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October 3rd, 2003


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05:32 am - When in doubt, whinge about Windows
Match of the day - their headline, not mine - saw Ladya-Kazan-1000 take on NAO Chess Club Paris in the, sing it, European Chess Clubs Cup.

NAO Paris played their line-up with a completely straight bat, putting regular heat leader Alexander Grischuk up against Kasparov. (To be fair, he did have a better record against the man than their other two 2700+s.) Likewise, regular #2 Peter Svidler stayed at #2 to face in-form Viktor Bologan and so forth. Svidler got a very quick win over Bologan, which must be regarded as a slight upset given Bologan's pace during the first four days - though Svidler is in good form himself, having recently won the Russian championship, which you don't tend to do by accident. The lower boards' results came in: draw, draw, draw, draw. (NAO will definitely have been hoping for better than that from the bottom two boards.) So with the score at 2-3, it was up to Kasparov-Grischuk on the top board to decide the result.

I lurked on the Internet Chess Club to follow the action today. It's fair to say they've been having problems with getting live coverage from Greece. The Kasparov game got to move 23 and then stuck. I'm not sure how long it stuck for, but I think people weren't joking when they said "about two hours". (For the top board on the top match, one would've thought that they could've got someone to dictate moves over a regular phone line, even assuming mobiles are barred from the building. HELLO! I'M AT THE EUROPEAN CHESS CLUBS CUP! WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU! NO! NO, IT'S RUBBISH!) So we jumped from Kasparov having apparently a fraction-of-a-pawn assessed positional advantage after move 23 all of a sudden to 1-0. Match result: a tie, 3-3. Not all that surprising, really.

However, the surprising result comes in the second match - Norilsk Nikel, always borderline contenders, were edged out by one decisive result and five draws against twelfth-seed Beer-Sheva Chess Club of Israel, who field an all-Israeli line-up with a 2574, a 2456 and four in the 2550s. This should not be a powerful team, but five days in, it's tied with Kazan and Paris at the top of the leaderboard on four match wins and a draw. Beer-Sheva's wins haven't been big ones (+5 against Joensu of Finland, +3 against Barbican, a tie with Momot and +2 against the #2 Polish side) but they've been getting the results and have peaked at the right time. Even assuming that hard competition in the last two days sees them castle kingside in match result terms - that is, O-O - they'll be more than satisfied to finish with +4=1-2 for the week. Nikel must be livid.

Matches three, four and five were similarly close, 3½-2½. Tomsk pipped St. Petersburg, though this game had three draws and three results; five-draws-one-win matches saw Kiseljak make heavy weather of Momot and Tbilisi almost held Warsaw. Other results saw Werder Bremen shock Corpora Martin by going 3/3 at the top. Luke McShane has woken up at last, hooray! Bosna Sarajevo roll back into gear handing 5 points of brutality to a Belgian side with five Germans and a Ukranian, Barbican battered Kydon and Asker Schakklubb had their Turkish opponents for lunch.

So this makes for a very exciting conclusion to the tournament: Kazan, Paris and Beer-Sheva all on 9 match points out of 10 with Kiseljak, Warsaw, Tomsk, Sarajevo and Bremen on 8/10. The champion really has got to come from those eight. If, after fourteen rounds, teams tie on match points, whichever team has got better results from its 42 games will be declared the champion. Technically I suppose it's just about possible for the teams on 7/10 to still be in the hunt, but 11/14 match points would be a most unlikely winning score from this position.

Trivia of the day: NAO Chess Club Paris were known as Caissa Paris and almost bankrupt until a couple of years ago when Mme. Nahed Ojjeh became involved with what is her local club and splashed heavy amounts of cash. Mme. Ojjeh actually has a remarkable pedigree at the board game Diplomacy with an enviable winning streak; her strategy is inflexibly based upon maintaining control of the North Atlantic Ocean and co-ordinating both land and sea assaults from there. Her passion for the NAO inspired her to name her new chess toy accordingly. (Either that, or NAO happen to be her initials - but I think it's the Dip story.) Mme. Ojjeh is the daughter of the Syrian defence minister and a widow of a Saudi arms dealer, which might possibly explain why she can fling money about like Roman Abramovich.

(Joke of the day, though it's actually about six weeks old: Saddam Hussein has actually been captured in the depths of the Iraqi desert. The freedom fighters were just about to turn him in to claim the $25,000,000 reward from George W. Bush, but Chelsea offered twenty-nine million for him.)

