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The 2004 Internet Problem Solving Contest (IPSC) kicks off this Friday. Hundreds of programmers from around the world will compete to develop the most efficient and elegant ways of solving a set of problems. In true geek style, competitors battle for bragging rights, not a prize.

This is the sixth year in a row the contest has been held, and it has grown to become one of the world's largest online programming contests. Last year more than 600 people from 50 countries joined the competition.

It was originally conceived as a contest for secondary school students, but was also made open to anyone who fancied having a go. There are two categories, then: one for secondary school age students, and one without restriction. There is nothing stopping students from entering both classes, and teams of up to three people can enter.

Scoring is based on the time taken to solve each problem, and solutions can only be submitted in the form of output data; the judges don't want to see any code. The IPSC home page hosts a selection of previous problems, and also includes examples of what might come up. For example, competitors might be asked to devise a way of identifying a smile on a bitmap image of a face.

Teams are allowed to use one terminal each for the computation, and programs can be written in Pascal, C, C++, Java, Basic, Smalltalk, Lisp, Logo, Perl or Python.

Glory awaits. Register here. ®

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