Dienstag, 31. Dezember 2013

Playing with ranges and functions in Swift

Looking for a generic way to map ranges to objects, and retrieve the object using values in the range.

For example, given a mapping of range 0..<2 to a string "first range" and 2..<4 to a string "second range", we want to get the string for the value 3.4.

I started with this because in my work I had to map rating ranges to certain background colors. If e.g. a user gives something a 5.9 rating (very good!) this would be in the range 4.5 - 6.0 which has to be displayed with a dark green background, etc. Sadly I had to do it using objc. I wondered how I would do it with Swift.

To start, the most primitive approach:

let n = 3.4
let found1:String? = {if n < 2 {
    return "first"
} else if n < 4 {
    return "second"
} else {
    return nil

println("found: \(found1)")

It's also possible to use a switch case. Rather weird (like in "don't do it"), but we are only playing.

let found2:String? = {switch n {
    case _ where (0..<2) ~= n: return "first"
    case _ where (2..<4) ~= n: return "second"
    default: return nil

println("found: \(found2)")

These approaches are a bit unflexible. And the worst: NOT FANCY! We explore further.

Little intro: get (first) containing range for a value

let result:HalfOpenInterval<Float>? = {
    for r:HalfOpenInterval<Float> in [(0..<1), (1..<2), (2..<3)] {
        if r ~= 2 {
            return r
    return nil

Good! Now, we will make a helper class that holds the range and the object:

struct RangedEntry<T> {
    let interval:HalfOpenInterval<Float>
    let obj:T
    init(_ interval:HalfOpenInterval<Float>, _ obj:T) {
        self.interval = interval
        self.obj = obj

Now we can iterate through entries to find our match:

for re in [
    RangedEntry((0..<1), "a"),
    RangedEntry((1..<2), "b"),
    RangedEntry((2..<3), "c")
    ] {
        if re.interval ~= 1.9 {
            println("found: \(re.obj)")

Alternatively, we can just use tuples:

for r:(HalfOpenInterval<Float>, String) in [
    ((0..<1), "a"),
    ((1..<2), "b"),
    ((2..<3), "c")
    ] {
        if r.0 ~= 1.9 {
            println("found: \(r.1)")

What about more functional constructs?

Let's try out filter (we will continue using tuples):

let value:String? = [
    ((0..<1), "a"),
    ((1..<2), "b"),
    ((2..<3), "c")
    ].filter{(tuple:(HalfOpenInterval<Float>, String)) -> Bool in
        return tuple.0 ~= 1.9

println("found: \(value)")

This is O(n), since we will examine the whole array each time. Not so good. Coming back later to this. Also note we assume that the ranges don't overlap.

What if we want to generate the ranges dynamically, say, divide 1...7 in 16 equal parts?
Since in this case the ranges are continuos, we can represent them just as a succession of numbers.
We can use strides for this:

let start:Float = 1
let end:Float = 7
let sections = 16
let intervalLength:Float = (end - start) / Float(sections)

let s = stride(from: start, through: end, by: intervalLength)
Array(s) // see contents in playground

// generate tuples with dummy value objects. The start of the range represents the range, and we associate the value object with it.
let tuples:[(Float, String)] = Array(s).map {(val:Float) -> (Float, String) in
    return (val, "range starts:\(val) ends: \(val + intervalLength)")

Now let's try out an alternative approach to =~. Since in this case we know the ranges are sorted in increasing order, we can use this information to find the value.

Let's make a variable for the searched number, to verify results more easily.
let search:Float = 4.12

With this we get retrieve the ranges witch a start value smaller than our searched value:
let filtered = tuples.filter {
    return $0.0 < search

The range we are looking for is the rangest with the biggest starting value from all the ranges with a starting value smaller than the searched value Since we know the ranges are sorted increasingly, we can just pick the last one from the filter results:

let val:String? = filtered.last?.1
println("found: \(val)")

// if we didn't know that the values are sorted, we could determine max using e.g. reduce:
let val1:String? = {
    filtered.isEmpty ? nil : filtered.reduce(filtered.first!, {
        return $0.0 > $1.0 ? $0 : $1

println("found: \(val1)")

