# Loops with unknown nesting depth

We often encounter nested loops, like

for (i = 0; i < n; i++) {
for (j = 0; j < m; j++) {
doSomething(i, j);
}
}


This can be nested to a few more levels without too much pain, as long as we observe that the number of iterations for each level need to be multiplied to get the number of iterations for the whole thing and that total numbers of iterations beyond a few billions (, German: Milliarden, Russian Миллиарди) become unreasonable no matter how fast the doSomethings(...) is. Just looking at this example program

public class Modular {
public static void main(String[] args) {
long n = Long.parseLong(args[0]);
long t = System.currentTimeMillis();
long m = Long.parseLong(args[1]);
long prod = 1;
long sum  = 0;
for (long i = 0; i < n; i++) {
sum += i;
sum %= m;
prod *= (i*i+1);
prod %= m;
}
System.out.println("--> sum=" + sum + " prod=" + prod + " dt=" + (System.currentTimeMillis() - t));
}
}


which measures it net run time and runs 0 msec for 1000 iterations and almost three minutes for 10 billions ():

> java Modular 10000 1001 # 10'000
--> sum=55 prod=520 dt=1
> java Modular 100000 1001 # 100'000
--> sum=45 prod=299 dt=4
> java Modular 1000000 1001 # 1'000'000
--> sum=0 prod=806 dt=20
> java Modular 10000000 1001 # 10'000'000
--> sum=45 prod=299 dt=161
> java Modular 100000000 1001 # 100'000'000
--> sum=946 prod=-364 dt=1570
> java Modular 1000000000 1001 # 1'000'000'000
--> sum=1 prod=0 dt=15635
> java Modular 10000000000 1001 # 10'000'000'000
--> sum=55 prod=0 dt=160365


As soon as we do I/O, network access, database access or simply a bit more serious calculation, this becomes of course easily unbearably slow. But today it is cool to deal with big data and to at least call what we are doing big data, even though conventional processing on a laptop can do it in a few seconds or minutes... And there are of course ways to process way more iterations than this, but it becomes worth thinking about the system architecture, the hardware, parallel processing and of course algorithms and software stacks. But here we are in the "normal world", which can be a "normal subuniverse" of something really big, so running on one CPU and using a normal language like Perl, Java, Ruby, Scala, Clojure, F# or C.

Now sometimes we encounter situations where we want to nest loops, but the depth is unknown, something like

for ( = 0;  < ; ++) {
for ( = 0;  < ; ++) {

for ( = 0;  < ; ++) \{\cr
dosomething();
}

}
}


Now our friends from the functional world help us to understand what a loop is, because in some of these more functional languages the classical C-Style loop is either missing or at least not recommended as the everyday tool. Instead we view the set of values we iterate about as a collection and iterate through every element of the collection. This can be a bad thing, because instantiating such big collections can be a show stopper, but we don't. Out of the many features of collections we just pick the iterability, which can very well be accomplished by lazy collections. In Java we have the Iterable, Iterator, Spliterator and the Stream interfaces to express such potentially lazy collections that are just used for iterating.

So we could think of a library that provides us with support for ordinary loops, so we could write something like this:

Iterable range = new LoopRangeExcludeUpper<>(0, n);
for (Integer i : range) {
doSomething(i);
}


or even better, if we assume 0 as a lower limit is the default anyway:

Iterable range = new LoopRangeExcludeUpper<>(n);
for (Integer i : range) {
doSomething(i);
}


with the ugliness of boxing and unboxing in terms of runtime overhead, memory overhead, and additional complexity for development. In Scala, Ruby or Clojure the equivalent solution would be elegant and useful and the way to go...
I would assume, that a library who does something like LoopRangeExcludeUpper in the code example should easily be available for Java, maybe even in the standard library, or in some common public maven repository...

