#1: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 28, 2004
This is topic is me to use to announce changes in the software.#2: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 13, 2004
I've made a big revision to the website. Major changes are:#3: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 12, 2004
- For most browsers, you can now paint multiple squares at a single stroke just by moving the mouse with the button held down.
- There is now a control panel from which you can select functions for three mouse buttons. Don't worry if you don't have three mouse buttons - click, shift-click, and control-click do the same things. By default the buttons still cycle through the colors, but now you can also assign them to paint particular colors, and you can assign the right button to bring up a menu of colors for the left button or you can just click on the color squares to assign a different color.
- A lot of the code to handle this is extremely browser dependent. I've added a page describing some of the known issues with various browsers.
- I added "News" page. Looks kind of like this.
- The look of the pages has been modified - I've been fiddling with the stylesheets, with dubious success. Fonts still come out too small on too many browers.
There are still some improvements to performance and user interface I want to make, and the puzzle editor interface needs some of the same upgrades, but I think this is a nice step forward.
There seem to be some problems creating puzzles from IE - possibly only from Mac IE. I found and fixed one problem, but am not convinced I found them all. I've added more logging to the board editor to try to figure out what is up.#4: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 17, 2004
Finally got around to installing the new version of the software. I've entirely changed the method by which the board is drawn on all but the oldest browsers, reducing the total number of images being put on the screen to less than half what it was before. With any luck, this should significantly improve the load time for the puzzles, and probably also improve the responsiveness during play.#5: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 28, 2004
I also added a more prominent display of the current number of puzzles to the front page, so people with good memories can tell if there is anything new without logging in. The FAQ has been updated as well.
Big change today is the addition of discussion forums to the site. They aren't all that I want them to be yet, but they are a good start.#6: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 28, 2004
There are two kinds of threads. Each puzzle has a discussion thread attached to it to discuss that particular puzzle. Then there are general discussion threads that can be started by anyone to discuss any topic.
Previously existing comments on puzzles have been imported into the puzzle discussion threads, but they work differently now. You can post more than one comment on a puzzle. Comments on puzzles can now by flagged as "hints" or "spoilers". A "hint" is something that gives specific advice on how to solve tricky parts of the puzzle. A "spoiler" is something that specifically identifies what the puzzle image depicts. These won't be displayed by default - you have to do some extra clicking to bring them up.
Oh, a couple more things:#7: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 1, 2004
The "hint" and "spoiler" flags can be changed by the designer of the puzzle, or by an administrator (that's me).
You'll notice that my posts are frequently formatted prettier than other people's posts. That's because administrators have the option of using HTML in their posts. I'd love to make that available to all users, but when it is possible for users to enter HTML then cross-site scripting attacks become possible. Thorougly protecting against that requires some fairly difficult programming, which isn't going to happen any time soon.
Another update to the forum code.#8: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 9, 2004
- WebPBN will now remember which comments you have seen. Except that it doesn't know about anything you looked at more than a few days ago.
- By default, the "Forum" page lists only topics that have comments that you have not seen. There is a link at the top of the page that you can click to see the list of all topics.
- Each topic has a "next topic" link. Clicking on these walks you through all the topics.
- Puzzle discussion topics include the authors description of the puzzle at the top. This discription is always treated as a "spoiler".
- If you have solved a puzzle, or if you are its designer, then hints and spoilers will be displayed for you without you having to ask for them.
- Users who are not logged in get a link to the forums too.
Fixed a bug that caused the count of comments on a puzzle to be reset to zero each time anyone saved a copy of the game. The incorrect response counts could cause crashs on later attempts to make comments on a puzzle.#9: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 29, 2004
It has always been possible for the authors of puzzles to edit them after they have been published, or "unpublish" puzzles that they previously published. I've made a few small changes to clarify this a bit.#10: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 30, 2004
The FAQ now explains why it is possible for users to have solved more puzzles than there are on the site. This just means that they solved some puzzles which have since been withdrawn.
If someone changes the solution of a puzzle after you solved it, you will be advised of the fact in the front page puzzle list. You can go try the modified version.
I've added an RSS feed to this site. If you use some form of RSS client to watch headlines from news sites or new postings to blog sites, you can now also use it to watch for new puzzles on this site.#11: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 7, 2005
There have also been a few other small changes and bug fixes, but only really minor stuff.
Did a couple of minor bug fixes and formatting fixes on the "Forum" page, the "Users" page, and the "Puzzle Home" page.#12: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 9, 2005
I've added some support for rating the uniqueness of the solution, and the amount of guessing needed to solve a puzzle.#13: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 19, 2005
These work a little differently than the quality and difficulty ratings. In these, the rating displayed works by majority vote, until I make a ruling, after which people are no longer asked for their opinions. So typically you will only be asked to enter your opinions on these on very new puzzles, or ones where the answer to the question is not fairly obvious.
The uniqueness rating is just "yes" or "no".
The solvability rating is either "solvable by pure logic", "requires some guessing" or "requires a lot of guessing". I expect that it will generally be my policy to unpublish puzzles that fall in the "lot of guessing" category, so you should vote that way if you think the puzzle requires so much guessing that it isn't worth playing.
The lists of puzzles will mark puzzles that require guessing or have multiple solutions with question marks. Bold question marks if there are multiple solutions, red question marks if the amount of guessing required is excessive.
Small update to the "Browsers" page: If you use the Firefox browser with the "Adblock" extension, then you need to turn off the Quickblock feature to keep it from doing strange things when you shift-clicks.#14: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 20, 2005
Firefox and all the other more recent Mozilla browsers have other problems with Web Paint-by-Number, so I can't really recommend them for this site yet. Pity - Firefox is what I mainly use.
Another small Mozilla/Firefox bug fix. Sort of. Mozilla and Firefox where doing a strange thing where columns of cells would shift around as you moved the mouse across the game board. A nausiating spectacle. I found that if I don't center the game board on the page, the effect disappears. I don't understand it, but whatever works, I guess.#15: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 5, 2005
In Mac Firefox I'm still getting a bug where it shows partial white borders around some cells after they have been clicked on. Don't have a fix for this yet.
A few small fixes:#16: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 6, 2005
- The helper was crashing in IE. Turned out to be another
stupid little browser incompability. It should be fixed
- Puzzle #220, which has some row clues with 21 numbers in
them, inspired me to try to improve the performance of
the error checking on those rows. It was taking as long
as 17 seconds to decide whether or not to redball a row
with that many clues. I was able to revise the regular
expressions to run much faster in most browsers. Not,
however, in IE, which doesn't support non-greedy regular
A few more small changes and fixes.#17: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 5, 2005
The "Random Puzzle" link didn't used to work if you had solved all puzzles. Now, it will give you a random unsolved puzzles if there are any unsolved puzzles, or a random previously solved puzzle otherwise.
When you load a previously solved puzzle, you're given a choice of whether you want to load your previous solution or not. In the past, if you didn't load your previous solution, then you didn't get your previous ratings back. That has been fixed.
There was a bug that sometimes gave a blank screen after saving a partially solved puzzle. This has been fixed.
I noticed that a Google search for "Paint by Number Puzzles" shows this site on the first page. That's nice. However, the link there isn't to the frame. If you follow it, you get just the front page, without the grey sidebar that has all the controls on it that let you do things like actually enter the site and solve puzzles. Argh!#18: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 24, 2005
Not sure this won't be taken by Google as a sign that I am some evil person trying to manipulate Google and get me banned altogether. But these days, you can never be sure what might cause that. Their endless cat and mouse game with people trying to artificially boost their page ranks has gotten to the point where you can never tell what Google will and will not list and/or list high. It has led to a real degradation of the quality of their service.
