what type of code is being generated, ppc or 68K. If you are generating ppc code only, there is no problem. If you are generating 68K code, the pragmas are not executed. You’ve got a bad problem in 68K code if, when the headers are compiled, the current alignment option is not mac68k. The pragma statements in the Apple headers were not supposed to be conditional upon anything. I’m guessing here, but it looks like a clear case of macro-mania-a-go-go.

Why Didn’t I See That?

I know, right now you are saying “how can any of my code work at all if this is true? Why didn’t I catch this immediately!?” There are several sneaky ways this problem might have escaped your notice thus far. For one thing, 68K compilers typically ship with mac68k as the default alignment option. If you never changed that, you would have been spared. Another possibility involves precompiled headers.

Your environment was shipped with precompiled headers. That is, many, but not all, of the Apple headers were precompiled at the factory into a giant header called MacHeaders68K (CW) or MacHeaders (Think), or something similar. Such a file is usually included in a global preferences dialog. That would be the Language panel in CW, or the Prefix page in Think’s dialog. There may be separate precompiled headers for C and C++. Again, chances are that you never removed it. Back at the factory, they compiled these precompiled files using the mac68k setting. Therefore, all the structures defined in there are fine. However, not all of the Apple headers are typically included in these things, only the most commonly used. This keeps symbol table sizes down, and speeds compile times.

Any time you find a need to explicitly include an Apple header in your sources, and it’s not among those precompiled at the factory, you are letting yourself in for it. You have to do something to make sure that when the compiler reads that included header, the alignment is mac68k. You have to take these steps yourself because the provision to do this automatically in the headers themselves is incorrectly coded.

What Do I Do?

If you understand what’s happening, you can choose whatever method you like to adjust for this; whatever works and is convenient. Let’s suppose you need Timer.h, and it’s not currently precompiled. Here are some possibilities:

Re-precompile MacHeaders68K, or whichever variant your project needs. Uncomment Timer.h in the source file that generates the precompiled header. Make sure the project’s global option is “68K” (CW) or “Align to 1 byte Boundary” (Think). Precompile a new MacHeaders, and include it in your working project’s preferences dialog.

Include Timer.h in a source file like this:

#pragma options align=mac68k
#include <Timer.h>
#pragma options align=reset

Repair the Apple header directly. Change this:

#pragma options align=mac68k

to this:

#pragma options align=mac68k

Make the alignment options unconditional, as they were supposed to be. Do this for the reset lines too!

I know this will save you days of debugging and thousands of dollars of development costs. Could you send me just one dollar as a thank you? Worth a try.


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes guide - How...
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is all about collecting heroes, powering them up, and using them together to defeat your foes. It's pretty straightforward stuff for the most part, but increasing your characters' stats can be a bit confusing because it... | Read more »
The best cooking apps (just in time for...
It’s that time of year again, where you’ll be gathering around the dinner table with your family and a huge feast in front of you. [Read more] | Read more »
Square Rave guide - How to grab those te...
Square Rave is an awesome little music-oriented puzzle game that smacks of games like Lumines, but with its own unique sense of gameplay. To help wrap your head around the game, keep the following tips and tricks in mind. [Read more] | Read more »
Snowboard Party 2 (Games)
Snowboard Party 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Crowned the best snowboarding game available on the market, Snowboard Party is back to fulfill all your adrenaline needs in... | Read more »
The best games like Animal Crossing on m...
Animal Crossing amiibo Festival is out right now for the Wii U, reminding us of just how much fun that world can be. Or at least to go back and check in on our villages once in a while. [Read more] | Read more »
Between 2 Taps - Tap for Tap interview M...
Hello, and welcome back to Between 2 Taps, Tap for Tap’s Indie Dev interview series. [Read more] | Read more »
Facility 47 (Games)
Facility 47 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: You wake up alone and freezing in an icy cell. You try the cell door but it’s locked, it seems that you are stuck with no... | Read more »
The best Photoshop alternative on iPad
Instagram and Lightroom are great and all, but sometimes people need to get extra creative with their image editing.Like, Photoshop creative. If you're one of these people, take a look at our pick for the best mobile Photoshop experience on iPad... | Read more »
The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land guide -...
A new update for The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land was released last week, making it the perfect time for you to head back to your base and take out some walkers. Here’s the lowdown on what’s new to the game, and how to take advantage. [Read more] | Read more »
Goat Rider guide - Tips and tricks to st...
We've all been there. One second, we're riding high on a crazed goat, and the next, we've been tossed off it like someone who's no good at goat ridin'. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Best Buy Black Friday deals: Up to $200 off M...
Best Buy has posted their Black Friday sale prices for 2015. Save on MacBook Pros, MacBooks, MacBook Airs, iMacs, iPads, and Apple Watches. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if... Read more
Save $30-$40 on new Apple TVs after rebate
Adorama has new Apple TVs on sale for up to $40 off MSRP after mail-in rebate, good through December 15th. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 32GB Apple TV: $119.99... Read more
13-Inch Haswell MacBook Air At Two Years – Th...
The 13-inch mid-2013 “Haswell” MacBook Air I ordered in Apple’s November 2013 Black Friday sale was my first new Mac in four and a half years — the longest interval I’ve gone between system upgrades... Read more
Target Black Friday Early Access deals: $100...
Target is offering early access to their Black Friday deals on Apple products on their online store for today, the 25th, only. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available): - Apple... Read more
BlackBerry Q3 Mobility Index Report Finds iOS...
BlackBerry has announced results of its thirteenth Good Mobility Index Report, showing that organizations are increasingly building custom secure apps. Among Good Powered by BlackBerry (formerly Good... Read more
Wednesday roundup of early Black Friday Mac s...
Save up to $500 on a new Mac with these early Black Friday deals from Apple resellers, currently the lowest prices available for these models: (1) B&H Photo has all new Macs on sale for up to $... Read more
iPod nano on sale for $119, $30 off MSRP
Walmart has the 16GB iPod nano (various colors) on sale for $119.20 on their online store for a limited time. That’s $30 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale... Read more
Adorama Black Friday deals: Up to $400 off Ma...
Adorama has released their Black Friday deals for 2015. Save up to $400 on MacBook Pros, $200 on MacBooks and MacBook Airs, and $270 on iMacs. Use code RYBFDEAL during checkout to see these prices.... Read more
B&H Photo Deals: $200 off 12-inch 1.2GHz...
In addition to the B&H Photo Black Friday week sales we posted yesterday, B&H has lowered their price on two products to $200 off MSRP: - 12″ 1.2GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $1399 save $200 - 13... Read more
Best Buy Early Access: Today only, Up to $125...
Best Buy has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $125 off MSRP and Apple Watch models on sale on their online store for up to $100 off MSRP with special codes through midnight CT tonight. Choose free... Read more

Jobs Board

Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - *App...
# Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - Apple Watch Job Number: 39380139 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Apr. 23, 2015 Weekly Hours: **Job Read more
Sr. Technical/Project Manager, *Apple* Educ...
# Sr. Technical/Project Manager, Apple Education Job Number: 36588557 New York City, New York, United States Posted: Jul. 30, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Merchant Operations Manager: *Apple* Pay -...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more than Read more
*Apple* Pay QA Manager - Apple Inc. (United...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more than Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.