Now the issue of loops with unknown nesting depth can easily be addressed by writing or downloading a class like NestedLoopRange, which might have a constructor of the form NestedLoopRange(int ... ni) or NestedLoopRange(List li) or something with collections that are more efficient with primitives, for example from Apache Commons. Consider using long instead of int, which will break some compatibility with Java-collections. This should not hurt too much here and it is a good thing to reconsider the 31-bit size field of Java collections as an obstacle for future development and to address how collections can grow larger than elements, but that is just a side issue here. We broke this limit with the example iterating over 10'000'000'000 values for i already and it took only a few minutes. Of course it was just an abstract way of dealing with a lazy collection without the Java interfaces involved.

So, the code could just look like this:

Iterable range = new NestedLoopRange();
for (Tuple t : range) {
doSomething(t);
}


Btw, it is not too hard to write it in the classical way either:

        long[] n = new long[] {  };
int m1 = n.length;
int m  = m1-1; // just to have the math- matched...
long[] t = new long[m1];
for (int j = 0; j < m1; j++) {
t[j] = 0L;
}
boolean done = false;
for (int j = 0; j < m1; j++) {
if (n[j] <= 0) {
done = true;
break;
}
}
while (! done) {
doSomething(t);
done = true;
for (int j = 0; j < m1; j++) {
t[j]++;
if (t[j] < n[j]) {
done = false;
break;
}
t[j] = 0;
}
}


I have written this kind of loop several times in my life in different languages. The first time was on C64-basic when I was still in school and the last one was written in Java and shaped into a library, where appropriate collection interfaces were implemented, which remained in the project or the organization, where it had been done, but it could easily be written again, maybe in Scala, Clojure or Ruby, if it is not already there. It might even be interesting to explore, how to write it in C in a way that can be used as easily as such a library in Java or Scala. If there is interest, please let me know in the comments section, I might come back to this issue in the future...

# Perl 5 and Perl 6

We have now two Perls. Perl 5, which has been around for more than 20 years just as the „Perl programming language“ and Perl 6, which has been developed for more than a decade and of which now stable versions exist.

The fact, that they are both called „Perl“ is a bit misleading. They are two different and incompatible programming languages. But they share the same community. And Perl conferences are usually covering both languages.

So this rises the question about the differences or about which of the two Perls to use.

Here are some differences:

• Perl 5 is well established and many people know it. Perl 6 has to be learned, even if it is relatively easy to learn for someone with a Perl 5 background.
• Perl 5 runs about three times faster than Perl 6
• Perl 6 programs are a bit shorter than Perl 5 programs
• Perl 6 regular expressions are even better than Perl 5’s regular expressions
• Perl 6 is more logical than Perl 5
• Perl 6 uses by default better numerical types
• Perl 6 makes it easier and more natural to do object oriented programming and functional programming
• Perl 6 has come up with a useful approach for doing multithreading.
• Perl 5 has so many cool libraries on CPAN, Perl 6 just a few.

# Swiss Perl Workshop 2017

I have attended the Swiss Perl Workshop.
We were a group of about 40 people, one track and some very interesting talks, including by Damian Conway.
I gave a regular talk and a lightning talk myself.
The content of my talk might go into another Blog post in the future.
The Perl programming language is still interesting, and of course it was covered in both variants: Perl 5 and Perl 6.
But many of the talks were about general issues like security and architecture and just exemplified by Perl.

The Video recording of talks was optional. Here are those that have been recorded and already uploaded: Youtube: Swiss Perl Workshop

# Alpine Perl Workshop

On 2016-09-02 and 2016-09-03 I was able to visit the Alpine Perl Workshop. This was a Perl conference with around 50 participants, among them core members of the Perl community. We had mostly one track, so the documented information about the talks that were given is actually quite closely correlated to the list of talks that I have actually visited.

We had quite a diverse set of talks about technical issues but also about the role of Perl programming language in projects and in general. The speeches were in English and German…

Perl 6 is now a reality. It can be used together with Perl 5, there are ways to embed them within each other and they seem to work reasonably well. This fills some of the gaps of Perl 5, since the set of modules is by far not as complete as for Perl 5.

