What's New On These Pages: April 2002
Next month: May 2002
- Saturday 27th April
The lottery chat room was quiet until after the Thunderball draw
took place - both that and the two later draws all went fine.
Camelot took almost an hour to release the full results and were
just pipped by BBC teletext by a few minutes.
- Wednesday 24th April
Maybe there were loads of people watching Manchester United wring out a
poor 2-2 result against Bayer Leverkusen (on the "other side" to the lottery
show), because the chat room was relatively quiet tonight. No problems with the
chat room TV show commentary and draw, plus we had the rare bonus of Camelot
actually beating BBC teletext to the full results for a change. Camelot were,
however, fairly vague about the total prize pool for the Extra draw (they said
it was exactly £8m, which is obviously an estimate and doesn't match
the prize pool calculation either).
This was the first time I'd done offline updates entirely using my new home PC
(running Red Hat Linux 7.2). There's still some issues left to "port" over from
the HP UNIX platform, namely:
- No such font on Linux as "vr-40" (I was using that on HP-UX for the
large font for the number on each large ball). I'll either have to try to
copy the font from HP-UX and use that or find the closest match in Linux.
- I haven't downloaded all the GIFs from the current Web site yet (OK, this
one's easy to do, I must admit).
- I haven't fully ported the "bhs" command from HP-UX to Linux yet (nearly
there - just got to fix some strange file-writing behaviour that didn't
crop up on the HP-UX version).
- ImageMagick won't make the 7-ball main lottery GIFs transparent (or,
indeed, the Extra and Thunderball mini-balls transparent either). It's possible
I might need to tweak some parameters on the Linux ImageMagick release.
One huge plus though is the lightning fast speed the PC compiles and
runs the code compared to the best HP-UX workstation we currently have.
I must still, however, retain HP-UX compatibility because our test and
live Web servers at work hosting the lottery site both still run HP-UX.
Oh, I also installed Apache 2.0.35 on my home Linux box and have it
firing up every time I boot, so that I can make sure the CGI code and
generated pages are OK whilst offline.
- Saturday 20th April
It was surprisingly quiet this evening (especially compared to
last Wednesday) and the lottery TV show commentary and draw went OK
(albeit there was a brief slowdown as reams of St. Helens rugby fans posted
their grievances on a site we also host on this box). Camelot were
their usual slow selves (just over an hour before they got the full
results - about 10 minutes behind BBC teletext).
- Wednesday 17th April
Well, what a disastrous evening this was ! First of all, we had an
intranet network problem at work that wasn't fixed this evening. This meant
I had to use a tortuous route to get onto our intranet via my home connection
and this slowed down my ability to generate pages quite dramatically.
Next, loads of people (15, maybe ?) came into the lottery chat room
for the draw - although I could do the live commentary and draw in the room
(and also update the home page live via the Live Updates system), it took me
almost 10 minutes longer than normal to put up the initial statistics because
of the work intranet problem.
To cap it all off, Camelot had some sort of computer system problem at their
end and staggeringly couldn't issue any full results until - wait for this -
1 hour and 50 minutes after the draw and less than 5 minutes before
their phone line closed at 11.00pm ! Of course, as luck would have it,
BBC teletext managed to display the full results just before the woman on
the Camelot phone line started to read them out to me :-) I hope this sort
of evening doesn't happen too often in the future...
- Saturday 13th April
It was surprisingly quiet in the chat room tonight - only one person
was in for the TV show commentary prior to the Thunderball and the
main "burst" of people actually occurred a full 30 minutes after the
show had finished !
Camelot were appallingly slow to release the full results tonight -
between 25 and 35 minutes later than BBC teletext and a staggering 90
minutes after the draw for the Extra and Thunderball full results.
- Thursday 11th April
For the record, I took today off work and queued up outside Aldi
(a cheap supermarket) for a new Medion PC - it was only £700 quid
and has quite a high spec. Needless to say, it didn't take long for it
to be dual booting between Windows XP and Red Hat Linux :-)
I will be looking to replace my aging HP UNIX workstation with this new
box - offline updates/code development for the lottery site will now
be done in Linux (I did the port to Linux earlier this year for
those paying attention).
- Wednesday 10th April
People turned up early in the chat room tonight, possibly confused by
the new start time of the Wednesday lottery show (9.00pm instead of
8.45pm or 8.50pm). The live TV commentary and draw went fine in the
lottery chat room, although Camelot were beaten to the full results
by 5 minutes thanks to BBC teletext.
Tonight marked the first time that I
generated the Best Performing Tickets (BPT) page only on a Linux box (P4 1.6Ghz
Dell machine running Red Hat 7.2 for the curious). For the record, it
took 9 minutes and 34 seconds, instead of the usual 50 minutes on the
quickest HP-UX workstation we have at work. I also re-generated the
Thunderball BPT page and that took 31 seconds (instead of about 2.5 minutes).
In other words, I can now generate BPT pages 5 times faster than before.
- Sunday 7th April
Finally managed to separate out the C macros (and "ANSIfy" them) from the bhs
macros in my include files for generated-by-C pages vs. generated-by-bhs pages.
It doesn't sound like much, but it means that I can now - for the first time
in 5 years - compile my lottery code using an ANSI C compiler (rather than
a K&R C compiler).
By extension, this also allows me to compile the page-generating code on Linux
as well as HP-UX, so the Best Performing Tickets page in particular looks like
it will be generated 5 times quicker than before on draw night (using a
P4 Dell Linux box I have access to).
- Saturday 6th April
No problems with the live TV show commentary and three draws
in the chat room tonight. Surprisingly, BBC teletext were
quite slow tonight and Camelot easily beat them by some 10
- Wednesday 3rd April
Unfortunately, the second half of Liverpool FC's
soccer game vs. Bayer Leverkusen (which LFC won 1-0 and
I was doing the official LFC site's live text commentary on)
clashed with the lottery show, so I just did a live Web
update only and didn't come into the lottery
room during the draw itself.
By the time I checked BBC teletext after full time, the
full results were up (about 30-35 minutes after the draw),
but they didn't tally with the figures Camelot gave me
10 minutes later (the 3-match figure from BBC teletext was
40,000 more than it should have been - a simple typo on
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