May 24

The crayon markings of Herb’s friend proved difficult to decipher, but we believe the following to be an accurate transcription of the results. In each case, we present the design and covering letter, followed by Mr. Hobnob’s expert opinion and score.

So, in no particular order:

Candidate 1

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 1

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 1

Hi Helpdesk,

Here is my design:

Basically you put some mashy-balls (or bally-mash) into the Hutler
Distributor.  This then separates the two into two circuits and then

At first they are only sped up to 30mph due to British Traffic Laws, but
as soon as someone turns a blind eye, they are accelerated to the speed of
light and smashed together.

As a result, a lot of heat is produced.  Even though you have to waste a
bit of mash doing this, you can create brilliant heat, which can then be fed
back in to dry out the mash balls.




Update of design!

50% more efficient!

Word of caution - if you don't put emphasis on the H... well... let's not
go there!

Hobnob says…

Adherence to spec:

  • Correct dimensions
  • Correct input/output locations (revised version only)
  • Correct colouring
  • Marker-compatible
  • BoldenanceXS(tm) rendering may be required for full BoardCam visibility (small text, small bore synchrotron)


  • Compact design (very space-efficient)
  • Uses cutting-edge technology which should ensure tight tolerances on the final sphericularity
  • Opportunity to set up a sideline business as a spallation EBM source
  • Rapid cooling with Cool wHip should give a nice crunchy outer shell with just the right amount of resilience


  • No mention of hidden costs (liquid helium, monthly quadrupole magnet realignment, spider shoes)
  • Safety could be improved by adding a Mark III HHHHEMphasiser unit
  • Some wastage of mash (though still significantly less than the Blewdly-Streimpher Mark 1)

Overall rating: 28/40

Candidate 2

Fleen Rotivator design 2

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 2

Dear Helpdesk,

As per your request please find enclosed the design for the Fleen
Rotivator MkII.

It functions in similar manner to the MkI, though we've added a new timing
mechanism (courtesy of Rotary) to better control the speed of the wheel.

We've also raised the clock speed of the Core 2 Duo to 2.0GHz and added
even more thermal paste, to ensure optimum heat levels. You may recall
Apple's MacBook Air cooked itself quite nicely at just 1.6GHz, so we're
confident our implementation should thoroughly dry out the candy.

Finally, we've gone with a business-grade Autobot™ transformer. Please
take care when connecting this to the Electro Chemical Bath.

If you have any queries regarding installation or future maintenance,
please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,

James Leedham.

Hobnob says…

Adherence to spec:

  • Correct dimensions
  • Correct input/output locations (revised version only)
  • Incorrect colouring (uses black, though most black lines could be replaced with other colours)
  • Mostly marker-compatible (shading would not work)
  • Would be legible on BoardCam (corporate logos not so much, but this isn’t a popup ad so meh)


  • Tried-and-tested fleen rotivation mechanism
  • Business-class precision components ensure quality
  • Readily available heating hardware (can be recycled from old lab machines)
  • Bird-actuated emergency shutoff cord meets ISO9002 safety requirements
  • Grunkle


  • Yearly downtime required for winding

Overall rating: cos(4.5-2)

Candidate 3

Fleen Rotivator design 3

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 3

Dear Mr. Hoove,

Please find attached the new Fleen Rotivator design. Please try not to
'misplace' this one as we are running low on paper and ink to draw a consequence this design is monotone. Please feel free to
use components in different colours if you wish.

Yours Sincerely,
Clare Lam and John Isger

(Fleen Inc. Head Designers)

Hobnob says…

Adherence to spec:

  • Correct dimensions
  • Correct input/output locations
  • Correct colouring (if a bit monochromatic)
  • Marker-compatible
  • Would be legible on BoardCam (some small text would have to be enlarged but space is available for this)


  • Web 0.1 compatible
  • Marginally esoteric file format
  • Implements a low-running-cost Assymetric Fleen Heating System, but without the usual issue of monosilane buildup thanks to the separate silica stage
  • Minimal lempobembance


  • Requires an “airplane”, which would need to be rented or purchased from America, increasing costs
  • Vulnerable to foreign volcano activity

Overall rating: (19 × √3) / 50

Candidate 4

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 4

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 4


Attached is my Fleen Rotivator.

