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Programming IT Technology

Google Code Jam Winner Announced 325

Wild-eyed Visionary writes "According to the San Jose Mercury News, Jimmy Mardell, 25, of Stockholm, Sweden, beat out more than 5,000 coders to win $10,000 in Google's second annual Code Jam programming contest. Second place: Christopher Hendrie (Canada), third place: Eugene Vasilchenko (Russia), fourth place: Tomasz Czajka (Poland). Tom Rokicki, of dvips/Radical Eye Software fame, was the oldest finalist at age 40."
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Google Code Jam Winner Announced

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  • Anyone know... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:08PM (#7482160) Homepage
    what the problems were?
    • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:09PM (#7482170) Journal
      Not enough coders willing to work for free or cheap at Google?
    • Re:Anyone know... (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheIzzy ( 615852 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:13PM (#7482200)
      Check out []. They have a list of all the previous problems, and you can even see all the competitors' solutions if you want.
      • Re:Anyone know... (Score:3, Informative)

        by jareds ( 100340 )
        The problems and solutions will not be available there because this was a private competition run by TopCoder for Google, rather than a standard TopCoder competition.
    • Re:Anyone know... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jareds ( 100340 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:46PM (#7482355)

      The easy problem was, given a topographic map (as an array of strings of the same length, with 'A' to 'Z' giving the heights), a point on the map, and a cardinal direction, return the farthest point visible in that direction from that point.

      The medium problem was, given an array of integers representing the coefficients of a polynomial, return the largest root. Note that this is harder than it sounds because it's difficult to solve correctly just using Newton's method.

      The hard problem was, given an integer n and a fixed, precisely defined set of keystrokes available in a hypothetical editor, return the minimum number of keystrokes required to produce exactly n copies of the same character. This required an efficient search and correct choice of state space.

  • by roninmagus ( 721889 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:08PM (#7482162)
    It's a sad thing--if I'd won the money, I'd have just bought more computers. :(
  • by penguinboy ( 35085 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:08PM (#7482167)
    So what exactly did the winners' programs do, exactly? I saw no mention in the article.
    • They helped google figure out how to do some things apparently their own programmers could not consulting. Don't have the cash on hand to hire 5,000 programmers? Hold a contest and generate IP for free!
  • It would be interesting to know what language they used. From the rules :

    Use Java, C++, C# or VB.NET. Pick any of these programming languages to code your solutions. All are acceptable and none is given an advantage.

    My bet : C++
  • by Pavan_Gupta ( 624567 ) <`pg8p' `at' `'> on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:11PM (#7482186)
    I don't comment very often, but I always get a little tingly feeling thinking about how Google is one of the very few companies I see in the wide expanse of capitalism that seems to actually enjoy making their customers feel good about the fact that they are giving a little out of their own pocket/time. I would pay to use google, just becase google is not an angry behemoth like Microsoft, Walmart, or Big Bro.

    Congrats to the guys who won, and a special congratulation to Google for being my favorite company on planet earth.
    • by XorNand ( 517466 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:39PM (#7482321)

      Your two aforementioned companies are both publicly owned. They are legally bound to do what is in the best financial interests of their shareholders. The actual owners of the company are not involved in the daily management and have only one, single-minded reason for owning stock: profit.

      When Google finally bites the bullet and has a billion dollars in other people's money, a old-school board of directors, along with the need to please the SEC and Wall Street analysts, things will change drastically. You'll suddenly see Google become much more conservative because they have so many interests to look out for and competing voices to listen to.

      Then some other upstart, agile company will usurp the crown and be the geek's new flavor-of-the-week. It's just how capitalism works. The moral: Don't get to blindly attacted to Google or you're going to feel deeply betrayed--they *are* only a business after all.

      • > they are legally bound to do what is in the best financial interests of their shareholders.

        Has anyone ever dared to suggest that it is in the best financial long-term interest of the share-holders to have lots of happy customers?

        You can't put a dollar value on everything a company does, but a competition like this I think is very beneficial for google financially, just by creating good will with the community that includes both its customers and employees.

        Of course a board of directors would probabl
      • Your two aforementioned companies are both publicly owned. They are legally bound to do what is in the best financial interests of their shareholders. The actual owners of the company are not involved in the daily management and have only one, single-minded reason for owning stock: profit.

        EVERY corporation, public or private, is "legally bound to do what is in the best financial interests of their shareholders." The point is that they have shareholders, hence the responsibility.

        When Google finally bit
        • I just don't understand loyalty to companies based on anything other than price and product/service quality.

          It's actually very easy to be loyal to smaller companies that still have a human face. As companies grow they usually jump off the cluetrain [] and become impersonal assholes in order to extract maximum profit. Google is set to do that.

          I'm sure COSCO is your kind of company though... cheap slave-products.


        • EVERY corporation, public or private, is "legally bound to do what is in the best financial interests of their shareholders." The point is that they have shareholders, hence the responsibility

          Not true. There are corporations that exist with not-for-profit/public interest/charitable purposes. Some of them are legally bound to prevent their shareholders having any financial interest in them. Needless to say, investment is not one of the reasons for being a shareholder in such a corporation.
          • Fair enough; good point. Of course, I wasn't talking about those kinds of companies.

