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A realtime visualisation of bitcoin transactions as rain, using websockets and p5.js.
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README.md

BitcoinRain.io

A visualisation of bitcoin transactions as rain. Each raindrop is a realtime bitcoin transaction.

You can check out the live transaction stream websocket server at [http://bitcoinrain.io:8082](http://bitcoinrain.io:8082) (click the tick), or connect to it directly from your program at ws://bitcoinrain.io:8082.

About

This is my first attempt at making a realtime visualisation website using Websockets. It works by:

  1. Connecting to a running Bitcoin Core node to get recently broadcast bitcoin transactions.
  2. Running websocketd to use that data in a websocket server.
  3. Using p5.js to visualise the data on a webpage.

Dependencies

Ruby

The backend stuff is written in Ruby. This is essentially a script that connects to a Bitcoin Core client to get live transaction data.

sudo apt install ruby # I'm currently using Ruby 2.5+

PHP

The decoders for the raw bitcoin transaction data are written in PHP. I would have written them in Ruby, but I already had a reliable decoder written in PHP, so I just used that instead.

sudo apt install php7.3      # first time using 7.3 :)
sudo apt install php7.3-gmp  # Gnu Multiple Precision (needed for bitcoin library stuff)

websocketd

This is a cool tool written in Go that turns any program's STDOUT in to a websocket server.

sudo apt install golang-go # websocketd is built in Go
set -U -x GOPATH $HOME/.go  # Set GOPATH (Fish Shell)
export GOPATH=$HOME/.go     # Set GOPATH (Bash Shell - add this to .bashrc to make permanent)

# websocketd
go get -u github.com/joewalnes/websocketd  # Binary will be in: ~/.go/bin/websocketd or ~/go/bin/websocketd

p5.js

The visualisation in the browser uses a JavaScript library called p5.js, which is awesome. These libraries are in the assets/js/ folder.

assets/js/p5.js         # main library
assets/js/p5.min.js     # minified version loads much faster

assets/js/p5.dom.js     # add on for creating and working with dom objects
assets/js/p5.dom.min.js

Running

1. Webserver

First of all, you need to use set up a webserver to serve the index.html page (and all the javascript files in the project root). I'm using nginx, and something along these lines in my nginx.conf:

http {
    server {
        listen 80;
        location / {
            root /home/user/projects/bitcoinrain/;
        }
    }
}

Then reload nginx to use the new configuration with:

sudo nginx -s reload

The website should now be working at http://localhost:80.

However, the webpage will be receiving data from my remote websocket hosted at ws://bitcoinrain.io:8082. If you want to run your own local websocket server, you will need the do the following:

2. Connect to a Bitcoin Node

Run /server-ruby/server.rb, which connects to a Bitcoin Node to get the latest bitcoin transactions:

cd server-ruby/
ruby server.rb

NOTE: You can change the IP of the bitcoin node you want to connect to by editing the the bitcoin_node variable at the top of server.rb.

3. Websocket Server

Finally, you need to run websocketd to start the websocket server. This will spawn a client.rb process every time a connection is made to the websocket server at ws://localhost.io:8082 (so every time someone visits the website). To get this running, open another terminal and run the following:

cd server-ruby/
bash websocketd.sh

NOTE: You can change the port the websocket runs on by changing the --port option in websocketd.sh. The default is 8082.

NOTE: You should also change the websocket_uri variable in index.js from ws://bitcoinrain.io:8082 to ws://localhost:8082 to connect to this new socket.

Architecture

1. Webserver - This serves the HTML and Javascript files for the website. I like nginx, but I'm sure you can use any webserver. The javascript code in /index.js wants to connect to a websocket at ws://localhost:8082 for receiving transaction data.

2. /server-ruby/server.rb - Connects to a bitcoin node so that it can receive the latest transactions from it. It then uses the PHP scripts in /decoders (because I already had transaction decoders written in PHP) to decode the raw transaction data in to JSON, and writes the decoded transaction JSON data to a UNIX socket file stream.sock.

3. /server-ruby/client.rb - Spawned when a connection is made to the websocket at ws://localhost.io:8082 (courtesy of websocketd). This script connects to stream.sock, and reads all the data that is written to it by server.rb.

In other words, server.rb is the single source of data, and client.rb is a lightweight process that is spawned by websocketd to read from it.

Directory Structure

$ tree --dirsfirst -FnL 1
.
├── assets/          <- p5.js and font
├── docs/            <- documentation/diagrams
├── server-ruby/     <- websocket server
├── server-php/      <- websocket server (alternative)
├── Ball.js          |
├── Blockchain.js    |
├── Block.js         |
├── Donations.js     | <- main website visualisation
├── index.html       |
├── index.js         |
├── Mempool.js       |
├── LICENSE
├── README.md
├── robots.txt

Notes

  • The /server-ruby/server.rb is a script that makes a TCP connection with an actual node so that it can receive transactions from it. You could avoid having to do this low-level TCP connection stuff by using an existing websocket as a data source, or get the latest transactions from a node by using the ZeroMQ feature instead.
  • I wrote another script to connect to a Bitcoin Node in PHP, which can be found in /server-php/. This does the same job as /server-ruby/, but it's a backup in the event that the Ruby script doesn't turn out to be reliable for whatever reason. You can switch to using the PHP version by replacing steps 1 and 2 with:
# terminal 1
cd server-php/
php server.php
# terminal 2
cd server-php/
bash websocketd.sh

Thanks

  • Daniel Shiffman taught me everything I know about using p5.js. An amazing teacher who makes it easy to learn about programming in a fun way.
  • Joe Walnes makes creating websocket servers easy with websocketd. His tool allows you to write a program in any language and use it's STDOUT as a websocket server. I highly recommend trying it if you're planning on using websockets in your next project.
  • BitListen.com (created by Max Laumeister) was an inspiration in my decision to make a visualisation of live bitcoin transactions.
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