Advent of Code 2022

It’s that time of the year again! After finishing up 2017 and 2021’s Advent of Code this year, I had to make sure that I didn’t lag behind by not completing this year’s. Since I’m doing C_++ as my full day job, I decided to tackle the full project as C++. I knew I wouldn’t be as fast as I would in Python, but I had a few goals:

  • Reinforce my C++17 knowledge. I last did an Advent of Code in C++ in 2017, when my knowledge of C++17 was still rudimentary.
  • Try to work on more readable C++ (no, that’s not an oxymoron)
  • Work on C++ 20/23 features such as ranges, modules, print/fmt, spaceship, generators, and more
  • Everything from scratch, with only the standard lib.

Well, as I worked on it, how did I do?

  • Advent of Code does not need a ton of advanced language features, but I did use optional, variant, and string view quite liberally.
  • I think my C++ became a bit more idiomatic, so I consider this a win
  • I was excited to use print/fmt and generators, but guess what. My compiler didn’t support them. Also, no importing std module, and I did not write enough common code for my own modules or concepts. I played around a little bit to learn, but I need to do more. However, spaceship operator was awesome, I used spans on almost every problem, and ranges were definitely nice for collection pipeline. I need to do more with ranges though as I found out about some nice views half-way through that would make things way easier.

With that said, let’s look at the challenges. I have my thoughts about each problem listed below, as well as how hard I thought they were, and my personal rating out of 5. You can find the repository at

Continue reading

Advent of Code 2017 Reflection

Well, it’s December, so that means it’s Advent Of Code Season again. While I’m working on 2022, I also want to try and hit my yearly goal of 360 stars.

I started this Advent of Code way back in 2017, got stuck for like five years, and decided to come back and crack some problems. This year was a C++ year ( I was working at ADTRAN at the time) and now that I’m back to writing C++, I figured it was a good year to try and finish up. As usual, I have my thoughts about each problem listed below, as well as how hard I thought they were, and my personal rating out of 5. You can find the repository at

One thing to note: I started off trying to write C++ without raw loops to try and get better at the std::algorithm. Towards the end, I abandoned that and started to try to get C++20 concepts better. Looking back, it’s not the best or idiomatic C++

Read more: Advent of Code 2017 Reflection Continue reading

Advent of Code 2021 Reflection

Well, it took me way longer than I wanted (I did the first 20 throughout Advent, but took six months off ), but I finally finished 2021’s Advent of Code. It definitely got sloppier as I went on, but hey, I cracked 300 stars! (I only have 48 stars that I have not done at this point)

As I did in previous years, I wrote up a little blurb on each problem, and rated them in both difficulty and how much I liked it. You can find my solutions here. My rules are to use standard library only, write everything else from scratch (no reuse from past years) and lint/mypy as much as I can.

Day 1

Type of Problem: Iteration

Difficulty: Easy

Rating: 4/5

Day 1 typically is an iteration problem, where you have to loop through some data and either aggregate the data or compare the data with its previous or next values. To solve this one efficiently, I zip together the values I want to compare and track the data I want to compare:

MVP was the ability to call the first half’s function from the second.

Measurements = list[int]
def get_number_of_increasing_measurements(measurements: Measurements) -> int:
    measurement_pairs = zip(measurements, measurements[1:])
    return len([p for p in measurement_pairs if p[1] > p[0]])

def get_number_of_increasing_sliding_windows(measurements: Measurements) -> int:
    measurement_sums = [sum(w) for w in
                           zip(measurements, measurements[1:], measurements[2:])]
    return get_number_of_increasing_measurements(measurement_sums)

Read more: Advent of Code 2021 Reflection

Day 2

Type of Problem: Coordinate Systems

Difficulty: Easy

Rating: 3/5

The problems that end up dealing with figuring out where you are after a series of directions are not typically my favorite. Similar to a Mars Rover problem, it’s fairly easy to figure out, and this problem was no different. This involved tracking x and y separately, or tracking x, y , and an aim variable as you go through each move.

