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October 3rd, 2003

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11:19 pm - An ignoble defence of Windows
Not particularly evitably, considering how much time I've been spending thinking about chess recently, I dreamt about it last night. For some reason, I was there to make up the numbers in a team of six and ended up facing British also-ran GM John Emms. I suspect that several games in the six-board match had already finished and that my team had already lost, but I still ended up playing. I was white.

It was quite an exciting game. I pushed pawns forward bravely and developed my knights. Emms sacrificed pawn after pawn against me; I greedily accepted the material advantage, paying no regard to the fact that he was building up a far superior position. Then the typical dream-like "can't remember the middle bit" occurs and we skip to the endgame. The board has mysteriously grown to about 20x20 in size, probably with small chunks taken out of the corners. (This is a pretty small change to the rules compared to the ones undergone by most games I dream.) My (very small) king had been trapped in the corner and was eventually mated by a queen and a knight, despite a slight material advantage on my part with which I could do nothing.

Emms has won easily and I probably ought to have resigned a while ago, but it wasn't an embarrassing defeat and I even felt pretty good about it. Emms was probably going quite gently on me, much like Kasparov-Sting (bottom entry) back in the days when Kasparov's kasparovchess.com was flinging money around like it was going out of fashion.

No such charity on offer at day six of the European Chess Clubs Cup, with every single point hard-fought. The pairings were largely as I had expected: Beer-Sheva against Kazan for match one, NAO against Tomsk for match two, leaving Bosna Sarajevo to play Warsaw and Kiseljak to face Werder Bremen. NAO Paris seem to be finding their touch at the right time, turning over Tomsk with three wins and three draws. Particularly happily, those three wins came on boards three, four and five, so it seems that Michael Adams has hit form at last. Warsaw overcame about a fifty-point disadvantage per board to overhaul the stuttering Bosna Sarajevo 4-2, for whom this championship will really have been one to forget. Kiseljak's bottom pairing made the difference in class tell against Werder Bremen to rack up a 4-2 win as well.

The big news of the day, though, comes in the top match, as ultimate spoilers Beer-Sheva Chess Club of Israel held Kasparov's Ladya-Kazan-1000 three apiece. Nobody can say the win was unearned - Bologan bounced back to win a game and their sixth-board potential liability Timofeev came good as well. Beer-Sheva's wins came from Boris Avrukh over Rublevsky on board three, and - get this - Alexander Huzman only went and beat Garry Kasparov.

Expect to hear more about this soon; I look forward to the world's analysis of the game. TWIC quickly summarises as follows: Sadly its not a very good game (Kasparov rarely loses great games but his losses are news simply for their rarity value) with Kasparov blundering away two pawns for no compensation after missing a trivial two move combination. The game has also been rushed up onto chessgames.com's interactive Java board and people have started to add their analysis - Kasparov's 20 ...Bc8 is already attracting question-marks like one of radinden's quizzes. Could this be the blunder which lost Kazan the European title, though? Certainly it seems to be his first defeat at classical speed to another human since February 23rd - to Teimour Radjabov in round two of this year's Linares SuperGM.

I'm actually writing this at a sensible time in the evening for a change, so not all of the results have come in. It looks like Minsk are beating the Barbican Chess Club of London (3-1 with two results to come, so even a draw is looking unlikely) and it's all gone very wrong for Asker against Glasinac. As predicted in jest, the two Welsh teams who have lost all their matches but are saved from total ignominy through a default-win being awarded by the bye really are playing each other. Fittingly, the match was drawn.

So with only one round to go and the leaderboard looks something a little like this:

NAO Chess Club Paris lead with 11 match points (five wins, one draw) and 26 game points.
Ladya-Kazan-1000 are next with 10 match points (four wins, two draws) and 26½ game points.
Kiseljak of Bosnia-Herzegovina also have 10 match points a different way (five wins, one loss) and 25½ game points.
Polonia Plus GSM Warsaw have 10 match points from five wins too and follow next with 25 game points.
Beer-Sheva Chess Club also have 10 match points (four wins, two draws) but only 23½ game points.
Alkaloid Skopje and Norilsk Nikel have 9 match points and there are several teams on 8.

Very simply, if NAO Chess Club Paris win their final match then they earn the title. If Paris draw, then they'll finish on 29 game points and would finish behind Kazan if they win in the last round, behind Kiseljak if they win 4-2 or better in the last round, behind Warsaw if they win 4½-1½ or better in the last round and so on. A draw for NAO is very unlikely to be enough.