Added more reframing code, to more pages. This should also help things work properly after session expiration.#19: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 28, 2005
I've added a "print" button to the puzzle solving pages. This generates a printable PDF file with the blank puzzle grid in it. I don't actually have a printer, so I'm not sure how they actually look on paper.#20: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 28, 2005
Obviously, to print color puzzles, you need a color printer.
I plan to add a page from which you can print "books" of selected puzzles. Maybe I'll add the ability to print solved or partially solved puzzles.
I've added a new control to the puzzle solving page, which enables you to turn error checking on and off. This is useful for (1) people who find error checking annoying, (2) browsers who are really slow about error checking.#21: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 2, 2005
Having spent so much time on this site, I thought I'd spend a little money and buy it a domain name (well, ten bucks a year - big deal). We are now at:#22: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 11, 2006webpbn.comThe old URL will continue to work too.
Firefox 1.5 has been released. All the problems that previous versions of firefox exhibited on this site vanish#23: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 12, 2006
in Firefox 1.5. I strongly recommend upgrading if you are still using an older version of Firefox. Heck, I recommend it to IE users too. I've updated the browser page to talk about this.
I modified the Mozilla/Firefox bug workaround that I did back in April so that it only applies to the versions of the browsers based on Gecko 1.7. For older and newer versions of Mozilla/Gecko, game boards will be centered once again. Looks prettier.#24: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 13, 2006
What this mainly means is that in the puzzle editor you can now paint multiple cells by moving the mouse with the button held down. This is actually a huge improvement. You can actually paint with the thing, so long as you don't move the mouse too fast (how fast you can move depends on how fast your computer is).
There is some possibility that I introduced bugs into the play environment, because unifying the two code bases required me to make internal changes to the play environment. In theory however, there should be no changes there.
More updates to the browser info page.#26: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 30, 2006
The latest version of Safari (1.3.2) runs web paint-by-number much faster than previous versions, possibly faster than any other browser I've seen. I'll need to experiment with it some more, but I think it may have displaced Firefox as my prefered browser on the Mac.
I also updated the Opera info. Opera 8.5 has gotten a bit better in some ways, but it is still slow and the event handling for right-mouse-click events is still muddled, though in a new and different way. At least it doesn't seem to be crashing any more.
I did some looking at the logs and noticed that the first few puzzles, like #1, #2 and #3, had been solved by hundreds of users, while the later ones had mostly only been solved by a couple people. That's natural enough, as for new users the puzzle home page was listing just the first 20 puzzles in the database, so picking the first ones is a natural enough place to start for people. But those really aren't very good puzzles. So I've changed the puzzle home page to (by default) list the 25 most recent puzzles instead. (Of course, you can make it list by any criteria, just by clicking on the headings, but I'd guess that nobody ever does this).#27: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 24, 2006
I was tempted to have it list the ones with the highest quality ratings, but decided against it. First, the games that get very high quality ratings also tend to be pretty difficult, not necessarily appropriate for new users. Second, tempting people to solve all the best puzzles first tends to make further use of this site rather disappointing. Anyway, I think more recent puzzles tend to be better anyway, as the more prolific puzzle creators tend to improve notably with practice.
I also modified the text of the front page to include as many other names that "Paint-by-Number" puzzles are known by as I am aware of - there must be about 20 names. I'm hoping to improve the chances that people googling for this kind of puzzle will find this site.
Several small changes today.#28: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 23, 2006
Added "remember me" checkbox on the login form. If you check this before logging in, then you will automatically be logged in the next time you hit the web site with the same brower. But not if you clicked on the "logout" link before leaving the last time.
Also fixed the IE bugs in the puzzle creation tool.
I added a page of links to paint-by-number books and magazines that can be purchased through Amazon.com. This is, I hope, a relatively inoffensive way for me to earn a little bit of income off this site. Google ads generally generate much more income, but I think they'd be much more annoying on this site. The books link page isn't in anyone's face and might even be useful to people.#29: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 6, 2006
I finally finished writing a first draft of a page giving general advice on puzzle creation. There's a link to it from the "Create Puzzles" page.#30: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 28, 2006
I've put up a new version of the puzzle solving screen. It adds two new buttons "Bigger" and "Smaller", which can be used to make the puzzle bigger or smaller. There are really only three sizes available, the old size being the smallest of the three. Smaller puzzles will be automatically rendered in one of the larger sizes. Various obsolete browsers will not have the bigger/smaller buttons.#31: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 9, 2006
There are a lot of other changes in the pipes. Among what's planned:
- Redesign of the control panel under the puzzle. You may have noticed that as I've been adding functionality, this has turned into a complete and hideous mess. After I've added a bit more functionality, I want to streamline this.
- Fast save. Currently, when you save a puzzle, you have to wait for the whole thing to reload, and you lose your undo history. I have a different way to do this where it will take a fraction of a second and lose nothing. For geeks, the keyword is AJAX.
- Auto save. Once saving is fast, I want to make it automatic when you finish the puzzle. As soon as you fill in the last square, the save will be triggered, and if your solution is correct, the description will pop up.
Some discussion on the Conceptis Puzzle forums alerted me that people were interesting in creating PDF puzzle collections. I'd been meaning to implement a tool that would allow folks to create custom PDF puzzle books, so I took a few days to finish that.#32: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 7, 2006
My plan had been to give people a control panel, similar to the "Find Puzzles" panel, where they could select which puzzles they wanted - all puzzles by Marso, all puzzles rated 4 stars or better, etc. I did this, but found it was too slow. To generate a PDF with all the puzzles on the site took about 8 minutes. No way my ISP would tolerate that. So, sadly, I had to back off on this, and make that a tool only I could run. Instead I posted some puzzle sets that I generated on the new "Print Puzzles" page.
These PDF puzzles are absurdly large - around 56K per puzzle. That's probably why they are so slow to generate too. I don't know that much about the PDF format, but I thought it was just an embellishment of Postscript, and I wouldn't expect postscript to require more than one or two K per puzzle. Maybe I'll find time someday to work more on getting the size (and generation time) lower.
I also modified the PDF files to include (1) the www.webpbn.com URL, and (2) a copyright message on each page saying the puzzle was copyrighted by the author.
Some small fixes to the "Users" screen. The last login dates are more meaningfull again (for users with "remembered" sessions, the are now actually last access dates, since those users can, if the software is working right, go for months without logging in). You can now sort by the "Puzzles solved" and "puzzles created" columns.#33: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 9, 2006
Not exactly exciting, but bigger upgrades are on the way.
Applied another fix to the "remember" checkbox on the login screen. Maybe it will work right now. The theory is that logging in with that check should mean that from that computer/browser you shouldn't have to log in again, unless (1) you logout, or (2) you go three months without visiting the site.#34: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 26, 2006
Big updates today.#35: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 26, 2006
The changes include:#36: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 27, 2006
There are probably other things that I forgot. And I'm sure I introduced some more bugs.
- New button design/arrangement on the puzzle solution screen. I'm not actually sure I like this better.
- Addition of a "redo" button, which does the obvious thing.
- You no longer need to "Save" after you set ratings. When you select a new rating, it saves instantly (using an asynchronous XML request).
- The 'Save' button is now vastly faster and does not clear and redraw your screen or erase your undo history. This is another place where I am using an asynchronous XML request.
- The 'Revert' button is now also much faster - you guessed it, more asynchronous XML.
- Since saves are now fast, one gets triggered automatically when you fill in the last square of the puzzle, which means the "Yahoo!" message and puzzle description should pop up automatically within seconds of finishing the puzzle.
