Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Google Interviews Part IV

This is the 3rd interview I had with Google. You can find the previous and the questions asked here:
* First Google interview
* Second interview

Update: Fourth Google Interview

In the 3rd interview I talked with a woman software engineer from Mountain View. As usually it lasted for about 45 minutes but there was a surprise waiting at the last question..But let's take things from the beginning.

The first question was a hard test for my memory: "How do you test your code?" This is a fair one for software engineers. But not for my style. I personally like things that are quick and dirty. For larger projects I use some of my own class libraries that employ some kind of logging, measure method execution time and so on. But saying "Well, I use my own class libraries." I thought would not be a good answer. Nor a professional one.

So talking about Java, I made the mistake of mentioning the JUnit framework. I had used for some time (long ago) but the time had passed so I had forgotten even the basics. And of course the interviewer started the questions (How the JUnit handles exception and others) To tell you a secret I had already opened in my browser a JUnit site (some kind of tutorial I guess) but this didn't help at all. So, don't do it. It will only make things worse. Trying to think logically didn't help either. The interviewer kept pushing, until I 'broke' and admitted that I couldn't answer. That was it. We moved to the next question.

All next questions were really typical, the kind you find in tech interview sites:
* "What is a Unix kernel?"
* "What is the difference between interfaces and abstractt classes?"
* "What is the difference between threads and processes?"
* "What is inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation?"
* "What is overriding and what is overloading?"

I think there is no need to elaborate further on that. You most probably have come across these concepts and have your own mind.

Which brings us to the last question. Actually it was a puzzle including programming with handicaps, i.e. with small processor, low memory etc. The puzzle was this:
"You have 1000 integers. All are less than 1000 and greater or equal to 1. Among them, 999 are distinct and there is one that is found twice. How can you find the duplicate?" To this I gave an answer I think is optimal. The idea is simple. If you denote the duplicate number by d and the sum of all the integers by S then the following equation holds:
S-d= 499500 since S-d is the sum 1+2+3...+999 which is equal to 499500 by applying the formula 1+2+3...+n = n*(n+1)/2
Now the good thing is that we can be able to find the duplicate even we have capacity for one integer, or when reading from a stream and so on. We can optimize even if we apply modulus to the first equation: d = (S-500) (mod 1000) Now if d is equal to a positive number mod1000 then this is the duplicate, otherwise the duplicate is the negative part plus 1000. For example is 1 was the duplicate, then d=1(mod 1000) and the duplicate had to be the 1. If the duplicate was 600, then d=-400(mod 1000) so the duplicate had to be -400+1000=600. This means we do not need to have storage for integer (int type) but only the byte type is enough.

While fairly easy to grasp the interviewer had difficulties in understanding how this would work, so she asked for an example when we have 10 integers. I replied this would transform the equation to d =S-45 but then the counter question was disappointing: "How did you compute 45?" It is quite obvious however that I had to compute 1+2...+9 which is equal to 45 when applying the formula that Gauss found when he was 8. But the interviewer started computed 'by hand' the sum, adding the numbers from 1 up to 9, which left me speechless for some seconds. I mentioned that there was a formula for that but she didn't listen, still being concentrating on her computations. I didn't bother elaborating on the modulus idea since obviously would not give me any more credit.

After that, the interview had finished. I didn't ask anything, saying something like 'I have many questions but I do not wish to spend any more of your time' and we ended the conversation. In overall the last incident was really awkward. To that time I believed that all Google engineers had a good mathematical background. The engineer that I spoke with, did lack elementary skills. So in my eyes, the myth had been destroyed and it is a good advice to anybody, not bother berating himself more than he should. If you already knew the formula for the sum of consecutive integers, you have a good reason to feel more confident.

Update: Go to the last Google phone interview


Anonymous said...

omg this is hard to believe

Iulia said...

Great and funny story! Can't wait to read the next interview!

Cool blog, I'll put it in my reader!

Unknown said...

If 999 elements are distinct, then that means , none of them is equal to the 1000th element, which means, even the 1000th element is NOT a duplicate of any other element. The question has to be 998 elements are distinct and one element found twice ( only 1000 integers right ???)

ElectricTheater said...

I believe 'distinct' means numbers that are different. Hence, for example in (1,2,3,3) there are 4 numbers and 3 distinct numbers. If my English have failed me, I apologize!

Ankush Bindlish said...

Not Sure about other posts.

Solution :

S % Max Integer
S% 999 in this case

S= (999*1000)/2 + missing integer(m)

1<=m<=999, It will swipe out first part of S and return missing integer. If it comes zero then its Max Integer

Trung Huynh said...

Haha, can't believe this. She was funny, maybe she can get in because she is cute. That is good for guys in Goolge. Btw knowing the formular to sum from 1 to 9 is not all.

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