The pairings are up in record quick time. I'm not quite sure what quirk of the pairing system produced this, but NAO Paris will be taking on Beer-Sheva, who seem to be getting the chance to act as the ultimate spoilers. Beer-Sheva have a faint shot at the championship if they win, but it would be down to number of game wins among the 12-match-point finishers and they're really struggling there. Match two sees Kazan take on Warsaw, match three faces Kiseljak and Alkaloid Skopje. NAO look like they have the talent to beat Beer-Sheva and win, but they haven't convinced me that they have the heart to do so. Beer-Sheva have been playing out of their skin this week. I think it's going to take Beer-Sheva to be on the positive end of another giant blunder or two for Paris not to be able to press home their advantage and win - but, as we have seen time and time again this week, anything is possible. Including really bad clichés, evidently.

Incidentally, you might recall me musing a couple of days ago about the possibility of the nominally-French NAO side playing in the British pro chess league, the 4NCL. I was most amused to look at the line-ups for the German Bundesliga next season - specifically, that of defending champion Lübecker SV. Lübecker's line-up includes all of Adams, Grischuk, Lautier and Fressinet - effectively, 2/3 of the NAO Paris first VI. On top of that, Lübecker have four more British players in their line-up - Jon Speelman, Julian Hodgson, John Nunn and Stuart Conquest - and they even have Simen Agdestein as well, famous for representing Norway at both chess and football. All told, their 14-man all-GM squad features zero Germans. I don't think a cooler squad than that would be humanly possible, unless England decided to enter its national team into the German league for a laugh. Lübecker 4eva, or at least until next season.

For the record, the other two NAO Paris regulars - Peter Svidler and Francisco Vallejo Pons - both play for SC Baden-Oos, who have a pretty handy side themselves, not least boosted by one Vishy Anand and one Alexei Shirov. The Bundesliga seems pretty likely to be between those two, I'd've thought, but Köln Porz have a lot of strength in depth too and may run Lübecker to within a fraction like last year. The other cool thing about the Bundesliga is that it operates a "squad numbers" system - whenever Adams plays for Lübecker, he'll always be (at least metaphorically) wearing number one, and so forth. The flip side of that is that Bundesliga teams have to play their line-up in squad order, so if Adams is playing he must play against the opposition's lowest-squad-numbered player and so forth. Adams above Grischuk is entirely heartening, but pretty brave.

I am convinced that, one-off Seattle festivals aside, Boston is the geekycoolest metro area in the entire United States of America. As well as having lots and lots of lovely LiveJournal folk, it features both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, which yesterday presented the thirteenth First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes, celebrating those who have made it to the echelons of the Annals of Improbable Research. I am a little worried that the more scientific Boston-based geeks on my Flist have yet made no mention of it, leading me to the disturbing conclusion that perhaps they didn't go. Not all is lost, however, because the free-public-admission Ig Informal Lectures take place this coming Saturday: 1pm, MIT building 54, room 100.

Boston folk - think this isn't your bag? It features a lecture from the first guy in the world to publish a paper which scientifically records a case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. Entirely seriously. That'll send 'em flocking.

Slightly more relevantly close to home, I discover that there was a 2003 UK tour featuring some of the Ig Nobel winners during National Science Week, with photos taken by a name familiar to the Oxgeekocracy. Can't remember hearing about this at the time, though, and it does sound like having been a laff and a haff. 2004 tour expected in March. Keep 'em peeled.

Different matter: please convince me why I should use something other than Windows. I will be difficult to convince, but I know it's not impossible; this time last month I gave a spirited defence of MSIE, today I am a Mozilla Firebird convert. I have a budget of approximately zero money for any changeover. I am only likely to change if you can convince me of sufficiently many better packages than the ones I already have.

  • Two - ideally three - different, good web browsers, including one which will read 99% of web sites written to work in MSIE only. Beat MSIE, Mozilla Firebird and Opera.

  • An e-mail and news program that can cope with circa 80,000 e-mail messages dating back six years. Beat Turnpike.

  • A hand-coded HTML editor. Beat HTML-Kit.

  • A POP server poller. Beat E-Res-Q.

  • A FTP program. Beat SmartFTP. The command line does not beat it.

  • A program that can make offline copies of web sites at least as well as Teleport Pro.