Perl 5 has since quite a few years established a time boxed release schedule. Each year they ship a new major release. The previous two releases are supported for bugfixes. The danger that major Linux distributions remain on older releases has been banned. Python 3 has been released in 2008 and still in 2016 Python 2.7 is what is usually used and shipped with major Linux distributions. It looks like Perl 5 is there to stay, not be replaced by Perl 6, which is a quite different language that just shares the name and the community. But the recent versions are actually adopted and the incompatible changes are so little that they do not hurt too much, usually. An advantage of Perl is the CPAN repository for libraries. It is possible to test new versions against a ton of such libraries and to find out, where it might break or even providing fixes for the library.

An interesting issue is testing of software. For continuous integration we can now find servers and they will run against a configurable set of Perl versions. But using different Linux distributions or even non-Linux-systems becomes a more elaborate issue. People willing to test new versions of Perl or of libraries on exotic hardware and OS are still welcome and often they discover a weakness that might be of interest even for the mainstream platforms in the long run.

I will leave it with this. You can find more information in the web site of the conference.

It was fun to go there, I learned a lot and met nice people. It would be great to be able to visit a similar event again…

# Numeric types in Perl

Dealing with numeric types in Perl is not as strait-forward as in other programming languages. We can use „scalars“ out of the box, but then we get floating point numbers, more precisely what is called „double“ in most programming languages. This is kind of ok for trivial programs, but we should make a deliberate choice on what to use.

Actually the Perl programming language gives us (at least) two more choices. We can use 64-bit integers (or 32-bit on some platforms) by just adding
 use integer; 
somewhere in the beginning of the file. This causes Perl to work mostly with integer instead of floating point numbers, but the rules for this are not so obvious. You may read about them in the official documentation. Or find another explanation or one more.

Now we do want to control this on a more fine granular basis than the whole program. There may be legitimate programs that use both floating point and integers. This can be achieved in Perl as well. We can turn this off using:
 no integer; 
More likely we want to use another approach, that looks more natural and more robust most of the time. We just have to use blocks:
 #!/usr/bin/perl -w                                                                                                                            use strict;                                                                                                                                                                       my $f1 = 2_000_000_000; my$f2 = $f1 *$f1;                                                                   my $f3 =$f1 * $f2; my$f4 = $f1 *$f3;                                                                   my $f5 =$f1 * $f4; my @f = (1,$f1, $f2,$f3, $f4,$f5);                                               for (my $i = 0;$i <= 5; $i++) { print($i, " ", $f[$i], "\n");                                                     }                                                                                                                                                                                 my $n2x; { use integer; my$n1 = 2_000_000_000;                                                                 my $n2 =$n1 * $n1; my$n3 = $n1 *$n2;                                                                   my $n4 =$n1 * $n3; my$n5 = $n1 *$n4;                                                                                                                                                            my @n = (1, $n1,$n2, $n3,$n4, $n5); for (my$i = 0; $i <= 5;$i++) {                                                          print($i, " ",$n[$i], "\n"); }$n2x = $n2; } print "n2x=$n2x\n";                                                                                                                                                              my $g1 = 2_000_000_000; my$g2 = $g1 *$g1;                                                                   my $g3 =$g1 * $g2; my$g4 = $g1 *$g3;                                                                   my $g5 =$g1 * $g4; my @g = (1,$g1, $g2,$g3, $g4,$g5);                                               for (my $i = 0;$i <= 5; $i++) { print($i, " ", $g[$i], "\n");                                                     }                                                                                        
This will output:
                                                                                   0 1                                                                                      1 2000000000                                                                             2 4000000000000000000                                                                    3 8e+27                                                                                  4 1.6e+37                                                                                5 3.2e+46                                                                                0 1                                                                                      1 2000000000                                                                             2 4000000000000000000                                                                    3 -106958398427234304                                                                    4 3799332742966018048                                                                    5 7229403301836488704                                                                    n2x=4000000000000000000                                                                  
So we see that the integer mode is constrained to the block. And we see that the results for 3, 4 and 5 went wrong...

