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Penumbra

Getting Nerd Sniped

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The way The Ray Tracer Challenge starts is refreshing. The “Getting Started” section doesn’t spend time on any development environment setup. Instead it is a simple introduction to the Gherkin syntax then a notes on some typical pitfalls. Then the first chapter gives a brief introduction to points and vectors and throws its first test at you. It doesn’t even remind you that you need to choose a language.

I thought about what I wanted to use for my implementation. I could have chosen this as a way to introduce myself to a new language, but I decided to initially go with something I was familiar with: TypeScript compiled to JavaScript running in the browser. This way I could focus on the ray tracer itself and demos would be easy to share. After some research I also concluded that there is runway for performance enhancements like WebAssembly, WebGL and WebGPU.

Unfortunately this raises lots of questions that all have to get addressed before I even get started!

For the name after some poking around on Wikipedia I settled on “Penumbra”. There’s probably some better names I could have chosen, but I couldn’t find any other ray tracers with that name already.

Deciding on where to publish the site was pretty straightforward. My personal site would make sense, but it’s all tied up with its own repository. I also don’t have any static site generator for it. My professional site does have a static site generator (Hugo) but I couldn’t convince myself it was an appropriate place for this project. So I decided to create a new repository for the project and use GitHub Pages to publish it.

My past experience with Hugo was alright, but Go template syntax kinda irks me. So I decided to give Jekyll a try, seeing as how it is the default for GitHub Pages. This was the first real nerd snipe.[1] Jekyll is written in Ruby, and I figured I could just install the gem in my project. Unfortunately by default Ruby’s bundle tool does not by default install gems in the project directory like I expect a package manager to work in this decade. It’s possible to get it to work like this, but after frustration with current documentation on how to do it not matching the version of Ruby that macOS ships with I decided to try to do my development in a devcontainer. I got that working but wasn’t really happy with having to run Docker locally just for this project.

After going back to the drawing board I started researching other static site generators. That’s when I came across Eleventy, which is a fast Node.js based site generator. I actually had known about it for a number of months, but had completely forgotten about it. So now that is what I am setting up and is what this site is using.

Now of course I am getting nerd sniped trying to figure out how to use Eleventy and general web design things:

I’ve managed to work through these now, but I’ve run into issues with Eleventy’s dev server not updating when it should and mysterious issues with the webc:keep attribute in bundling mode. This has me wondering if my plan for using Eleventy’s dev server for development will work out. But that will have to be the next entry…


  1. Because I have a an overly complicated project creation utility for personal TypeScript projects I always wind up starting a project by refreshing the dependencies for that utility. This time that led me to discovering that node-git has stagnated and is no longer providing up-to-date pre-compiled binaries for the latest versions of Node. This results in 3-6 minutes of compile time when installing node-git. Yikes! That’s a lot for a CLI utility that is supposed to be run via npm create. So I decided to spend the time to switch it over to simple-git which is pure JavaScript and doesn’t require any compilation. Thankfully I had written tests for the git functionality which did not mock out node-git and so swapping out the library was straightforward. ↩︎