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ICFP Contest Releases Codex 38

howie writes "The ICFP Programming Contest begins on Friday and organizers have released the first part of the contest, the "codex". Contest organizers haven't (yet) given any details, but there's been lots of speculation on the discussion list -- the file contains some suggestive strings like "i love bees" and "MKULTRA". The organizers promise more information by noon (ET) on Friday."
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ICFP Contest Releases Codex

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @01:10PM (#15751007) Journal
    Ok ok, so I've only looked at this thing for five minutes in Textpad but there are some very interesting clips of readable text in the file. Early on they say:
    ignoti et quasi occulti
    Which I believe is a latin phrase for something like "unknown and partly hidden." It's also the motto for Societas Eruditorum in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon book.

    Evan Chan was murdered
    It's a reference to a game centered around the film A.I. [cloudmakers.org] and refers to a society called the Cloudmakers.

    evalso dark the con of man
    The phrase "so dark the con of man" is actually a religious blog [timboucher.com].

    A funny thing about the first three phrases I picked out is that they are all blogs online if you google them. Is this a coincidence or are all of the phrases here blogs? They seem to refer to direct blog entries, perhaps the html or text from these blog entries can be used as a hash encryption for the "junk" binary loaded in between each of the entries.

    Again, this is just speculation. MKULTRA refers to the CIA's mind control program in response to rumors of the Soviet, Chinese and North Korean programs of the smae nature ... not sure how that would tie in.

    Perhaps the purpose is to develop a blog scanning program that will accurately identify blogs and retrieve information and try to figure out a way to crack this document? It's very large so I am guessing automation would be necessary as opposed to human googling by hand.
  • So if I am able to crack this from looking at it, they'll have to declare my brain the "programmers tool of choice?" Or would it go to notepad?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    come on, QBASIC don't fail me now!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    using "strings"... I've only found interesting strings at the beginning and end of the file.

    Beginning of file:

    ignoti et quasi occulti
    welldonedaed si luap
    5Evan Chan was murdered
    evalso dark the con of man
    novus ordo seclorum
    plbndetibh u ou rvcofalt ea
    tycon mismatch

    End of file:

    abulafiabad wolf
    i love bees
    • Interestingly, there seems to be a theme of ficticious conspiracy theory running through the file. References to DaVinci Code, Backward Record Messages, CRYPTONOMICON, aliens, "The Beast" reality game, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Doctor Who all appear in that output.
    • Interesting patterns in a hex editor:

      After "abracadabra" and "eval", it counts from 0-256 in big-endian 32-bit words.

      Right before "abracadabra", there's 4096 bytes of weird looking patterned data. I opened it as "raw" 64x64 indexed in Gimp and got the same mysterious "GBV"/"CBV" image as can be extracted from the GIF a little later in the file!
    • Dude, check this out.....

      After MKULTRA and before abracadabra......using Notepad (the best programming tool ever?)

      Basically, take that chunk of text and put carriage returns after every 64th character. A pattern that matches the GIF image appears using text. [I tried including it, but of course filters killed that idea]

      BTW, the text looks more like a GBV than a CBV.


      • No, I'm pretty sure it's a CBV (though a shout out to Guided By Voices would be nice). If you look at the very end of the file there is the sequence "roswell area51 CBV i love bees 42 __42__ lullus surmount Äí currents".
        • Looking at it more, you are right, it's CBV. It's the decorations on the letters that confuse things.

          So, my thoughts:
          - the file contains many dividing tokens (i.e. MKULTRA and abracadabra)
          - each block between the tokens represents the same image in some format (GIF, BMP, Text, etc.)
          - the goal will be to decode as many different versions of the same image as possible
          - I'm sure there is some link between the dividing tokens and the encoding method (this is purely guessing)

          (If I'm right, then the portion of t
          • The problem with this is that it has very very very little to do with programming. 95% of the work lies in the first step.

            More likely, the codex implies that contestants will be asked to do some kind of ciphering/deciphering of languages and conspiracy theory.
            • The Cult's scholarly publications are of particular interest to us. Because the Cult's journals were circulated on sandstone tablets, editors imposed very strict length limitations. Consequently, authors aggressively compressed their articles. A typical publication would have the following form:

              Should you encounter any such publications, we humbly request that you submit them to us via our web site. Our server will track all submitted publications, ensuring

    • by mypalmike ( 454265 ) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @03:39PM (#15752027) Homepage
      It turns out "plbndetibh u ou rvcofalt ea" is an anagram of "unfavorable botched tulip". I think I'm onto something... ;)
  • Perhaps image processing? Starting at offset 0x1a74: GIF89a Starting at offset 0x0620: Looks like some sort of bitmap?
  • Damn. Too bad I'm going to be traveling all weekend. This looks like a fun contest this year.
    I might even noodle around after the fact and just not enter it in the contest.
  • Have a look to this blog post [syntaxpolice.org] dated 2005-08-08: it tells about ICFP, codex and Slashdot.
    The WebArchive [archive.org] does have a recent archive of the site to check is this is was recently created.

    This indicate there may be a relation with the Codex book reviewed last year on Slashdot [slashdot.org] by the post author himself. The alternate reality game [wikipedia.org] is just starting...
  • Here is the text:

    Dear Colleague:

    In 1967, during excavation for the construction of a new shopping center in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, workers uncovered a vault containing a cache of ancient scrolls. Most were severely damaged, but those that could be recovered confirmed the existence of a secret society long suspected to have been active in the region around the year 200 BC.

    Based on a translation of these documents, we now know that the society, the Cult of the Bound Variable, was devoted to the care

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"