Open Source Linux Solutions » Linux Programs Open Source Linux Solutions: Linux Programs, Reviews Programs, Ruby on Rails, Tutorials for Web 2.0 Tue, 12 Feb 2013 17:50:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Xboard Fri, 25 Jan 2013 13:01:52 +0000 admin Xboard is a graphical chessboard that serves as a user interface for GNU Chess, as a client for the ICS and for electronic mail correspondence chess.

  • Version: 4.2.3
  • License: GNU General Public License
  • Author(s): Tim Mann
  • Formats: RPM (binary and source) and tar.gz
  • Size: 1,562k (binary RPM), 1,040k (tar.gz)
  • Homepage: Xboard website

Author’s opinion of this review

Xboard is the most mature of the chess clients on review here, with Version 1.1 being released way back in 1991. The program was originally written by Chris and Dan Sears and has been maintained for many years by Tim Mann.

Because xboard has the largest user base out of the Linux clients under this review, it has undergone real testing and is a mature product. It has been ported to run under Windows and on the Amiga.

Learning about all of Xboard’s features does warrant investing time in reading the excellent documentation, which is available as a Info file, man file and plain ASCII text file.

The documentation runs through, in great detail, all of the options that are available to the user. Xboard has a huge number of options that can either be set at the command line or by setting them as X resources.

The latter option involves editing the .Xdefaults file. One disadvantage is that most options cannot be changed when Xboard is running. For example it is only possible to change the size of the board by restarting Xboard.

I fired up Xboard with the following command xboard -ics -icshost -icshelper timeseal -boardSize medium -colorize. The “-ics” option makes Xboard run in ICS mode and the “-icshost″ instructs xboard to connect to this IP number (which is the IP number for

At the time of writing it is not possible to enter when using xboard, presumably because of the recent relocation of the FICS server. The “-icshelper timeseal” instructs xboard to connect with the timeseal program (timeseal is a lag compensating program). The “-boardSize medium” instructs Xboard to use 64×64 pixel pieces.

There are a further 16 different sizes ranging from titanic (129×129 pixel pieces) to tiny (21×21 pixel pieces), one of which should suit just about every resolution/monitor size. The last command line option that was specified, “-colorize” instructs Xboard to color the various types of ICS messages. On a standard white xterm some of the default colors are hard to read, but they were easily changed by editing the .Xdefaults file and restarting the X server.

This leads me to my first criticism of Xboard. Although these options can be specified on the command line or by Xdefaults entries, this is rather old fashioned.

It would be much easier if all of the available options could, in addition, be set directly from the client itself, with your preferences saved to a file. This would be helpful for someone new to Xboard and/or new to Linux/UNIX. Then we would have the best of both worlds.

Xboard uses an xterm/rxvt to display the text and a separate window to display the board. To aid text chat there is the facility to use a separate Input box, although having three different windows isn’t the ideal solution.

The chess pieces are first class and the default color choices for the board are very good. Unlike eboard and Gnome Chess, Xboard does not use a fancy toolkit. The menus look very dated as X Athena Widgets are being employed, which takes away a little of the professionalism of this software. Still I would rather sacrifice a little gloss than lose the gorgeous chess board.

It is not difficult to see why this chess interface is so popular; with its wealth of options it caters for just about every taste and can be tinkered to your requirements. It is a real pleasure to play chess with Xboard.

It has to be remembered that Xboard is far more than merely an ICS client. It is also an excellent interface to play chess against your own computer and for electronic mail correspondence chess. Included with the Xboard distribution is a program that lets GNU Chess and crafty acts as a computer player on FICS. Lots of users run computer accounts on Internet Chess Servers using this Zippy program.

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eBoard Fri, 25 Jan 2013 12:57:29 +0000 admin eBoard is a chess board interface for ICS that supports XBoard protocol v2-compliant engines, as well as engine support for GNU Chess 4, Sjeng, and Crafty.

  • Version: 0.2.4
  • License: GNU General Public License
  • Author(s): Felipe Bergo
  • Formats: tar.gz
  • Size: 339k (tar.gz)
  • Homepage: eboard website

Author’s opinion of this review

eBoard is the newcomer to the scene with the first stable version released in May 2001. For a program that has only been in development a few months this is a remarkable program.

On startup you are presented with an attractive chess board. The default colors are well chosen and the pieces are clear (and are almost identical to Xboard’s). The first thing to strike you is that this is a GNOME application. GNOME is a free and easy-to-use desktop environment which rivals KDE as the most popular graphical enironment for Linux.

