Higher Order Programming on the Web is Alive


A hard to read screenshot of HOPE (aka Semantic Computing) is now working on the web under the code name “Temporal Agency” (I love that name!), using:

  • Docker to isolate user projects and sessions
  • C# (Yay!)
  • DotNet Core 2.0 (Yay!)


  • IDE-style programming.
  • Syntax highlighting editor (courtesy of Ace).
  • Layout of results declared in XML.

This is very snazzy, in my humble opinion.  I have a couple demos working:

  • Weather forecast, tying in to UndergroundWeather, with summary (as shown above) and full forecast layouts.
  • Address verification using the USPS API’s.

More to come!


HOPE Semantic Rendering of Microservice Data on the Browser

In a previous blog post, I described the high level architecture of microservices
running in a Docker container.  This blog post describes (again at a high level) the behind-the-scenes implementation of how a we render the output of a microservice back to the client’s browser. We’ll use the Weather Underground API for acquiring our current weather conditions.

First, let’s start with a semantic address:

public class ST_Address : ISemanticType
  public string Address1 { get; set; }
  public string Address2 { get; set; }
  public ST_City City { get; set; }
  public ST_State State { get; set; }
  public ST_Zip Zip { get; set; }

  public ST_Address()
    City = new ST_City();
    State = new ST_State();
    Zip = new ST_Zip();

Note that there are other semantics involved here (ST_City, ST_State, and ST_Zip) which we won’t go into here.  We’ll populate the ST_Address with the two pieces that Weather Underground requires, city and state, and then publish this type to the docker container:

The microservice, in HOPE terminology, is a “receptor” that is interested in
the type ST_Address.  As implemented in C# (fragment):

public class WeatherForecast : IReceptor
  public void Process(ISemanticProcessor proc, IMembrane membrane, ST_Address address)
    string json = Http.Get("http://api.wunderground.com/api/[yourapikey]/forecast/q/" + 
      address.State.State + "/" + 
      address.City.City + 

    var data = WeatherUnderground.FromJson(json);

    var statForecast = data.Forecast.Simpleforecast.Forecastday.Select(d =>
          Month = d.Date.Monthname,
          Day = d.Date.Day,
          Weekday = d.Date.Weekday,
          High = d.High.Fahrenheit,
          Low = d.Low.Fahrenheit,
          Conditions = d.Conditions,
          IconUrl = d.IconUrl,
          MaxWind = d.Maxwind.Mph,

    // ...
    // Building the day and night detail forecast is not shown.
    // ...

    Response result = new Response()
      HopeResultWrapper = new WeatherResult()
        StatForecast = statForecast,
        DayForecast = daySummaryForecast,
        NightForecast = nightSummaryForecast,

    // Call back to the host with the result.
    RestCall.Post("", result);

The response is associated with an XML file that determines the rendering.
Here’s a fragment showing just the first to rows (the day and the icon) of
rendering definition:


HOPE renders this into HTML and sends the HTML over an HTML5 websocket to the browser where the page defines this tag:


and on receiving the message from host, executes this Javascript:

 ws.onmessage = function (wsevt)
   var msg = wsevt.data;

The result is rendered on the browser like this:


By changing the rendering to a VerticalGrid we instead get:


By changing the rendering XML definition again (not shown, it’s quite long) we can show the results from all three collections — stat, day, and night — to render a more detailed forecast.


Of course, in real life, you’ll want to render the results of many microservices.  We’ll look at how that works soon!

HOPE for the Web


The above diagram is a high level view of what I’ve implemented with .NET Core 2.0 and Docker.  The idea is to take the work I’ve done with semantic types and allow users to create public or private repos of semantic types and microservices that operate on those types whenever they are “published” in the user’s environment.

With .NET Core 2.0, all the core pieces that I need (reflection, NewtonsoftJson, HttpListener, to name a few) are all fully usable with C# 7.  And while I’ll eventually return to supporting Python, it is a pleasure work with this concept in a strongly-typed language, as that’s a really key component to semantic processing (yes, of course it can be done in a dynamically-typed language with Python as well, as I’ve demonstrated in previous posts and an article.)

And the beauty of doing this with .NET Core is that it can run in a Linux container, which is so much faster than using Docker for Windows!

I’ll be posting more about the implementation details and writing some articles on Code Project on the subject.

Kademlia Peer-to-Peer Distributed Hash Table Implementation in C#


Over the last several months I’ve been working on implementing the Kademlia P2P DHT in C#, as per the specification here.  This is a very complete implementation with a couple demos.  SyncFusion will be publishing an e-book that I wrote documenting the implementation, hopefully it’ll be out in December.

The source code is on GitHub here.  I’ll soon be updating the GitHub readme page with examples of setting up the DHT.

