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Jan 96 Viewpoint
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Viewpoint

Viewpoint

By Scott T Boyd, Editor-at-Large, http://www.hax.com/

Out of circulation for some time now, all of a sudden TMON has reappeared on the scene. Rumors have circulated since before WWDC this year that TMON would make its reemergence, only to listen to deafening silence. Well, silent no more, TMON’s back! Check out http://www.tmon.com

TMON last saw major work for System 7 compatibility. Since then it has had something of a bumpy ride. For example, Waldemar Horwat, its author, spent a little time finishing up his Ph.D. at MIT. ICOM Simulations, the original publisher, was purchased by Viacom. As you might imagine, the media giant was a little less interested in a debugger, no matter how great, than in ICOM’s multimedia expertise.

My interest in TMON goes back to 1985. I was in grad school at Texas A&M, discovering how difficult grad school can be when there’s this really cool computer called Macintosh that I could spend every waking hour learning to program. Flipping through Macazine (anyone remember that great rag?) I came across a brief mention of CompUTopia, a Macintosh conference in Austin. I hopped in the car and drove to Austin.

One banquet-hall-sized room had booths all the way around, probably not more than twenty or so altogether. Just inside the entrance was a giant, inflatable Macintosh. I was having a blast hanging out with fellow Mac enthusiasts when I noticed a crowd of especially geeky types gathering around one machine. Some extremely-animated guy was driving the machine while somehow waving his arms around, too.

I went over and stared at the screen. “What on earth has he done to it?” The windows were all as wide as the monitor, and they only moved vertically, and the contents moved live. They didn’t use the standard WDEF, either. “What’s all that monospaced gunk in those windows? Wait a minute! I think I’m starting to understand.” It gradually came into focus - I was staring at a debugger, unlike anything I had ever seen.

Soon after that I purchased my first copy of TMON, and it’s served as my debugger of choice ever since. It was a great favorite among Blue Meanies during 7.0 development, too.

One of the great moments in debugging history was the moment when I asked the first PowerPC 68K emulator engineer whether TMON would work with his emulator. I don’t know whether to describe the look on his face as surprise or fear. It certainly belied his confident retort of “Yes!” Shortly thereafter I tried it out on one of the very first PDMs (which later became the 6100). Sure enough, it worked fine. It’s a mighty odd sight to see a low-level debugger, confident as ever that it’s displaying the detailed state of a 68K chip when there’s not really one inside the box

Now TMON knows about both chips. Most of the tricks it’s always known now work for the PowerPC, too - interactive assembly (just type it in) and disassembly; live displays of processor state, raw memory dumps, low memory (with names), and structure templates; and breakpoints and stepping.

TMON also knows some new tricks. For example, it indicates which direction of a branch you’ll take (just like Macsbug has done for a long time). TMON also handles CFM fragments. TMON also offers filters on heap windows, so now you can limit the blocks displayed by attribute and/or resource info. And here’s my favorite feature - stepping no longer does a screen swap unless it needs to.

Now, back to the history lesson. I spent some time looking carefully at picking up the product right after Viacom purchased ICOM. I decided to pass, but Allan Foster of Guru, Inc. got interested. After working out an arrangement with Viacom and Waldemar, Guru took it on. He did a huge chunk of work on it, adding most of the features mentioned above. Just about the time it was ready to ship, MindVision approached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse, and now TMON is shipping under the MindVision label.

Now, no mention of debugging would be complete without mentioning two other stalwarts - Macsbug and Jasik. Apple’s Jim Murphy has recently added a slew of PowerPC support items to Macsbug (too many to go into now), and it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s available in the usual places.

Likewise, Jasik has added some interesting items (http://www.jasik.com). Nosy now disassembles PEF containers, and has a fancy new resource selection dialog. The Debugger handles PowerPC-native watchpoints, and can read in the symbolic debugging info files created by Nosy’s PEF disassembly.

Debuggers for the Rest of Us

I’m excited to see the return of TMON. Macintosh developers deserve to have all the excellent tools they can get, and professionals should have them all. By and large, they all provide far more value than they cost. In addition, the longevity and expertise represented by folks like Jasik and MindVision brings a lot more to the table than just a piece of debugging software. I know of one developer who bought Jasik’s Debugger just so he could call Steve with an occasional question. It’s great to see all three debuggers undergoing active development and support!

Food For Thought

In answer to the question, “What’s the coolest stuff coming out of Apple lately?” I expected to hear about PCI machines (they’re fast), the Color LaserWriter (looks good, good price), or QTVR (too cool!). I got the following answer: “Engineers.” Ouch!

“A new tool for every project!” - Gordon Sheridan

Internet. Mention it and maybe your stock price will climb to $140/share, too! I mentioned it. Maybe it’s time for an acquisition

 
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