On Watching Chess…

I recently found myself with a case of the flu which kept me home from work for a week. Most of the week was wasted, with episodes of round-the-clock napping. When I was starting to feel recovered I checked in on my chess.com games. I had several games going when I became ill, and needed to make a move soon (or else, lose on time). 

When I navigated to chess.com, I saw an alert on the video tab. I never see these. So, curiousity prevailed and I clicked on it. The alert said that round 9 of the US Chess championships was being broadcast online. With the exception of the 2015 World Championship (that I watched on a Russian web site while I was in India), I haven’t watched a chess tournament since the last time I lived in Seattle. When I did watch them, I enjoyed the commentary a lot. 

Back then, you had your browser tuned to Chess.fm, while you watched the board on Internet Chess Club. Now, its different. This was like watching Sportcenter for chess. There were two GMs, Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan, sitting at a studio desk, discussing the games and positions, while a third GM, Maurice Ashley, was standing in front of a large board like a chess meteorologist. This led to some robust discussion and positional debates between the three GMs.

What really made it interesting, was that Maurice Ashley would often refer to “the engines” during the conversations. Back when I used to play and watch chess, there were alway articles about how chess computers were going to ruin chess. This was a case where the engines enhanced chess. With several engines and three GMs, the broadcast team usually saw things that the players didn’t. They’d discuss a line and then wait to see if the players would see the optimal line. This amped up the drama of the broadcast. All of the sudden, as a viewer of a game between 2 players that see the board differently than most of humanity, you were able to see the dynamics of the game as they played out. 

On rare occasions, there were surprises. But, when they happened, they were something special, as several engines and 3 GMs didn’t see them coming. Wesley So’s win in round 9 was a good example of this.

At the end of the weekend, I was excited about chess again. I really want to play again, like enough to start working on my game again. 

New Radio (UV-5X3)

I bought a BTECH UV-5X3 radio this week. As the name might suggest, it is a five-watt radio that works three bands: 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm.  It is Chirp compatible, allowing me to condense the programming from my two radios that cover these three bands into one radio.

While programming the radio, I decided to add more repeaters. I have become entertained with the proximity search on the RepeaterBook.com mobile app. With this, I can pick the repeaters to add to the radio in order of their distance from the house. I’m eager to try this program out when I’m away from the house, as well. It would be nice not to need to program the radio each time that I go to another place.

There were some things that I wish were better in the experience. For example, If you buy a 5X3, get the tri-band antenna accessory. Having to switch antennas, only because you’ve changed the channel, isn’t a great customer experience. Likewise, the proximity search works on the RepeaterBook.com website. BUT… if you export the list to a Chirp file, the site doesn’t respect the “sort by distance” parameter, leaving you with the right repeaters, in the wrong order.

Still, I’m looking forward to making this radio my primary handheld radio for events and regular use.

Lacking Internet Connection….

It wasn’t too long ago that the Washington State Ferries got rid of their WiFi program with their partner, Boingo. Boingo wasn’t that great, but at least they worked in the terminal and when the ferry was docked. Without WiFi, my devices are a lot worse.

You might think, “well, just do something offline.” This is not so easy. Most apps are paying for themselves by offering in-app purchases. To keep you from accessing their apps without having to buy items, they won’t boot the application without connectivity.

Other apps are free, but I only use them offline. They only verify that they’re still free when I open them. Since I only open them when I don’t have connectivity, I usually can’t open them because the last time I opened them, was so long ago that the license refresh has expired. There’s got to be a better way for the device to keep track of which apps are licensed and which aren’t. If they wanted extra points, they could give me a mechanism outside the app where I could see which licenses need to be renewed and do it from the app. Even better, only show me when they need to disappear or have me buy them. Just renew the free license without me being involved.

The instance that got me going was an office suite that I bought. I bring it up on my tablet, and it tells me that it won’t work because it can’t reach the server to validate my license. It should only need to check once, like, when I buy it. After that, they shouldn’t get in the customer’s way. After all, I buy apps that run offline, so that I can run them offline.

One thing that I really like is the 4G modem on my HP Chromebook. Not only does it give me the internet in places without  WiFi, but it also gets a signal for 90% of the ride across the Puget Sound, which is about 80% more than Boingo. I carry that on most days. And, today, I realize why.