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Calling CFM Libraries From 68K

Volume Number: 15 (1999)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: Programming Techniques

Calling CFM Shared Libraries From Classic 68K Code

by Miro Jurisic

Things they don't tell you in Technote 1077


One of the great things about Macintosh software is that older 68K application software tends to work on the newer PowerPC machines and that user of the older machines can get modern software. One example of this is Apple's support for the Code Fragment Manager on 68K ("CFM68K") beginning with System 7.1. With this, 68K code can use the Code Fragment Manager to implement libraries and plug-ins, or can call PowerPC code when running emulated on a PowerPC system.

George Wagner first described how to call CFM shared libraries (whether PowerPC or 68K) from 68K code; you can find this as Apple Developer Technical Support Technote 1077 (TN 1077).

This article contains improvements to the code provided in TN1077, making the code more robust and provides examples of additional problems and techniques. In particular, this article describes:

  • calling CFM functions that return pointers,
  • calling CFM functions that cannot be directly called via the Mixed Mode Manager because of their prototypes, and
  • generating CFM glue code automatically from a Perl script.

This article assumes that you are familiar with the Code Fragment Manager and shared libraries (as described in [IM:PPC] and [IM:RTA]), and that you have read TN 1077 [TN1077].

Correctly Dealing with System 7

The code in TN 1077 does an incorrect check to determine the runtime architecture of the machine it's running on.

The problem with the TN 1077 code is that it returns an error when the gestaltSystemArchitecture Gestalt selector is not installed, i.e., on all versions of Mac OS before 7.1.2. However, CFM-68K is backwards compatible to system 7.1; as a result, TN 1077 glue code fails to load CFM-68K shared libraries on Mac OS 7.1 and 7.1.1.

The correct version of the code is:

GetSystemArchitecture determines system architecture it is running
in (68K or PPC).

static pascal OSErr GetSystemArchitecture (
   OSType *outArchType)
   // static so we only Gestalt once
   static long sSysArchitecture = 0;
   OSErr tOSErr = noErr;

   // assume wild architecture
   *outArchType = kAnyCFragArch;

   // If we don't know the system architecture yet...
   // Ask Gestalt what kind of machine we are running on.
   if (sSysArchitecture == 0)
      tOSErr = Gestalt(gestaltSysArchitecture,

   if (tOSErr == noErr) { // if no errors
      if (sSysArchitecture == gestalt68k) // 68k?
            *outArchType = kMotorola68KCFragArch;
      else if (sSysArchitecture == gestaltPowerPC) // PPC?
            *outArchType = kPowerPCCFragArch;
      else // who knows what might be next?
            tOSErr = gestaltUnknownErr;
   } else if (tOSErr == gestaltUndefSelectorErr) {
      // No system architecture gestalt
      // We must be running on a system older than 7.1.2, so
      // we are on a 68K machine.
      *outArchType = kMotorola68KCFragArch;
      tOSErr = noErr;
   return tOSErr;

Checking for CFM-68K

The TN 1077 code does not check for presence of the Code Fragment Manager before calling it to load the library. This causes the glue code to crash 68K machines with an Illegal A-Trap when CFM-68K is not present. To fix this error, we add code to the Find_Symbol function to check for presence of CFM:

Addition to the Find_Symbol function that correctly checks for presence
of CFM before calling it.

static pascal OSErr Find_Symbol (
   Ptr* pSymAddr,
   Str255 pSymName,
   ProcInfoType pProcInfo)
   /* Code to determine the runtime architecture goes here*/
   if (!HaveCFM()) {
      // If we don't have CFM68K
      // return a reasonable-looking error.
      sOSErr = cfragLibConnErr;
      return sOSErr;
   /* Code to load the library and find the symbol goes here */

Clearly, we also need to add the HaveCFM() function:

