TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Nov 98 Factory Floor

Volume Number: 14 (1998)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: From The Factory Floor

A PowerPlant Update, Part 2

by John Daub and Dave Mark, ©1998 by Metrowerks, Inc., all rights reserved.

This month's column is the second installment in our series on PowerPlant. Last month we spoke with the godfather of PowerPlant, Greg Dow. This month, we'll hear from John Daub, another key member of the PowerPlant team.

Dave: What are your thoughts on getting started with PowerPlant?

John: I think what Greg Dow said in last month's Factory Floor provided a good starting point, from a coding perspective. I've found a few concepts that are not exactly coding related, but have helped me (and others) not only get started in PowerPlant, but also follow through. These still help me every day.

1. Lay a good foundation - Many people starting out with PowerPlant start knowing little and desiring to accomplish a lot. The enthusiasm is commendable, but do not let this enthusiasm turn into impatience. I've seen too many beginners desire to write the next great Killer App over a weekend, expect PowerPlant to do it all for them, then get frustrated and give up because of impatience, unrealistic expectations of PowerPlant, and/or unrealistic goals. That's a shame.

Make a good assessment of where your skills currently are and where they need to be to accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Then fill in the gaps along that route and set out.

To work with PowerPlant, you need to know the C++ programming language, and knowing how to get around the Mac OS Toolbox is certainly beneficial.

If you do not know C++, you should pick up a good book on the language and learn it first. There are many at your local bookstore, and there are some on the CodeWarrior CD as well.

Although PowerPlant does hide many of the details of the OS from the user, sooner or later you will find yourself needing to deal directly with the OS. That's not as scary as it might sound, and the more familiar you are with the Mac OS Toolbox, the less scary it will certainly seem. You should at least be familiar with basic concepts like event loops and dispatching; basic managers like Windows, Dialogs, Menus, Controls; basic memory management; etc. There are many good books on Mac programming at your local bookstore (and on the CodeWarrior CD).

After you've laid yourself a good foundation, then start to work with PowerPlant.

I know... that's a lot of background work and could take you some weeks or even months before you touch PowerPlant at all... and you want to start writing apps now! I do understand this excitement. I believe you should still take the time to lay a good foundation for yourself, but tinkering around and getting your hands dirty can be a lot of fun as well. Just remember that you tend to go further building a house upon rock than upon sand.

2. Be honest - Not only with others, but mostly with yourself. Learning PowerPlant isn't easy, but it's not difficult either.

One of the most difficult parts of learning PowerPlant is knowing when you've truly mastered some concept or technique. When will you know if you've mastered it? You'll know (don't you hate answers like that? :)

And if you aren't certain, if you doubt your understanding of a concept, perhaps you do not fully understand it. It's best to be honst with yourself and take the time to go back and see. Maybe you didn't know it and now you know better. Maybe you did and through reduncancy you've fostered some learning.

Or maybe you thought you did but corrected yourself, or picked up on a finer point that you missed the first time around.

Never let your ego get in the way of learning.

3. Read, Ask, Do - Read everything that you can. Books, documentation, magazines, websites, FAQs, newsgroup archives, and most importantly here, source code. You learn a lot. Just read, and reread, and reread again.

Ask questions whenever you are not certain of something. If someone is going to look down on you for asking a question, they've got a problem they need to get over. And keep asking until you fully understand. The only dumb question is the one never asked.

Do. Write code, write apps. So what if there are a zillon text editors on the market. Write the zillion-and-one editor. The more you write code, the more you'll learn. Experience teaches us a great deal that we cannot learn any other way.

4. Spend time in the debugger - The debugger is a great place for the beginner to learn. If you start out at main and then Step Into every single line of code watching what goes on, examining variables, monitoring flow, you will learn a great deal about how PowerPlant works. It can also help you see how the pieces of PowerPlant all fit together to form an application. And as well, it can help you learn how to debug, which is a necessary part of development.

5. Be patient and don't give up - I don't believe that anything worth having in life comes easy. Same holds true for PowerPlant. Like I said before, learning PowerPlant isn't easy, but it isn't difficult either. If you hit a frustating problem that you just can't solve, keep at it. Maybe leave it for a while to clear your head, but don't totally quit. Ask someone else for a fresh perspective. Try to find a different angle from which to approach the problem. Some of the biggest joys come from solving the worst problems.

Hang in there. If you don't know what I mean yet, you definitely will sooner or later.

6. There is no such thing as a mistake, so long as you learn from it - So the app crashed. So it totally trashed your machine and now it won't boot. So what! Have you learned something from this (aside from "Yea, don't do that!")? In the beginning, you will probably crash more than run. Take the time to understand why your code failed and what you (or someone else perhaps) did wrong. Learn from it, grow from it.

