Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Microsoft Norway is running a gadget competition at http://www.gadgetcompetition.no/ these days where users can submit Vista Sidebar Gadgets and Windows Live Gadgets.

My contribution is a Vista Sidebar gadget where you can track packages and letters sent via the Norwegian Postal service, Posten. By entering you package tracking number, the gadget will get the latest updates for you package every 30 minutes and display its status in the sidebar. You can also click the envelope to open up the full package history in a fly out window.

So, if you like the idea, go to the competition site, and download my gadget from the "Gadget Gallery", or use this direct link to live.com. If you like it, please log in with your Windows Live account on www.gadgetcompetition.no and vote for me :-) You can win Vista Ultimate, a mouse or Expression Web just by voting :-)

posted on Tuesday, 13 November 2007 02:10:00 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [3]
 Wednesday, 20 December 2006

School is out for Christmas (I had my last exam last Friday), so now I have time do fun things, like coding (surprise).

I think algorithmic programming and databases and SQL queries are cool things, so why not combine them? Yesterday I got an idea of implementing some well-known algorithm in SQL, and I figured out that Dijkstra's Shortest Path algorithm should be fun to implement.

Dijkstra's shortest path algorithm finds, well, the shortest path from one vertex to the other vertexes in a weighted graph. The edges have lengths (or costs or whatever), and the shortest path from one vertex to another is the path where the sum of these lengths are as small as possible. Take a look at the illustration below, showing a graph with some Norwegian cities. The shortest path from Trondheim to Fredrikstad has been highlighted (for those of you that know Norway, not very realistic, but let's pretend it is just for the fun of it).

The algorithm works like a breadth first search that takes the edge weights into account, starting at one vertex and traversing through the graph.

So, how do we implement this in Transact-SQL (MS SQL Server's SQL dialect)? Well, first we need some way to represent the graph. I've created two tables:


The City table is pretty straightforward. The Road table contains one row for every road from one city to another, and the length of that road. Notice that we have two rows for every two cities we have a road between them, one each way. But, now to the real stuff: The implementation of the algorithm:

CREATE PROCEDURE [dbo].[Dijkstra]
    @StartCity Int
    -- Automatically rollback the transaction if something goes wrong.    
    -- SET NOCOUNT ON added to prevent extra result sets from
    -- interfering with SELECT statements.

    -- Create a temporary table for storing the estimates as the algorithm runs
    CREATE TABLE #CityList
        CityId Int NOT NULL,    -- The City Id
        Estimate Int NOT NULL,    -- What is the distance to this city, so far?
        Predecessor Int NULL,    -- The city we came from to get to this city with this distance.
        Done bit NOT NULL        -- Are we done with this city yet (is the estimate the final distance)?

    -- Fill the temporary table with initial data
    INSERT INTO #CityList (CityId, Estimate, Predecessor, Done)
    SELECT CityId, 2147483647, NULL, 0 FROM City
    -- Set the estimate for the city we start in to be 0.
    UPDATE #CityList SET Estimate = 0 WHERE CityID = @StartCity
    IF @@rowcount <> 1
        RAISERROR ('Couldn''t set start city', 11, 1)
        ROLLBACK TRAN        

    DECLARE @FromCity Int, @CurrentEstimate Int

    -- Run the algorithm until we decide that we are finished
    WHILE 1=1
        -- Reset the variable, so we can detect getting no records in the next step.
        SELECT @FromCity = NULL

        -- Select the CityID and current estimate for a city not done, with the lowest estimate.
        SELECT TOP 1 @FromCity = CityId, @CurrentEstimate = Estimate
        FROM #CityList WHERE Done = 0 AND Estimate < 2147483647
        ORDER BY Estimate
        -- Stop if we have no more unvisited, reachable cities.
        IF @FromCity IS NULL BREAK

        -- We are now done with this city.
        UPDATE #CityList SET Done = 1 WHERE CityId = @FromCity

        -- Update the estimates to all neighbour cities of this one (all the cities
        -- there are roads to from this city). Only update the estimate if the new
        -- proposal (to go via the current city) is better (lower).
        UPDATE #CityList SET #CityList.Estimate = @CurrentEstimate + Road.Distance,
            #CityList.Predecessor = @FromCity
        FROM #CityList INNER JOIN Road ON #CityList.CityID = Road.ToCity
        WHERE Road.FromCity = @FromCity AND (@CurrentEstimate + Road.Distance) < #CityList.Estimate
    -- Select the results.
    SELECT City1.Name AS ToCity, Estimate AS Distance, city2.Name AS Predecessor FROM #CityList
    INNER JOIN City city1 ON #CityList.CityId = City1.CityID
    LEFT OUTER JOIN City city2 ON #CityList.Predecessor = city2.CityID
    -- Drop the temp table.
    DROP TABLE #CityList

If we run it with Trondheim as start city (@StartCity = 1), we get this result table:


This says that from Trondheim, we have a distance 0 to Trondheim, 2 to Bergen and so on, and 6 to Fredrikstad. The Predecessor column says what city we came from when we went to each city. We can see that to get to Fredrikstad, we came from Oslo, and to get to Oslo, we came from Bergen. To get to Bergen, we came from Trondheim. Therefore, to get to Fredrikstad, we took the path Trondheim, Bergen, Oslo, Fredrikstad.

I have included the SQL script to create the database:

Dijkstra.txt (8,03 KB)
TestScript.txt (1,26 KB)

posted on Wednesday, 20 December 2006 17:45:10 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [12]
 Saturday, 10 June 2006

...inside an Airbus A-340 300 with it's nose pointing towards south-west.

I have to say that SAS' WiFi internet access on their intercontinental flights is a cool thing. Could have been faster response times (currently around 800 ms), but I guess that's how it is when you're surfing via satelite.

As you may have figured out, I'm on my way to Seattle. I will tell you why soon :-)

posted on Saturday, 10 June 2006 22:38:02 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
 Tuesday, 25 April 2006

All kinds of IRC bots has existed for quite some time, everything from quiz bots to channel admin bots. You can't connect to IRC without seeing them. In the later years MSN Messenger has become increasingly popular, and now bots are beginning to appear here too.

I friend of mine, Frank Robert Kvam, has written one such bot, MSN-Hjelper (MSN Helper in English). MSN Helper can help you with some different things:

  • Searching with google
  • Looking up a number in the Norwegian telephone catalog
  • Remind you of TV programs
  • Calculator
  • Wikipedia lookup

His wrote his bot using the free open-source class library DotMSN (http://www.xihsolutions.net/dotmsn/), which is a .NET wrapper around the MSN Messenger protocol. It is quite straight-forward to use, and only your own fantasy sets limitations for what kinds of messenger robots you can create :-)

Add his bot to your contact list: msn-hjelper@hotmail.com 
Below is a screen shot of a conversation with it.


posted on Tuesday, 25 April 2006 18:38:12 (W. Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]