Excitingly and intriguingly, at press time, the online pairing sheet for round six remains blank. Accordingly, I have to use my skill, judgement and knowledge of the Swiss system to predict the round six pairings. Here goes.

Ladya-Kazan-1000 will be taking on H@X0R-Grad-1337.
Tomsk-400-YKOS will are drawn to play Orinoco-Madame-Cholet-Uncle, representing Bulgaria.
Clichy Échecs 92 are matched against Cliché Ethetheth Pethethethetheth, featuring special guest captain Chris Waddle.
Norilsky Nikel to face Notwearing Knickers.
One of the Welsh teams who have lost all their matches but picked up a free match win from the bye will play... the other one.
Barbican are scheduled to play Sindycan't.
Werder Bremen are up against Weird Al Yankovic, who will be taking all six at once in a simul; NAO Chess Club Paris compete against Chelsea FC.
And that completes the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Seriously, the Swiss system attempts to pair teams on the same number of match points, but within numbers of points, it attempts to match up the team with the highest number of game wins and the team with the lowest number of game wins. If there are odd numbers, which in this case there clearly are, the middle team tends to play the middle team of the band on one point below. This is important because suddenly pounding every single opponent as mercilessly as possible becomes key; the more decisive your match wins, the easier the opponent of all those on the same number of points you'll get in a later round. Big wins over weak opposition breed big wins over weaker opposition in the future, and so on. (This is why Michael Adams conceding a lot of soft draws is particularly poor news for Paris; should Paris and Kazan both finish on six match wins and a draw apiece but Kazan win through more games won, it's not going to look good.)

Accordingly, of the three teams on nine match points out of ten, I presume we'll have top versus bottom - Ladya-Kazan-1000 against Beer-Sheva. Beer-Sheva have been upsetting the odds against teams they have no right to do so, but I can't see them doing it again. Middle 9/10 team NAO Paris get paired with the middle 8/10 team who look like... well, either undefeated Tomsk-400-Yukos or Bosna Sarajevo. Ouch. Now in order to be European Champion, you've got to take on the whole of Europe, but you really wouldn't want to face Sarajevo the day after facing Kazan - especially when you know every half-point here and there could be crucial. Matching up tops and bottoms of the 8/10, we have Kiseljak against Werder Bremen - ouch - and Warsaw taking on the other of Tomsk or Sarajevo. All subject to the normal Swiss "can't face the same team twice" criterion, of course.

The markets reckon that Kazan's draw has probably done enough to secure them the championship - you can only get 1.5 against Kazan now, compared to 2.5 against NAO. I have to say that NAO's weakness on the bottom boards today and subsequent failure to put Kazan away has made this probably about correct. For Kazan not to win, they'll have to slip up against either Beer-Sheva or their day seven opponents. Having to take on Bosna Sarajevo in round seven for the title would be a very fitting way to end, though. (It would require Sarajevo to have to win, whether they're facing Paris or Warsaw, plus sufficient other teams to end round six on 10/12 so that Kazan are paired down against them and not one of the others.)

Windows crashed hard today. I was doing nothing particularly special (Winamp open plus Mozilla Firebird with possibly a dozen or so tabs) when everything completely froze and Winamp started producing one particular quarter-of-a-second sound over and over again. alt-F4 did nothing and neither did very many CTRL-ALT-DEL poundings. Reset using the power button, boot up again, ScanDisk does the usual graunch. (I do want to punch ScanDisk at times. I would be very happy to shut down using Shut Down if sodding Windows 98 gave me the chance.) The problem is that 85% of the way through, it started going on about crosslinked clusters and crosslinked files, then started clicking through the disk drive v e r y   v e r y   s l o w l y   i n d e e d. I didn't take a note of when the ScanDisk started, because I wasn't expecting it to take long, but I would estimate it took between 2¾ and 3 hours all told. Certainly going from 90% to 91% took 24 minutes.

Hmm, bad. Reboot (safely, thankfully). Kill the screen saver, kill everything but Systray and Explorer. Use Windows ScanDisk, which takes a sensible length of time. Defragment the drive, which takes something like 3¼ hours. (It's terrible when it only seems to be writing one cluster at a time. Yet... somehow mesmeric. I should've been reading a book, but...) Admittedly I hadn't Windows ScanDisked or defragged for approximately 240 days, which is the age of this installation - and, effectively, the age of this PC, though the hard drive dates back to the previous machine and can't be very far off 3¾ years old. Does the length of time taken by ScanDisk and defrag increase linearly with hard disk drive - if so, what do people with 160 GB hard drives do about it?