And last, but most of all, have fun.

Dave: What are some of the PowerPlant classes you've work on?

John: I've written some examples and sundry code for PowerPlant, like LTextEditView, LCMAttachment (Contextual Menu support for PowerPlant), and some Grayscale implementations ("GA Imps", part of the Appearance Classes). I've also worked on larger projects like the Cursor Classes (provides cursor support, including animated cursors. I'm hoping to revamp this for Pro 5) and Debugging Classes.

Dave: Cool, debugging classes. What do they do?

John: The Debugging Classes are a set of tools that hope to make your life a bit easier and your code more robust and stable. They help you stress test, sanity check, view information, and a host of other features.

One of the most visible features of the Debugging Classes is the Debug Menu, provided by LDebugMenuAttachment (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Debug menu, provided by the PowerPlant class LDebugMenuAttachment.

To gain this menu and its functionality within your own project is very simple: just add the attachment to your application object like this:

     void
     CMyApp::Initialize()
     {
          LApplication::Initialize();

          #if PP_DEBUG
               mDebugMenuAttachment =
                    new LDebugMenuAttachment(...);
               AddAttachment(mDebugMenuAttachment);
          #endif
     }

That's all! Using the Debugging Classes and the Debug Menu isn't just as simple as that, but it is fairly close.

The menu is generated on the fly (so it should be relatively painless to add to existing as well as new projects), and it allows you to perform actions such as breaking into a debugger; performing compactions, purges, and/or scrambles to your heap; validate your PPob's; modify the behavior of gDebugThrow and gDebugSignal at runtime (typically you'd have to recompile to do this); and consume memory to simulate low-memory conditions.

One of the very useful parts of the menu are the displays of pane and commander hierarchies on the fly. I know being able to display the commander chain has helped many people solve their commander problems already. A big thanx to Greg Bolsinga (our Class Wrangler Wrangler) for the original code to LCommanderTree.

One additional behavior of the menu is how it allows you to work with Metrowerks utilities, such as ZoneRanger and DebugNew, and third-party utilities, such as QC, at runtime. Turn QC tests on and off, generate a DebugNew log, clear all DebugNew leaks, whatever you'd like to do. Normally to change these behaviors you would have to recompile; but now they have an interface and can be accessed at runtime. Much handier.

The other portion of the Debugging Classes provides macros and utilities for use within your code. These build upon the core debugging functionality in PowerPlant (Assert_, ThrowIfOSErr_, ThrowIfMemFail_, etc.) to help you sanity check and ensure your code will be solid.

And just like the core macros, when you turn debugging off in PowerPlant, the Debugging Classes macros are redefined to minimal implementations.

For example, to find a pane by ID, you typically do this:

   CSomePane *thePane = dynamic_cast<CSomePane*>
                        (theWindow->FindPaneByID(kPaneID));
   ThrowIfNil_(thePane);

That's a lot of code to have to type. Plus, although the dynamic_cast is technically correct, it's not *really* necessary here: after your initial debugging run to ensure you set your code and PPob correctly, you are pretty much guarenteed that looking for kPaneID will return the proper object (unless someone fouls up your PPob). Furthermore, the nil check isn't needed since you should have no problem obtaining a proper and valid pointer.

With all of this in mind, you can reduce the typing, the code bloat, and runtime overhead (of the RTTI and the nil check) by using DebugFindPaneByID_.

   CSomePane *thePane = DebugFindPaneByID_( theWindow, 
                                    kPaneID, CSomePane);

That's all there is to it.

In debug builds, the macro will expand to ensure theWindow is not nil, then perform the FindPaneByID and dynamic_cast just the same as the original code. It will check for nil and signal if there is failure. So you have all of the original functionality, and a lot less typing.

In release builds, the macro reduces to a simple call to FindPaneByID, static_cast'ing the return result. A lot less overhead (no RTTI, no nil checks) and a lot less code for releases, but still the sanity and robustness needed for development.

Of course, if you do need to determine the proper object type on the fly, i.e. you need the dynamic_cast because the pane type is unknown at compile time and/or could vary at runtime, then by all means do use the previous method to FindPaneByID() so you do not lose the dynamic_cast when the macro is turned off.

Dave: What's going on with Constructor?

John: As of this writing, Constructor is in maintenance mode and I am the maintainer. We are not working on any major improvements. The forthcoming RAD tools (and some future PowerPlant developments) will supersede Constructor in form and function.

I am not adverse to fixing bugs or adding features; in fact I have a list for each category and would like to work to make the lists shorter. However, RAD at Metrowerks is now the top priority, so major changes to Constructor probably will not be happening.

