"In het verleden behaalde resultaten bieden geen garanties voor de toekomst"

These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

Questions? Praise? Blame? Feel free to contact me.

My old blog (pre-2006) is also still available.

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Planning at ORTEC

Right now, I'm in Gouda in a bus heading towards ORTEC, a company that works with planning software and algorithms. Today they organise a in-house day. Together with a number of math students of Study Association Abacus we are going to work on a case titled "Restrictions within the Dijkstra algorithm".

So far we've been underway for 3 hours to get here, currently we're bouncing around in this bus, since the driver seemingly wants to catch up his delay. We're off to a good start, since as soon as we get there, we'll start with lunch (probably after a short boring intro talk). Read on for a "live" report :-)

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Educational market and Laserquest

Today was the "educational market" (Onderwijsmarkt), organised by Inter-Actief. Main attraction where the design projects, which had all made a (more or less) pretty poster presenting their project and findings.

Since we had been well-warned to take care of the poster well before today, we started work on it yesterday, since it was the first moment anyone had some free time since we decided we (Marijn and I) would stop postponing it last friday.

Making a poster

I had already made some preparations on monday in the train, mainly thinking about what should be on the poster and writing some text to put on there. I started yesterday morning (got up at 8 for this!) with actually putting together a poster with a few screenshots and the text I had written.

After some fighting with the vector drawing program [Inkscape], which we used since Marijn knew it pretty well, I had put together something really, really, ugly and unfinished. Being out of time, I bailed and left the thing to Marijn. He managed to turn it into a pretty decent poster with nice colours and lines and all.

Printing a poster

He gave it back to me, so I could take care of the printing (he had to work this morning). I spent an hour or so last night battling with the various svg, (e)ps and pdf files, which turned out to contain a subtle error somewhere. This made all my attempts to properly chop up the A0 poster in 8 A3 pages fail (we were already too late to let it print in A0). After doing some more CDP homework, I gave up on it and went to bed. Since I did not expect the printing of the poster to work in one try, I slept less than four hours and got up early.

This morning was spent trying various file formats, drawing programs and printer settings at the print shop (The guy there always lets me fiddle around myself) and at first gave me a poster (that is, in 8 A3 pieces) in which all the images were black and white. Being happy that I had got at least something, I returned to Inter-Actief to see if the adobe suite could help me out.

After some fiddling around with Illustrator, I managed to convince it to print my poster on 8 A3 sheets. Using the Adobe pdf printer, I turned this into a nice, self-contained pdf to print at the print shop. Worked out pretty well, this is something we can do more often at Inter-Actief, since we currently use Photoshop to split a poster into four png images to be printed on A3 paper.

Presenting a poster

The presentation of the poster was pretty informal, everybody walked into and out of the room and looked around, playing our game and looking at our poster. We also got an "official" visit from the jury, that had to select the best poster of the day.

Later, at the drink afterwards, the winner of the best poster award was announced. After some honourful mentions, they announced our poster to be the best one. Pretty nifty, since it earned me (the other group members were already gone) an applepie. Pretty weird too, since the poster was really a not very thought through bunch of information on 8 poorly taped together A3 sheets. Ah well, apparently I had written some interesting things by accident and Marijn did a good job at layouting it.

Laserquest

After such a night of little sleep and an intensive day, it was time to get to bed early and sleep a lot. So, I went over to Inter-Actief at 1930 to go Laserquesting. I had done it one time before and really liked it and since I had no other appointments this time (as I had the last two times), I decided to go anyway. Also, the last time only three people wanted to go and it was canceled, didn't want to break the mood this time ;-)

After three immensely intensive games of laserquest (my muscles will probably be aching tommorrow), I am now really ready to go to bed and sleep a lot. I'll see about that class tomorrow morning (1040), might not go there if I'm still tired then.

So, time for bed. Goodnight.

Pandora 2008 finished: Not-so-exhausted and won

During the last week, Utwente Campus was again home to the puzzling, battling madness that is called "Pandora". This year's theme were the ancient greeks, main characters were the gods Zeus, Poseidon and Ares. The story resolved around the quest to find the Pithos de Pandora (which was later not so nicely translated to "Pandora's box").