Day 3

Type of Problem: Binary Manipulation

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 3/5

This involved figuring out which bits are the most common, and doing some bitwise manipulation, so nothing too bad here. However, part 2 involves filtering bitstrings based on certain criteria, which could probably trip some people up as the code bloats on them. I thought this one was okay, as it was a long problem to read for not a complex problem.

MVP goes to my part 1 solution, which zipped each bit together, joined into a new bitstring, and then used bitwise negation to figure out the power rate.

def get_power_rate(numbers: list[str]) -> int:
    bitgroups = zip(*numbers)
    gamma_bitstring = [get_most_common_bit(b) for b in bitgroups]
    gamma_rate = int(''.join(gamma_bitstring), base=2)
    # this is a bit of cheat since we know its 12 bits long
    return gamma_rate * (~gamma_rate & 0xFFF)

Day 4

Type of Problem: Game Simulation

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 3/5

This might be a bit more tedious since you are encoding a game of bingo (several, actually) so I ranked it easy-medium because some newbies might find the complexity overwhelming. When doing things like this, I like lots of small classes with useful methods to try and manage the complexity (see below for my Board class).

I also created a game class that handled figuring out which board wins, and which ones are remaining, which made simple while loops easy to write.

class Board:

    def __init__(self, rows: list[Row]):
        assert len(rows) == 5
        self.rows: list[Row] = rows

    def has_won(self) -> bool:
        return (any(row.is_all_marked() for row in self.rows) or
                    for index in range(len(self.rows[0]))))

    def is_column_marked(self, index: int) -> bool:
        return all(row.is_marked(index) for row in self.rows)

    def get_score(self) -> int:
        return sum(row.get_sum() for row in self.rows)

    def apply_move(self, move: int):
        for row in self.rows:
                position = row.index(move)
            except ValueError:

Day 5

Type of Problem: Grid Manipulation

Difficulty: Easy

Rating: 4/5

This one involved plotting lines on a grid and finding which point overlaps the most. A simple dictionary from point to number of lines would suffice, so I of course used the collections.Counter class to do just that. Nothing too fancy here:

def get_number_of_overlapping_points_no_diagonal(
            lines: list[LineSegment]) -> int:

    non_diagonal = [l for l in lines if l.is_vertical() or l.get_slope() == 0]
    return get_number_of_overlapping_points(non_diagonal)

def get_number_of_overlapping_points(lines: list[LineSegment]) -> int:
    all_points = itertools.chain.from_iterable(
        line.get_all_points() for line in lines)
    overlaps = Counter(all_points)
    return len([val for val, count in overlaps.items() if count >= 2])

Day 6

Type of Problem: Iteration / Data Structure

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 5/5

These sort of problems are satisfying for me. Part 1 can typically be solved by brute force, but if you try doing that for part 2, you’re going to have a bad time. In this case, we have exponential growth of lanternfish, where a new one is created after certain conditions. You could keep a list of lanternfish, but you’ll quickly exhaust memory.

However, if you reduce the problem to just keeping count of how many lanternfish are in each stage, you just have to track roughly 7 counts. collections.Counter to the rescue again:

def get_lanternfish_after(fish: list[int], days: int) -> int:
    counter = Counter(fish)
    for _ in range(days):
        counter = reproduce_fish(counter)
    return sum(counter.values())

def reproduce_fish(counter: Counter) -> Counter:
    new_counter: Counter = Counter()
    for fish, number in counter.items():
        if fish > 0:
            new_counter[fish-1] = number
    if 0 in counter:
        new_counter[6] += counter[0]
        new_counter[8] = counter[0]
    return new_counter

Day 7

Type of Problem: Iteration

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 3/5

As I’m writing this, I’m surprised how many pure iteration problems are here in the first week. (I define an iteration problem where you have to loop over your data, and figure out some calculation on it) This time, we’re calculating how much fuel is spent to get to an average position, and you keep moving the crabs until they are there.

