TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jan 97 Challenge

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 1
Column Tag: Programmer's Challenge

Programmer's Challenge

By Bob Boonstra, Westford, MA


The theme of this issue of the magazine is the Be Operating System, so it seemed appropriate to focus the Challenge on the BeOS, and give you a chance to use the BeOS for Macintosh CD-ROM bundled in this issue. Since the BeOS will be new to most of you, this Challenge will be a simple one. The problem is to write a window class that will display and sort a list of strings by one of three specified methods: a bubble sort, an exchange sort, and an algorithm of your choosing. The prototype for the class you should write is

typedef enum SortType {
 kBubbleSort = 1,
 kExchangeSort = 2,
 kMySort = 3
} SortType;

class SortWindow : public BWindow {

 SortWindow(BRect frame); 
virtual void   DoSort(
 char *thingsToSort[],  /* list of strings to sort, also returns sorted list */
 int numberOfThings, /* number of thingsToSort */
 SortType sortMethod);  /* sort method to use */

My test code will open three instances of your window class and ask each one to sort a copy of the same list of strings: one by the kBubbleSort method, one by kExchangeSort, and one by kMySort. Your SortWindow constructor should create a BListView and attach it to your SortWindow. When the DoSort method is invoked, you should display the thingsToSort and sort them into ascending ASCII order by the sortMethod algorithm. Each time two thingsToSort are exchanged, the BListView display should be updated. When the sort is complete, DoSort should post a B_QUIT_REQUESTED message to the application. The list should be sorted in place and returned in thingsToSort.

This will be a native PowerPC Challenge, using the latest Macintosh CodeWarrior environment, targeted for the BeOS. Solutions must be coded in C++. The code will be tested on my 8500 using the BeOS. (In the event I cannot get the BeOS to run on my Mac, I will run the tests on a 2x133MHz BeBox with one processor disabled.) The winner will be the solution that completes all three sorts correctly in the minimum time.

Three Months Ago Winner

Congratulations to Andy Antoniewicz (Mountain View, CA) for narrowly beating second and third place finishers Greg Cooper and Ludovic Nicolle in the October DNA Match Challenge. Of the fifteen entries I received for this Challenge, ten worked completely correctly, two were partially correct, and the remaining three crashed my machine.

Recall that the DNA Match Challenge was essentially a string matching problem, where the strings were allowed to differ in a specified number of positions (or fewer). The object was to return the number of near matches of a fragment string found in a reference database string.

My intent had been to test the solutions submitted using very long database strings. The run times of the solutions imposed a practical limit of about 2 MB on the size of the database string in an individual test case. The fragments to be matched were all significantly shorter than the database string, as indicated in the problem statement. The tests ranged from requiring very accurate matches, with a small value for the number of differences allowed, to approximate matches that could differ in up to half of the characters in the reference string.

The problem statement allowed for a timed initialization routine that would be executed once prior to testing matches against multiple fragments for a given database string. None of the top-ranked solutions made any significant use of this option, although a number of people used it to initialize small translation tables. Several people commented that it was difficult to find a use for this initialization routine, when the scratch storage provided was smaller than the maximum size database string.

Andy's winning entry parses the fragment string to create, for each character in the DNA "alphabet", a list of offsets where that character is located in the fragment. He then walks the database string and increments a match counter for each possible alignment of the fragment that matches the database at that character position. Andy uses a circular buffer twice the size of the fragment to store the match counts, which allows him to perform bounds checking on that buffer only once per database character, rather than within the innermost character matching loop. I had to read the code several times and run through a few cases manually before the light went on and I understood the algorithm, after which I found it quite clever.

While A.C.C. Murphy's solution did not place in the top five, one of his algorithms used a refinement worthy of note. He kept a running total of the counts of characters in a fragment-sized segment of the database, only checking for a specific match if the frequency counts were close enough to those of the fragment. In test cases where the character frequencies of the fragment were significantly different than much of the database, this technique might have done very well.

The table below summarizes the results for each correct or partially correct entry, including total execution time for all of the test cases and code size. Numbers in parenthesis after a person's name indicate that person's cumulative point total for all previous Challenges, not including this one. An asterisk indicates a result that was partially correct and therefore not eligible to win.