A link the the bigger (clearer?) one, with added naming label:
[link removed] (which you should be able to see)

Note: My blue ran out, so I used black - all black replaced with blue
is what it was meant to be. The blue smudge in the bottom right is my
signature from before the image was modified.


Hobnob says…

Adherence to spec:

  • Correct dimensions
  • Incorrect input/output locations (additional output detected; STDERR was not in the spec!)
  • Correct colouring (use of black as a substitute for blue justified in documentation; blue to be used in live implementation)
  • Marker-compatible
  • Would be legible on BoardCam


  • Stable structure
  • Close packing of balls for efficiency
  • Cake-compliant as per ISO2323.55


  • Close packing multi-cycle system is likely susceptible to jamming (jam is not in the spec)
  • Many wasted space. MANY.
  • May incur lawsuits

Overall rating: 1 / (tan 0.94)2

Candidate 5

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 5

Fleen Rotivator candidate design 5

My proposal for the Fleen Rotivator design follows, which is named

The balls of candy when entering Legerity may contain impurities of form
(contrasted with impurities of essence, something we do not need to deal
with), and they are passed through six 'hash magnets', initialized to
use the well-documented MD5 algorithm. [1]

This ensures that no possible flaw can disturb the fleenpipe (United
States Patent D612,020; details classified).

Once this process is completed, the now throughly dry balls of candy,
then are rolled into the rotary current of a cylindrical tube, provided
by the rotivator, working at 36.5 RpJ (SI Unit kg.s-2.A-1).

The gentile rotation this provides, cools the candy balls, allowing them
to reduce in size slightly and 'set'. Once they land on the 'filtration
grile', they are then rolled out into the rest of the machine.

There is a mascot hanging on one of the pipes, because stuffed animals
make everything better.

[1] Despite security concerns over the MD5 algorithm, use of the SHA256
algorithm would require over forty times more pipe length, and would
decrease the relative speed of the design.


* The Legerity design provides minimum jitter for the delicate balls of
candy, ensuring that their semi-spherical existence is not in any way
* The compartmental design allows for more maleficent growth if the
circumstances change.
* The secrecy of the fleens is never troubled.
* Never trouble them.

Possible Disadvantages

* In non-earthlike environments, the gaseous composition of the
cylindrical tube would have to be tightly controlled, to ensure proper
* Mice have been found living in some of the nooks of the prototype.
Whether this is a flaw that would be shared by the actual design is
* There aren't nearly enough explosions. Once every minute (when the
fleentupe ******s with the surrounding air, isn't often enough in our
engineer's onion's opinions.

Estimated Cost

* Three shiny metal disks, a piece of magical cotton, and a song.

Hobnob says…

Adherence to spec:

  • Incorrect width (though within spec)
  • Incorrect height (outside spec)
  • Incorrect input/output locations (additional output detected; NO STDERR STREAM SPECIFIED!)
  • Incorrect colouring (Grey Is Not A Valid Shade)
  • Marker-compatible
  • Would probably be mostly legible on BoardCam


  • Well documentationalised with many salient prunkts befismalated and proper SI units encormpulcaned
  • Teddy bear compliant


  • Not Stallman-compatible (contains a closed-source section which does most of the actual work)
  • Documented security concerns over the use of MD5 hashing; this would require a thorough investigation
  • Extortionately priced

Overall rating: 0.27 / cos(50)

Summary, Results and Maths

There was some initial ambiguity as to who the final winner would be. The scores given by Mr. Hobnob use trigonometric functions but give no indication of anglular measurement convention. Herb wasn’t much help, as he claims angles are best measured in terms of “will it fall over if I give it a shove”.

