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# Bidirectional iterators: signed distance?

As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<and
List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between two
iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the list.
For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator distance
function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th node
and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4, i2) is
9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) == -2.

So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a look
at?

Thanks

Sep 5 '07 #1
9 2189 no********************@hotmail.com wrote:
As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<and
List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between two
iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the list.
For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator distance
function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th node
and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4, i2) is
9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) == -2.

So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a look
at?
Find the distance from each of the iterators to the beginning and
then subtract. I.e.

distance(a, b) == distance(begin(), b) - distance(begin(), a)

V
--
Sep 5 '07 #2
Find the distance from each of the iterators to the beginning and
then subtract.
Ah, seems obvious now :)

Thanks.

Sep 5 '07 #3
no********************@hotmail.com wrote in
As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<and
List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between two
iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the list.
For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator distance
function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th node
and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4, i2) is
9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) == -2.

So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a look
at?
I would break this up into two loops and do some more checking than you
do.

int d = 0;
for (Iterator it = i; it != j && it != end(); ++it, ++d);
if (it == j)
return d;

for (Iterator it = i; it != begin() && it !=j; --it, --d);
if (it !=j)
throw iterators_not_from_same_list();
return d;

I've not tried to run this code, but it should mostly do what you want
and I think it's reasonably clear. Of course, Victor's solution is
cleaner, but will always pay the cost of counting to each of the
iterators. How it is actually used will determine which mechanism is
better.

joe
Sep 5 '07 #4
Victor Bazarov wrote:
no********************@hotmail.com wrote:
>As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<and
List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between two
iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the list.
For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator distance
function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th node
and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4, i2) is
9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) == -2.

So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a look
at?

Find the distance from each of the iterators to the beginning and
then subtract. I.e.

distance(a, b) == distance(begin(), b) - distance(begin(), a)

V
Nothing wrong with this solution but of course the worst case
performance is O(n) where n is the length of the list. You can achieve
O(d), where d is the distance between the two iterators, if you
alternately advance the two iterators until one reaches the original
position of the other. Naturally this won't be as compact as Victor's
solution.

Mark
Sep 5 '07 #5
Joe Greer wrote:
no********************@hotmail.com wrote in
>As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<and
List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between two
iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the list.
For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator distance
function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th
node and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4,
i2) is
9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) == -2.

So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a
look at?

I would break this up into two loops and do some more checking than
you do.

int d = 0;
for (Iterator it = i; it != j && it != end(); ++it, ++d);
if (it == j)
return d;
If you incorporate the comparison and return into the loop body,
it would be just a tad faster, I believe:

int d = 0;
for (Iterator it = i; it != end(); ++it, ++d) {
if (it == j)
return d;
}
>
for (Iterator it = i; it != begin() && it !=j; --it, --d);
if (it !=j)
throw iterators_not_from_same_list();
return d;
Actually the second loop is better in terms of 'i' and 'j' reversed:

d = 0; // did you forget this?
for (Iterator it = j; it != end(); ++it, --d) {
if (it == i)
return d;
}

throw iterators_not ...
I've not tried to run this code, but it should mostly do what you want
and I think it's reasonably clear. Of course, Victor's solution is
cleaner, but will always pay the cost of counting to each of the
iterators. How it is actually used will determine which mechanism is
better.

joe
V
--
Sep 5 '07 #6
Mark P wrote:
Victor Bazarov wrote:
>no********************@hotmail.com wrote:
>>As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<>
and List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between
two iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the
list. For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator
distance function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th
node and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4,
i2) is 9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) ==
-2. So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a
look at?

Find the distance from each of the iterators to the beginning and
then subtract. I.e.

distance(a, b) == distance(begin(), b) - distance(begin(), a)

V

Nothing wrong with this solution but of course the worst case
performance is O(n) where n is the length of the list. You can
achieve O(d), where d is the distance between the two iterators, if
you alternately advance the two iterators until one reaches the
original position of the other. Naturally this won't be as compact
as Victor's solution.
I am by no means the master of the Big-O notation, but it seems that
O(n) and O(d) are the same terms. The worst case scenario with my
original suggestion is when 'a'=='end()' && 'b'=='end()'. Then the
number of comparisons is 2*N. The worst case scenario with counting
in both directions is when 'a'=='end()' && 'b'=='begin()', i.e. the
distance is -N, in which case the number of comparisons is N, still.
So, you get about 50% savings on iterator comparisons with going in
two directions.

