This is the chrss (chess by rss) blog.
Just a quick note to say that the server that chrss is hosted on will be upgraded on the Wednesday 30th of May at around 10:00 UTC (11am BST).
The new server is a good deal faster and has more memory, so this should be a good thing.
Hopefully the site won't be down for long, but there's a chance it may not startup on the new server properly. So there may be a few hours where chrss is not running. I'll be able to get it back up and running Wednesday evening if that happens.
So that "second 90%" of porting Chrss from Turbogears to Django really has taken nearly as long as the first 90%. Of course I've had less time and sleep in the last eight months, but I'm now drawing a line in the sand. The porting is essentially there. I could spend a lot more time polishing the code, but I think the time has come to put it live. I'll sort out any issues afterwards.
There will be a bit of downtime (hopefully only an hour or so) while I move the site over. I have to convert the old database to a new format etc and this will take a little while. I'll also want to make sure there are no glaring bugs once I've done so.
So as there's Easter Weekend coming up and I've got at least two days at home, I'm going to move the site this Friday (22nd of April). So if you try to use Chrss on Friday and it's not running don't worry - it should reappear soon enough.
At this stage there won't be too many major differences between the old and new site, but I plan on overhauling the design later. Hopefully I'll also manage to get a few of the smaller features I've been planning done.
I know plenty of people like to use a real board when playing online chess, so this looks great.
In other news - I've been slowly working on a site refresh/rewrite of chrss. I've been moving the site from Turbogears to Django. It's about 90% there, but there's always that "second" 90% to worry about.
I'm moving to Django, as I am actually now much more familiar with it than with Turbogears. So I'm hoping once I've finished the move it will be easier for me to add new features and generally tweak things.
I reckon I need a couple of weeks of evenings and a spare weekend to finish it all off, but I'm up against the deadline of impending fatherhood. So there may be a little pause before I finish it all off. The baby is due in about a week, so I guess we'll just to see how it goes!
There's also the start of a "history" feature to let you see how you've faired in previous games. I'm using the Google Chart API to display a small chart of the percentage change in wins, draws and losses over time, as well as showing the data in tabular form (for those that aren't such a fan of charts). It's not yet linked in and for people with a lot of finished games (e.g. me) the chart won't show up. I need to reduce the number of points displayed, as there's a limit on the total number that can be displayed.
If you want to have a sneak peek, just add /history onto the end of your profile URL.
I'll work on getting it functioning properly for everyone in the near future.
In other news I might not be making too many moves in my chess game for the next couple of weeks, as I will be on my honeymoon.
Just thought a few of you might like to read My Obsession With Chess by Scott McCloud.
I personally never got into chess to that extent. Apart from playing games with friends and my dad occasionally when growing up I only really got a little past knowing the rules and some basic tactics. In fact for a while I lost any interest in chess at all, but I always felt like chess was something that I should be good at. So after starting to play a few games with my friend Ian again, I decided that it was time to start learning chess properly.
Rather than reading books and studying I figured the best way to learn was to actually play games. The trouble being that spending an hour or two on a chess game seemed like quite a luxury. So instead I decided to combine chess my main obsession - programming. Hence Chrss was born.
Now two years later I've played (and finished) over 200 games - nearly one a week. Whilst I'm definitely not the best player I feel that I've definitely improved a lot. The correspondence-style of play also works really nicely for me, as I can fit in several games of chess around everything else.
I look forward to continuing to play many more games of chess in the coming years.
Just a quick note to say I have finally sorted out the active games issue. So now games that your opponent has not moved in for 30 days or more should now no longer appear in the "active" list. This also sorts out the active games drop-down ordering - which had gone a little funny too.
As is usual with this sort of bug it was a simple one line fix. Just needed to sit down and have a proper look.
It seems like it might be worth me enumerating the different ways to access you games here. It's something that seems obvious to me, but then I wrote it...
When logged in:
About two months ago I posted a screencast of a new feature, that would be arriving soon. Well I've been a little busy, but have finally managed to get enough time together to finish the feature off and make it available to everyone.
So now you will see an "allow undo" button next to your opponents move. This can be used to offer your opponent a chance to take back their move. It's very much self-policing and at the end of the day you don't have to let anyone undo a move if you don't want to. However I'm sure everyone has had the odd game where a silly mistake has cut short an otherwise enjoyable game.
As I said in the previous post I (personally) have had this feature enabled on my account for a little while. I noticed quite a few little issues and usability quirks (e.g. how do you know when your opponent is offering you a chance to undo a move?), which I've spent a bit more time sorting out now.
So hopefully everyone will find this feature (at least occasionally) useful. Let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve it (or feedback in general).
John (aka lilspikey)
I've just uploaded a new version of chrss. The new features are as follows:
Now the last feature is a pretty big one, so I'm being cautious about it. Being able to undo a move in a game of chess has many implications. I know some players will find that this breaks the whole idea of J'Adoube (the touch-move rule), but also others will find it useful to avoid ruining an otherwise good game.
As chrss is not a competitive site, I think that the ability to undo a move will be a boon. Often when playing a game of chess against a friend you might offer them the chance to take a move back. e.g. if it would clearly end the game early. This sort of decision is shared by both of the players and requires both of their consent.
Therefore to undo a move in chrss it works like this:
If Player 2 decides to make a move before Player 1 undoes their move then the "allow undo" will be cancelled.
At the moment though the "allow undo" button is only available to the admin account. I've done this just to make sure that everything works ok. I've done a fair bit of testing, but as undo allows the board to change out of sequence I want to make sure there aren't any unintended consequences, before rolling this out to everyone. Hopefully that will be in the next couple of weeks.
So if you are playing a game against me you can ask to undo a move if you suddenly realize you've made a foolish error!
Another minor update.
Firstly there are now better 404 and error pages. Previously they were fairly unfriendly server error styles pages. Now they look like they belong to the site. Not a major thing at all, but it's been bugging me since I started chrss two years ago.
The real thing of interest though is that I've added an extra style sheet for iPhone (and in principle Android) users. It simply tweaks the main style sheet to make the site work a bit better on the iPhone's small screen (relative to a desktop/laptop at least). This means that the chess board for a game should be nice and big on the iPhone's screen so you can see what's going on.
The one minor caveat though is that I've only tested this on the iPhone simulator (I'm a bit of a luddite when it comes to phones). However as it's only making small changes it should work ok.
So hopefully for the few people currently using an iPhone to access chrss their user experience will now be a good deal better.
Well chrss has just passed a little milestone - we've reached one thousand games! Not bad for a hobby site.
So if anyone would care to join me I'm waiting in game #1000.
Here's to the next 1000 games!