- If you save a correct solution to a puzzle that does not actually match the intended solution, then that puzzle is automatically flagged as having multiple solutions (if it wasn't already so flagged).
- Painting multiple cells while holding the mouse button down should now work better. It used to be that if you painted too fast, the browser would not always be fast enough to trigger mouseover events on all the cells you passed over, so there would be gaps. Now it notices gaps and goes back and fills them in.
- You can now paint with numbers in paint-by-numbers. Typing the "1", "2", "3", "4" or "5" keys while the mouse is over a square will paint the square white, black, red, green or blue respectively. (The same numbers are always bound to the same keys, but only those whose colors are in the puzzle actually work.) You can paint multiple cells by moving the mouse while holding the key down. The SPACE or "0" keys revert squares to unknown. (Yes, I know this key assignment favors right handed people. Sorry.)
- The "U" and "R" keys undo and redo. The "S" key saves.
- Updates to the FAQ and Browser notes.
Painting by holding down the 1,2,3,4,5 keys while moving the mouse doesn't seem to work well on Macintoshs. On the MacIntosh, the mouse cursor vanishes and the mouse becomes inoperable for a fraction of a second after a key is pressed. Once you've held the key down long enough for the auto-repeat to start, the mouse becomes completely inoperable. The effects all Macintosh browsers.#37: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 19, 2006
You can avoid the problem by turning off keyboard autorepeat, but this doesn't look like anything I can prograam around.
I've added a note to the FAQ about this.
I've made a slight adjustment to the way difficulty and quality ratings are displayed. The averages used to be rounded off to the nearest half point, now they are rounded off to the nearest quarter point. With averages you tend to get very little on the extremes. There isn't a single puzzle with a full five-star quality rating on the site because usually just one person rating it a four is enough to pull it down (closest is Punchy Sue's puzzle #415, "Non-Brown Betty"). Only one has a five-star difficulty rating, my puzzle #290, "Jackson". Anyway, since we tend to lose the ends, all the ratings cluster in the middle, so I felt a little more resolution was needed in the scores.#38: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 21, 2006
If there were more users, I'd probably do something like discard the top and bottom 5% of the scores, and average the rest, giving something of a mediany-mean, but since relatively few users rate puzzles, there usually aren't enough ratings for this to be appropriate.
I also did some testing with the newly released Internet Explorer version 7. As far as I can tell, it works just exactly as well as previous versions of IE. No new problems, but no new bug fixes either. The second click of a double-click still sends no mouse-down event, so click-click and drag still only works if you pause long enough between the clicks so it isn't a double-click. Oh well. Current IE 6 users should probably upgrade so they can see 5% of what they are missing by not using Firefox.
Clicking on the clue numbers in a puzzle now gives them a grey background. Clicking on them again gives them back a white background. This is meant to be a convenience for people who like to mark of which parts of the clues they have already completed.#39: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 25, 2006
Tested the site with Firefox 2.0 and saw no problems. Didn't really expect any, since we are just going from Gecko 1.8.0 to Gecko 1.8.1 - not a major revision of the rendering engine, as there was in going from Firefox 1.0 to 1.5.#40: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 20, 2006
I added a rather inconspicious feature that only works in Firefox 2.0: microsummaries. In Firefox 2.0, start creating a bookmark for this sites home page with the usual "Bookmark this page" thing. You'll get the usually dialog box asking for "Name" and "Create In". The "Name" field will be a pulldown though. If you click on the arrow to the left, you'll see a list of "Live Titles". The only one currently listed is going to look like "WebPBN (#559: The Luck of the Irish)". This is the site name, with the title and number of the most recently posted puzzle embedded in it.
So this gives you a bookmark whose name includes the newest puzzle title. Firefox will keep it updated. You can stick it in your bookmark toolbar or in your list of bookmarks or in a bookmark folder, or anyplace else a bookmark can go, and you can tell just by looking what the newest puzzle on the site is, so you can check for new puzzles without loading the page.
Actually, I really just wanted to try this out. Live titles are implemented in the browser in such a non-obvious way that I suspect that few users will use them even if they are there and few sites will provide them because they don't expect anyone to use them, and they just won't ever catch on. But it was easy to do, so why not?
There have also been minor changes to the "Find Puzzles" page, so you can now limit the number of search results per page.
I modified the "Find Puzzles" page so you can now search based on the one/multiple solutions and no/some/much guessing settings.#41: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 7, 2007
It became clear that the bug that incorrectly marks puzzles as having multiple solutions has been running rampant. I found (and temporarily fixed) 57 mismarked puzzle. I've put in some extra logging that should help me figure out this bug.
I've added an experimental feature, not really documented much of anywhere yet. The "h" and "v" keys now do horizontal and vertical fills.#42: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 23, 2007
For instance, if you hit "h" while the mouse is over a square it will look to the left and right. If the first non-blank squares are each side are the same colors, it will fill all the squares between them with that color.
So if you want to fill in a long row of black squares, you can mark the two endpoints black, then move the mouse anywhere between them and type "h" to fill in all the squares between them.
Similarly, if you are between a black square and the edge of the puzzle when you type "h" then it will fill between the black square and the edge of the puzzle with blacks.
Or, if you are in a row that from the clues is obvious all one color (ie, the clue is blank so the row is all white, or the clue is a single number equal to the puzzle width), then clicking 'h' anywhere in that row will automatically fill in the whole row with the correct color.
At's a bit complex to explain, but fairly nice in practice, I think, at least on the large puzzles.
Note that fairly often, "h" and "v" will do nothing. If you aren't over a blank square, or the first non-blank squares to the left and right are not the same color, then it will just silently do nothing.
I've posted an update to the software, however, there is very little in the way of new features that you'd be likely to notice. It was mostly a clean-up of some of the internals of the code. I wouldn't be too surprised if I managed to introduce some new bugs, though I fixed a couple subtle ones too.#43: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 26, 2007
The one thing that's new is that when you finish solving a puzzle, a "helper" button magically appears. This is, of course, mostly useless. After all, you don't need the helper after you've solved the puzzle. However, if you want to play with the helper, you can clear the screen and run it to see how well it does. It can also be useful if you are trying to figure out if the solution to a puzzle was unique or not.
Another small revision to the website: Now when you click on a puzzle that you previously solved, you are given one more option, in addition of the old options of loading your old solution or restarting with a fresh board.#44: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 27, 2007
You can now also erase your old solution and return to the main menu. So if you have some old saved games hanging around that you never intend to finish, there is now a way to get rid of them.
One possible side effect: It's possible that there might be a few puzzles that you did before popping up as new puzzles. These are ones whose solutions were never actually saved, for examples puzzles for which you saved ratings but not a solution. Those should always have shown up as "new" puzzles, but didn't because of a bug.
Another update, but a bit more significant this time.#45: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 11, 2007
There are also a number of minor bug fixes, and a whole lot of rearrangements of internals, but neither of those should be too evident to most users.
- Everything is saved. When we save games, we now also save the undo history and any clue numbers that may have been grayed out. So you can now save a game, and when you reload it or revert to it, everything will be as it was.
- Grayed clues integrated with undo/redo. Now if you use the undo button (or 'u' key), not only will marks on the board be undone, but so will grayed out numbers. Redoing will bring both back.
- Auto gray-out of clues on completed rows. It now automatically grays out the clues on any row that you have completely filled in. This is especially handy for finding that one last cell you have to fill in to complete the puzzle.
Another update to the website today.#46: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 31, 2007
The obvious change is that the menus look a little better.
