Issue 41, September 18, 1996
Table of Contents
BE ENGINEERING INSIGHTS: Fast(), Faster(), Fasterest()
By Benoît Schillings
In a previous newsletter, I described ways to improve
drawing performance by avoiding synchronous calls. In
Developer Release 8 of the BeOS(TM), we implement our own
advice with BView's new
As the name implies,
DrawBitmapAsync() issues an order to
draw (it sends the request to the app server) and then
immediately returns -- it doesn't wait for the drawing to
finish the way the regular
DrawBitmap() function does. The
advantage of the asynchronous call is obvious: Your thread
can do something useful instead of waiting around for the
server to get done. However, with the advantage comes a
responsibility: After calling
DrawBitmapSync(), you have to
make sure that the drawing is completed before you modify or
delete the bitmap.
How can you do that?
The most obvious way would be to (explicitly) call BView's
Sync() function after calling
approach only makes sense, of course, if you perform some
other operations between the draw and the sync -- otherwise
you lose your no-waiting advantage. In other words, calling
Sync() immediately after calling
essentially the same as calling
DrawBitmap() -- which is
exactly what we're trying to avoid.
One situation in which
Sync() can be of use is if you want
to draw a number of bitmaps. You call
each bitmap placement, and THEN you call
/* Issue some drawing commands. */
/* Now wait for ALL of them to complete... */
/* ...before changing one of the bitmaps and redrawing. */
How much faster is the asynchronous method? It depends on
the size of the bitmap. For small, icon-sized bitmaps,
you'll find that your bitmap drawing can be as much as 4
times faster! The Minesweeper application makes good use of
asynchronous drawing; so does the Browser (which plays a fun
game of knowing which bitmap has been drawn out of its icon
One last thing...
I've noticed that many applications make heavy use of the
Bounds() call. I ran some benchmarks on my 66 MHz machine
that show how expensive that kind of synchronous request can
be: A single, round-trip ticket to
Bounds() costs 480
microseconds, whereas a single, asynchronous gallop through
MovePenTo() costs only 12 microseconds!
The moral: If you know that the bounds haven't changed,
One more last thing...
If you know that your application's window and view code is
Lock()'ed and thoroughly re-entrant, try disabling
the window discipline (through
For simple operations, you might see a 50 percent speedup.
As an example, calling
SetHighColor() with discipline
enabled takes 19 microseconds; it's only 10 microseconds
with the discipline turned off.
And if you REALLY want to fly:
I've never seen a cop on the stretch of Interstate 280
between Alpine Road and Page Mill after 2 AM. Disable your
discipline and don't call
BE ENGINEERING INSIGHTS: "Mr. Palmer... 8 of your 15 minutes are up"
By Joseph Palmer
Deep in the bowels of San Francisco (City Motto: Parking?
Who needs parking?) sulks a less fashionable block of
Multimedia Gulch where the MSNBC/ZDTV studio makes its home.
There, on August 7, 1996, I made a public appearance on
behalf of Be, Inc.
The timing of the request for an on-camera demo was
interesting: Be had just announced the demonstration of the
BeOS on PowerMac hardware, so suddenly a story about Be, the
BeOS, and the BeBox was an urgent topical news priority.
...Yes, it has to happen TOMORROW... Yes, we know that all
of the company principals are at Macworld in Boston... Yes,
we know that Macworld is a big event, but no, we didn't send
a crew there. Yes, we still want something for tonight, and
no, next week when everyone is back won't do... Because by
then the emergence of a new OS and hardware platform just
won't be news.
So, the next morning I drove off to the city with a BeBox
and a full demo kit of speakers, a MIDI synthesizer, 17"
monitor, keyboard, mouse, cables, power strips... all
scrounged from home because the Be demo kits were busy 3000
miles away in Boston (City Motto: Parking? Try San
I arrived to find the studio well-appointed with sound
systems, and monitors, and curious three-legged tables. So
most of the stuff I brought wasn't really needed anyway.
After several layers of pancake to cover the sweat of
jogging three blocks from the nearest open parking spot (oh
never mind, I've beat that joke into the ground), the ZDTV
talking head and I talked about the demo:
Me: We've got symmetric multiprocessing... virtual
memory...protected memory...C++...the GeekPort(TM)...
T. Head: Umm, what we're looking for is something a bit less
Me: Oh. OK. Something my mother might understand, right?
T. Head: Exactly! That's it.
We wrapped the demo in two continuous takes, using ultra-
hip, low-altitude, hand-held camera angles, over-the-
shoulder boom shots, and cock-eyed, off-center roving pans.
They did a fine job of intercutting the two takes, leaving
in the really important points, while leaving out some
flawed (yet colorful) metaphors.
The distortions of analog video distribution mercifully
softened the picture like an episode of Moonlighting, so my
recently acquired gray hairs weren't that evident. But not
even 10 mm of Vaseline smeared on the lens could have
covered up the look I gave the talking head after a severely
misguided opening question. It's a look I usually reserve
for computer salespeople who make uninformed claims that
imply that _this_ product is _not_ bound by the same laws of
physics as the rest of the universe.