Here’s my somewhat convoluted block of calculating fuel spent (whether linear or geometric consumption)

def calculate_fuel_spent(crabs: list[int], pos: int, geometric=False) -> int:
    func = (lambda c: sum(range(1, abs(c - pos) + 1))) if geometric else (lambda c: abs(c - pos))
    return sum(func(c) for c in crabs)

Day 8

Type of Problem: Deduction

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 4/5

Deduction problems involve having some obscured information, and then trying to deduce the correct mappings. Typically they are all the same idea, as you create mappings to identify things you know for sure(in this case, some 7-segment display’s digits have a unique number of wires), and then you use that information to rule out other pieces of information, adding to your mapping as you go. Typically straightforward, I appreciated this one for at least having an interesting premise where we had to figure out the different numbers represented by the 7-segement displays.

Day 9

Type of Problem: Grid Manipulation

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 5/5

This was my favorite of the early problems. I like problems that have a visual component to them (in this case, figuring out low points of a basin). Each year, I start from scratch (I don’t compete for speed, rather I just like the practice of building components up), so this was my first chance to write my grid class (which I do every year). This year, I added a get_neighbors function so that I could find the orthogonal adjacent points.

The second part was definitely tricky, as you had to find a way to merge basins. In this case, it meant that I was creating a mapping of point to basin. I started in the top-left and iterated through all points, and if you had any point above or to the left, I merged with that basin. If you had no basin to your top or left, you were a new basin, getting a unique ID. Once I mapped point to ID, I just had to use a collections.Counter (my favorite AoC collection type it seems) to count which was the biggest.

Day 10

Type of Problem: Text Parsing

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 3/5

The infamous parentheses balancing problem :). I’ve hit this during interviews for two out of the four jobs I’ve held, and it’s a good practice problem for dealing with stacks. This is pretty much identical to code I’ve written in interviews, but I put in some hooks to be able to track corrupt and incomplete scores. This allowed me to use the core function for both parts (I try to reuse as much as I can for both parts rather than rewriting)

(Note, when reviewing this, I should be checking if the letter is in my mapping’s keys or values instead of hardcoding the opening/closing braces.

def parse(line: str,
          on_corrupt: Callable[[str], None] = lambda _: None,
          on_incomplete: Callable[[str], None] = lambda _: None
    stack: list[str] = []
    for letter in line:
        if letter in "{[(<":
        if letter in ">]})":
            closing_letter = CLOSING_LETTER[stack.pop(-1)]
            if letter != closing_letter:
    if stack:

Day 11

Type of Problem: Grid Manipulation

Difficulty: Easy-Medium

Rating: 4/5

I was happy to have my grid class for determining octopuses (octopodes?) interaction with their neighbors (I changed my get_neighbors function to optionally produce diagonal neighbors). In these sort of problems, it doesn’t makes sense to look at every piece of the grid, but instead checking which ones are about to “flash”. Once an octopus flashes, you just have to look at the neighbors and track flashes from them (repeating if necessary)

def flash(octopodes: Grid[Octopus]) -> int:
    flashes = 0

    for point in octopodes:
        octopodes[point] += 1

    potentials = [point for point, octopus in octopodes.items()
                  if octopus == 10]
    while potentials:
        point = potentials.pop(0)
        for neighbor_point,neighbor in octopodes.get_neighbors(point, None,
            if neighbor and neighbor != 10:
                #update original grid point
                octopodes[neighbor_point] += 1
                # it's getting bumped to >9
                if neighbor == 9:
    # reset and count flashes
    for point, octopus in octopodes.items():
        if octopus == 10:
            flashes += 1
            octopodes[point] = 0
    return flashes

Day 12

Type of Problem: Graph Theory

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 4/5

I like graph theory problems, I really do. This problem was to find the number of paths through a cave, given that you can only visit a small cave at most once. At first I thought about Hamiltonian or Eulerian paths, but you can do it with just a breadth-first search, tracking which nodes you’ve seen already. The part 2 was allowing one revisit of a node, which just means we track a boolean whether we’ve hit it or not.

Day 13

Type of Problem: Grid Manipulation

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 5/5

I like problems that deal with some sort of visualization; this one involved folding a piece of transparent paper with marks and tracking what’s visible. At the end, you have to see what the message is. Straightforward to setup, but I had a few minor issues dealing with the folding logic.

