Web Paint-by-Number Forum
Topic #2: News
By Jan Wolter (jan)

#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:

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.

#3: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 12, 2004
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.

There have been significant internal restructurings of the code as well, to make it easier to support the multiple versions of the Javascript program that are used for different browers.

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.

#5: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 28, 2004
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.

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.

#6: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 28, 2004
Oh, a couple more things:

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.

#7: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 1, 2004
Another update to the forum code.

#8: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 9, 2004
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.

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.
#10: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 30, 2004
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.

There have also been a few other small changes and bug fixes, but only really minor stuff.
#11: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 7, 2005
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.

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.
#13: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 19, 2005
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.

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.
#14: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 20, 2005
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.

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.
#15: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 5, 2005
A few small fixes:

- 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
#16: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 6, 2005
A few more small changes and fixes.

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.
#17: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 5, 2005
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!

So I put in some Javascript to reframe the front page if it is accessed out of page. Did the same on a few other pages, but not all. I sometimes like solving large puzzles without the frame.

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.
#18: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 24, 2005
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.

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.
#20: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 28, 2005
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:
The old URL will continue to work too.
#22: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 11, 2006
Firefox 1.5 has been released. All the problems that previous versions of firefox exhibited on this site vanish
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.
#23: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 12, 2006
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
This site has two similar Javascript tools, one for creating new puzzles, and one for playing existing puzzle. They are similar in a lot of ways, but over the years the code for the two had diverged. I've now updated the creation tool to use the same board-drawing and mouse-handling code as the play tool.

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.
#25: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 19, 2006
More updates to the browser info page.

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.
#26: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 30, 2006
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).

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.
#27: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 24, 2006
Several small changes today.

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.

Fiddled with the puzzle drawing a bit. In Firefox (but not IE) you tend to have to look at a blank screen for a long time while the puzzle loads. I tried breaking up the puzzle load into smaller steps so it would be less boring. So typically it will display the top and side clues first, and then fill in the rest of the puzzle. Doesn't really work all the time though. Javascript doesn't really want me to do this.

Also fixed the IE bugs in the puzzle creation tool.
#28: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 23, 2006
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.

There are a lot of other changes in the pipes. Among what's planned:

#31: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 9, 2006
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.

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.
#32: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 7, 2006
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.

Not exactly exciting, but bigger upgrades are on the way.
#33: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 9, 2006
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: There are probably other things that I forgot. And I'm sure I introduced some more bugs.
#36: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 27, 2006
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.

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.
#37: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 19, 2006
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.

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.
#38: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 21, 2006
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.

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.
#40: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 20, 2006
I modified the "Find Puzzles" page so you can now search based on the one/multiple solutions and no/some/much guessing settings.

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.
#41: Jan Wolter (jan) on Feb 7, 2007
I've added an experimental feature, not really documented much of anywhere yet. The "h" and "v" keys now do horizontal and vertical fills.

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.
#42: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 23, 2007
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.

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.

There's also been a subtle change in how the helper works. It used to be that all the extra data structures and Javascript code used by the helper had to be loaded at the same time that the puzzle was loaded. Since it's fairly big, this slowed down puzzle load times. But now I've found a way to load it only when it is needed. So when you first click the "helper" button, you'll briefly see a "loading helper" message, and then it will start "solving".

This technique of loading additional Javascript programs into a page on demand opens up the opportunity to do much more fancy Javascript on the page without dragging down the load times for the page, so, in the long run, it might lead to a lot of added functionality for this site.
#43: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 26, 2007
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.

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.
#44: Jan Wolter (jan) on Mar 27, 2007
Another update, but a bit more significant this time.

Major changes:

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.
#45: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 11, 2007
Another update to the website today.

The obvious change is that the menus look a little better.

Mostly though this has just been a cleanup job. A lot of the HTML to render the pages has been cleaned up so that it conforms to modern standards. The Javascript code has also been cleaned up, mostly by throwing away big hunks of code designed to support browsers that nobody in their right mind uses these days (like IE version 4).
#46: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 31, 2007
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.

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.
#47: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 31, 2007
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.

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.
#50: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 2, 2007
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.

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.
#51: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 10, 2007
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.

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.
#52: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 5, 2007
We now have 1000 published puzzles on the site.

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).
#53: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 7, 2007
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".

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.
#56: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 11, 2007
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.

If you click on the black square next to the input box, then you can change the color of your text.
#58: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 25, 2007
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.

Menu options are:

I spent an amazing amount of time getting these menus to work right on various different browsers. I hope I succeeded.

#59: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 4, 2007
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.

Seven puzzles have lost their titles and descriptions:

I'd appreciate if the authors of these puzzles could fix the titles and descriptions.

Five unpublished puzzles have been completely lost.

Sorry about that.

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.

#60: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 4, 2007
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.

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).
#65: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 19, 2007
Various small changes to the forums:
#66: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 25, 2007
When solving puzzles, you can now gray out multiple numbers by moving the mouse over them with the button held down.

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.
#67: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 26, 2007
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".

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.
#68: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 20, 2007
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.

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.
#73: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 13, 2008
OK, we have, once again, moved webpbn.com to a new server.

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.
#74: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 28, 2008
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.

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.
#75: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jan 31, 2008
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
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.

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.
#79: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jun 19, 2008
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.

You can still read the "archived" topics by selected "Archived Topics" from the list on the Forums page.
#80: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 22, 2008
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.

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.
#82: Jan Wolter (jan) on Dec 8, 2008
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:

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.
#87: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 29, 2009
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.

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.
#88: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 16, 2009
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.

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.

#92: Jan Wolter (jan) on Jul 30, 2009
Added two more buttons to the create puzzle environment:



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.

#93: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 21, 2009
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.

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.
#94: Jan Wolter (jan) on Apr 2, 2010
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.

Anyway, if you notice new glitches, let me know.
#95: Jan Wolter (jan) on Nov 28, 2010
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.

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.
#97: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 6, 2012
Another update. This makes two changes:

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.

#98: Jan Wolter (jan) on Aug 15, 2012
Another little update to the software:

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).

#99: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 8, 2013
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.

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.
#101: Jan Wolter (jan) on May 31, 2013
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.

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.

#102: Jan Wolter (jan) on Sep 27, 2013
Made a small update to the puzzle solving screen.
#103: Jan Wolter (jan) on Oct 4, 2013
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
On May 18, 2016, this website's database was deleted when our host upgraded our operating system.
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 :) )
#106: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Sep 27, 2016
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.

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
#107: Valerie Mates (valerie) on Dec 16, 2016
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.

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!!!

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