Checking for presence of the Code Fragment Manager
static pascal Boolean HaveCFM(void)
   OSErr theError = noErr;
   // static so we only call Gestalt once
   static Boolean sHaveCFM = false;
   static Boolean sCalledGestalt = false;
   long response;

   if (!sCalledGestalt) {
      theError = Gestalt(gestaltCFMAttr, &response);
      sCalledGestalt = true;
      sHaveCFM = 
         (theError == noErr) &&
         (((response >> gestaltCFMPresent) & 1) != 0);
   return sHaveCFM;

Prototype Restrictions

Restrictions in the Mixed Mode Manager limit which functions in a CFM shared library can be accessed from classic 68K code. Only functions

  • which have a fixed number of arguments
  • which have no more than 13 arguments
  • whose arguments and the return value (if the function returns a non-void value) all have size of 1, 2, or 4 bytes can be called from classic 68K code.

This means that you cannot access any functions that take or return structs or some floating-point types; however, you can use functions that take or return pointers to structs or pointers to floating-point types.

Thus, if you control the library, you may want to consider changing the library interface so that your functions satisfy the above conditions. If you do not control the library, or you cannot change the library interface, you can write a wrapper library which provides an interface that can be called from classic 68K, and just calls the real library to do the work (with arguments appropriately rearranged).

For example, if you have a function in a shared library with the following prototype:

Example of a function that cannot be called via the Mixed Mode Manager
struct myStruct {
   UInt32 a;
   UInt32 b;

// The following function can't be called from classic 68K
// using Mixed Mode Manager because the size of its
// arguments and the return value is not 1, 2, or 4 bytes.
myStruct myFunction (myStruct param1, myStruct param2);

then you can write the wrapper function like this:

Example of a wrapper function that can be called via the Mixed Mode Manager
// The following function can be called from classic 68K
// code using the Mixed Mode Manager.
// Note how the wrapper function avoids having to deal
// with memory allocation by changing the return value
// into a non-const pointer argument
void myFunctionWrapper (myStruct* result, const myStruct* param1, const myStruct* param2) {
   *result = myFunction (*param1, *param2);

If you put this wrapper function in a shared library, then you can call the wrapper function from your 68K code (because the wrapper function does not violate the Mixed Mode Manager restrictions), and the wrapper function can call the real function (because that is just a cross-fragment call that does not have those restrictions).

It is not possible to write a simple wrapper for a shared library function which takes a variable number of arguments, such as the C "printf" function. First of all, even if you could write a wrapper function, it would still be limited to no more than 13 arguments. However, the real problem is that the procedure information you would have to pass to the Mixed Mode Manager depends on the number and the types of the arguments, and this information is lost once the arguments are put on the stack. Either you would have to pass the number and sizes of arguments into the glue function, or the glue function would have to parse the arguments to determine how many there are and how big they are.

We can use printf as an example,

 printf("Hello, my name is %s\n", "Miro");

The printf function has to take the first argument and use the information provided there to extract the remaining parameters from the stack. To write a wrapper for this function, you would have to write a parser to extract the arguments, build the appropriate routine descriptor, and push them back onto the stack in the correct form before calling the function.

In any case, the work involved in writing the wrapper function is probably better spent rewriting the library function to take a fixed number of arguments.

Correctly Handling Library Functions that Return Pointers

Suppose your classic 68K code makes a call into a CFM shared library via glue code. The call is executed like this:

  • Your classic 68K code calls the classic 68K glue function, passing arguments according to a 68K calling convention. The particular calling convention used depends on the compiler options used to compile the glue functions.
  • The glue calls the CFM library function using a Universal Procedure Pointer (UPP).
  • The UPP invokes the Mixed Mode Manager, which examines the information in the UPP to determine how to rearrange the arguments into the CFM calling convention.
  • The Mixed Mode Manager calls the CFM function.
  • The CFM function executes, taking its arguments according to the CFM calling convention (68K or PPC, depending on which architecture the code is running on).
  • The CFM function places its return value in the appropriate place, again according to the CFM calling convention.
  • The Mixed Mode Manager returns control to the classic 68K code in the glue function, leaving the return value of the CFM function in the D0 register.
  • The glue function takes the return value and returns it to its caller.

