Raphael.js using Coffee Script

Beneath all the C-like syntax, there is an implementation of the Scheme in Javascript. CoffeeScript is an interesting language that provides a Python-like indentation syntax for the Scheme in Javascript. In this post, I explain how I used CoffeeScript with Raphael.js for a simple SVG animation. (Update : When this was initially written, Raphael.js was at version '1.5'. Raphael.js has had a major update since. I have to update the article.)


3D Hyper Cube

In parallel computing, the n-dimensional hypercube is a model used for a network of n processors. The figure on the right shows a 3-D hypercube. Each node, shown on the figure by a circle, is a processor. The lines connecting two nodes is an interconnection, through which two processors communicate with each other. The processors are numbered from 0 to 2 ** (n -1). A 3-D hypercube is made up of two 2-D hypercubes. Two 2-D hypercubes, say a and b, are connected such that each processor of the hypercube a is connected to the corresponding processor of b. In other words, two processors with the same id are connected. An n dimensional hypercube is constructed from two n-1 dimensional hypercube in a similar manner.

Now, consider an algorithm, which runs on a hypercube as follows:

  1. A processor at level i can begin execution only after its neighboring processors in level i - 1 have completed their execution.
  2. All processors in level i can execute in parallel.

For example, in the 3-D hypercube shown in the picture, processors marked 001, 010 and 100 can execute in parallel after processor 000 has finished its execution. Dynamic programming algorithms are mapped directly onto hypercubes in such fashion.

Suppose we have 4 processors arranged in 2-D hypercube, and our problem size is such that it requires a 3-D hypercube. How do we use the 2-D hypercube to solve such a problem ? Since a 3-D hyper cube is made of two 2-D hypercubes, one way to solve the problem is to schedule the execution of one hypercube after another. For example, with the 3-D hypercube shown in the picture, we can execute the jobs of four processors on top (all with middle digit 0) followed by those in the bottom (all with middle digit 1). If we were to follow this method, it would take 2 x 3 = 6 steps.

To reduce the number of steps, we can pipe-line the execution of hypercubes. In pipe-lining, the processors at the same level are executed in parallel. Again back to the example given in the picture, we can consider all the processor with the first digit 0 forming a 2-D hypercube, while the one with first digit 1 forming another. We can also see that after 000 is done processing, 001, 010 of the first 2-D hypercube and 100 of the second 2-D hypercube can execute in parallel. All the three can be executed because we have 4 processors arranged in a 2-D hypercube. Thus the execution of second hypercube overlays the execution the first one (though it lags a bit). With the use of pipe-lining, it would only take 4 steps.

My aim in this post is to make an animation on the browser that shows this idea of pipe-lining hypercubes. This exercise is just an attempt to use Raphael.js along with CoffeeScript, while trying to learn both!


For Unix-y systems the set-up is straight forward.

  1. Download and build node.js.
  2. Install npm. If you are behind a proxy server (like me), this may be not straight forward. npm installer gets the source files necessary for npm's sub-modules from github using git:// protocol. I tried to make git protocol work behind the proxy, but it just wouldn't. I, then, had to go and change the protocol in .git/config file from 'git' to 'https'. If you have any suggestions for getting git protocol to work behind a proxy with authentication,please do comment. (Instructions given here doesn't work for me!)
  3. Install Coffee-script.
  4. Download Raphael.js.
  5. Make an html file whose body contains an empty div, that can be used by Rapheal to draw, and also other controls if necessary. I used the following:
    <script src='assets/js/raphael-min.js'> </script>
    <script src='assets/js/raphael-test.js'> </script>
    <div style="margin:0.5em auto;width:100%">
    <a id="reset" class="widebutton">Click here to reset</a>
    <div id="canvas"> </div>
    <div style="margin:0.5em auto;width:100%">
    <a id="run" class="widebutton">Click here to run</a>
    Here, my coffe-script source file compiles to javascript at location assets/js/raphael-test.js and Raphael.js source code is available at assets/js/raphael-min.js - relative to the html file. The div with id canvas will be the parent for the SVG output.

For Windows, the setup is the same. The primary trouble is getting CoffeScript to run in windows, but Mikhail Nasyrov's excellent instructions should fix any problems.