Here’s how I’m folding a group of points. I especially like the list comprehensions and the splat operator (*) to expand lists.

def make_fold(points: list[Point], fold: Fold) -> list[Point]:
    if fold[0] == Direction.VERTICAL:
        normal_half = [p for p in points if p[1] < fold[1]]
        to_be_reversed = [p for p in points if p[1] > fold[1]]
        reverse = [(x, 2*fold[1]-y)
                    for x,y in to_be_reversed]
        normal_half = [p for p in points if p[0] < fold[1]]
        to_be_reversed = [p for p in points if p[0] > fold[1]]
        reverse = [(2*fold[1]-x, y)
                    for x,y in to_be_reversed]
    return list(set([*normal_half, *reverse]))

Day 14

Type of Problem: Iteration / Data structure

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 3/5

I dreaded this one seeing it was a polymer chain (I’m still stuck on this polymer chain from 2017), but this didn’t turn out nearly as bad. Anytime you see an answer that is in the billions (or more), you know that you can’t just iterate over the problem, you have to find a more intelligent way of storing it. In this case, collection.Counter comes to the rescue again (My hero for this year). In this case, I just keep track of how many pairs I see, and add to that counter each iteration. Thus, after 40 rounds, I can get an answer lightning quick, because at most I have 16 (the number of possible pairs) counts in my counter.

Day 15

Type of Problem: Graph Theory

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 5/5

I always like a a good Djikstra’s problem, and this was no exception. Trying to find your way through a grid isn’t too bad, as you use a heap to track your progress instead of a queue (which gives you BFS). Your lowest cost paths are at the top of the heap, and you go until you find the shortest path. I could use A*, but in most AoC problems, I haven’t found it worth the time to implement the heuristic part.

MVP is the heapq module in the standard library

def get_lowest_risk(grid: Grid[int]):
    grid_side_length = int(sqrt(len(grid)))
    start = (0, 0)
    end = (grid_side_length-1, grid_side_length-1)
    smallest_cost = 10*len(grid)*len(grid)
    heap_queue: list[tuple[int, Point, set[Point]]] = [(0, start, set())]
    while heap_queue:
        cost, point, seen = heapq.heappop(heap_queue)
        if point in seen:
        if cost > smallest_cost:
        if point == end:
            smallest_cost = cost
        neighbors = grid.get_neighbors(point, -1) # type: ignore
        for neighbor, value in neighbors:
            if value != -1:
                heapq.heappush(heap_queue, (cost + value, # type:ignore
                                            neighbor, seen))
    return smallest_cost

Day 16

Type of Problem: Parsing / Recursion

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 3/5

Ah this brings me back to parsing network protocol packets at ADTRAN. This was recursive parsing of a packet, where packets may contain other packets. The trick for these sort of problems is to use an iterator rather than looping through, as keeping a stateful iterator will make it easy to recurse into a sub-problem

Here’s how I broke down the value vs operator packets, so that it was easy to recursively evaluate the packet.

FUNC_LOOKUP: dict[int, Callable] = {
    0: lambda *args: reduce(operator.add, args),
    1: lambda *args: reduce(operator.mul, args),
    2: lambda *args: min(args),
    3: lambda *args: max(args),
    5: lambda t1, t2: 1 if t1 > t2 else 0,
    6: lambda t1, t2: 1 if t1 < t2 else 0,
    7: lambda t1, t2: 1 if t1 == t2 else 0
class LiteralValuePacket(Packet):
    value: int

    def get_value(self) -> int:
        return self.value

class OperatorPacket(Packet):
    func: Callable

    def get_value(self) -> int:
        values = [p.get_value() for p in self.subpackets]
        return self.func(*values)

Day 17

Type of Problem: Simulation

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Rating: 4/5

This is the first stumbling block of the year I had, as I didn’t finish it the first day. I had to do some math to figure out the right answers, and there was a few false starts as I tried to work out the math. Eventually, I went to a simpler solution that worked well for me. I’m not going to paste the whole solution, but I like the interplay here between itertools and zip to figure out the x-step.