The option with the best performance is a loop, that exits when we find the range.
Since there's no filtering step, we have to add logic to look ahead in the next range. If there's no next, or if its starting value is bigger than searched value, we know we are in the searched range.

let myresult:String? = {
    for (index, tup) in enumerate(tuples) {
        if tup.0 <= search && (index + 1 == tuples.count || tuples[index + 1].0 > search) {
            return tup.1
    return nil

println("found: \(myresult)")

Talking about indices and look-ahead, here is a similar approach using filter (just demonstrative purpose - would not use it):
let val2:String? = Array(enumerate(tuples)).filter { (index:Int, element) -> Bool in
    return element.0 <= search && (index + 1 == tuples.count || tuples[index + 1].0 > search)

println("found: \(val2)")

So is there a way in which we use a functional construct with the performance of for loop?
We need something similar to a find function. This is an example of a find function:
(this is btw a nice to have as array extension, frequently used!)

func find<T>(arr:Array<T>, pred:(element:T)->Bool) -> T? {
    for i in 0..<arr.count {
        let element =  arr[i]
        if pred(element: element) {
            return element
    return nil

In our current case we need that the predicate, besides of the current element, considers also the next one (note nextElement is optional - when we are examining the last element, there's no next element). So we adjust find a bit:

func findWithNextElement<T>(arr:Array<T>, pred:(element:T, nextElement:T?)->Bool) -> T? {
    for i in 0..<arr.count {
        let element =  arr[i]
        let nextElement = arr[i + 1]
        if pred(element: element, nextElement: nextElement) {
            return element
    return nil

We would call it like this:

let val4:String? = findWithNextElement(tuples, { (element, nextElement:(Float, String)?) -> Bool in
    return (element.0 <= search) && (nextElement?.0 > search ?? true)

println("found: \(val4)")

Montag, 30. Dezember 2013

AngularJS: Reusable components using directives

Sometimes it makes sense to have reusable code fragments, which we can customise depending of the context.

Let's start directly with an example:

In a site there's a list of posts, each of them with a title, content, and author name.

This site also has user profiles, where users can read the posts made by a user ("history").
In this case:

- The history is embedded in the user profile
- Since we already know that all the posts are authored by this user, we will not show the author in each post.

Following DRY (don't repeat yourself), we will create one single template for the posts list, and wrap it in a directive, which we can customise according to the context we are using it.


1. Template

We create the template called "entries.html", which contains the list of posts (note I used "entry" in the code instead of "post"):

  • {{entry.title}}



Here we see we need to "pass" the entries list and a flag called "mode", which we use to customise the template, according where we use it. In this case it determines if the author is visible.

2. Directive

myApp.directive('entries', function() {
  return {
    restrict: 'E',
    scope: {
      entries: '=',
      mode: '='
    templateUrl: 'entries.html',

Here we see:

1. We restrict the directive to type "element", which means that in HTML we declare the directive as tag.

2. We define scope parameter with keys "entries" and "mode". This basically is how we pass the parameters to the template (this is a pragmatic explanation, for a better understanding read the documentation of directives).

3. We pass the name of the template.

3. Model data

Now we will define our entries list. We will use a service for that (not required, but services lead to a cleaner implementation).

myApp.factory('myModel', function($rootScope) {

  var entries = [
    'title': 'title1',
    'text': 'text1',
    'author': 'author1'
    'title': 'title2',
    'text': 'text2',
    'author': 'author2'    
  return {
    entries: entries

This is a very basic service, which holds the model data and exposes it to the outside through the returned object:
{entries: entries}

4. Controller

Now we need a controller, for the the section where we are going to insert the list. For sake of simplicity we will show the "default" (with author) and "history" (without author) lists in the same page, and use the same controller.

myApp.controller('myController', function ($scope, myModel) {
    $scope.entries = myModel.entries; //make entries in model available to controller's scope

5. HTML using directive

At last the HTML snippet that uses this controller and the directive, which is self explanatory:
Default mode

History mode:


That's it!