Bolt implementation notes

Source code

The Bolt source code is part of the BOINC source code distribution. The files related to Bolt are:

Include files:

User-visible files:

Administrative files:

How exercises are implemented

The following information is intended for those who want to add new exercise types.

An exercise is a function that is called with three global variables:

  • $bolt_ex_mode
  • $bolt_ex_index
  • $bolt_ex_score

If $bolt_ex_mode is BOLT_MODE_SHOW, the function should display the exercise, typically generating some "form" input items. $bolt_ex_index is a sequential index (0, 1, ...) indicating the order of this question in a file containing multiple questions; it should be included in form variable names.

If $bolt_ex_mode is BOLT_MODE_SCORE, the function should score the student's response (based on $_GET values) and should store the result (a floating-point number in [0..1]) in $bolt_ex_score.

If $bolt_ex_mode is BOLT_MODE_ANSWER, the function should display an "answer page" that shows the students the correct answers, and whether the student's responses were right or wrong.


Database tables

Table name What it represents
bolt_user A student, their demographic info, and project-defined attributes
bolt_course A course, and the name of its course structure file
bolt_enrollment A student taking a course, and the ID of their last view
bolt_view A view of an item, created when we show the item, and finalized when the student clicks on something
bolt_result The result of a single exercise
bolt_xset_result The result of a completed exercise set
bolt_select_finished The completion of a select structure
bolt_refresh The refresh/repeat of an exercise set, either pending or in progress
bolt_question A question asked by a student

Each table has a corresponding PHP class with names like BoltUser? etc.

PHP "unit" class hierarchy

A "course structure" is a tree of objects of the following types:

  • BoltUnit
    • BoltItem
      • BoltLesson
      • BoltExercise
    • BoltSet
      • BoltRandom
        • BoltExerciseSet
      • BoltSelect

Each BoltUnit implements an abstract interface (see below).

Course state

A course state represents a student's position in a course. It consists of an array that maps unit names to unit state structures. The contents of a unit state structure depends on the unit. Typically it includes the name of the current child, and its order in the unit's subunits.

A course state is like a call stack, and unit states are like stack frames. One difference: a course state can include records for units that the student is not currently in.

Each BoltView record contains the course state when the view started.


This object is the central data structure of the Bolt scheduler. It includes:

top: the root of the course structure.

state: the course state (from the latest BoltView record).

xset: the xset we're currently in, if any.

item: the current item

frac_done: fraction of course completed so far

Its member functions are:

at(): get current item and fraction done

next(): move to next item

These are both implemented by calling walk() on the root unit.

The interface of BoltUnit

BoltUnit has an abstract function

walk(&$iter, $incr, &$frac_done);

where $iter is a BoltIter object (see below). It is implemented in different ways in the different derived classes. For BoltSet it does the following:

  • If there's no unit state record in the course state, set an initial state.
  • Otherwise, look up the current child unit, first by name, then by array index.
  • Add or replace a unit state record in the $iter->state
  • If child is a BoltItem, set $iter->item; otherwise call child->walk().
Last modified 4 years ago Last modified on 02/13/13 08:47:43