def accumulator() -> Generator[tuple[int, int], None, None]:
    yield from zip(itertools.count(start=1), itertools.accumulate(itertools.count(start=1)))

def get_first_x_value(target: Target) -> int:
    return next(i for i,sum in accumulator() if sum >= target[0])

Day 18

Type of Problem: Recursion

Difficulty: Hard

Rating: 3/5

This was another rough one for me. I would not get the right answer, no matter how hard I tried, and had quite a few crashes along the way. I knew I had to do a depth-aware tree, but I had a lot of problems crossing nodes of the tree. I’m not going to paste any code, but it was atrocious. My advice for when you have problems like this, is liberal usage of asserts. I started asserting my preconditions and postconditions and found out where I had logic problems.

Day 19

Type of Problem: Deduction, Coordinate Systems

Difficulty: Hard

Rating: 4/5

Three hard problems in a row (at least for me), as you had to deduce three dimensional coordinates based on distances between points, almost like an inverse triangulation. I had to optimize code all over the place to get it to actually finish. I wrote 160 lines of Python to solve this, and once again, it’s atrocious code. However, I still liked this as far as its uniqueness goes.

Day 20

Type of Problem: Grid Manipulation

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 3/5

Grid manipulation comes back to figure out how many pixels are lit. I actually read this one wrong and thought this was one of those cellular automation problems where you have to wait until the problem converges to a stable solution. However, once I looked a little closer, I ran it a finite amount times and got the answer quite quickly.

Day 21

Type of Problem: Dynamic Programming

Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Rating: 4/5

This is the problem that took me 6 months to complete. The first half was simple (using iterators) but the second half took me for a loop. I knew dynamic programming was the play, as I had optimal substructure and a recurrence relation with overlapping solutions. The problem was, I picked the wrong recurrence relation.

I thought that the # of universes won was as followed

Wins(Turn, Space, Score) = Sum(Possibilities * Wins(Turn - 1, Space - Roll, Score - Space) for Roll, Possibilities in DicePossibilities)

Where DicePossibilities are the ways you can roll 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ,9 with 3 dice (for instance, you can roll 4 in 3 different ways (1,1,2; 1,2,1; 2,1,1).

However, this missed some key points. I put in my answer and got a too high answer, which means that I’m double counting something (or overcounting), which is a typical problem of dynamic counting. I was looking for errors in my algorithm, never thinking that my reccurence relation was wrong). However, I was treating a player as independent, when in fact, you shouldn’t count any games in which the other player has already won (nor where you have already run either).

Thus, the recurrence relation is closer to:

Wins(P1Score, P1Space, P2Score, P2Space, IsPlayer1) = Sum(Possibilities * (Wins(P1Score-P1Space, P1Space - Roll, P2Score, P2Space, False) if IsPlayer1 else Wins(P1Score, P1Space, P2Score-P2Space, P2Space - Roll, True)) for Roll, Possibilities in DicePossibilities)

The max score you can get is 30 (hitting a 10 after getting 20 points) so its easy enough to get what you want.

Day 22

Type of Problem: Iteration / Data Structure

Difficulty: Hard

Rating: 5/5

This string of 5 or 6 problems were quite hard. I had to visualize this one with some cube magnets to figure out what I needed. The trick is, given a new cube instruction, you have to figure out if it intersects with any cube you’ve done so far. I processed my cubes backwards, because I knew that if I already did that cube, it would override any previous instruction. To figure out intersection, I would decompose the new cube instruction into six new cuboids, ignoring any parts that were intersecting. It led to this ugly piece of code

 def get_external_cubes(self, cube: 'Cuboid',) -> list['Cuboid']:

        # Assuming our dimensions are Sx, Sy, Sz
        # and our sides are (SXmin, SXmax), (SYmin, SYmax), (SZmin, SZmax)
        # Given the cuboid with dimensions Cx, Cy, Cz and the
        # and its sides are (CXmin, CXmax), (CYmin, CYmax), (CZmin, CZmax)
        # with an intercept area of
        # Xmin, Xmax, Ymin, Ymax, Zmin, zmax

