November 16th, 2003


Puzzle competition

So, I got back from "An All-Night Affair" this afternoon. This was the puzzle competition that Microsoft was hosting at our school, and that I was participating in with Jim, Ronit, and Mike. Our team name was "The Illuminators", a name that served us well as we blazed ahead in the competition, solving 18 out of the 21 puzzles and - more importantly - being first to solve four of them.

Nobody solved the "metapuzzle", which was deciphering an x86 machine-code program. We came close, but we misinterpreted a jump instruction as causing an infinite loop, because we forgot that with the variable-length nature of the x86 architecture, the jump would not be measured in instructions but in bytes.

...Anyway, the competition was from noon Saturday to noon Sunday. We kept with it the entire time, and barely squeezed out a victory - since the metapuzzle went unsolved, the contest went to the team with the greatest number of points, and we barely kept ahead on that count. We were defending a quickly diminishing lead for about the last six hours of the tournament, which made for some stressful times.

As to the prizes, we each won an XBox, some games, a Live kit, a PC version of Halo, and a Sidewinder. The XBox stuff was for winning the competition overall, and the PC stuff was two separate prizes for solving certain puzzles first.

It was... fun. And tiring, and I still need to finish my solution for the 280 students' next project. So I'm off to do that.
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    Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer