TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mar 97 Factory Floor

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: From The Factory Floor

Jon Watte, Metrowerks BeMeister

By Dave Mark, ©1996 by Metrowerks, Inc., all rights reserved.

This month's Factory Floor interview is with Jon Watte, leader of Metrowerks BeOS tools effort. With all the interest in the BeOS brought on by prospective deals with Apple (as of this writing, not yet decided) and a bundling deal with Power Computing, I asked Jon if he wouldn't mind answering some questions about his involvement with Be.

Dave: How did you hook up with Metrowerks?

Jon: All the applications I wrote and designed at SCOOP were coded using the Think Class Library, using Think C versions 6 and 7. When the time came for Apple to roll out the PowerMacs, Symantec did not have a solution for us, so I went ahead and ported the TCL from Think C+- to "real" C++. I also wrote some utilities that would do the hard work of converting a TCL application to use this TCL version for PowerMac. I released this port publicly in several versions and, through it, got the attention of people at Metrowerks.

Meanwhile, my wife and I entered into something called the Diversity of Immigration Visa Lottery, or "green card lottery" for short, where US immigrations randomly selects among qualified applicants from nations with under-representation in US immigration statistics. Most people don't "win" this lottery, but my wife did. The only crux was that you had to secure an offer of employment from the US to be able to enter. I guess they were afraid people would move from the Swedish welfare system to live on American welfare. I e-mailed everybody I knew in the US from the ‘net and visits to trade shows, and literally thirty minutes later I had a reply from Greg Galanos, saying he had just thought about me for this secret new project they were starting... the Be port of CodeWarrior.

Dave: What were the early days in the Be universe like?

Jon: I actually had one of the first BeBoxes at home in Stockholm, a machine based on the AT&T Hobbit. The hardware wasn't very fast, but the machine was nice anyway. Once I managed to clear through the US visa process (which took much longer than I would have liked), I moved to the US at the same time as the PowerPC-based BeBox prototype appeared.

At first, the machines were very bare-bones; I had the deluxe model with a sheet metal frame (no cover) whereas people at Be usually kept their machines as circuit boards laying on their desks (they still do.) Back then, there wasn't even any debugging except for printf(). You compiled your program on a Mac using CodeWarrior, FTP'ed it to the BeBox, ran it there and watched it spit out text in a terminal window.

There was only a small circle of developers then, many of them from France where Be got much of their initial capital. There were also no mailing lists or news groups in which to discuss the system - they were keeping a very low profile in order not to hype the machine before it was ready to be shown. We all worked under NDA and had to cover the machine with blankets when relatives were visiting. Every two to three months, we would go to Be to talk about what we were doing and in which direction to move, as well as bug them until they fixed the bugs we were running into.

Dave: How did CodeWarrior for BeOS evolve?

Jon: My initial task once I moved to the US was to design and write an IDE, while the other team member (another John) ported the compiler and linker. One interesting quirk soon developed; Be was doing all the compilation under SCO unix and Linux, because those boxes could run NFS which was needed for their source-code control system. In fact, I think they still do. That meant that we had to port our compiler to run under unix on a little-endian machine, a job which later turned out to benefit us when we ported to Windows.

Anyway, while we were cross-developing from the Mac, we soon felt the need for a cross-debugger as well. The only problem was that the BeOS did not support debugging - and since it has protected memory, you can't just write breakpoints into code as you can on the Mac. I put the IDE work on the back-burner and helped Be co-design the system API for debugging, based on the requirements the Metrowerks debugger had at that time. Once that was done, I could write a debugger Nub that ran on Be and adapt the Metrowerks debugger to talk to this Nub instead of a local Mac Nub. This was still back when the machine was secret, and we wrote the debugger mostly for our own use and that of the few select developers in on the secret.

When I was almost finished with this, the other team member left Metrowerks, and I was left alone in charge of the Be team. Quickly finding another programmer to help out (Brian Stern) as well as leveraging the skills of the MPW/command-line tools guy (Mark Anderson) I put together a new Be team within Metrowerks, and showed Brian the design I had for the IDE. Mark already did MPW compilers and linkers, and quickly caught on to Be, which left me with the task of writing the "real" Be debugger.

Dave: Is that where the Be version of PowerPlant came to be?

