Ben Crowder

Blog: #rust

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Introducing Cirque

As schoolwork starts to wind down, I’m finally starting to make progress on the creativity tools and HCI explorations I talked about back in September. This week I’ve also realized that graphical tools for art and design are what I want to focus most on. (I do still intend to explore textual interfaces, but they’re on the backburner for now.)

In the spirit of working in public, then, Cirque is a small WIP web app I’m building for making patterns via circle packing:

cirque-01.png
cirque-02.png
cirque-03.png
cirque-04.png

This is very much a rough initial MVP. You can tweak some settings, generate new patterns using a simple circle-packing algorithm, and export SVG (with the turbulence/displacement filters enabled by default), but that’s it. Some of the features I’m planning to build next:

  • Replace the settings text box with, you know, good UI (I’m also excited to explore color picker design here)
  • Add the ability to manually place both circles and anticircles (so artists are able to create intentional negative space)
  • Add a way to programmatically set the circle colors (probably via something like shaders, so you could say all circles smaller than a certain size get one color and the rest get another, or circle color is dependent on position or something else)

I’ve also thought about moving the circle packing code from JavaScript to Rust, to be able to play around with WebAssembly, but it seems overkill, at least at this point. (Instead I think I’ll plan to Rust and WebAssembly on the graphical type design tool I want to build.)


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I ended up tweaking my Vim syntax highlighting earlier this week (after my first post), to be more in line with what Ben had posted. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far (with the disclaimer that all of this code is internal and wasn’t written with the expectation that it would ever be seen by anyone else) (and I’m also still fairly new at writing Go and Rust):

syntax-python.png

And some Rust, Go, and HTML:

syntax-rust.png
syntax-go.png
syntax-html.png

These are certainly more soothing to my eyes, which was something I didn’t realize I needed. While these aren’t perfect in the least — with enough variation between languages to look almost like entirely different color themes, though I think I see that as a feature and not a bug — I’m happy with the tweaks for now and plan to stick with them.


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Links #2


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Last night I finished writing a ray tracer for class. Super basic, no antialiasing, only a couple primitives, but still fun.

rust-raytracer.png

It was also my first real project in Rust. Overall, great experience. The borrow checker was mystifying at first (and admittedly still is to some degree), but it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. And the language itself is lovely to code in. Great ergonomics, even if the syntax is occasionally intimidating. I’m excited to do more with it. (I’ve been thinking about possibly rewriting md2epub in either Rust or Go at some point.)


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Tectonic is an intriguing modern TeX engine written in Rust and powered by XeTeX.

What exactly that last bit means, I’m not entirely sure. But what I do know is that Tectonic is a much smaller install than MacTeX, and my initial tests came out with no problems whatsoever. Also, by default it doesn’t write out those intermediate .aux/.log files. I’m planning to use it instead of MacTeX going forward.


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Switched from Chrome to Firefox yesterday. (I don’t really trust Google anymore and figured it was finally time to make the move.) Other perks: multi-account containers, theming via userChrome.css, supporting Rust. Happy so far, though it’s admittedly only been a day.


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Good post on ownership in Rust, using Python as an example.


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Ink

As mentioned on Twitter, I’ve decided to write my own typesetting engine, called Ink. Apparently I’m crazy.

The details are still very much in the air, but here are some quick notes:

  • Written in Rust (for speed)
  • Programmatic (sort of like TeX)
  • Scripting language for extensibility (JavaScript or Lua or Python)
  • Intended for use in typesetting book interiors, covers, and charts
  • Possibly some kind of template/data division
  • Full OpenType feature support (shaping via HarfBuzz)
  • Custom PDF generation library (inkpdf)

Reasons for doing this insane thing:

  • PlotDevice only runs on OS X and I want the source of my language charts to be usable on other platforms.
  • I’d like to open source the books I typeset, so InDesign isn’t a great solution.
  • TeX is powerful and well-seasoned and all, but it’s not exactly pleasant or easy to work with, especially for the kind of stuff I do.
  • I’ll learn a lot and have fun while I’m at it.

The initial roadmap, not necessarily in order:

  • Write inkpdf in Python (which I think will be a better fit for the charts anyway)
  • Get familiar with HarfBuzz
  • Learn Rust
  • Port inkpdf to Rust
  • Plan out the Ink language (I’ve started on this and it’s looking promising)
  • Figure out how scripting is going to work and embed the interpreter

I’ll document the process on this blog, of course. First steps: reading the PDF spec and figuring out how to make PDFs by hand.

(For those who’ve been reading for a while, Ink was also the name of my static blog engine. That’s now ink-static, and at some point I’ll either retire it completely or change the name to something unrelated.)


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