Creating a Twin application framework

Twin is targetting a system without an MMU (and without much in the way of process control), so "applications" are more likely to look like threads than separate processes. As such, I'm using pthreads to simulate that environment.

Building applications is largely a matter of creating enough infrastructure so that you can write a new application without having to go change all of the existing ones. I've had a brief chat with Owen Taylor who had some simple suggestions:

  • Mark dirty and queue a recompute/redraw instead of attempting to update the display in place
  • Nested windows aren't a feature
  • Keep behaviour simple
  • Keyboards and text input are a pain

With this in mind, I've done a few simple things. The first was to split out the screen update into a separate thread. Applications paint into their windows and just ignore the screen update process. Mostly. The one thing we've learned with Composite is that applications really need to tell the system when they're drawing and when the image is ready for publication. Given that information, it's trivial to ensure that the display always presents a consistent picture.

Under Composite, we'll probably need some kind of double buffering so that areas of the screen can be repainted even while windows occupying those areas are busy drawing. Otherwise, a busy application could "lock out" the screen in those areas for a long time.

In Twin, I expect applications to be "well behaved", so I'm waiving the ability to update at any time in exchange for saving piles of memory. Instead, whenever an application is busy drawing, the screen won't get updated. When all of the applications are idle again, the screen will get updated.

That much was easy enough to get working; now it's on to event distribution. I've already got a separate thread reading events from the X connection. I'll try constructing event queues and having that thread dump events into those queues so that the application thread can process them synchronously with respect to output stuff.