NameLanguageTotal TimeCode Size
Andy Antoniewicz (4)C123823728
Greg Cooper (17)C126233872
Ludovic Nicolle (14)C126646528
Michael Panchenko (6)C148243800
Bjorn Davidsson (4)C149171424
A.C.C. Murphy (10)C1510861800
Ernst Munter (224)C++176521752
Peter Lewis (32)C195312240
Mark DayC197385848
Larry Landry (29)C2671181376
Alan Hart (*)C210701848
Xin Xu (*)C2230151576


Here are the Top 20 Contestants for the Programmer's Challenge. The numbers below include points awarded over the 24 most recent contests, including points earned by this month's entrants.

1.Munter, Ernst193
2.Gregg, Xan114
3.Larsson, Gustav87
4.Lengyel, Eric40
5.[Name deleted]40
6.Lewis, Peter32
7.Boring, Randy27
8.Cooper, Greg27
9.Antoniewicz, Andy24
10.Beith, Gary24
11.Kasparian, Raffi22
12.Cutts, Kevin21
13.Nicolle, Ludovic21
14.Picao, Miguel Cruz21
15.Brown, Jorg20
16.Gundrum, Eric20
17.Karsh, Bill19
18.Stenger, Allen19
19.Mallett, Jeff17
20.Nevard, John17

There are three ways to earn points: (1) scoring in the top 5 of any Challenge, (2) being the first person to find a bug in a published winning solution or, (3) being the first person to suggest a Challenge that I use. The points you can win are:

1st place20 points
2nd place10 points
3rd place7 points
4th place4 points
5th place2 points
finding bug2 points
suggesting Challenge2 points

Here is Andy's winning solution:


© 1996 Andy Antoniewicz

DNA string match with wildcard & constant distance

No setup calculations on the database are performed. It seemed kind of pointless to attempt the equivalent 
of a 50 to 1 loss, less compression of the database ( it was 1000 to 1 for the first problem statement ).

This is a simple and quick single byte per pass index and count type algorithm. It uses three tables: a byte 
to code index table "aTable", a fragment index list array "alphaList",
and a hit count circular array "matchQueue". A precursor list is built and used once to build the alphaList 
array, and I do not clean up after (plenty of allocated storage).
Once built, the aTable contains an index into the alphaList for each given alphabet letter in the fragment. 
The alphaList contains a sequential list of all occurrences of that character in the fragment string.

The algorithm then increments the match count for all possible alignments of the fragment for each database 
character. Since the maximum misalignment is less than the fragment size, only the previous fragmentSize 
database characters need to be considered for matches at any particular time. Hence the circular queue 

The database search execution time is order( pN ) where N = number of database characters
p = average fragment entries per alphabet char 
( for example: A=3,C=3,G=2,T=2 -
> p = 2.5 )
The storage used is almost totally dependent on the fragment size. Storage used in bytes
    = 20     ( storage struct )
    + 256         ( 16bit aTable )
    + 2 * fragment chars( 16bit precursor )
    + 2 * fragment chars( 16bit alphaList )
    + 2 * alphabet chars (  more alphaList )
    + 4 * fragment chars( 2x16bit matchQueue )

 ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********/
#define kAlphaTableSize   128
#define kEndOfAlphaList   -1
typedef struct {
 long storageSize; // total storage available
 long usedStorage; // total storage used
 long fragmentSize;// size in chars of fragment
 short  *alphaList;// start of fragment index list
 short  *matchQueue; // start of match count queue
 short  alphaTable[ kAlphaTableSize ];
 short  precursor[]; // start of match count queue
} DNAStore;

/********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********
 Function Prototypes
 ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********/

void InitMatch(
 char *alphabet, // legal characters in database
 char *database, // the reference database
 void *storage,  // pre-allocated storage
 long storageSize// size of storage in bytes

long FindMatch(  // return number of matches
 char *alphabet, // legal characters in database
 char *database, // the reference database
 void *storage,  // pre-allocated storage
 char *fragment, // the fragment to find
 long diffsAllowed,// num of diffs allowed between
    //  a "match" and the database
 long matchPosition[]// match return array

void BuildAlphaList(
 char   *alphabet, // legal characters in database
 char   *fragment, // the fragment to find; 0 term
 DNAStore *storage // my storage area

/********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********
 * InitMatch
 * This routine does nothing except to store the
 *  size of memory allocated by the calling program.
 * All of the structures used are based on the fragment
 * to be searched for.
 ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********/

void InitMatch(
 char *alphabet, // legal characters in database
 char *database, // the reference database
 void *storage,  // pre-allocated storage
 long storageSize// size of storage in bytes
 ((DNAStore*)storage)->storageSize = storageSize;
}// end of InitMatch