The fun started with our preparations: We had arranged a number of Bluetooth GPS modules to use during the week. Bas spent quite some time coding a java program that we deployed on our mobile phones, which asked the GPS module for the current location and sent that up to a server every two seconds. On the other end, Bas and I built a webapp that showed these positions on a google map powered map, so we could track (some of) our team members in the field during the week. We extensively used this to mark the clues in the fields as well, which allowed for easy transmission of the puzzle codes from the field team to the base team and provides an nice archive of clue locations :-)

Our team started focussing on the puzzles, as we did last year. However, last year we did very well on the puzzles, but still got beaten by a team which also put a major focus on their killing. This year, that particular team was organising Pandora, which was visible in the scoring rules (less points for solving puzzles quickly than previous years). In the end, the rebalancing between puzzles and kills turned out quite nice, providing the Inter-Actief board team with the lead position during the first two days.

To compensate, we shifted our strategy to spend some more time on killing instead of puzzling only, which turned out rather well. The end result: We won by a large margin, by solving the puzzles first on every night and scoring a pretty large amount of kills over the week.

The puzzles were very nice and proper Pandora puzzles, most of which were solved by every team. There were a lot of puzzles that were not so hard (the organisation even added extra puzzles on the last day to increase the difficulty), though I regret that there were no real hard puzzles (just one or two would be perfect). On the other hand, this approach ensured that the puzzles kept rolling and most teams stayed motivated to solve the puzzles before sleeping :-)

The storyline was mandatory this year: Each puzzle had an accompanying piece of story, all of which were needed for constructing the answers to each night's questions. This is actually quite cool (in the last years, Pandora had been involving the other way around: each night's end answer used to be the answer to the last puzzle, or even a list of codes showing that you had solved every puzzle).

I finished of this Pandora week with a refreshing swim in the pond behind the Campuslaan. There is a small island there, on which both the last clue and the actual Pithos de Pandora were located. Since it's kind of hard to arrange for some kind of boat at 3 AM (and our preparation unfortunately lacked a rubber boat, which we will be fixing next year), Frank arranged for a towel and swimming gear. And, since our HQ was at my flat and I had dry clothes there, I volunteered for a swim (though any one of us would probably have jumped right in as soon as any other team had appeared near the spot...).

Since we were the first team to get there, we took the actual Pithos de Pandora, leaving only the clue for the other teams to swim towards. My deepest respect goes out to the other five teams that made the plunge, without the added motivation of seeing the Pithos waiting for you (Since seeing it standing there made up my doubting mind :-).

All in all, this Pandora was extremely amusing, and the fact that we actually got to sleep a full night of sleep every night for a change, was fun. I had an extremely fun week, for which I have my teammembers, the other participants but mostly the organisation to thank. Thanks!

1 comment -:- permalink -:- 02:11
Day 3: Puzzles

We received two initial clues: a paper stating "Koffie, koffie, lekker bakkie koffie, wat knapt een mens daarvan op" ("Coffee, coffee, nice cup of coffee, it does a man good"). The second clue were wooden tangram pieces, with lines drawn on the back and two holes in them.

We spent a good deal thinking about the coffee thing, which were lines from a song by Rita Corita. We had a lot of vague ideas, but none of them were really solid, or turned up new clues. The hint suggested that the second part of the hint was not a statement but a question, which we had already considered. So, long story short, we got nowhere.

The tangram pieces were easier. When you put them in a normal tangram square, the backside would show a top view of the "Horst" building. Interpreting the holes as locations to find clues turned out nothing, but just searching the Horst entrance found us a clue (but only at the second try...).

Tangram

The clue found at the horst were six tangram problems, which would clearly need to be solved. Fortunately, Elvan had some experience with these, so within minutes, we had six solved tangrams on photo. To turn these solved tangrams into a clue, one needs to lay them out one by one. You start with laying down the first tangram. Now, we remove all pieces, leaving only the triangle with the hole on the table. We mark where the hole is.

Next, we lay down the second tangram around the triangle, leaving it where it is. When we're done, we remove all pieces except for the paralellogram with the hole. Again we mark the location of the hole. Now, we lay down the third tangram, around the parallelogram. Again we remove all pieces, this time leaving only the triangle again, and marking its position. If we continue this and connect the dots, we will get the figure of an "L" turned counter clockwise, which is an "L on its long side", translating to the "Langezijds" building. If you think "Wtf?!", you should click the image below, which will take you to a nice animation of this method (courtesy of Ieniemienie, thanks!).