        # if it intersects the cube, there are 6 cuboids that need to
        # be prepended to the list to check
        # with the following dimensions
        # C1 = (Xmin, Xmax), (CYmax, Ymax),  (Zmin, Zmax)
        #    located above the intersection with same x,z
        # C2 = (Xmin, Xmax), (Ymin, CYmin),  (Zmin, Zmax)
        #    located benath the intersection with same x,z
        # C3 = (CXmin, Xmin), (CYmin, CYmax), (Zmin, Zmax)
        #    located to the left of intersection, with full height,
        #    same z
        # C4 = (Xmax, CXmax), (CYmin, CYmax), (Zmin, Zmax)
        #    located to the right of intersection, with full height,
        #    same z
        # C5 = (CXmin, CXmax), (CYmin, CYmax), (Zmin, CZmin)
        #    located in front of intersection, full height/width
        # C6 = (CXmin, CXmax), (CYmin, CYmax), (CZmax, Zmax)
        #    located in front of intersection, full height/width

        # intercept dimensions
        if self.x_min <= cube.x_min <= cube.x_max <= self.x_max:
            xrange = (cube.x_min, cube.x_max)
        elif cube.x_min <= self.x_min <= self.x_max <= cube.x_max:
            xrange = (self.x_min, self.x_max)
        elif self.x_min <= cube.x_min < self.x_max < cube.x_max:
            xrange = (cube.x_min, self.x_max)
        elif cube.x_min < self.x_min <= cube.x_max <= self.x_max:
            xrange = (self.x_min, cube.x_max)
            assert False, "Missing condition"

        if self.z_min <= cube.z_min <= cube.z_max <= self.z_max:
            zrange = (cube.z_min, cube.z_max)
        elif cube.z_min <= self.z_min <= self.z_max <= cube.z_max:
            zrange = (self.z_min, self.z_max)
        elif self.z_min <= cube.z_min < self.z_max < cube.z_max:
            zrange = (cube.z_min, self.z_max)
        elif cube.z_min < self.z_min <= cube.z_max <= self.z_max:
            zrange = (self.z_min, cube.z_max)
            assert False, "Missing z condition"

        new_cubes = [
            Cuboid(*xrange, self.y_max + 1, cube.y_max, *zrange),
            Cuboid(*xrange, cube.y_min, self.y_min - 1, *zrange),
            Cuboid(cube.x_min, self.x_min - 1, cube.y_min, cube.y_max,
            Cuboid(self.x_max + 1, cube.x_max, cube.y_min, cube.y_max,
            Cuboid(cube.x_min, cube.x_max, cube.y_min, cube.y_max,
                   cube.z_min, self.z_min - 1),
            Cuboid(cube.x_min, cube.x_max, cube.y_min, cube.y_max,
                   self.z_max + 1, cube.z_max)
        valid_cubes = [c for c in new_cubes if c]
        assert(sum(c.get_area() for c in new_cubes if c) < cube.get_area())
        return valid_cubes

Day 23

Type of Problem: Constraint Satisfaction Problem / Graph Theory

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 5/5

This was another problem I thought was cool. At its heart, its a game, where you enumerate all the moves that can be made (keeping mind of constraints), see what’s possible, and then recurse into a subtree. Again, this is a djikstra’s algorithm through the game’s statespace and heapq makes another appearance.

I really liked the use of generators for my branch-and-pruning:

# get the solution space for possible moves
def get_possible_moves(spaces: Spaces) -> Generator[tuple[int, Spaces],
                                                    None, None]:
    for index, space in enumerate(spaces):
        # get hallway to room moves
        if isinstance(space, str):
            # start walking back and forth until you find an empty room
            yield from move_to_room(spaces, index, 0, -1)
            yield from move_to_room(spaces, index, len(spaces) - 1, 1)
        # get room to hallway moves
        if isinstance(space, Room):
            yield from move_to_hallway(spaces, index, 0, -1)
            yield from move_to_hallway(spaces, index, len(spaces) - 1, 1)

Day 24

Type of Problem: Computer Simulation / Reverse Engineering / Recursion

Difficulty: Hard

Rating: 4/5

This one was a puzzle. Given some assembly language, I first thought that I needed to simulate a computer. Then I realized I needed to check hundreds of billions of numbers, and said no way. I started to work out the assembly language by hand, and realized that for each digit Di, there was the same code run, with variables Xi, Yi, and Zi being the only things that changed.