We have determined that all scores fall within the range 0 – 1 if angles are measured in radians so we have based our ruling on that. Using alternative measurement schemes results in extreme outliers. If Mr. Lea wishes to argue in favour of degrees and claim his over-3000 points (cash value 27p) he should do so in person at the next convenient opportunity.

Normalized results

First place: James Leedham with 0.999
Second place: Nick Hatter with 0.700
Third place: Clare Lam & John Isger with 0.658
Fourth place: Oliver Lea with 0.533
Fifth place: Jack Edge with 0.420

Many thanks to all for participating. A crude reproduction of the winning design may be seen on Boardcam now!

Also, would Mr. Leedham please make his way to Helpdesk to collect his prize.

May 21

After much careful deliberation and considerable percussive persuasion, Helpdesk are pleased to announce that we finally have a judge’s ruling for the (not so) recent Fleen Rotivator Design competition.

As you are no doubt aware, rotivation is a critical part of any bean reconsitution process. Failure to rotivate correctly and with due fleen can have catastrophic impact on final product quality. Accordingly we decided to send the design competition entries off to a third-party expert for judging.

Unfortunately, getting hold of a competent rotivator quality assurance expert on our rather modest budget proved near-impossible. Despite Mr. Chips’ best efforts to persuade the local QA firms, nobody was willing to provide an acceptable discount. Four days into negotiations, Herb the Hoove informed us that he’d found a suitable expert. With considerable reluctance we handed copies of the designs to Herb… that was well over two months ago.

Yesterday Helpdesk received an interesting letter. Said letter seems to be written in yellow crayon on numerous pieces of something that resembles dried kelp. This was crammed into a recycled greetings card envelope with a picture of a cartoon chicken on it. We are currently in the process of transcribing the “correspondence” before it decays and should have a final verdict for you by Monday.

Many thanks for your patience.

Jan 3

Goodness me. What a result! We had one correct entry for Challenge #3, and it came in remarkably early, leaving the rest of you in the dust.

Huge congratulations are due to Darren R. (dpr1…) who blew us away with his speedy, accurate, and exceptionally well explained entry. Darren, please come and collect your packet of custard powder and its attendant £5 note from Helpdesk.

We’re not going to put up the answer just yet, in case any of the rest of you are still trying. If you are, though, consider this: it felt familiar… he had seen the painting before… where? what was it? where might he be able to take another look?

We will still award bonus kudos for anyone who gets the right answer to us this week.

Dec 30

By popular request, the closing time for Challenge #3 is now 23:59:59 on New Year’s Eve.

The challenge will definitely close at this time, though, as the first correct answer came in over a week ago!

Dec 27

The next installment in Peter’s story is now live.

Go to the Challenges page and click on #4, and test whether your powers of observation are up to scratch.

Dec 27

Entry for Challenge #3 will close on 30th Dec at 13:20.

Are you smart enough to find the message by then?

Dec 21

Two interesting things have happened with Challenge #3:

  1. Another clue has appeared online.
  2. We have discovered that the packet of custard has a fiver stapled to it!

Dec 13

And on to the next one… This challenge is a bit more visual than the last two. See if you can decode the old man’s dying message…

Go to the Challenges page and click on #3.

Dec 13

Congratulations are in order for ‘Al’ G, who was the first person to work out that the code represents the phrase “the blood of fugitives is cold”.

Al, your HB pencil is in a safe place ready for you to collect it.

The solution required you to realise that the 13-digit number was in fact an ISBN, in this case for “Death of a Dissident” by Marina Litvinenko. B+PLW was used to indicate Book+Page, Line, Word. The triplets of numbers (separated from each other by colons) each indicated a word in the book. To be helpful and save you from having to buy the book, the source words were kept to those available through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature.

Congratulations also to: Dave C, Paul T, Chris P, Darren R and Sascha B who all got this correct! Well done, folks.

Dec 10

Challenge #2 has been correctly solved (for a little while), and so entires for it will close on Friday afternoon at 5pm. The solution and the list of winners will be posted some as-yet-undetermined interval after that.

– HD