I've put in an experimental new feature. If you hover your mouse over a clue for half a second, a large-print version of the clue will pop up until you move the mouse. This is suppose to help out those of us with tired eyes.#47: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 31, 2007
I still want to fiddle with this feature a bit. I'm not sure that I like the way it looks/behaves entirely. I'd also like add a setting so that you could control-click on any square on the screen to see the row and column clues for that cell. That'd be nice when the clues are scrolled off the screen.
Having experimented with it a bit, I think it is rather annoying in the current incarnation. It keeps coming up when I don't want it. Back to the drawing board.#48: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 1, 2007
I decided this was so annoying in it's current incarnation that I've backed it out of the production code until I can redesign it to work nicer.#49: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 2, 2007
I installed a partial work-around for the long standing bug that caused the program to hang sometimes when an erroneous click is made near the right or bottom edge of large complex puzzles. The problem should occur less commonly, but is not by any means fixed.#50: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 2, 2007
Basically the old error checking was always done left to right or top to bottom. Sometimes, if you did something impossible on the right or bottom edge of the puzzle, the error checker would go off trying thousands of possible rearrangements of the stuff earlier in the line, in the vain hope that some rearrangement would make the end work out. This hung the program for a long time sometimes. My workaround is stunningly stupid: on larger puzzles, if the last click was near the right or bottom edge, we do the error check in the opposite direction, from right to left or from bottom to top.
I think this helps a lot, but it doesn't fix the problem completely. I've noticed error checking can still be somewhat slow near the middle of some larger puzzles, and you can sometimes still get a full hang if you click again on a row previously marked with a red error ball. But it's much better. It still might be worthwhile to (1) use Firefox 2.0, which will timeout after a minute or so if the problem occurs, (2) consider turning error checking off for big puzzles, and (3) paint with the number keys instead of cycling through all the wrong colors before getting to the color you want.
I made a few more small fixes to the site. Mostly small changes to the user interfaces including modifying the "Users" page so it doesn't show everyone on one page and modifying the "Home" page so that it doesn't list more than 50 of the puzzles you created. These kinds of changes become more important as the site grows. User interfaces that worked when the site was small don't always work so well when it gets bigger.#51: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 10, 2007
This is also an issue for the database. Currently we keep the whole undo history for every puzzle solved by every user in the database forever. We had 12,483 puzzles solved last month, up from 7,249 the month before. At this rate, the database is going to explode. I'm going to have to do something, like maybe forgot the undo histories after a completed solution is saved. I also have records stored for users who haven't logged on for many years. I need to start building tools to clean up this kind of stuff.
Success has a price. Well, success and cutting corners in the original programming.
Some small upgrades have been done to the forum pages. By default, the forum page now only lists puzzles with new comments if you have solved those puzzles. If you want to see all new comments, including ones for puzzles you haven't solved, then you can select that option from the pull-down at the top of the page. You call also select to see all forum topics.#52: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 5, 2007
If you started from the "New Comments to Solved Puzzles" page, then when you click on the "next topic" link beneath a topic, it will take to the next puzzle that was listed there.
The list of forum topics will now display only 75 topics at most. If there are more, you get a "More Topics" link at the bottom of the page. Now that there are 900 puzzles on the site, it's a bit unwieldy to just list them all.
We now have 1000 published puzzles on the site.#53: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 7, 2007
After I noticed that, I went to check if anyone was getting close to solving 1000 puzzles on the site, and discovered daisymoo was already at 1005 (some puzzles eventually get unpublished, but if you solve them before they get unpublished, then you can end up having solved more puzzles than are on the site).
On the forum page, you can now select to list only new comments to puzzles you created.#54: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 7, 2007
On the "Find Puzzles" page, you can now select puzzles by puzzle number. Previously if someone said "puzzle number 992 is really cool" then there was no easy way to get there. Now there is.#55: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 10, 2007
At the bottom of the puzzle editing there is a new button, labeled "Check".#56: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 11, 2007
Clicking this checks your puzzle to see if it has a unique solution. A box will pop up that says whether or not there are multiple solutions. If there are multiple solutions, you'll be able to click a button to see one of the alternate ones.
Sometimes the box will also be able to tell you if the puzzle is logically solvable.
Occasionally, the box will report a "timeout" which should be taken as a sign that your puzzle is pretty darned hard.
If the puzzle has very little white space, you might also get a suggestion to include some more in the pop-up box.
This test is also automatically performed when you save a puzzle with the "publish" button checked. Because of this it should no longer be necessary to vote on whether a puzzle has multiple solutions for most puzzles.
I think I'll enter some more information about this in a separate topic, probably topic #46.
There is now a search box on the "Forum" page, so you can search for "killer bunny" and find all the discussion of that topic. There is also a search box on the user page.#57: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 13, 2007
I added a "chat" program to the menu. I only started writing it a day ago, and I built it from scratch, so it's still pretty flaky. It seems to work better in IE and Firefox than Safari and Opera, sometimes it shows lines more than once, and it doesn't aways say when people leave. Consider it a work in progress.#58: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 25, 2007
If you click on the black square next to the input box, then you can change the color of your text.
Some new features on the "Home" and "Find Puzzles" pages. Now, if you leave your mouse pointing at one of the puzzle names on either of these two pages, a menu will appear with various options. Some of these options are just short cuts to things you could do before, some are new functionality. Much of the new functionality is meant to support users who prefer to print puzzles out and solve them on paper.#59: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 4, 2007
Menu options are:
- "Solve Puzzle" - Go solve the puzzle. Just clicking on the puzzle name does the very same thing.
- "Rate Puzzle" - After you've solved a puzzle on paper, this is where you want to go. It lets you enter your ratings of the puzzle, and it also lets you mark the puzzle as being "completed". Then it won't show up on the list of "new puzzles" any more, and it will be added to your count of solved puzzles. Of course, you are welcome to mark a puzzle as "completed" even if you haven't actually completed it, say if you've decided you never want to do it and don't want it to show up on your list of "new puzzles" anymore.
- "View Comments" - See comments from other users on the puzzle, and make your own.
- "Print Puzzle" - Generate a PDF representation of the puzzle. You'll need adobe acrobat or some equivalent to print it.
- "View Information" - Show some not terribly exciting information about the puzzle, including how many people have solved it.
- "Peek at Solution" - The moral equivalent of peeking at the solutions in the back of the puzzle book. This lets people who solved the puzzle on paper see if they got the right answer, but obviously anyone else who succumbs to temptation is also welcome to peek.
- "Export Puzzle" - Export the puzzle in one of many different file formats. Probably not useful for very many people.
- "Edit Puzzle" - This only appears if it is your own puzzle, in which case it puts you in the puzzle editor.
I spent an amazing amount of time getting these menus to work right on various different browsers. I hope I succeeded.
Due to some kind of unknown bug in the database software, the part of the database that stores puzzle definitions got completely mangled a couple days ago. I was able to get a five day old backup from my ISP and I was able to dig some more data out of the mangled database, and piece things back together again.#60: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 4, 2007
Seven puzzles have lost their titles and descriptions:
I'd appreciate if the authors of these puzzles could fix the titles and descriptions.
- #1520 by dyrbye
- #1525 by jam523
- #1529 by cmellen
- #1533 by arduinna
- #1536 by conquerer109
- #1537 by FFsWife
- #1538 by jane-o
Five unpublished puzzles have been completely lost.
Sorry about that.
