Writing some notes on IEEE 754 led to discovering a nifty way to render formulae on the web.

For my sins I recently had to do some work on IEEE 754 format
floating point numbers. For the uninitiated^{1}, IEEE 754 is a
standard which specifies the underlying binary representation of floating point
numbers, and the rules for their manipulation. Typically it’s not something
that you need to worry about because compilers handle it for you, but in this
case I couldn’t make any assumptions about the underlying hardware and the
representation really *had* to be compliant.

As usual when I encounter something new, I set about pulling together my
own little reference on the subject, and this led me to another
issue — I needed to write some simple mathematical formulae on my wiki page,
but HTML is really quite deficient in its ability to express such things. I
did discover that a GTK text box can accept arbitrary unicode characters by
holding down `CTRL`

and `SHIFT`

and typing `U`

followed by four hex digits -
this lasted all of about three seconds before I got sick and tired of
continually^{2} looking up code points.

It was at this point a quick bit of Googling led me to MathJax,
which is a great little Javascript-based solution to displaying formulae in
browsers. Essentially you enter it in LaTeX format^{3} and the
library handles rendering it elegantly in whatever browser is in use. Since
I use Dokuwiki, I was also pleasantly surprised to see that there’s
event a plugin for it already. You don’t even need to host
the library yourself, since they have their own CDN for that,
which means there’s a decent chance it’s already cached in a given browser anyway.

So, I still had to wrap my head around strange floating point conversion
issues, but at least I had a pleasant way to write about it, which
almost^{4} made up for it.

25 Feb 2013 at 1:18PM
by Andy Pearce
in Software
| Photo by
Roman Mager on Unsplash | Tags:
maths web floatingpoint