AoC recap and Looking towards 2019

So for the first time ever, I have finished Advent Of Code.

 The Highs

  • Man it felt good to complete it AoC for once.  Finishing that last challenge, watching the animations, and reading the final piece of the story gave me such a feeling of accomplishment, that I just had to step back from my computer and grin.
  • There were some really diverse challenges that I had fun working through.  Recursive solutions, mapping 3d space, transpiling custom assembly, I definitely had my work cut out for me.
  • I got to learn way more than I thought I was going to in Python.  I knew itertools was awesome, but I got to learn some new things (accumulate, chain.from_iterable).  I also got to play with Counter for the first time.  And I got to play with mypy, which gives you type annotations.

 The Lows

  • Not everything was hunky dory.  For instance, Day 15. Day 15 took me days to do.  There were some very specific edge cases that I had to work out.
  • Day 17 was tricky too, but I ended up liking that one, but it took a little bit to figure out as well.
  • Day 23.  Oh Day 23.  I almost quit due to day 23.  I had an idea, but I knew it wasn’t mathematically sound.  I didn’t understand any of the things they were saying on reddit for this problem.  Eventually I figured out how to make my solution work with the math, but it was rough.

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Advent of Code 2018 Week 1: Recap

So I’ve decided to do Advent of Code this year again (no surprise there), but this time, I’m encouraging everyone in to join me as well.

I’ve completed 8 challenges, and thought it was time for a recap.  I plan on breaking down solutions day by day, and then ending with some lessons learned that might help others.  I compete each night with ugly hacked together code, then work on refactoring it the next day.  What I share is the refactored version (Don’t think I spit something like this out in just an hour).  You can find all my code on my GitHub

So let’s get started.

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Starting Tech Talks From Ground Zero

I’m at DevSpace 2018 right now, and just participated in a Open Space about Lunch and Learns.  As I have previously written, I am the curator for Tech Talks at my workplace.  Instead of talking about how our tech talks work today though, I want to give my ideas on how to start up a tech talk or lunch and learn culture from absolutely nothing.


Remember, you don’t have to have something fully launched day one for it to be valuable.  Be Agile.  Create your MVP for Tech Talks, and iterate on what works; throw away what doesn’t. Continue reading

10 Lessons Learned Working on a Side Project

So I officially have RCFC 1.0 released (the phone app and the Python library). I’m really happy with how it turned out, and I wanted to share some of the lessons I learned along the way.

Lesson #0: Know your reasons for working on the side project

It is very important to be honest with yourself before you work on a project.  Why do you wan to work on it?  There are many motivators, be it money, fame, or experience, but be clear with yourself.  For me, I wanted to see if I could solve a problem, but I treated this as a learning project.  It was okay if I failed.  I wasn’t planning on making money with it.  I also wanted to see if I could build a reusable framework that others could learn from.  I wanted to know how to build a phone app.  I also was working on learning circuit design, and I needed a motivation to learn.  This is why I worked on RCFC.

Additionally, recognize your constraints.  You will not have a lot of time to work on a side project.  So I wanted to put in some upfront effort to minimize ongoing maintenance.  With RCFC, that meant that in order to update functionality, I only had to write a Python function, not update a web framework or phone app (Hooray open closed principle).

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AdventOfCode2017 Day 5 and 6

Another two days down, no sweat (minus a segfault on day 6, but shhhh.)

Day 5’s challenge was to take a list of jump offsets and determine how many jumps you need to take before exiting the block of code (modifying the jump offsets each time)

Day 6’s challenge was to take a list of memory banks, run through a balancing algorithm regarding allocations, and count how many steps until an infinite loop.

Let’s take a look at the code, as they clock in at <40 lines apiece.

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AdventOfCode2017 – Day 4

Hooray, another easy one.  After Day number 3, I could certainly use it.  This challenge involved taking a list of passphrases, and counting up the number of passphrases that had no duplicate words.   This seems simple, just a split, sort and application of std::unique.

Part 2 had me check for anagrams rather than duplicate words.  This was also easy, as I could map over a sort function to each word in the passphrase, and then check for uniqueness.

Let’s look at the code

#include <algorithm>
#include <iostream>
#include <string>

#include "algo.h"
#include "input.h"

std::string sortString(std::string s) {
    std::sort(s.begin(), s.end());
    return s;

bool isUnique(const std::string& passphrase) {
    auto words = algo::map(input::split(passphrase), sortString);
    std::sort(words.begin(), words.end());
    return words.end() == std::unique(words.begin(), words.end());

int main() {
    auto passPhrases = input::readMultiLineFile("input/input04.txt");
    auto count = std::count_if(passPhrases.begin(), passPhrases.end(), isUnique);
    std::cout << count << "\n";
    return 0;

Super straight forward.  I think the trickiest thing was std::unique, because I didn’t realize it returned the end iterator of the range.  But once I figured that out, this wasn’t so bad.

Stay tuned for day 5!

AdventOfCode2017 Day 3

So this day was a tad bit rougher.  I wasn’t expecting the sudden difficulty increase on day 3.  The problems were straight-forward enough, but I didn’t want to brute force my way through them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the math worked out, so brute force became one of my last options

However, on the bright side, I got to play with std::optional, so I got that going for me.


I’m going to have a tough time explaining the problem any better than advent of code, so I’m just going to link you there instead

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