Archive for the 'JavaScript' category

BIT-101 Lab, One Month In

Jan 31 2017 Published by under JavaScript, Lab

Screenshot from 2017-01-30 21-11-22

So… that went pretty well. One full month of posts done. I wasn’t sure how long I’d last before we started seeing gaps in the lineup. But this is easier than I was expecting. Turns out, I have a lot of ideas. To be honest, and to possibly spoil some illusion, I’m actually a bit ahead of the game. Some days I have more than one idea, or I come up with one or two iterations to something I just did. If so, I just go ahead and bang out whatever is in my mind and postdate it. This also takes the stress off having to come up with something brand new every single day. While generally not a problem, some days I might be really busy, or exhausted, or even sick. Having a buffer on those days is really helpful.

My biggest realization on this whole exercise is how many cool sketches I’ve been able to come up with and how easy it is in general. There are various pieces of advice, exercises, motivational sayings, etc. that say if you force yourself do do something every day for so many days… something magical will happen. Or something. For all the new-age, pop-psychology, “one weird trick” dubiousness of those things, there does seem to be something there.

Although it feels like creativity should be something that needs to flow naturally from some unseen source, it can very definitely be forced, or at least jump started. Force yourself to create something every day and suddenly you’ll have more ideas than you can document, much less act on.

To be fair, some of these ideas are revisitations of things I did years ago in the Flash-based lab. But I think I’m taking them in new and interesting directions, and probably have a better presentation of them as well. Even so, all that stuff was at more than 11 years ago. Some of it going on 16 years ago. There may be new viewers who were not even born when some of this came out originally.

A lot of the things I’m exploring is stuff I originally posted on Art From Code. The source for that stuff was never released. And in fact, most of it is long gone. So I find myself reverse engineering my own past work in a lot of cases. “How the HELL did I do that???” One was baffling me for many days, till I finally dug up a source file hidden away in DropBox. Sad that it had to go that way, but happy I found it.

I’ve also done a lot of work on the site interface as well. I got it pretty near where I want it at this point, though there are a few improvements that need to be added. And it will still evolve over time. But I was really happy with the tags searching, thumbnail index, the sorting and sizing of thumbnails, the saving of preferences and the history / clear history feature in the calendar. Most of that is way beyond what I originally had planned on day one. A lot of it still needs to be cleaned up, but I’m happy with the functionality anyway.

Screenshot from 2017-01-30 21-11-36

I also did a lot of work on the daily page templates. Initially, as I changed some aspect of how it worked, I’d have to go through all of the previous days and edit them all to keep the past days in line. Now, most of the daily UI – beyond the experiment code itself – is done via a UI script. So when I want to change how the daily UI looks, I just change the script and all the days update when they load. That saved me hours already. I toyed with the idea of having a single index that gets a query param of the date it needs to load. That could work, but I’m sticking with individual HTML files for each experiment. This allows me to load individual libraries for one experiment, such as Perlin noise or something else, without having to use some kind of module loader. Or I can make some one off changes or customization to a single day’s experiment, without jumping through hoops.

One last aspect I wanted to mention. This goes back to the creativity aspect. A few years back I did a talk at a few conferences, which I think was also entitled “Art from Code”. In it, I went a bit into left-brain / right-brain theory. I mentioned that while there is a biological basis for the left/right stuff, new age pop psychology has taken the whole theory way beyond reality. However, I did acknowledge that there are different modes of coding, some of them conducive to creativity, some less so.

For example, say you have some creative idea and an concept of how you want to code it. You open up an editor and… create an HTML file, give it a name, figure out where to save it on your disk, give it a head, title, body, import some libraries, add a canvas to the stage, maybe some CSS, add the main JavaScript file to the HTML, create that file, get a reference to the canvas, get the context… now, what was that idea you had? It’s probably gone.

Basically all that analytical, naming, organizing, structuring activity pulls you right out of the cool idea mode you were in. Blame it on brain hemispheres, or don’t. It happens. This is perhaps one reason why the Processing language is so popular among creative coders. You launch processing, you start typing, you hit “run”. BAM!

