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Re: FW: [Bug-gnubg] Tutorial: a short history

From: Joseph Heled
Subject: Re: FW: [Bug-gnubg] Tutorial: a short history
Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003 14:39:02 +1200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.4) Gecko/20030624

Albert, I find this very interesting and instructive.

While I like BG, I am much more interested in programming and AI. I think this applies to Gary as well. Joern (correct me if I am wrong) has become more of a programmer via his tremendous contribution to GNUbg. But I think none of us were concerned or greatly interested with how well "known" GNUbg is. Probably it was not strong enough to merit real interest 2 years ago. Only 3 years ago it was playing only one pointers at FIBS, rating around 1650.

Perhaps now is the time to re-design the UI - only we programmers are not the ones to do it right. Also, writing in low level "C" code for GTK is a real burden. I am not sure if the right (free) tools exist, but something on top of GTK would be a huge win IMPO.

I agree with Holger on most points. The price issue is a good "selling point", but the other aspects of free software need to be presented.


Albert Silver wrote:
The nature of a number of the comments leads me to believe it is worth
explaining a bit on the history of the tutorial. This isn't the first
version, it is the third.
When I first began seeking software in order to improve in my newfound
hobby/love, I naturally began investigating the commercial programs. No
other program was named, not one. This was last year, maybe late August
or September. I asked a lot at the tournaments and big chouettes, and
the answers were unanimous: Jellyfish or Snowie. The pros ALL used
either of the two. I checked up on possible vendors and was utterly
dismayed at the cost. I then did some further investigating, and did
indeed discover the existence of the other programs, but no literature
(magazines or books) referred to them and no one used them as far as I
could tell. It made it clear that they were considerably inferior. The
one that was mentioned as the father of the neural net revolution was
TD-Gammon. I began to seek it out, but balked when I found I had to
install IBM's OS/2 Warp in order to use it. Another program that was
mentioned in the newsgroups was GNU Backgammon, but it wasn't clearly
respected, mostly because it was unknown to most. I tried to find out
where to download it and found myself at the official page in the
www.gnu.org site. This was the site referred to by any major site with
BG links. Here came the first problem. It was amazing, but I couldn't
even find a clear place to download the program. How was I going to use
it if it was hidden? I began looking for anything, and finally via
Google, stumbled upon Oystein's site. Hallelujah! I installed it and
opened it. It looked quite interesting though a bit intimidating. I then
proceeded to look for the documentation and fell upon Achim's site. None
of the explaantions seemed to apply to this Windows version I had in
front of me. Lots of details on commands for the commandline and others
aspects were available, but no clear "How to start a game with GNUBG" or
"How to import and analyze a match with GNUBG". Nothing like click on
the File menu, etc. I searched more but that was it. This was quite a
deterrant, and I was also put off by the transparent pieces that gave it
an ungainly appearance. Still the idea that it had rollouts and could
analyze matches was very attractive, and I wanted to see it for myself.
As I made head of how to work with it, I began to be amazed at what I
was seeing. This was a remarkable piece of software, incredibly strong,
and had everything the $200-$400 monsters demanded big bucks for too.
Still with a hidden DL page, no documentation that could be easily
understood, it was no wonder only a handful of people were using it. In
the Gammonline forum the references were zilch except by Zorba. The more
I used it and learned about it, the more I wanted to break this
grotesque barrier. So I spoke with Kit Woolsey and asked if he'd be
interested in an article that would serve as a tutorial on the ABCs of
GNUBG. He was enthusiastic about the idea and told me to go ahead. Thus
in the October issue of Gammonline came out the 16-page (according to
Word) article "All About GNU". The introduction and the content are my
explanations AND my perspective.

The introduction explains how I came to be using it, and not why the
founding author created it. It has comments on what I like and dislike
in it. It doesn't hesitate to draw comparisons to the top dog Snowie,
especially the way it calculates errors by not including forced moves.
It admits the caveat of the multiple windows, and also gives personal
suggestions on settings. In the first edition, I gave a series of
settings to get the three Designs attributed to me. When I wrote it the
design presets did not exist yet. It was NEVER intended to be its
official documentation, though I did tell the group it was freely
offered for distribution so that others might discover and enjoy GNUBG
as I had.

The second version came at the request of Tom Keith, the owner of
Backgammon Galore! at http://www.bkgm.com He explained his site has
considerable traffic and that he had read my article and hoped I'd
expand on it to post at his site. That was how the first public version
came to existence in January and can still be seen at
http://www.bkgm.com/gnu/AllAboutGNU-1.0/AllAboutGNU.html This latest
version is 17 pages longer and far better IMHO. It is also much more a
manual and less a tutorial now, though it retains the slightly
conversational tone of the first, making it a bit less tedious to read
from beginning to end, though one can perfectly well read only the parts
of interest.

I don't know the timely order of the bots, only that TD-Gammon was


Thus, the references to only Snowie and Jellyfish aren't

appropriate. I

also don't know where the inspiration for gnubg came from and how

big a

role Snowie played then. It would be interesting what Gary had to


about the subject.

Backgammon Base (with a small race/bearoff rollout feature)
Expert Backgammon (DOS and MAC)

and a few other free or shareware programs

Your experience with GNU Chess is anecdotal, but might not leave a


impression of GNU Chess. I guess it was a very early version and


has improved a lot by now. You'll often find this with open source

No, GNU Chess sucks. If you want good chess freeware, go to
http://www.playwitharena.com There are over 200 free engines to download
and use with the impressive Arena interface, varying enormously in
quality and level. If I were to place GNU in terms of strength, I'd say
it was in the bottom 30% or so. The best is by far Ruffian, and then
comes Crafty. As to the interface, sorry...

The development of gnuchess has stopped a few years ago. But there are


lot of other free and also opensource chess engines.

<excerpt>The official site of GNU Backgammon is either
http://www.gnu.org/software/gnubg/ or the new site at

though you should be warned that this is not where you will want to


the program. To get the fully functional version you want to go to


site of one of the authors:


You not only get the software at the official sites, you get much

more -

the source.

Remember the purpose of the document: It's about how to use GNU
Backgammon for Windows. If there are other clear ways to download and
install GNUBG for other OSs I'd be glad to include them of course.

A "warning" and "fully functional version" seem to overdo

Not really. I was worried when I read the warning and so were some
others I showed the site to.

There are still a lot of people not knowing anything about the sense


opensource software. It might be an option to add two links to it:
www.gnu.org and www.opensource.org.

The first is already there, I can add the second.

This is no typical Windows crippleware. If I'm not badly mistaken


started on Unix/Linux and the MS platform was only later supported.

I have no doubt, but am not sure what the point is.

Finally, yes, I can certainly change GNU to GnuBG for purposes of
inclusion, that is hardly an issue.


Yep. Though I think that most of the people using gnubg are working on



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