  • Media browsing solutions that together perform as capably well as WinAmp 2 (for most things), Windows Media Player (for Windows Media files), RealPlayer (for RealMedia files), DeliPlayer (for Amiga music), SIDPlayer (for C64 music), MicroSpeccy (for Spectrum music), QuickTime Player (for .mov files) and DivX Player. I am not prepared to consider WinAmp plus lots and lots of plugins, because my experience suggests that even though they should work as well as lots of different programs, they don't.

  • An office suite that is as good (and more to the point, as generally used, as CV-friendly and as boss-friendly) as Microsoft Office.

  • A PDF reader that is at least as good as Acrobat Reader. Actually, ideally one that's considerably better. Acrobat Reader has recently climbed above RealPlayer in the "most hated piece of software you can't live without" stakes - and, considering how eeeeeeevil Real are, that's sayin' something. RealOne is still as evil as ever, it just works rather better than all Real's older software.

  • A PS reader to beat GhostView - er, GSView, I suppose.

  • An image viewer to beat ACDSee.

  • A text editor to beat TextPad. Not emacs. Not vi. Not pico.

  • Software to work with my cheapo LITEON CD burner, my not-that-cheapo Epson scanner, my old Fujifilm digital camera and a video card which lets you watch TV on your monitor. (The last one is a bit of a cheat, because my video card to do that has been bust for... months.)

  • Freeware archiving to beat EnZip. gzip and gunzip? Er, no.

  • A GIMPS client.

  • I have written down "Dave's Quick Search Bar" and "PowerPro", but I've gone off them a bit. DQSB is bloody nifty, but I am really not convinced that one of the two of them or both together really screwed up my last Windows 98 installation. The always-open Google search bar in Mozilla answers this to some extent, but not as much as I'd like.

  • I have QuickResource written down here too, but I think I can live without that too, come to think of it.

  • Some anti-virus package. Yes, other OSes have viruses too.

  • QBasic.

  • Some anagram software as good as Anagram Master - though, I guess, in practice I tend to use the Web for this instead of an application.

  • MAME.

I suppose I ought to add a firewall too, on the grounds that I don't habitually run one. Rightly or wrongly, I perceive the need to keep a non-Windows installation secure to be rather higher than the need to keep my current Windows installation which doesn't use Outlook or Outlook Express and is a strictly one-user system secure. (Did we ever work out whether Steve Gibson was mad or not?) Again rightly or wrongly, I also perceive it to be more difficult and more time-consuming in general on non-Windows 98-systems than on Windows 98. (I do note the big attacks going around in August that screwed recent-Windows users quite badly, but note that Windows 98 was old enough to fly under the radar.)

I can actually use linux a bit - happy enough with cd, ls, rm, mv, cp, ps, chmod, mkdir, rmdir and so forth. I can read man pages and sometimes I just about manage to understand them - or, at least, to figure things out by imitating examples. I like pico and can just about struggle through with vi so long as I can have a web page with the shortcuts up on screen at the same time. I was very pleased to be able to download UseModWiki from the web, gunzip it, extract the tarball and install the program on a web server successfully. It took me a while and I regard the documentation as having been pretty clear, but I got there in the end. This is why I give myself 5% progress (no more and no less!) towards my "011. Learn to use Linux confidently." ambition.

Lastly, I sleep in the same room as my PC and do not expect this to change soon. My PC is sufficiently noisy that I want to turn it off at nights so that I can sleep. Accordingly, I am not prepared to consider a solution which is unhappy or slow about being started up or shut down on a regular basis.

All told, there's a lot to ask for. Can there be a better solution than Windows 98 for me?
Current Mood: confusedconfused

(11 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:33 pm (UTC)
Being more of a Boston-based science-fiction geek rather than a purely science geek, I was not in attendance at the Ig Nobel Awards. My sincere apologies for disappointing you. ;-)

Given that I'm looking into purchasing a laptop designed with the majority of the programs you've listed, I'm not the likeliest person to convince you of any sort of change, I fear.

So altogether, I'm a miserable failure today. Better luck with the next reader...

[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:40 pm (UTC)
Never a miserable failure. You might well still enjoy the Ig Informal Lectures, though, particularly if you can get a crowd of good company with you.

Actually, I think there only really is one MA science geek on my Flist - the rest are you literature types, really...
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:47 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I wonder what that says about your taste in friends?

[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2003 03:51 pm (UTC)
That you're all good for me. :-)


Mandrake 9.1?
Date:October 3rd, 2003 07:36 pm (UTC)
Or Kneazle 4.2...

[User Picture]
Date:October 3rd, 2003 07:40 pm (UTC)
Magnum P.I., perhaps?
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2003 05:58 am (UTC)
Thanks for the heads-up about 2004's Ig Nobel UK Tour. (Okay, I'm embarrassed that I missed this year's. Remind us in March, won't you?)