We had considered this solving method quite soon after solving the six tangrams, but we encountered a problem in the orientation. Neither the triangle or the paralellogram were oriented in the same way in tangram 3 and 4. For this reason, we discarded this method. It turns out that tangram 3 is slightly ambigious, the holed triangle and a small triangle form a figure that is symmetric, so can be mirrored, changing the orientation of the triangle. So, we were close, but not there yet.

After some hours of puzzling, the organisation gave away the answer to the tangram puzzle: the Langezijds building, since the tangram was too hard. Even then it took us a lot of time to actually find the clue, since it was not near the main entrance and Langezijds is a huge building. But, we found it eventually.

Fishy

At Langezijds we found a picture of a (yellow) boxing glove together with a (yellow) fish. This one is rather easy when you do some research. Googling around for this particular type of fish, turns you to the family of "boxfish" (hence, the boxing glove). Boxfish are fish that are cubic in shape. This particular species of boxfish is called the "Yellow Boxfish", or Ostracion cubicus. Coincidentally, we have a building on campus called "Cubicus", which is where the next clue was hidden.

This is where the chronology of this story breaks. In reality, we had found the Cubicus clue hours before, after noticing the Inter-Actief bestuur team sneaking around Cubicus very conspicuously. We did solve the puzzles leading up to here in paralell with the puzzles from this point on, though.

Fibonacci

The next clue was a peculiar one: A sequence of numbers together with the cartoon figure "Miffy". Our initial association with Miffy was the "Vlinder", a kinder garten on campus. Our second try was the book store, since Miffy was drawn by Dick Bruna, whereas Bruna is a chain of bookstores (little far-fetched, but one can try, no?).

The next association with Miffy, being a rabbit, was Fibonacci. The Fibonacci sequence was originally created to model the growth rate of rabbits. After some number crunching, Elvan, our Fibonacci specialist, came back with the answer: If you take each number and subtract the two preceding numbers from the sequence, you will get numbers between 1 and 26. Translating the result through 1=A encoding gives "blokhutten" ("cottages"), which we have on campus.

Linear algebra

The next clue were a number of lineair equations, with weird symbols instead of numbers. This was an easy one: Assign a number to each symbol in such a way that the equations work out. There were three sets of symbols: Japanese-ish, Russian and Greek. Within each set of symbols, no number could be assigned more than once.

So, the method was easy. But solving the problem proved harder. Eventually I discovered an internal inconsistency in the puzzle, which got corrected by the organisation. While struggling with these equations, I wrote a small prolog program to solve the bottom two sets of equations (the top one was correct and solved by hand).

Now, with a mapping from symbols to numbers, the line of symbols at the bottom can be translated to a telephone number. Calling this number gave me a very weird voicemail, which turned out to be the wrong number. Luckily I did not awake some random poor soul with my phonecall. After the organisation corrected this mistake, I called the correct number: 06 18691667. Calling this number turned up a voicemail message of the powerpuffs, pointing to a file on the internet. This file contained the files that the powerpuffs had stolen on the first day, together with some evidence suggesting that Pandaprijs is involved with drug smuggling. Something to think about...

But, among the stolen files was a file that contained the password of the final day 3 puzzle. When submitting this answer, we got confirmation that was correct. We had finished the puzzles succesfully. We missed out on the "coffee" puzzle line, but we ended up where we wanted to be anyway.

Competition

This time, finally, we managed to submit the correct solution first. The plumbers were on our tail: they submitted within 6 minutes after us. After this, nobody really solved the puzzles. A few more teams submitted the correct solution, but after we had sent them the rar file we found. Because the organization seems to be using us as cover up for drug smuggle, we decided to pass the files around so people might get together and act. Perhaps open rebellion?

Day 3: High tea and shootout

I've been to the Inter-Actief high tea this afternoon, organized by the MeisCie. Pandora participants had received free tickets, so we suspected there would be some kind of puzzle or clue there.

After the mandatory drinking of tea and eating of munchies, we noticed a Hardcore Powerpuffs clue lying around. It pointed us to youtube, which contained a short movie recording a telephone call made by Dirk, the show host, during Monday night's meeting.

In this telephone conversation (transcript, in dutch) it turns out that there is some mala fide business going on inside Pandaprijs. The result of the Powerpuff puzzle result (will post about that soon) suggested that there might be drug smuggling going on under the Pandaprijs cover. From this phone call, it seems that our show host Dirk doesn't want to be involved in this business, but is probably forced to do so anyway.