So part of my flow is a templating system and some creation scripts, as well as the various libraries I’m using. Say I have an idea for something I want to publish on June 12 (no, I’m not that far ahead of myself yet). I just type in the console: 170612

and the HTML and JavaScript files are created and ready to start typing code into. I’ve been using JetBrain’s WebStorm, which has a built in terminal window, so it’s always ready. Say I like what I did on the 12th and I want to iterate it a bit on the 13th. Rather than copy the two files and manually edit them, I type 170612 170613

and it copies the original experiment into the new one, changing the date, links, etc. I just need to iterate the code, update the description, etc. Both of these scripts, as well as the templates, are there in the repo if you want to get a better idea how that works. And yeah, they guard against overwriting existing files if I type in the wrong input. Anyway, all that has been hugely useful in keeping me in creative mode, and away from housekeeping and setup work when I have a good idea.

In summary, I’m on a roll and don’t seem to be slowing down. I’m certain I’ll bat 1000 again for February. Then we’ll see how March goes.

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BIT-101 Lab Source Link and … comments?

Jan 05 2017 Published by under JavaScript, Lab


One of the key aspects of the lab has always been that it’s open source. The code is not particularly written in a manner conducive to education. It’s often the result of me hacking around until I find something that looks good. At that point, it’s done. No heavy duty refactoring, cleaning up, commenting. You get what is there, and if you can figure out what I’m doing, great. If not, feel free to ask, and maybe I’ll try to explain. Maybe not. I might have forgotten what the code does myself.

Anyway. I was looking at the flow. You see something in the lab you like, you have to take note of its number, somehow navigate to the github site, go into the dailies directory and find the js file with that number. Or, maybe you’ve cloned the repo. You can pull any updates and navigate to that spot on your file system.

But hey, that source file just lives at a standard url right? Why not give the nice viewers a link to click on? So there you go. Right up in the description box, there’s a “source” link that’ll take you right to where the code for that particular experiment lives.

I’m also trying to figure out a way to enable comments or discussions. Ideas I’ve had so far:

1. Disqus. I got it working easily enough, but the UI is not going to work out. I want each experiment to be full screen with only the home link and info box. I could make an additional link or button that opens up the Disqus UI in some kind of popup, but I wasn’t really liking where that was going.

2. A forum. That’s a possibility, but kind of a heavyweight one. I’ve run forums before. Not sure I really want to get back into that. And forcing people to make forum accounts and profiles, etc. Not into it.

3. Github wiki. I’m just not familiar with that. Could work out. One wiki page per experiment. Open to anyone editing. Open to abuse, I guess. Anyone have any experience with this?

Any other suggestions? I think a github-based solution would be great. Surprisingly there’s no straight up comment feature in github that I can see. There are issues and pull requests, sure. But is there something where you can just comment on a file or folder?

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BIT-101 Lab Visual Index

Jan 04 2017 Published by under JavaScript, Lab, Technology

Screen Shot 2017-01-04 at 9.28.46 AM

I just ticked off another feature on the BIT-101 Lab list. A visual index.

Back in the old Flash Lab the only way to find a specific experiment you wanted to look at again was to click through, one by one, trying to remember the approximate date and targeting items around that. I wanted to avoid that pain. The first thing I did was to add tags and the ability to search by tags. This should help a lot. But I think this visual index will help even more. You can just scroll until you see something that looks like the thing you want to check out, and click away. It will also be good for discovery, I think.

At any rate, I think it looks pretty cool. I test-populated it with about 15 future experiments and it really starts to look great when there are lots of images in the list. I can’t wait to see it grow.

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Back to Basics

Jan 01 2017 Published by under General, JavaScript, Lab, Technology

TL;DR: Go here:

Long time readers of this blog may recall what existed here before “blogging” was a thing – the BIT-101 Lab.