So it may be a little bit tricky to do this, but we can. These integers have the same flaw as integers in many popular programming languages, because they silently overflow by taking the remainder modulo that lies in the interval or modulo that lies in the interval . I do not think that is really what we usually want and just hoping that our numbers remain within the safe range may go well in the 64-bit-case, but we have to be sure and explain this in a comment, when we work like this. Usually we do not want to think about this and spending a few extra bits costs less than hunting obscure bugs where everything looks so correct.

Our friend is
 use bigint; 
which switches to arbitrary precision integers.
 #!/usr/bin/perl -w                                                                                                                use strict;                                                                                                                                                         my $f1 = 2_000_000_000; my$f2 = $f1 *$f1;                                                            my $f3 =$f1 * $f2; my$f4 = $f1 *$f3;                                                            my $f5 =$f1 * $f4; my @f = (1,$f1, $f2,$f3, $f4,$f5);                                        for (my $i = 0;$i <= 5; $i++) { print($i, " ", $f[$i], "\n");                                              }                                                                                                                                                                   my $b2x; { use bigint; my$b1 = 2_000_000_000;                                                          my $b2 =$b1 * $b1; my$b3 = $b1 *$b2;                                                            my $b4 =$b1 * $b3; my$b5 = $b1 *$b4;                                                                                                                                              my @b = (1, $b1,$b2, $b3,$b4, $b5); for (my$i = 0; $i <= 5;$i++) {                                                   print($i, " ",$b[$i], "\n"); }$b2x = $b2; } print "b2x=$b2x\n";                                                                                                                                                my $g1 = 2_000_000_000; my$g2 = $g1 *$g1;                                                            my $g3 =$g1 * $g2; my$g4 = $g1 *$g3;                                                            my $g5 =$g1 * $g4; my @g = (1,$g1, $g2,$g3, $g4,$g5);                                        for (my $i = 0;$i <= 5; $i++) { print($i, " ", $g[$i], "\n");                                              }                                                                                 
This gives us the output:
 0 1 1 2000000000 2 4000000000000000000 3 8e+27 4 1.6e+37 5 3.2e+46 0 1 1 2000000000 2 4000000000000000000 3 8000000000000000000000000000 4 16000000000000000000000000000000000000 5 32000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 b2x=4000000000000000000 0 1 1 2000000000 2 4000000000000000000 3 8e+27 4 1.6e+37 5 3.2e+46 
So it is again constrained to the block, but it allows us to use arbitrary lengths of integers, as long as our memory is sufficient.

A less commonly used, but interesting approach is to work with rational numbers:
 #!/usr/bin/perl -w                                                                                                                               use strict;                                                                             use bigrat;                                                                                                                                                                     my $x = 3/4; my$y = 4/5;                                                                           my $z = 5/6; print("x=$x y=$y z=$z\n");                                                                                                                                                   my $sum =$x+$y+$z;                                                                 my $diff =$x - $y; my$prod = $x *$x * $z; my$quot = $x /$y;                                                                  print("sum=$sum diff=$diff prod=$prod quot=$quot\n");                               
This gives us:
 x=3/4 y=4/5 z=5/6 sum=143/60 diff=-1/20 prod=15/32 quot=15/16 
That is kind of cool...

There is also something like Math::BigFloat which can be used most easily by having
 use bignum; 

You will find more numeric types, like Math::Decimal and Math::Complex.

While I would say that using good numeric types in Perl is not quite as easy as it should be, at least if we want to mix them, at least we have the means to use the adequate numeric types. And it is way better than in Java.