Being a GNOME application you do need a recent version of the GTK+ library. Fortunately the latest Linux distributions (Debian 2.2r3, RedHat 7.1 and Mandrake 8.0) have at least the recommended version of this library.

Although eboard is under heavy development it already has a good feature set. Besides regular chess it supports chess variants such as suicide, crazyhouse and bughouse. Other variants are supported, with some exceptions.

The program can observe and examine games and the vast majority of the features available in FICS are already supported.

The most important question is how does eboard function as a chess interface. eboard supports both click-and click and click-and drag and was both a pleasure to play and watch chess with.

Response was good which helped ensure that few mouse slips were made. The piece sets, supplied with eboard, are a little sub-standard but this is not so important as the standard vectorised pieces have great clarity.

Eboard has a number of features which sets it apart from the other chess interfaces on review. The two features that are particulary worth mentioning are the colored FICS output and the seek graph.

Colored text makes it much easy to identify channel tells, shouts, chess shouts, personal tells etc. Combined with scroll locking on the text pane and a bash like history this makes eboard a pleasure to have a conversation with other players. Of course there is room for improvement. I would like to be able to customise the fonts and colors of channels to my own personal preference.

The seek graph – or should I say seek table, shows all available requests for games which match your formula. What makes this feature better than the server’s “sought” command is that it updates automatically and by clicking on an entry you automatically accept the seek.

I imagined the “seek graph” was going to show a graphical representation of seeks, like the Windows client BlitzIn does. Maybe this will come in a later release?

Not unexpectedly there are many bugs in eboard, this is after all a development release. Some of them are easily avoided. For example eboard will crash if you try to use a chess engine that is not installed.

There are also many features that I would love to be added includinga graphical seek window, buttons (for common commands), smart boards, hyperlinks in the console, PGN showing completed event and site fields etc.

But what with the scripting support, the on the fly board resizes and the aforementioned features there is already an excellent foundation for future development.

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Gnome chess Fri, 25 Jan 2013 12:54:29 +0000 admin Gnome chess is part of the GNOME project and is a graphical interface that interfaces to chess servers, GNU Chess and crafty.

  • Version: 0.3.2
  • License: GNU General Public License
  • Author(s): Robert Wilhelm and JP Rosevear
  • Formats: RPM (binary and source) and tar.gz
  • Size: 115k (binary RPM), 278k (source RPM), 276k (tar.gz)
  • Homepage: Gnome chess website

Gnome Chess is, unsurprisingly considering its name, a client that uses the GTk+ library. This gives the interface a consistent look and feel.

Although it has been developed since 1998 the client is still in its early stages of development.
Out of the reviewed chess interfaces, Gnome Chess has the smallest set of features. On start up you are presented with a small board and a blank move list. The default colors leave a little to be desired but they are easily changed using the Settings menu.

Unfortunately the bitmap pieces are fixed in size, and on a large 19″ monitor this was a distinct disadvantage. Setting up the server entries, for automatic login, was simple although having passwords stored unencrypted is not exactly secure. The interface uses timeseal, like the other chess clients, to compensate for ‘lag’.

On logging into the chess server a console box appears under the chess board. All communication goes to this console. Unlike the other chess clients there is no support for colorized text. At least there is a separate prompt to type in text which has buffer support.

In play the interface is simple to use. Moves can be made by the click-and click and click-and drag methods. Although the program has an option to hear a bell when a move is made, this didn’t work.

Fortunately the server bell “set bell 1″ compensates for this omission. I liked the move list that sits next to the board, clicking on any move and the board is updated to that position. The program seemed to send lots of spurious information to the console window in play.

If you want to play bughouse or crazyhouse then this client is not for you. Dropping pieces has to be done manually and you then have to refresh the board to see the dropped piece. The program often crashed when playing suicide if you used the move list.

Gnome Chess can read and write PGN. It coped fine with loading standard PGN files although it didn’t handle eboard’s PGN output because of the comment lines that are banned.

Hopefully this escape mechanism for PGN data will be handled in future releases of Gnome Chess. The program doesn’t have any other features to speak of although the authors have plans to add lots of features.

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ics.el Thu, 24 Jan 2013 12:35:02 +0000 admin ics.el is a mode for (X)Emacs that is designed to handle the text portion of an ICS session.