Jon: Yes. We looked at the cross-debugger, and wondered how to move the technology over to BeOS. It turned out that the debugger source code had some ugly interrelations between UI and functionality that made perfect sense on the Mac but wouldn't work in the multi-threaded Be world. So we had the choice of developing a new debugger from scratch, or somehow porting the MacOS debugger. After some going back and forth, we settled on making the debugger believe it was running on a weird kind of Mac. Since the debugger code was non-reentrant, we had to re-implement the entire event loop layer; the current Be debugger still sits in WaitNextEvent() waiting for things to be thrown at it. Since all of the former Mac code runs in the same thread because of that, the reentrancy problems went away, at the cost of implementing about 300 toolbox calls and some PowerPlant classes.

Dave: What is the state of Be development today?

Jon: The larger companies that have lots of code vested in other OSes are being silent. I'm sure they're working with BeOS internally, but need more time to see if it'll be a viable platform. Meanwhile, smaller, nimbler developers who don't mind throwing away lots of code and starting over are waking up and smelling the coffee - a brand new frontier waiting for fortunes to be made off of it.

If you're thinking of moving a Mac program to the BeOS, you have to realize that, PowerPlant portability or not, it may be hard, or not even make sense. The BeOS is different; it has a different UI and a very multi-threaded concept. Users are quickly getting used to being able to perform all kinds of actions simultaneously, and modal dialogs are few and far between. Mostly because they're so hard to implement, I think, and I love it that way. It's easier to create a modeless dialog than a modal!

If we make the PowerPlant layer available, it'll probably be useful if you have a PowerPlant application on the Mac, but it'll also still require work in the app. It's not a miracle pill. The current version "solves" the re-entrancy problem by having all the windows and menus send messages to the one "Mac Toolbox" thread, which means that the program will never truly feel and behave like a real Be program.

The right thing to do is to re-map the interface classes you may be using currently onto Be classes, and make sure that the underlying "engine" code is thread-safe and re-entrant. Maybe you can even take advantage of some BeOS features on your code, such as easy add-ins, pre-emptive multitasking or memory mapping of data files. That will make an application sing, and is of course the direction we want to take our internal code in. Whether this will be done in the PowerPlant context, or by separating engine from UI remains to be seen.

Dave: How stable is the Be platform for development?

Jon: Well, I don't have to reboot the machine every time I crash. It's sometimes also nice to have a command-line in the system - even though I'm a die-hard CodeWarrior IDE user, I had to go to MPW now and then on the Mac. On Be, it's GNU "bash" that's the shell, and there's a gazillion little utilities already written for it that you can use.

CodeWarrior runs well under the BeOS, although we spend much time waiting for the file system. The new file system promised in DR9 looks as if it'll fix that problem. Being able to type and edit unhindered while running a compile - or two! - at the same time is something I miss everytime I go back to the Mac.

However, every four or five months, Be comes out with a new version of the OS, and lots of things changed that you have to catch up with. Old programs don't usually work on the new version of the OS, since they have the luxury of changing the APIs. That will stop once they reach larger, non-developer markets; currently release DR9 (the next after the MacTech release) is supposed to be "Compatibility Lock".

It's extra hard for us, because our tools ship with the OS and have to be developed, debugged, and tested by the time the OS ships - but Be typically fixes bugs that breaks compatibility while we do that, and once the "last bug" is fixed, they document it, test it, and ship, so we have to get in early, roll with the flow, and hope the APIs work as we think they do...

Dave: How do you feel about Be's choice of C++ as the Be API standard?

Jon: I don't mind C++. It's certainly a language with wide industry adoption and also well understood system characteristics. Many of the nicer, more dynamic languages would need special hardware (mark and type bits in memory) to run really well, which would drive prices up. Meanwhile, there's a lot of C and C++ source available for porting; most public source is C or C++, so it's an obvious language to support.

Pascal affecionados will of course be somewhat unhappy, but in the grim world of business, I think the sentiment is that they're not a big enough force to cater to initially, although I hope Pascal and other languages will arrive at some point. We've done some looking into this at Metrowerks, and there is no reason why you can't make Object Pascal code generate C++ compatible objects; it's just a SMOP. ("Small Matter Of Programming" - a term that means lots of sweaty work.)

The fragile base class problem has several different solutions, and I think it will not be a big impediment to the BeOS. We've talked to them, and they're on the ball with a solution.

Dave: Many prospective developers ask about the types of software they should develop for the BeBox. Any advice?