Perhaps Dirk can be an ally in our cause?

Camera drugs

Another bit of information, an email from the powerpuff puzzle result, suggested that there would be an exchange of "ice cream" (presumably a keyword for drugs), at Wednesday afternoon, carried in a camera bag. So, together with No Nonsense, we kidnapped the camera bag of one of the TV guys, turned it inside out, but found nothing. Afterward, I noticed that the email was timestamped in 2005, so it was probably outdated information...

Shootout

Elvan, one of my team members and 001, one of the No Nonsense team members, engaged in a voluntary duel. They live in the same apartment and were both still alive, so to prevent a mess at the dinner table, they wanted to settle it right there and then.

In the end, the duel ended up in lots of confusion, since 001's bow broke down, while propelling an arrow that might or might not have hit Elvan. They settled for exchanging licenses, since finding a new bow to try again was too much of a fuss.

(Do click the picture to the right, it links to a full action movie of the shoutout!)

Next up: Puzzles....

Day 3: Hunting powerpuffs

Last night, the third meeting was held (and the FlitCie made pictures). After a short recap of monday's puzzles, there was a duel between "De 7 IA Wonderen" and "H.E.N.K.", to settle a dispute. "H.E.N.K." had the favour of winning this, after which we could continue with business as usual. The Pandaprijs organisation wants to get back at the hardcore powerpuffs for defacing their website and has given every team, next to the ordinary puzzle, a clue left by the powerpuffs.

This clue was a physical tangram game, containing two holes and a line drawing. The normal puzzle was a paper saying "Koffie, koffie, lekker bakkie koffie, wat knapt een mens daarvan op" ("Coffee, coffee, nice cup of coffee, it does a man good").

Since the puzzling deadline is not over yet, I can't go into any details about these clues. I do want to share a nice picture of a fruitless attempt on the coffee clue: Ordering a cup of coffee at the vestingbar, exclaiming "Wat knapt een mens daarvan op", did not yield any further clues. We had hoped for specifically instructed barcrew handing over clues, or clues turning up at the bottom of the coffecups, but no such luck. So, Marijn had a nice cup of coffee (or not so nice really) and I had a nice cup of tea (since coffee still tastes like shit).

Anyway. Let me conclude by saying that we solved all of todays puzzles. We did bump into one clue by accident, but we solved the puzzles leading up to there afterwards. With the plumbers team solving the end puzzle only six minutes later, tomorrow night might just prove very interesting indeed.

Check back later today for puzzles, now it's (finally) time for sleep.

1 comment -:- permalink -:- 11:11
Day 2: Powerpuff hell

Last night's meeting went rather smooth. We finally met our gameshow host, Dirk, in person. While all teams were taking shelter against the rain in a bicycle shed, Dirk was giving an enthousiastic speech, in the rain. The main topics were: The disappointing results from day 1 (only four teams had a solution) and the disqualification of team Hardcore Powerpuffs.

Hardcore Powerpuffs

The hardcore powerpuffs had, over the course of the first evening stolen an orginisation laptop. This explains their insanely fast solution submission (107 minutes after the meeting). For this reason, they were disqualified from the show. To make their point, the organisation blew up their mascotte; and showed us the nice footage.

With this problem solved, we continued with the normal briefing. Licenses were redistributed, puzzles were given to the teams.

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1 comment -:- permalink -:- 23:16
Day 1: Confuzzlement and luck

After a whole year of waiting, it finally has come again: This week is Pandora time!. Unfortunately, this week is also the first week of the rather heavy electrical engineering course that I need to invest quite some time in. Might be interesting how that turns out combined with Pandora. Anyway...

Opening

This year's theme is "Pandaprijs", a TV show aired by "Pandora TV". Teams were gathered in the Inter-Actief room last night for the opening of the TV show. Due to problems with his helicopter transport, the show host Dirk was unable to present the program and rules to us, but Jorne was happy to stand in. We did catch a glimpse of the mysterious Dirk on a specially prepared video message.

Interesting, though, was that not all teams were present. It seems that participating teams were split, the other teams had their briefing in a different location. Whether this was just to split the load and because not all teams would fit in the same location, or there is something more sneaky going on, I don't know. Though I'd put my money on the latter, for this is Pandora...

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(Disclaimer: This post is about a game. It is all fiction.)

Okay, it's been a while, but I'll try to remember what happened a few days back. I already described today's meeting, so I will skip to the puzzles. Bas, the creator of these puzzles has also written a nice piece on how they were created.

