Thursday, April 7, 2011

Top Coder

So I gave TopCoder a shot. I competed in a Single Round Match (SRM) tonight. I finished 9th out of 20 in my room (499th out of 758 overall) for Division II. There were around 1350 people competing. I really enjoyed the challenge and the excitement of this event. I will definitely continue competing.

I took my time on the first problem and I didn't have my environment set up correctly. I didn't realize until after the event was over that completion time was used to calculate the score. So I lost a lot of easy points as a result of my inexperience with TopCoder. I will be ready next time!

These SRMs are good practice for Google Code Jam (coming in May!). Hopefully I can post a respectable score at GCJ (maybe even secure a trip to the finals in Japan!)!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Heading to Austria - How I am staying connected

I'm leaving tomorrow (3/5/2011) for Austria. I am scheduled to return in 3 weeks. While there, I want to ensure that I am able to access US content (ESPN, Netflix,, etc.). I spent last night and this morning setting up my home PC in various ways to provide me with options to stay up to date while across the pond.

It just occurred to me this week that I am going to be in Austria for the majority of March Madness. The last time I was in Austria, I attempted to reach Netflix and from my hotel room. I was saddened when each site informed me that I am unable to access their content while outside of the US. I can only assume, that the same restrictions exist for ESPN and These are two stations that I absolutely have to be able to access during March. I am still very optimistic that MSU is ready to make a deep deep run in the tournament. Unfortunately, because of a dismal basketball season, I am part of a minority with those beliefs. Regardless, I am now positioned to be able to watch every MSU game while across the pond.

All of the tools that I used are free. The majority of the instructions were obtained from I set up an SSH proxy server using Cygwin, I created a VPN account with Hamachi that utilizes an HTTP proxy server (Privoxy), and finally, I set up a TeamViewer account. I also had to use DynDNS to get around Comcast changing my IP address.

TeamViewer is awesome! It allows me to connect and take over the desktop of my home PC.

Another advantage of having a Proxy server set up, is that I can now comfortably surf the web from any wifi hotspot without having to worry about anyone snooping my connection.

While I'm in Austria, I'll be able to keep in contact with my family via Skype, and with March Madness via a proxy server.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cut the cord with PlayOn!

I've felt pretty frustrated with the seeming monopoly that Comcast has on our city. Sure, we can switch to satellite, but then we have to deal with nasty weather (a Michigan staple) interrupting our Modern Family Wednesday nights. PlayOn and Netflix have given us access to all the content we could ever want (well...almost).

We've all but cut the cord at my house. We essentially have a cable TV subscription because it slightly lowers the overall cost of having cable internet. It is the most basic (and cheapest) cable option offered by Comcast. It's not even digital, which means, we don't have to rent a cable box, thus lowering the monthly cost even further.

I have a large collection of home videos and ripped DVDs (don't worry, I own all of them and don't condone piracy). I also love watching MSU (and other Big Ten teams) sports. If I don't upgrade my cable to the next tier (~90% increase), I can not access ESPN which airs most of the big games. What to do .... what to do? I could watch ESPN3 on the internet, but then I'm stuck in my home office or watching the game on a small laptop (note, this also doesn't address the content on my desktop).

Along comes PlayOn... This is a really great tool. It allows me to stream ESPN3 in addition to Comedy Central, Spike, PBS, and many many other channels to several devices. I just equipped my wife's iPad and my DroidX with PlayOn. Not only is all of this content readily available when we're on our home wireless network, but it is also available from outside our network. Any place that we have an internet connection. If I'm flying on a wifi enabled plane, I can connect with my DroidX or my wife's iPad and access my home videos.

Another cool feature of PlayOn, is the ability to stream Netflix. Most devices have their own Netflix app, so this isn't much of an advantage...however, most Android OS users know that a Netflix for Android app does not currently exist. Using PlayOn, I can stream Netflix to my DroidX!

I'm sure there are other applications provide similar functionality, but I love how simple and intuitive PlayOn is. I can watch Netflix, see my home videos, access my DVDs, as well as keep up on ESPN content with PlayOn.

Check it out:

If anyone knows how to stream the Big Ten Network, please comment below (I used to subscribe to their streaming service, but it does not include games that anyone would care to watch - Exhibition games are about the only basketball games available).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maker Faire Detroit

Ashley and I arrived at the Henry Ford Museum complex shortly before noon today (2010 07 31) to enjoy a very interactive, inspirational, and entertaining event.