# Perl 6

Perl 6 has silently reached its first production ready release on Christmas 2015, called v6c. It will be interesting to explore what this language can do, which features it offers and how it compares to existing relevant and interesting languages like Java, C, Ruby, Perl (5), Clojure, Scala, F#, C++, Python, PHP and others in different aspects. It looks like Perl 5 is there to stay and will be continued. Perl 6 should actually be considered to be a different programming language than Perl 5, so the name is somewhat misleading, because it suggests slightly more similarity than there really is. On the other hand, it was done by the same people, good ideas concepts from Perl 5 were retained and so it does look somewhat similar.

Today I will just provide some links

# Perl Training in Switzerland

Very soon we will have the opportunity to participate in advanced Perl trainings and even some trainings about presentations.

Here are the Details.

I found these trainings useful, when I visited them. They are done by Damian Conway, one of the core developers of the Perl programming language.

The courses will be held in English. Other than in previous years the location will be in FHNW in walking distance of the railroad station of Brugg or if you are more road oriented in walking distance of the point where the Swiss national highways 5 and 3 meet in Brugg. You can find it on the map.

# How to create ISO Date String

It is a more and more common task that we need to have a date or maybe date with time as String.

There are two reasonable ways to do this:
* We may want the date formatted in the users Locale, whatever that is.
* We want to use a generic date format, that is for a broader audience or for usage in data exchange formats, log files etc.

The first issue is interesting, because it is not always trivial to teach the software to get the right locale and to use it properly… The mechanisms are there and they are often used correctly, but more often this is just working fine for the locale that the software developers where asked to support.

So now the question is, how do we get the ISO-date of today in different environments.

## Linux/Unix-Shell (bash, tcsh, …)

date "+%F"

## TeX/LaTeX

 \def\dayiso{\ifcase\day \or 01\or 02\or 03\or 04\or 05\or 06\or 07\or 08\or 09\or 10\or% 1..10 11\or 12\or 13\or 14\or 15\or 16\or 17\or 18\or 19\or 20\or% 11..20 21\or 22\or 23\or 24\or 25\or 26\or 27\or 28\or 29\or 30\or% 21..30 31\fi} \def\monthiso{\ifcase\month \or 01\or 02\or 03\or 04\or 05\or 06\or 07\or 08\or 09\or 10\or 11\or 12\fi} \def\dateiso{\def\today{\number\year-\monthiso-\dayiso}} \def\todayiso{\number\year-\monthiso-\dayiso} 
This can go into a file isodate.sty which can then be included by \include or \input Then using \todayiso in your TeX document will use the current date. To be more precise, it is the date when TeX or LaTeX is called to process the file. This is what I use for my paper letters.

## LaTeX

(From Fritz Zaucker, see his comment below):
 \usepackage{isodate} % load package \isodate % switch to ISO format \today % print date according to current format 

## Oracle

 SELECT TO_CHAR(SYSDATE, 'YYYY-MM-DD') FROM DUAL; 
On Oracle Docs this function is documented.
It can be chosen as a default using ALTER SESSION for the whole session. Or in SQL-developer it can be configured. Then it is ok to just call
 SELECT SYSDATE FROM DUAL; 

Btw. Oracle allows to add numbers to dates. These are days. Use fractions of a day to add hours or minutes.

## PostreSQL

(From Fritz Zaucker, see his comment):
 select current_date; —> 2016-01-08 
 select now(); —> 2016-01-08 14:37:55.701079+01 

## Emacs

In Emacs I like to have the current Date immediately:
 (defun insert-current-date () "inserts the current date" (interactive) (insert (let ((x (current-time-string))) (concat (substring x 20 24) "-" (cdr (assoc (substring x 4 7) cmode-month-alist)) "-" (let ((y (substring x 8 9))) (if (string= y " ") "0" y)) (substring x 9 10))))) (global-set-key [S-f5] 'insert-current-date) 
Pressing Shift-F5 will put the current date into the cursor position, mostly as if it had been typed.

