Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Moving to Visual C Express 2010

After using the great free Java IDE's Eclipse and Netbeans for a while, and also because I bought a nice new Core i5 laptop recently, I thought it might be worthwhile installing something more modern than my slightly antiquated Visual Studio 2005 on it. I love those new features like code completion and refactoring, the fact that you can just hover your mouse over variables in the code during debugging and it shows you what they are and all the other nice bells and whistles in the Java IDEs. Having also gotten used to not having to pay for a nice programming environment, I decided to install Visual C 2010 Express. Upgrading my old projects (such as CheckerBoard, Cake, book and endgame database generators, Connect 4 and my chess engine Muse) turned out to be quite a bit of a hassle - the upgrade wizard failed to convert about half of my projects, and I had to restart them from scratch, and had some more trouble because some libraries that used to be added automatically are not added any more, causing linker errors. I had another smallish disappointment when I noticed that there is practically no refactoring support in the express edition, and a bit a larger disappointment when I noticed that there is no 64-bit support either. While I do appreciate that M$ is giving away a free more or less modern IDE, I still would wish for more. So here's my question to the C programmers out there: is there anything else that you would recommend for the Windows platform - something that would also allow me to import my Visual Studio projects with as little trouble as possible?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Suicide checkers is a draw - probably

During this winter, I let my suicide checkers book generator run for quite some time, expanding the size of my suicide checkers opening database from about 60'000 to over 180'000 positions. With the generator running on a machine that was twice as fast as for the 60'000 first nodes, the overall quality of the book must have improved massively. It now predicts draws for all 7 opening moves, from which I draw the conclusion in the title of this post.
With the beginning of spring I turned the generator off again - my green conscience would at least like to scavenge some waste heat for my house from book building... Furthermore, I am slightly ashamed to have a PC with a quad-core processor running on a single core only - it could be building the book at nearly 4 times the speed it is doing now, using only a little more energy if I programmed it to use all cores. With PCs nowaday having 4 or even 8 cores, I really should learn how to program a multithreaded search...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

common Java codebase

I worked a bit on my Java checkers engine so that I can now use the same code for both my Android checkers tutor and my Java PC program - I'm glad I managed to combine the two! The only difference (and one I will probably forget to change from time to time...) is the size of the hashtable, which is obviously much smaller on the phone.
I also improved playing strength a bit, and will probably release new versions of both my Java checkers programs soon.

Monday, March 29, 2010

jCheckers web start

I had some trouble to get jCheckers running on my own office PC... so I thought I better try something easier and played around with Java web start and produced the following test page - now that is much cooler!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


After a rainy Sunday afternoon in front of my PC, jCheckers is now available! For some reason, I had to rewrite the entire GUI because NetBeans wasn't creating a proper distribution output for my jCheckers project. At least I also learned how to write callback functions in Java (with Interfaces), and implemented one for communication between the JCheckerBoardPanel and the main window. I should also implement one for the communication between the checkers engine and the JCheckerBoardPanel - but since my Java checkers engine is shared between Android and the full Java program, I was a bit reluctant to touch it. In fact, the engine isn't properly shared between the two because of some differences between Android and standard Java. My programmer friends tell me I should use dependency injection, but that will have to wait!
In the meantime, you can enjoy jCheckers on Linux and Mac, where CheckerBoard isn't available. jCheckers has a powerful Java checkers engine, multiple levels of play, PDN support, and unlimited takeback through the game.
Since I don't own either Mac or Linux computers, I'd be glad to get feedback on whether it runs on these systems as it should.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Java Checkers on the finish line

It's been a while since I worked on my java checkers program (the general one, not the one for Android). It's something like a simple version of CheckerBoard, but it should run on all platforms if java lives up to its "write once run anywhere" promise. I just programmed the PDN save and load features which were the last features missing for an initial release. It will still need some finishing touches, but since I have about 16 hours of train-rides coming up in the next 48 hours and my laptop with me I hope to be able to apply these very soon and finally publish jCheckers!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Checkers Tutor reaches 1000 downloads

Today, following another download-increasing update to version 1.06, Checkers Tutor has reached over 1000 total downloads. For reasons unclear to me (and from reading on the internet, everybody else too), Google does not offer a PC interface to the Android market, and therefore there are 3rd party websites that do offer such an interface. I use AndroLib, where I can see how many ratings and comments I got, and how the ratings develop over time. Apparently, Checkers Tutor has a rating of 3.33 out of 5, after 9 ratings. Unfortunately, not a single comment on what could be improved...
Androlib also has some download statistics. According to these, of currently 23'477 apps, 61.6% have been downloaded less than 1000 times. So CT is in the top 38.4% of all apps; and only 19.9% of all apps (or 4672) are in the category above with more than 5000 downloads. So CT isn't doing too bad, then again the other checkers programs out there are doing better or much better - and when I run out of upgrade ideas, my downloads will slow down to a trickle once again. I have two upgrade ideas left, but then it will be time to leave CT to its own devices on Android market.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Checkers Tutor 1.04, 1.05 etc.

The Android market has a developer console which tells developers how often their application has been downloaded, how many active installations of it there are, and how the application is rated by the users. These stats are interesting, but not really up to Google standards - for example, you have no clue about how your downloads are distributed over time, and I have been logging in to my dev console every night to see how my Checkers Tutor is doing (it would be so much nicer if daily/weekly/monthly stats were available...). I have noticed that whenever I publish an update of Checkers Tutor, the number of downloads increases massively. I can also see that the number of active installs increases too, so I guess that my app is more visible on the Android market for perhaps a day after an update (but this is pure speculation). Anyway, seeing that my download stats are disappointing, I will be making some incremental updates to Checkers Tutor in the hope of attracting more users (1.04 released, 1.05 going up tonight, and 1.06 already planned), and perhaps gaining visibility in the Android Market (which is probably a combination of downloads and rating, but again this is guesswork). One problem which all checkers apps seem to have in common is that many people don't know that you must capture if you can in checkers. Aart Bik's Checkers for Android is by far the most downloaded checkers app, and it seems that about half of it's comments are "stupid - computer cheats" or "don't install - can't make moves I want to". And the ratings are correspondingly low. Unfortunately, Aart put in an option to make captures optional in his program, which is a bit of a shame because these people should learn how to play checkers for real...