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).