## Emacs (better Variant)

(From Thomas, see his comment below):
 (defun insert-current-date () "Insert current date." (interactive) (insert (format-time-string "%Y-%m-%d"))) 

## Perl

In the Perl programming language we can use a command line call
 perl -e 'use POSIX qw/strftime/;print strftime("%F", localtime()), "\n"' 
or to use it in larger programms
 use POSIX qw/strftime/; my \$isodate_of_today = strftime("%F", localtime()); 
I am not sure, if this works on MS-Windows as well, but Linux-, Unix- and MacOS-X-users should see this working.

If someone has tried it on Windows, I will be interested to hear about it…
Maybe I will try it out myself…

## Perl 5 (second suggestion)

(From Fritz Zaucker, see his comment below):
 perl -e 'use DateTime; use 5.10.0; say DateTime->now->strftime(„%F“);‘ 

## Perl 6

(From Fritz Zaucker, see his comment below):
 say Date.today; 
or
 Date.today.say; 

## Ruby

This is even more elegant than Perl:
 ruby -e 'puts Time.new.strftime("%F")' 
will do it on the command line.
Or if you like to use it in your Ruby program, just use
 d = Time.new s = d.strftime("%F") 

Btw. like in Oracle SQL it is possible add numbers to this. In case of Ruby, you are adding seconds.

It is slightly confusing that Ruby has two different types, Date and Time. Not quite as confusing as Java, but still…
Time is ok for this purpose.

## C on Linux / Posix / Unix

 #include #include #include 

 main(int argc, char **argv) { 

 char s[12]; time_t seconds_since_1970 = time(NULL); struct tm local; struct tm gmt; localtime_r(&seconds_since_1970, &local); gmtime_r(&seconds_since_1970, &gmt); size_t l1 = strftime(s, 11, "%Y-%m-%d", &local); printf("local:\t%s\n", s); size_t l2 = strftime(s, 11, "%Y-%m-%d", &gmt); printf("gmt:\t%s\n", s); exit(0); } 
This speeks for itself..
But if you like to know: time() gets the seconds since 1970 as some kind of integer.
localtime_r or gmtime_r convert it into a structur, that has seconds, minutes etc as separate fields.
stftime formats it. Depending on your C it is also possible to use %F.

## Scala

 import java.util.Date import java.text.SimpleDateFormat ... val s : String = new SimpleDateFormat("YYYY-MM-dd").format(new Date()) 
This uses the ugly Java-7-libraries. We want to go to Java 8 or use Joda time and a wrapper for Scala.

## Java 7

 import java.util.Date import java.text.SimpleDateFormat

 

... String s = new SimpleDateFormat("YYYY-MM-dd").format(new Date()); 
Please observe that SimpleDateFormat is not thread safe. So do one of the following:
* initialize it each time with new
* make sure you run only single threaded, forever
* use EJB and have the format as instance variable in a stateless session bean
* protect it with synchronized
* protect it with locks
* make it a thread local variable

In Java 8 or Java 7 with Joda time this is better. And the toString()-method should have ISO8601 as default, but off course including the time part.

## Summary

This is quite easy to achieve in many environments.
I could provide more, but maybe I leave this to you in the comments section.
What could be interesting:
* better ways for the ones that I have provided
* other databases
* other editors (vim, sublime, eclipse, idea,…)
* Office packages (Libreoffice and MS-Office)
* C#
* F#
* Clojure
* C on MS-Windows
* Perl and Ruby on MS-Windows
* Java 8
* Scala using better libraries than the Java-7-library for this
* Java using better libraries than the Java-7-library for this
* C++
* PHP
* Python
* Cobol
* JavaScript
* …
If you provide a reasonable solution I will make it part of the article with a reference…

# Conversion of ASCII-graphics to PNG or JPG

Images are usually some obscure binary files. Their most common formats, PNG, SVG, JPEG and GIF are well documented and supported by many software tools. Libraries and APIs exist for accessing these formats, but also a phantastic free interactive software like Gimp. The compression rate that can reasonably be achieved when using these format is awesome, especially when picking the right format and the right settings. Tons of good examples can be found how to manipulate these image formats in C, Java, Scala, F#, Ruby, Perl or any other popular language, often by using language bindings for Image Magick.

