about using winboard

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MikeGL
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Re: about using winboard

Post by MikeGL » Sun Feb 25, 2018 3:56 pm

hgm wrote:Pressing Analyze Mode when already analyzing is supposed to toggle the second engine on and off for analysis (so you can analyze with two engines at once). To switch off analysis you select the mode you want next (e.g. Edit Game).

Apparently Fairy-Max is still selected as second engine, and because you actually removed it from the install WinBoard's attempts to start it run into an error, which is reported in the popup. I am not sure why there are so many popups, I would not have expected WinBoard to try again if launching an engine fails. When launching the first engine fails, it would switch back to game-viewer mode (all engine functions grayed out), but there is no seperate single-engine and two-engine mode. Perhaps I should make it keep track of whether the second engine is valid, and just ignore any later attempts to invoke it (until a new one is loaded through Load Second Engine).

Note that this is a situation that would not normally encountered. I don't know what other GUIs would do when the executable of an 'installed' engine would be deleted, and you then try to use it.

The UI could possibly be improved by changing the menu text of the Analyze Mode into something like 'Double Analysis' when analysing with one engine.
Ok thanks. It did work by choosing something in Edit Menu. But I think it's a strange way to stop an engine analysis. I was expecting if I untick "Analysis Mode" the calculation of Engine1 stops. Now it is clear with your post, it automatically tries to start Engine2 if I stop Engine1. But the infinite loop of calling Engine2 is also strange and a kind of DoS in my opinion.
Note that this is a situation that would not normally encountered. I don't know what other GUIs would do when the executable of an 'installed' engine would be deleted, and you then try to use it.
I tried with Arena, and a msgbox titled "Information" displayed with the following msg: File "C:\path\foo\path\Engines\Stockfish9.exe" not found! [OK]
This is 2.0.1 version of Arena. Not sure with the newest one.
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hgm
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Re: about using winboard

Post by hgm » Sun Feb 25, 2018 4:48 pm

MikeGL wrote:Ok thanks. It did work by choosing something in Edit Menu. But I think it's a strange way to stop an engine analysis. I was expecting if I untick "Analysis Mode" the calculation of Engine1 stops.
It never worked that way in WinBoard. The Mode menu always behaved like radio buttons, unticking a mode only when another one got selected. There isn't really an 'idle mode'; WinBoard always is ready to do something.

At some point I wanted to support double analysis, and using a second click on the Analyze mode item, which had no function yet, seemed a good way to do it. But apparently people can have other expectations, this is why perhaps the text on the menu item should be changed.

Note, however that this is a very unlucky coincidence of several factors. Normally, when people would hit Analyze Mode a second time, they would see the second engine switch on, and understand what they misunderstood. In this case the executable of an engne was removes, AND that engine happened to be selected as second engine.
Now it is clear with your post, it automatically tries to start Engine2 if I stop Engine1.
Note it does not switch off Engine 1. It only switches on Engine 2, so that they are both analyzing.
But the infinite loop of calling Engine2 is also strange and a kind of DoS in my opinion.
Indeed, this is no good, and completely unexpected. It looks like it keeps retrying to start the engine, and this was never the intention (as it makes no sense). So there isn't any explicit loop, but somehow after a failure WinBoard is left in a state where it immediately tries again. It should simply switch back to single-engine analysis.

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Re: about using winboard

Post by Ras » Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:06 pm

styx wrote:And still there is no good alternative available for playing an engine in Linux OSs.
That's not limited to chess GUIs. Bad user interfaces are a Linux hallmark because it is not designed with usability in mind, and even where it pretends to be, it is a thin layer of fake usability. See also http://timothyblee.com/2010/11/15/open- ... aces-suck/ .

When I wanted to test my engine under Linux as preparation of the Android version, I first used the terminal for development tests. Even the terminal window under Knoppix was garbage compared to Windows CMD because backspace and arrow-up worked in Bash, but not in the application. Then for some more tests, Arena for Linux. After fighting off the usual Linux nonsense issues, it worked enough to get a tournament running.

