TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Sting

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: QuickTime Toolkit

The Sting

Developing QuickTime Applications with "Stinger"

by Tim Monroe

Introduction

In the previous QuickTime Toolkit article ("The Vision" in MacTech, March 2003), we took a look at developing QuickTime applications using Microsoft's Visual Basic. I noted then that Visual Basic provides no built-in support for displaying or editing or creating QuickTime movies, but that we can work with QuickTime movies using any one of several third-party ActiveX components. Apparently that article struck a nerve somewhere within Microsoft, for several days after the magazine hit the stands, I received a package -- postmarked in Redmond, Washington but otherwise with no indication of the sender -- containing a single CD. The CD contains what appears to be a pre-release version of a multimedia application framework developed by Microsoft. The product is named "Stinger" and sports a logo of a bee (which is eerily reminiscent of the MSN butterfly).

So far, I've spent only a couple of days working with Stinger, but it's clearly a software development environment of some importance for QuickTime developers. It allows us to write applications that support the standard litany of Microsoft proprietary media and file formats (AVI, WMV7, ASF); Stinger also supports MPEG-4 audio and video formats. This already is pretty surprising, as it represents an abrupt shift on Microsoft's behalf toward open standards for multimedia content. What's even more surprising is that we can use Stinger to develop applications that can create, open, and display QuickTime movies. And the list of operating systems that can run Stinger-developed applications is truly amazing; Stinger can create multimedia applications that run on Windows, Mac OS, several flavors of Linux, Palm OS, and even MS-DOS itself! For instance, Figure 1 shows the QuickTime sample movie displayed by an application running under Red Hat Linux; note the distinctive Red Hat "Bluecurve" graphical interface.


Figure 1: A QuickTime movie playing in Red Hat Linux

In this article, we're going to take a preliminary and unfortunately brief look at Stinger. I should say in advance that the information here is derived mainly from my own tinkering around with it (there was no documentation on the CD), and some of it is pure conjecture. Also, the name "Stinger" is quite likely a code name -- though judging from the professional finish to the logo, the final product name will probably have some apiary connection ("Visual Beesic" perhaps?).

Microsoft and QuickTime

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Stinger is that it exists at all. I noted in the previous article that "Microsoft...does not have a history of promoting QuickTime as a multimedia creation or delivery technology". That was an understatement. In fact, Microsoft has a history of trying to derail the adoption of QuickTime, at least on Windows operating systems. Here is an excerpt from the court's decision in the recent Justice Department anti-trust case against Microsoft:

    "S. 105. Beginning in the spring of 1997 and continuing into the summer of 1998, Microsoft tried to persuade Apple to stop producing a Windows 95 version of its multimedia playback software, which presented developers of multimedia content with alternatives to Microsoft's multimedia APIs. If Apple acceded to the proposal, Microsoft executives said, Microsoft would not enter the authoring business and would instead assist Apple in developing and selling tools for developers writing multimedia content....Apple would have been permitted, without hindrance, to market a media player that would run on top of DirectX. But...Apple's QuickTime shell would not have exposed platform-level APIs to developers. Microsoft executives acknowledged to Apple their doubts that a firm could make a successful business out of marketing such a shell." (From the Court's Findings of Fact, Civil Action No. 98-1232.)

At one meeting in April 1997, Apple engineer Peter Hoddie asked incredulously: "Are you asking us to kill playback? Are you asking us to knife the baby?" According to court testimony, a Microsoft official responded: "Yes, we want you to knife the baby." Ouch. (Insider trivia factoid: this exchange prompted a member of the QuickTime engineering team to print up tee-shirts bearing the slogan "Don't Knife the Baby.")

It gets worse. Some early versions of Microsoft's multimedia playback application, the Windows Media Player (also known affectionately and perhaps too accurately as WiMP), had a tendency to hijack the QuickTime movie MIME type (that is, "video/quicktime"). When a Windows user would navigate to a web site containing embedded QuickTime files (with the file extension .mov), the movie files would be opened by WiMP, not by the QuickTime plug-in. For most media types, and particularly for QuickTime VR movies, this would result in a less than optimal experience.