- #1526 by nzimmerman
- #1527 by gayle
- #1534 by mickeymouse
- #1543 by gayle
I think that aside from the specific issues listed here, everything should be back to normal. However, whatever bug caused this to happen hasn't been fixed (it is certainly a bug in my ISP's software, not mine), so I can't be completely confident that this won't happen again one day.
The "Find" page now displays check marks next to puzzles that you have solved.#61: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 8, 2007
Webpbn was briefly down to allow me to do some restructuring of the database.#62: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 8, 2007
The restructuring of the database means that it is now possible to delete user accounts. I've taken advantage of this to delete about 400 user accounts that haven't been used since 2005.#63: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 12, 2007
I've tagged all forum pages to indicate that search robots should NOT index them. This should cause all those pages to all gradually disappear from google and other search engines.#64: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 16, 2007
I've done some major restructuring of the database, to try to save even more disk space. Mostly you shouldn't notice much of any difference in the site, except that I probably introduced some new bugs.#65: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 19, 2007
Now when someone edits a puzzle that was previously published, a new version of that puzzle is created. Mostly you shouldn't notice this, since you normally only can see the newest version of the puzzle, but the "peek at solution" pop-up does let you see previously published versions, if they exist (which the don't for all puzzles on line now).
Various small changes to the forums:#66: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 25, 2007
- For puzzle discussion pages, there is a link to peek at the solution at the top of the page. I dunno about you, but when people talk about the puzzle I often want to peek back at it.
- Authors of comments can now reclassify their own comments, setting or unsetting SPOILER and HINT flags.
- Authors of comments can now edit their past comments.
When solving puzzles, you can now gray out multiple numbers by moving the mouse over them with the button held down.#67: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 26, 2007
I also noticed that in IE gray marked numbers were not being reset properly when you cleared the board. This turned out to be due to another IE bug. I installed a workaround for it.
There is now a button in the sidebar menu that says "Settings". This gets you to a page with tabs for "Profile", "Password" and "Options".#68: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 20, 2007
The profile tab currently lets you change your full name and/or email address. In the future, it will be possible to use it to create a little profile page with a bit of information about yourself, if you want to do so.
The password page lets you change your password.
The option page does nothing at all. I plan to implement a variety of option settings, but none exist yet, so this is just a place holder.
I am starting the process of moving webpbn.com to a different server. This move will raise the limit on the database size from 200M to about 2000M, which should hold us for a while. The increase in cost will be $7 a month, which will not break the bank. I'm not yet sure exactly when the change will occur, but it will involve webpbn.com being off the net for maybe half a day sometime soon. In theory users shouldn't notice any change in the site after the change-over. Well, it might be a bit faster or a bit slower, but probably not noticably so.#69: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 21, 2007
I'm planning to take webpbn off-line for a few hours this evening to complete the changeover to the new server. Actually, I expect it will take about 20 minutes, plus however long it takes for the DNS change to propagate.#70: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 21, 2007
OK, we are now on the new server.#71: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 30, 2007
Webpbn was off line for a few hours this afternoon because the ISP thinks it is using too many resources. Obviously things are not working out immensely well with the new ISP. I'm working to resolve the problems, but I'll be out of town for the first week of January and if things get shut down again while I'm out there won't be much I can do.#72: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 8, 2008
I think we are very likely going to have to move to a different host sometime soon. The original place was worried about the database size. The new place doesn't mind the database size, but is unhappy with the CPU usage, which never bothered the first place. Guess I'll try someplace else.#73: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 13, 2008
The first place could only give me a bigger database by selling me much more diskspace, processing, and bandwidth than I have any use for. The second place could only give me more processing by similarly scaling up everything else way beyond my requirements. I think I've found a place that can handle things more flexibly, selling me just what I need.
OK, we have, once again, moved webpbn.com to a new server.#74: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 28, 2008
If you are seeing the URL "webpbn.dreamhosters.com" in your location window, please ignore it. Do NOT change your bookmarks to this value. This is temporary only, until the DNS change propagates. The correct URL for this site is and will remain http://webpbn.com
Let's hope this new set-up works out better.
On the users page, the numbers of puzzles played and numbers of puzzles created are going to be temporarily inaccurate. Games created will probably be out of date, and games played will be zero or out of date.#75: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 31, 2008
Basically, generation of this page was eating too much CPU time, since it was stupidly programmed. I half fixed it, which makes it look pretty totally broken. I'll fix it the rest of the way when I have some free time.
The numbers of puzzles created are fixed. The numbers of puzzles played are slowing fixing themselves, one a second, even as we speak. Basically we've changed over from counting all the puzzles every time someone asks for that page, to storing a running count that we only update when someone does something that would change their count. The old way was easy to program and worked fine while the site was small. The new way is a bit more trouble, but should work forever.#76: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 31, 2008
Also, you should be able to edit forum messages again.#77: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 17, 2008
Added two new options to the pull-down list at the top of the "Forum" page.#78: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 19, 2008
- All Topics with My Postings
This will list all topics in which you have ever posted a message.
- New Replies to My Postings
This will list topics where (1) you have posted a message and (2) there are postings that you haven't seen. It's a bit of a misnomer, because those new messages aren't necessarily in reply to your postings, but hey, what do you want?
I've done a little redesigning of the "Home" page for logged-in users. Instead of displaying three lists of puzzles, it only displays one, and gives you tabs at the top of the page to choose which you want to see. Also, the "Find Puzzles" page is a little more integrated with the other puzzle list pages.#79: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 19, 2008
Honestly, the main motivation for this was performance. Generating all three lists all the time, even when people don't necessarily want to see all three lists, was a bit of a drag on the server. But I think it's an OK interface design too.
I've "archived" about twenty old discussion threads, mostly things about bugs that have been fixed and duplicate posts. I did this to reduce the amount of clutter in the forums that new users encounter.#80: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 22, 2008
You can still read the "archived" topics by selected "Archived Topics" from the list on the Forums page.
Somehow a lot of discussion threads (including this one!) that I had not archived got themselves archived. I've unarchived some of then, but really need to hunt down the bug that caused this.#81: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 26, 2008
I've added a "Best Puzzles" tab to the home page. I wanted to give a bit more visibility to the best puzzles on the site.#82: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 8, 2008
There are different lists for different difficulty levels. The criteria for getting on the list is different for different difficulty levels. Otherwise there would be no easy puzzles on the list, because easy puzzles never get high ratings.
No puzzle gets on the list until it has been rated by some minimum number of people. I think this is currently around 15 people for the easier puzzles and 5 for the hardest puzzles (fewer people complete and rate the hardest puzzles, so there need to be different criteria).
I expect that I'll be fiddling with these numbers and algorithms as times go by.
I made some small changes to make it a bit easier to link to individual puzzles on this site from other sites. The only obvious part of this is that there is now a link at the bottom of each puzzle page that says "link to this puzzle". You can copy that link and post it on other sites to have a link to the puzzle, so if you want to post links to your puzzle in your blog or facebook page, you can do that a bit better now.#83: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 1, 2009
I sincerely recommend puzzle 4585 to all. (Go to "Find Puzzles" enter "4585" in the puzzle number box, and search.) It's not necessarily the greatest puzzle in the world, but the discussion thread has to be seen to be believed.#84: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 24, 2009
You can no longer move clues by clicking on the white space around the clues. Now the only way to move them is with the arrow keys. So, for example, hitting the right arrow key once will move the clue to the right side of the puzzle, and hitting it again will right justify it.#85: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 27, 2009
The "Find Puzzles" page got a few more search options. You can now have the list include your ratings of the puzzles, and the last date you saved or rated the puzzle. You can also sort on those columns.#86: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 27, 2009
A new feature for those who are color blind and those who are not-color-blind-but-feel-like-it-sometimes:#87: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 29, 2009
When you leave the mouse over a clue number or a puzzle cell for a second, some text will pop up saying what is there, like "12 blue" for a clue number or "red" for a cell.