There is another approach worth exploring. You can use a tool called convert to just convert an image from PNG, JPG or GIF to XPM. The other direction is also possible. Now XPM is a text format, which basically represents the image in ASCII graphics. It is by the way also valid C-code, so it can be included directly in C programms and used from there, when an image needs to be hard coded into a program. It is not generally recommended to use this format, because it is terribly inefficient because it uses no compression at all, but as intermediate format for exploring additional ways for manipulating images it is of interest.
An interesting option is to create the XPM-file using ERB in Ruby and then converting it to PNG or JPG.

# Find the next entry in a sequence

In Facebook, Xing, Google+, Vk.com, Linkedin and other of these social media networks we are often encountered with a trivial question like this:
 1->2 2->8 3->18 4->32 5->50 6->72 7->? 
There are some easy patterns. Either it is some polynomial formula or some trick with the digits.
But the point is, that any such sequence can easily be fullfilled by a polynomial formula. That means we can put any value for 7 and make it work. Or any answer is correct. So what would probably be the real question is the most simple function to full-fill the given constraints. Simplicity can be measured in some way… If the solution is unique is unclear, but let us just look at the polynomial solution.

A function is needed that takes as parameter a list of key-value-pairs (or a hash map) and that yields a function such that the function of any of the key is the associated value.

Assuming a polynomial function in one variable we can make use of the chinese remainder theorem, which can be applied to univariate polynomials over a field as well as to integral numbers. For a polynomial p(X) we have

where is the polynomial variable and is a concrete value.

We are looking for a polynomial such that for given values we have

or in another way

which is exactly the Chinese remainder theorem.
Let

and

We can see that for all the polynomials

have the properties

or

where is the Kronecker symbol, which is 0 if the two indices differ and 1 if they are equal.
Or as congruence:

Then we can just combine this and use

This can easily be written as a Ruby function
 def fun_calc(pairs)   n = pairs.size   result = lambda do |x|     y = 0     n.times do |i|       p_i = pairs[i]       x_i = p_i[0].to_r       y_i = p_i[1].to_r       z = y_i       n.times do |j|         if (j != i)           p_j = pairs[j]           x_j = p_j[0]           z *= (x - x_j) / (x_i - x_j)         end       end       y += z     end     y   end   result end 
This takes a list of pairs as a parameter and returns the polynomial function als lambda.
It can be used like this:
 lop = [[0, 0], [1, 1], [2, 4], [3, 9], [4, 16], [5, 25], [6, 36], [7, 64]]

 f = fun_calc(lop) 

20.times do |x|   y = f.call(x)   puts sprintf("%6d -> %6d", x, y) end 
Put this together into a ruby program and add some parsing for the list of pairs or change the program each time you use it and all these „difficult“ questions „that 99.9% fail to solve“ are not just easy, but actually soluble automatically.

This is interesting for more useful applications. I assume that there will always be situations where a function is needed that meets certain exact values a certain inputs and is an interpolation or extrapolation of this.

Please observe that there are other interesting and useful ways to approach this:

• Use a „best“ approximation from a set of functions, for example polynomials with a given maximum degree
• use cubic splines, which are cubic polynomials within each section between two neighboring input values such that at the input values the two adjacent functions have the same value (, of course), the same first derivative and the same second derivative.

For highway and railroad construction other curves are used, because the splines are making an assumption on what is the -axis and what is the -axis, which does not make sense for transport facilities. They are using a curve called Clothoid.

Use Java, C, Perl, Scala, F# or the programming language of your choice to do this. You only need Closures, which are available in Java 8, F#, Scala, Perl, Ruby and any decent Lisp dialect. In Java 7 they can be done with an additional interface as anonymous inner classes. And for C it has been described in this blog how to do closures.