Using Beaker to Hack my Homework, part 1

Mar 14, 2016


Today in my High Performance Computing class, my professor explained how we are supposed to complete the first homework assignment. The instructions were to run code in Java, save the results to a file, visualize the results as line plots using MATLAB or Python, and write a report preferably using LaTeX.

Now, one could do basic workflow automation simply write Java code to write the data out to a specific file (and location) to be read by the MATLAB or Python script. However, this seemed tedious and required writing annoying boilerplate code to drag files around. Like any good hacker, I sought an “easier” solution and an opportunity to learn a new technology and decided to implement my homework workflow (homeworkflow?) using Beaker by Two Signma.

From their website, Two Sigma describes their product as:

Notebook-style development provides a more exploratory way to write code than with traditional IDEs. Notebook interfaces are comprised of a series of code blocks, called cells, which can stand alone or act in unison. The development process is one of discovery, where a developer experiments in one cell, then can continue to write code in a subsequent cell depending on results from the first. Particularly when analyzing large datasets, this conversational approach allows researchers to quickly discover patterns or other artifacts of the data.

While my first assignment does not involve any serious data science, being able to freely switch between languages within the same file seemed like a good way to simplify the code for my homework by avoiding boilerplate file management code.


While the original problem specification was meant for Java, I ran into some issues with the auto-translation of data through the beaker object. My professor had permitted us to use Python for the algorithms, and once I configured Beaker to find Python 3, I rewrote the Java in to Python:

Python code sample:

import time
beaker.python_times = []
times = []

#Problem 1a loop
for trial in range(0,5):
    start = time.process_time()
    inc = 0
    for x in range(0, 10000000):
        #ADD CODE HERE
    elapsed = time.process_time() - start
    print (elapsed)
print ("Elapsed:")
beaker.python_times = times
print (beaker.python_times)

The assignment was simple; the program simply counted the time it took to run a lengthy for loop. However, I needed a way to generate the output into a report.

Output Generation

At first I wanted to use KaTeX (the implementaion TeX used by Beaker) to format the data into a report. However, as with Java, I was not able to get the beaker object to be read by KaTeX. After looking around at various examples, I settled for using JavaScript to populate an HTML document:

HTML code sample:

    Python, 10,000,000 iterations, "//ADD CODE HERE": 
  <ul id ="tlist1">
    Average: <span id="avg1"></span>

The Beaker Object

Beaker makes use of a globally-scoped variable beaker to juggle variables between programming. In the Python code above, observe when the list of times in Python is stored in beaker.python_times. To render this data, the beaker object is then referenced from JavaScript:

JavaScript code sample:

var times = beaker.python_times;
var total = 0;
for (i = 0; i < 5; i++) {
  total += times[i];
  document.getElementById("tlist1").innerHTML += ("<li>" + times[i] + "</li>");
document.getElementById("avg1").innerHTML = total/times.length;

From the examples I looked at it seemed like the best way to handle variables was to load data from the beaker object into a native data structure then manipulate the data from there.


After completing the assignment, I was hoping to be able to export the fully-populated HTML file to my website. However, I could not find this functionality in Beaker; the best I could do was export all of the code blocks to a single page. Below is a screenshot of the generated HTML: Beaker HTML Cool! For just 5 trials, this probably wasn’t necessary, but getting to use Beaker was fun. Next, I will use D3.js to visualize the data generated by the Python code.