However, I'm really not confident that this isn't going to happen again in the near future and this worries me considerably. What more ought I be doing? I really ought to back everything up and consider a reinstall, but that's a process which fills me with horror. Recommendations for CD-R or CD-RW brands welcome, individually-boxed discs preferred to spindles; this writer is nominally capable of 12x write and 10x rewrite, but I'm not confident in it at anything above 4x with my current brand. Solutions involving switching to another OS are not appreciated unless you can also provide software to replace 36 applications I find essential. No, I am not prepared to consider emacs, even if it will replace all 36 at a single stroke. New! MAME for emacs!
Current Mood: unimpressed, billg, unimpres'd
Current Music: Probably the dawn chorus outside

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:bateleur
Date:October 2nd, 2003 11:38 pm (UTC)
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Does the length of time taken by ScanDisk and defrag increase linearly with hard disk drive ?

Not in practice, no. The patterns of usage one sees with a big disc don't tend to look like the patterns one sees on a small disc duplicated many times. You tend to have most of the space occupied by big contiguous blocks of stuff which you've saved once when the disc had plenty of space so they aren't fragged at all.

ObSynchroncity: Yesterday and close of play I decided to defrag the (large) hard disc on my work machine. This has had several years of very intensive use with no defrag so far, so I did the only sane thing and left it to defrag overnight !
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:33 pm (UTC)
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I did the only sane thing and left it to defrag overnight !

Sounds like a sane plan. Alas one not open to me because the overall system is noisy enough, especially while defragging, to disrupt my sleep. (I am not prepared to consider options involving moving the computer, moving where I sleep or ear-plugs.) There are a few nice backup-type things that I would like the computer to do while I was asleep, but this doesn't seem to be possible in my case. I also don't necessarily trust the computer enough to be able to leave it working away overnight.
From:mrstrellis
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:03 am (UTC)
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Hmm, personally I wouldn't trust writing data just to CDs (unless you're going to check you've got everything burnt correctly VERY VERY carefully - it's so easy to miss some files or for a CD to get scratched).

Backups are worth spending money on so why not buy a nice Firewire/USB external hard disk for £150? That way it'll be a doddle to back up every so often. Perfectlyvague's recent troubles prompted me to get around to backing up my data onto DVD and laptop because losing months (and in my case, years) of valuable work just isn't worth the false economy.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:29 pm (UTC)
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What I miss is some way of checking that what's been burnt to a CD actually matches up with what you wanted to burn in the first place. There used to be a VERIFY command in ZX Speccy basic which could do this with a program on tape, so I don't see why it shouldn't be possible with a CD player.

Backups are worth spending money on so why not buy a nice Firewire/USB external hard disk for £150?

Error: £150 not found.

Ought to get on with some work at this point, really :-/
[User Picture]
From:imc
Date:October 8th, 2003 02:20 pm (UTC)
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There used to be a VERIFY command in ZX Speccy basic which could do this with a program on tape

The Spectrum was rather special in that regard - how many other micros of the time had a VERIFY?

so I don't see why it shouldn't be possible with a CD player.

Well with a CD you are often writing hundreds of files at once, which can make things more complicated. Nevertheless, I have done such a thing on more than one occasion using a combination of `find' and `cmp'.

On the other hand, if you've just written an ISO to CD and want to check the disc against the ISO,

dd if=/dev/cdrom | cmp - image.iso

Error: £150 not found.

Surely:
2 £150 not found, 0:1
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:October 8th, 2003 05:23 pm (UTC)
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2 £150 not found, 0:1

How true. I can't even find one £150, let alone two of them. Me 0, world 1.

(Yes, I know you were getting at the concept of £150 being a variable. It certainly wouldn't be a constant!)
[User Picture]
From:imc
Date:October 3rd, 2003 05:30 am (UTC)
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Winamp started producing one particular quarter-of-a-second sound over and over again.

It will have been your sound card doing that, rather than a neat trick of Winamp.

if so, what do people with 160 GB hard drives do about it?