Overall, I think it was a very positive exposure for Be, and
it was, for me, a great experience.
As you all know, Be has achieved a level of newsworthiness
due the announcement of the PowerMac port. As the hardware
guy at Be, there was some parental sadness at seeing our OS
take its first steps outside the hardware home I've made for
it, but that feeling is overcome by parental pride in the
potential this child has shown. Be assured there will always
be a place at home for the BeOS, but I'm afraid that I won't
promise that I will keep your room just the way you left it.
By the Be Team at Metrowerks
DR8 is out, and so is the new and improved CodeWarrior IDE.
A lot of things changed about the way you build Be
applications, and although we tried to document all the
needed changes, there are still some questions that we see
over and over again. To try and calm the flood, hereÍs a
Q: Every time I open my project, I get an error about not
A: libbe.so is in the /system/lib folder. You have to make
sure that the system access paths for your project include
/system/lib. Go into Settings, press Access Paths, and add
it if it's not.
Q: I can't compile anything; it says 'inherited' is
A: You have to turn OFF the ANSI Keywords Only option in the
C++ Language Preferences for 'inherited' to work.
Q: I compile my app, but it won't run or it crashes on
A: You have to turn ON both the RTTI and C++ Exceptions
options in the C++ Language Preferences.
Q: I'm building my application, but its icon goes away and
A: First, make sure that the .rsrc file for your application
is added to the project window.
Second, make sure that the application creator code you set
in IconWorld matches the one set in Project preferences in
Third, there exists a bug where the icon can be temporarily
disabled when the output file name in the Project
preferences is a path (contains a slash). WeÍre working on
fixing this bug.
You may wish to do the settings changes mentioned above not
only for each of your projects, but for the "New Projects"
target as well, so your defaults for new projects are
Following these easy steps will ensure that your transition
from DR7 to DR8 is as effortless as possible. Of course, you
still have to update all those places in the API that
changed, but we can't help you there.
BE DEVELOPER TALK: John R. Ashmun of Aspen Technology
John R. Ashmun
Chief Architect, Manufacturing Systems Division
This is my home address:
3281 East Ames Lake LN NE
Redmond, WA 98053
This is my fax line: (206) 880-6049
My web page, which is unlikely to appeal to anyone but me
for a while: http://www.nwlink.com/~jrashmun
After fourteen years at Industrial Systems, Inc. (now part
of the Manufacturing Systems Division of Aspen Tech), I took
a year-long leave of absence, bought a Macintosh, began
surfing the Internet, looked up CodeWarrior (on John
Norstad's recommendation), and thereby discovered the
existence of Be. Now I work (almost) full time getting to
know the BeOS, and developing a CORBA-style Object Request
Broker (ORB) implementation.
My favorite computer had been my Amiga 1000. I always
regretted that I couldn't afford to spend what it would have
required to be a full-time Amiga developer. The BeBox gives
me a second chance at designing software for a platform that
supports the type of development that I find gratifying: I
like working on the layers of software that help higher-
level applications get their job done. In the two years
before my leave, I developed a multithreaded server in C++
on UNIX -- and enjoyed every moment of it. I love making
some little thing work, and then using it to make some
bigger thing work. I love anticipating unexpected uses, so
that when someone says, "It's great... but could you please
make it do <XXX> next time?" I can say, "It's already in
The BeBox is the right platform at the right time. It's fun
because it uses some of the best software ideas in the
industry, but isn't burdened by not-so-good subsystems. Of
course, it's not perfect: The OS needs to have a few more
things implemented, and the BeBox crashes fairly often.
Also, it's hard to get the attention of Be's developer
support -- although it's always rewarding when they do
respond. Please, Be, hire more developer support people.
And, while we're at it, make the bug list available for
I plan to produce an implementation of the C++ mapping for
CORBA by the end of January, 1997, and add support for other
languages as they become available. For distribution, I plan
to make the product available on a web site as Kagi
By Jean-Louis Gassée
I have a such a license plate in my office. But before I go
any further, a few words of apology.
First, to our readers whose mother tongue isn't English. I
used the expression "church key" at the end of my last
column and received e-mail from overseas readers wondering
about the meaning and origin of the trope. Of course, as a
late and not completely debugged English speaker, I find the
metaphor pregnant. Just picture one of these large, old,
ornate wrought iron keys. It's the end of the day, hear the
hiss when the church beadle takes the key to the beer
Second, I'd like to apologize to developers who have
suffered while we switched ISPs and installed a T1 line to
support the growing traffic on our web and ftp servers. This
happened at the time when we experienced increased activity
as a result of the PowerMac port demonstrated at Macworld.
By now, weÍre on our way to catching up with our backlog and
I'd like to express my appreciation to those who contacted
me to express their concern, thus giving me an opportunity
to look into the problem and monitor corrective actions.
Now, to the Amiga. A recent MSNBC broadcast showed the
AMIGA96 license plate given to me by European developers.
Some viewers were curious. What did the license plate mean?