Class-less Coding – Minimalist C# and Why F# and Function Programming Has Some Advantages


Can we use just the native .NET classes for developing code, rather than immediately writing an application specific class that often is little more than a container?  Can we do this using aliases, a fluent style, and extension methods?  If we’re going to just use .NET classes, we’re going to end up using generic dictionaries, tuples, and lists, which gets unwieldy very quickly.  We can alias these types with using statements, but this means copying these using statements into every .cs file where we want to use the alias.  A fluent (“dot-style”) notation reduces code lines by representing code in a “workflow-style” notation.  In C#, if we don’t write classes with member methods, then we have to implement behaviors as extensions methods.  Using aliases improves semantic readability at one level at the cost of confusing generic type nesting in the alias definition.  Extension methods can be taken too far, resulting in two  rules: write lower level functions for semantic expressiveness, and avoid nested parens that require the programmer to maintain a mental “stack” of the workflow.  In contrast to C#’s using aliases, F# type definitions are not aliases, they are concrete types.  New type definitions can be created from existing types.  Type definitions can also be used to specify a function’s parameters and return value.  The forward pipe operator |> is similar to the fluent “dot” notation in C#, but the value on the left of the |> operator “populates” the last parameter in the function’s parameter list.  When functions are written that return something, the last function must be piped to the ignore function, which is slightly awkward.  F# type dependencies are based on the order of the files in the project, so a type must be defined before you use it.  In C#, creating more complex aliases get messy real fast — this is an experiment, not a recommendation for coding practices!  In F#, we don’t need an Action or Func class for passing functions because F# inherently supports type definitions that declare a function’s parameters and return value — in other words, everything in functional programming is actually a function.  Tuples are a class in C# but native to functional programming, though C# 6.0 makes using tuples very similar to F#.  While C# allows function parameters to be null, in F#, you have to pass in an actual function, even if the function does nothing.  F# uses a nominal (“by name”) as opposed to structural inference engine, Giving types semantically meaningful names is very important so that the type inference engine can infer the correct type.  In C#, changing the members of class doesn’t affect the class type.  Not so with F# (at least with vanilla records) — changing the structure of a record changes the record’s type.  Changing the members of a C# class can, among other things, lead to incorrect initialization and usage.   Inheritance, particularly in conjunction with mutable fields, can result in behaviors with implicit understanding like “this will never happen” to suddenly break.  Extension methods and overloading creates semantic ambiguity.  Overloading is actually not supported in F# – functions must have semantically different names, not just different types or parameters lists.  Object oriented programming and functional programming both have their pros and cons, with some hopefully concrete discussion presented here.

Full article on Code Project here.

Migrating Higher Order Programming to the Web

My application, HOPE (Higher Order Programming Environment) is, in its simplest definition, a semantic publisher-subscriber application builder.  I’ve been wanting to move it to the web, but this is fraught with security concerns, hence my investigations into Docker technology and using a language like Python for the programming of “receptors” — the autonomous computational units that process semantic data.  Another stumbling block is my lack of experience with HTML5 canvas and graphics rendering.  Regardless though, there was no reason not to put together a proof of concept.

Here’s a quick walkthrough — no, this code is not yet publicly available.

Step 1: create a few receptors.

We’ll do some computations based on inputting a birth date.

Receptor #1: computing the age of a person in terms of years and days:


Notice the class name computeAge.  We’ll talk about this later.

Receptor #2: compute the number of days to the birth day:


Note the class name daysToBirthday.

Receptor #3: Get the interesting people born on the same month and day:


Again, note the class name personsOfInterest.

Step 2: Add the Receptors to the Surface Membrane


Step 3: Inject a semantic JSON object

Run the “membrane” and inject:

{"birthday": {"year": 1962, "month": 8, "day": 19}}


And here’s the result:


The full output being:

 "age": {
 "years": 37,
 "days": 204
 "daysToBirthday": 161
 "personsOfInterest": [
 "1724 Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood, British admiral in the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolutionary Wars, born in Butleigh, England (d. 1816)",
 "1745 John Jay, American statesman, 1st US Chief Justice, born in New York City",
 "1863 Edvard Munch, Norwegian painter and print maker (The Scream), born in Ådalsbruk, Løten, Norway (d. 1944)",
 "1915 Frank Sinatra, American singer (Strangers in the Night, My Way) and actor (From Here to Eternity) known as 'old blue eyes', born in Hoboken, New Jersey (d. 1998)",
 "1932 robert pettit, American NBA star (St Louis Bombers/1959 MVP), born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana"

What’s Going On?

Simply put, a preprocessor creates a mapping between semantic types and receptors (Python classes):

receptorMap = 
  'birthday':[computeAge(), personsOfInterest()],

and the semantic processor engine routes the JSON semantic types to the Python class receptor’s process method.  When you inject “birthday”, it routes that type’s data to the computeAge and personOfInterest receptors.  The output of computeAge, which is of type “age”, is routed to the daysToBirthday receptor.

In this manner, one can create a library of small computational units (receptors) and build interesting “computational stories” by mixing and matching the desired computations.  Creating the receptors in Python makes this approach perfectly suited for running in Docker containers.  My ultimate vision is that people would start publishing interesting receptors in the open source community.

There’s still much more to go, but even as such, it’s a fun prototype to play with!  Some of the interesting problems that come out of this is, how do we let the end user create a visual interface (a UI, in other words) that facilitates both intuitive input of the semantic data as well as displaying real time output of the semantic computations.  Just the kind of challenging stuff I like!