June 7th, 2006

nova

rant about Go and open source software

realjunesun and I have started to play Go quite regularly lately. You can learn how to play Go in five minutes. When I was at her place a little while ago, we bought some M&Ms and printed out a 9x9 board. Finding that a bit unsatisfactory, last Saturday I bought a Go set in Heilbronn with a wooden board and glass stones for only 20 EUR! We first played a 19x19 game and found that a bit too large for her and now we generally play on the 13x13 until she's ready for the real thing. I'd say my rank is 16 kyu and she is 25 kyu. It's a shame there's no Heilbronn Go club.

So, she started asking me about Go software. Being an open source developer in my professional life, I looked first at the GNU Go project (8-9 kyu), but it has a text screen and is not much fun to type the coordinates of your moves on a modern Windows computer. As for commercial programs, I believe the best are the Many Faces of Go (user-friendly, 8 kyu, $50 for standard, $85 for deluxe) and Go++ (strongest program, 7-8 kyu, $50 for v10.0, $90 for v11.0).

So, considering those high prices, I decided to try to configure GNU Go to play with a GUI. So, I downloaded GNU Go and Jago. It took me quite some time to figure out how to get them to work together. I tried running GNU Go with a special GUI command line, no success. I tried running Jago to get it to connect to GNU Go, again no success. Eventually, I figured out you have to open Jago and click the menu option Actions and then Play Go (GMP). Next you need to set where it says gnugo.com in that dialog to the path and filename of the GNU Go program you downloaded. There was no documentation on how to do this! It really bugs me when open source developers don't think about the end user. In any case, I plan to contact the development groups and write a quick tutorial for non-techies to get GNU Go running with Jago.

Oh yeah, and when I did get it running, it won by 104 points. Nice. :)