Modularity within RISC OS


RISC OS has, from the outset, been designed to be modular in nature. This modularity brings many advantages, not least of which is the replaceability of components. It is highly desirable that components be able to handle being replaced whilst the system is in use. Whilst this has obvious developmental advantages, it also aids in upgrading components should a major failure be found.

It is usual for replacement components to be loaded during the system start up. Toolbox is a typical example which will be loaded during the boot sequence to replace the default versions in ROM. As a rapidly evolving library, Toolbox is regularly replaced.

Where possible it is desirable that the system not require any restart in order to ensure that components be loaded correctly. Although, for development purposes, clean environments are preferable, it is frustrating for users to be prompted to restart the system.

Services for replacement modules

In order that modules be able to handle replacement in a structured manner it is important that they correctly register with their dependencies, and re-register themselves when those dependencies are restarted. Examples of the services which must be monitored by various clients :

  • Filing systems must watch for Service_FSRedeclare and on receipt should re-register themselves with FileSwitch.
  • Network components must watch for Service_DCIProtocolStatus and update their idea of socket handles appropriately.
  • Network protocol components must watch for Service_DCIDriverStatus to add interfaces to their list.
  • Low level network components must watch for Service_MBufManagerStatus if they use MBufManager.
  • Econet clients should monitor Servic_ReAllocatePorts to monitor for the Econet (or NetI) module being restarted.
  • Sound system components must watch for Service_Sound to monitor the other sound system components restarting.
  • Hardware drivers must watch for Service_BufferStarting if they use BufferManager, and for Service_DeviceFSStarting and Service_DeviceFSDying if they use DeviceFS.
  • Clients of ResourceFS should monitor Service_ResourceFSStarted and Service_ResourceFSDying for either accessing or registering their files.
  • Freeway resource using components should monitor Service_FreewayStarting and Service_FreewayTerminating to register their resources.
  • Desktop extensions should monitor Service_RedrawManagerInstalled and Service_RedrawManagerDying if they use the RedrawManager.
  • Display device driver support components should monitor Service_DisplayStatus if they must track drivers.
  • Toolbox objects should monitor Service_ToolboxStarting and Service_ToolboxDying to register their objects.
  • ImageFileRender clients should monitor Service_ImageFileRender_Started and Service_ImageFileRender_Dying.
  • ImageFileConvert clients should monitor Service_ImageFileConvert_Started and Service_ImageFileConvert_Dying.

Many other examples exist at various levels, both as part of RISC OS and as 3rd party extensions. Components should use the most suitable mechanism for the purpose to ensure that the system continues to function.

Alternative services

As an alternative to registering unique services just for module start up and death, the service Service_ModuleStatus may be used to identify named modules starting, dying and being reinstantiated. This is less ideal because it does not allow for different modules to be used in place of the named modules (for example a Sound controller with a different name to SoundDMA). However, this is usually not a major constraint.

Recommendations for modularity

In order to be replaceable 'on the fly', components must :

  • Reject finalisation if they cannot be shut down safely (for example, if clients have open handles). What level of failure is acceptable for the component should be decided on a per-component basis. For example, FileSwitch will restart even though there are open files, but it will reject being restarted if it is currently in active use (threaded by some process).
  • Finalise completely safely. All memory resources released, files should be closed, vectors released, and registrations with other components relinquished. For example, the video drivers will deregister from the Kernel and shut down their hardware into a powered down state. Aborts during finalisation will leave the module in a useless state where is cannot be removed and are - as with most aborts - unacceptable.
  • If other components may depend on this component it is polite to inform them of both initialisation and finalisation. It is usual to inform clients through a callback on initialisation. This ensures that the SWIs for the component are present when the service is issued. Some RISC OS components issue the service directly in their initialisation code, requiring the clients to use a callback for re-registration.
  • During initialisation the component must register with their dependencies and claim resources necessary to function. It is most useful if components do not fault the lack of their dependencies. For example, SoundChannels does not fail to initialise if SoundDMA is not present, but will initialise into a state where it is ready to run once SoundDMA has started. This allows components to be restarted in any order. There are good reasons why certain components must be loaded in particular orders, but where possible this should be avoided.
  • Should any dependencies of the module die they will notify the module through the Service interface. The module should place itself into a state where it is safe to function. It is desirable that the component be functional in this state but quiescent until the dependencies return. For example, sound voices may register with SoundChannels, even though SoundDMA has not initialised, and will be functional when SoundDMA starts.

Modularity and applications

In many cases there is no mechanism to notify applications of state changes within modules. Components may use their own mechanisms for determining the state of their dependency module. Usually this involves the opaque handles returned from modules being validated by some mechanism. This can cause the application to terminate if it is unexpected, or for operations to be cancelled. Component replacement is expected within an active system, but side effects are usually unavoidable. Replacement of, for example, the Internet module will be handled gracefully by most module components, but applications will usually fail in their active operations due to invalid socket errors. Because the module claimants will (usually) obtain lower socket numbers than the applications had been allocated, this does not cause the applications to access data intended for the module-claimed sockets. The possibility should not, however, be ignored.

Module stacks

Complex stacks of components, such as the network stack, may have many dependencies. It is important that, where possible, these dependencies are given due attention to ensure that they are restartable with minimal effort. The Internet module, for example, can be reinitialised and the dependant components will attempt to re-assign a useful system using dynamic allocation of addresses and other methods as configured.

This documentation is copyright 3QD Developments Ltd 2013 and may not be reproduced or published in any form without the copyright holders permission. RISC OS is subject to continuous development and improvement as such all information is reproduced by 3QD Developments Ltd in good faith and is believed to be correct at the time of publication E&OE. 3QD Developments Ltd cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage arising from the use of any information provided as part of the RISC OS Documentation.

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