Today I learned: regex > loop

In writing “quad-quad”, which is a set of four 4-letter speak-able words that can be used as a user-friendly “bookmark” into easily finding a record, I was writing a “quick” program to extract the contents of wikidatawiki-20220820-pages-articles-multistream.xml (a wikipedia dump) and came into this large delay in the following loop:

$alphas = 'qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm ';
$newline = '';
for ($x = 0; $x < strlen($line); $x++) {
    $c = substr($line, $x, 1);
    if (strpos($alphas, $c) !== false) {
        $newline = $newline . $c;
    else {
        $newline = $newline . ' ';

The loops main purpose is to sanitize any non-letter data by replacing unknown characters with a space for later processing. The end result would be words that I could filter down to 4-character words and tally them up.

When the program read a line around 1mb in length it would “hang” for a bit as it chewed through the data. In a nutshell 25,100,655 bytes of data would take 24m36s. It was time to optimize.

Replacing the previous with the following regex performance was increased immensely.

$newline = preg_replace('/[^a-z]/', ' ', $line);

The same amount of data took 1.892s.

Lesson: If you don’t know regexes, learn regexes.

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