Jeffrey A. Johnson’s SEPA: A Simple, Efficient Permutation Algorithm is indeed a fast and simple way to generate all the permutations of n items or P(n) in lexicographic order. In this article, I describe a similar algorithm for generating partial permutations of n items taken k at a time, which we denote as P(n, k).

SEPA Explained

Johnson discovered that a set of logical steps could be taken from one permutation to the next. Repeatedly calling the algorithm on the last output obtained generates all permutations in sorted order.

It works by first scanning for the rightmost ascent or pair of numbers where the first number is less than the one immediately after it.

Table 1: P(5)17..24 with rightmost ascents highlighted.
Pi a0 a1 a2 a3 a4
17 0 3 4 2 1
18 0 4 1 2 3
19 0 4 1 3 2
20 0 4 2 1 3
21 0 4 2 3 1
22 0 4 3 1 2
23 0 4 3 2 1
24 1 0 2 3 4

If no ascent is found, then all numbers are in descending order and this is the last, lexicographic permutation.

Otherwise, the number at the start of the ascent is swapped with the smallest higher number to its right.

Table 2: P'(5)17..24 after swaps (in red). Highlighted cells are about to be reversed.
P’i a0 a1 a2 a3 a4
17′ 0 4 3 2 1
18′ 0 4 1 3 2
19′ 0 4 2 3 1
20′ 0 4 2 3 1
21′ 0 4 2 3 1
22′ 0 4 3 2 1
23′ 1 4 3 2 0
24′ 1 0 2 4 3

Finally, all the numbers to the right (which will be in descending order) are ‘flipped’ or reversed (to ascending order). The resulting array is the next permutation.

P(n) to P(n,k)

To begin generating P(n,k), let’s take a look at the first few permutations of 5 elements taken 3 at a time, P(5,3) and compare this with P(5):

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(I originally planned this to be a single article, but because of the scope decided to split it into two parts. Read the first part for the the basics of using Sun’s HttpServer to conduct functional HTTP testing. Here we revisit our functional test and rewrite it using JUnit 4.7’s new Interceptors feature.)


In my previous post, I demonstrated how to use Sun’s HttpServer API to write a functional test of an HTTP ‘conversation’.

Recall that I thought my initial solution seemed inelegant. It was verbose, with some start up and shutdown code that would have to be repeated for each test, and which I felt cluttered the actual test code.

It was also tedious, in the sense that the raw HttpHandler and HttpExchange API required us to do quite a few things manually, and unintuitively (such as having to compute and write out the length of our response before the response itself).

In this post, we’ll explore how to use the new Interceptors feature ‘quietly’ released with JUnit 4.7 to write reusable, portable pre and post-test behaviour. I’ll also exhibit a convenient HttpHandler implementation that simplifies some of the effort required in responding to HTTP requests.

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(I originally planned this to be a single article, but because of the scope decided to split it into two parts. This first part explores the basics of using Sun’s HttpServer to conduct functional HTTP testing. Part 2 revisits the following test using JUnit 4.7’s new interceptors (rules) feature and demonstrates a simpler HTTP handler.)


At work, we recently had the need to perform functional testing of a custom client that used HTTP as a transport. This isn’t strictly unit testing since we’re conducting actual HTTP over a socket & port instead of stubbing out or mocking the server, but in this case that was the only real way to test the client.

I could’ve fired up a standalone Web server and used that, but decided against it for a couple of reasons.

First, I wanted to have the server respond in a specific way to a particular client request. For example, if the request was for GET /1234.xml I might want to respond with an HTTP 200 and an XML response body. Another request for GET /0.xml might return an HTTP 404 instead.

To do that using, say, a Servlet container would mean writing multiple Servlets (mapped to various request URI) or a ‘rich’ Servlet with additional complexity. I didn’t want to have to write tests to test my test scaffolding!

Secondly, a standalone server would have to be started and stopped outside of our standard compile/test/package process (using Maven). Other people wouldn’t be able to run the tests successfully without having the test server up as well.

Clearly, the best way to go was to use an embedded HTTP server, which would allow us to provide specific responses tailored for each unit test.

As luck would have it, it turns out that Sun’s Java 6 implementation comes with a lightweight HTTP server API built in. Read on as I demonstrate the basic use of Sun’s HTTP server classes to write a functional test.

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