Further, Internet Explorer version 6.0 (which was first shipped with Windows XP) and version 5.5 with Service Pack 2 applied broke browser-based QuickTime movie playback altogether. That was because those versions of IE stopped supporting NetScape-style plug-ins and because the QuickTime plug-in was implemented as a NetScape-style plug-in. Indeed, it was precisely to address this issue that Apple developed (with Microsoft's assistance, it must be pointed out) the Apple QuickTime ActiveX control that we investigated in the previous article.

I could continue down this road ad nauseum, but the fact is that I come to praise Microsoft, not to bury it. After all, as I've suggested, Stinger represents a complete reversal of this "knife the baby" strategy. So, in quasi-Watergate style, let's follow the honey.

Stinger Overview

The CD I received contains two folders, one labeled "Runtime Installers" and the other labeled "DevStudio Installers". The first folder contains what appear to be runtime environment installers for the target platforms (more on this later). The second folder contains only a single executable file, StngrInstl.exe. After running the application, I launched Microsoft Visual C++ Developer Studio and was greeted with the "Tip of the Day" shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: A Visual Studio Tip of the Day

Dutifully, I selected the New menu item in the File menu. Sure enough, the list of available projects included "QuickTime Application" and "QuickTime Component", as shown in Figure 3. Clicking on "QuickTime Application" revealed that Stinger can generate QuickTime-savvy applications for seven different platforms: Windows, Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Palm OS, Red Hat Linux, Mandrake Linux, and MS-DOS. I was, to put it mildly, intrigued.


Figure 3: The New Project dialog box

I named the new project "StingerShell". Recall that our goal in this current series of articles is to replicate the functionality of our existing application QTShell. On Windows, QTShell provides support for opening multiple QuickTime movie files and displaying them in child windows inside an enclosing frame window. In other words, QTShell on Windows uses the Multiple Document Interface (MDI). It turns out that the default applications created by Stinger use the Single Document Interface (SDI): they open QuickTime movies in a window whose content area completely contains the movie and the movie controller bar. (The size of the movie within the content area can be adjusted, but for present purposes we don't need to do so.) So the only thing we need to do to bring the default Windows application into line with an SDI version of QTShell is add the Test menu -- where we add our application-specific items -- and add some code to handle those menu items.

Adding Menu Items

The programming model supported by Stinger is unexciting: it's straight C code that calls Windows APIs for basic application services (event handling, message processing, and so forth) and QuickTime APIs for multimedia services. Listing 1 shows the code that is called when the user selects a movie in the file-opening dialog box.

Listing 1: Opening a QuickTime movie file

OpenMovie
void OpenMovie (HWND hwnd, char *szFileName)
{
   short      nFileRefNum = 0;
   FSSpec      fss; 
   NativePathNameToFSSpec(szFileName, &fss, 0);
   SetGWorld((CGrafPtr)GetNativeWindowPort(hwnd), NULL); 
   OpenMovieFile(&fss, &nFileRefNum, fsRdPerm);
   NewMovieFromFile(&sMovie, nFileRefNum, NULL, NULL,
            newMovieActive, NULL); 
   CloseMovieFile(nFileRefNum);
}

The only interesting departure from the standard Windows programming model that we've worked with throughout this series of articles concerns the specification of the application's resources. The default project contains a file StingerShell.sc that defines the application's menus, icons, text strings, and dialog box layouts. This .sc file is analogous to the .rc files we've worked with previously, but supports additional resource compiler directives necessary to support deployment on different platforms. Listing 2 shows how we can add in the Test menu but -- for Palm applications only -- exclude the Help menu.