I worked out that the equation looked like this:

z = z // Zi
if z%26 + Xi == Di:
    z = z*26 + (Di + Yi)

From this, I could set z to zero,, solve for the previous z, and start working my way back to find out all solutions that would eventually produce my result. The code took a little longer than I wanted, but it eventually found a solution, and I eagerly looked ahead to the next solution, given that this one took me about a week or two.

Day 25

Type of Problem: Grid manipulation

Difficulty: Medium

Rating: 3/5

Last puzzle of the year, woo!. This was a simple grid with rule-based movement, that you just had to loop through until the state was the same as the last turn. It took me a little longer than I wanted, because I was not operating on a copy for ‘v’ sea cucumbers. Remember, if everything moves in unison, your code should operate on a copy, so that as you mutate your data, you aren’t influencing current turns.

The Zen Of Python, One-Liners and Being Pythonic

Today, Carlton Gibson posted a wonderful short programming question:

I love little questions like this, and instantly came up with a solution. However, before I shared what I came up with, I took a quick look at the answers, and saw a bevy of very creative solutions.

None of these felt like an awesome solution for me. I’ve had some similar thoughts on some related matters, and it felt like time for a blog post.

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Advent Of Code 2020 Reflection

I wasn’t able to do Advent of Code 2020 last year because I spent just about every night working on my book. However, one of my goals this year was to complete 107 stars on Advent Of Code. If I can pull that off, I’ll be just 50 stars shy of full completion (of course they are the hard ones left).

As such, I decided to tackle last year after I was done working on my book. I did the first 13 challenges over a week in March, the next 4 in May, and the remaining nine challenges this month. I figured this is a good chance to review my thoughts on each of the puzzles, and what I liked and didn’t like. If you’re interested, check out the repo here.

Overall Thoughts:

Someone mentioned to me they thought this was an easier year, and I agree (however, I’ve only finished one other year). The challenges seemed fairly straightforward, I looked forward to solving the problems. I love Advent of Code, so I was glad to complete these challenges. Not as many problems stuck out as memorable as past years, but it was overall enjoyable.

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Tips and Tricks of the Month – August 2020

I played a lot with Rust this month, so wasn’t working in new technologies a whole lot; I don’t have a lot of tips and tricks. I’m not sure I found anything revolutionary in Rust that is worth stating just yet.


See Package Release Notes

In case you ever want to know what has changed in a package, you can do an apt changelog to see the release notes of a package

> apt changelog grub2
grub2 (2.04-1ubuntu26.2) focal; urgency=medium

  * debian/ Avoid calling grub-install on upgrade of the grub-pc
    package, since we cannot be certain that it will install to the correct
    disk and a grub-install failure will render the system unbootable.
    LP: #1889556.

 -- Steve Langasek <>  Thu, 30 Jul 2020 17:34:25 -0700

See SSH Key algorithms

I was debugging a SSH connection problem, and had to look at what keys a client supported. ssh -Q key will tell you all the algorithms that are supported for keys, and ssh -Q kex will tell you all the algorithms that are supported for key exchange.

Watch a command

If you want a command to run every so often, you can do it with the watch command. For instance, if you are tracking your temperature of your processors: watch sensors --farenheit

Tips and Tricks of the Month – June 2020

Back in May, I decided to write down my tips and tricks of the month. My hope is that people find them useful (or share even newer tricks for me), but at the very least, writing them down organizes my thoughts (and forces me to write a blog post more than once a year). So here’s what I got for June:


span:nth-child isn’t the nth span (6/22/20)

Shame on me again for not reading docs first.