Back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s there were a bunch of people running Flash “experiment” sites. Basically, each day they would post some kind of visual, animated and/or interactive Flash piece, often open sourced. Josh Davis’s Praystation, Jared Tarbell’s Levitated, Robert Hodgin’s Flight 404 were some of my favorites. In August 2001 I decided to blatantly copy them… I mean… jump on that bandwagon. My site at the time was called “KP Web Design”. Sigh. I started doing some experiments and decided I needed a better domain, so I came up with bit-101 and moved all the experimental stuff over there. It went live on September 11, 2001. Yes, THAT September 11th. So nobody really noticed it for a while. But over the next four years I posted just shy of 700 open source Flash experiments that explored all kinds of neat techniques. The site won an award (FlashForward 2003 – Best Experimental Site) and really pretty much launched my career.

In 2003 I started this blog. And by 2005 the lab was retired. I blogged heavily for several years, but in the last few years, not so much. I’ve had other interesting projects over the years, but nothing was quite as exciting as those lab days. Recently Zach Lieberman posted about his 2016 project of posting a sketch each day (sketch/experiment, same concept). It inspired me to get back to basics.

Of course, I would not be doing Flash anymore. I haven’t opened that program on my own volition in several years. (I did need to use it to examine or fix a few things for work a few times.) My weapon of choice these days is HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript.

I’ve spent the last week or so creating a site and a workflow. All the source will be posted on github at And the site uses github pages – So literally, the site IS the source IS the site.

I have template files and a script to create a new daily sketch / experiment based on the templates. This goes into a dev folder where I can work on it. When I’m ready to release it, I move it to the dailies folder, update the index.json file, add, commit and push. This updates the source and publishes the new file to the site. Because the site IS the source… etc.

One thing you’ll see in there is the use of a couple of libraries, bitlib and QuickSettings. You might be familiar with the latter. But the bitlib library is something I’ve been working on quietly for a while. It’s really just for my own use. It’s not something that I want to promote and convince other people to use and then have to wind up supporting. It’s just a compilation of the functions that I wind up using over and over. It’ll grow and change over time. Feel free to use it as much as you want – at your own risk. I make no claims for it’s production-readiness.

The site code is pretty rough. Again, I banged it all out over the last week in my spare time. But I’m quite proud of the calendar UI I created from scratch. And the tag searching and indexing. It’s even responsive and stuff. I have plans to take a screen shot of each experiment and present a visual index as well. And I’m thinking about ways to automate that index / tag generation portion. But it all seems pretty good right now for starters.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this. I know that on day one, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about from your end, but hopefully as the calendar fills up, it will become a fun place to visit and play with and learn from.

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QuickSettings Version 3.0 released

Nov 11 2016 Published by under JavaScript, QuickSettings

I just pushed QuickSettings Version 3:

I’m really happy with the changes in this version. I use QuickSettings myself all the time, so most of the changes stem very much from personal experience – seeing my own pain points and addressing them. The key motivation for changes in this release was making the library easier to use.

One of the annoyances I noticed was in getting values from a panel – you had to know what kind of control you were querying and use the correct get method, i.e. getRangeValue(title) or getColor(title) or getText(title). And the same for setting values. Since the panel knows what kind of control it is setting or getting via the title, there was no reason to force the user to specify it. So all that is gone. All controls can be set or get with setValue(title, value) and getValue(title).

Since all controls now used the same interface for getting and setting values, this allowed me to vastly simplify the getValuesAsJSON method, returning an object or JSON string of all the values in a panel. It also allowed me to easily create a corresponding setValuesFromJSON method. Since both of these methods utilize the same JSON format, you can grab the values at one point and reset the panel using that same object. The Reset Demo (source) shows one example of how to use that. You could also use this technique to create multiple presets for panels.

Having a single format to get and set all panel values opened up a solution for another situation that annoyed me. In working on some experimental piece, I’d create a panel, and adjust various values in it, and then need to change the code. When I re-ran the application, the panel was of course back to its original state. And I’d have to go adjust the values again. The solution is saveInLocalStorage(name). When you call this method on a panel, it immediately looks for an item in localStorage with the given name. If it finds one, it uses setValuesFromJSON to reset the panel to the values found there. It then listens for any changes that occur to any values in the panel and immediately saves them to local storage under the same name. This means that the next time you start the app, the panel will initialize with the same values it ended with in the last session. Check the Local Storage Demo (source) to see this in actions.