Listing 2: Specifying the application's menus and menu items

StingerShell.sc
IDR_MAINFRAME MENU PRELOAD DISCARDABLE 
BEGIN
   POPUP "&File"
   BEGIN
      MENUITEM "&New\tCtrl+N",            ID_FILE_NEW
      MENUITEM "&Open...\tCtrl+O",        ID_FILE_OPEN
      MENUITEM "&Close\tCtrl+W",          ID_FILE_CLOSE
      MENUITEM SEPARATOR
      MENUITEM "&Save\tCtrl+S",           ID_FILE_SAVE
      MENUITEM "Save &As...",             ID_FILE_SAVE_AS
      MENUITEM SEPARATOR
      MENUITEM "E&xit\tCtrl+Q",           ID_APP_EXIT
   END
   POPUP "&Edit"
   BEGIN
      MENUITEM "&Undo\tCtrl+Z",           ID_EDIT_UNDO
      MENUITEM SEPARATOR
      MENUITEM "Cu&t\tCtrl+X",            ID_EDIT_CUT
      MENUITEM "&Copy\tCtrl+C",           ID_EDIT_COPY
      MENUITEM "&Paste\tCtrl+V",          ID_EDIT_PASTE
      MENUITEM "C&lear",                  ID_EDIT_CLEAR
      MENUITEM SEPARATOR
   MENUITEM "Select &All\tCtrl+A",        ID_EDIT_SELECTALL
   END
   POPUP "&Test"
   BEGIN
      MENUITEM "&Hide Controller Bar\tCtrl+1",
                                          ID_TEST_HIDE_CTRL
      MENUITEM "&Hide Speaker Button\tCtrl+2",
                                          ID_TEST_HIDE_SPKR
   END
#if !TARGET_OS_PALM
   POPUP "&Help"
   BEGIN
      MENUITEM "&About StingerShell...",   ID_APP_ABOUT
   END
#endif
END

The code required to handle our application-specific menu items is, once again, completely unexciting. I'll leave it as an exercise for the interested reader to dredge up a past issue of MacTech to see how it works.

Building and Running the Applications

Now let's build the applications. Select "Build StingerShell" in the Build menu (or press the F7 key). Once the build process completes, the Debug folder will contain the usual collection of object files and other junk; it will also contain debug builds of StingerShell for the target platforms. If we launch the Windows application StingerShell.exe, we'll see the error window shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4: A runtime error message

This is where the installers in the "Runtime Installers" folder come into play. Let's run the installer WinHiveInstl.exe. Once we've done this, we can try launching StingerShell.exe again. This time, everything proceeds as expected. The movie playback window is shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5: A QuickTime movie playing under Windows

We can transfer the other compiled applications (and runtime installers) to their target operating systems. The file StingerShell.app is a Carbon application that can run on Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X. Figure 6 shows StingerShell running under Mac OS X.


Figure 6: A QuickTime movie playing under Mac OS X

The file StingerShell.rhl is the executable for Red Hat Linux (see Figure 1 again). The file StingerShell.ml is the executable for Mandrake Linux (Figure 7).


Figure 7: A QuickTime movie playing under Mandrake Linux

Apparently there is already a PalmOS application with the trademarked name StingerShell, so I've renamed the Palm application QTShell.prc. When we download the executable to a Palm device, we'll see it in the list of available programs, as shown in Figure 8.


Figure 8: QTShell in the list of Palm programs

Figure 9 shows QTShell running on the Palm device.


Figure 9: A QuickTime movie playing under PalmOS

Conclusion

This is all very cool, but how does it work? Apple provides QuickTime runtime support only for Macintosh and Windows operating systems. How can we run QuickTime applications on Linux and Palm systems as well? This is where I'm reduced to pure speculation. As we've seen, our compiled applications would not run without the prior installation of the so-called ".HIVE" runtime environment. I'm guessing that this is some sort of multimedia extension to Microsoft's .NET environment. Apparently Microsoft has shoehorned the QuickTime libraries into the platform-specific .HIVE interpreters and also provided some sort of emulation layer for those platforms that do not natively support QuickTime. Or so I'm guessing. If I had more time and a good debugger, I could probably figure out more of what's happening under the hood.

No matter how it works, it's clear that indeed it does work. It's sad to realize that Microsoft has beaten Apple to the punch in supporting QuickTime movie playback on Palm devices and on Linux platforms. The performance is not good (I was able to achieve a playback rate of only about 0.5 frames per second on a Palm device, and only about 2.5 fps under the Linux systems), but the API coverage appears to be fairly complete. Sigh.

Credits and Retractions

Special thanks are due to an unknown source within Microsoft for providing a pre-release copy of Stinger.

You may have noticed that QuickTime Toolkit articles sport titles borrowed from movies (appropriate for a series on QuickTime, eh?). Perhaps a better title for the present article would have been the 1969 Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve comedy, "The April Fools".


Tim Monroe in a member of the QuickTime engineering team. You can contact him at monroe@apple.com. The views expressed here are not necessarily shared by his employer.

