Visualizing gzipped compressed text files

By | January 7, 2020

Even though I have been using computers all my life there are still many aspects of computing that are mysterious to me, and I am sure many others…

One of my favorite quotes is “A leads to B leads to C” (“Future’sEnd” – StarTrek:Voyager, Season 3, episodes 50 & 51) and so my last post being on “binder” I started to explore the pandas cookbook binder… but I found myself on the Twitter account of the author, Julia Evans, and she had a very fascinating short video to help understand the compression scheme used for making files smaller. Her entry was part of a long list of what she learned at her “hacker school” titled “Day 16: gzip + poetry = awesome.” But in fact she has 3 entries on Gzip:

Oct 24 2013 Day 16: gzip + poetry = awesome
Oct 21 2013 Day 13: Off by one errors
Oct 16 2013 Day 11: How does gzip work?

For me the “gem” was the short youtube video that was embedded that she made based on a small program (written in the Julia language) to be applied to a text-based gzipped file. (See “gzip + poetry = awesome” below.)

So A (binder) lead to B (the “awesome” video.)

But then B lead to C, another very nice YouTube video explaining the compression, in more historical terms, the “LZ 77” method.

I am so glad that now I can understand, and visualize what happens in a compressed text file… thanks to pointers!

See “Elegant Compression” video below.

gzip + poetry = awesome

Elegant Compression in Text (The LZ 77 Method) – Computerphile

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