Picochess V0.81 – Kurt

The old versions based on the assumption that if the clock is not running like in the start position a displayed message like “new game” is more important as the stopped time.
Actually during the display of some messages picochess has internally a timer deciding how long to display a message. If this timer running out but the clock is not running the display stayed on the old message.

This behaviour is changed with v0.81. The new display system will now show a stopped clock and this was the main goal of this version. I think this is a better solution.

During this development i was also able to fix a hidden bug with “alternative move” which showed up on a Revelation II chess computer. The old move was still showing with leds (which then makes up to 4 leds be enlighted). As always some other small improvements & fixes also done. Its always a good idea to keep your picochess updated.

Finally i did some improvements on display with 2 clocks. I posted already about the possibility to have a DGT Pi clock together with another clock. That could be a DGT3000 or a DGT XL clock (including a Rev2 computer).

For all of you who are curious why i named this release “Kurt”. On Monday, 2017/01/09 my father in law passed away. Kurt was a very fine man – me and my whole family gonna miss him. Rest in peace.

picochess V0.80 – Christmas

After some time i released a new version “picochess v0.80” with its codename “Christmas”.

Why “Christmas”? Well, first its released as a gift to all the picochess lovers and secondly its made out of “Christ-mas” where “Christ” is also standing for “Christ-ine” 😉

Since its very early beginning the serial communication between picochess and the DGT hardware is based on the assumption that the serial bytes send are always valid. This is mainly true for the modern hardware from DGT but some people had strange errors with their USB-only hardware. I discussed this with DGT Technologies and we came up with a source code, where this assumption of valid packages is now verified. This leads to a better user expirence and was the main goal for developing this release.

Also i put out my old C knowledge and updated the engine code of Rodent II, to obey the path of books given inside as personalities. If you select “no-book” from picochess together with a given personality of Rodent II you will now get an answer following the internal Rodent II book system. Please keep in mind that in this case picochess won’t say “book” even its from Rodent2 book.

Finally the Rev2 bug with showing 4 LEDs is solved. This mainly happened during sliding of pieces.

Another big improvement of picochess is the massive update of voices. There my thanks going especially to C(h)ristine from DGT Technology. Picochess is now able to speak french, spanish and dutch which means, that now all menu languages are also available as move sounds.

This will be the last release for 2016. More to come in 2017. All of you i wish a happy new year.

picochess V0.79 – Italian

Luigi offered his help to let picochess speaking with his mother language (italian). I asked him if he can also translate the menu system to italian. He agreed and picochess v0.79 finally supports a new language in menu display and sound.

Also Christian wants to give something back to picochess and he recorded the voice of his son Jan-Niclas. Jan-Niclas is 10years old, playing chess for 4 years already and now the first kid to speak to us picochess lovers in german (actually its austria dialect).

Finally Al finished some more voice records so i could change the sounds of queen placement from a simple “ok” to a detail sound like “ok engine”.

Despite this voice improvements i was able to fix a bug with the revelation II chess computer at first move. During this fixing i learned alot about the Rev2 and its api to control the square leds. Actually, it was done wrong for some time and i corrected this during my fix. Thanks for reporting this problem goes to Rudolf. He also reported another problem with this chess computer when you take back moves. This bug is still there but it only happens in special situations and i had another more serious problem to solve:

People reported that the voice from v0.78 stops working after some moves. Internally i’m using a system called “python-sounddevice”. Until the owner of this project (Matthias Geier) find out what the cause could be, i changed my usage of sounddevice abit. Users of picochess v0.79 must install another package called “vorbis-tools”.

I hope after Matthias found out the problem i can return to a pure python solution. Anyway, for the moment the voice system running very well.

picochess V0.77 – Kuman Display

Have you missed some text for the picochess v.077? Well, i always wanted to have a chess computer with DGT eBoard but it must be small, kute and closed (i don’t like to see alot of electronics). During we discussed an old picochess release with PiFace interface (which come nearest until now to my dream of a chess computer) Peter told me about this Kuman Display.

I was full of joy and wanted to try what i can do for it. So, i ordered this display let picochess v0.76 run on it and here you can see the first result:

v075 running on kuman

This display only has 320×480 pixels, so i had to shrink the webserver display alot (as you can see). Picochess already working but i don’t want to scroll down or to the side so here is the next version – its already alot better but still not the end of this journey.

better display for picochess v0.75

There is some protection foil on the display – so, the blue circle and the scratches aren’t there – the display is fully ok and all this for only 33€. Not bad, isnt it?