This option defaults on, but you can turn it off using the "Options" button on the puzzle solving screen, or the "Options" tab on the "Settings" page.
This is probably more useful for someone who occasionally needs help figuring out what is on the screen than for someone who constantly needs help.
I've modified the hover-text feature so that it can be set three ways: on for clue numbers only, on for both clue number and grid cells, and completely off.#88: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 16, 2009
The default is now to display hover-text for clue numbers but not grid cells. I found these boxes popping up all the time as I moused around the grid kind of distracting, but the ones on the clue numbers were OK.
The "Random Puzzle" button got a little bit fancier. You can now set some preferences for what kind of puzzle you would like.#89: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 24, 2009
The "Checker" program (aka "pbnsolve") that checks newly submitted puzzles has gotten a smidgen smarter. It should now always mark a puzzle as being logically solvable if it can be solved with line logic and color logic alone. It still doesn't know anything about edge logic or other advanced puzzles solving techniques, so it still won't mark all logically solvable puzzles correctly.#90: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 25, 2009
From the not-very-exciting changes department: the export page has gained a few more options. If you ever wanted to convert a puzzle into a GIF/PNG/JPEG type image, with each cell as a pixel, then new netpbm option gets you halfway there, generating a pbm or ppm image, which most image editing programs can convert to the more widely used formats.#91: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 15, 2009
I did some modest changes to the puzzle creation page. Most of the changes are internal, updating the code to comply with my more recent coding practices and improving the load time.#92: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 30, 2009
However the buttons are slightly changed.
This new button clears the puzzle grid.
This button used to fill the entire puzzle grid with the current color. Now it does more what you'd expect it to, filling just the region you click on with your current color.
This button used to clear the puzzle grid. Now it fills the region you click in with white.
The region fill buttons work pretty much like what you're used to on paint programs. They fill all cells that are the same color as the cell you clicked on, and are 4-adjacent to that cell or another cell that was filled.
Normally the fill mode turns off after you fill a region, so you'd have to click the button again if you want to fill again, but it you shift-click, or right-click, then you can fill multiple regions without having to reselect the fill function.
I'm generally planning to make other improvements to the puzzle creation mode, including undo/redo, ability to save multiple versions of the puzzle, and maybe a circle drawing function, just because the circle drawing algorithm is one of the coolest things ever invented.
Added two more buttons to the create puzzle environment:#93: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 21, 2009
The undo buttons can undo the whole history of your puzzle creation session, including shift and fill operations. However, your undo history is not saved as it is in the puzzle solving environment. If you leave the puzzle editor and come back, your undo history will be lost.
I was experimenting and added a half-baked hint facility. If you hit the "L" key or the "?" while the cursor is over the puzzle, it will pop up a little purple arrow in the margin of the puzzle marking a line where some line solving can done to mark at least one more cell.#94: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 2, 2010
The logic used to generate these hints is taken from the "helper" program, which isn't immensely bright. It will sometimes say "no hint available" even if there is still some line solving that can be done, and it certainly won't ever know to suggest using edge logic.
Eventually, I hope to make this a bit smarter and add a button labeled "Hint" to the menu.
The folks at dreamhost sent me an email telling me that they had moved webpbn to a new server. Turns out that had given me advance warning (yesterday) but I didn't see it. This broke the website for a while tonight, but I think I have repaired it. Seems to be a new, faster computer. I guess that's good.#95: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 28, 2010
Anyway, if you notice new glitches, let me know.
Some updates to the "Books" page, to include various new paint-by-number books available from Amazon. Interesting is that Griddlers.net is publishing some of their PDF puzzle collections as books. Theoretically we could do that too.#96: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 25, 2012
Looking through my development code for webpbn, I discovered that I had started no less that four upgrade projects and left each of them only partly implemented. I decided it was time to clean up this mess. I backed two of them out, since they were kind of half-baked. But I've spent a couple days getting the other two fully implemented and hope to be installing them here soon.#97: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 6, 2012
The first change is a revamp of the "solvability" classifications. This was discussed long ago in topic 215. The basic idea is to split "Logically Solvable" into three categories: "Trivial" (puzzles with no white space), "Line and Color Logic Solvable" (puzzles that require no advanced solving techniques, just line logic and color logic), and "Solvable with Modest Lookahead" (all those edge logic puzzles). We add a new category for "Solvable with Deep Lookahead", which are those puzzles where a few people successfully construct long chains of reasoning to prove why a pixel has be a dot, which the rest of us are baffled by. Those used to be classified, unfairly as "Some Guessing Required". We would now reserve that classification for puzzles where nobody has found a way to solve them except trial-and-error, but where you can usually never-the-less get the answer pretty easily if you are willing to guess. "Much guessing required" is reserved for hopeless messes. For puzzles with multiple solutions, only the last to categories will be available.
The other change ... well, let's leave that as a surprise why don't we?
In any case, I expect there will be some partial down-time while I get these changes installed, probably tomorrow. Likely the site won't be completely down for very long, but there will be a period of time where (1) you won't be able to rate puzzles, and (2) incorrect solvability classifications will be displayed for some puzzles. I'll need to update the database with the new solvability ratings, and that will take a while. Hours likely.
Another update. This makes two changes:#98: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 15, 2012
Caching Fixes. After the last update, there were all sorts of problems with various browsers loading some new code from webpbn.com and mixing them with old hunks of code they had dug out of their caches. So I redesigned the whole way that the libraries are loaded and updated to ensure that when they change all browsers will get the new ones, while still allowing them to cache to their hearts content when they don't change. With luck there should be no more problems with caching on future updates.
SVG Puzzle Mode. There's a computer language called "HTML" (HyperText Markup Language) that is used by 99% of web pages to tell your browser what to draw on the screen. Webpbn uses it for most everything, including drawing puzzles on the screen. But HTML is bad at drawing. All it can really do is put up images, so we tile the puzzle out of lots of little images, which is fundamentally stupid. There is another standard now understood by most browsers called "SVG" (Scalable Vector Graphics) which is all about drawing lines and rectangles. Years ago I thought it would be interesting if webpbn could draw puzzles using this instead, so I wrote a lot of code and then gave up because very few browsers actually supported SVG and they were all buggy. I dug this up again a few days ago to try it again, and found that it was working quite a bit better, so I finished it up a bit more and put it up for people to try.
On the "Settings" page, under the "Options" tab there is now a new option in which you can tell webpbn to use SVG to draw your puzzles instead of HTML. Note that it won't work under IE 8, but it should work under IE 9, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. (You can get an Adobe plugin to do SVG for older versions of IE, but Adobe has already abandoned support of that.) There is some variation in how well it works in different browsers, but all are usable.
What difference does it make? Well, mostly it is just an experiment. If I can do things pretty well with SVG then doing triddlers would be much easier (those would be a royal pain to try to tile out of rectangular images). It has a few advantages - most notably, you can scale the puzzles a lot bigger (the 'S' does stand for "Scalable"), so if puzzles tend too look too small on your screen (which they tend to since screen resolutions these days are much higher than they were when I first built the site), then SVG may help. There are some differences - unknown squares are grey instead of white, and squares marked white are white instead of dotted. And there are some weaknesses - the fonts used for the clue numbers look weird at some scales. And a couple things I haven't got around to implementing - notable the "L" key and the popup text when you hover the mouse over a clue number for a while. So mostly this is probably not going to be what most people want to use right now. It's mostly just a glimpse at some experimental code still under development.