My son turned 2 at the end of May this year. I gambled a bit on how much of this experience he would tolerate.

I was shocked at how packed this place was. We manged to
squeeze into a lawn parking spot between two perpendicularly parked cars. We were forced to park over 3/4 of a mile from the
entrance. Luckily, I had a handy umbrella stroller with me. I doubt Ash's little legs could handle the walk. I know my back couldn't handle carrying him when he grew tired of walking.

Right away I knew this was going to be great! I walked into the faire grounds behind a guy wearing a red revolving light hat. Unfortunately, the light was not on, but I suspect that he needed to only flip a switch to get that puppy flashing.

Later I caught this guy at a vendor booth hawking some locally made LED light bulbs. He was entertaining quite a few people at his booth with his ultimate ice breaker atop his head.

The first thing that caught Ashley's eye was the plastic wading pool home to an autonomous robot swimming around. We didn't get close enough to understand why this robot was so cool because I didn't want to torture Ash any longer by not allowing him to swim with the robot.

There were so many interesting bikes and carts weaving in and out of the makers and maker wannabes (one of them could shoot a fire ball from the top of tube attached high above it's passengers):

There were very interesting rides (with appropriate litig
ation proof warnings):

Crazy looking wire skull robots, complete with chomping metal teeth:
This looked really fun:
They had a smaller, single rider, version available for test rides! I almost threw up watching this kid spin in circles.

I found an awesome idea for a wagon for the kids (this was part of a booth of a local band):

Inside the DIY Center, there were instructional stations such as this one teaching guest how to use a sewing machine:

I'm not quite sure what this girl had going on with all the wires doo-dads strapped to her behind and arms:

A US military supplier had a tent with some pretty cool high tech vehicles.

Tech Shop is coming to Detroit this year! Tech Shop is an organization that provides it's members with access to the resources necessary to build and assemble just about anything. They have welding equipment, CNC machines, tools, etc. Their website says it's like a fitness club, but with tools and equipment instead of exercise equipment. Click Here for More Info

This was a very interesting idea for those annoying talking fish plaques:


A continuous stream of water fell from the cross bar as two people swung under a modified swing. It wasn't quite hot enough for me to brave this shower swing (It did look like a lot of fun though):

Lots of kid created robots:

This project was really interesting. They used proximity switches at both ends of this track to balance the ball in the center. The track would tilt back and forth to recenter the ball.

Tired of mowing your lawn? What if you could control it with a remote control?

Web Controlled Brewery?

For Ash and I, the best part of the Maker Faire was the creative stations for kids. There was a station for building cars out of ice cream boxes and foam wheels, one for building a marshmallow shooter, a rocket (which they launched for us), and many others.

After loading the rocket on the launcher (a very simple system using PVC tube, compressed air, and a DC solenoid valve wired to a button - I will be making this!), Ashley pushed the button and sent his rocket high into the Detroit sky!

Have you ever put Mentos into a bottle of Coke?? There was an entire show dedicated to the reaction that takes place when these two items meet.


Admission to the maker faire included admission to the Henry Ford Museum. After cruising the fair, Ash and I spent a few hours running around inside the museum. This may have been the highlight of the day for Ashley. He got to see and touch trains, planes, and automobiles. He even got to go inside an old Combine and play with the levers and steering wheel. This turned out to be a perfect venue for this event.

The weather was great, the vendors had interesting products (even though I didn't buy any), the maker faire staff and volunteers were extremely kind and helpful, and inspiration was every where! This will definitely be an annual event for the Slocums if the fair comes back to Detroit.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I love twitter!

Being a devoted Spartan, I follow many former Spartans on Twitter. Below is a series of tweets from Charlie Bell (member of the 2000 MSU National Championship basketball team):

If I were single, this would be my go to move when traveling!

The guy in front of me so drunk and the flight has not even took off. He hasn't shut up since qlm

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blue Screen of McDonald's

While in the drive through at McDonald's, I was attempting to order a vanilla cone when I discovered that the fast food industry also suffers from the bane of today's world....the microsoft blue screen of death.

It took me a few tries to capture an acceptable picture using my blackberry storm (not the easiest device for picture taking). There were a few cars piling up behind me as I continued to take the perfect shot. Fortunately, no one mashed their horn as my flash went off in front of the menu confirmation screen.

McDonalds 1246 Leonard St NE Grand Rapids, MI 49505-5511

North Carolina South Mountain Park!

Check out the blog from Jason Perks on our hike up to High Shoals Falls in South Mountain State Park, North Carolina.