Stream Processing — Haskell — #adventofcode Day 9

In today’s challenge we come across a stream that we need to cross. But of course, because we’re stuck inside a computer, it’s not water but data flowing past. The stream is too dangerous to cross until we’ve removed all the garbage, and to prove we can do that we have to calculate a score for the valid data “groups” and the number of garbage characters to remove.

→ Full code on GitHub

!!! commentary One of my goals for this process was to knock the rust of my functional programming skills in Haskell, and I haven’t done that for the whole of the first week. Processing strings character by character and acting according to which character shows up seems like a good choice for pattern-matching though, so here we go. I also wanted to take a bash at test-driven development in Haskell, so I also loaded up the Test.Hspec module to give it a try.

I did find keeping track of all the state in arguments a bit mind boggling, and I think it could have been improved through use of a data type using record syntax and the `State` monad, so that's something to look at for a future challenge.

First import the extra bits we’ll need.

module Main where

import Test.Hspec
import Data.Function ((&))

countGroups solves the first part of the problem, counting up the “score” of the valid data in the stream. countGroups' is an auxiliary function that holds some state in its arguments. We use pattern matching for the base case: [] represents the empty list in Haskell, which indicates we’ve finished the whole stream. Otherwise, we split the remaining stream into its first character and remainder, and use guards to decide how to interpret it. If skip is true, discard the character and carry on with skip set back to false. If we find a “!”, that tells us to skip the next. Other characters mark groups or sets of garbage: groups increase the score when they close and garbage is discarded. We continue to progress the list by recursing with the remainder of the stream and any updated state.

countGroups :: String -> Int
countGroups = countGroups' 0 0 False False
    countGroups' score _ _ _ [] = score
    countGroups' score level garbage skip (c:rest)
      | skip      = countGroups' score level garbage False rest
      | c == '!'  = countGroups' score level garbage True rest
      | garbage   = case c of
                      '>' -> countGroups' score level False False rest
                      _   -> countGroups' score level True False rest
      | otherwise = case c of
                      '{' -> countGroups' score (level+1) False False rest
                      '}' -> countGroups' (score+level) (level-1) False False rest
                      ',' -> countGroups' score level False False rest
                      '<' -> countGroups' score level True False rest
                      c   -> error $ "Garbage character found outside garbage: " ++ show c

countGarbage works almost identically to countGroups, except it ignores groups and counts garbage. They are structured so similarly that it would probably make more sense to combine them to a single function that returns both counts.

countGarbage :: String -> Int
countGarbage = countGarbage' 0 False False
    countGarbage' count _ _ [] = count
    countGarbage' count garbage skip (c:rest)
      | skip      = countGarbage' count garbage False rest
      | c == '!'  = countGarbage' count garbage True rest
      | garbage   = case c of
                      '>' -> countGarbage' count False False rest
                      _   -> countGarbage' (count+1) True False rest
      | otherwise = case c of
                      '<' -> countGarbage' count True False rest
                      _   -> countGarbage' count False False rest

Hspec gives us a domain-specific language heavily inspired by the rspec library for Ruby: the tests read almost like natural language. I built up these tests one-by-one, gradually implementing the appropriate bits of the functions above, a process known as Test-driven development.

runTests = 
  hspec $ do
    describe "countGroups" $ do
      it "counts valid groups" $ do
        countGroups "{}" `shouldBe` 1
        countGroups "{{{}}}" `shouldBe` 6
        countGroups "{{{},{},{{}}}}" `shouldBe` 16
        countGroups "{{},{}}" `shouldBe` 5

      it "ignores garbage" $ do
        countGroups "{<a>,<a>,<a>,<a>}" `shouldBe` 1
        countGroups "{{<ab>},{<ab>},{<ab>},{<ab>}}" `shouldBe` 9

      it "skips marked characters" $ do
        countGroups "{{<!!>},{<!!>},{<!!>},{<!!>}}" `shouldBe` 9
        countGroups "{{<a!>},{<a!>},{<a!>},{<ab>}}" `shouldBe` 3

    describe "countGarbage" $ do
      it "counts garbage characters" $ do
        countGarbage "<>" `shouldBe` 0
        countGarbage "<random characters>" `shouldBe` 17
        countGarbage "<<<<>" `shouldBe` 3

      it "ignores non-garbage" $ do
        countGarbage "{{},{}}" `shouldBe` 0
        countGarbage "{{<ab>},{<ab>},{<ab>},{<ab>}}" `shouldBe` 8
      it "skips marked characters" $ do
        countGarbage "<{!>}>" `shouldBe` 2
        countGarbage "<!!>" `shouldBe` 0
        countGarbage "<!!!>" `shouldBe` 0
        countGarbage "<{o\"i!a,<{i<a>" `shouldBe` 10

Finally, the main function reads in the challenge input and calculates the answers, printing them on standard output.

main = do

  repeat '=' & take 78 & putStrLn

  input <- getContents & fmap (filter (/='\n'))
  putStrLn $ "Found " ++ show (countGroups input) ++ " groups"
  putStrLn $ "Found " ++ show (countGarbage input) ++ " characters garbage"


You can respond to this post, "Stream Processing — Haskell — #adventofcode Day 9", by: liking, boosting or replying to a tweet or toot that mentions it; or sending a webmention from your own site to

Comments & reactions haven't loaded yet. You might have JavaScript disabled but that's cool 😎.


Powered by Cactus Comments 🌵