Olympiad in Informatics

I’ve just returned1 from the final stage of Olympiad in Informatics(OI). I scored 14th place2 which gave me a title of laureate. It’s a really high position, because it is the hardest algorithm competition at a high school level. This post is a brief summary of my thoughts about it.


Although that the Polish education system has its drawbacks, there is a definitely positive thing. The Olympiads. In fact it’s hard to translate this term into English. By “Olympiad” I mean a national competitions from different subjects for a high school students. In contrast to normal competitions, they are organised by the most prestigious Universities. This series of competitions require far more knowledge and skills than is normally taught at school. It’s a kind of motivation for students to learn more than it’s in official program.


OI is slightly different than the rest of the Olympiads. It consist mainly of algorithm problems. The objective is simple, write a program that will calculate the answer for given input within time and memory limits. For example, for a given graph find the route that has length exactly k. Judging is totally automatic. A score is evaluated based on how many of the tests your program has passed correctly. Unlikely the other algorithm competitions, the most important aspect is thinking rather than coding. The contest is divided into two sessions, each of it lasts 5 hours and include only 2-3 problems, so finding an optimal solution is the crucial part.


The another reason why OI stands out is a location of the finals. Most of the Olympiads choose an academic city, while the OI 3rd stage is in a awesome coast resort – Sopot. Thanks to one of the sponsors, Combidata, we were accommodated in a training centre. It’s situated near the sea. Although in spring it’s too cold to swim, it’s truly pleasure to walk on the sand.


What’s really important is the people. It’s one of my few possibilities to talk about technical issues. Wanting a short discussion about various garbage collectors? Or a short talk about open source licensing? During the finals we have opportunity to meet/talk about almost all of the programming topics.

To give an image what’s sort of people are there, a short statistics:

Popular OS: linux flavour, mostly gentoo
Popular languages: C++ + a wide range of interpreted ones
Favourite (future) employer: Google
Other fields of interest: mathematics, physic + very odd one


At this competition I learned that I don’t exist ;-). I had a starting number 404 (HTTP not exist).


To be honest, I dreamed about achieving a better result. I’ve made one genuinely silly mistake. I coded a constant value with one more zero than it was written in a problem set. It cost me a lot of points. On the other hand, I performed well enough to be almost on the top.


Preparation for OI took me long hours and many months of hard work, but it definitely worth it. Not only I learned many algorithms, but also I learned how to solve problems. It widen my mind, show new possibilities, give me a chance to meet new friends, etc. Although this contest concentrate on algorithm, it’s a good starting point to discover other branches of informatics.

  1. In fact a week ago. I published the post with a delay. [back]
  2. Results of Olympiad in Informatics 2007 [back]
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Although, I try to not use this blog to write about my personal life, this time I will make an exception. Yesterday, one of my classmate bring some Germany songs for us, I mean texts and music on CD. He played it and encourage us to sing. Despite my basic knowledge of Germany language, It was obvious that we heard and listened to Nazism’s songs.

That surprised me, but not at all. He had already done similar things before. For example, He likes to shock us by telling controversial opinions. However, the songs which glorify “Führer” or encourage soldiers to fight during WW II are definitely not a matter of good taste. I think that he didn’t done it for ideological purpose, but just for his own sake. <irony> To show that he is really cool, open minded and truly independent. </irony>

Well, the real reason why I got shocked is not that incident itself. It is the after-match, expect me, no one reacted. I go to him and tried to tell that “he’s not doing right”. As usual he didn’t want to listen me, he just walked out after my first sentence. That wasn’t strange to me. What’s really appall me, was a short discussion with the rest of my colleagues. They didn’t see anything wrong in it or their simple agree to leave them away. Only one person confirmed that spreading Nazism symbols is forbidden by law. Majority approve of what those silly mate did. They found it funny. This was the thing that terrified me the most.

That happen in my high school, which is recognized as the best one in Silesia2 region for the last few years. It is really tough to get in to this school. Small classes and friendly atmosphere makes it a nice place for learning. I can easily discuss about science as well as philosophy with the other students. Why those people didn’t protest? Why they didn’t see anything wrong in it? Most of them simple laugh. Is it fair to laugh about a system that killed so many innocent people? I expected a more wisdom response from them.

I think for a while about the reasons of this event. The obvious one is the possibility. Nowadays access to the Internet is common. Using web browser it is extremely easy to find instructions how to make drugs/bombs/fireworks/etc. as well as the information about extremist/paramilitary organisations. Brutal sex and violence seems to be a piece of cake. Some people couldn’t restrict themselves and here are the results. The difference between evil and good is blurred.

What’s next? I could only predict. <sarcasm> I’ve already seen internment camps build from LEGO1 bricks. How about using them as a toy for children? </sarcasm> I don’t mean that there is a thing particular evil and bad for us, but our neighbourhood affects our personality. Point me recent films that are (almost) free from violence and sex. It’s hard to find any, expect those for kids. It’s hard to be truly good in nowadays world.

  1. LEGO is a trademark of LEGO Group. I use this term as a well known toy, rather than representing a opinion about it.[back]
  2. According to a few rankings. Of course the quality of the school couldn’t be only measure by its position in various comparisons. One of our noticeable competitor is VIII LO in Katowice.[back]
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A few quizes from bbspot.com

I take some old quizzes from bbspot.com website. Here are results:
You are Amiga OS. Ahead of your time. You keep a lot of balls in the air. If only your parents had given you more opportunities to succeed.
Which OS are You?

Most surprising for me, I used Amiga OS only a few times. I prefer to be classified as *nix OS.

You are .txt The one everybody knows and relies on, but avoids in social settings because you're very boring and nondescript.
Which File Extension are You?

Personally, I want to be a database format. Unfortunately, in this test that kind of answer doesn’t exist.

You are C. You do what you're told, even if you know the result will be bad.
Which Programming Language are You?

I would like to be a C++ or python.

You are wikipedia.org You are a know-it-all.  You are trustworthy, most of the time.  You are  versatile and useful.  You like volunteering.  You are free.
Which Website are You?

Excellent answer. The best one out. Although I remember better connections and relations than raw knowledge. As I always say, I’m not a hash map.

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Unpublished posts

Recently I have written a few posts, but I haven’t published them. Probably I would never do that. The reason why I decided not to post everything what I written is simple. I don’t want any posts on my site which are messy and/or don’t contain anything valuable. In other words, I don’t like what I have written. Anyway I try to summarize what I was wanting to express.

The first of unpublished article was about my driving exam. It was a kind of situation that I really hate. I need a driving license and the only way I can obtain that document is to take official exam. However the exam itself is testing mostly the knowledge of examiners tricks not a real driving skills. Also the form of exam is far from being fair. For example examinees wait for several hour in a tension that in every second their could be called for practice test. Each of that aspects could be easily solved. Sadly since it is the only organization allowed to make driving exams it is not interested in improving quality of their service. Despite of that, the driving exam centre have some “quality” certificates including well known ISO. Anyway, I passed the exam. The point of that article was that law and certificates is not all, sometimes a good will is also welcomed.

The second post was titled “Have a strategy”. It explains importance of having strategy in our life. It show how to organize work more effectively. Sometimes basic tools such as spreadsheet program could be enough to boost productivity. The main thesis was that being organized require only a little effort in compare to possible benefits.

The last one, unfinished, was about my science camp at ICM. I was doing there some researches about classifying articles using N-gram. It was a kind of workshop that require a lot of coding. It also showed that sometimes trivial formulas gave better results then complex methods. To sum up, it is a good idea to try to find simple solutions first, rather then dealing with special cases.

I hope that my further posts will be good enough to publish them.

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