I’ve also been paying a lot of attention to the size of the library, trying to keep it as small as possible. This includes removing any code that is not vital to the project. So there were some removals in 3.0:

I noticed a while ago that setInfo and setHTML were almost exact duplicate methods. So I just made setInfo into an alias for setHTML. In version 3.0, setInfo is gone altogether.

A big removal was the parse method. This would take a JSON object and generate an entire panel from it. The idea being that you could build a panel declaratively with JSON rather than writing JavaScript code. I personally wound up never using this method and never heard from anyone who did. It was complex and took up a big chunk of the source code. So it is gone. If people really miss it, I’ll consider recreating it as a separate module.

Finally, I removed the whole snap-to-grid functionality. I found, personally, that I wasn’t moving panels around that often anyway, and when I did, I didn’t really care if they snapped to any kind of grid. It was a neat feature, but not essential.

Between the simplification resulting from the new get/set methods and the removal of the items mentioned, I was able to cut about 4k off the library size, making the minimized library about 20.5k.

Of course, these changes may break some existing apps. Hopefully not too badly. And I think the added simplicity and functionality is worth it.

One thing not as visible is that I’ve also started unit testing the library. This was long overdue. When I started changing the set/get methods, I saw that I was going to need to do a ton of manual testing on each and every control to make sure that I wasn’t breaking anything. Forget that. It’s all automated now. All the set and get methods are thoroughly and automatically tested now. In addition to making sure that the new functionality worked correctly, this testing also unearthed several pre-existing issues that I probably never would have noticed. Those are now fixed too. All the tests are checked into the repo, so if anyone wants to add additional tests in there, I’ll happily pull them in. I mainly concentrated on the value functions, but there’s a lot more in the library that needs to be added to testing.

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Coding Math and

Oct 16 2016 Published by under CodingMath, JavaScript

I’m happy to announce that Coding Math videos will now be available on

Since I started making videos, it has been a great source of joy for me. I love teaching, whether it is writing, speaking or making videos. It’s very fulfilling to spend time learning a subject and then be able to distill that subject down into simple enough terms that others can understand it and actually USE it. And the tons of positive comments I have received on the videos have totally defied my previous views of what YouTube comment sections were supposed to look like. I don’t answer all of them, but I do read every single one and it’s always a nice pick-me-up to get one of your great comments.

At the same time, making videos takes a lot of time and energy. I usually think over the script in my head – often on long walks with my dog – for a couple of days. Then I try to come up with good, simple code examples. This is key, in my opinion. It’s where a lot of other educators and authors fall down, I think. The example needs to be realistic enough that you can see how you could use that in a real project. But at the same time, you don’t want a full fledged application with all kinds of other junk that’s obscuring the one principle you are trying to teach. I remember seeing a tutorial for parsing XML some years ago, that went on for ages on pixel-level details on how to build the UI for displaying the XML. Utterly irrelevant. The code examples usually take me from one to a few hours. Then I start writing the script explaining the concepts and going through the code. That’s generally a couple of hours minimum. Screencasting all of the code and any diagramming, gathering other graphics and screenshots, etc. is another hour or two. Recording the audio is pretty quick. I do it in one take and just back up and start talking again if I make a mistake. Editing the audio for a 10-15 minute video takes around an hour. Then, putting it all together – making all the audio match up to all the video, all the cuts and transitions, etc. can be anywhere from 2-4 hours. So we’re usually talking a minimum of around 8 hours for the full production of a 10 minute video. Maybe twice that for a more complex one.

So, while the praise and thanks are nice, it would also be good to get remunerated for that time somewhat. My approach to this so far has been through my Patreon campaign. Many of you have contributed to Patreon, and I am grateful beyond words at the fact that you have gone ahead and given money that you didn’t have to give to support my efforts. Thank you all who have donated. Seriously.