I recommend a 48K ZX Spectrum, but I always do. That way you can't be disappointed by unavailable or incompatible programs because you'll be too busy playing Horace Goes Ski-Ing.

Oh, and Ker-Gon!
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2003 05:35 pm (UTC)

It was even listed in NTK's Event Queue two weeksrunning, though I can't say either of them impinged themselves on me at the time. Suppose it would probably help to actually pay attention when reading it.

Last comment: evidently the HyperText Telepathy Protocol between us is finely tuned.
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2003 01:42 pm (UTC)
I <3 the Igs but worked for 12 hours yesterday, so no time for awards-going. And hence slept until after 1pm today, so none of the lecture either. Usually one can get the ceremony on public radio & whatnot as well.
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2003 05:41 pm (UTC)

Ooh, if you ever find a public radio station which has an archive of the broadcast, that would be very much appreciated. :-)

Actually, a quick Google reveals some archives from 2000... hmm, searching for ig nobel through Science Friday's archives seems to do a pretty thorough job. Lots of promising-sounding listening for the queue!
[User Picture]
Date:October 4th, 2003 03:21 pm (UTC)
I was wondering how something could be a thirteenth first annual thing, but I've been told to go and read my book [one of various books that I have been given as presents and not got round to reading yet is the book of Ignobel Prizes].

I don't intend to tackle that whole list of `killer apps' (or at least not all in the one posting. For one thing there are quite a few I don't recognise or have never used). It seems reasonable to assume that what you are actually asking for is a list of equivalents that run on Linux. The only major competitors to Windows on the PC platform (this latter requirement excludes Mac OS, of course) seem to be the Unices (Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD and the other BSDs) and OS/2. Now one Unix platform is quite a lot like another when it comes to the user-level apps, so without loss of generality we might as well go for the most popular, i.e., Linux, while OS/2 is a decent operating system that rather faded out about eight years ago when IBM failed to market it effectively against Windows 95 (partly because of Microsoft's bully-boy tactics and partly because of their own incompetence) which makes it quite hard to find decent apps for it - though it's surprising how many free software products come with documentation that mentions an OS/2 port.

Anyway. First, it's worth mentioning that vmware (expensive and works well) and Wine (free and works a bit) can help feed your Windows habit even after moving to Linux; and second, several of the above apps (at least Mozilla, Opera, RealPlayer [admittedly RP9 RP8 with patches rather than RealOne], Acrobat Reader, MAME) are available for Linux as well as Windows, while with Ghostview you are using a Unix application that just happens to have been ported to Windows. Winamp used to have a direct equivalent called x11amp - it may even still exist.

(Incidentally, I don't have anything against Acrobat Reader - it seems reasonably useable to me. However, gv (ghostview) will display PDFs too, and so will xpdf although I have never used it so don't know what it's like.)

Starting up and shutting down: I don't think you can claim it is any worse with Linux than with Windows. In fact, in my experience Windows 98 quite often fails to shut down cleanly, while Linux crashes much more rarely and doesn't give you that patronising blue screen on boot-up (`to avoid this screen please shut down Windows properly').

Web browsers: there is not really a shortage of decent web browsers for Linux unless you are looking for an exact clone of IE (which seems to be rather less standards-compliant that Mozilla anyway, from what I've read). In this day and age, anyone who designs a web site which requires IE doesn't deserve to get any custom (although I will sadly admit having been a customer of Tesco's online banking, which has just such a requirement).

Office suites: undoubtedly the best policy here is not to have become dependent on MS-office in the first place! I have never used Microsoft Word and don't want to. However, I am given to understand that the various office products available (koffice, staroffice and open office - possibly all variants on the same thing) are decent and reliable these days, and even have some ability to interoperate with MS-office. I've also heard of an RTF word-procesor called Ted, but I've no idea what it is like.

Text editors: I really think you should get over your prejudice against emacs. These days it - particularly in the form of XEmacs - is a GUI editor with clicky buttons and everything, and you can get away without ever pressing the control key (although most people find it darned useful as it's usually a lot quicker than using the menus). I don't use it, as one of the beauties of Unix is that there are hundreds of weird and wonderful obscure text editors out there, but I am willing to dabble if necessary.

Viruses: sure, other operating systems have them too. Perhaps you'd like to list one example of a recent virus for Linux?

I think that's enough diatribe for one posting. :-)

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