Sunday, 3 May 2020

Information on incrementation

Defining increment

Just to avoid any confusion, the operation that this post is about is adding 1 (one) to a value: $$\text{increment}(x) = x + 1$$ Specifically, performing that operation in the domain of bit-vectors.

Incrementing is very closely related to negating. After all, -x = ~x + 1 and therefore x + 1 = -~x, though putting it that way feel oddly reversed to me.

Bit-string notation

In bit-string notation (useful for analysing compositions of operations at the bit level), increment can be represented as: $$a01^k + 1 = a10^k$$

An "English" interpretation of that form is that an increment carries through the trailing set bits, turning them to zero, and then carries into the right-most unset bit, setting it.

That "do something special with the right-most unset bit" aspect of increment is the basis for various right-most bit manipulations, some of which were implemented in AMD Trailing Bit Manipulation (TBM) (which has been discontinued).

For example, the right-most unset bit in x can be set using x | (x + 1), which has a nice symmetry with the more widely known trick for unsetting the right-most set bit, x & (x - 1).

Increment by XOR

As was the case with negation, there is a way to define increment in terms of XOR. The bits that flip during an increment are all the trailing set bits and the right-most unset bit, the TBM instruction for which is BLCMSK. While that probably does not seem very useful yet, the fact that x ^ (x + 1) takes the form of some number of leading zeroes followed by some number of trailing ones turns out to be useful.

Suppose one wants to increment a bit-reversed integer, a possible (and commonly seen) approach is looping of the bits from top the bottom and implementing the "carry through the ones, into the first zero" logic by hand. However, if the non-reversed value was also available (let's call it i), the bit-reversed increment could be implemented by calculating the number of ones in the mask as tzcnt(i + 1) + 1 (or popcnt(i ^ (i + 1))) and forming a mask with that number of ones located at the desired place within an integer:

// i   = normal counter
// rev = bit-reversed counter
// N   = 1 << number_of_bits
int maskLen = tzcnt(i + 1) + 1;
rev ^= N - (N >> maskLen);
That may still not seem useful, but this enables an implementation of the bit-reversal permutation (not a bit-reversal itself, but the permutation that results from bit-reversing the indices). The bit-reversal permutation is sometimes used to re-order the result of a non-auto-sorting Fast Fourier Transform algorithm into the "natural" order. For example,
// X = array of data
// N = length of X, power of two
for (uint32_t i = 0, rev = 0; i < N; ++i)
    if (i < rev)
        swap(X[i], X[rev]);
    int maskLen = tzcnt(i + 1) + 1;
    rev ^= N - (N >> maskLen);
This makes no special effort to be cache-efficient.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Square root of bitwise NOT

The square root of bitwise NOT, if it exists, would be some function f such that f(f(x)) = not x, or in other words, f²(x) = not x. It is similar in concept to the √NOT gate in Quantum Computing, but in a different domain which makes the solution very different.

Before trying to find any specific f, it may be interesting to wonder what properties it would have to have (and lack).

  • f must be bijective, because its square is bijective.
  • is an involution but f cannot be an involution, because its square would then be the identity.
  • f viewed as a permutation (which can be done, because it has to be bijective) must be a derangement, if it had any fixed point then that would also be a fixed point in and the not function does not have a fixed point.

Does f exist?

In general, a permutation has a square root if and only if the number of cycles of same even length is even. The not function, being an involution, can only consist of swaps and fixed points, and we already knew it has no fixed points so it must consist of only swaps. A swap is a cycle of length 2, so an even length. Since the not function operates on k bits, the size of its domain is a power of two, 2k. That almost always guarantees an even number of swaps, except when k = 1. So, the not function on a single bit has no square root, but for more than 1 bit there are solutions.

f for even k

For 2 bits, the not function is the permutation (0 3) (1 2). An even number of even-length cycles, as predicted. The square root can be found by interleaving the cycles, giving (0 1 3 2) or (1 0 2 3). In bits, the first looks like:


Which corresponds to swapping the bits and then inverting the lsb, the other variant corresponds to inverting the lsb first and then swapping the bits.

