Life Updates, aka Where are all the posts?

Andrew Fontaine <>

I've decided to try using notmuch for my email instead of mu.

This is mostly due to the tagging nature (instead of folders), as well as the built-in hooks that run pre- and post- indexing. It makes setting up certain behaviours, along with afew, much easier than in GMail's filters.

I've also moved to using lieer to sync the GMail inbox, as it hopefully gets along nicer with large GMail inboxs, which is the case when you're accepting the flood of emails from watching the GitLab project. The initial sync is going very slowly though. lieer syncs GMail's labels with notmuch's tags, and so syncing, tagging, and syncing 1.1 million emails can take some time. I guess that's another reason to start using notmuch: it was easy to set up hooks to delete threads of issues and merge requests that are either closed or merged, so hopefully that number drops quickly. I should modify my current hook to preserve threads that I was involved in...

The main reason for the lack of posts is that its been a busy year. My travels are as follows:

  1. Hawaii, for a wedding
  2. Montreal, for fun
  3. Whitby, for a wedding
  4. Portugal, for fun
  5. Niagara-on-the-lake, for a wedding
  6. North Carolina, for a wedding
  7. Sarnia, for a wedding

Not all of these were long trips, and the longest was Portugal at 10 days, but boy does it feel like a lot!

I've also bought a house this year. Maybe not the most perfect time to buy, but we had the money and actually found a wonderful place in Toronto. It's a completely different neighbourhood than we previously lived in, but it's extremely walkable, bikeable, and right off the subway. I can easily continue my car-free life.

This blog is now (also) a gemlog

Andrew Fontaine <>

That's right! This blog is now live on the gemini protocol. Using your favourite gemini browser, you can now see all this text in lo-fi glory.

Advent of Code 2021: Day 8 & 9

Andrew Fontaine <>

Another multi-day combo post! I didn't get to start day 8 until late, and finished it with 10 minutes to spare. Thus, no time to write a post yesterday.

Advent of Code 2021: Day 7

Andrew Fontaine <>

A giant whale has decided your submarine is its next meal, and it's much faster than you are. There's nowhere to run!

Thanks to the help of some crabs, we'll get past that whale!

This seems like a great job for simply brute-forcing the whole thing. I am sure there is a way to utilize a binary search to find the answer, but I'm also sure I'm in no mood to figure it out. Part one is still pretty small:

let p1_sol crabs =
    (fun min_fuel pos ->
      let new_fuel =
        List.fold_left (fun x y -> max y pos - min y pos + x) 0 crabs
      if new_fuel < min_fuel then new_fuel else min_fuel)
    Int.max_int crabs

let p1 =
  let sol = p1_sol input in
  Int.to_string sol

Once again I fold_left over all the crabs, calculating the fuel cost for the rest of the crabs, and finding the smallest total.

⭐ one done!

Advent of Code: Days 4, 5, 6

Andrew Fontaine <>

I've been busy so this is going to be a bit longer but also contain 3 whole solutions!

Advent of Code 2021: Day 3

Andrew Fontaine <>

Okay, the submarine is moving, we can see where we're going. Now to make sure systems are ✔.

Today's struggle in learning was motivation. Fridays are tricky that way, sometimes it's a mad rush to get everything done in time for Saturday, others it's just a slog to the weekend. Today was the latter.

I found the first problem's trickiest bit to be how to parse the list properly. Only after eating dinner and not being distracted by hunger did the solution become obvious.

Advent of Code 2021, Day 2

Andrew Fontaine <>

Now that I know where I am going, I get to figure out how to pilot the submarine! The first puzzle is perfect for List.fold_left:

let follow_instruction (x, y) (dir, num)   match dir with
  | "up" -> (x, y - num)
  | "down" -> (x, y + num)
  | "forward" -> (x + num, y)
  | direction -> raise (Direction direction)

let p1_sol input   let x, y = List.fold_left follow_instruction (0, 0) input in
  x * y

I just match on the direction I am going and increment the correct direction. All that's left is to compute the answer (multiply the coordinates together).

If I just match on the four directions, up, down, forward, then ocaml complains that the match is not fully matched. Its type system does not allow for uncaught matches, which are dependent on the type of the variable. Here, the uncaught matches are literally every string of characters that isn't one of the directions. The correct answer is to parse these directions into a variant, a plain symbol-thing that is a specific set of options: Up | Down | Forward, and lift this error up to where I parse the line. I didn't do that though, so I have to check it here and throw if it is incorrect. As I feel very confident here that it would not be, I think I am pretty safe.