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Re: about using winboard

Post by hgm » Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:18 pm

I never have to fight any 'Linux issues'. I just use XBoard, and it runs like a charm...

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Re: about using winboard

Post by Ras » Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:50 pm

hgm wrote:In WinBoard you have to click on Engines -> Load 1st/2nd Engine, browse to the executable.
That is after bypassing the awful "startup dialogue" which shouldn't even exist at all. Want to play an engine? Oh, the first radio button is set to "play against a chess engine or match two engines". How to select ONE engine? Delete the second engine, which lacks an option but is possible via keyboard delete. And what you get is a nonsense error message after which Winboard exits. Great.

Next try, use "just view or edit games" to bypass that stuff. Hm, edit engine list. Come on, this is a joke. This isn't even a GUI, this is a command line wrapper. See Arena how to do that one right. Ok, so "load first engine". This is another odd behaviour because loading and registering the engine are clumped together in one menu item. At least, it works.

Ok, engine is loaded. Btw, does editing the position work? No, it doesn't. No reaction. I'm also unwilling at this point to find out how else if not via Menu->Edit->Edit position you edit the position because this is just totally broken. There is no error message, not even a stupid one, nothing to guide the user. No editor opens.

But.. huh?! nearly invisible "click clock to clear board", that wasn't there before. Is that related to editing a position? Clicking a clock to clear the position is probably the worst joke possible for this feature. Hmm CLICK.. oh, the board is empty. Cool. How to get pieces there, without any kind of editor panel?! No indicator whatsoever. Click-clack around. You don't want to make the user GUESS, that is the point of a GUI.

Oh, by accident, I find that when using the right mouse key, a white pawn gets put on that square. Still no kind of indication how to get other pieces there. Nothing like an editor panel where I could drag and drop pieces. Drag and drop, you know, standard in GUIs for decades. Hmm at least, I can erase the pawn with a left-doubleclick on the same square, which I found after random clicking.

I'm totally lost because whoever has designed that nonsense clearly has not heard anything about the usability part of discoverability, which is what tells GUIs from command line wrappers.

Uhm.. OK, editing is implemented in the most broken way I've ever see, the first chess GUI where I fail to edit a chess position. Oh, but the clocks tell me that if I click on the clock again, the old position gets restored. What's that, a user interface composed of easter eggs only?! Click. Hmm, less than HALF of the pieces are restored to the initial position. Click again. Oh, now the rest appears. Uhm???

On to playing. Uhm.. no. The time default mode is 5 minute blitz. Which is a usability bug because the very last thing you want to do to a new user is putting him under time pressure with a new user interface. That insane default has been in xboard for ages because nobody had thought about it.

Back to time controls, where to set the time per move? Searching around. Oh, under options. Where it doesn't belong because it's a game mode and not some config detail. Every semi-decent GUI has a menu entry for "levels" or so. See Arena how to do that one right. Options->time control and.. stupid error message that changing time controls during a game is not implemented. What's that, I havn't moved and there is no game ongoing!

Btw., before loading an engine, "time control" is greyed out. No idea why, just another random thing.

Another thing is the ugly default board display. Have you EVER seen any real chess board with such nonsense fat black lines between the squares? No, and that's because the colours in chess are called black and white for a reason even if they often are physically beige and brown. The naming suggests contrast, which is why no such clunky lines are necessary. True, you can switch it off, but "no nonsense defaults" are another usability wisdom.

At that point, I'm already so fed up with Winboard because as GUI, it's an abysmal failure. Nothing works even remotely as expected. I'm also not motivated to click through a GUI where even basics don't work.

The only nice thing is that the monthly online blitz tourneys work (thx to HGM btw). To do that, you have to start Winboard with a truckload of command line options. Uhm, wait.. who had the idea of a GUI with tons of command line options? That in itself shows that the people who designed Xboard back then have no clue about GUI programming.