That solution can be applied directly to other even numbers of bits, swapping the even and odd bits and then inverting the even bits, but the square root is not unique and there are multiple variants. The solution can be generalized a bit, combining a step that inverts half of the bits with a permutation that brings each half of the bits into the positions that are inverted when it is applied twice, so that half the bits are inverted the first time and the other half of the bits are inverted the second time. For example for 32 bits, there is a nice solution in x86 assembly:

bswap eax
xor eax, 0xFFFF

f for odd k

Odd k makes things less easy. Consider k=3, so (0 7) (1 6) (2 5) (3 4). There are different ways to pair up and interleave the cycles, leading to several distinct square roots:

  1. (0 1 7 6) (2 3 5 4)
  2. (0 2 7 5) (1 3 6 4)
  3. (0 3 7 4) (1 2 6 5)
  4. etc..


These correspond to slightly tricky functions, for example the first one has as its three from lsb to msb: the msb but inverted, the parity of the input, and finally the lsb. The other ones also incorporate the parity of the input in some way.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

abs and its "extra" result

The abs function has, in its usual (most useful) formulation, one extra value in its codomain than just "all non-negative values". That extra value is the most negative integer, which satisfies abs(x) == x despite being negative. Even accepting that the absolute value of the most negative integer is itself, it may still seem strange (for an operation that is supposed to have such a nice symmetry) that the size of the codomain is not exactly half of the size of the domain.

That there is an "extra" value in the codomain, and that it is specifically the most negative integer, may be more intuitively obvious when the action of abs on the number line circle is depicted as "folding" the circle symmetrically in half across the center and through zero (around which abs is supposed to be symmetric), folding the negative numbers onto the corresponding positive numbers:

Clearly both zero and the most negative integer (which is also on the "folding line") stay in place in such a folding operation and remain part of the resulting half-circle. That there is an "extra" value in the codomain is the usual fencepost effect: the resulting half-circle is half the size of the original circle in some sense, but the "folding line" cuts through two points that have now become endpoints.

By the way the "ones' complement alternative" to the usual abs, let's call it OnesAbs(x) = x < 0 ? ~x : x (there is a nice branch-free formulation too) does have a codomain with a size exactly half of the size of its domain. The possible results are exactly the non-negative values. It has to pay for that by, well, not being the usual abs. The "folding line" for OnesAbs runs between points, avoiding the fencepost issue:

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Signed wrapping is meaningful and algebraically nice

In this post I defend wrapping, a bit more opinionated than my other posts. As usual I'm writing from the perspective that signed and unsigned integer types are a thin transparent wrapper around bit vectors, of course I am aware that they are often not used that way. That difference between their use and their actual nature is probably the source of the problems.

Signed wrapping is not wrong

It is often said that when signed wraparound occurs, the result is simply wrong. That is an especially narrow view to take, probably inspired by treating fixed-size bit vector arithmetic as if it is arithmetic in ℤ, which it is not. Bit vector arithmetic can be viewed as arithmetic in ℤ so long as no "overflow" occurs, but violating that condition does not make the result wrong, it makes the interpretation wrong.

Signed wrapping is meaningful

The wrapping works exactly the same as unsigned wrapping, it corresponds to taking the lowest k bits of the arbitrary precision result. Such a truncation therefore gives you exactly k meaningful bits, it's just a slice of the result. Some upper bits may be lost, they can be calculated if you need them. If the whole result is meaningful, then part of it is too, namely at least under the interpretation of being "part of the result".

An other well known example of benign wrapping is the calculation of the average of two non-negative signed integers. While (a + b) / 2 gives inconvenient results when the addition "overflows", (uint)(a + b) / 2 (using unsigned division) or (a + b) >>> 1 (unsigned right shift as in Java) are correct even when the addition of two positive values results in a negative value. An other way to look at it is that there is no unsigned wrapping. Nominally the integers being added here are signed but that doesn't really matter. Casting the inputs to unsigned before adding them is a no-op that can be performed mentally.

Wrapping can also sometimes be cancelled with more wrapping. For example, taking an absolute value with wrapping and casting the result to an unsigned type of the same width results in the actual absolute value without the funny int.MinValue edge case:

(uint)abs(int.MinValue) = 
(uint)abs(-2147483648) =
(uint)(-2147483648) =

This is not what Math.Abs in C# does, it throws, perhaps inspired by its signed return type. On the other hand, Java's Math.abs gets this right and leaves the reinterpretation up to the consumer of the result, of course in Java there is no uint32 to cast to but you can still treat that result as if it is unsigned. Such "manual reinterpretation" is in general central to integer arithmetic, it's really about the bits, not the "default meaning" of those bits.

