Softwire Blog

Softwire Speed Coding Challenge – Question 3

6 May 2012, by

previous article in series

Welcome to the next in our series on Softwire’s coding challenge! Last time, we discussed the winning answer to the second question. This time round we’ve got a cryptography question for you (although you won’t need to know anything special) – I’ll post the winning answer and some further discussion in a week or so.

Truly Unbreakable Security

Inside the linked zip file ( is a file (secret.dat) I have encrypted using the “truly unbreakable” security offered here.

  • Short summary of the encryption: XOR each byte of the plaintext file with the next byte produced by a new instance of System.Random in C#
  • I have linked the source code of the encrypting app as (NOTE: you do not need to read this)

I would like you to decrypt secret.dat (feel free to unzip it manually first).

To aid you in this, here are the 7 most common “magic numbers” from Wikipedia. These are byte sequences which appear at the start of a file to mark the file format:

CAFEBABE    class
47494638    gif
FFD8FFE0    jpeg
89504E47    png
4D546864    midi
25504446    pdf
504B0304    zip

As if that weren’t enough, you also get these two enormous hints:

  • There are two constructors for System.Random – the default no-args constructor uses Environment.TickCount as a seed
  • I rebooted my system less than an hour before encrypting this file

Best of luck with this one, we’ll post the winning solution and the answer in a couple of weeks!

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Softwire Speed Coding Challenge – Question 2 Discussion

30 April 2012, by

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So, in our last speed coding post, we set you the second question in our challenge. Here it is again, just to remind you!


Softwire Speed Coding Challenge – Question 2

23 April 2012, by

previous article in series

Welcome to the next in our series on Softwire’s coding challenge! Last time, we discussed the winning answer to the first question. Here’s question 2 for you to try, which may require a bit of mathematical knowledge – I’ll post the winning answer and some further discussion in a week or so.


Softwire Speed Coding Challenge – Question 1 Discussion

16 April 2012, by

previous article in series

Last time out, we set you the first question from our recent Speed Coding Challenge, giving you the opportunity to answer it yourselves and compare your efforts to our winning answer. Here’s question 1 again, just to remind you what it was!


Office Artwork

11 April 2012, by

Not only do we have great developers here at Softwire, but they all have secret talents.

In particular we have a lot of great photographers, from talented amateurs to semi-professionals. When we needed some new artwork to decorate our growing office space, we found a great way to harness this talent, and include everyone in the decision-making process.


Softwire Speed Coding Challenge – An Introduction

9 April 2012, by

Softwire recently hosted their second speed coding challenge, after the inaugural competition proved to be a resounding success. The competition was open to current employees (and recently departed interns) and was designed to give everyone a chance to show off their ability to code solutions to a variety of problems in as short a time as they can!

Entrants discussing an early question

Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be adding some details of the questions that were asked and discussing the winning answers (as well as announcing the eventual winner). In this post, I’ll explain the format of the night and the scoring system used and will give you the first question, so you can give it a shot yourself!


Softwire Comedy Night

6 March 2012, by

Monday 23rd January was supposedly the most depressing day of the year. So we held a stand-up comedy night in aid of the mental health charity Mind.

70 people turned up to see superb performances from Jeremy Beens, Tom Craine, Sara Pascoe and sketch duo Totally Tom.

However, the highlight of the evening was the performances by eight brave Softwire employees, all doing stand-up comedy for the first time! I’ve included a video of the highlights below.

We raised £325 for Mind, so thanks to everyone who came to support, and particularly to the performers: Yemi Olagbaiye, Camilla Watson, Sam Carr, Andy Smart, Zoe Cunningham, Andrew Bisgrove, Tej Birdi and, er, me!

Softwire up to 6th in Best Companies to Work For awards!

28 February 2012, by

Photograph by Tim Bishop/The Sunday TimesIn 2012, Softwire entered the Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For awards for the second time. Our first entry, the previous year, had ranked us at 16th, making  us the best small software company to work for in the UK.

Our position was only to be announced on the night when three lucky employees (from right to left: me, Luci Apostolou and Camilla Watson), would have the pleasure of attending the awards ceremony.

We did, however, know our score, which was higher than the previous year’s, though this was not necessarily enough to guarantee we had beaten 16th. Just for fun, we held an auction sweepstake (in aid of WaterAid). The most sought after tickets were those for a finish around 9th place: better than last year.

Cupcakes - click to see larger imageOn the evening of the award ceremony, while the three of us departed for Battersea Evolution, the rest of the company prepared for an office party, featuring specially made cupcakes.

Those of us at the ceremony were welcomed with champagne before sitting down to a three course meal – with more champagne! – and a few speeches by the powers that be at the Sunday Times followed by the Top 100 countdown. All through this, we kept the office up to date through our Twitter feed and provided live coverage of the Top 100 countdown.

The results exceeded our expectations: Softwire pushed up to 6th, significantly better than the previous year and even better than the sweepstake bidding had predicted. And, for the second year running, the best small software company to work for in the UK!

Top 5 for 2013?

Dinner Forums

27 February 2012, by

At Softwire, we’re keen to keep our employees happy and an important part of that is finding out what they want. One method we use in order to gauge employee feelings about various aspects of the company is to hold dinner forums.

A dinner forum is a casual event where seven or eight employees discuss the company over a meal, which the company pays for. Attendance is optional, but everyone is encouraged to go about once every couple of years.

I recently attended my first dinner forum, where 8 of us had a meal at Pizza Express in Kentish Town. The questions asked at the forum were all related to the company, but covered a wide range of topics, from people’s views on the recent company Christmas events to more abstract ideas like “What if the 8 of us started a software company? How would we run it? What would we do differently?”

Christmas Celebrations

30 December 2011, by

At Softwire we’re lucky in that we celebrate Christmas twice each year. Once with a very long lunch just for employees, and once with a slightly more sophisticated evening meal to which we can invite guests.

Here’s a peek into what we get up to at these events. Merry Christmas!

Yemi shoots