Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Literate Programming

Nothing I am doing on this project is pioneering. Nothing is original. It is just applying known solutions, figured out by other people, to my particular problem. I don't have an issue with this.

However, the reason I am doing it is partly to learn about the problem and its solution, and partly because I really want the rollercoasterometer. When I am done, my solution will exist in the form of a robot, all the code for it, this blog, and my other notes in other places. Somehow this should all be unified.

In Garden of Rama, Arthur C. Clarke mentions the artificial intelligence which controls Rama, making a report to its masters. He describes the report as being in a language which is not really translatable into English, or any human language, given that it is highly precise and has all the data necessary to support each conclusion attached and linked. In order to unify my report on my project, I need something like this language. However, Clarke is quite wrong, and was wrong when he wrote it, as we have such a language. We call it HTML.

So, what I want is some document form that I can run through one filter and get compilable code, and another and get a net of HTML pages. I want to write in wiki markup, to allow inclusion of math, pictures, videos, etc. I want to be able to attach Eagle files and generate schematics and board printouts. I also want a pony.

What are the closest existing solutions? The title gives this away. I want what Knuth described as Literate Programming. I want to be able to read my report and program like I read a good novel or textbook. But, I don't want to change the language. In a program, I want the document to be compilable directly without changes.

I don't want Javadoc or something like it adapted to C. This is really just for documenting at a low level. I want higher level stuff. I want to describe my design without immediate reference to any attached code. I want to have a section explaining the derivation of the various flavors of the Kalman filter, which is totally irrelevant to the program, since the filter is already derived.

I want something like a wiki, but with a blog. Every time I build the project, I want the documentation form directly uploaded to the wiki of my choice.

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