todo: convert this into a jupyter notebook and repost.

Notes for the Advent of Code 2016 programming challange.

Advent of Code is a series of small programming puzzles for a variety of skill levels. They are self-contained and are just as appropriate for an expert who wants to stay sharp as they are for a beginner who is just learning to code. Each puzzle calls upon different skills and has two parts that build on a theme.

I solved each puzzle in a jupyter notebook for each day saved in a github repo. The solutions are all a bit verbose as I’m trying to show all the steps taken to solve the puzzles.

General takeaways from 2016’s advent of code:

  • regex’s can make hard things easy at the cost of the regex itself being hard. luckily there are lots great regex sites.
  • dispatch tables are great
  • write little functions. Some of the problems seemed very hard, and I used the famous anti-procrastination advice of just start with the smallest thing you can do and lo and behold in the middle of writing the most basic two line function I would see how to write the next one, and the next, and soon enough the entire bigger problem was done
  • little functions really help with being able to read the code and troubleshoot.
  • many problems are just graphs, which can be implemented many ways, from using classes to lists to dicts. but its still all graphs.
  • python has lots of great tools in libraries like collections which should just be in the language. why do I have to import things like defaultdict which it is so useful that it should be there in the first place
  • implementing something myself makes it stick in my brain, vs googling a solution
  • if/else in list comprehensions can be great: "".join([c if c != False else "_" for c in password]
  • the algo matters more than the machine speed. I moved my Day 11 solution to a super beefy high memory machine to brute force the solution - but it was taking the same runtime as on a small 1gb mem shared server. The fault was with the overly slow code, not the machine speed.

notes on each puzzle:

Day 1: No Time for a Taxicab

path finding

I found the simple things like turning directions tougher than the bigger problem. So doing it in pieces really helped.

Day 2: Bathroom Security

move around a numpad

This problem had a diamond shaped keypad, so one way to move around the keypad was to have the shape of the keypad and move according, but it was much easier to use a dummy character to represent the off keypad points:

.......
...1...
..234..
.56789.
..ABC..
...D...
.......

Key takeaway: use a char to demarcate edges, and try to write more general code - in this case my part 1 could only deal with a square numpad, but it was just as easy to code it up to deal with a numpad of any shape.

Day 3: Squares With Three Sides

simple math and slicing a grid. I used numpy for the win, basically use numpy if there is anything like a grid to deal with.

This involved using numpy slicing of a grid, which is always a bit tricky:

def transpose(tri):
    """generates all the column wise trianges in a list of triangles"""
    for i in range(len(t[0])):          # the columns, could just use 3 here
        for j in range(0, len(t)-2, 3): # now going down the entire length of the array
            yield t[j:j+3,i]

sum([is_tri(i) for i in transpose(t)])

Day 4: Security Through Obscurity

Nothing interesting here,just following directions, a few notes:

  • there are lots of little tricks in these puzzles, like sorting the same list in two different orders
  • namedtuples are great, much easier to read than a list
  • is there a better way to build a string? Right now I append chars to a list then join them into a string.

Day 5: How About a Nice Game of Chess?

find a password. I used hashlib, was an interesting problem since I used hashlib for the first time.

I liked this bit of code:

password = [False for _ in range(8)]

while False in password:
  # fills in one letter of the password

Day 6: Signals and Noise

Day 7 move around a numpad used both numpy and lists. Key takeaway: use a char to demarcate edges
Day 8 simple math and slicing a grid numpy for the win, basically use numpy if there is anything like a grid to deal with.
Day 9 ? use Counter and namedtuples
Day 10 parsing instructions was a challange to fully comprehend the problem, though easy to code.
Day 11 building the right kind of graph with breadth first search solved part 1 using a dumb BFS, but part two the search space is so big that I need to optimize. #TODO
Day 12 parse instructions to update registers sort of like building a vm?
Day 13 build a map and find a path used bfs, easy enough, but need to implement a generic path solver. its got pics too!
Day 14 find a password used hashlib, was an interesting problem
Day 15 solve a system find positions of a moving system at time t. Could have used math instead.
Day 16 find a password used hashlib, was an interesting problem
Day 17 Get shortest, than longest path looked similar to day 13, but different.

Note: link jupyter notebooks and highlight the interesting part of each days challange.