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Optimize your Java applications performance
By Erwin Vervaet & Maarten De Cock - 2003-12-15 Page:  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

The Piece Class

Before we start designing the Piece class, we need to consider what this class should represent. When you look at Figure 2, you can see that a Meteor puzzle piece consists of five connected cells. Each cell is a regular hexagon with six sides: EAST, SOUTHEAST, SOUTHWEST, WEST, NORTHWEST, and NORTHEAST. When two cells of a piece are joined at a particular side, we call these cells neighbours. In the end, a Piece object is nothing more than a set of five connected Cell objects. Each Cell object has six sides and six possible neighbouring cells. Implementing the Cell class is straightforward, as shown in Listing 2. Note that we maintain a processed flag in a Cell object. We will use this flag later on to avoid infinite loops.

Figure 2. A puzzle piece and its cells
A puzzle piece and its cells

Listing 2. The Cell class

public class Cell {
  public static final int NUMBEROFSIDES = 6;

  // The sides of a cell
  public static final int EAST      = 0;
  public static final int SOUTHEAST = 1;
  public static final int SOUTHWEST = 2;
  public static final int WEST      = 3;
  public static final int NORTHWEST = 4;
  public static final int NORTHEAST = 5;

  private Cell[] neighbours = new Cell[NUMBEROFSIDES];

  private boolean processed = false;

  public Cell getNeighbour(int side) {
    return neighbours[side];

  public void setNeighbour(int side, Cell cell) {
    neighbours[side] = cell;

  public boolean isProcessed() {
    return processed;

  public void setProcessed(boolean b) {
    processed = b;

The Piece class is more interesting because we need a method to calculate the permutations of a Piece. We can find all permutations by first rotating the piece around the six sides of one of its cells, flipping it upside down, and finally rotating it again around the six sides of one of its cells. As we mentioned before, a piece consists of five adjacent cells. Flipping or rotating the piece is simply flipping or rotating all of its cells. So we need flip() and rotate() methods for Cell objects. Both flipping and rotating are easily accomplished by changing the neighbouring sides accordingly. These methods are provided in the PieceCell subclass of the Cell class, shown in Listing 3. A PieceCell object is a cell used in a Piece object.

Listing 3. The PieceCell subclass

public class PieceCell extends Cell {
  public void flip() {
    Cell buffer = getNeighbour(NORTHEAST);
    setNeighbour(NORTHEAST, getNeighbour(NORTHWEST));
    setNeighbour(NORTHWEST, buffer);
    buffer = getNeighbour(EAST);
    setNeighbour(EAST, getNeighbour(WEST));
    setNeighbour(WEST, buffer);
    buffer = getNeighbour(SOUTHEAST);
    setNeighbour(SOUTHEAST, getNeighbour(SOUTHWEST));
    setNeighbour(SOUTHWEST, buffer);

  public void rotate() {
    // Clockwise rotation

    Cell eastNeighbour = getNeighbour(EAST);
    setNeighbour(EAST, getNeighbour(NORTHEAST));
    setNeighbour(NORTHEAST, getNeighbour(NORTHWEST));
    setNeighbour(NORTHWEST, getNeighbour(WEST));
    setNeighbour(WEST, getNeighbour(SOUTHWEST));
    setNeighbour(SOUTHWEST, getNeighbour(SOUTHEAST));
    setNeighbour(SOUTHEAST, eastNeighbour);

Using the PieceCell class, we can complete the implementation of the Piece class. Listing 4 shows you the source code:

Listing 4. The Piece class

public class Piece {
  public static final int NUMBEROFCELLS = 5;
  public static final int NUMBEROFPERMUTATIONS = 12;

  private PieceCell[] pieceCells = new PieceCell[NUMBEROFCELLS];
  private int currentPermutation = 0;

  private void rotatePiece() {
    for (int i = 0; i < NUMBEROFCELLS; i++) {

  private void flipPiece() {
    for (int i = 0; i < NUMBEROFCELLS; i++) {

  public Piece nextPermutation() {
    if (currentPermutation == NUMBEROFPERMUTATIONS)
      currentPermutation = 0;

    switch (currentPermutation%6) {
      case 0:
        // Flip after every 6 rotations




    return this;

  public void resetProcessed() {
    for (int i = 0; i < NUMBEROFCELLS; i++) {

  //Getters and setters have been omitted

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First published by IBM developerWorks

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Article copyright and all rights retained by the author.