The principle of cancelling wrapping also has some interesting data structure applications. For example, in a Fenwick tree or Summed Area Table, the required internal integer width is the desired integer width of any range/area-sum query that you actually want to make. So a SAT over signed bytes can use an internal width of 16 bits as long as you restrict queries to an area of 256 cells or fewer, since 256 * -128 = -215 which still fits a signed 16 bit word.

An other nice case of cancelled wrapping is strength reductions like A * 255 = (A << 8) - A. It is usually not necessary to do that manually, but that's not the point, the point is that the wrapping is not "destructive". The overall expression wraps only iff A * 255 wraps and even then it has exactly the same result. There are cases in which the left shift experience "signed wrapping" but A * 255 does not (for example, in 32 bits, A = 0x00800000), in those cases the subtraction also wraps and brings the result back to being "unwrapped". That is not a coincidence nor an instance of two wrongs making a right, it's a result of the intermediate wrapped result being meaningful and wrapping being algebraically nice.

Signed wrapping is not inherent

Signed and unsigned integers are two different ways to interpret bit vectors. Almost all operations have no specific signed or unsigned version, only a generic version that does both. There is no such thing as signed addition or unsigned addition, addition is just addition. Operations that are actually different are:

  • Comparisons except equality
  • Division and remainder
  • Right shift, maybe, but arithmetic right shift and logical right shift can both be reasonably applied in both signed and unsigned contexts
  • Widening conversion
  • Widening multiplication
One thing almost all of these have in common is that they cannot overflow, except division of the smallest integer by negative one. By the way I regard that particular quirk of division as a mistake since it introduces an asymmetry between dividing by negative one and multiplying by negative one.

The result is that the operations that can "overflow" are neither signed nor unsigned, and therefore do not overflow specifically in either of those ways. If they can be said to overflow at all, when and how they do so depends on how they are being viewed by an outside entity, not on the operation itself.

The distinction between unsigned and signed wrapping is equivalent to imagining a "border" on the ring of integers (not the mathematical Ring of Integers) either between 0 and -1 (unsigned) or between signed-smallest and signed-highest numbers, but there is no border. Crossing either of the imaginary borders does not mean nearly as much as many people think it means.

Signed wrapping is algebraically nice

A property that wrapping arithmetic shares with arbitrary precision integer arithmetic, but not with trapping arithmetic, is that it obeys a good number of desirable algebraic laws. The root cause of this is that ℤ/ℤ2k is a ring, and trapping arithmetic is infested with implicit conditional exceptions. Signed arithmetic can largely be described by ℤ/ℤ2k, like unsigned arithmetic, since it is mostly a reinterpretation of unsigned arithmetic. That description does not cover all operations or properties, but it covers the most important aspects.

Here is a small selection of laws that apply to wrapping arithmetic but not to trapping arithmetic:

  • -(-A) = A
  • A + -A = 0
  • A - B = A + -B
  • A + (B + C) = (A + B) + C
  • A * (B + C) = A * B + A * C
  • A * -B = -A * B = -(A * B)
  • A * (B * C) = (A * B) * C
  • A * 15 = A * 16 - A
  • A * multiplicative_inverse(A) = 1 (iff A is odd, this is something not found in ℤ which has only two trivially invertible numbers, so sometimes wrapping gives you a new useful property)
Some laws also apply to trapping arithmetic:
  • A + 0 = A
  • A - A = 0
  • A * 0 = 0
  • A * 1 = A
  • A * -1 = -A
  • -(-(-A)) = -A

The presence of all the implicit exceptional control flow makes the code very hard to reason about, for humans as well as compilers.

Compilers react to that by not optimizing as much as they otherwise would, since they are forced to preserve the exception behaviour. Almost anything written in the source code must actually happen, and in the same order as originally written, just to preserve exceptions that are not even supposed to ever actually be triggered. The consequences of that are often seen in Swift, where code using the &+ operator is optimized quite well (including auto-vectorization) and code using the unadorned + operator can be noticeably slower.