/********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********
 * BuildAlphaList
 * This routine has three parts:
 * Build the AlphaTable
 * The AlphaTable is an index table used to find
 * the start location inside the AlphaList
 * that corresponds to the given alphabet
 * character.
 * Build the AlphaList precursor
 * This is a linked list of the indexes to each
 * character in the fragment. It is used once
 * to build the AlphaList and never re-used.
 * Build the AlphaList
 * This is a sorted list of indexes for each
 * alphabet character. The head of each list is
 * stored in the AlphaTable, and each list is
 * ended by a -1.
 ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********/

void BuildAlphaList(
 char   *alphabet, // legal characters in database
 char   *fragment, // the fragment to find; 0 term
 DNAStore *storage // my storage area
 short  *aTable; // ptr in the AlphaTable
 short  *precursor;// the AlphaList precursor
 short  *alphaList;// the AlphaList

 char *aString;  // ptr to a character string
 long aChar;// a character from a string
 long count;
 short  index;

     * Initialize alphabet entries to kEndOfAlphaList
     *     Proper function for characters not in the alphabet
     *     requires that the other entries be preset to zero.
     *     This is automatic if the storage is cleared by
     *     the calling program and if the alphabet does not
     *     change between calls to InitMatch.
 aTable = storage->alphaTable;
 aString = alphabet - 1;
 while( (aChar = (long)(*(++aString)) ) > 0x00 )
 *(aTable+aChar) = kEndOfAlphaList;
     * Build precursor linked index list
     *     This list is only used to produce the 
     *     AlphaList below. The precursor and
     *     the AlphaList are rebuilt for each
     *     new fragment that will be searched for.
 precursor= storage->precursor;
 aString= fragment - 1;
 index  = 0;
 count  = 0;
 while( (aChar = (long)(*(++aString))) > 0x00 )
 index = *(aTable+aChar); // get prev head
 *(aTable+aChar) = count; // put new head
 *(precursor+count) = index;// store prev head
 storage->fragmentSize = count;
     * Build AlphaList
     *     by walking each alphabet character's precursor 
     *     list and writing the index list into the 
     *     AlphaList the algorithm gets a sorted list of
     *     indexes into the fragment for each letter in the
     *     alphabet. The aTable will point to the first entry
     *     in the AlphaList and the last entry of each 
     *     character list is equal to the constant 
     *     kEndOfAlphaList ( = -1 ). Note that AlphaList
     *     location 0 is used to ignore database characters
     *     which are not in the given alphabet (it was free).
 alphaList = precursor + count;
 *(alphaList) = kEndOfAlphaList;
 aString = alphabet - 1;
 count = 1;
 while( (aChar = (long)(*(++aString)) ) > 0x00 )
 index = *(aTable+aChar);
 *(aTable+aChar) = count;
 while( index != kEndOfAlphaList )
 *(alphaList+count) = index;
 index = *(precursor+index);
 *(alphaList+count) = kEndOfAlphaList;
 storage->alphaList= alphaList;
 storage->matchQueue = alphaList + count + 1;
}// end of BuildAlphaList

/********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********
 * FindMatch
 * For each character in the database increment every
 * match count that has the same character ( a hit ).
 * If after all possible alignments have been tallied,
 * the match count is greater than or equal to the value
 * of the threshold, then a match has been found.
 * Add the matching entry to the return array and continue
 * until all database characters have been tested.
 ********* ********* ********* ********* ********* ********/

long FindMatch(  // return number of matches
 char *alphabet, // legal characters in database
 char *database, // the reference database
 void *storage,  // pre-allocated storage
 char *fragment, // the fragment to find
 long diffsAllowed,// num of diffs allowed between
    //  a "match" and the fragment
 long matchPosition[]// match return array
 DNAStore *theStore; // typed storage
 short  *matchTop; // top of match array
 short  *matchCur; // current match array entry
 short  *aTable; // alpha to aList index table
 short  *aList;  // array of hit offsets
 short  *hitOffset;// current hit offset entry
 char   *dbString; // current database char entry
 long   dbChar;  // current database character
 long   count;   // current database location
 long   numMatch;// number of matches found
 long   fragSize;// fragment size in bytes
 long   loop;    // loop counter
 long   hitPos;  // current hit offset position
 long   threshold; // the threshold for matching
 theStore = (DNAStore*)storage;
 BuildAlphaList( alphabet,fragment,theStore);
 fragSize = theStore->fragmentSize;
 matchTop = theStore->matchQueue;
 matchCur = matchTop + fragSize;
 = (long)(matchCur+fragSize)-(long)theStore;
     * Clear the Match Count Array
     *     clear out the match counts for the entire array
 for( count=0; count<fragSize; count++ )
 *(matchCur+fragSize) = 0;
 *matchCur- = 0;