Install Linux. Partition it into smaller pieces which hopefully don't all need to be scandisked at once.

Solutions involving switching to another OS are not appreciated unless you can also provide software to replace 36 applications I find essential.

Namely?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:52 pm (UTC)
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See next post. The number was actually 33 rather than 36; on further reflection, about five of the 33 don't stand up as essential at the moment. Still, that's what I would regard as "quite a lot" and I don't particularly consider myself to be a power user at all.
[User Picture]
From:jumbach
Date:October 3rd, 2003 08:55 am (UTC)
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Everytime I turn on my computer, it complains about how my disk may be developing bad sectors and goes into Scandisk. Yet, I've run the whole thing before and it found none, so now I just cancel out and consider that blue screen part of the startup process. Damn annoying for sure.
From:daweaver
Date:October 3rd, 2003 10:59 am (UTC)
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Crosslinked files. Hmm. Bad. Tends to suggest some sort of volume error. I'd suggest doing a full disk backup, reformat, restore. Or if you're planning to upgrade the hard disk in the near future, do it now.

As for larger hard disks taking longer: not necessarily. Most of the time taken for a Scandisk operation is checking the actual data, the unused areas of a hard disk are relatively trivial to check. Ceteris paribus, it'll take no longer to check 5GB of data on a 10GB disk than on a 50GB volume.

However, larger disks tend to be quicker in operation (they spin more quickly, or their heads have more accurate readings), so for a given volume of data, they'll actually work a little faster.

Furthermore, there's a slight delay while the PC processor verifies that the data is in order; as larger drives tend to be used on faster machines, this will again tend to make the large drive a little faster. This effect isn't so large now as it was seven or eight years ago, the main system bottleneck is reading data from the disk.

Many large disks, those running under Windows 2000 or XP (hawk, spit) use NTFS, not FAT32. That does file storage (and hence defragmentation) in a completely different way; it still uses a table to store file information, but keeps the first 1500 bytes in the table, and a pointer to the next bit of the table. It's an incredibly complex transactional system, but this is perhaps the least baffling explanation for someone reasonably familiar with FAT, if you can get over the fragmented English.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'd suggest doing a full disk backup, reformat, restore.

Current mood: fearstricken

This is a suggestion which fills me with considerable despair, for I have never done the reformat-restore approach and fear it would likely take between 12 and 24 hours to get me back up to speed with all the stuff I have on here. Current plan: backup, hope like crazy, then reformat and restore only when absolutely necessary. As plans go, it seems to be predicated a little much on "hope" for my liking.

Which OS (or OSes, I suppose) do you run yourself? I vaguely got the impression that XP is actually broadly better than 98 for most intents and purposes, mostly due to being considerably more NT-like than 98 which was based on the not-NT 95, though I've not heard much good about 2000 and only really venom about ME.

Was it really 8 years ago that 95 came out and the Times came out with an entirely free Microsoft-sponsored edition?
From:daweaver
Date:October 4th, 2003 02:53 am (UTC)
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Current plan: backup, hope like crazy, then reformat and restore only when absolutely necessary. As plans go, it seems to be predicated a little much on "hope" for my liking.

Hmm. Don't know if you know anyone with a spare hard disk and a copy of Ghost or similar you can borrow for a day or so. The theory: copy old disk to borrowed one, reformat old disk, reverse copy. I had to do something like this in June, and got ~17GB transferred in 3 hours.

Which OS (or OSes, I suppose) do you run yourself?

You might be surprised: Windows ME for most things, Linux when I don't want to be distracted. Two of my main apps - Wavefinder digital radio and my TV card - only work reliably under Windows. Booting into Linux means they're not accessible, which is sometimes a good thing.

I vaguely got the impression that XP is actually broadly better than 98 for most intents and purposes, mostly due to being considerably more NT-like than 98 which was based on the not-NT 95

XP is more secure, plug & play works better, and because MS insists it runs on top-spec computers, it's less crash-prone. I'm not that strong an advocate of the OS, and I really don't like the way it forces registration.

Was it really 8 years ago that 95 came out and the Times came out with an entirely free Microsoft-sponsored edition?

(checks calendar) Yep.
[User Picture]
From:imc
Date:October 8th, 2003 02:09 pm (UTC)
(Link)
XP is more secure,

So, out of XP and 98, which one was vulnerable to the blaster worm? ;-)

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