Jose 1.4.4 for Windows - comments/workarounds

  • Ab6

    Please pardon this disjointed post; I've got a lot on my mind concerning jose, and would like to share it with the jose community at large.

    Unfortunately, the author, Peter Schaefer, appears to have abandoned his project, as there has been nothing posted by him on this forum for the past - what? - couple of years?  Additionally, he has not responded to the email I sent him.  I say this is unfortunate, because I believe the program has many great features, and includes one main one that ChessBase 9 does not have: an integrated database.  This integration is both a strong point, and an Achilles heel; strong, because it allows quick searches across all folders in the virtual 'tree' for any position, as well as system wide sorting by any field; and an Achilles heel, because it depends on MySQL, so its performance is slow and its feature set is (probably) not modifiable by the author; he has to work with what MySQL has, and if there are database engine bugs, he (and everyone else) is stuck.

    There are many 'gotchas' to working with Jose (v. 1.4.4 for Windows, I am referring to).  Don't click on the Red arrows in the replay window, or you'll regret it!  Engine crashes and worse occur - sometimes, the move is taken back (it seems), but not erased from the game score, and one can no longer use the green arrows to go back and forth, nor can one delete the extra move!  And you can't save the game to PGN and correct it 'by hand,' either.  (My description is based on my memory of this occurring more than once, though I may have the details wrong; but I'm quite certain that if you use the Red arrows, at some point, you'll regret it!)  Another 'gotcha' is trying to copy and paste games in the database window.  Sometimes it just can't be done.  I've found that the function seems to be dependent upon the number of games copied, i.e., if you copy a power of two, it will work, else it will fail (unless it's only a handful of games).  I.e., copy 64 games, or 128 games, or 256, 512, 1024, 2048, etc.  For example, go to a large database of several thousand games, and try copying and pasting the first 1,023 games.  Now, try copying and pasting 1,024 games.  The former fails, the latter works.  (MySQL database anomaly?!).  Here's another:  Click on a column header to sort the column, then right-click on one of the games, and select 'crunch'.  (What's 'crunch' supposed to do, anyway?  No documentation! - though I would expect it to condense the database; no such luck.)  Selecting 'crunch' produces an error, unless the database is in unsorted order (click on a column header multiple times until the up/down arrow is gone to put the database in 'natural' order).  When in 'natural' order (my term), using no indexes, 'crunch' apparently reorders the "Idx" column from one to 'n' without gaps in the sequence.  (Too bad one can't do that when the display is sorted on a column heading!) If an index is in use, a not-very-helpful error message pops up to confuse the user.

    How about database 'bloat'?  I loaded in a large database of PGN games, I think about 500,000 games, and found that the manipulation of the display was too unwieldy for this number of games - everything moved like cold molasses syrup!  So I deleted the games I had just imported, reducing the database size back down to about 15,000 games, where I had started.  But funny thing, when I checked my disk, the space taken by the data and the indices was still hundreds of megabytes larger than when I started!  How to get rid of this 'bloat' and reduce the database size (short of taking days to find, download, and learn to use MySQL utilities that *may* exist somewhere on the web for free)?  Well, I immediately thought of and tried the 'crunch' function, hoping it would do the trick; no luck.  I had to back up the database games, delete the database entirely, recreate an empty database, and then re-import all the backed-up games.  (And incidentally, if you back up to PGN files for safety [you can read your backup and import and use it with almost any other chess database system], you lose all the empty folders in your virtual 'tree' as well as the organization of the folders, i.e., they all are restored to top level, leaving you with some organizational work putting them all back in the hierarchy in which they were originally displayed!).  This may not be apparent at first, but trying to back up to PGN files, you'll quickly discover the many limitations of this method.  My solution is to create empty game 'placeholders' for any folder that does not contain a 'real' game, and to back up each folder individually (forget backing them up all at once to a huge PGN file!).  Upon restoration, at least I've got my data, but I've got to reorganize it to make the 'tree' look the way it did before.

    Which leads to the date problem:  backing up to PGN files changes the Date and EventDate fields in *every* game in every file by '1', that is, it subtracts one from the date before writing it to the PGN file.  And this it does in a different manner depending upon the exact format of the date in the original data.  For instance, Jan 1, 2008 is changed to Dec 31, 2007; Mar 2008 is changed to Feb 2008; and just '2008' is changed to '2007'!  (I've written a program to correct this anomaly, and posted it to this forum; see my other post that I wrote today for further information.)

    Still, Jose has so many nice features, including the ability to embed diagrams in the game, and a nice 3D board, that I enjoy using it.  (Too bad it can't use the Fritz engines!  That would be nice!)  I like to record friendly games I play, but stop recording after the 10th move or so.  When I enter the game later using Jose, I can often remember the final few positions, but cannot recall the exact sequence of moves to arrive at those positions, due to not recording many intervening moves after the opening.  With Jose, I can set up a new position (a new game opens automatically), and set up a position near the end of the game, and play out the final moves.  Then, I can create one or more diagrams in the partial game.  Finally, I can cut and paste the final score, **INCLUDING THE DIAGRAMS** into the original game, so that I have only one entry to save to the database, with as complete a history of the game as I can produce (opening and ending, but lacking the middle of the game).  I can't play through the pasted moves in the same way as I can the opening moves, but at least the diagrams are there to jog my memory of the game!  (Try doing that in ChessBase 9 - it can't be done!)

    In my opinion, Jose makes a nice (*free*!) database system if you are willing to keep the size reasonable (less than 50,000 games?) and are willing to back up your work to PGN files in the convoluted fashion I described above.  It doesn't have the solid feel and the reliability of ChessBase, but of all the free alternatives - and I've tried almost all of them, SCID, etc. - it's got the nicest interface and feature set.  That's my personal opinion, of course.  I just didn't take to the others I tried for one reason or another, though you might prefer them to Jose.

    Hope this has provided some insight for those of you using Jose or contemplating using it!  Good luck, and post your tales to the forum; maybe Peter Schaefer will 'wake up' and come back to the project, who knows?!

    May 23, 2008