Heartbell's blog

By Heartbell, history, 15 months ago, In English,

Because works in O(n) time.

Quite recently I needed to solve this kind of problem:

I decided to use , since it had some useful method called . And since I needed to count the elements I coded something like this:

int main() {
    int n;
    vector<int> a(n);
    multiset<int> cnt;

    /* Read array */

    // Insert elements in multiset
    for (auto i : a)
        cnt.insert(i);
    
    // Choose among all elements of a the most frequent
    int ans = 0;
    for (auto &i : cnt)
        ans = max(ans, cnt.count(i));
    
    cout << ans << endl;

    return 0;
}

Now. The problem was that this code was judged TLE for, seemingly, no reason at all! Having lost thirty minutes trying to understand where my complexity analysis skills failed, in desperation, I replaced multiset with an ordinary :

int main() {
    int n;
    vector<int> a(n);
    map<int, int> cnt;

    /* Read array */

    // Insert elements in multiset
    for (auto i : a)
        cnt[i]++;
    
    // Choose among all elements of a the most frequent
    int ans = 0;
    for (auto &i : cnt)
        ans = max(ans, cnt[i]);
    
    cout << ans << endl;

    return 0;
}

and it passed! But I was still a bit salty, so I tried to figure out why did this happen: clearly there is something wrong with multiset.

First of all, insertion and searching in and is the same since they both internally implemented as Red-Black trees. The only thing that is nor the first nor the second is the method in the first snippet. So, this must be the reason why the code failed.

At that point, I've dived into the source code of the . The headers for it on Unix machine should be located at , where is the version of the compiler (run to get it). There we can see , and files among many. yields

// Licence is omitted

/** @file include/set
 *  This is a Standard C++ Library header.
 */

#ifndef _GLIBCXX_SET
#define _GLIBCXX_SET 1

#pragma GCC system_header

#include <bits/stl_tree.h>
#include <bits/stl_set.h>
#include <bits/stl_multiset.h>
#include <bits/range_access.h>

#ifdef _GLIBCXX_DEBUG
# include <debug/set>
#endif

#ifdef _GLIBCXX_PROFILE
# include <profile/set>
#endif

#endif /* _GLIBCXX_SET */

It's just a bunch derivatives of other low-level files! I'm interested in the , so it will be logical to visit and look at the method:

      size_type
      count(const key_type& __x) const
      { return _M_t.count(__x); }

which just delegates the task to the field that is defined at the beginning of the class as

      /// The actual tree structure.
      _Rep_type _M_t;

and as a typedef for

      /// This turns a red-black tree into a [multi]set.
      typedef typename __gnu_cxx::__alloc_traits<_Alloc>::template
	rebind<_Key>::other _Key_alloc_type;

      typedef _Rb_tree<key_type, value_type, _Identity<value_type>,
		       key_compare, _Key_alloc_type> _Rep_type;

Red-Black tree. Its definition is contained within with the true method . At this point, we really have to look at the source code. Conveniently, has a GitHub repository (kind of) and the corresponding file that implements is . The following is the implementation of of :

  template<typename _Key, typename _Val, typename _KeyOfValue,
	   typename _Compare, typename _Alloc>
    typename _Rb_tree<_Key, _Val, _KeyOfValue, _Compare, _Alloc>::size_type
    _Rb_tree<_Key, _Val, _KeyOfValue, _Compare, _Alloc>::
    count(const _Key& __k) const
    {
      pair<const_iterator, const_iterator> __p = equal_range(__k);
      const size_type __n = std::distance(__p.first, __p.second);
      return __n;
    }

Ignoring all these scary looking templates, we can see that the method is just three lines long! Namely, in the first line, we get a pair of two iterators, first of which points to the first element in the set with its key equal to and the second — to the last. In the second line, we use to count elements between the first and the last element points to. Since is a balanced binary search tree, we know that if we commit DFS through the tree and write out the nodes in the order of traversal, we will get a sorted sequence. What does is just consequently iterates from forward and onward until reaches . Since we know that between them are the nodes with the same key, this counting will yield us their total number.

So... std::distance has linear time complexity! It jumps between different locations in memory step-by-step until reaching the "terminal" node. Basically, there's no other way to count nodes within the tree (Although, I know that you can (somehow) invoke custom instance of internal tree data structure that will be able to accompany each node with a subtree's field, which can be used to bring down the complexity of up to but I need clarification on this).

The only difference between and is that does not depend on the uniqueness of the nodes. Look at these two excerpts from the source code:

      // Set's insert
      std::pair<iterator, bool>
      insert(const value_type& __x)
      {
	std::pair<typename _Rep_type::iterator, bool> __p =
	  _M_t._M_insert_unique(__x);
	return std::pair<iterator, bool>(__p.first, __p.second);
      }

and

      // Multiset's insert
      iterator
      insert(const value_type& __x)
      { return _M_t._M_insert_equal(__x); }

The (almost) only difference is that that uses and that doesn't care about uniqueness: it will just put there another node with the same key.

And... reflecting on this, if we had an array full of ones, for example, to ones with a we would need around O(n) time, thus drastically degrading the overall complexity of the algorithm to O(n 2)!

I don't know if I need to outline the moral of the story or not... Well, I guess, it's pretty straightforward anyway: don't count with multisets!

Have a nice day! Goodbye~~

 
 
 
 
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15 months ago, # |
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this is so clever, never thought of that, wow!!!!1

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15 months ago, # |
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I think that cppreference has already mentioned it in the complexity paragraph.

  • »
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    15 months ago, # ^ |
      Vote: I like it +8 Vote: I do not like it

    Oops! Actually... Wow, I didn't know that my inattentiveness can be that hight of a level. Because I read the very same article on cppreference and tried to find complexity analysis. But because I failed, I started to mess with source files. I guess, sometimes happens :-)

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2 months ago, # |
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this is hilarious. thanks a lot.

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2 months ago, # |
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Yep, you found out that trying to find out implementation from STL headers is suicidal.