  • Version: Development version
  • License: GNU General Public License
  • Author(s): Mark Oakden
  • Formats: As Plaintext, compressed and gzipped
  • Size: 50k (Plaintext), 23k (compressed), 16k (gzipped)
  • Homepage: ics.el website
  • ics.el is as the name would suggest a Lisp program, to be used with either Emacs or Xemacs.

More precisely it is a major mode which allows you to communicate with Internet Chess Servers. It does not provide a graphical user interface itself as it only handles the text portion of an ICS session. Like the other programs reviewed it is released under the GNU General Public License.

To set up the program you first need to configure your .emacs file so that it is loads in the ics.el code. If you are used to editing configuration files this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The author has supplied a HOWTO document which explains how to configure your .emacs file but I found it easier to change the actual ics.el file itself rather than making my .emacs file even larger. Fortunately the ics.el file is well documentated.

To make full use of this program you need to be running Xemacs, rather than emacs. Xemacs is a version of emacs that contains numerous improvements such as extensive graphical support and improved support for multiple fonts and colors.

Once you have configured .emacs and ics.el the program is invoked by typing Esc-x ics. A introduction page appears in xemacs where you choose which server you wish to log into. An Xboard appears and you are prompted to confirm your username and enter your password.

If you liked the hundreds of different options available with Xboard, you may love the configuration possibilities with ics.el. As ics.el uses Xboard to handle the chess based part, we will examine ics.el’s text handling features.

The two main benefits that ics.el gives are improved font support with color customization and ‘buttons’.

These are not typical graphical buttons but Lisp buttons. Basically this button feature lets you perform certain actions by clicking on specific text. For example to accept a request for a game you move your mouse over the word play.

The color changes and by clicking on the ‘button’ you accept the seek and the game begins. It works the same way if you wish to see a player’s notes or launching a URL.

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Verdict Chess Programms Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:58:09 +0000 admin I am generally impressed with the quality of the chess interfaces reviewed here. Xboard and eboard are highly professional clients that are worth checking out. Howver Gnome Chess does need more development to improve its stability. Compiling and installation of these programs was extremely easy.

All of these clients support premove, except Gnome Chess. Premove is a slightly controversial feature that is offered at some Internet Chess Servers.

This is the ability to preselect your move whilst it is your opponent’s turn to move. In very short time games this is a distinct advantage because it allows you to move without any time being deducted from your clock.

It is important that your client supports premove if only for the reason that your opponent does not get an unfair advantage.

All of the ratings below are scored out of a maximum of 10.


I feel that Xboard is more appealing to the experienced Linux enthusiast because it relies so heavily on command line options. A configuration tool that helped the newbie set up Xboard would be a distinct improvement.

In WinBoard (the Windows version of Xboard) the options are set from the interface.

In play Xboard is a dream to use, the quality of the pieces and board are superb but the Athena widgets look prehistoric in the days of polished KDE and GNOME interfaces.

  • Xboard Rating
  • Features 7
  • Board 9
  • In use 7
  • Communication 5
  • Overall 8
  • eboard

In many ways eboard rivals Xboard as the best Linux chess interface. Its options are configured by a polished GNOME interface and whilst it lacks many of the features in Xboard it more than compensates for this with its superb text chat facilities and ’seek graph’. Having channels in separate consoles also makes it much easier to follow conversations than in Xboard.

The auhor plans to add real bughouse support in a future version as well as legality checking for variants. This interface is highly recommended for people who don’t like editing configuration files. I would strongly recommend the major distributions to include this program in future releases.

  • eboard Rating
  • Features 7
  • Board 9
  • In use 8
  • Communication 8
  • Overall 8
  • Gnome Chess

I find it extremely difficult to recommend this software. It has the smallest number of features, the worst board and is extremely buggy. In time I hope it develops into a stable product that represents a real alternative to Xboard and eboard.

  • Gnome Chess Rating
  • Features 3
  • Board 4
  • In use 4
  • Communication 3
  • Overall 4
  • ics.el

It is worth reiterating that ics.el relies on Xboard to provide the graphical board. Using Xemacs and Xboard is an improvement to the text abilities of Xboard on its own. Although Xboard has long supported colorization of the text, ics.el adds improved font support and buttons.

If you are already regularly running (X)emacs it makes sense to use ics.el. But for everyone else I recommend you use Xboard or eboard, because Xemacs is one of the most memory hungry programs available for Linux. It would be a huge overkill to just run Xemacs solely as a text interface to an Internet Chess Server.

  • Xboard Rating
  • Features 5
  • Board N/A*
  • In use 6
  • Communication 6
  • Overall 6
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