However, while Patreon is a great service, it is more suited for some types of content than others. A lot of podcast producers use it to great success. In those cases, it makes a ton of sense. Most traditional podcasts are fairly topical – they talk about current events and happenings. A few weeks later, an individual episode has lost 90% of its value. However, in the case of the videos I’m producing, they’ll all continue to have the same value as the day they were produced – at least for some years, until JavaScript itself becomes obsolete. Even then, the principles will still be usable.

As it stands, I make about $90 to $100 from Patreon each time I release a Coding Math video. Given the time I put into them, that’s somewhere close to minimum wage. If, a week AFTER I release a video, that video goes viral and 100,000 people watch it, I will get… $0. If that video continues to get thousands of hits per week for the next 5 years, I will get … $0. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the Patreon contributions, but it’s really not the best system for this type of content.

There’s also Youtube ad revenue. This does reflect ongoing views, but with almost 15,000 subscribers, this results in an average of about $20 a month. Not really worth discussing.


I’ve also been making videos for I’ve kept these quite separate. So far they’ve been series on specific subjects. The platform is great – both for customers and instructors. If you are a web development professional, it’s possibly the best resource to stay up to date on current technologies. For something like $199 a year, you get an amazing wealth of ongoing, current, as well as archived material. also has a library of free videos. As an instructor, I continue to earn revenue on older videos, as long as they are still being watched. And unlike YouTube, it’s actually a significant amount.

So it’s been a struggle for me on which to concentrate on. I love creating the Coding Math series and letting people learn for free, but also like doing the specific videos that earn me money. Fortunately, there is a way to combine both.

Coding Math videos will now be published first on The will be released for free, and will remain free for anyone to watch, any time, ever. Just like on YouTube. But I’m sure you’ll rest much easier knowing that I’m being well compensated! ūüôā

Here’s the first one:

As for the future, I’ll slowly be adding the back catalog of Coding Math episodes to I won’t be removing them from YouTube though. They’ll stay right there. New episodes will premiere on, and probably eventually go up on YouTube at some point. I’m not entirely sure on how I will schedule that. Since I will now be paid for the content through, I will no longer be publishing through Patreon. Once again, though, I thank all of you who have contributed there. It just wouldn’t feel right to “double dip” that way. Finally, I will continue to do paid series for I recently finished an intermediate series on coding WebGL in JavaScript, as a follow up to the beginner series I did earlier. This should be published there soon.

And as I said earlier, if you like the free stuff you see on, I highly recommend signing up. Maybe get your company to get a subscription.

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I made a Chrome Extension

Jul 16 2016 Published by under General, JavaScript, Technology

The other week I got a new Chromebook. Mainly just to see what the user experience was, but I surprised myself by liking it a lot more than I expected I would. But that’s another story.

I started being more interested in Chrome Apps, which work in Chrome on a regular PC or Mac as well, and started looking into the development process of Chrome Apps and Extensions. Pretty cool stuff. So here is my first extension, Chrome Apps Shortcut.

It barely does anything. Literally a one liner in terms of code. But I made it as a solution to an actual problem I had. Your Chrome Apps are displayed in a special page in the Chrome. If you use the bookmarks bar, you can add a shortcut to that location there. Or, if you use the default new tab page, there’s a shortcut there. I don’t use either of those things. I use a custom new tab page. So the only way to open the Chrome Apps page was to type in “chrome://apps” in the url field. Furthermore, because this is a custom url scheme, most methods of creating a shortcut to a web page do not work with that. At least none of the methods that I usually use. I looked for an extension that would do what I wanted, and there wasn’t one, so I made this.

All it does is put an icon up in the extensions area at the top of Chrome. You click it, it opens the Apps page in a new tab. The Code to do this is here:

[code language=”javascript”]chrome.browserAction.onClicked.addListener(function(tab) {
code: chrome.tabs.create({url:”chrome://apps”})

And even most of that is boiler plate. I just added the chrome.tabs.create({url:"chrome://apps"}) part.