Xboard is also bad under Linux, but under Windows, things are worse because people expect that things (and GUIs) JUST WORK. It's not like under Linux where people don't expect things to work. The contrast is much sharper. I can't even image the shock a Mac user would experience.

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Re: about using winboard

Post by Ras » Sun Feb 25, 2018 7:01 pm

hgm wrote:I never have to fight any 'Linux issues'.
I had been using Linux as only operating system during 9 years, from 2001 to 2010, so I do know how to use it. But, too many issues to work around, constantly. But using Linux and wondering that no good GUI for you-name-it exists, that's funny.
I just use XBoard, and it runs like a charm...
Xboard doesn't work like a charm, it doesn't even qualify as proper GUI. It's just as bad as let's say GIMP or so. The sad thing is that developers don't even try to understand how GUIs work, but instead defend how bad GUIs are the best thing since sliced bread. Just as with Winboard.

Which is why for actual play, I'm using the Shredder GUI. You simply could not even hope to sell a packet for money with something like Winboard, and SMK knows this. If you want to make money, you have to take care that it's easy to use. Otherwise, no money. With commercial software, users have a voting right via their wallet.

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hgm
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Re: about using winboard

Post by hgm » Sun Feb 25, 2018 7:10 pm

XBoard not really a GUI. It sounds like a joke. Are you really surprised that developers pay no attention to your complaints?

Last time I probed deeper something like "It is not a GUI, because it has a 'Use book' checkbox in the Load Engine dialog, rather than a button 'More...' to pop up a dialog with a 'Use book' checkbox in it" came up...

[Edit] Oh, it seems I missed your forelast posting.

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Re: about using winboard

Post by Ras » Sun Feb 25, 2018 7:18 pm

hgm wrote:XBoard no really a GUI. It sounds like a joke. Are you really surprised that developers pay no attention to your complaints?
No, but they wouldn't do that anyway. Not that I'd overly care, I don't use that piece of UI meltdown. Feel free to turn down any criticism on that worst chess GUI in existence, just as you've always done it through the years. It's your right as author.

But since the thread is about whether Winboard is a great GUI - no, it wasn't, it isn't, and it will never be. It's not even a mediocre GUI.

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Re: about using winboard

Post by styx » Sun Feb 25, 2018 7:30 pm

Ras wrote: I had been using Linux as only operating system during 9 years, from 2001 to 2010, so I do know how to use it. But, too many issues to work around, constantly. But using Linux and wondering that no good GUI for you-name-it exists, that's funny.
I agree that some open source developers are better at programming than designing user friendly, intuitive and beautiful GUIs.

But still I think you picture the linux world darker than it actually is.
A lot has changed in the past 8 years. Apart from Chess GUIs I have no problems accomplishing my everyday tasks.

A big problem Linux has to deal with, is in the head of the user. Coming from the Windows world, some refuse to adapt to different software design approaches. They try to do something like they did in Windows and if it doesn't work that way, Linux is instantly complicated and bad.

But boy... I think I went far off topic here.