     * Walk the Database
     *    The match count array is a double size circular
     *    queue of match counts. It is double size so I do
     *    not need to check the array bounds in the inner
     *    match count increment loop.
 dbString = database - 1;
 aTable = theStore->alphaTable;
 aList = theStore->alphaList;
 threshold = fragSize-diffsAllowed;

 numMatch = 0;
 count = -fragSize;// count = current database loc.
 while( (dbChar = (long)(*(++dbString))) > 0x00 )
    // circular queue reset to center
 if( matchCur == matchTop )
 matchCur += fragSize;
    // check for a match to the fragment
 if((*matchCur+*(matchCur+fragSize)) >= threshold )
 matchPosition[ numMatch ] = count;
    // clear both old counts
 *matchCur = 0;
 *(matchCur+fragSize) = 0;

    // increment match counts for all possible
    //     fragment alignments
 hitOffset = aList + *(aTable + dbChar) - 1;
 while( (hitPos = (long)(*(++hitOffset))) >= 0 )
 *(matchCur + hitPos ) += 1;
    // The match count queue is walked in reverse
    //     order through memory because the alphaList
    //     indexes are positive.
     * Check the remaining match count entries for
     *    any fragments that extend beyond the end of
     *    the database.
 for( loop=0; loop < diffsAllowed; loop++)
 if( matchCur == matchTop )
 matchCur += fragSize;
 if((*matchCur+*(matchCur+fragSize)) >= threshold )
 matchPosition[ numMatch ] = count;
    // end of DNA_Match.c


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

BetterTouchTool 2.412 - Customize multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Tor Browser Bundle 7.5.2 - Anonymize Web...
The Tor Browser Bundle is an easy-to-use portable package of Tor, Vidalia, Torbutton, and a Firefox fork preconfigured to work together out of the box. It contains a modified copy of Firefox that... Read more
Monosnap 3.4.11 - Versatile screenshot u...
Monosnap lets you capture screenshots, share files, and record video and .gifs! Features Capture Capture full screen, just part of the screen, or a selected window Make your crop area pixel... Read more
Yummy FTP Pro 2.0.3 - $29.99
Yummy FTP Pro is an advanced Mac file transfer app which provides a full-featured professional toolkit combined with blazing speeds and impeccable reliability, so whether you want to transfer a few... Read more
Smultron 10.1.3 - Easy-to-use, powerful...
Smultron 10 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. You can use Smultron 10 to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece... Read more
Time Out 2.4 - Break reminder tool with...
Time Out helps remind you to take work breaks throughout the day. It has two kinds of breaks: a "Normal" break, typically for 10 minutes after 50 minutes of work, so you can move about and relax,... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.2.2 - Powerful imag...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image-conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
DesktopLyrics 2.6.13 - Displays current...
DesktopLyrics is an application that displays the lyrics of the song currently playing in "iTunes" right on your desktop. The lyrics for the song have to be set in iTunes; DesktopLyrics does nothing... Read more
BusyContacts 1.2.8 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
iClock 4.2.5 - Customizable menu bar clo...
iClock replaces the old Apple's default menu bar clock with more features, customization and increases your productivity. Features: Have your Apple or Google calendar instantly available from the... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

