Software

This is some software I’ve worked on.

1. htmacros

The htmacros package is what I use to build this website. It’s a LaTeX-like language which is designed to support structuring multiple, interconnecting pages, as well as to support handling media and images. There’s more information about this at the htmacros page.

2. KyleWiki

Sometimes, when I can’t come up with a clever name, I just take the narcissistic route and name it after myself. KyleWiki is a wiki engine I worked on for over a year, starting August of 2005. It was written for PHP, MySQL, and Apache, and can be completely understood by one person. Some of its features include a user privilege system, different kinds of page renderers, ability to insert math and music markup.

It’s possible to still get the code from the CVS repository at its project page, http://sourceforge.net/projects/kylewiki/, but I haven’t maintained the software for years now.

It got a lot of use for whenever I needed some kind of collaborative software. It was fairly easy for me to set up, and I could add features to support whatever collaboration was needed. One of the more extreme modifications was to integrate it with some forum software.

There’s still an older version of the software running at http://theblock.kylem.net/, which was for a 10th grade english and American history block class I was in back in 2005.

A test installation of the newest software is at http://kylem.net/~kyle/kylewiki3/.

3. Small projects

These are just some small software projects that don’t warrant a full heading.

4. Software ideas

These are things that I started to work on in some way, but never finished. Maybe someone else might be interested.

4.1. DistMandel

This was from 2007.

Figure 1. From the Mandelbrot set

The Mandelbrot set is what is called a divergent fractal in that points are determined to be part of the set based upon whether a corresponding series diverges or not. For the Mandelbrot set, a function is iterated on every point of the complex plane, and if the function does not diverge, it is part of the set. More specifically, the iterated function is

f(z) = z2 + c,

where z is the complex number input of the function, and c is the current point that is being tested. Since it is hard to generally determine which points do not diverge with this iterative function with certainty, especially near the boundaries of the set, a common approach for computation is to stop iterating after a fixed number of iterations, and if the output of the function did not exceed a bailout value (i.e. | f(z) | < b for all iterations of f) then the point is considered to be part of the set. This method will never deny a point from being part of the set, but it does include extra points near the boundary because of chaotic patterns.

A common way to color the set, which gives more information about the behaviour near the boundaries since minute details may be lost, is to assign colors for non-set points based upon the number of iterations it took before it escaped and diverged. This is how the snippet of the set in Figure 1 was rendered.

Drawing the Mandelbrot is what is called an embarassingly parallel problem. This means that it is so easy to split the work of drawing the set that it is truly embarassing. I’m working on a system that splits the portions of the complex plane up to test into small squares and sends them off to a small farm of computers which then calculate which points are part of the set and return the data to the server which combines it into a larger image. In preliminary testing, the system has been faster than having a single computer work on drawing a rather large 4096 × 4096 image (as linked to through Figure 1).

If I Have Time™, my plan is to store the results of the grid of images drawn into a quadtree with different levels of zooming to make something like Google Maps for the Mandelbrot set. The next stages are to implement a quadtree data structure for the images that isn’t totally memory intensive, and then making the user interface for sending out jobs to the computer grid.

4.2. Infinite Whiteboard

I wrote this in August, 2007. I stopped working on it because the idea of having an infinite space unnerved me by making me think too much about how it’s so easy to lose things when there is too much to see, and things can be too small to notice (like in our universe).

I thought the next step for wikis to really make them have basically any kind of content and as much as is required would be to have an infinitely zoomable interface that anybody can draw on simultaneously. Links could be made by creating a lens to another portion of the whiteboard, and the idea was to have anything droppable onto the drawing area.

I got as far as making it zoomable by using the very nice Piccolo library for Java. Squiggles can be drawn anywhere at any zoom level. Although it’s not quite infinitely large, it’s effectively infinite, as in there is no need to really reach the limits. It would be nice to come up with a new API to get truly infinite functionality, however.

I made a test jar file kylewiki4.jar that implements squiggles. The rectangle button doesn’t quite work. The left mouse button uses the tool (Pointer pans the screen, squiggle draws squiggles), and the right mouse button zooms when dragged left or right. It is kind of fun to draw something like the solar system, zoom into a planet and draw stuff, zoom in and draw a bit more detail, and stop once at the atomic level, and then zoom out slowly and watch things become larger and larger.

4.3. KyleCards

Like KyleWiki, this is due to a narcissistic naming scheme. I never got far with this, other than drawing out what some user interfaces should look like. What severely limited progress was the fact that my method of programming for the web was pure PHP and MySQL: I wasn’t even aware of frameworks back in 2006.

This is going to be a system that interfaces with Moodle, the open source course management web application, that gives students the ability to electronically manage the creation of a research paper with things such as notecard making and information outlining. I’m still in the stages where I’m settling on user and application interfaces.