We will continue to ship a Constructor with CodeWarrior for a good long while, as there are many legacy projects that will continue to need and utilize Constructor. We will ship Constructor until we have a complete and viable replacement.

Dave: What other programming things do you do?

John: Aside from my work at Metrowerks, I try to stay involved in the Mac OS development community. I've contributed to the WASTE project, do a little informal (non-profit) consulting work here and there, and write some classes for PowerPlant that I distribute on my own.

Some people ask me why I write PowerPlant classes outside of my regular PowerPlant work, or why my outside classes are not rolled into PowerPlant officially. Most of the things I write in my own time are experiments, tinkering, or just something that doesn't fit into the scope of "PowerPlant proper". They're still useful (many people love my CURLPushButton class), but not something that really fits within the core PowerPlant scope.

Currently (at the time of this writing) I'm looking at WT++, a new all C++ text engine from Timothy Paustian (author of CWASTEEdit and WebWarrior). It's pretty neat. And I'm also getting more serious with Linux.

Dave: Any parting comments?

John: I always welcome input and feedback from our users. If you have any comments or criticisms about any of the topics discussed here or about PowerPlant in general, do feel free to drop me a line.

I'm hoping to be able to find some time in the near future to write some more in-depth articles for MacTech, about getting started, the debugging classes, or some other topics. If readers have any input as to what they might like to see, in terms of some future articles on PowerPlant, drop a line to editor@mactech.com and CC me. I cannot promise anything (any of you with children know how life can be sometimes :-) but I'll certainly see what I can do.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Drama 2.0.7 - Prototyping, animation...
Drama's handy 3-in-1 functionality uniquely integrates design, animation and prototyping into a single familiar tool. No more frustrating switching between apps or learning new stuff. And by... Read more
Navicat Premium Essentials 15.0.11 - Pro...
Navicat Premium Essentials is a compact version of Navicat which provides basic and necessary features you will need to perform simple administration on a database. It supports the latest features... Read more
Delicious Library 3.9 - Import, browse a...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more
ffWorks 2.0.1 - Convert multimedia files...
ffWorks, 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 command-line.... Read more
TeamViewer 15.3.2682 - Establish remote...
TeamViewer gives you remote control of any computer or Mac over the Internet within seconds or can be used for online meetings. Find out why more than 200 million users trust TeamViewer! Free for non... Read more
Affinity Designer 1.8.1 - Vector graphic...
Affinity Designer is an incredibly accurate vector illustrator that feels fast and at home in the hands of creative professionals. It intuitively combines rock solid and crisp vector art with... Read more
Wireshark 3.2.2 - Network protocol analy...
Wireshark is one of the world's foremost network protocol analyzers, and is the standard in many parts of the industry. It is the continuation of a project that started in 1998. Hundreds of... Read more
Affinity Photo 1.8.1 - Digital editing f...
Affinity Photo - redefines the boundaries for professional photo editing software for the Mac. With a meticulous focus on workflow it offers sophisticated tools for enhancing, editing and retouching... Read more
iShowU Instant 1.3.2 - Full-featured scr...
iShowU Instant gives you real-time screen recording like you've never seen before! It is the fastest, most feature-filled real-time screen capture tool from shinywhitebox yet. All of the features you... Read more
NeoFinder 7.5.1 - Catalog your external...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs and manages all your data, so you stay in control of your data... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Amon Amarth Berserker is a side-scrollin...
Amon Amarth Berserker is the latest game from Ride & Crash and serves as a follow up to the previous title that was simply called Amon Amarth. It's available now as a premium title for both iOS and Android. [Read more] | Read more »
Team up with your guildmates to take on...
MU Origin 2's latest update is now live and brings with it two new Abyss-related events to challenge Guilds. There are also a few new features that will allow players to enhance their costumes, an increased level cap and more. [Read more] | Read more »
Build Your Own Apple Arcade, For $400
Apple Arcade has been out for a little over a month, and I’m not entirely thrilled with it. It’s definitely an interesting idea, but it leaves a lot to be desired, especially in fulfilling its commitment to letting folks “play anywhere.” Still, at... | Read more »
Creepy Little Monsters is a cute, monste...
Creepy Little Monsters is a retro throwback that sees you traversing tricky puzzle-platformer levels as a one-eyed monster. It aims to offer a fresh take on 80s and 90s classics of the genre, and it's out right now for iOS and Android. [Read more... | Read more »
Tyrant's Arena delivers intense her...