How PUBG, Fortnite, and the battle royal...
The history of the battle royale genre isn't a long one. While the nascent parts of the experience have existed ever since players first started killing one another online, it's really only in the past six years that the genre has coalesced into... | Read more »
Around the Empire: What have you missed...
Oh hi nice reader, and thanks for popping in to check out our weekly round-up of all the stuff that you might have missed across the Steel Media network. Yeah, that's right, it's a big ol' network. Obviously 148Apps is the best, but there are some... | Read more »
All the best games on sale for iPhone an...
It might not have been the greatest week for new releases on the App Store, but don't let that get you down, because there are some truly incredible games on sale for iPhone and iPad right now. Seriously, you could buy anything on this list and I... | Read more »
Everything You Need to Know About The Fo...
In just over a week, Epic Games has made a flurry of announcements. First, they revealed that Fortnite—their ultra-popular PUBG competitor—is coming to mobile. This was followed by brief sign-up period for interested beta testers before sending out... | Read more »
The best games that came out for iPhone...
It's not been the best week for games on the App Store. There are a few decent ones here and there, but nothing that's really going to make you throw down what you're doing and run to the nearest WiFi hotspot in order to download it. That's not to... | Read more »
Death Coming (Games)
Death Coming Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: (iTunes) Description: --- Background Story ---You Died. Pure and simple, but death was not the end. You have become an agent of Death: a... | Read more »
Hints, tips, and tricks for Empires and...
Empires and Puzzles is a slick match-stuff RPG that mixes in a bunch of city-building aspects to keep things fresh. And it's currently the Game of the Day over on the App Store. So, if you're picking it up for the first time today, we thought it'd... | Read more »
What You Need to Know About Sam Barlow’s...
Sam Barlow’s follow up to Her Story is #WarGames, an interactive video series that reimagines the 1983 film WarGames in a more present day context. It’s not exactly a game, but it’s definitely still interesting. Here are the top things you should... | Read more »
Pixel Plex Guide - How to Build Better T...
Pixel Plex is the latest city builder that has come to the App Store, and it takes a pretty different tact than the ones that came before it. Instead of being in charge of your own city by yourself, you have to work together with other players to... | Read more »
Fortnite Will Be Better Than PUBG on Mob...
Before last week, if you asked me which game I prefer between Fortnite Battle Royale and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), I’d choose the latter just about 100% of the time. Now that we know that both games are primed to hit our mobile screens... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

MacBook Pro sale! B&H drops prices on new...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on new 2017 13″ MacBook Pros, with models now on sale for up to $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only. Their... Read more
13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $100-$150 off MS...
B&H Photo has 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $100-$150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 13″ 1.8GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MQD32LL/A): $899, $... Read more
Huge iMac sale! Apple reseller now offering 2...
B&H Photo has new 2017 21″ & 27″ iMacs on sale today for up to $300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 27″ 3.8GHz iMac (MNED2LL/A): $... Read more
Sale! 1.4GHz Mac mini for $399, $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has the 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $399 for a limited time. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a mini from any Apple reseller: – 1.4GHz Mac mini (... Read more
Sale of the year continues as Apple resellers...
Adorama has new 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for $250-$300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NJ and NY only: – 15″ 2.8GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray (MPTR2LL/A): $... Read more
iPad sale continues! 9″ WiFi iPads for $50-$8...
Walmart has 9.7″ Apple iPads on sale for $50-$80 off MSRP for a limited time. Sale prices are for online orders only, in-store prices may vary: – 9″ 32GB iPad: $249.99 $80 off – 9″ 128GB iPad: $379 $... Read more
Apple resellers offer 27″ 3.4GHz 5K iMac for...
B&H Photo has new 2017 27″ 3.4GHz iMacs on sale for $200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: – 27″ 3.4GHz iMac (MNE92LL/A): $1599.99 $200 off... Read more
Certified Refurbished 21″ & 27″ iMacs ava...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $350 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: – 27... Read more
Sunday Sales: $200 off 13″ Touch Bar MacBook...
Amazon has new 2017 13″ 3.1GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale this weekend for $200 off MSRP, each including free shipping: – 13″ 3.1GHz/256GB Space Gray MacBook Pro (MPXV2LL/A): $1599.99 $200 off... Read more
B&H drops prices on 15″ MacBook Pros up t...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on new 2017 15″ MacBook Pros, now up to $300 off MSRP and matching Adorama’s price drop yesterday. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax for NY & NJ... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple (United...
# Apple Solutions Consultant Job Number: 113587340 Hialeah, Florida, United States Posted: 12-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Are you passionate about Read more
*Apple* Watch HW Engineering Program Special...
# Apple Watch HW Engineering Program Specialist Job Number: 113466877 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 12-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
*Apple* Technical Specialist - Apple, Inc. (...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
*Apple* Information Security Project Manager...
# Apple Information Security Project Manager Job Number: 113440724 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 15-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
Senior Linus Systems Engineer, *Apple* Pay...
# Senior Linus Systems Engineer, Apple Pay Job Number: 113584532 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: 13-Mar-2018 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.