To find arguments passed by the glue function and the value returned to the glue function, the Mixed Mode Manager uses procedure information in the UPP. This means that you have to make sure that compiler options you are using to compile the glue functions match the procedure information in the UPPs for the shared library functions. Otherwise, either your shared library function will get garbage arguments, or the glue function will get a garbage return value.

If your glue functions follow Pascal calling conventions, then you should use kPascalStackBased as the calling convention in procedure information.

If your glue functions follow C calling convention, and are compiled with an MPW compiler, or with another MPW-compatible compiler (such as Metrowerks compiler with "MPW Calling Conventions" turned on), then you should use kCStackBased in procedure information.

If you are compiling with the default settings for Metrowerks compilers, then your glue functions will follow the ThinkC calling convention, and you should use kThinkCStackBased in the procedure information. There is one twist, however: if the return value from a UPP call is a pointer, the glue function will expect the result to be returned in the A0 register instead of the D0 register. However, the MixedModeManager will always put the return value in D0 if UPP has kThinkCStackBased for its calling convention.

Therefore, if you start with the default settings for Metrowerks compilers, you have to compile your glue functions so that they expect the results to always be returned in D0. This is done by surrounding your glue code with the following pragmas:

#pragma d0_pointers on
// Prototypes for glue functions go here
#pragma d0_pointers reset
Generating Glue Code Programatically

As I was working with CFM glue for several shared libraries, it occurred to me that writing the glue was a fairly mechanical process; there is a section of code that's invariant, and a secion of code that contains glue functions, but the glue functions follow a fairly straightforward pattern. Thus I thought generating the glue with a script might be a good idea. Looking at my options, I decided that Perl was a good tool for the job, so I summoned my local Perl deity.

She consed up1 a script that takes as input a list of C function prototypes, such as:

Sample prototype list
UInt16 sampleFun1 (void* arg1, UInt32 arg2);
void sampleFun2 (UInt32* arg1, UInt16 arg[]);
void sampleFun3 (void);

Although it may seem annoying that you need to take your existing C headers and strip them down to the form accepted by the Perl script, we decided that it would be slightly impractical to implement enough of a C parser and semantic analyzer in Perl to extract prototypes from a regular header file.

The script uses MacPerl and its MPW tool; before you can use the script, you will have to install MacPerl and the tool (see [MacPerl] for download and installation instructions).

The output of the script for the above input is:

Sample glue generated by the script
/**** sampleFun1 ****/
/* UInt16 sampleFun1 (void* arg1, UInt32 arg2); */

enum {
   sampleFun1_ProcInfo = kThinkCStackBased
   | RESULT_SIZE(SIZE_CODE(sizeof(UInt16)))
   | STACK_ROUTINE_PARAMETER(1, SIZE_CODE(sizeof(void *)))

typedef UInt16 (*sampleFun1_ProcPtrType)(void *, UInt32);
UInt16 sampleFun1 (
   void * arg1,
   UInt32 arg2)
   static sampleFun1_ProcPtrType sampleFun1_ProcPtr =

   // if this symbol has not been setup yet...
   if ((Ptr) sampleFun1_ProcPtr == (Ptr)
      FindLibrarySymbol ((Ptr *) &sampleFun1_ProcPtr,
   if ((Ptr) sampleFun1_ProcPtr !=
         (Ptr) kUnresolvedCFragSymbolAddress)
      return sampleFun1_ProcPtr (arg1, arg2);

/**** sampleFun2 ****/
/* void sampleFun2 (UInt32* arg1, UInt16 arg[]); */

enum {
   sampleFun2_ProcInfo = kThinkCStackBased

typedef void (*sampleFun2_ProcPtrType)(UInt32 *, UInt16 *);
void sampleFun2 (
   UInt32 * arg1,
   UInt16 * arg)
   static sampleFun2_ProcPtrType sampleFun2_ProcPtr =

   // if this symbol has not been setup yet...
   if ((Ptr) sampleFun2_ProcPtr ==
         (Ptr) kUnresolvedCFragSymbolAddress)
      FindLibrarySymbol((Ptr *) &sampleFun2_ProcPtr,
   if ((Ptr) sampleFun2_ProcPtr !=
         (Ptr) kUnresolvedCFragSymbolAddress)
      sampleFun2_ProcPtr(arg1, arg);