Tyrant's Arena is an intense midcore multiplayer actioner where you'll compete in tricky 3v3 matches to crush your opponents and earn neat rewards. It comes to us from developer Kroy Games, and it's now available for pre-registration on iOS and... | Read more »
Mobile Games Starter Kit
Over here at 148Apps, we regularly dive deep into the latest and greatest mobile games hitting the App Store, but that’s not always what people are looking for when searching for a new mobile game. Some folks just want to dip their toes into... | Read more »
Unresolved is a hard-hitting narrative a...
Ghofran Akil's Unresolved in an upcoming text-based adventure game that sees you playing as a mother attempting to find her disappeared husband during the Lebanese Civil War. [Read more] | Read more »
Marvel Strike Force introduces new brawl...
FoxNext's squad-based RPG Marvel Strike Force is set to receive some fresh characters from the X-Men and Iron Man series. They'll arrive as part of the game's latest update, which follows a sizable spending boycott on the title due to complaints... | Read more »
Speed Dating for Ghosts is a narrative a...
Speed Dating for Ghosts originally released on Steam back 2018, since then it has received honourable mentions for narrative during the Independent Games Festival. Now it's made its way over to iOS devices where it's available as a premium title... | Read more »
Fast-paced multiplayer title Tennis Star...
Tennis Stars: Ultimate Clash is the latest free-to-play tennis title to hit iOS and Android. It's said to be a fairly casual experience, offering easy-to-learn controls and fast-paced, mobile-friendly matches. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Back in stock! Apple’s 4-core and 6-core 2018...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 Mac minis available on their online store for $120-$170 off the cost of new models. Each mini comes with a new outer case plus a standard Apple one-year warranty... Read more
10″ 128GB iPads on sale today at Amazon for $...
Amazon has new 10.2″ 128GB WiFI iPads for $100 off Apple’s MSRP. These are the same iPads sold by Apple in their retail and online stores. Note that some sale prices may be restricted to certain... Read more
Orcam MyEye 2 Is Inspiration Apple Needs To M...
EDITORIAL: 02.28.20- It’s no secret that Apple is planning to further expand into the wearables segment, working quietly behind the scenes to create its own smart glasses — as rumors have suggested... Read more
Boost Mobile 1-day Flash Sale: $100 off all A...
Boost Mobile is offering Apple’s 2019 iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models for $100 off MSRP. Boost is also offering the same $100 discount on new previous-generation iPhone XS, XR, X, 8, and 7 models. For... Read more
13″ 1.4GHz Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has new 2019 13″ 1.4GHz Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off Apple’s MSRP today with prices starting at $1149. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US. These are the... Read more
Apple resellers offer $150-$170 discounts on...
Amazon has new 2019 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $150-$170 off Apple’s MSRP, with prices starting at $949, each including free shipping. These are the same MacBook Airs Apple sells in their retail... Read more
B&H is again offering $100 discounts on M...
B&H Photo has 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis on sale for $100 off Apple’s standard MSRP, with prices starting at only $699. Overnight shipping is free to many US addresses: – 3.6GHz Quad-Core mini... Read more
B&H Photo drops iMac prices, offers model...
B&H Photo has new 2019 21″ and 27″ 5K iMacs in stock today and on sale for up to $250 off Apple’s MSRP, with prices starting at only $999. These are the same iMacs sold by Apple in their retail... Read more
Flash sale! 11″ 64GB WiFi iPad Pro for $674,...
Walmart has the 11″ 64GB WiFi iPad Pro on sale on their online store today for $674. That’s $125 off Apple’s MSRP for this model and the cheapest price available from any Apple reseller. Choose free... Read more
Sale! Get the 256GB 13″ Silver MacBook Air fo...
Amazon has new 2019 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Airs, in Silver, on sale today for only $999 shipped. Their price is $300 off Apple’s MSRP for this model, and it’s the cheapest price for a 256GB MacBook... Read more

Jobs Board

Windows/ *Apple* Technical Support Engineer...
Windows/ Apple Technical Support Engineer Key Role: Serve as a part of a dynamic corporate technical support group. Provide Tier III technical support and monthly Read more
Medical Assistant - *Apple* Valley Clinic -...
…professional, quality care to patients in the ambulatory setting at the M Health Fairview Apple Valley Clinic, located in Apple Valley, MN. Join the **M Health Read more
Medical Assistant - *Apple* Valley Clinic -...
…professional, quality care to patients in the ambulatory setting at the M Health Fairview Apple Valley Clinic, located in Apple Valley, MN. Join the **M Health Read more
Geek Squad Advanced Repair *Apple* Professi...
**764652BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Advanced Repair Apple Professional **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store NUmber or Department:** 000245- Apple Read more
Medical Assistant - *Apple* Valley Clinic -...
…professional, quality care to patients in the ambulatory setting at the M Health Fairview Apple Valley Clinic, located in Apple Valley, MN. Join the **M Health Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.