This is probably a good opportunity to acknowledge our
spiritual affiliation with the Amiga. In many respects, it
guided our thinking and efforts as we formed the company and
developed our product. In the first place, the Amiga
provided an existence proof. As the millions of Amigas sold
attested, you did not have to be compatible with the Mac or
Windows to create a platform and to attract developers and
customers all over the world. With its cousin the Atari ST,
the Amiga proved the existence of an A/V market. The Video
Toaster became the tractor for the Amiga in multimedia
I was at Apple in 1986 when David Needle and his colleagues
introduced the Amiga, soon acquired by Commodore. We were
concerned. We didn't have a 68020 machine yet, and we didn't
have multitasking or any of the audio, video, graphics, and
animation features offered by the Amiga. By the end of 1988,
Bob Kottick and Howard Marks, both Commodore developers,
approached me. Howard had been an intern at Apple France.
Investors wanted to buy Commodore from Irving Gould, its
chairman, an avid consumer of cigars and CEOs. Paul
Rainwater, who, if memory serves, managed money for the Bass
family, and Mort Meyerson, Ross Perot ex-number-two at EDS,
showed up at my house in Portola Valley.
Allan Loren, one of my colleagues at Apple, once told me
that Ross Perot had chided him at a job interview for
wearing loafers, very proper ones perhaps, "but at EDS we
wear proper shoes with shoelaces, you understand?" I thought
Allan was exaggerating a little. I asked Mort about his very
elegant loafers. He didnÍt miss a beat and replied, "I don't
work for Ross anymore." These well-heeled investors wanted a
CEO for their acquisition. In the end it went nowhere, Irwin
wouldn't sell. Perhaps he remembered my name, though. When I
left Apple, he tried to convince me to run Commodore's R&D.
I, in turn, tried to convince him to let me run the company
for 2 or 3 years and to compensate me with 20 percent of the
increase in valuation, no salary. That conversation didn't
go anywhere either, but my interest was piqued and, with
Steve Sakoman, we started a company with one goal: Make a
1990s Amiga. We don't know yet if weÍve succeeded, but we're
happy to acknowledge our debt to a product that continues to
inspire us in many ways.
BeDevTalk is an unmonitored discussion group in which
technical information is shared by Be developers and
interested parties. In this column, we summarize some of the
active threads, listed by their subject lines as they
appear, verbatim, in the mail. To subscribe to BeDevTalk,
visit the mailing list page on our web site:
- ----WEEK 3-------------
Subject: How are we suppose to do this?
In this thread (which disappeared for a week), game
designers discuss the proper ratios for a game's
polling/physics/drawing frequencies. Fairness entered the
equation: If you're playing a networked game, should
consideration be made for slower machines? If so, which
frequencies do you alter?
- ----WEEK 2-------------
Subject: Clicks, doubles n' drags
AKA: You're pushing my buttons (but how many?)
How many buttons should the developer assume the user's
mouse to have? At least one, certainly, and the consensus is
(slightly) in favor of limiting assumptions to no more than
one, but there are some "two is standard" and "you can't
emulate two with one" holdouts. Despite the dispute, the
tenet that a developer should make sure that functionality
isn't lost for lack of a second (or third) button is widely
- ----WEEK 2-------------
Subject: Floats just don't add up
Are floats imprecise? Yes -- with examples to prove it. But,
as one contributor noted, you need to talk binary (rather
than decimal) if you want to speak in a float's native
Subject: Missing Last Minute Note
What was the "Last Minute Note" that was mentioned in the
DR8 bill of materials? It seemed to be missing from many
developers' upgrade packages.
THE BE LINE: The bug was in the bill of materials -- there
was no "Last Minute Note" for DR8.
Subject: Developer ID and password
AKA: BeBox Dual603-133 upgrade program
AKA: Okay, who broke the P/W file???
Many developers pointed out that they couldn't use their
passwords to get into the Developer's Only section of the Be
THE BE LINE: When our web server is down (which it was quite
often last weekend), the developer passwords are refused in
a manner that makes it look like the password was
unrecognized. We'll try to fix this so the reason for the
refusal is clear.
Subject: 133 Mother boards
Q: Are the CPUs on the new motherboards socketed?
A: No, they're soldered.
Subject: AppModeler, PPP, and RunFileSaveAsPanel
AKA: Help with PPPlease!
These threads reviewed the DR8 improvements (or, as some
contend, stasis) of PPP, PAP/Chap authentication, the ANSI
terminal (some folks want real vt100 emulation), serial port
support (see the new Connect application), and the like.
Subject: Be Newsletter Issue #40, September 11, 1996
Pierre Raynaud-Richard's fictionalized account of
implementing a graphics driver (in last week's ñEngineering
Insightsî) tickled some fancies. A few folks stepped forward
to ratify the nightmarish scenario presented in the story.
Subject: NetPositive again
AKA: Generating additional windows in NetPositive
Comments, questions, and suggestions regarding NetPositive
(the web browser that's new in DR8). The verdict so far: The
app is missing some features, but it's usable, attractive,
and a welcome addition.