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Re: about using winboard

Post by hgm » Sun Feb 25, 2018 8:46 pm

Ras wrote:That is after bypassing the awful "startup dialogue" which shouldn't even exist at all.
Well, it doesn't exist in XBoard, and when you start WinBoard through the Windows start menu item specifying what you want to do, you would not get it either. You would directy connect to ICC/FICS, start in game-viewer mode, play against Fairy-Max or whatever. You would only get the Startup Dialog if you explicitly ask for it in the system start menu.
Want to play an engine? Oh, the first radio button is set to "play against a chess engine or match two engines". How to select ONE engine?
That is "play against an engine", right? It doesn't say "Play against two engines"...
Delete the second engine, which lacks an option but is possible via keyboard delete. And what you get is a nonsense error message after which Winboard exits. Great.
Why the heck would you do that??? No one ever complained about that before. But I guess it would be very easy to make it more idiot-proof here, by simply using the first engine also as second engine, when the user doesn't specify one. XBoard already does that, for other reasons.
Next try, use "just view or edit games" to bypass that stuff. Hm, edit engine list. Come on, this is a joke. This isn't even a GUI, this is a command line wrapper.
This item is just for deleting or re-ordering the list. Otherwise you should never need it. Standard text-editing functions are actually a very efficient way to do this. No cumbersome buttons to move a selected engine one place up or down, you can immediately select a bunch of them and insert them in a new place.
See Arena how to do that one right. Ok, so "load first engine". This is another odd behavior because loading and registering the engine are clumped together in one menu item. At least, it works.
In my experience, people would have no clue what it meant if you provided a menu item "register engine". And I don't think they should be burdened to know it. 'Load' they should understand; almost every application has a menu item to 'load' whatever it operates on. If they want to use another engine, it would be natural to 'load' it, like they 'load' another doc file when they want to edit another manuscript. And while doing it, they will quickly discover that they don't always have to browse to the engine (which some GUIs require, btw), but that engines they used before appears in a list, so that they only have to click it there. And in XBoard they would not even have to do that. If they have an engine, it would be in the list first time they look.

It seems you have been so much exposed to the crummy way it tends to work in other Chess GUIs, that you consider it normal that engines have to be 'registered' before you can use them, and get confused when this silliness is abolished.
Ok, engine is loaded. Btw, does editing the position work?
Yeah, really important. Usually the first thing any user would do, editing a position. And of course they would never paste a FEN.
No, it doesn't. No reaction. I'm also unwilling at this point to find out how else if not via Menu->Edit->Edit position you edit the position because this is just totally broken. There is no error message, not even a stupid one, nothing to guide the user. No editor opens.
Funny that you expect anything to open. It clicking your text file so that NotePad opens, and then asking "now where is the editor", and going like mad through all the menus to find a dialog with all letters of the alphabet so that you can drag them to the text.

'Editing' means that you are allowed to change what you see. In the case of a Chess position it just means that you can make arbitrary changes to the location of the pieces, by dragging them around without any restriction (by the rules of Chess).
But.. huh?! nearly invisible "click clock to clear board", that wasn't there before. Is that related to editing a position? Clicking a clock to clear the position is probably the worst joke possible for this feature. Hmm CLICK.. oh, the board is empty. Cool. How to get pieces there, without any kind of editor panel?! No indicator whatsoever. Click-clack around. You don't want to make the user GUESS, that is the point of a GUI.
That is an interesting point of view. For me, as a user, it is not so much important what I can do with a GUI in the first minute, but rather what I can do in the 20 years after that. This is what makes me prefer one GUI over another. Discoverability is a nice feature, but if it forces things to work in a simplistic and cumbersome way because otherwise they would be too difficult to discover, I would prefer to use the superior method even if it was somewhat less obvious to discover (or, heaven forbid, would require me to look in the man**l).

You write a nice comedy act, but in fact you did discover that you had to click the clock, eve though it was the absolutely crazy thing to do. How long did that take you? On minute? An hour? A day? A week? And once you knew it, how long did you remember it before you had to rediscover it all from scratch again? It seems you are trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill here.

You seem to have grave objections against text as as a handle for discoverability. Why is that? Are we supposed to design for dyslectics? Every time XBoard starts, it prints in large letters over the board "Right-clicking menu item or dialog text pops up help on it". So if you are really clueless on how Edit Position is supposed to work, you could just right-click the menu item for it, and two minutes of reading would have revealed it to the finest detail. And if you would not remember that for the rest of your life, (it is no rocket science...), you could always right-click the menu item again. This is not what for me, as a user, determines whether I consider it a good or a poor GUI. That is determined by how easy it is in everyday use once I know how to use it.

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