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2006 South Central USA Regional Programming Contest

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Jabber Room Info

  1. operations - focuses on the "big events"....contest start and stop, major problems (issues effecting most or all teams at a site, eg - mass inability to log into PC^2), time reminders (eg - ten minutes left, scoreboard disabled), any other major announcements....will mainly be used in "broadcast" mode.
  2. issues - technical problems, forced client logoff requests, etc. I expect lots of client and server issues with a (hopefully) small dose of network woes
  3. contest - questions of contest protocol, procedural clarifications, etc
  4. talk - putting the "chat" back in chat room. Appropriate for dialouge that doesn't revolve around problems or events


Going to a distributed contest brings a number of issues. Variance is one of the primary ones. When the contest was a single site, it was possible to ensure that each team had roughly the same equipment and system (hardware, software and network). Last year with 2 sites we had a hard disk based site (LSU) and a CD-based site (UTA). Last I heard, we will have at least 3 different environments this time: hard disk based, CD based and Citrix.

Part of the decison of going multi-site was the realization that many factors that used to be under Regional Control are no longer possible. From the Regional perspective, we expect the following at each site:

  • The actual Contest is held at exactly same time (starts and stops in unison)
  • Teams are provided a single Linux system with a gui (gnome, kde, or both)
  • Teams will use PC^2 for all submissions
  • Teams will not have Internet access during contest
  • That machines are cleaned prior to contest to make sure that no code is written early
  • That teams have adequate space to work (spot for other two members to write at a table)

Sites have discretion on many items. In the sections below, I explain what is being done at the LSU site and pretty much how to duplicate the process. Please ask questions if you need more details. Documentation is tedious and like most others, I often skimp to invest in other activities. I request that each site attempt to be comparable to the LSU site. If you have concerns that your plan deviates from wht we are doing, please ask (use the mailing list).

The goal in going multi-site is to make attendance at the Regional easier (hence increasing attendance). Clearly, some consistency must be sacrificed to provide this desired effect. Lets work together to produce a good contest that all the teams will be happy with.

We should publish as much info as possible on the contest web page (a section has been created for each site). You will get your IDs and passwords real soon now. If you prefer, contact Kathy (ktraxler at and she will update your info. The pages are PHP. It is setup where you can just type in html snippets for the body of the pages.

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The plan is to run a PC^2 contest with centralized judging and distributed submissions (like last year). To improve communications, we will set up a jabber server locally that each site contact will have access to. During the contest, we will have a chat room open that all site contacts will be logged into. This is how we will start the contest, stop the contest and transmit critical information.

Each site will need to provide a server running Linux (we highly request Fedora Core 5) that has open access through your campus firewall. Please contact me ( when you have the server ready for us to configure PC^2 on it (we will need root access) (we: myself, my primary server admin and his assistant).

I have setup a mailing list that can be used to discuss site specific things. You can join it by going to acm2006-sites. This list is for site directors only. The archive is available only to list members.

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Contestant/Judge Image

Contestant machines should have access to the following things:

  • The PC^2 site server
  • Any local documentation server (you might choose to clone ours)
  • Local NTP server
  • Local syslog server (if you choose to)
  • Local management server (if you choose to)
  • Local DNS server (if needed)
  • Local printer (if available)
  • Absolutely nothing else (Remember the contestants should NOT have Internet access during the contest)

This year, we will use iptables to limit network access (we are actually generating the file dynamically at boot, but here is an instance of our iptables file -- this one has no restrictions. I will add a legitimate one as soon as I can.). You are free to use whatever mechanism best suits your site. The archive for this list is at: list archive.

By the way, we are using Fedora Core 5 on the contestant machines, the judge machines and the servers. We used the kickstart config file. Note: you need to update the local user, local user password and root password in this file. If you would rather look at it this way, here is the current RPM Listing.

When we did the kickstart install to build the contestant machine, we did the following:

  1. Booted system from FC5 disk 1
  2. At the prompt, we used the following command: linux ks=http://url.of.kickstart.file/
  3. All steps were automated (except disk partitioning)
  4. Rebooted the system without CD and started debugging
Notice that the kickstart does not have partition info. Fedora stopped the kickstart install, let us specify the disk partition info via the gui, and then resumed the kickstart install. You can add the partition info and avoid this manual step if you choose to.

Actually, we installed GRUB in the disk partition. So we had to reboot with CD in rescue mode, and copy the first 512 bytes of the partition to a file. We put this file in the Windows partition (machines are dual boot XP and FC5) and configure NT loader to offer XP or FC5 contest image for booting.

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Here is the list of servers that we are currently planning to build:

  • PC^2 server (may do a separate judge and contestant server)
  • Documentation server
  • Jabber server
  • Management server
  • RSYNC serrver

One PC^2 server should be plenty here (we are not expecting a large turnout thanks to all of the new sites). We will take care of laoding all necessary info on the site PC^2 servers. We plan to support C (gcc), C++ (g++) and Java (java 1.4.2_12, java 1.5.0_07 and java 1.5.0_08). These will be the choices that a student can choose to submit with. If that does not match up with your site, let me know (not sure what can actually be done about it).

Documentation server is a web server that the contestants have access to. To reduce space, we do not install all documentation on the contestant machines. We also need to communicate errata to them. Here is a lis tof items typically found on the server:

  • Java doc
  • STL Library doc
  • PC^2 documentation
  • Errata
  • Problem set (during contest and practice)
  • Example input and output files (during contest)

The jabber server will be used for sites to communicate. A central room will be created and all directors invited in (coming real soon now).

The management server is where we push commands out to systems (reboot systems, clean files between contests, apply updates, ...).

During and after the contest we attempt to rsync the contestant home directories to a server (for various reasons including: possible recovery during a catastrophe, better determination of when a solution was discovered, security, ...). I might encourage you consider the same at your sites. We have estimated that 300 GB will handle an initial rsysnc and additional rsyncsevery 15 minutes during the contest. The server we will use has a system disk and 2 300 GB drives.

Note: The RSYNC server is only for catastrophic failure during contests. Contestants may not ask to have a file restored during contest. We do not have the necessary infrastructure to support this.

Note: Please do not shut off the PC^2 server after the contest until given the all clear from here. To rejudge runs, we must pull copies of ALL PC^2 servers. And we always rejudge some runs (current thinking this year is to rejudge everything except the easy problem).

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Other Resources

Here are some resources that might help you:

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 SCUSA Regionals

The statements and opinions included in these pages are those of Hosts of the South Central USA Regional Programming Contest only. Any statements and opinions included in these pages are not those of Louisiana State University or the LSU Board of Supervisors.
© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 Isaac Traxler