            And to respond to the AC: most regular corporations never have "make as much money as possible", or anything remotely like that, in their charter. The closest you'll get is the statement of the corporation's purpose, and nowadays, at least in Delaware, it's something like "the purpose of this Corporation is to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be organized". (That is the stated purpose of VA
      • Your two aforementioned companies are both publicly owned. They are legally bound to do what is in the best financial interests of their shareholders.

        Even if its not in the interested of everbody else. Another law that needs to change.
      • In a short summary; Google is where Microsoft was 20 years ago; growing with style and attitude, inocence, coolness and somewhat inovative.

        That is why giving Google too much personal information is a bad thing.

    • Google execs probably eat children. They just don't publicize it.
    • "google is not an angry behemoth..." ?!?

      Do people older than 6 visit this site anymore ?

    • by MisterFancypants ( 615129 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @04:42PM (#7482930)
      Google is smart, not "Good". If you think they are really the champions of the common man, consider the fact that they actively help the Chinese government censor most of the net for its citizens.

      I use google all the time, because they know what I want, not because they are some sort of do-gooders... Because they aren't.

      • Or consider the fact that they block the useragent LWP (libwww-perl) in an attempt to stop bots. Whats this google, you can use bots to spider the entire internet, but we cant make a simple query? I'm not jumping through hopes just to get a limited API license that probably has no extentions for languages I want to use.
  • ...all from outside the U.S.?

    Our education system is in serious trouble.
    • by XorNand ( 517466 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:20PM (#7482228)
      Why is this a warning sign? Looking at it from a purely statistical point of view, the odds were not very good that an American would be among the winners. Stop being so narrow-minded, there are bright people from all over the world--America and abroad.
    • by Izeickl ( 529058 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:21PM (#7482236) Homepage
      Check out Country Ratings []

      US comes 13th out of the 16 ranked countries. Funnily enough, for all the outsourcing it gets, India is last.
      • I believe their ranking system is flawed. Look at how many were rated from the US. That has to pull down the average. Croatia probably has their best 11 programmers signed up and they got sixth place for it. The only country with >200 coders registered is the US. I don't think their stats page is meant to be a rule at all.
        • Um, this isn't the Olympics. The government of Croatia does not go out of its way to get the best 11 coders to sign up for it. "Croatia" really has nothing to do with it. It just happens that the 11 programmers who happened to sign up from Croatia were better than the average US contestant. The only thing you can argue is that a sample of 11 programmers it not large enough to be statistically significant --- and thus not an accurate representation of the average programmer in Croatia.
      • Look at the number of US that are rated though. 1658 coders compared to only 24 for #1 placed Sweden. It just shows there are more amateur US coders entering the competition.
      • by KalvinB ( 205500 )
        Considering only 24 people are ranked for Sweden and over 1300 for the US, it's not surprising we're ranked lower. We've got a lot more people trying (and failing) which lowers the overall score.

        It'd be interesting to see how our top X compare to another country's top X or just who has the top coder over all.

        The statistics as they are, are pretty much meaningless.

        • You're so right. Look at Sweden, the top ranked country with 24 people and an average of 1439.95, then look at the school rankings. MIT, in second place, has 28 people and an average of 1675.39. If one US school can beat the top country, then the states might not be the cesspool of bumbling idiot programmers the poster implied. (unless, of course, the MIT team is 24 swedish programmers and the four highest ranked poles, but I don't think that's likely)
    • is outside the U.S.?

      Ok, many of those people haven't had much experience with computers. But even if you just look at the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU, you've still got easily enough people to make the lack of US success attributable to chance.
      • Er, it must be nice to be able to dismiss it like that, but as was previously mentioned: If you look at topcoders country ratings, usa is near the bottom of the ranked countries. Just under canada there. The top countries are Sweeden, Poland, and Germany, in that order. The link to that page is in the comment above yours, take a look.

        If it were the olympics you wouldn't say 'ahh, there are so many countries, USA is bound to lose most of the time.' Thats downright unpatriotic of you :)
      • "But even if you just look at the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU, you've still got easily enough people to make the lack of US success attributable to chance."

        True. I guess I am adding this to a larger body of observations on my part. I just don't think our system is keeping up. The number of people I meet from other much smaller countries that have really strong computer skills seems disproportionate. This could just be a perspective issue thou
        • When I was in grad school for physics it was sort of a running joke that the incoming Chinese students would always destroy the American ones on the qualifying exam. Finally I asked one of the Chinese guys about it and he told me that he had to beat out hundreds of people in China on a battery of tests just to even apply to an American grad school. We only get a chance to meet the best of the best, the rest of them are still in China.
  • by weetjerm ( 637949 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:28PM (#7482263)
    This guy is no stranger to programming. Many a day in middle school, and high school, was spent playing games Jimmy made for the TI-85 and TI-92. Specifically, he programmed Boulderdash, Tetris, Solitare, and many more to the various calculator platforms. A comprehensive list can be found at []. Thanks man! Sqrxz was great.
  • by sm.arson ( 559130 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:31PM (#7482288) Homepage
    The Google Code Jam winner was certainly famous for his skills a long time before this... even ordinary kids in my suburban high school new about Jimmy Mardell 8 years ago.