 
AAPL
$107.34
Apple Inc.
+0.60
MSFT
$46.62
Microsoft Corpora
+0.13
GOOG
$549.33
Google Inc.
+0.43

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more
NeoFinder 6.6 - Catalog your external me...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs all your data, so you stay in control of your data archive or disk... Read more
Chromium 38.0.2125.111 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more
Default Folder X 4.6.11 - Enhances Open...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click... Read more
Mariner Write 3.9.3 - Light-weight and s...
Mariner Write is your Mac OS go-to word processing tool! Professional writer, educator or student, Write has all the functionality you need for that important letter, technical paper or research... Read more
DesktopLyrics 2.6.5 - Displays current i...
DesktopLyrics is an application that displays the lyrics of the song currently playing in "iTunes" right on your desktop. The lyrics for the song have to be set in iTunes; DesktopLyrics does nothing... Read more
DiskMaker X 4.0b4 - Make a bootable OS X...
DiskMaker X (formerly Lion DiskMaker) is an application built with AppleScript that you can use with many versions of OS X to build a bootable drive from OS X OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion up to OS X 10.10... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Medford Asylum: Paranormal Case - Hidden...
Medford Asylum: Paranormal Case - Hidden Object Adventure (Full) 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Uncover the mystery of Medford City asylum! | Read more »
Secret Files Sam Peters (Games)
Secret Files Sam Peters 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: [ After the successful iOS release of Secret Files Tunguska, the acclaimed point and click adventure Secret Files... | Read more »
Woah Dave! (Games)
Woah Dave! 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ***SPECIAL LAUNCH PRICE! IT DOESN'T COST A LOT OF MONEY!*** Optimized for iPhone 6+! A huge hit at E3, PAX, PAX East, IndieCade... | Read more »
Drift'n'Drive (Games)
Drift'n'Drive 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Follow your destiny to become the ultimate racing driver! | Read more »
Twisty Hollow (Games)
Twisty Hollow 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: A self-appointed mayor is spinning the town of Twisty Hollow out of order with nonsensical rulings. His cryptic instructions... | Read more »
Omnistat (Utilities)
Omnistat 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Omnistat is an application for tech lovers, it's the easiest way to consult your device stats. With Omnistat you don't need to... | Read more »
South Park Pinball Review
South Park Pinball Review By Blake Grundman on October 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FAN SERVICE GALOREUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It is hard to go wrong when tables are obviously being designed by fans of a specific... | Read more »
Mmm Fingers Review
Mmm Fingers Review By Jennifer Allen on October 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE PLEASURESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Chasing high scores with just one finger works well for Mmm Fingers.   | Read more »
Indie Classic King of Dragon Pass Goes o...
Indie Classic King of Dragon Pass Goes on Sale to Celebrate its 15th Anniversary Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 29th, 2014 [ permalink< | Read more »
NHL 2K Review
NHL 2K Review By Blake Grundman on October 29th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FAR FROM ALL-STARUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad After three years away, the NHL 2K brand returns to mobile. Can it live up to the advancements made... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more
Save up to $180 off MSRP with an Apple refurb...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more
Apple refurbished 2013 MacBook Pros available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available starting at $929. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (4GB RAM/... Read more
What Post PC Era? – The Mac Bounces Back, Big...
Apple’s fiscal Q4 2014 was an all-time record quarter for Mac sales, with 5.5 million units shipped, representing nearly one million more sales (+21 percent, + 25 percent sequentially) than Apple... Read more
Unpacking The Big Changes At Microsoft – iPad...
The days of product keys and email attachments are nearing an end and Microsoft, though late to the game, is making big strides to keep up, says tech expert Karl Volkman of SRV Network, Inc. Under... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Airs and minis availab...
Apple dropped prices recently on Apple Certified Refurbished iPad Airs and iPad mini 2s, with models now available starting at $209. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Practice Fusion Launches New Electronic Healt...
Practice Fusion, claimed to be the nation’s largest cloud-based electronic health records (EHR) platform, has launched a new EHR for Practice Fusion’s community of more than 112,000 medical... Read more
Logitech Unveils Keys-To-Go: Portable, Spill-...
Today Logitech unveiled the new Logitech Keys-To-Go, a slender stand-alone Bluetooth keyboard for any iPad that can fit anywhere and go everywhere. Logitech has also updated its current lineup of... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.