    <span id='1'>
    <span id='2'>
    <p>Text </p>
    <span id='3'>
    <span id='4'>

If I have a CSS rule that specifies `span:nth-child(2n)` (or every 2nd one), it won’t give me the span with id 2 and 4, it will give me the span with 2 and 3! This is because nth-child refers to the sibling group, which is all the elements. From there it finds every second sibling, and then if that sibling is a span, does it apply the styling.

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Tips and Tricks Of The Month – May 2020

So, inspired by a recent HackerNews post about somebody’s TIL’s for five years (found here), I want to start writing about things I learn about each month.  I feel like this format is easier to consume (I don’t think anyone will read a wall of text in a Git repo), but this will also help me organize my thoughts.  Writing things down helps me remember.

I’ll also highlight something that I didn’t necessarily learn, but re-discovered due to how helpful they are.


Boto3 uploading to S3 (5/12/20)

So as I was working on our website for Kudzera, LLC (which I’m statically hosting in AWS), I was trying to set up CI through GitHub Actions. Part of that was automatically uploading to S3. However, when I did, the webpage didn’t render (it instead prompted for download). Turns out, Boto3 uploads as a binary/octet-stream content type. With some use of mimetypes in Python, we can set the content type on upload

mimetype = mimetypes.guess_type(file_name)[0]
content_type = mimetype if mimetype is not None else "binary/octet-stream"

response = s3_client.upload_file(file_name,


Finding commits that are in one branch but not others (5/4/20)

git log old-branch ^new-branch

That one little ^ was a cool little feature I never knew about. I was trying to compare branches with a diff (one old and one new), as it turned out we had missed merging some commits in our devel branch when putting a feature back in an old release. A diff was useless, as there were legitimate things removed and added in the new branch.  This one command gave me everything I needed (you may want to pass –no-merges as well)

Running GitHub Actions only on a single branch

You may not want your GitHub action to happen on development branches, so if that’s the case you can do:

name: CI

      - master


Copying to clipboard (5/4/20)

xclip -selection clip-board <filename>

This is something I knew about, but never used. I copy my SSH key out to a GUI when launching VMs in a cloud all the time, and always hated having to do it.  Now I have a convenient alias to the command above.


Checking if an Element is in Pandas Series (5/20/20)

So doing a quick pandas script for some data analysis had me encounter a strange behavior. I was using pandas.Series and I wanted to check to see if there was an element inside that series. Thinking that a pandas.Series was a subtype (semantically speaking) of a list, but it turns out that if you do element in series , it just checks the index, not necessarily the values. Instead you should be doing element in series.values.


Beware the Pip Cache (5/29/20)

I ran into an issue with tox the other day, where an import of a library in my unit tests ran into an error finding No biggie, I had upgraded my OS since last time I worked on this package. So I cleared the .tox directory and let it pull things down. Same problem.

My system python and my pyenv python did not show the problem, so I know that it wasn’t an OS problem (I had installed, and those python’s were using it correctly). So what was happening?

My package had cffi pinned to an older version. My system python and pyenv were using a newer version of cffi. When tox tried to pull cffi, it was hitting the pip cache (and not actually downloading and recompiling the cffi wheel.), which meant it was grabbing an older pre-compiled incompatible version.

Web Development Tools

Searching through network logs in Firefox Web Console (5/8/20)

In Firefox (and I’m sure others), when you are doing network logging, you can search through all the traffic right in the web browser. Just click the search icon and type in your criteria – it’s way easier to filter network requests than saving out traffic and searching in something like WireSharkScreenshot from 2020-05-08 16-32-14

My Thoughts On WebAssembly

Just this past week, I was happy to announce that I finally completed something I’d been working on since November of last year – A WebAssembly Video Course. It was challenging for sure – I had played around with WebAssembly, but this was the first time that I was building a course from scratch and then recording it. You learn so much about a technology by teaching it, and I got to explore new depths of WebAssembly throughout this course. I’d like to share some of my thoughts of the WebAssembly/C++ ecosystem.

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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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