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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cellular Automata Laboratory: WebCA Released

In the first major update since 1997, a completely new version of Cellular Automata Laboratory (CelLab) is now available. The cellular automata simulators which previously ran under MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows (and which have ceased to work on recent releases of Windows thanks to Microsoft's trademark strategic incompatibility) and been replaced by a new simulator, WebCA, which is written in JavaScript and runs entirely within the user's browser, using the HTML5 canvas element and associated JavaScript support to display the results of the simulation. Rules, which were previously defined by external programs in languages such as Java, Pascal, C, or Basic, are now defined in JavaScript and compiled directly by the simulator: no external programming environment is required. Custom evaluators, formerly written in assembly language or as a Windows DLL, are now also defined in JavaScript

Many new sample rules have been added, illustrating applications such as billiard ball computing, ecological modeling, emulation of Boolean logic elements, simulation of a spin Ising system, Margolus block rule evaluation, and computational fluid dynamics (the latter demonstrating a cellular automaton with continuous-valued cell state). Source code for all rules and evaluators and the pattern and colour palette files they use are available in a new CelLab Development Kit.

The ability to create self-running demos, or “shows” has been added, and used to build the CelLab Demo, which you can also watch (albeit at lower resolution) on YouTube. A number of other demos are included, which are available on a YouTube playlist.

The manual has been extensively revised, removing the information on the MS-DOS and Windows simulators and documenting WebCA and the new rules and evaluators. Instructions for writing rule definitions and custom evaluators in JavaScript are included. The manual has been updated to current Web standards and typography, and should be easier on the eye.

In order to run WebCA, you need a browser which supports HTML5 canvas and the JavaScript features it requires. Browsers differ substantially in the efficiency of their JavaScript implementations. I have found that the Chrome and Brave browsers provide the best performance, with Firefox and Safari substantially slower but sufficient to run all but the most complicated evaluators.

The links below provide access to the new release and its components.

Posted at June 6, 2017 21:04