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dbf.py API question concerning Index.index_search()

 
 
Ethan Furman
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      08-15-2012
Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):

.index_search(
match,
start=None,
stop=None,
nearest=False,
partial=False )

The defaults are to search the entire index for exact matches and raise
NotFoundError if it can't find anything.

match is the search criteria
start and stop is the range to search in
nearest returns where the match should be instead of raising an error
partial will find partial matches

The question is what should the return value be?

I don't like the usual pattern of -1 meaning not found (as in
'nothere'.find('a')), so I thought a fun and interesting way would be to
subclass long and override the __nonzero__ method to return True/False
based on whether the (partial) match was found. The main problems I see
here is that the special return value reverts to a normal int/long if
anything is done to it (adding, subtracting, etc), and the found status
is lost.

The other option is returning a (number, bool) tuple -- safer, yet more
boring...

Thoughts?

~Ethan~

 
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Steven D'Aprano
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      08-16-2012
On Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:26:09 -0700, Ethan Furman wrote:

> Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):
>
> .index_search(
> match,
> start=None,
> stop=None,
> nearest=False,
> partial=False )

[...]

Why "index_search" rather than just "search"?


> The question is what should the return value be?
>
> I don't like the usual pattern of -1 meaning not found (as in
> 'nothere'.find('a'))


And you are right not to. The problem with returning -1 as a "not found"
sentinel is that if it is mistakenly used where you would use a "found"
result, your code silently does the wrong thing instead of giving an
exception.

So pick a sentinel value which *cannot* be used as a successful found
result.

Since successful searches return integer offsets (yes?), one possible
sentinel might be None. (That's what re.search and re.match return
instead of a MatchObject.) But first ensure that None is *not* valid
input to any of your methods that take an integer.

For example, if str.find was changed to return None instead of -1 that
would not solve the problem, because None is a valid argument for slices:

p = mystring.find(":")
print(mystring[p:-1]) # Oops, no better with None

You don't have to predict every imaginable failure mode or defend against
utterly incompetent programmers, just against the obvious failure modes.

If None is not suitable as a sentinel, create a constant value that can't
be mistaken for anything else:

class NotFoundType(object):
def __repr__(self):
return "Not Found"
__str__ = __repr__

NOTFOUND = NotFoundType()
del NotFoundType


and then return that.


(By the way, I'm assuming that negative offsets are valid for your
application. If they aren't, then using -1 as sentinel is perfectly safe,
since passing a "not found" -1 as offset to another method will result in
an immediate exception.)


> The other option is returning a (number, bool) tuple -- safer, yet more
> boring...


Boring is good, but it is also a PITA to use, and that's not good. I
never remember whether the signature is (offset, flag) or (flag, offset),
and if you get it wrong, your code will probably fail silently:

py> flag, offset = (23, False) # Oops, I got it wrong.
py> if flag:
.... print("hello world"[offset+1:])
....
ello world




--
Steven
 
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Ethan Furman
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      08-16-2012
Steven D'Aprano wrote:
> On Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:26:09 -0700, Ethan Furman wrote:
>
>> Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):
>>
>> .index_search(
>> match,
>> start=None,
>> stop=None,
>> nearest=False,
>> partial=False )

> [...]
>
> Why "index_search" rather than just "search"?


Because "search" already exists and returns a dbf.List of all matching
records.

~Ethan~
 
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MRAB
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      08-16-2012
On 16/08/2012 02:22, Ethan Furman wrote:
> Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>> On Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:26:09 -0700, Ethan Furman wrote:
>>
>>> Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):
>>>
>>> .index_search(
>>> match,
>>> start=None,
>>> stop=None,
>>> nearest=False,
>>> partial=False )

>> [...]
>>
>> Why "index_search" rather than just "search"?

>
> Because "search" already exists and returns a dbf.List of all matching
> records.
>

Perhaps that should've been called "find_all"!
 
