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Countdown to PDC2008: Pick Your Sessions, Build Your Agenda and Win a Trip

9 minutes, 21 seconds


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In this week’s edition of the PDC Countdown (only 66 days to go), Mike and Jennifer host the marketing manager of the conference who talks about all of the great opportunities to win, win, win!  Trips to LA, tickets to the Dodgers or Lakers, a movie premiere, or a trip down the red carpet at the Emmy’s could be yours.  Or you could design the PDC t-shirt that will be handed out to thousands of attendees!! Wow, you could go down in PDC history if you’re the winner!  Plus, I suppose we also need to talk about content and sessions . . . . so in a double whammy line-up, the creative director of the PDC appears on the show to discuss the new Agenda Builder and My Sessions user experience on the PDC web site.  So much to talk about, so little time!  And there’s also Mike’s Hard Hat Challenge – can you solve it in 6 hours or less?  On your marks, get set, go!  


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  • I'm excited to see how our viewers attack this week's Hard Hat Challenge. I've dialed-up the difficulty level a bit in the hopes that it might take longer than 6 hours to solve. But, it is a challenge, and if someone solves it within 6 hours, I'll be seriously impressed. I hope I didn't make it too difficult.

    Good luck!

  • CKurtCKurt while( ( !​succeed=try​() ) ) { }
    Hope it's not binary because i can't seem to decode it....

    My answer: THE TRANSISTOR
  • DukeNukem...this isn't something that anyone is likely to guess, and no, that is not the correct answer. It is more difficult than the prior challenges, and I'll be very interested to hear how the eventual winner solved it.

  • While we all love giveaways, it appears to require PDC registration.

    I'd love to go to the PDC! But I don't have a few grand to blow. (Wife would kill me!)

    Microsoft, how about some giveaway trips to the PDC?
  • CKurtCKurt while( ( !​succeed=try​() ) ) { }
    I know, it wasn't a guess really.

    In the 1950's the transistor was invented, and the binary code with the least value is the group on the right. But I don't seem to be able to decode it propperly.
    It isn't brialle nor Morse-code. Binary doesn't seem to give me anything readable either.

    So I gave up and made a guess Wink
  • Hi Judah,

    Actually, Mike's Hard Hat Challenge doesn't require PDC registration.  Anybody can give it a go and win the limited edition PDC2008 shirt.  Go ahead, give it a whirl.  Mike's upped the ante to see who can guess his riddle this time.  Smiley

    Good luck!
  • Could it be that I've dialed this one up too high on the difficulty scale? I'm happy to give a hint, if anyone thinks it would help. How strange would it be to deliver another Countdown to PDC2008 episode before the Challenge is solved?
  • Okay...I've received a lot of e-mail that describes some fantastic effort to solve this particular Hard Hat Challenge. Many of the messages tell me enough to confirm that a number of people are on the right track. Knowing all the brainpower that's being exerted (there are some development teams that are working on the problem), I started to wonder if I was wasting the collective developer effort in the world with a faulty Challenge. So, I manually solved the problem again tonight with my wife's help (I feel sorry for her Smiley) to re-confirm its accuracy. I also re-referenced the foundational work that the puzzle depends on to ensure that I wasn't off base.


    Here are a few hints that might push some of you in the right direction:

    • Yes, the left side of the image is a frequency chart.
    • The primary technique is based on a paper from 1952.
    • The verbal hint from the show is very important. If I avoid the silly rhyme, I might re-state it like this: if two structures are considered "equal," first pick the structure that contains the element with the lowest overall character value.

    I hope this helps!

  • I have worked out how to solve the problem. I do not have the solution yet but I'm very close and will post it as soon as I am finished.

    Edit 1: It turns out I was on the right track but was beaten to the final solution. Continue reading the thread for further clarification.

  • The solution is: 'Softwareplusservices'

    I published some details on my solution in Solution-TXT, excl. C# source.
  • If anyone has not yet solved the problem and would like to do so without external input then do not read this post as it contains some discussion of the method used to obtain the solution.

    ThomasScheidegger, having read your solution I am very impressed. I too started to work on it after reading the additional hints posted and quickly recognised the use of Huffman coding in the problem (the mention of 'a paper from 1952' really gave this part away). I also assumed that Wingdings had been used to mask the characters used in the message (admittedly, this was a guess).

    Contrary to your method however, I attempted to manually draw the Huffman tree and it's here were it all went horribly wrong for me. With the tree that I obtained the binary code did not lead me to the first message that you received from your program, and therefore I also did not get the second message and ultimate solution.

    I really thought I had it solved when I realised the link between the Huffman coding, the Wingdings obfuscation and the binary, hence the earlier post that I made out of sheer excitement. Well done mswanson on creating such a difficult problem. You should refer it to Microsoft's human resources department as an interview question for potential employees.

  • ThomasScheidegger...I am seriously impressed! I dialed this one up pretty high, and I wondered if someone would be able to decode it. You have earned some major geek points in my book. Thanks for posting your solution...I enjoyed reading it. Of the Challenges posted so far, this is easily the most difficult. Please send us an e-mail at pdccount (at) microsoft.com, and we'll coordinate your very limited edition internal PDC2008 t-shirt.

    If you're curious, I took a photo of the manual Huffman coding tree I created a few nights back to ensure I hadn't made a mistake. Leaf nodes can be identified with a character on top and the frequency on the bottom.

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