Easy start

To find the device to disable our localization implants, we were given a clue with 10 hexagons on it. These hexagons were marked in some way, possibly representing numbers. Also, there was "MA 5/6 214040" on the clue. MA 5/6 represents college hours, the number is a course number.

Half our team was on their way to pick up their bikes, only Brenda and I managed to take them with us after the chaos just before. So, immediately after the meeting, the two of us went for some WLAN coverage at the Hogekamp building, to look up where the given course was held in the given time slot, since that was undoubtedly the next location.

This gave us "Langezijds 2520". The rest of our team had arrived home by now, so we called in somebody with a photo camera and the exact location of the 2520 room within the (huge) Langezijds building. I sent Brenda home, since we still had all the licenses of our team, so they couldn't really go out. I myself went to the Langezijds building, where I would meet Jasper (a non-contestant) to bring me the camera.

We had seen some delay at Hogekamp, due to 2d4d trying to kill us (first time within the 10 minute safe time, second time they had come back for the kill. ah well, the puzzle is more important than killing anyhow and I managed to return the favor of a kill). But, due to this delay, we arrived second, after team CIA (nicely done, CIA). There, I could not find the clue at once, but did find it shortly after. Hoping that CIA would go away so I could write down the clue, I delayed a little. In the end, another team arrived, so I had to be more careful. Also, Jasper arrived with my camera. As soon as the third team arrived I decided to screw it and give the clue away to team CIA. I climbed into the fire ladder to make a proper photo of the clue. In the end, it turned out to be a good decision, since on our way back, we met at least 4 teams coming our way behind the Langezijds building...

The clue had a few aspects to it. First, there was "MISSING LINKS". Second, there were three lines, each sharing a single starting point, pointing upwards, bottom left and bottom right. There were markings "T", "L", "R" in the top, left and right parts of the figure respectively. Lastly, there was

GOTO(SUM(L,R)
REMEMBER(T)


by now, we had pretty much established that the markings on the original clue were numbers, encoded with the bars meaning 5 and the dots meaning one (This turned out tot be Mayan counting in the end, but we didn't know that). If we overlaid the TLR figure over each hexagon on this clue, we could label each number with T, L or R.

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The end: Smashing victory

(Disclaimer: This post is about a game. It is all fiction.)

It is done. This afternoon we fully finished Pandora. Though I have not blogged about the third and second day and puzzle, I will do that next weekend. First, I'll be concentrating on sleeping :-) Delivering the solution within thirty minutes of the solution, closely followed by two other teams, we managed to obtain a smashing victory. Not only were we the only team to solve all four puzzles, we also solved them first every time. Even on the kills area we didn't do bad: we managed to get 11 kills on the last day while our kill joker (triple points) was in effect. This got us a pretty decent score:

1. L.I.E.V -- 2570
2. Happy Hooves -- 1810
3. 2d4d --1280

I've just been to the "Battle of the Cultures", a game of theatresports between Contramime, Pro Deo and Nest. I Barely noticed the effects of my tiredness (in the past 60 hours, I've only took a small 2 hour nap) while watching the show.

During the break I went out for fresh air, but as soon as I saw the outside campus, my mind and body sprang back into Pandora-mode: rushed, driven & paranoid. Back inside, it faded away. Apparently just seeing places that have strong Pandora memories triggers this. As I rode home I noticed that nearly every spot of the campus now has a distinct Pandora memory attached to it, since we actually searched just about every building on campus. Let's see how fast this will help...

Another interesting effect of sleep deprivation: Last night's puzzles used a number, 2.513274. Also, the night before we used the ISBN number 90-365-2349-4. I just wrote these two numbers down from the top of my head... Apparently the lack of sleep makes me remember stuff better? This might explain why I have such strong memory associations with certain locations. Also, it completely kills my power to formulate sentences, so blogging is probably a bad idea. Wanting to write the last sentence, I just wrote a sentence about killing and stopping processes that made completely no sense... Anyway, don't mind the spelling errors...

Anyway, from the moment I sat down in the Theater Cafe, I felt an imminent breakdown coming up. Since I arrived home, I've typed this blog and read my IRC backlog and now I'm so totally wasted that I'll sleep as soon as I touch my pillow... These last words are produced solely powered by willpower...

So, I bid you goodnight and crash into my bed....