Upgrading a PC and chess problem solving software – Part 1

1 Jul. 2012 | by Peter Wong

My seven-year-old computer was feeling its age, so recently I replaced it with a new Dell PC running the 64-bit version of Windows 7. One hazard of an upgrade is trying to get your favourite applications to work on the new computer. Normally it’s not an issue – you’d simply update to the latest version of the program, or find alternatives that do the same task. But in the specialised area of chess problem solvers, it’s not so straightforward.

On my old PC – a 32-bit Windows XP-based machine – I used three testing programs: Kalulu, Popeye, and Natch. Kalulu solves orthodox problems and some series-movers, and because of its well-designed and attractive interface, it was my program of choice. The versatile Popeye is especially adept in dealing with countless types of fairy problems. However, it lacks a proper GUI and requires text input for setting up solving positions. There is an application called APwin which (in its recent release) works as a graphical front for Popeye, but I have yet to try it out. Lastly, Natch specialises in testing shortest proof games.

Of the three programs, only Popeye still works on my new computer, because neither of the other two has a 64-bit version available. There are workarounds for using the older software, but they are not that practical for me. For example, the Professional Edition of Windows 7 has built-in support for running your PC in ‘Windows XP Mode’, but I only have the Home Premium Edition. It’s also possible to install ‘Windows Virtual PC’ to enable ‘Windows XP Mode’ to work on the new PC, but that sounds rather technical and would be a last resort for me. I also considered buying the commercial program, Alybadix, which has a hefty price tag and is presumably very fast. However, this well-known software also turns out to be incompatible with the 64-bit version of Windows!

So for now Popeye is my only option, and its ability to solve all kinds of problems is especially welcome under the circumstances! Its method for setting up a solving position by entering a few lines of codes seems archaic, but with the right set-up it’s actually quite fast. Still, I think now is a good time to check out APwin, the Popeye ‘shell’ program…