Humans .. probably don't truly want trapping arithmetic to begin with, what they want is to have their code checked for unintended wrapping. Wrapping is not a bug by itself, but unintended wrapping is. So while canceling a "bare" double negation is not algebraically justified in trapping arithmetic, a programmer will do it anyway since the goal is not to do trapping arithmetic, but removing bad edge cases. Statically checking for unintended wrapping would be a more complete solution, no longer relying on being lucky enough to dynamically encounter every edge case. Arbitrary precision integers would just remove most edge cases altogether, though it would rely heavily on range propagation for performance, making it a bit fragile.

But anyway, wrapping is not so bad. Just often unintended.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Implementing Euclidean division

While implementing various kinds of division in haroldbot, I had to look up/work out how to implement different kinds of signed division in terms of unsigned division. The common truncated division (written as /s in this post and in haroldbot, /t in some other places) is natural result of using your intuition from ℝ and writing the definition based on signs and absolute values, ensuring that the division only happens between non-negative numbers (making its meaning unambiguous) and that the result is an integer: $$\DeclareMathOperator{\sign}{sign} D /_s d = \sign(d)\cdot\sign(D)\cdot\left\lfloor\cfrac{\left|D\right|}{\left|d\right|}\right\rfloor$$ That definition leads to a plot like this, showing division by 3 as an example:

Of course the absolute values and sign functions create symmetry around the origin, and that seems like a reasonable symmetry to have. But that little plateau around the origin often makes the mirror at the origin a kind of barrier that you can run into, leading to the well-documented downsides of truncated division.

The alternative floored division and Euclidean division have a different symmetry, which does not lead to that little plateau, instead the staircase pattern simply continues:

The point of symmetry, marked by the red cross, is at (-0.5, -0.5). Flipping around -0.5 may remind you of bitwise complement, especially if you have read my earlier post visualizing addition, subtraction and bitwise complement, and mirroring around -0.5 is no more than a conditional complement. So Euclidean division may be implemented with positive division as: $$\DeclareMathOperator{\sgn}{sgn} \DeclareMathOperator{\xor}{\bigoplus} D /_e d = \sign(d)\cdot(\sgn(D)\xor\left\lfloor\cfrac{D\xor\sgn(D)}{\left|d\right|}\right\rfloor)$$ Where the sgn function is -1 for negative numbers and 0 otherwise, and the circled plus is XOR. XORing with the sgn is a conditional complement, with the inner XOR being responsible for the horizontal component of the symmetry and the outer XOR being responsible for the vertical component.

It would have been even nicer if the symmetry of the divisor also worked that way, but unfortunately that doesn't quite work out. For the divisor, the offset introduced by mirroring around -0.5 would affect the size of the steps of the staircase instead of just their position.

The /e and %e operators are available in haroldbot, though like all forms of division the general case is really too hard, even for the circuit-SAT based truth checker (the BDD engine stands no chance at all).

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Notes on negation

The well known formulas

Most readers will be familiar with -x = ~x + 1 = ~(x - 1). These are often just stated without justification, or even an explanation for why they are equivalent. There are some algebraic tricks, but I don't think they explain much, so I'll use the rings from visualizing addition, subtraction and bitwise complement. ~x + 1, in terms of such a ring, means "flip it, then draw a CCW arrow on it with a length of one tick". ~(x - 1) means "draw a CW arrow with a length of one tick, then flip". Picking CCW first is arbitrary, but the point is that the direction is reversed because flipping the ring also flips the arrow if it is drawn first, but not if it is drawn second. Equivalent to drawing an arrow, you may rotate the ring around its center.

So they're equivalent, but why do they negate. The same effect also explains
a - b = ~(~a + b), which when you substitute a = 0 almost directly gives -b = ~(b - 1). Or using the difference between one's complement and proper negation as I pointed out in that visualization post: the axis of flipping is offset by half a tick, so the effect of flipping introduces a difference of 1 which can be removed by rotating by a tick.

Bit-string notation

I first saw this notation in The Art of Computer Programming v4A, but it probably predates it. It provides a more "structural" view of negation: $$-(a10^k) =\; {\sim} (a10^k - 1) =\; {\sim} (a01^k) = ({\sim} a)10^k$$ Here juxtaposition is concatenation, and exponentiation is repetition and is done before concatenation. a is an arbitrary bit string that may be infinitely long. It does not really deal with the negation of zero, since the input is presumed to end in 10k, but the negation of zero is not very interesting anyway.

