PWC091 - Count Number


Here we are with TASK #1 from the Perl Weekly Challenge #091. Enjoy!

The challenge

You are given a positive number $N. Write a script to count number and display as you read it.

The questions

Well well… here I guess my question is whether we really want to consider the input a number, as opposed to a string. I mean, we’re handling it as a string, right? Why constraint it to be a number, with all limitations in terms of integer representation?

I guess we can trust our inputs, otherwise the usual care should be taken - e.g. consider something that is not a number, negative stuff, empty string, …

The solution

Let’s start from something that didn’t work, then move on…

The epic fail!

My first instinct here was to be clever. How I would love to be clever! Alas, this always seems to be deferred to some distant future.

I wanted to do something like this:

join '', map { ... } clever_regex_to_capture_sequences($N); 

So I thought… surely something using \1 will help me?

join '', map { ... } ($N =~ m{.\1*}gmxs);

Ehr… there’s no capture there! What is \1 referring to?!? OK, let’s put it:

join '', map { ... } ($N =~ m{(.)\1*}gmxs);

AHEM now we’re only capturing the first character in each sequence… we have to take them all:

join '', map { ... } ($N =~ m{((.)\1*)}gmxs);

BUT… BUT… now the initial character is captured within the second set of round parentheses! Oh my…

join '', map { ... } ($N =~ m{((.)\2*)}gmxs);

I think it’s better to stop here because now we’re capturing two things and the map is going to have a hard time…

Insisting on regular expression

Now I was in full regex mode, and so I moved on with this:

sub count_number ($N) {
   my $retval = '';
   while (length $N) {
      my ($sequence, $char) = $N =~ m{((.)\2*)}mxs;
      my $n = length $sequence;
      $retval .= $n . $char;
      substr $N, 0, $n, '';
   return $retval;

I capture the sequence and the character, count the length of the sequence, add it to the result, then chop it from the start of the string. Oh yes sure… the number, the number.

Maybe it’s a cannon for a mosquito?

I don’t know, the solution with the regular expression was not that compact after all, so I figured… maybe something more readable, although low level?

sub count_number_2 ($N) {
   my $len = length $N;
   my ($retval, $previous, $count) = ('', '', 0);
   for my $i (0 .. $len) {
      my $c = $i < $len ? substr($N, $i, 1) : '';
      if ($c eq $previous) { ++$count }
      else {
         $retval .= $count . $previous if $count;
         ($previous, $count) = ($c, 1);
   return $retval;

This iterates over indices to get one char at a time. Plus one past-the-end character, to make sure the last sequence is properly handled too. Apart from this, it’s just plain old boring counting of sequences, adding something to the $retval when it makes sense.


Well… it seems I’ll have to wait for the next time to try again and feel clever.

Until then… please folks stay safe!

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