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

Microsoft Office 2016 16.11 - Popular pr...
Microsoft Office 2016 - Unmistakably Office, designed for Mac. The new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote provide the best of both worlds for Mac users - the familiar Office... Read more
Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 19.1.2 - Profess...
Photoshop CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Photoshop customer). Adobe Photoshop CC 2018, the industry standard... Read more
Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2018 -...
Dreamweaver CC 2018 is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $19.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous Dreamweaver customer). Adobe Dreamweaver CC 2018 allows you to... Read more
Adobe Flash Player - Plug-in...
Adobe Flash Player is a cross-platform, browser-based application runtime that provides uncompromised viewing of expressive applications, content, and videos across browsers and operating systems.... Read more
Drive Genius 5.2.0 - $79.00
Drive Genius features a comprehensive Malware Scan. Automate your malware protection. Protect your investment from any threat. The Malware Scan is part of the automated DrivePulse utility. DrivePulse... Read more
MegaSeg 6.0.6 - Professional DJ and radi...
MegaSeg is a complete solution for pro audio/video DJ mixing, radio automation, and music scheduling with rock-solid performance and an easy-to-use design. Mix with visual waveforms and Magic... Read more
ffWorks 1.0.7 - Convert multimedia files...
ffWorks (was iFFmpeg), focused on simplicity, brings a fresh approach to the use of FFmpeg, allowing you to create ultra-high-quality movies without the need to write a single line of code on the... Read more
Dash 4.1.5 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API documentation browser and code snippet manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
Evernote 7.0.3 - Create searchable notes...
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at anytime, from... Read more
jAlbum Pro 15.3 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Around the Empire: What have you missed...
Oh hi nice reader, and thanks for popping in to check out our weekly round-up of all the stuff that you might have missed across the Steel Media network. Yeah, that's right, it's a big ol' network. Obviously 148Apps is the best, but there are some... | Read more »
All the best games on sale for iPhone an...
It might not have been the greatest week for new releases on the App Store, but don't let that get you down, because there are some truly incredible games on sale for iPhone and iPad right now. Seriously, you could buy anything on this list and I... | Read more »
Everything You Need to Know About The Fo...
In just over a week, Epic Games has made a flurry of announcements. First, they revealed that Fortnite—their ultra-popular PUBG competitor—is coming to mobile. This was followed by brief sign-up period for interested beta testers before sending out... | Read more »
The best games that came out for iPhone...
It's not been the best week for games on the App Store. There are a few decent ones here and there, but nothing that's really going to make you throw down what you're doing and run to the nearest WiFi hotspot in order to download it. That's not to... | Read more »
Death Coming (Games)
Death Coming Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: (iTunes) Description: --- Background Story ---You Died. Pure and simple, but death was not the end. You have become an agent of Death: a... | Read more »
Hints, tips, and tricks for Empires and...
Empires and Puzzles is a slick match-stuff RPG that mixes in a bunch of city-building aspects to keep things fresh. And it's currently the Game of the Day over on the App Store. So, if you're picking it up for the first time today, we thought it'd... | Read more »
What You Need to Know About Sam Barlow’s...
Sam Barlow’s follow up to Her Story is #WarGames, an interactive video series that reimagines the 1983 film WarGames in a more present day context. It’s not exactly a game, but it’s definitely still interesting. Here are the top things you should... | Read more »
Pixel Plex Guide - How to Build Better T...
Pixel Plex is the latest city builder that has come to the App Store, and it takes a pretty different tact than the ones that came before it. Instead of being in charge of your own city by yourself, you have to work together with other players to... | Read more »
Fortnite Will Be Better Than PUBG on Mob...
Before last week, if you asked me which game I prefer between Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), I’d choose the latter just about 100% of the time. Now that we know that both games are primed to hit our mobile screens... | Read more »
Siege of Dragonspear (Games)
Siege of Dragonspear 2.5.12 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 2.5.12 (iTunes) Description: Experience the Siege of Dragonspear, an epic Baldur’s Gate tale, filled with with intrigue, magic, and monsters.... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Sunday Sales: $200 off 13″ Touch Bar MacBook...
Amazon has new 2017 13″ 3.1GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale this weekend for $200 off MSRP, each including free shipping: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXV2LL/A): $1599.99 $200 off... Read more
B&H drops prices on 15″ MacBook Pros up t...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on new 2017 15″ MacBook Pros, now up to $300 off MSRP and matching Adorama’s price drop yesterday. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished 2017 13″...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pros for $200-$230 off MSRP. A standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, models receive new outer cases, and... Read more
13″ Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale...
Adorama has new 2017 13″ Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (... Read more
Best deal of the year on 15″ Apple MacBook Pr...
Adorama has New 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NJ and NY only: – 15″ 2.8GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray (MPTR2LL/A): $... Read more
Save $100-$150+ on 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros...
B&H Photo has 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $100-$150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro... Read more
Current deals on 27″ Apple iMacs, models up t...
B&H Photo has 27″ iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 27″ 3.8GHz iMac (MNED2LL/A): $2149 $150 off MSRP – 27″ 3... Read more
Thursday Deal: 13″ 2.3GHz MacBook Pro for $11...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.3GHz/128GB Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB Space... Read more
How to save $100-$190 on 10″ & 12″ iPad P...
Apple is now offering Certified Refurbished 2017 10″ and 12″ iPad Pros for $100-$190 off MSRP, depending on the model. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: –... Read more
Silver 12″ 1.3GHz MacBook on sale at B&H...
B&H Photo has the 2017 12″ 1.3GHz Silver MacBook on sale for $1399.99 including free shipping plus sales tax for NY & NJ residents only. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest... Read more

Jobs Board

Firmware Engineer - *Apple* Accessories - A...
# Firmware Engineer - Apple Accessories Job Number: 113452350 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 28-Feb-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Read more
Automation and Performance Engineer, *Apple*...
# Automation and Performance Engineer, Apple Pay Job Number: 113557967 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 09-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
Hardware Systems Architect - *Apple* Watch...
# Hardware Systems Architect - Apple Watch Job Number: 113565323 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 05-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
Lead *Apple* Solution Consultant - Apple (U...
# Lead Apple Solution Consultant Chicago IL Job Number: 113560644 Chicago, Illinois, United States Posted: 10-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** As a Lead Read more
Art Director, *Apple* Music + Beats1 Market...
# Art Director, Apple Music + Beats1 Marketing Design Job Number: 113258081 Culver City, California, United States Posted: 07-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.