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  Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
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   Author  Topic: Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer  (Read 1498 times)
Kostea
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« on: August 24, 2009, 08:57PM »
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After careful consideration, at least at this point in time, after changing my mind a few times, I think that I will build a chess computer with an ARM CPU, as much RAM/flash ROM as needed, and a 7 - 10 inch (diagonal) touch screen LCD. No buttons, the touch screen will act like buttons, and without a board. Portability will be a key feature, and it will have to be run on batteries.

My main obstacle for building a chess computer soon enough, it's the software.
I don't have my own chess software. There are plenty of free chess engines out there, but I don't want to steal anyone's work.

Yes, it would be an extremely interesting project to copy the software from a TASC R30 and make it run on a 10-15 times faster CPU just too see how strong it would be, but what will the implications be?

I'm currently 'studying' ways to make a chess engine. I've done some reading on the Internet, and I have a basic understanding of the main components of a chess engine (board representation, move generation, move search, evaluation).

The hardware is not that difficult to build. A chess computer is an embedded system, having the main/most common features: a CPU, memory, inputs (buttons), outputs (display/LEDs). It cannot be any more basic than that. I'm not saying that it's a pieces of cake, or that even my kids can make one, but it does not have any extraordinary parts.

I do not work in any fields related to either hardware or software design, but I had them as hobbies many many years ago. Worked with CPUs, memory, and just about any major family of digital electronics chips containing logic gates, flip flops, buffers, counters, shift registers, arrays, etc. I have to admit I'm weaker at software. I did use machine code before, so if I will ever get down to writing some parts in assembly language, I have nothing against that. I plan to write my first chess software in Visual Basic (easy to make a graphical interface and amongst the slowest programming languages) and run it on the slowest PC I still have (an 800 Mhz Pentium III laptop). The combination of slow programming language and slow PC will get me to approx. the speed of an 400-500 Mhz ARM CPU plus machine code. That way it will be easier to asses the performance of the final product before I put the hardware together. I don't want to make the chess engine in C and run it on a quad core PC, and then get really excited. And when I port it to the ARM CPU to find out that it's as slow as a rabbid snail.

As you can tell, I'm far from being an expert at anything that matters (don't know too much hardware, don't know too much software, can't play good chess anymore), but I have to accomplish my childhood dream (building a chess computer), no matter what it will take. Beware of the idiot with a goal.

Regards
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Mephisto
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2009, 02:23AM »
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Thorsten
I think that the Elektor LCD chess computer has got your taste buds flowing!!
Bryan
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mclane
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2009, 03:16PM »
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IMO it all began with Mephisto II.

no board. just plein keyboard with LCD/LED would be enough.

why not putting another maybe stronger program into this little tiny machine and making it better.

i don't want a palm. i have one with chess programs.
i don't want a pocket pc. i have one with chess programs.
i don't want a mobile. i have 2 with chess programs.

i want my kind of mephisto II back. but with a stronger program .

lets make it again.
computerchess has made big progress. lets see how much we can get out of tiny hardware.

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Kostea
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2009, 06:47PM »
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Tr0nTreez,

I have to agree with you, most chess software play weird when its strength is lowered through settings. Like you said, the best idea at least at this time, is to have different chess engines which play at a certain ELO rating when running their full strength. Several years down the road maybe with help from artificial intelligence, it may be possible to use one chess engine and make it 'multiple personality'.

To come back to multiple engines, it wouldn't be hard to include one more menu in a chess computer where you could choose what engine you want to run for that session. But one thing that would be time consuming is porting several chess engines to the CPU of that particular chess computer. I mean porting from a PC Intel CPU (which most chess software is written for, and has also the benefit of a great ELO strength variety to choose from) to one of the Renesas, ARM, XSCALE CPUs, etc which seem to be preferred for building the dedicated chess computers. After all, if you could build a chess computer with Intel quad core CPU inside, then you wouldn't need to deal with the software porting at all. Mephisto has a 'laptop' design. Maybe it's time to really have a laptop hardware inside. I just can't see it practical though. Why reinvent the wheel, I would buy a DGT or a CITRINE and play on the PC, instead of making a PC clone in disguise. On the other hand, PDAs have good enough hardware (CPU/memory) to play strong chess when coupled with a good software (HIARCS comes in mind). I think that this is the way to go. If I had to make a chess computer, that would be my first choice. PDA like hardware, and several chess engines on the same motherboard.
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Kostea
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2009, 06:44PM »
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Steve B,

You're somewhat right, and I respect your opinion, but I mentioned in the first post, please don't respond with a name of a chess computer. None of them are perfect, at least in my opinion. Better ones can be made for sure.