    Jimmy Mardell [] was one of the pioneers of assembly programming for the TI calculators way back when. Without his ZTetris program (with two player link capability, no less!), high school math class would have been really boring for me.

    I credit Jimmy Mardell's work for sparking my interest in game programming. It's good to see he's still on top of things.
    • dear god, one would have thought you were in MY math class!... I too played linked Tetris with at least one friend during boring Calculus 1 lectures in high school.

      I credit Z80/TI-85 tomfoolery with fostering my desire for going towards system programming. Mardell was one of the greats :)

      Ah, the things you can do even without MULT and DIV instructions :P
  • Yay Jimmy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by YodaToad ( 164273 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:34PM (#7482302)
    I just want to take the time to congratulate Jimmy on a job well done. I knew someone from the "TI Community" would make it big some day.

    I'm sure everyone who's ever owned a recent TI graphing calculator (TI-83 and up) will remember zTetris, among other puzzle games, that Jimmy wrote.

    Jimmy Mardell []
  • It seems that the Scandinavians/NE Europeans are very talented with all parts of computing, such as programming and gaming. If i'm not mistaken, the Counter Strike clan that won the latest CPL were Swedish. I see a lot of good quality mappers that are from this part of the world, 3D-Mike [] and this guy [] for example. Oh, let's not forget Linus Torvalds. I hear that the broadband infrastructure is excellent in those parts of Europe and I suppose that will do anything but harm the situation.

    Would any Easte
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @02:40PM (#7482332) Homepage Journal
    Finals results

    Google CodeJam
    Onsite Championship Round
    Handle Score
    Yarin 569.58
    ChristopherH 482.17
    venco 359.85
    tomek 331.87

    Topcoders ranking:
    Top 10 Coders
    Rank Handle Rating
    1. tomek 3450
    2. SnapDragon 3285
    3. reid 3169
    4. snewman 3132
    5. Yarin 3058
    6. NGBronson 3005
    7. bladerunner 2928
    8. John Dethridge 2912
    9. ZorbaTHut 2881
    10. WishingBone 2858

    Poland Rules!
    • by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @04:54PM (#7482981)
      Poland's math and computing education is modelled on the soviet degrees just like in the rest of the Eastern Europe and are much tougher than anything in the West. Course notes are essentially like reading Knuth's TAOCP. I think only MIT could give Eastern European Universities a run for its money.

      They don't have many universities (for the size of the population) but they provide some of the toughest, highest quality courses in math, engineering and Computer Science.

      I spent only three years in a Polish high school (they normally last four or five years) and went straight to a third year of a top British University in their Electrical Engineering programme. All of the math required was covered in the first couple of years in my high school.

  • How about, "Rack yourself against 5,000 of the world's best programmers for a 1/5000 chance at $10,000 and an outside shot at a job offer. Salary is negotiable and depends on experience."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Turns out the Europeans can beat the best of Silicon Valley.

    Well, first of all, I don't agree with that. It kind of assumes that the best of Silicon Valley were attending that contest instead of actually trying to make a go of their company!

    Secondly, however, I think it might point to a weakness in our current US culture. Nearly every young person that I talk to now (I am 50, by the way), when talking about majors in college, puts any kind of technical degree at the bottom of the list. In fact, of the fe
  • Some fun string manipulation stuff... can't recall the problem I completed in the qualification round(I managed to declare a few varialbes on the second problem I had to do then my time ran out) but it was a lot of fun and definitely educational. I never used typedefs before then... use them all the time. never used stringstreams either. Now I do...

    Placed something like 160 in my group... only the top 100 advanced:(
  • by spectecjr ( 31235 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @04:04PM (#7482748) Homepage
    The problem with TopCoder is that it emphasizes hacky brute force solutions over elegant / high performance ones.

    Which is all well and good if you need to hack something out real quick, but if you need to get something stable, robust, high performance and high quality, you're talking about a whole different set of skills.
    • The problem with TopCoder is that it emphasizes hacky brute force solutions over elegant / high performance ones.

      How did you come to this conclusion?

      At least the FAQ didn't make you do it.

      Do you really think this is a good way to measure the relative merit of programmers?

      The ability to quickly code solutions to a set of somewhat simple algorithmic problems does not completely define a "top" programmer. However, our attempt to make TopCoder tournaments as objective as possible has initially lead us in
      • How did you come to this conclusion?

        When I came across a question asking me to determine how a table of data with three columns was sorted.

        The way they wanted you to figure it out was to sort the data in every possible combination of ways, and then compare those combinations with the actual data.

        Some of the others were of a similar nature. At which point, after spending the time to come up with an elegant solution and being ranked badly on time, I realized that I could have done it the "easy but complet
  • by p4r4d0x ( 201226 ) on Saturday November 15, 2003 @04:19PM (#7482830)
    Besides his calculator endeavors jimmy's also a known fast typer :)

    #23 all time on typerA [].

The computer is to the information industry roughly what the central power station is to the electrical industry. -- Peter Drucker