There’s also the manifest, and all the icon files…

[code language=”javascript”]{
“manifest_version”: 2,
“name”: “Chrome Apps Shortcut”,
“short_name”: “Chrome Apps Shortcut”,
“description”: “Opens the Chrome Apps tab.”,
“version”: “0.0.1”,
“minimum_chrome_version”: “38”,

“icons”: {
“16”: “icon_16.png”,
“48”: “icon_48.png”,
“128”: “icon_128.png”
“browser_action”: {
“default_icon”: “icon_48.png”
“background”: {
“scripts”: [“background.js”],
“persistent”: false
“permissions”: [

And then in order to publish, you have to set up your Chrome Developer Account ($5 one time fee) and create screenshots, descriptions, blah blah blah.

All told though, from concept, to published in store, was maybe 2-3 hours. Most of that was looking up how to do stuff.

I want do dive more into packaged apps next. There are some great possibilities there. Learn more here:

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Quicksettings.js 1.3

Jul 15 2016 Published by under Components, JavaScript, Technology

Did a bit of work on Quicksettings.js recently. Mostly based on some features suggested in issues and pull requests. A quick summary:

1. A few new controls:

  • ¬†addNumber. Basically the same as addRange, but displayed as a numeric text field with up and down buttons. Actual render may differ per browser / platform.
  • ¬†addDate. Where supported, will show a date field with a button to click that shows some kind of date picker. In Chrome you get an actual calendar. In some implementations, it’s just a text field. Input and output are both strings in the form “YYYY-MM-DD”.
  • ¬†addTime. Like date, but for time. String format “HH:MM” or “HH:MM:SS”. 24 hour time.
  • ¬†addPassword. Basically, addText, but text is hidden as asterisks, dots, or whatever the platform does with it.

All of those have corresponding bind, set and get methods as well.

2. Method chaining. Great suggestion. Now, all methods that do not actively return some value will return a reference to the panel itself. So you can do stuff like:

var panel = QuickSettings.create(10, 10, "Panel")
.addRange("x", 0, 100, 50, 1)
.addRange("y", 0, 100, 50, 1)
.addRange("w", 0, 100, 50, 1)
.addRange("h", 0, 100, 50, 1)

That makes me really happy.

Here’s a master demo showing all the controls:

And all the code that creates that demo:

When you figure that almost a quarter of that code is for making a canvas and drawing a circle in it, and the rest creates everything else on the page, that’s not bad.

You can check it out, download it from here, or just use the cdn links:

Don’t forget to add one of the styles:

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QuickSettings CDN

Feb 24 2016 Published by under JavaScript

A few people were asking for the QuickSettings Library to be added to a CDN for ease of use in projects. I finally got around to doing this. It’s now hosted on

To use QuickSettings in a project, you can directly link to the main minified js file at:

You’ll also need to add one of the QuickSettings style sheets.



or Minimal Dark:


You can add QuickSettings to JSBin semi-permanently. While on the JSBin page, open the browser’s console. Emphasis on browser’s console. NOT JSBin’s console section. And paste in this snippet:

libraries.add({text: "QuickSettings", scripts: [ {text: "QuickSettings", url: [ "", ""]}]});

This will be saved via your browser’s local storage, so you don’t need to do this every time. Generally once per machine/browser. Now you can hit the Add Library dropdown and scroll down to see QuickSettings. Select that and QuickSettings is added to the current bin.


This also works on CodePen. Create a new pen and go into the pen settings. In the JavaScript section, add the url to the quicksettings.min.js file above. And then in the CSS section, add the url to the CSS file of your choice. You’re good to go.

I’m not as familiar with CodePen to know if there is a way to save particular libraries to make them easier to use across multiple pens, or if you just need to paste the two urls in there every time. Maybe someone else knows.

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More Codes: Weave!

Oct 29 2015 Published by under JavaScript

Just playing around and came up with a neat little library for drawing weave patterns on a canvas.

Not a whole ton to say about it. Not sure how useful it would actually ever be to anyone except… those rare cases when… you just need a weave pattern… done in canvas. But anyway, it was fun to make, and I used QuickSettings extensively during the development to try out different parameters quickly and easily. And that gave me the ideas for several improvements to QuickSettings itself. If you could compare the code before and after the QuickSettings binding and global change handler features, you’d see how useful those are.

Anyway, check out the demo.

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