Another little update to the software:#99: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 8, 2013
Dots On or Dots Off There is a new settable option that switches between the old mode where "unknown" cells are white and "white" cells have dots in them, and a new mode where "unknown" cells are gray and "white" cells are white. The latter is more logical, the former is more traditional. Take your pick.
SVG Mode Fixes Many small bug fixes and enhancements have been made to the SVG mode. I think it's about as good as it's going to get. It now draws white cells with dots in them just like the HTML mode always did, unless you switch the dots off. The color picker works. The text that pops up when you hover the mouse over a clue works on most browsers (not Chrome or Safari, which haven't implemented that SVG feature).
I'm going to be shutting webpbn down for a while later today to install some revised software that I hope will speed up the website. I'm restructuring the database, splitting some tables, revising some queries, and doing a variety of other things that I hope will speed things up. I don't know how much of an improvement it will make, but it should be at least some improvement. Since these are pretty deep and complex changes impacting many parts of the system, there is a good chance that I'll be introducing some new bugs, but I think I've also killed some old bugs so we should be maintaining a nearly consistent level of bugginess.#100: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 23, 2013
Webpbn just got a heck of a lot faster.#101: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 31, 2013
In addition to improving the site, I've been talking to the hosting company, dreamhost. Webpbn runs on a pair of servers, the web server and the database server. I'd been wondering why the database server wasn't using all the memory allocated to it. They told me that this was normal and couldn't be fixed, and I told them, very politely, that they were crazy.
Then one day the database server completely stopped responding. I sent a new request asking them to fix this. They said it was due to a temporary problem with their network, and they happened to notice that my two servers were in different datacenters. I assume that means like different cities, Pasadena and Timbuktu or something. The person said he had put in a request to move my database server to the same datacenter as my web server to reduce the communications time between them.
Well, they made the move and you can see the result. Things are way, way faster. And the interesting thing, is that the database server is now using all the memory allocated to it instead of ignoring two thirds of it. So they seem to have accidentally fixed the bug I was originally complaining about in the course of fixing a misconfiguration I didn't even know about. Well, I'm not overwhelmingly impressed with Dreamhost (why did they put the servers in different data centers in the first place? when would that ever make sense?), but I'm sure liking the improvement.
I just fixed a bug in the "Settings" page. For a long time, if you tried to change your email address, it would actually silently erase your email address instead.#102: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 27, 2013
Nobody is required to enter their email address here, but it can be useful to have in the database if your password is ever lost (since I'm more inclined to be confident that I am helping the actual owner of the account if the email is coming from the right place) or in very rare circumstances when I need to contact a user about a system problem.
So, if you want your email address to be stored here, you might want to check the "Settings" page to make sure it actually is.
Made a small update to the puzzle solving screen.#103: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 4, 2013
- There is now a "Hint" button that does exactly the same thing that the "L" key does - suggests a row where there are some settable cells.
- There is now a "Check" button (or you can type the "C" keys), which tells you if there are any cells set incorrectly on the current board. If there are errors, it doesn't tell you where they are, but it does offer to "undo" back to the error. If you do this, it will essentially hit the "undo" button to back you up to before you marked a wrong cell.
- There is a new setting on the Options page that modifies the behavior of the "undo to error" thing. If you set this, it will usually undo some number of moves back before the error, so it doesn't give you quite as much information about where exactly the error is.
New Rule: You can't post to the forums until you have solved at least one puzzle. I'm hoping this will discourage spammers a bit.#104: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 31, 2013
Another small update:#105: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 23, 2016
- You can now use a URL like http://webpbn.com/12333 to access a puzzle number 12333. This is meant to make it simpler to link to puzzles on webpbn.com.
- At the bottom of each puzzle page, there is now a "Share on Facebook" link. This shares the puzzle (not your solution) on Facebook. It's not terribly pretty - there isn't currently any kind of image that will appear on Facebook. Maybe I'd fix that if I had any idea what image should be shown there.
On May 18, 2016, this website's database was deleted when our host upgraded our operating system.#106: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Sep 27, 2016
The data was restored from a backup from August, 2014. It should be safe to use the site now, though there may be some errors.
* If you joined after August of 2014, you will need to re-create your username.
* If you changed your password after that date, it was changed back.
* There are still links to puzzles that have not yet been restored.
* Discussions after August of 2014 are, sadly, probably lost forever.
* The site will not remember that you solved puzzles after August of 2014.
There are PDF versions of all of the puzzles, including the ones that were created after the backup was made. We will continue working on restoring those puzzles. You can find the PDFs of all of the puzzles here: http://webpbn.com/t/
You can find much more detail in the WebPBN group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/38295942458/
Also, a much harder announcement to make is that Jan Wolter, the author of this website, died very suddenly on January 1, 2015. I am so very sorry.
-Valerie (Jan's life-partner -- and the person who originally introduced Jan to paint-by-numbers logic puzzles, which eventually inspired him to create this website :) )
Over the summer I was swamped with kids at home, but I've been meaning to post a huge THANK YOU to Doug Graiser from CodeGuard, who set up the WebPBN website with automated online backups, which should make it impossible to ever again lose the database or website.#107: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Dec 16, 2016
Many many many thanks Doug!!!
CodeGuard has been very easy to use. I highly recommend this service if you have a website or database that you don't want to ever lose. Here is a link to their website: codeguard.com
Last night one of our database tables got corrupted. I ran the mysql "repair table" command on it, and things seem to be working again now.#108: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Apr 3, 2017
If you are thinking about entering a complicated puzzle, I suggest giving the site some time to run with the repair in place before entering it, to be sure that the repair is holding up.
Many thanks to Doug Graiser from CodeGuard, for running our remote backups for the site. He was the first person to alert me to this problem, when he offered to restore the database from a backup. This time I don't think we will need that, but it is extremely reassuring to know that there is always a recent backup of the database available if we need it. Thanks Doug!!!
Our host says that they will be upgrading our database server tomorrow, starting at 2pm PDT. The database will periodically be off-line over the 2-3 hours following that. They don't expect any data loss, but I am thinking that that time window may not be a great time to be working on either solving or creating puzzles, since you may not be able to save your work.#109: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Oct 5, 2017
On Friday October 6th, at 11:00am Eastern U.S. time, webpbn.com will be moving to a new server. If all goes well nobody will notice the switchover, but, just in case, you might not want to be deep into creating or editing a puzzle at that time.#110: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Oct 6, 2017
The new server will cost me less and have more memory, so it should be better all around. (Both the old and the new server are hosted on DreamHost.)
We are now running on the new server. I haven't tested all of the features of the site, but so far it seems to be working fine. If you run into any problems, the best way to let me know is in the WebPBN group on Facebook:#111: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jul 18, 2018
Hi folks -- To keep you posted: Google is planning to start showing an error message for any website that doesn't use a "secure server". So tomorrow I am going to switch over the WebPBN site to use a secure connection. If all goes well, it should invisibly switch over to using "https" instead of "http" at the start of the links to the site. If you have bookmarked any links to the site with http in them, you may need to change them over to use https instead. (But don't change them yet -- https isn't set up yet.)#112: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jul 19, 2018
I'll post updates here and on Facebook.
Ok, we are up and running with a secure connection (so links now start with "https" instead of "http"). I found one minor bump as I was setting it up, but now it all seems to be running smoothly. If you run into any problems, as always, please let me know.#113: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Aug 1, 2018
And.... the 2,270 missing puzzles are back!#114: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Apr 18, 2019
The puzzles that were lost in the database crash have ID numbers 25206 to 28017.