PHOENIX has its drawbacks too, I can list a few. Now that the price is so expensive, could anyone give some insight as to why PHOENIX is so expensive. There are PDAs with that hardware that cost 200 US dollars. Oh, PDA manufacturers buy electronic components bulk style and pay lower prices, or they sell a huge number of them and that's why they can lower the price. Come on.
If I put my mind to it, I could build a system like that for less than 700 US dollars, it could go down even to 500. Will most people buy a 700 US dollar chess computer. I doubt it. I think that the 'magical' price is somewhere around 300-400, where most/more people might consider getting one. It wouldn't necessarily be made of plastic, look at CITRINE, wood at 300 $. Nice enough. CITRINE is the one that I would modify if I'd make my own computer. I read on this forum that someone made something like that, CITRINE + PDA, fitting a real PDA into the display casing and connecting the CITRINE with the PDA through CEBOARD. But that's not exactly what I have in mind. When I keep saying PDA, I mean using PDA like hardware and memory, tiny CPUs and memory, on a small circuit board, fitted inside CITRINE. Or in the display is OK too.

Portable/travel chess computers have been doing the same thing for a while now, that is tiny components or tiny motherboards, so why reinvent the wheel, right. Because I might want a NOVAG STAR DIAMOND with a CITRINE board, and some other extra stuff. I can't wait for NOVAG to do that. I might not be into chess by then.

Just about now I realized that I have not made it clear enough for people to understand what this poll is for. Well, 'was' is the correct word as of today, because no one bothered to answer questions so far. Men will always be men. Keep complaining about the current dedicated chess computers, and when you have to answer some simple questions which can create a situation where it would be possible to benefit from, we give up. Figures.

This poll was meant for finding the best features to be incorporated into a dedicated chess computer at a 'reasonable' price that most people would at least consider buying, without robbing a bank or cutting on the food, clothing, and shelter for their families.
Now I'm not saying, well at least not saying that anymore, that once we got the best chess computer features from the poll, we would have started to design a real machine, but it was a possibility. Maybe NOVAG or SAITEK would have read this and decide to do it. Yeah right. It does not cost anything to hope.


'Building chess computers is hard'. That is a myth.  We look at something like TASC or PHOENIX, like they are space shuttles. I have to admit that I admire TASC, it does so many with so little means. TASC was expensive because CPUs, memory, etc were expensive 15 years ago. Today that is not the case anymore, and that's why I consider PHOENIX to be extremely overpriced to the point of being greedy.


Now I'll gather my toys and go home. I don't want you guys to see me crying in public.
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Tr0nTreez
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2009, 04:00AM »
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I think chess computer should have multiple programs running at original clock speeds.

    Excellence
    Par Excellence
    Super Conny
    Star Diamond
etc

all within the one unit, basically different strenghts and unique playing styles in one board.
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Steve B
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2009, 03:22AM »
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Well cost aside ..this baby foots the bill fairly nicely
http://www.phoenixcs.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=27&Itemid=46
Have A  Nice Day Regards
Steve B
« Last Edit: April 17, 2009, 04:16AM by Steve B » Report to moderator Logged
Kostea
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Re:Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2009, 12:40AM »
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POLL QUESTIONS

