ChessBrain: a Linux-Based Distributed Computing Experiment
Because many members of the ChessBrain community run PeerNode clients on several machines, they wanted a convenient way to monitor the status of a group of machines. The PeerNode client was modified to post SOAP requests to port 3434 so PeerNode monitor applications could listen on that port and display real-time status information. I wrote the first PeerNode monitor application, and other members submitted their own. Greg Davis and Oliver Otte both submitted Perl-based PeerNode monitors. The most popular PeerNode monitor, CBMoc, was written in Java by Kris Drent.
ChessBrain collects a great deal of data, and we're currently exploring data visualization as a way of tracking and investigating system behavior. We're adding 3-D-based game navigation tools to allow us to track network play visually. Sven Herrmann, our resident 3-D expert, has created an OpenGL-based renderer that we use in our SuperNode monitor application. We'll also use the new renderer in our next-generation screensaver program and game viewers.
Today, ChessBrain is a working prototype that plays chess using hundreds of machines running Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. It plays at international master strength, and we see many ways to continue making improvements.
ChessBrain exemplifies the use of open-source tools to solve complex problems. We're preparing ChessBrain itself for release as an open-source project, with the hope that others will join and expand the effort. The wonderful thing about ChessBrain is that there are so many ways to contribute. Anyone with a PC and Internet connection can participate. Download a PeerNode client from the ChessBrain Web site, run the software on one or more computers and help increase the size of ChessBrain.
We're currently working toward an official world record for the largest number of machines used to play a single game. We have an established contact at the World Record office in London and contacts within a number of official chess federations. The ChessBrain Project is supported by a strong core team, including Peter Wilson, the former chairman of the World Chess Federation's (FIDE) Computer Chess and Internet Committee. The ChessBrain team currently is exploring potential venues for a public and Internet-based demonstration involving a new Guinness World Record in distributed computation and chess. Check the ChessBrain site for an official announcement.
Many thanks to Janus Daniels, Cedric Griss and other ChessBrain team members for their support in the preparation of this article. For contact information and a list of who's who on ChessBrain visit, www.chessbrain.net/friends.html.
Carlos Justiniano is a 20-year veteran of the software industry. ChessBrain allows him to live several mantras: “Embrace complexity”, “Engage in nontrivial pursuits” and “Do it using open-source software”! Comments on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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