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without analysis there's no reason to play.

Friday, October 14, 2005

New home

Since I've been good lately, I've decided to treat myself to a web hosted and domain hosted solution. At the moment I've got wordpress set-up, but there's no content there yet.

I've decided to move the blog to http://dennishcau.com/blog/, and I'll be trying to transfer my content over there within the next couple of days.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Chess Puzzle Goodness

When I first came back to playing Chess this year after a brief binge of playing Go, I was disappointed that there seemed to be no good chess equivalent to GoProblems.com There seemed to be no good repository of easily accessible Chess puzzles. Well, now that I've found the Chess Tactics Server, my disappointment is over.

In addition to being a great source of tactical problems, this Chess puzzle server has a number of innovative features that appeal to my inner geek.

Firstly, all registered users have a rating. This is cool. User statistics and graphs are available which track this rating, user activity, and performance over the last 200 puzzles. This allows users to observe their progress over time, and may provide an incentive towards improvement. Here is my set of stats.

Initially, one might wonder how a rating can be calculated from chess puzzle solving performance. Ideally, this would take into account the time taken to solve the puzzles, the correctness of the solution, and the difficulty of the puzzles solved. The Chess Tactics Server team have solved this problem with an innovative puzzle rating system. The puzzles themselves have ratings which function in the same way as user ratings. When a player "loses" against a puzzle, the player's rating decreases, and the puzzle's rating increases. Vice versa if the player correctly solves the puzzle. This accounts for the difficulty of the puzzle and correctness of the solution.

The best thing is that time is also accounted for using a time regime. If a puzzle is solved within 3 seconds, the result is 1:0 - a clear win for the player. After 3 seconds, the result decreases linearly with 1/2:1/2 (a draw) at 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the decrease of the result is proportional to exp(-x).

Somewhat suprisingly, this complex but simple rating system works really well. The problems that appear are randomly selected depending on the player's rating. This means that most of the puzzles that a player is given to solve will have a rating similar to the player. The larger the rating difference between the player and the puzzle, the smaller the frequency of being given such a puzzle. So in general, puzzles will be neither too hard nor too easy, yet there will still be the occasional challenge or walk-over thrown in.

Another advantage of this system is that since the ratings of puzzles are floated and not fixed, there are no issues with puzzle authors having to artificially quantify the difficulty of a puzzle. In fact the system works so well, that puzzles are automatically generated and validated via the BetaX chess engine.

It is obvious that some really smart people put a lot of thought into this, and equally obvious that their endeavors have resulted in a great product.

So go ahead and puzzle on! Personally, I'll be catching up on some sleep lost playing on the Chess Tactics Server until 2:00 am last night. *Yawns*

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Chocolate Fountain - Realization of a Childhood Fantasy

Remember when you were a kid? You had big dreams, glorious aspirations: You would travel into space, become the richest person in the world or be elected as the president of the United States. But you also had even bigger dreams: Swimming pools filled with cola, houses made of gingerbread and fountains overflowing with chocolate.

Over the weekend, one of my childhood fantasies was realized at the Royal Melbourne Show.


I was literally jumping up and down after I saw this.

For anyone trying to promote a course in Chemical Engineering, this is it; the philosopher's stone. Forget about the high earnings potential after graduation, forget about the opportunities to work for some of the world's largest multinational companies and to travel around the world; these opportunities might be too abstract for some. But everyone understands the allure of a chocolate fountain, and kids most of all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sun advertising

It's been a while since a computer advertisment has brought a smile to my face. These advertisments by Sun Microsystems managed to do just that.

Granted I'll most probably never be in the market to buy an x64 server, but I know that if I were to get one, it'd be a Sun. The ads are that good.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

University at 8:30 on a Sunday morning

It's 8:30 on a Sunday morning, and I'm at the university computer lab catching up on some coursework. Around me is the glow of fluorescent tubing, and hundreds of computers, all turned on. The only sounds I can hear are the rumblings of the computers and the heating system, and also the occasional bird chirp from outside. Somewhat unusually, I am the only one here, but it does not feel uncomfortable.

I am sitting next to the window, looking outside at the blue sky and the sunlight shining on the ground, wondering why it is that I'm feeling so at peace. It has been a while since the last time I've had any serious introspective writing. Perhaps that is why I feel so at ease.

Lately I've been feeling that I've been lacking in the ability to follow through. I know that I'm good at starting things; generally I have more than enough enthusiasm about trying new things to allow me to take initiative and give things a whirl. But after the honeymoon period, when this initial excitement has died down, I find it hard to push on. Thus, I've bounced from interest to interest, from hobby to hobby: I've been trying everything; achieving nothing.

As of yet, I have not stuck with any one interest for long enough to obtain proficiency at it such that I am satisfied. I want to be able to train, to be able to put a lot of effort into something; anything. I feel that unless I am working hard at achieving something, I won't have much sense of self-worth. Also, any achievements which I obtain without hard work seem empty.

I smile as I realise the irony of what I've just typed. I'm at university at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, working hard to obtain high academic achievement, and I'm complaining about not having things to put lots of effort into? A 3rd year engineering student should know better! I look outside again at the blue sky and sunlight shining on the ground, and feel that today will be a good day. I have the intuition that I'll be getting a lot done.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The "Digital" Age

Ok, so we all know that porn is everywhere on the web. Right? Well it seems that the online marketeers and viruses writers that seem to plague the modern day browsing experience know this too.

When you get a computer virus that is purely designed to censor smut, it's hard to know what to think. It's hardly malicious, unless one argues that interfering with a person's individual liberty to jerk off truly is an act of evil.

The online marketers don't seem to think so. Here is a link to the LoveHoney Shootout, where experienced wankers can offer to take part in an online survey so that masturbation metrics can be compiled. Masturbation cream is included. Seriously.... Does anyone else find this disturbing?

Right. Well surely there must be some areas of the web where people aren't obsessed with sex. Chess Websites at least, surely must be immune! Right? Right?

Wrong. Chess playing guys love gorgeous babes just as much as the next guy.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Feels like Spring.

It's starting to feel like spring again. The sun rises when I rise, the sky has a beautiful blue hue, and there's flowers a plenty.

Spring is the season for renewal, the season for starting over. So I'm coming back to blogger, feeling refreshed and full of energy.

And why does it feel like spring? Well, like the chirping of birds which heralds the coming of dawn, the return of my allergies means that spring is near.

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