The first part is to write a function that draws 2D Hypercube. The code is shown below. Here, paper is a Raphael object constructed on top of the canvas we defined in the previous section. hoffset and voffset determine how high and wide the 2D hypercube should be. Four circles are drawn on the canvas using circle function of Raphael object. The centers of the circles are calculated such that the 2D Hypercube looks like a plane hanging in 3-D space.

make2DHC = (paper, cx, cy, hoffset, voffset, clr) ->
    hc = []
    hc[0] = paper.circle cx, cy, 30
    hc[1] = paper.circle cx - hoffset,
               cy + hoffset * Math.tan(Math.PI / 6), 30
    hc[2] = paper.circle cx, cy + voffset, 30
    hc[3] = paper.circle cx-hoffset,
               cy + voffset + hoffset * Math.tan(Math.PI / 6), 30
    # Fill the circles
    c.attr {fill:clr} for c in  hc
    # Connect the nodes
    intraPaths = (
        connectCircles paper,hc[p[0]],hc[p[1]],clr for p in [[0,1],
            [0,2],[1,3],[2,3]] )
    # return the nodes and paths
    hc.concat intraPaths

Using make2DHC, we can a build a 3D hypercube by constructing two 2D hypercubes, and adding paths between the circles of the two hypercubes. To aid animation, I draw circles of radius zero on top the nodes. The code for building 3D Hypercube is shown below.

build3DHC = () ->
    # make 2 2D hyper cube
    redhc = make2DHC paper, xorig, yorig,
        hcwidth, hcheight, 'red'
    bluehc = make2DHC paper, xorig + hcwidth,
        yorig + hcheight, hcwidth, hcheight, 'blue'
    # build the paths between two 2D hyper cubes
    interPaths = (connectCircles paper,redhc[i], bluehc[i] for i in [0..3])
    # circles for animation initially set with radius 0
    animRedHC = (c.clone().attr {r:"0"} for c in redhc[0..3])
    animBlueHC = (c.clone().attr {r:"0"} for c in bluehc[0..3])

After having completed the circles, animation is filling the empty circles at different time points (as shown below).

btn.onclick = () ->
        t = {fill:"#33CC33", r:"30"}
        animRedHC[0].animate t, 2000
        setTimeout (() ->
            c.animate t, 2000 for c in [animRedHC[1],animRedHC[2],
            1), 3000
        setTimeout (() ->
            c.animate t, 2000 for c in [animRedHC[3],animBlueHC[1],
            1), 6000
        setTimeout (() ->
            animBlueHC[3].animate t,2000
            1), 9000
    catch e
        alert e.message || e

Complete source code of the coffee-scrip is available here.


Click here to reset
Click here to run

Lessons Learned

  1. This probably is a wrong application of Raphael.js. Processing.js, I think, might be probably the right tool for the job here. I don't have any experience with Processing.js.
  2. I still think tikz has a much better and cleaner interface for a drawing library. If there is any Javascript drawing library with an interface similar to tikz, it would be great.
  3. CoffeeScript is very picky on how your code should spread across multiple lines. The rules for multi-line statements are not in the documentation. For example, all of the following three comprehensions are incorrect Coffee-Script for the same reason : The line break is in the wrong place. intraPaths = (connectCircles paper,hc[p[0]], hc[p[1]],clr for p in [[0,1],[0,2],[1,3],[2,3]])

       intraPaths = (connectCircles paper,hc[p[0]],hc[p[1]],clr
           for p in [[0,1],[0,2],[1,3],[2,3]])
       intraPaths = (connectCircles paper,hc[p[0]],hc[p[1]],clr for p in

    My suggestion is that, when in doubt use Try CoffeeScript. Still, CoffeeScript is a better alternative for Javascript. I certainly would use CoffeeScript instead of Javascript in the future.

Exercise for the reader

There many things to improve here. Two I can think of are:

  1. It doesn't look good that the inter-connections between the red and blue circles cross the boundaries. Connections should stop at the boundaries.
  2. The animation is done using javascript setTimeout method. One can hijack the animation sequence by clicking Reset link right in the middle of animation. I think a better way to animate is to use keyframes. Of course, one can disable the 'Reset' link, when the animation is going on.