V
--
Sep 5 '07 #7
If you incorporate the comparison and return into the loop body,
it would be just a tad faster, I believe:

int d = 0;
for (Iterator it = i; it != end(); ++it, ++d) {
if (it == j)
return d;
}
d = 0; // did you forget this?
for (Iterator it = j; it != end(); ++it, --d) {
if (it == i)
return d;
}
Actually, this code breaks when i or j == end(). I decided on the
following:

int difference(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
int d = 0;
Iterator it = i;
for ( ; it!=j && it!=end(); ++it, ++d);
if (it == j)
return d;
d = 0;
for (it=j; it!=i; ++it, --d);
return d;
}

I'm saving a comparison in the second loop under the assumption that i
and j are from the same container. I think that's fair.

Sep 5 '07 #8
Victor Bazarov wrote:
Mark P wrote:
>Victor Bazarov wrote:
>>no********************@hotmail.com wrote:
As an intellectual exercise, I've implemented an STL-esque List<>
and List<>::Iterator. Now, I would like a signed distance between
two iterators which corresponds to their relative position in the
list. For instance, if I did something like distance(list.end(),
list.begin()), I would get -list.size(). The STL's iterator
distance function amounts to something like this:

distance_type distance(Iterator first, Iterator last)
{
distance_type n = 0;
while (first != last) {
++first; ++n;
}
return n;
}

So, if my list has ten elements, and i4 is an iterator at the 4th
node and i2 is an iterator at the 2nd node, then std::distance(i4,
i2) is 9. That's meaningless to me. What I want is distance(i4, i2) ==
-2. So I implemented distance as a method of List<like so:

int distance(Iterator i, Iterator j)
{
Iterator tmp = i;
int d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
if (tmp == end()) {
// oops, try the other way
tmp = i; d = 0;
while (tmp != j) {
--tmp; --d;
}
return d;
}
++tmp; ++d;
}
return d;
}

But this is butt-ugly and I don't like the constant checking for
tmp==end(). Can anyone think of a nicer way to implement this
functionality? Has it been done somewhere else that I can have a
look at?
Find the distance from each of the iterators to the beginning and
then subtract. I.e.

distance(a, b) == distance(begin(), b) - distance(begin(), a)

V
Nothing wrong with this solution but of course the worst case
performance is O(n) where n is the length of the list. You can
achieve O(d), where d is the distance between the two iterators, if
you alternately advance the two iterators until one reaches the
original position of the other. Naturally this won't be as compact
as Victor's solution.

I am by no means the master of the Big-O notation, but it seems that
O(n) and O(d) are the same terms. The worst case scenario with my
original suggestion is when 'a'=='end()' && 'b'=='end()'. Then the
number of comparisons is 2*N. The worst case scenario with counting
in both directions is when 'a'=='end()' && 'b'=='begin()', i.e. the
distance is -N, in which case the number of comparisons is N, still.
So, you get about 50% savings on iterator comparisons with going in
two directions.
This is true, but this is simply a reflection of the fact that d can be
as large as n. The flip side of the coin is that d may be much less
than n, which is where my algorithm pays off.

Turning first to the subject of big-Oh, one can be creative with the
terms used within these expressions. I could have "done you a favor"
and declared your algorithm to be O( distance( begin, a) + distance(
begin, b)) which is arguably better than O(n). But while this is
mathematically true, it's probably not very interesting. (Though it
could be if one is working in a regime where one expects the iterators
to typically point to the beginning of the list.)

However it's fairly conventional to specify to complexity in terms of
input size and output size (or value), which is why I draw the
distinction between O(n) and O(d). For example, a good algorithm for
determining all intersection points between n segments in the plane has
complexity O(n lg n + k) where k is the number of intersection points.
Yet if one only references the input size, one would have to quote the
complexity as O(n^2) since, in the worst case, there can be n^2
intersections between n segments. But this obscures the fact that the
algorithm is in fact much more clever than simple brute force pairwise
testing of all segments, which is also O(n^2).

Still your question underscores an important point, namely that what
makes an algorithm good depends very much on the context in which it
will be applied (which in turn dictates how one should characterize the
complexity).

Returning to the linked lists, here's another way to look at it.
Observe that my algorithm "dominates" yours in the sense that, for all
inputs, my run time is always less than a constant multiple of your run
time. However your run time is not always less than *any* constant
multiple of my run time. This is not surprising since |d| <= n and d
may be smaller than n by an arbitrarily large factor.

-Mark
Sep 5 '07 #9
"Victor Bazarov" <v.********@comAcast.netwrote in news:fb**********@news.datemas.de:
>
d = 0; // did you forget this?
Yep, I sure did. (I did say that I didn't actually run it. :) ) It just shows that I
shouldn't do coding in a rush when posting. Thanks for correcting this.
for (Iterator it = j; it != end(); ++it, --d) {
if (it == i)
return d;
}

throw iterators_not ...
joe
Sep 6 '07 #10

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