What this notation shows is that negation can be thought of as complementing everything to the left of the rightmost set bit, a property that is frequently useful when working with the rightmost bit. A mask of the rightmost set bit and everything to the right of it can be found with
x ^ (x - 1) or, on a modern x86 processor, blsmsk. That leads to negation by XOR: $$-x = x\oplus {\sim}\text{blsmsk}(x)$$ which is sort of cheating since ~blsmsk(x) = x ^ ~(x - 1) = x ^ -x, so this said that
-x = x ^ x ^ -x. It may still be useful occasionally, for example when a value of "known odd-ness" is being negated and then XORed with something, the negation can be merged into the XOR.

Negation by MUX

Using that mask from blsmsk, negation can be written as $$-x = \text{mux}(\text{blsmsk}(x), {\sim} x, x)$$ which combines with bit-level commutativity in some fun ways:

  • (~x + 1) + (x - 1) = mux(blsmsk(x), ~x, x) + mux(blsmsk(x), x, ~x) = ~x + x = -1
  • (~x + 1) | (x - 1) = ~x | x = -1
  • (~x + 1) ^ (x - 1) = ~x ^ x = -1
  • (~x + 1) & (x - 1) = ~x & x = 0
All of these have simpler explanations that don't involve bit-level commutativity, by rewriting them back in terms of negation. But I thought it was nice that it was possible this way too, because it makes it seem as though a +1 and a -1 on both sides of an OR, XOR or AND cancel out, which in general they definitely do not.

The formula that I've been using as an example for the proof-finder on,
(a & (a ^ a - 1)) | (~a & ~(a ^ a - 1)) == -a, is actually a negation-by-MUX, written using mux(m, x, y) = y & m | x & ~m.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Bit-level commutativity

By bit-level commutativity I mean that a binary operator has the property that swapping any subset of bits between the left and right operands does not change the result. The subset may be any old thing, so in general I will call an operator o bit-level commutative if it satisfies the following property $$\forall m,a,b: a \circ b = \text{mux}(m, a, b) \circ \text{mux}(m, b, a)$$ For example, by setting m = b we get a ⊗ b = (a & b) ⊗ (a | b), sort of "bitwise sorting" the operands, with zeroes moved to the left operand and ones moved to the right operand (if possible).

Anyway, obviously AND, OR and XOR (and their complemented versions) are all bit-level commutative, indeed any purely bitwise operation (expressible as a vectorized function that takes two booleans as input) that is commutative is necessarily also bit-level commutative, for obvious reasons. Interestingly, addition is also bit-level commutative, which may be less obvious (at least in a recent coding competition, it seemed that people struggled with this). It may help to consider addition on a slightly more digit-by-digit level: $$ a + b = \sum_i 2^i (a_i + b_i)$$ It should be clear from the bit-level "exploded" sum, that the individual bits ai and bi can be either swapped or not, independently for any i. This should get more obvious the more you think about what representing a number in a positional numeral system even means in the first place: it was always a sum, so adding two numbers is like taking the sum of two "big" sums, of course it does not matter which of the big sums any particular contribution comes from.

Alternatively, the old a + b = (a ^ b) + 2(a & b) (ie computing bit-level sums and then adding the carries separately) can explain it: both XOR and AND are bit-level commutative, so the whole expression is, too.

Anyway, a consequence is that a + b = (a & b) + (a | b), which I have more commonly seen derived as:

a + b = (a ^ b) + 2(a & b)  // add carries separately
      = (a | b) - (a & b) + 2(a & b) // see below
      = (a | b) + (a & b)
Where (a ^ b) = (a | b) - (a & b) can be explained as XOR being like OR, except that unlike OR it is 0 when both operands are set, so just subtract that case out. I always like having two (or more!) explanations from completely different directions like that.

Multiplication (including carryless multiplication and OR-multiplication) is of course not bit-level commutative. For example if one operand is zero and the other is odd and not 1, then the lowest bit could be swapped to make neither operand zero, and a non-zero result could be produced that way. Operations such as comparison and (by extension) min and max are obviously not bit-level commutative.

There is probably more to this, I may add some stuff later.