/**** sampleFun3 ****/
/* void sampleFun3 (void) */

enum {
   sampleFun3_ProcInfo = kThinkCStackBased

typedef void (*sampleFun3_ProcPtrType)(void);
void sampleFun3 (
   static sampleFun3_ProcPtrType sampleFun3_ProcPtr =

   // if this symbol has not been setup yet...
   if((Ptr) sampleFun3_ProcPtr ==
      (Ptr) kUnresolvedCFragSymbolAddress)
      FindLibrarySymbol((Ptr *) &sampleFun3_ProcPtr,
   if ((Ptr) sampleFun3_ProcPtr !=
         (Ptr) kUnresolvedCFragSymbolAddress)

Once we produce this output, we need to assemble it into a final glue file consisting of:

  • a preamble, containing a #define for the library fragment name, and #includes for all the header files needed by the glue functions (which is at least the header files containing glue functions' declarations and some system headers), followed by
  • the general glue code, containing HasCFM(), GetSystemArchitecture(), and FindLibrarySymbol() functions, followed by
  • the auto-generated glue functions from above, followed by
  • a postamble, containing any other code that we may want (and that requires any of the code in the general glue); typically, this is a function that tests for presence of the shared library.

We generate the final glue file with the following MPW commands:

   perl < :GlueExample.proto.h > ∂
   Catenate :GlueExample.Glue.pre.c :Glue.c ∂
      :GlueExample.Glue.c | ∂
      Catenate > :GlueExample.Glue.c


As noted before, the Perl script is nowhere near as smart as a C compiler. Because of this, the script cannot detect some things that you cannot or should not put in your glue code, such as:

  • functions whose arguments or the return value have size other than 1, 2, or 4 bytes;
  • functions that take arguments or return values whose size, when passed or returned, is 1, 2, or 4 bytes, but whose sizeof() is not.

The script also does not detect the following conditions which will generate incorrect glue code:

  • functions whose prototypes are not legal C
  • functions whose prototypes contain C preprocessor macros

The script will detect the following problems in your prototypes:

  • functions with no arguments and no dummy void argument
  • functions with a variable argument list (either ... or va_list)

You should be especially careful about types whose sizeof()is not the same as their size when passed as argument; this is somewhat tricky, as it is usually not obvious. Consider the following code:

typedef UInt32 TwoWordType[2];
void myFunction (TwoWordType arg);

Script-generated glue for such a function would contain the following procedure information:

enum {
   myFunction_ProcInfo = kThinkCStackBased

The problem is that sizeof(TwoWordType) is 8, but a TwoWordType is passed on the stack as a pointer. So, the size that we really want to use here is that of a UInt32[]. Using sizeof(TwoWordType) causes the procedure information to indicate the size is 0 (see the definition for SIZE_CODE in MixedMode.h), i.e., no argument is passed, so that the CFM library function gets garbage in. ("Nasty." "Yeah.")

A typedef to an array type is the only case that we could find where a bizarre thing like this happens, but it took us a while to figure it out, so be careful with your typedefs when CFM glue is in town.

These weaknesses of the Perl script are the main reason why we consider it a feature that you need to create the prototype list (mostly) by hand, because you have an opportunity to look at all the prototypes at that time and inspect them for possible problems.

A Complete Example

Complete source for CFM glue functions is provided with the article; the code consists of the following:

  • GlueExample library: a sample CFM library (includes functions that cannot be called from classic 68K without a wrapper).
  • GlueExample.h: header file containing function declarations for the shared library.
  • GlueExample.c: shared library source.
  • GlueExample.mcp: CodeWarrior Pro 2 project for the shared library.
  • GlueExample.Glue.c: source file containing glue code for GlueExample library.
  • GlueTest test application: sample application that uses GlueExample glue.
  • GlueTest.c: the application source.
  • GlueTest.mcp: CodeWarrior Pro 2 project for the application.
  • WrapperExample library: a sample CFM shared library which provides wrappers for functions in GlueExample that cannot be called from classic 68K code.
  • WrapperExample.h: wrapper function prototypes.
  • WrapperExample.c: wrapper function implementations.
  • WrapperExample.mcp: CodeWarrior Pro 2 project for the wrapper library.
  • WrapperExample.Glue.c: source file containing glue code for the WrapperExample library
  • WrapperTest test application: an application that calls functions in GlueExample that cannot be called directly via the Mixed Mode Manager, using WrapperExample library.
  • WrapperTest.c: application source.
  • WrapperTest.mcp: CodeWarrior Pro 2 project for the application.
  • GlueExample and WrapperExample glue autogeneration: sources and script that autogenerate GlueExample glue.
  • Glue.c: the invariant portion of CFM glue.
  • GlueExample.Glue.mpw: MPW script with commands that generate GlueExample glue
  • GlueExample.Glue.pre.c: preamble for GlueExample glue autogeneration.
  • postamble for GlueExample glue autogeneration.
  • GlueExample.proto.h: prototype list for the GlueExample library, input to the glue generation script.
  • WrapperExample.Glue.mpw: MPW script with commands that generate glue for WrapperExample
  • WrapperExample.Glue.pre.c: preamble for WrapperExample glue autogeneration.
  • postamble for WrapperExample glue autogeneration.
  • WrapperExample.proto.h: prototype list for the WrapperExample library, input to the glue generation script.
  • Perl glue generation script.
  • CFM.InitTerm.h: declarations for standard Metrowerks __initialize and __terminate routines, called from Glue library initialization and termination routines.

Conclusion and Debugging Tips

Writing classic 68K glue for CFM library functions can be tricky. There are plenty of ways to make a mistake, and most of them result in moderately baffling failures. Here are some things to try when your glue code doesn't work:

Check whether your library is getting loaded at all, by either:

  • stepping through the code that loads the library and inspecting the return value from GetSharedLibrary() or
  • stepping over the code that loads the library and using the MacsBug 'frags' dcmd to see if the library has been loaded.

If the library is not getting loaded, make sure that:

  • CFM is installed (either step through HaveCFM(), or look at the 'cfrg' Gestalt selector in MacsBug);
  • your library is in the CFM search path (application file, application folder, Extensions folder). See [IM:RTA] for details on the search order for CFM fragments;
  • the fragment name in the glue code is correct (you can see the names of the fragments in a shared library by opening it in ResEdit or Resorcerer and looking at the 'cfrg' 0 resource);
  • there is enough room in the heap to load the fragment;
  • all the fragments your library depends on are available (if the error returned by GetSharedLibrary() contains fragment name other than your library's fragment name, then that fragment is unavailable and caused your library to fail to load);

If the library is getting loaded, but it is misbehaving:

  • If you seem to be calling a function other than the one you expected to call, check that there isn't a typo in the glue code for the function you are trying to call. Since glue code is a copy-and-paste job, forgetting to change variable or symbol names is not uncommon.
  • If you seem to be calling the right shared library function, but its arguments are garbage (it is very helpful at this point if you have the SYM file for the library), there is probably an error in the procedure information for that function
  • If the shared library function arguments are correct, and the function executes fine, but returns garbage, then most likely either procedure information for the function is wrong or the glue function was not compiled with "pointers in D0" calling convention when it should be.

If all of this fails, then I sincerely hope you are on friendly terms with MacsBug...


I would like to thank George Wagner of DTS for writing the original "develop" article and the Technote (without him, I would never have been able to get started on this); Alexandra Ellwood, who wrote the glue code generation Perl script (without her, I would have had to learn Perl); Marshall Vale, for asking "I wonder if we could..."; and Scott McGuire, who is not a writing major.


Miro Jurisic is a wacky European working for Massachusetts Institute of Technology Information Systems. In his free time, he is a full-time student at MIT, working on his Master's degree in Computer Science and Bachelor's degree in Mathematics. His only artistic ability is ASCII art. He can be reached at


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