We do have the authors' names, the puzzle titles, and the puzzles themselves.
The PDF files that these were resurrected from *don't* have the descriptions of the puzzles, nor any comments or ratings on the puzzles, so we don't have those back.
The flags for "uniqueness" and "solvability" for each puzzle are currently blank, but it should be possible to load those in or re-calculate them.
Authors should still own their own puzzles and be able to edit them. Exceptions are if the author's account no longer exists or if there was more than one person with the same name. If you have a puzzle that you can't edit, please contact me and I probably can manually re-connect the puzzle to you so that you can edit it.
Many many many many HUGE THANKS to Kuang-che Wu for writing the program that read the PDF files, extracted the data, solved the puzzles, and wrote them out as files that were able to be loaded in to the database. Kuang-che Wu, you are very much appreciated!!!!!!!!
To keep you posted:#115: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 22, 2019
"Immortal" users are people whose account is protected from deletion even if they haven't been on the site in a long time.
Jan had already immortalized a lot of regular users, but this afternoon I ran some commands to immortalize anybody who has played at least 10,000 puzzles or created at least 100 puzzles. I figure anybody who has spent that much time on the site should be able to come back someday and find that their account is still here.
Note that this was a one-time command that I ran, not something that happens automatically when people reach those thresholds.
To keep you posted: Our website host says that they will be upgrading the WebPBN database on June 5th, between 4:00pm and 7:00pm PST. They expect the process to take up to an hour, and the database may not be available during that time.#116: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 24, 2019
To keep you posted: One of the database tables got damaged and needed repairs, so since sometime yesterday the whole site was running very slowly and not saving things.#117: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jul 11, 2019
I ran a repair command on the damaged table and it seems to be working again now. I hope that lasts!
Someone e-mailed me and said that the "Print Puzzles" button in the menu in the left column had not worked in a long time.#118: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jul 12, 2019
When I looked into it, I found two problems.
1) There was code to generate the books of puzzles, but no automated way to run it. So I ran that program and generated lots of puzzle books.
2) This is kind of technical, but: The database was storing the list of puzzle books in a database table that had a column named "generated," and in the current version of the database software the word "generated" is a reserved word -- so you cannot use a column with that name. So I had to rename the column and update all of the code that used it. Except that it is hard to rename a column when its name is a reserved word. You can't use the usual "rename column" command, because you would need to use the reserved word in order to rename the column. So I had to dump out the table to a text file, edit the text file, read that back in as a new database table, and then rename the table. You wanted to hear that much detail, right?
Anyway, the quick summary is that the "Print Puzzles" button on the left is once again working.
Thank you to user Iara, who alerted me to the problem!
Someone noticed that the Print Puzzles pages were showing extra clues that should not be there. So I have taken them offline again, until this is fixed.#119: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jul 12, 2019
Thank you to Leah for noticing and pointing this out!
I found the bug and fixed it! Thanks to Jan for writing readable code, even though it's unlikely that he expected anybody to ever see it.#120: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Oct 30, 2019
So, I regenerated the puzzle books and put the Print Puzzles page back online again.
To keep you posted:#121: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Nov 5, 2019
I changed the link to this Facebook group from this:
The old link with all those digits will continue to work too.
Brian Bellis asked for a way to feature the puzzles that were lost during the database crash, so, following his suggestion, there is now a new section at the end of the main home page, with the title "Selected Restored Puzzles From The Database Crash." It currently shows the oldest 20 restored puzzles. Each day it should rotate out the oldest one and add in the next puzzle in order.#122: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Dec 1, 2019
(But this means that the oldest restored puzzle will only be shown in the new section for a day, so this might yet be revised to wait a few days before it starts rotating out old puzzles.)
There have been a lot of database errors in the past day. I'm not sure why, but it looked to me like the database server was running very slowly, and then that was causing additional problems when the WebPBN software would re-try to write an entry to the database and ended up trying to create the same entry twice. I contacted our host's technical support and they said that the database looks okay now, so hopefully that is fixed, but I am concerned that we don't know what was causing the problem.#123: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Dec 4, 2019
While I was looking at the error messages in the error log, I noticed that there was a bug that would cause a crash if you went to "Find Puzzles" and sorted the results by difficulty. This was caused by a simple typo in the code, so I fixed it. So sorting by difficulty now works.
There's a person with square-brackets in their name, who has been posting puzzles, and the code for sanitizing special characters was botching the square brackets. So I made some small changes to the special-character-sanitizer to make it work better. More work is still needed, but at least it's somewhat better than it was.#124: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jan 3, 2020
When I was looking at fixing something else (which is still un-fixed), I noticed several entries in the website's error log where certain searches for lists of puzzles would crash. I wasn't able to find what to search for to reproduce the error, but I did add some code that should avert the crash in the future. It still will need revisiting, though, because while it shouldn't crash now, it will still display the search results in the wrong order.#125: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jan 3, 2020
If you search for something and get the wrong sequence in the search results, please let me know what you did, so I can track this down and fix it.
I am looking for bugs that un-set the selections like "DEFINITELY logically solvable with line logic alone" after an administrator has selected it. Jan called this the "ruling" for the puzzle. There has been a longstanding bug where administrators' rulings were occasionally getting erased. So I am working on tracking down what is causing that.#126: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 27, 2020
When someone enters a ruling on a puzzle, the code was doing this:
1) If the user is not an administrator and an administrator has already set a definite ruling, then the ruling stays unchanged.
2) If the user is an administrator and they are setting a "DEFINITELY" ruling, then the ruling is updated to what the person has selected.
3) Otherwise, the ruling is calculated by looking at whatever all of the users have entered for that puzzle.
The problem here is that if an administrator selects an option that does *not* say "DEFINITELY," then the code will use case 3, which will erase any previous "DEFINITELY" ruling that any administrator had entered.
To address this, I've added code that says when an administrator makes a selection without a DEFINITELY, it doesn't change the ruling that is already set for the puzzle -- the previous "DEFINITELY" will still be set for the puzzle. This isn't a perfect solution, because sometimes an administrator might incorrectly set a "DEFINITELY" and want to un-set it (for example I've done that when I've stayed up way too late), and this change means that there is no way to go back from a "DEFINITELY" rating to make the puzzle non-definite again. So in the future I think we may want to add a menu option that gives an administrator a way to turn off a "DEFINITELY" that has already been set.
My impression is that this is not the only way that rulings were getting erased. But at least I've fixed this one way that it was happening.
If you spot any puzzles that now (as of January 3, 2020) have a DEFINITELY set and it gets un-set in the future, please let me know the puzzle number, so that I can take a look at it.
I turned off a bunch of caching on the site. This may help with the forum not showing new postings, and some other weird site behavior where it shows old versions of things.#127: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 28, 2020
Our host will be upgrading our server on Tuesday, June 9th, sometime between 8:00pm-10:00pm Pacific Time. The expected downtime is five minutes.#128: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Jun 9, 2020
This upgrade is comparable to the one in 2016 that caused the database to be deleted. We are in a better position now because (1) the entire site now is backed up daily, and (2) in 2016 the database was stored in an unusual location that was deleted, and today our database is in the standard location, which is not slated for deletion.
A lot will be changed in the upgrade, so the website may need some fixes, but hopefully nothing big.
Looks like we survived the upgrade. Whew!#129: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Sep 6, 2020
To keep you posted: Late last night, the server with WebPBN's database on it seems to have lost its Internet connection. Joe and Norma alerted me -- thanks! I contacted our host's tech support, who got it going again.
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