Jon: There are lots of things I want to see. Sticking to the "content development" niche that Be says they want to target, I could see how you could write an integrated radio station program that kept all of the play lists, spot lists, helped out with traffic planning, and generated all the reports you'd want. Storing the actual songs and "canned" shows and interviews in MPEG and playing them back in real time from disk or network would also come in handy. The BeOS is really tuned for this combination of "soft real-time" and GUI tasks. Connecting back to my previous work in publishing, given some people and some dollars, the right person could create a kick-ass integrated newspaper publishing solution; the only problem being that Quark XPress is a formidable competitor in page layout. But that is only part of the publishing chain; the BeBox has everything else it takes to implement that kind of solution already.

Dave: Can you tell me about Datatypes.lib? (a data translation library Jon wrote in his "copious" spare time and which is starting to see major adoption among Be developers.)

Jon: The cool thing about BeOS is that everything is new. The bad thing is that it's pretty sparse on the nicer amenities. However, the design of the BeOS makes it so that Be doesn't have to provide every system service an application might want to rely on.

A case in point is Datatypes.lib, a generic data translation service much like EasyOpen on the Mac, except with an API mere mortals can understand. It started as a request to Be from some old Amiga developers to adopt the Amiga "datatypes" system service, which apparently is a very basic way of identifying and loading the contents of a disk file into an application. Many people liked the idea, but thought the Amiga implementation was flawed, and a lot of discussion ensued. To cut down on the clutter and flames, I decided one weekend to take the best of the discussion and just implement it. I did, and posted the result for comments. The first round was pretty harsh (and rightly so) but version 1.1 really had everything you'd need in a basic data translation package, including identification, import, export, making it easy to write add-on translators, and abstracting translation from storage so you could use any translator going to/from any source (such as disk, memory, or a network connection). Judicious use of C++ abstract base classes made this both forward compatible and easy to implement.

The library wasn't all that hard to write, thanks to the Be kernel threading and code add-on model, and people are already both using it in applications and writing translator plug-ins for it. This means that your, say, sound editor program doesn't have to know about every imaginable sound file format, just the "standard" format and rely on Datatypes.lib to provide translation.


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

AirPort Utility 6.3.6 - Set up and manag...
Note: Most recent release available only within OS X 10.11 El Capitan update. Use AirPort Utility to set up and manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort... Read more
Quicksilver 1.3.1 - Application launcher...
Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone. Quicksilver allows you to find what you need quickly and easily, then act... Read more
Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Apple iBooks Author 2.4 - Create and pub...
Apple iBooks Author helps you create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad. Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All... Read more
Web Snapper 3.3.9 - Capture entire Web p...
Web Snapper lets you capture Web pages exactly as they appear in your browser. You can send them to a file as images or vector-based, multi-page PDFs. It captures the whole Web page - eliminating the... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6beta10 - GUI for OpenVPN...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
EtreCheck 2.5.1 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more

Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »
3D Touch could be a game-changer, but it...
Were you one of the lucky/financially secure enough ones to buy a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus over the weekend? Yup, me too (I’m not convinced I was either of those two things, but let’s go with lucky for now), so I thought I’d delve into just... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Apple offering refurbished 2015 13-inch Retin...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 (15%) off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 MacBook Airs available...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and... Read more
Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 Gets Haze Removal...
The latest iteration of Adobe’s powerful consumer image editing appliction Photoshop Elements 14 analyzes your photo and removes background haze, so your shot looks sharp all the way to the horizon... Read more
Apple refurbished 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $1029.99 $70 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1229 $70 off - 21″ 2.9GHz iMac: $... Read more
Bare Bones Software Releases TextWrangler 5.0...
Bare Bones Software has announced the release and immediate availability of TextWrangler 5.0, a major upgrade to its free, high performance, general purpose text editor for Mac OS X. Built on a new,... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available for u...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2s available for up to $140 off the price of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2... Read more
Save up to $100 on Mac AppleCare Protection P...
Adorama has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $249 $100 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $81 off MS...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2218.99, $81 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan, plus a free external DVD/CD drive, and a copy of Corel... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Site Security Manager - Apple (Unite...
**Job Summary** The Site Security Manager is a high-profile security position at Apple . The Site Manager is the face of Apple Global Security (GS) and primary point Read more
*Apple* Fulfillment Operations Execution Ana...
**Job Summary** The AMR Apple Fulfillment Operations Team is seeking a talented team player to drive the Apple Online Store (AOS) fulfillment performance to ensure a Read more
*Apple* Distinguished Educator (ADE) Communi...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program team as ADE Community Support Manager. Join a team Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.