That contains all the Information I want to share about myself. Unfortunately, this is a very dense QR code, and therefore it’s harder to scan properly with a smartphone, especially when printed on a card. It seemed like no matter how much Information I removed from it, it was still the dense kind of QR code. So I started reading about the structure of QR codes to understand what are the limits of the nice smartphone friendly type.

Apparently there are classes of QR codes called versions, where “Ver1” is the most friendly, but contains the least amount of data, while the one above is of version 7. Therefore, I was aiming for version 5 at most.

During my research (when I say research I mean reading the Wikipedia page for QR code), I came across this picture that explains the structure of QR codes:

Source: Wikipedia |

The colors of a box reflect the data it encodes. Of course, this is just a sample I made by hand, in which the colors have very little to do with the data.

My plan was to:

- Find a Python library for encoding QR codes
- Find a way to encode the information in the version 5 QR code
- Write a new feature for the library to add colors to the data

I started with the Python QR code library from: https://github.com/lincolnloop/python-qrcode

But it seemed like it wasn’t optimized enough, this is what I got the first time I used it:

Which is a level 8 QR code, while for the same data I already got a level 7 QR code. At first I assumed it

By investigating the code I found that I can get a better result by using the library a bit differently, but still it wasn't the most optimized encoding.

QR code has 4 different kinds of data encodings:

- Numbers only (0-9),
which every 3 characters are encoded by 10 bitsfor - Number + capital alphabet + “ $%*+-
/:”, in which every 2 characters are encoded by 11 bits. - 8 bit char for each every character takes 8 bits
for Chinese characters encodingKanji

The problem is that moving from one mode to another cost about 15 bits. For example: to encode the string “a111a” you can use either:

- 15 to set to mode 3
Encode “a”- 15 bits to move to mode 1
Encode “111” with 10 bitsMove back to 3 = 15 more bitsmode - Encode “a”

In total: 15 + 8 + 15 + 10 + 15 + 8 = 63 bits

Another option is to:

Move to mode 3 for 15Encode everything “a111a” with 8 * 5 bits

In total: 15 + 40 = 55bits

Therefore, it’s hard to know when it’s really worth changing encoding mode.

To solve the problem with 100% certainty of the best encoding, I used a flow graph. In that graph I made a

Once I created the graph, searching the shortest path from “start” to “end” using “Dijkstra” gave me the very best encoding for my data.

This work brought me back the level 7 QR code, which is still not the level I was aiming. Meanwhile, I found out that UPPER CASE letters are encoded much better than lower case. So by playing with the data a little I got:

This is a level 6 QR code, just one more level to go ;)

The last encoding improvement I got by reducing error correction from M to L (Low). Here it is:

This is a level 5 QR code, big success!

All that I was left to do is take care of the colors. To adjust the colors I simply attached an RGB value to every data piece that I added, and percolated it throw the different functions. For the error correction I used two different modes, one uses a different color (see example below) and one that reflects the data colors in a vague way. Here is the result:

BEGIN

VERSION:2.1

FN: Assaf Nativ

TEL: +972500000000

TITLE: REVERSE ENGINEER

EMAIL:Nativ.Assaf@gmail.com

END: VCARD

Probs - Timing pattern
- Error Correction

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