Anyway, the current webserver display is even smaller, you can see even more without scrolling. Here is another picture, i shot this afternoon:


picochess V0.78 – The talker

Picochess v0.78 finally talking with human voice. Since very long picochess using a system called “ChessTalker”, where the voice is made by TTS (Text to speech). That was working more or less okay. It sounds like a computer and for me the speech was far too slow.
I wanted to change that but i never had the time to deal with sound & python and therefore i was always delayed. Since December 2015 DGT also wished to have a human voice system – they even told me they can provide the sound files for it.

Anyway, i got some (from dgt) but they aren’t complete in this moment. So, i also asked Al (he is native english speaking) to record some sounds and you can guess it already 😉 i put them in the new release and say goodbye to TTS (aka ChessTalker).

Right now the voice are in english only but i hope someone is willing to record some in his/her own mother language so i can import that inside too. Picochess can already display messages in english, german, french and dutch, so i hope to have these 4 voice languages at minimum 😉 Perhaps we even get more then one speaker for each language. Who wants to get famous?

Despite this talking function i also implemented a “send log file” directly to your eMail box. Now its alot easier to send the file to a developer (like me) helping us to solve problems you might have. For this you only need to go to “System>Log” and your pgn email credentials are used to send out this file.

Speaking about pgn you might also enjoy that now the pgn file is attached to the eMail for better usage in your own pgn editor.

picochess v0.76 – the ponder mode

Picochess v0.76 introduces a new interaction mode “Ponder” which can be also activated with wQf5. This ponder mode combining the “analysis” & “kibitz” mode showing each part for 2 secs in rotation. The kibitz mode is also updated. Before it shows the value only but now its a combined display for brute-force depth together with the current value. Based on limited chars on XL clocks only (and therefore also for a Revelation II) the maximum shown value is +/- 9.99. Anyway, such games should be ended anyway, its unlikely that the worser side can catchup with this.

This is my favourite mode for doing Analysis. Last sunday (2016.10.23) i played a tournament game and i shortly show you how to use this ponder mode to get better insides in what you did well and where you can improve your game.

I take my record paper. I play in “Verbandsliga”; 4th highest class in germany – and we have to give out our game record to the german chess federation (which i hate – my moves&errors are (c) by me – okay that’s another story). Now i prepare the hardware (DGT eBoard, DGT 3000 plus picochess running on a RaspberryPi3) place the wQ on F5 (new ponder mode), and begin to play the moves on the board.

During i’m doing so, i can see how stockfish (or any other engine you like) would judge the position. The big advantage over “analysis” or “kibitz” modes is that i can concentrate on the game and don’t need to press the “<” or “-” button to see the other info like i had to do before.

My opponent just moved 30..Rc7-c1.

That is a blunder. That time i was already in time trouble and couldn’t find the best way to win (easily). But after move 40 (time control over) i finally get my win. Can you find out what the best move for black instead of Rc1 would have been or how to punish this blunder as white? You can also setup any position with the position menu and try out yourself (perhaps with ponder mode on). Or give it a try with your own game. It’s really fun and during the game replaying you can learn very easily what other possibilities you have missed.

Picochess history Part 3

Picochess History Part 3 – From v0.70 until v0.75 (DGT Pi Version)

This is the final part of the history. From now on i gonna write detailed articles about each version. These versions mainly deal with making the DGTPi clock ready for sale.

picochess v0.70 – Codename “Level”

This version allows the user to fine adjust the engines level. Before if the engine provided an ELO range, that was not directly supported and internally switched to levels 0 to 20. This version now let the user directly select what the engines supports. For the provided engine “Rodent II” that has some new functions: You can select the “personalities”. All this is shown on your DGT clock.

picochess v0.71 – Codename “Setting”

DGT came up with the wish that user settings (like favourite time, book, engine) should be safed to the SDCard and reloaded when the user turns the clock on again. Well, that is a great feature and therefore it is implemented in this version. Also, i worked on not connected eBoards & clocks to make it even more user friendly.

picochess v0.72 – Codename “Engine”

8 new/updated engines (Stockfish, Texel, Arasan, RodentII, Zurichess, Floyd, Cinnamon, Claudia) installed. These 8 engines provides a big range in playing strength & style. Basically these engines are now also on the DGTPI clock. I gonna write a more detailed article about the picochess engines lateron.