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Hans Mulder
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      08-16-2012
On 16/08/12 01:26:09, Ethan Furman wrote:
> Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):
>
> .index_search(
> match,
> start=None,
> stop=None,
> nearest=False,
> partial=False )
>
> The defaults are to search the entire index for exact matches and raise
> NotFoundError if it can't find anything.
>
> match is the search criteria
> start and stop is the range to search in
> nearest returns where the match should be instead of raising an error
> partial will find partial matches
>
> The question is what should the return value be?
>
> I don't like the usual pattern of -1 meaning not found (as in
> 'nothere'.find('a')), so I thought a fun and interesting way would be to
> subclass long and override the __nonzero__ method to return True/False
> based on whether the (partial) match was found. The main problems I see
> here is that the special return value reverts to a normal int/long if
> anything is done to it (adding, subtracting, etc), and the found status
> is lost.
>
> The other option is returning a (number, bool) tuple -- safer, yet more
> boring...


I think you should go for the safe boring option, because in many use
cases the caller will need to known whether the number you're returning
is the index of a match or just the nearest non-match. The caller could
redo the match to find out. But you have already done the match, so you
might as well tell them the result.


Hope this helps,

-- HansM

 
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Ethan Furman
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      08-16-2012
MRAB wrote:
> On 16/08/2012 02:22, Ethan Furman wrote:
>> Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>>> On Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:26:09 -0700, Ethan Furman wrote:
>>>
>>>> Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):
>>>>
>>>> .index_search(
>>>> match,
>>>> start=None,
>>>> stop=None,
>>>> nearest=False,
>>>> partial=False )
>>> [...]
>>>
>>> Why "index_search" rather than just "search"?

>>
>> Because "search" already exists and returns a dbf.List of all matching
>> records.
>>

> Perhaps that should've been called "find_all"!


In interesting thought.

Currently there are:

.index(data) --> returns index of data in Index, or raises error
.query(string) --> brute force search, returns all matching records
.search(match) --> binary search through table, returns all matching
records

'index' and 'query' are supported by Tables, Lists, and Indexes; search
(and now index_search) are only supported on Indexes.

~Ethan~
 
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MRAB
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      08-16-2012
On 16/08/2012 17:13, Ethan Furman wrote:
> MRAB wrote:
>> On 16/08/2012 02:22, Ethan Furman wrote:
>>> Steven D'Aprano wrote:
>>>> On Wed, 15 Aug 2012 16:26:09 -0700, Ethan Furman wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Indexes have a new method (rebirth of an old one, really):
>>>>>
>>>>> .index_search(
>>>>> match,
>>>>> start=None,
>>>>> stop=None,
>>>>> nearest=False,
>>>>> partial=False )
>>>> [...]
>>>>
>>>> Why "index_search" rather than just "search"?
>>>
>>> Because "search" already exists and returns a dbf.List of all matching
>>> records.
>>>

>> Perhaps that should've been called "find_all"!

>
> In interesting thought.
>
> Currently there are:
>
> .index(data) --> returns index of data in Index, or raises error
> .query(string) --> brute force search, returns all matching records
> .search(match) --> binary search through table, returns all matching
> records
>
> 'index' and 'query' are supported by Tables, Lists, and Indexes; search
> (and now index_search) are only supported on Indexes.
>

What exactly is the difference between .index and .index_search with
the default arguments?
 
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Ethan Furman
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Posts: n/a
 
      08-16-2012
MRAB wrote:
> On 16/08/2012 17:13, Ethan Furman wrote:
>> Currently there are:
>>
>> .index(data) --> returns index of data in Index, or raises error
>> .query(string) --> brute force search, returns all matching records
>> .search(match) --> binary search through table, returns all matching
>> records
>>
>> 'index' and 'query' are supported by Tables, Lists, and Indexes; search
>> (and now index_search) are only supported on Indexes.
>>

> What exactly is the difference between .index and .index_search with
> the default arguments?


..index requires a data structure that can be compared to a record
(another record, a dictionary with the same field/key names, or a
list/tuple with values in the same order as the fields). It returns the
index or raises NotFoundError. It is brute force.

..index_search requires match criteria (a tuple with the desired values
in the same order as the key). It returns the index or raises
NotFoundError (unless nearest is True -- then the value returned is
where the match should be). It is binary search.

So the only similarity is that they both return a number or raise
NotFoundError. What they use for the search and how they perform the
search are both completely different.

~Ethan~
 
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