Javascript interface for Basilisk View

    This directory contains the javascript implementation of the Basilisk View interface. It is a fork of the three.js editor which allows connection to the server typically running within a Basilisk solver.

    Using javascript and three.js has several advantages: portability issues, including OpenGL support (via WebGL), are delegated to the maintainers of web browsers and features such as: import/export in several 3D object formats, scene editing, fancy materials and lighting etc. are directly inherited from the three.js editor.

    The rendering of Basilisk 3D objects is partitioned according to the following client/server scheme:

    • Server: this is implemented by display.h included in the running Basilisk code. The server computes the 3D coordinates, normals and colors of the objects described by the various drawing functions and sends them to the client(s).

    • Client: the client (i.e. this javascript implementation) runs in the web browser and sends drawing functions to the server and receives the corresponding 3D coordinates etc. It then applies camera transformations, texturing, materials, lights, shading etc. to render the final 3D view.

    The client interface to the server is generated dynamically i.e. the server controls which objects can be displayed and what their parameters are. This configuration information is sent to the client when connection is established.

    This can also be used to generate simple interactive interfaces to control numerical parameters of the running code. See display_control() for details.

    The server can serve multiple clients (up to sixteen), which can be useful when teaching for example, or to setup multiple views of the same simulation.

    Offline visualisation of dump files is also possible using the bview server.

    The drawing functions corresponding to a particular setup can also be exported/imported as Basilisk code.

    Quick-start guide

    As usual the simplest way to get started is to use the default Makefile. For example the karman.c simulation can be run interactively using:

    cd $BASILISK/examples
    CFLAGS=-DDISPLAY=-1 make karman.tst

    This will compile and start the simulation in “paused” mode (see display.h for other options). The Basilisk View interface can then be opened using e.g.

    chromium-browser $BASILISK/examples/karman/display.html

    Then select the ‘SETTINGS’ tab and click on ‘RUN’ in the ‘BASILISK’ section.

    Note that google chrome (or better ‘chromium-browser’ which is the google-free version shipped with Debian and other distros) seems to be somewhat faster than firefox for 3D display.

    You can rotate, pan, zoom etc. using the left/right/middle mouse buttons, scrollwheel or one, two-fingers trackpad motions etc.

    For this particular example you can also interactively change the Reynolds number and maximum level of refinement.

    If you get disconnected from the running code (for example when it terminates) and want to reconnect (e.g. if you restart the same code), just use the ‘CONNECT’ button. If nothing happens when you click then the server is probably not listening (or unreachable).

    Interactive display of a remote simulation

    The client/server architecture is designed to allow visualisation of simulations running on a remote server (for example a large parallel computer). On these systems, access to network ports is typically tightly controlled by system administrators, since open ports can be a security vulnerability.

    A (legal) workaround for this restriction is to use Secure Shell tunneling.

    The recipe is simple enough:

    1. Start the simulation on the server (say compile using the -DDISPLAY flag then run using the queueing system etc.
    2. Still on the server, check the content of the display.html file, which will be generated when the simulation starts. It should look like
    <head><meta .... ?ws://machine.somedomain.somewhere:7155"></head>

    Just note the machine name and port number.

    1. On your local machine (i.e. where your web browser runs), use your SSH account to forward the remote port (7155) to a local port (for example 7100):
    ssh -L 7100:machine.somedomain.somewhere:7155

    Note that this will also log you onto the remote system. If you are not running multiple simulations simultaneously, then the default 7100 port will be free on both the server and client and the command will just be

    ssh -L 7100:machine.somedomain.somewhere:7100
    1. Open Basilisk View using ws://localhost:7100 as server address.

    You probably want to warn the system administrator of the remote system that you are opening and forwarding ports, since this may trigger security warnings on the administrator side. If explanations are required you can of course point to this documentation. Note also that other better-known visualisation applications (paraview for example) use the same kind of techniques, with similar potential security issues.

    Option when SSH port forwarding is not allowed

    On some systems, administrators may block SSH port forwarding (i.e. the -L option of ssh used above). The wisdom of doing so is questionable since a relatively simple workaround is to use a unix named pipe instead, like so:

    1. Do steps 1 and 2 above.

    2. On your local machine (i.e. where your web browser runs), do

    rm -f /tmp/bview
    mkfifo /tmp/bview
    nc -l -p 7100 < /tmp/bview | \
      ssh "nc machine.somedomain.somewhere 7100" > /tmp/bview
    1. Open Basilisk View using ws://localhost:7100 as server address.

    Note that you will need to redo step 2 everytime you disconnect. Note also that nc (i.e. netcat) need to be installed on the remote machine (this is usually the case).


    Depending on how the remote system is configured, you may get an error message looking like:

    nc -l -p 7100 < /tmp/bview | \
      ssh "nc machine.somedomain.somewhere 7100" > /tmp/bview
    machine.somedomain.somewhere: forward host lookup failed: ...

    This means that the DNS server on the remote system is strangely configured. A solution is to log onto the remote system and do

    ping machine.somedomain.somewhere
    PING machine.somedomain.somewhere ( 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from machine.somedomain.somewhere ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=9.05 ms

    then copy the IP address (here and replace ‘machine.somedomain.somewhere’ with this IP in all the commands above.

    Main differences with the old interactive bview

    • Cannot yet export to Gnuplot, OBJ, PS, PDF, SVG etc.


    This is only required if you want to setup your own Basilisk web server.

    cd $BASILISK/bview/three.js
    git init
    git remote add origin
    git fetch
    git reset origin/master
    git checkout r124 -- .
    darcs revert -a .

    Note that r124 is the three.js release on which the current version of bview is based.

    To update the version of three.js…

    cd $BASILISK/bview/three.js
    git checkout -- .
    darcs revert .

    … and review the changes being reverted i.e. only keep the changes which are linked to the new version of three.js (and not to the custom bview version). The remaining changes can then be darcs recorded and of course the r124 release tag needs to be updated here.

    To do

    • non-basilisk objects (sphere, cube etc…) are sent to Basilisk
    • scalar fields / colormapping
    • squares z should force linear (or work without linear)
    • deprecate lc/fc
    • more accurate focus (intersection with surfaces etc.)
    • hash table for vertices
    • gnuplot, kml, obj, ply outputs (using view (format = “gnuplot”); interface)
    • tooltips
    • colormaps
    • link Basilisk commands with documentation


    • using the xyz gizmo (or Import .bv) does not reset the controls properly (it jumps)

    See also

    Basilisk View demonstration