☆ one done!

Advent of Code 2021: Day 1

Andrew Fontaine <>

Ah, it has begun! The story this year is pretty good:

You're minding your own business on a ship at sea when the overboard alarm goes off! You rush to see if you can help. Apparently, one of the Elves tripped and accidentally sent the sleigh keys flying into the ocean!

Of course, our first instinct is to climb into the handy to have submarine and get to work! The puzzle input is a list of numbers, each measuring the depth of the water. First, I need to calculate the (rough) rate of change by counting the number of times the depth increases.

This is a pretty simple job for some quick recursion!

let rec p1_sol input count   match input with
  | []
  | [ _ ] -> count
  | h1 :: h2 :: t ->
      if h1 < h2 then p1_sol (h2 :: t) (count + 1) else p1_sol (h2 :: t) count

Here, input is the list of numbers and count is how often it has increased. I match on the full list to see if there are at least 2 elements, so I can compare them. If the second is higher, I increment the count by one. I pass the rest of the list, including the second element, back to my function to compare it to the next element and so on until the list is processed, and all in one pass!

I find it interesting that recursive functions in ocaml must explicitly be marked as recursive with the rec tag. This goes for mutually recursive functions, too! They use rec and and to indicate that one may call the other and vice versa. I am not sure why this is, but I assume it is to indicate to the compiler that, while p1_sol doesn't exist yet, it is currently being defined and don't worry too much.

⭐ one done!

Streamlining the Posting Process with emacs

Andrew Fontaine <>

Writing posts can be a bit troublesome to set up, and my major posting season is nearly here! Fortunately, I can customize emacs a bit to make this whole process at least a bit more optimized.

Preparing for Advent of Code 2021

Andrew Fontaine <>

This will be my fourth (😮) year doing the Advent of Code challenges! The first three years, I have attempted the challenges in elixir. I was new to elixir, and (while still an amateur) I've grown pretty comfortable with the language. It was fun creating simple OTP processes to handle "communication" between two "computers", but I felt it was time to strike out and learn something new!

A Fun Little Elixir Macro

Andrew Fontaine <>

I'm working on a big refactoring of my one elixir library, unleash, and one of the changes I'm working on is moving from using behaviours and towards using protocols instead, but this means parsing a bunch of JSON objects into their appropriate structs. While Poison can already do this, I don't want to be dependant on a single JSON library (for now), and it doesn't quite tackle the problem at hand, so I got to work.

After migrating two of the eight strategies to this new format, I saw a lot of boilerplate, and got to work (learning to) writing a macro.

Why is this written via email?

Andrew Fontaine <>

An excellent question! When trying to figure out my migration away from my static site and towards a dynamic site, I wanted to keep the one thing I truly loved from the static site: an excellent writing and editing experience.

As it so happens, at some point I decided to try out mu4e as a mail client and found that it makes dealing with email so much easier by eliminating the hassle of the bad web UI presented by anything that wasn't Inbox (which, even then, still had its issues). The major caveat being that I had to actually make use of custom filters and folders to stay organized as well. Looking back, GMail's automatic categorization was holding me back from actually putting the work in to make my email the way I wanted it to be.

I've recently been making small to GitLab's email UX as well, and I'm slowly working towards opening the floodgates and setting my notification level to "watching" for the main project in an effort to dogfood our email workflows.

All this to say: mu4e has fundamentally changed how I interact with email. It has turned it from an annoying, slow click-based web app to an amazingly quick, keyboard-based tool essential to my day-to-day.

Part of that all means that the authoring of these posts can happen in the same place all my other writing happens! After all, why leave emacs when you don't have to? All the customization around how I write code now applies directly to how I write these blog posts. Now that the core editing experience has been salvaged from the static site, the rest can tumble from there.

Why is my life declared by nix?

Andrew Fontaine <>

If you've taken a peak at the source for this site, you might have noticed a flake.nix file sitting squarely at the root of the project. I've been using NixOS on my home lab for about 5 years now, although poorly until about 2 years ago, and for the most part I've enjoyed my experience.

New Blog Style

Andrew Fontaine <>

This is it! My new home on the internet!

I was tempted to find a spectacular "UNDER CONSTRUCTION" banner to put up, but one of the ideas is that this place will always be "under construction".

My old blog will remain up, and I'm sure I'll eventually add something there to direct people here, but right now I am more excited about making sure this works before I direct them to an empty site.