Taxes and Toys

I finally got around to doing my taxes. 2010 was my first full year of working, but the taxes were actually easier than 2009 (using an online tool so I don’t actually have to fill in the paperwork myself) since I didn’t have to enter anything about being a student. Of course I also didn’t get as much of a federal refund because I couldn’t claim student credits, and for some reason I actually owe Colorado $5. Guess I’ll have to check on my deduction settings at work for this year.

Reid brought his collection of twisty puzzles to lunch today. He has quite a collection now. Several of them are simple (2x2x1 being notable in that God’s Number for it is 3), but on the complete other end of the scale (in terms of number of possible arrangements) he’s also got a Megaminx. My favorites of the set were the Pyramorphinx and Master Pyramorphinx, though the 3x3x2 was decidedly interesting and would be fun to work out how to solve it. My lunch break went long by about an hour since Reid and I both were ahead on hours for the week and I lost track of time while playing with and discussing the different puzzles.

Needless to say I’ll likely be ordering some of the types soon if I can find sources that don’t sell knockoffs, though perhaps I’ll wait till I’ve worked out my Square One. I’m not too interested in the simpler puzzles, though some might be worth getting for the sake of learning how to solve the simple cases before moving on to the more complex.

Custom puzzles also came up (one site worth of examples). My understanding is that those are all made from molded pieces, but 3d printing would make them simpler to create even if the finish leaves something to be desired.

A 3d printer (specifically a RepRap) is something I’ve been interested in for a while, but I still haven’t convinced myself that it’s worth the money for the kit. The kit I think looks the best (reasonably up to date, wires cut to length, electronics don’t need soldering) even includes a heated bed, but it’s priced in euros and is all in metric (which I think is the base design, though there is a variation in US sizes). It also hasn’t been sold for long, so he doesn’t have a stock of pieces and the available quantity is at -11 so who knows how long it would take to get shipped.

The kit I recognize from last spring when I looked this up is still exactly the same as far as I can tell, so it’s still using an older generation of the electronics, and they seem to have a dislike for line breaks so it’s really hard to read what’s included in the kit. The price is a bit cheaper, but it doesn’t include the heated bed which is highly recommended for some print mediums.

The reason I’d go with a kit instead of sourcing everything myself is that I’m more interested in working on software (and I’d likely write/edit the driver software) than working out problems in the hardware. The kits all have a large markup over the materials cost, but it saves so much time attempting to make sure everything is compatible and putting together so many different orders for parts.

Speaking of software, I’ve got a project that I’ve been considering for a while that I might as well get started on. If I make any progress or even get it working I’ll probably post something about it later.


I took my pyraminx to work on Friday and let Tom borrow it for a while, so of course he beat my times within hours. In my defense that means he had it almost as long as I’d seriously worked at it, though he was at work and hopefully wasn’t concentrating too hard on it. Also, our times weren’t all that great (at 32 and 36 second averages) considering that the record average is 3.71 seconds, but neither of us looked up algorithms.

That meant that I had to work at it a bit more to reclaim my spot at the top of the scoreboard (the only one I’m at the top of now that I’m not the only one with the 4, 5, and 7 cubes).

I was doing a layer by layer solve (and I think Tom was too) where I’d solve one side, then use a couple algorithms I worked out to move the pieces in the second layer around without greatly disturbing the first layer. It’s reasonably quick, especially if you use the inspect time to figure out which side is which color (no stationary center pieces to make it obvious), but I suspect there’s a way to solve it all at once using the inspection to find all the pieces and plan moves.

I put about 45 minutes into the pyraminx last night, then some time today, and got times of single: 10.54 seconds, 3 of 5 average: 16.72. The fastest was last night, the average was an early set of solves from today.

I’m still doing layer by layer, but I came up with another algorithm for rotating all three pieces in the top layer and I generally got better at the puzzle. Speed on the 3-cube largely comes from finger tricks, so you’re moving the pieces quickly once you know what algorithm you’re going to use. Finger tricks are hard on the pyraminx, at least if you’re trying it like the 3-cube, because the pieces don’t always twist the way you want unless you’re holding the end of the point you’re rotating. I’m not great at it now (I still lock the puzzle or have it try to twist the wrong way sometimes), but I’m far faster at just moving the pieces around. I’ve also gotten quicker at my inspections and can spot secondary pieces to move before time starts, which lets me skip some of the search time after getting the four points oriented.

At this point my times are probably “good enough”, meaning I won’t really work on it until someone catches up again. On the other hand, it’s not a bad puzzle for low lighting (like at my desk at home) since it only has four colors, so I might generally play with it but not seriously work on times.

Behind Schedule

The plan today was to start a movie and finish restickering my 7 cube. That hasn’t quite happened yet.

The movie (Inception) came with a digital copy code so I can also download it through iTunes. That’s a nice feature (besides the download time), and it expires so I figured I’d start that downloading. The only problem is that I had the hard drive on my laptop crash a while back so I tend to back things up now, but I never did get around to configuring the Samba share on my linux server to share to the windows network. I’ve been using it by switching to linux on my laptop, but I figured I should just go ahead and get that set up.

Setting up Samba to share files was rather easy (Samba Guide), but I also have a printer hooked up to that server that’s supposed to be accessible over the network. I know when I first set it up I was able to print the test page, but I haven’t gotten it to print since. With Samba finally configured I could see the printer across the network, but I haven’t been able to get it to print still (even after finally getting win7 to find the driver).

Update: Even though win7 had found the correct driver through windows update and set that printer to use it the driver apparently wasn’t installed. Talore got bored watching me fight this and went to sleep on the shelf by the balcony, which happens to be right next to the printer, so when windows finally (on the fourth time I told it to do so) installed the driver and printed the test page Talore was awakened by the printer. Once it stopped printing she looked around a bit and went back to sleep.

Now I guess I need to figure out why my laptop complains that access is denied when I try to print from it, but I think that can wait. I also should probably figure out how to install the driver for the printer on my server so I can print to it without having the driver installed locally.

The other distraction I’ve had was my Pyraminx. I figured out how to solve it the day I got it and even timed some solves, but we now have scoreboards for the 2-5 cubes and the pyraminx so I need to get better at solving it quickly. I did get a new personal fastest solve of 27.69 seconds (the world record is under 3s), but my average now is slower than the day I got it.

For the sake of the 5-cube scoreboard I did 5 solves the other day to get a 3 of 5 average (9:45.18), but that took me around an hour for 5 solves so I may try to get faster at it but I don’t know that I’ll dedicate all that much time to it.

I have a single time put on the 4-cube scoreboard, but I haven’t memorized the algorithm to fix one of the parity errors (I figured everything but that out on my own) so a reasonably quick solve is completely dependent on luck for me. My 4-cube was also rather hard to turn, so I took it apart to clean it and it’s sitting on my table waiting for me to be finished with the 7-cube. From the looks of the insides of it cleaning and re-lubing it will help a lot, and it really needs it.