Whoops... in the second competition on TopCoder I slipped badly and fell on my back. I only "solved" the two easy problems but the first solution had a off-by-one error ('<' instead of '<=') and in the second I was way too slow.
Actually it was shocking to see how many failed the first problem and not by off-by-one errors like I did but with true broken logic (missing cases) or doing redundant illogical tests (that didn't harm, however... melius abundare quam deficere has never been my view in programming, but apparently it pays off).
It was anyway fun... I want more of those :-). There's also an italian that performed extremely well (about the time taken to complete the "easy" tests... even if it's one of the many cases of pointless checks).
On the second problem I was lucky to have it actually correct. I implemented a working solution, but slowly and an horrible one compared to a few cooler ones I saw. Do this kind of sloppy reasoning in a more complex problem and the 2-secs limit on running time will look like as unsormountable barrier.
It's a pity the online competitions happen at those strange times, but this is what we pay for not living all in the same place. Many italians I know wouldn't be able to compete just because of that problem and the schedule is a problem for me too even if I work close to where I live.
I hope Pisky (the only surviving italian in TCO05) can make it further... he won also $75. From now he'll have a thougher path, including the need to put an alarm at 2.30am to compete (!).
The kind of round that we faced however is exactly what I wouldn't like about real programming. Easy problems and you've to code them in a hurry; and even if the solution is ugly from all points of views, if it works then it's ok. Exactly favoring "do it badly but do it now"; what I think is an horrible philosophy.
There was also an interesting hard problem... i wasn't able to complete it on time and it was probably even more complex than I thought as only 11 of about 650 partecipants were able to provide a working solution.