Tag Archives: Information theory

Computer Algorithms: Lossy Image Compression with Run-Length Encoding


Run-length encoding is a data compression algorithm that helps us encode large runs of repeating items by only sending one item from the run and a counter showing how many times this item is repeated. Unfortunately this technique is useless when trying to compress natural language texts, because they don’t have long runs of repeating elements. In the other hand RLE is useful when it comes to image compression, because images happen to have long runs pixels with identical color.

As you can see on the following picture we can compress consecutive pixels by only replacing each run with one pixel from it and a counter showing how many items it contains.

Lossless RLE for Images
Although lossless RLE can be quite effective for image compression, it is still not the best approach!

In this case we can save only counters for pixels that are repeated more than once. Such the input stream “aaaabbaba” will be compressed as “[4]a[2]baba”.

Actually there are several ways run-length encoding can be used for image compression. A possible way of compressing a picture can be either row by row or column by column, as it is shown on the picture below.

Row by row or column by column compression
Row by row or column by column compression.
Continue reading Computer Algorithms: Lossy Image Compression with Run-Length Encoding

Computer Algorithms: Data Compression with Diagram Encoding and Pattern Substitution


Two variants of run-length encoding are the diagram encoding and the pattern substitution algorithms. The diagram encoding is actually a very simple algorithm. Unlike run-length encoding, where the input stream must consists of many repeating elements, as “aaaaaaaa” for instance, which are very rare in a natural language, there are many so called “diagrams” in almost any natural language. In plain English there are some diagrams as “the”, “and”, “ing” (in the word “waiting” for example), “ a”, “ t”, “ e” and many doubled letters. Actually we can extend those diagrams by adding surrounding spaces. Thus we can encode not only “the”, but “ the “, which are 5 characters (2 spaces and 3 letters) with something shorter. In the other hand, as I said, in plain English there are two many doubled letters, which unfortunately aren’t something special for run-length encoding and the compression ratio will be small. Even worse the encoded text may happen to be longer than the input message. Let’s see some examples.

Let’s say we’ve to encode the message “successfully accomplished”, which consists of four doubled letters. However to compress it with run-length encoding we’ll need at least 8 characters, which doesn’t help us a lot.

// 8 chars replaced by 8 chars!?
input: 	"successfully accomplished"
output:	"su2ce2sfu2ly a2complished"

The problem is that if the input text contains numbers, “2” in particular, we’ve to chose an escape symbol (“@” for example), which we’ll use to mark where the encoded run begins. Thus if the input message is “2 successfully accomplished tasks”, it will be encoded as “2 su@2ce@2sfu@2ly a@2complished tasks”. Now the output message is longer!!! than the input string.

// the compressed message is longer!!!
input:	"2 successfully accomplished"
output:	"2 su@2ce@2sfu@2ly a@2complished tasks"

Again if the input stream contains the escape symbol, we have to find another one, and the problem is that it is often too difficult to find short escape symbol that doesn’t appear in the input text, without a full scan of the text. Continue reading Computer Algorithms: Data Compression with Diagram Encoding and Pattern Substitution

Computer Algorithms: Data Compression with Bitmaps


In my previous post we saw how to compress data consisting of very long runs of repeating elements. This type of compression is known as “run-length encoding” and can be very handy when transferring data with no loss. The problem is that the data must follow a specific format. Thus the string “aaaaaaaabbbbbbbb” can be compressed as “a8b8”. Now a string with length 16 can be compressed as a string with length 4, which is 25% of its initial length without loosing any information. There will be a problem in case the characters (elements) were dispersed in a different way. What would happen if the characters are the same, but they don’t form long runs? What if the string was “abababababababab”? The same length, the same characters, but we cannot use run-length encoding! Indeed using this algorithm we’ll get at best the same string.

In this case, however, we can see another fact. The string consists of too many repeating elements, although not arranged one after another. We can compress this string with a bitmap. This means that we can save the positions of the occurrences of a given element with a sequence of bits, which can be easily converted into a decimal value. In the example above the string “abababababababab” can be compressed as “1010101010101010”, which is 43690 in decimals, and even better AAAA in hexadecimal. Thus the long string can be compressed. When decompressing (decoding) the message we can convert again from decimal/hexadecimal into binary and match the occurrences of the characters. Well, the example above is too simple, but let’s say only one of the characters is repeating and the rest of the string consists of different characters like this: “abacadaeafagahai”. Then we can use bitmap only for the character “a” – “1010101010101010” and compress it as “AAAA bcdefghi”. As you can see all the example strings are exactly 16 characters and that is a limitation. To use bitmaps with variable length of the data is a bit tricky and it is not always easy (if possible) to decompress it.

Bitmap Compression
Basically bitmap compression saves the positions of an element that is repeated very often in the message!

Continue reading Computer Algorithms: Data Compression with Bitmaps