picochess v0.73 – Codename “Webserver UI”

picochess also has a webserver interface from almost the beginning. But this interface was no longer modern. It was for example lacking of responsive design. So, i took several weeks to update that to a new User Interface (UI). What you can do with this webserver, i will also tell you in a detailed article lateron. Here is an example of the new UI style:

webserver v0.73

Despite this i also implemented an update to the UCI960 mode (Fischer Random Chess). Before you had to use the “Position” menu to enter an uci960 game. Now, you can just place the pieces in one of the 960 start positions and picochess will answer that with “new game” plus its standard game number. Find more about Chess960 at wikipedia

picochess v0.74 – Codename “Engine 2”

Updated engines Arasan, Texel, Claudia – also engine “zurichess fribourg” as fallback for RaspberryPi1. Digital Game Technology asked me to rename the time modes “Blitz” & “Fixed” to “Game Time” & “Move Time”. So from this point on the old named times modes are history 🙂

picochess v0.75 – Codename “Rodent”

Since we released picochess together with the rodent II engine there were a bug preventing it to make this “Personalities” to work correctly. That is now fixed. Its really fun to play with it. For test, i create one personality where a queens value is abit more as a pawn. It really plays weired then. But for serious playing, you should keep with the provided personalities.

This version is also the version running on the sold DGTPi’s available since Okt 2016. Even we further develop new features you can still update your buyed clocks. You never need to have an old version. But if you not experienced with linux, its perhaps a good idea to wait for DGT to send out new SDCards with a proved picochess version.

Picochess history Part 2

Picochess History Part 2 – From v0.60 until v0.69

This is the second part of the history. Since v0.60 i also have a github release page which you can find here. In first part of development alot of new functions were implemented (mainly to make picochess like a chess computer for example “analysis”, “stop_search”, “alternative move” and many more).

From v0.60 onwards, we focus more on a good user interface and fixing some obstacles there.

Some key points in picochess v0.6x

  • new menu system
  • more books & improved engines
  • update fischer time. Now following the FIDE rules
  • picochess now provides 5 languages for display messages (english, german, french, dutch, spanish)
  • introduce the “lever” clock function. That is esp needed for the Relevation II users cause it allows them to switch the side.
  • sliding pieces over the dgt board is finally solved (that was a problem on “book moves” below v0.68)

Updated documentation for picochess

Together with v0.60 and the provided new menu system we also updated the picochess documentation. If you new to picochess and want to get an overview first perhaps you should jump directly to “usage”.

Picochess history Part 1

Picochess History Part 1 – From v0.33 until v0.59

This is the first part of the history. I decided to use the v0.60 Release as the breakpoint cause before the menu was complete different. The older states were using a quick but hard to remember menu system. You had to learn alot of button codes or use a paper to write down what menu button is doing what in a special situation like “position setup” as an example.

In 2015 DGT get in contact with us developers and told us, they want to build a new DGT clock with a Raspberry PI inside using the picochess program. This new clock addresses people with few computer knowledge and therefore the usage should be as easy as possible. That was the reason we changed the menu system in v0.60 completely. And this is my reason now to break the history in “before v0.60”.

Since i’m part of the developer team since 01.Apr 2015, i begin with v0.33 which was the current version at that time. Maybe i post something lateron with even older versions, lets see. This list is not complete  – it only list a few main parts during the development.

Versions 0.33 to 0.39

  • various bug fixes and small improvements allover the UI (user interface)
  • Chesstalker – picochess speaks the moves and actions
  • “Game end” is now with the FIDE rules of “5 times repetition & 75 moves”
  • new opening books
  • “Switch Sides”

Versions 0.40 to 0.49 (v0.40 was released 2015/06/03)

  • analysis mode – Displays the best move but don’t play itself – pondering
  • kibitz mode – Displays the best value but don’t play itself – pondering
  • short notation speaking of chesstalker – before chesstalker saying for example “N g1 f3” now “Nf3”
  • “Stop Search” – pressing the middle button stops picochess from calculation and the best move is done
  • “Halt/Start the clock”

Versions 0.50 to 0.59 (v0.50 was released 2015/08/12)

  • Switch engine/book/time during the game – Esp the engine switch incl. the level setup was a big improvement
  • Resign/draw with kings similar to the dgt system
  • Alternative Move – You can ask picochess to calculate the next best move
  • chess960 (also known as “Fischer Random Chess”) Implementation
  • Remote play – you can play against someone else over internet
  • Tablebases support
  • DGTPi coding starts (first working version is from Nov 13th. 2015).

Versions 0.60 onwards (v0.60 was released in 2016/03/22)

  • as i said, i will write about this history in another post. Stay tuned.