HARDWARE OF CHESS COMPUTER

A. CHESS COMPUTER OUTER CASE
  1. wood
  2. plastic
  3. other ; please specify
B. BOARD SIZE
  1. 8x8 inch  (20x20 cm)
  2. 10x10 inch (25x25 cm)
  3. 12x12 inch (30x30 cm)
  4. 12.5x12.5 inch (32x32 cm)
  5. 14x14 inch (36x36 cm)
  6. other ; please specify
C. CHESS PIECE SIZE
  1. 1.5 inch  (3.8 cm)
  2. 2 inch    (5 cm)
  3. 2.5 inch  (6.3 cm)
  4. 3 inch    (7.6 cm)
  5. 3.5 inch  (8.9 cm)
  6. 4 inch    (10 cm)
D. BOARD MOVE RECOGNITION
  1. pressure sensor
  2. magnetic/reed sensor/switch
  3. RFID (radio frequency identification)
E. BOARD SIGNALING
  1. LEDs on two sides (16 LEDs)
  2. LEDs for each square, located on the lower left hand corner (64 LEDs)
  3. LEDs for each square, located on the lower right hand corner (64 LEDs)
  4. LEDs at each of the four corners of each square (81 LEDs)
F. CHESS PIECES
  1. wood
  2. plastic
  3. other ; please specify
G. MODULAR
  1. yes
  2. no
H. DISPLAY
  1. LCD 5-digit monochrome
  2. LCD 6-digit monochrome
  3. LCD dot matrix monochrome
  4. LCD color
  5. other ; please specify
I. BUTTONS
  1. touch buttons  ex: Novag Obsidian
  2. oval buttons   
  3. square buttons
  4. other ; please specify
J. POWER SUPPLY
  1. brick outside of board
  2. integrated inside board
K. BACK UP BATTERY
  1. regular AA/AAA/C batteries
  2. rechargeable battery  ex: like the ones found in any regular cell phones
L. DGT-like BOARD FUNCTION
  1. yes
  2. no
M. DGT-like BOARD CONNECTION
  1. RS232
  2. USB
  3. Firewire (IEEE 1394)
  4. Bluetooth
  5. Wi-Fi (ieee 802.11 a/b/g/n)
N. PROCESSOR TYPE
  1. any CPU / 20 MHz
  2. any CPU / 30 MHz
  3. ARM RISC / 400 MHz
  4. XSCALE  / 500 MHz
  5. other ; please specify



SOFTWARE OF CHESS COMPUTER

A. CHESS PROGRAM SIZE
  1. 32 kb or less
  2. 64 kb or less
  3. 128 kb or less
  4. 512 kb or less
  5. 1 Mb or more
  6. other ; please specify
B. ADDITIONAL CHESS PROGRAM RAM MEMORY
  1. 512 kb
  2. 1 Mb
  3. 5 Mb or more
  4. other ; please specify
C. HASH TABLES RAM MEMORY
  1. 512 kb
  2. 1 Mb
  3. 5 Mb or more
  4. other ; please specify
D. ELO
  1. please specify an ELO rating
E. VARIABLE STRENGHT ADJUSTMENT BASED ON ELO
  1. yes
  2. no
F. OPENING BOOK SIZE
  1. 25,000 moves or less
  2. 50,000 moves or less
  3. 150,000 moves or less
  4. 300,000 moves or less
G. ENDGAME KNOWLEDGE
  1. yes
  2. no 
H. TRAINING FUNCTION
  1. opening
  2. tactics
  3. endgame
I. WHAT CHESS PROGRAM AUTHOR PLAYING STYLE WOULD YOU LIKE MOST
1. please specify

ONE MORE QUESTION:
Imagine for a moment that you are the CEO of a chess company and would like to build the 'perfect' chess computer but it ends up having a too high cost.
What 5 features of the 'perfect' chess computer would you give up in order to bring down the total price. List the features you could live without.

1. the feature I will eliminate first
2. ...
3. ...
4. ...
5. the feature I will eliminate last

THE FINAL QUESTION:
Do you think that a chess computer with the features matching that of your perfect computer will ever be manufactured?
1. yes
2. no
3. maybe
 
« Last Edit: April 17, 2009, 12:55AM by Kostea » Report to moderator Logged
Kostea
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Poll - the 'perfect' chess computer
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2009, 12:32AM »
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I know that there are some good chess computers out there, most of them are past models, and this poll could have been answered with just a laconic : 'The perfect chess computer is TASC' etc. But we have to realize that nothing in life is perfect and sometimes has some good features and not so good ones, so I'm trying to find what features would satisfy most people.

Maybe it will be a start from which we can get ideas for making our own chess computers.

Maybe a chess manufacturer will read this poll and get a better idea of what chess hobbyist would like most, because these days it looks like they are lost in space.

And no, I have nothing to do with any company doing business in chess, media, polls, etc. Well now that I think about it, I wish I had


If you choose to participate in this poll, please note that you must answer all questions, and you can make as many choices per poll question as you wish. This is not a 'pick one choice and exclude everything else' type of thing.
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