June, 2008

  • Kirill Osenkov

    Live Geometry with Silverlight 2

    • 24 Comments

    I'm happy to announce a project I started on CodePlex: http://codeplex.com/DynamicGeometry

    Live preview at: http://geometry.osenkov.com

    Dynamic geometry

    In a nutshell, it's an interactive designer for ruler-and-compass constructions - it lets you plot points, connect them with lines, construct circles, intersection points, parallel lines - everything that you usually do with "plain" geometry. But then the magic part comes in - you can drag the points and the entire construction is recalculated immediately - this is why they call it dynamic geometry. The way it works is the program doesn't store the coordinates of figures - instead, it stores the algorithm of their construction. Every time you move any of the points, the entire construction is being reconstructed on-the-fly given the new coordinates of the point using the algorithm stored in memory - that's why I like calling it "CAD with lazy evaluation".

    The actual program available online

    The application is deployed live at http://geometry.osenkov.com - you'll need Silverlight 2 Beta 2 to view this site. At first, the UI might seem not very intuitive for you - it takes a while to figure out how to use the toolbar and construct tools - but I hope an interested reader can tackle this challenge. The trick is to know the rules how the toolbox buttons work. Plotting points is easy - just select the point tool and click anywhere. Dragging points is easy too - select the arrow (cursor) tool and drag the points. Now, to construct a segment between two points, you select the segment tool, click (and release) the first point, and then click (and release) the second point. See, you specify that this segment depends on two points - every time you drag one of the points using the Drag tool, the segment will update itself accordingly.

    The source code is available online too!

    I used Visual Studio 2008, C# 3.0 and Silverlight 2 Beta 2. I have to say, those are awesome technologies and a pleasure to use (at least for me).

    I split the code into several projects. DynamicGeometry is a class library that provides a framework for defining figures and their interaction. My goal was to allow for extensibility - so that you can just plug in a new kind of a figure, and automatically consume all the centralized goodies - serialization, painting, dependency tracking, transaction system, interaction, etc. Now, the code for almost every figure fits in one screen of text - so I rarely have to scroll when editing these files. SilverlightDG is the Silverlight 2 front-end - UI. DG is the WPF front-end. I try to maintain two projects - WPF and Silverlight - to build from the same sources. So far so good :)

    Implementation details

    The project is still in its early Mickey Mouse stages and only some very basic functionality is there - however, there is already something that is worth noting:

    • an extensible type hierarchy to model geometric figures - all starts with IFigure and FigureBase
    • a State and Strategy pattern implementations to enable interactive mouse input from the user - different toolbox buttons provide different strategies to handle mouse input
    • a pretty decent transaction system, which enables nested transactions, Rollback, delayed execution, record/playback and, of course, unlimited Undo/Redo
    • a dependency tracking mechanism that allows to express dependencies between figures (i.e. a midpoint depends on two existing points) - I employ Topological Sorting to sort the figure DAG by the dependencies - we first want to recalculate the basic figures, and then their dependents
    • a toolbar that took me many painful hours to design - I highly respect UI designers and think that getting the UI right is more difficult than to implement the rest of the actual functionality. I hope I didn't do too bad, although I'm definitely not a great UI designer.

    Silverlight 2 Beta 2

    Most probably by this time you already know what Silverlight is all about - if not, www.silverlight.net is a great place to start. I personally believe that Silverlight is our liberation from the old web story and am very optimistic about this technology. While Silverlight 1.0 only allowed JavaScript programmability, Silverlight 2 gives you full experience of .NET and managed languages - C#, VB, IronPython, IronRuby and others (did I forget something?). I think that Silverlight's advantage over Adobe technologies is this rich programming model - the fact that you can use .NET and C# 3.0 for the web client just makes me so excited about this.

    Targeting both Silverlight and WPF from same source

    If you look closer at my source code, you will notice that I have two projects - the WPF one and the Silverlight one - including the same .cs files. Because WPF and Silverlight use different CLR and runtimes, the project format is incompatible - i.e. I can't include a Silverlight class library in a WPF application. Workaround is relatively easy - just create two separate .csproj files in the same folder, that reference the same sources - and you're fine.

    CodePlex

    By the way, CodePlex is a quite awesome site for open-source projects - it provides version control (I love TFS and think it's excellent), item tracking, forums, wiki, downloads, stats - all for free and without annoying ads. Codeplex is one of the products that still make me proud to be working at Microsoft.

    DG 1.0 - the inspiration

    The project that I'm describing in this post is actually based on an earlier one that I've implemented 7-8 years earlier - here's a blog post about my original dynamic geometry project: http://kirillosenkov.blogspot.com/2007/12/dg-10-free-dynamic-geometry-software.html

    I'd like to reach parity with the first version - however this is going to be tricky, because it has a lot of different goodies - from analytical expressions to ability to create hyperlinks and compose complex documents. Interestingly enough, I implemented DG 1.0 using VB6 - and though I think VB6 was an awesome environment at that time (I think it's Edit-and-Continue is still better than the one we have in Visual Studio 2008), I feel so much better and more comfortable using C# 3.0 - it just lets me express stuff about my program that I want to express in the way that I want.

    I hope some of you have found this interesting. I'd be happy to hear any feedback or advice on this.

    Thanks!

  • Kirill Osenkov

    MEF: Microsoft's Managed Extensibility Framework

    • 2 Comments

    Krzysztof Cwalina announced that Microsoft has released a CTP of its Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF).

    MEF is basically a dependency injection framework that allows to provide extensibility for your applications (add-in/plug-in framework). Also, it's a very good way to componentize your application's architecture and make components/layers pluggable and replacible. Here's a very good overview of what MEF actually is with nice examples and excellent comments from readers: http://blogs.msdn.com/kcwalina/archive/2008/04/25/MEF.aspx

    Go grab it here: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/mef. The download contains MEF itself (ComponentModel.dll) and several interesting samples.

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