- Thursday 29th June
Had some minor disk faults with my 270MB SyQuest removable cartridge
(the crucial device used to transport lottery page changes to and from work),
so I decided to leave the pages alone for a few days, whilst I contemplate the
meaning of life, super blocks and fsck's.
- Wednesday 28th June
Fixed am/pm time bug in auto-generated footer once and for all - any pages
generated before noon had a suffix of "pm", ho hum. They don't now of course.
Tidied up the
other lottery information page, including
deleting one US site (page had gone) and adding a new California results page.
- Tuesday 27th June
Quick Pick page by allowing the
user to generate up to 16 random tickets in one go. If only one ticket is
generated, it returns a filled-in
Have You Won ? page, but if more than one
is generated, it returns a page in the same format as the
lottery perms and
multiple ticket checker pages return
their results. Removed number selection strategy comparison if more
than one ticket is checked using the "check all tickets against
latest lottery" link on those returned generated pages. Fixed a few
minor bugs with the generated multiple ticket checker comparison page
(pluralisation and failure to use the number selection strategy
comparison [a different context from the problem above]).
- Monday 26th June
Uploaded the results for
Separated the random number generator goodies into a new
Quick Pick page and allowed the number
and maximum value of generated random numbers to be manually chosen by the
user. Widened the gap between the 49 numbers in the
Find Out If You've Won ! form to make it more
obvious which checkbox is attached to which number.
Fixed minor bug with "pm" suffix on automatic footer's generation time
(12.xx pm was wrongly indicated as 12.xx am). Added a new
synopsis page so that casual readers
can pick up what the lottery's all about without having to wade through a
lot of text.
Added second countdown to the
auto-footer, indicating when the pages will be deleted from their original
location (a month after the move).
Set up three more cron jobs to generate announcements on the draw day
(Saturday): 12.00am to state it's the draw day,
7.30pm to indicate that ticket sales have closed and
8.14pm to show that the drawn has taken place. Some of the cron jobs should
run a little quicker because they now avoid generating ball GIFs
if it's either not Saturday or the Saturday results haven't come through
(although I can force the generation for the manual Monday morning results
upload of course).
Improved the daily GIF colour changer by
replacing all copies of the GIF with an actual file, rather than changing a
single master copy that was soft-linked to from other directories - this makes
sure Netscape picks up a date change in the document and displays the fresh GIF
(which it wasn't doing because the WWW server returned the date of the
soft-link and not the date of the GIF it was linked to). Slightly modified
some of the pages to reduce extraneous blank lines in lynx (that browser is
buggy, because two consecutive <P>'s or <BR>'s are treated as
two separate tags, rather than the more correct one tag). Removed
link to Ian Lathwell's pages because he's shut them down - one less UK
- Saturday 24th June
Hmmm...I think I was hacking around with the update scripts in a far too
cavalier fashion because the Saturday evening updates failed to set the
DISPLAY variable to allow the GIFs to be generated - I've fixed this now.
Ignoring the GIF generation problem, the teletext mail came back even slower
than the last time it worked - the 8.30pm update was missed by about a minute,
despite me sending a mail request two minutes earlier (8.08pm). I've moved
the first Saturday evening mail request to 8.07pm, which must surely
do the round trip before 8.30pm !!
- Wednesday 21st June
I now generate the
frequency barchart configuration file for
the gnuplot program automatically, so that peak frequency increases are dealt
without me having to manually edit the config file. Added code to countdown
the number of days in each automatically generated page until I
move these lottery pages to another server.
And, no, I'm not revealing the new URL until it's ready ! I'm planning for
a 10.00am 1st August 1995 server move, so there's now a cron job that runs
at 10.00am each day to adjust the countdown footer appropriately. I'm taking
Thursday and Friday off, so no more manual updates until next Monday...
- Tuesday 20th June
To stop people complaining, an automatic note is now displayed on the
home page and appropriate individual lottery page if the automatic weekend
results updating failed [usually not my fault !]. I've also
all the info on the automatic page update
system and put in one page, so people can understand that I'm not to blame
if the results don't get updated automatically on Saturday evenings !
I now change the colours of the lottery logo each day (7 GIFs, one per
day), just to vary the scenery a bit. Some of the colour schemes I've chosen
are pretty garish, so will be modified when I get the time. Added yet more
lottery links (including an Irish lottery page) to the
other lottery information page.
- Monday 19th June
Uploaded the results for
Improved the error reports from the speech CGI program - it now generates an
HTML page if there's a problem. Added Content-length: field to the header
returned by the speech CGI program. The usual "weblint" and "spell -b" checking
picked up a few minor errors on the pages, which have been fixed. Forgot to
link the estimated jackpot on the latest
individual lottery page to the speech CGI
program - this will happen correctly after the next draw. From the next draw
onwards, the updating cron jobs will use "lynx -dump" commands to keep an
HTML -> text record of the changed pages. More links added to the
other lottery information page.
- Sunday 18th June
The Sunday Express national newspaper ditched my interview in favour of
some (totally unproven) sensationalistic claim that kidnapping gangs could be
targeting lottery winners. They even reckoned that a scratchcard winner received
death threats - but who'd bother issuing a death threat to someone who's
only won (at most) £50,000 ? And you wonder why I don't normally buy
newspapers - this just confirms that the UK press are bunch of liars...
- Saturday 17th June
Ho hum - the Computing Services Department switched off their teletext
mail service until Monday 9.00am, so no auto-updates :-(
- Friday 16th June
The footer of each auto-generated page now has the generation time in 12-hour
clock format (plus the time zone, for those outside the UK reading it). Inserted
extra headings after the expiry boundary and at the end of various lists for
numerical analysis pages - this should mean that you
should be able to see the headings if your browser can see 30 lines of the
page, regardless of where the scrollbar is on the page. Finally updated the
ImageMagick binaries, after learning that the qualifiers had changed their
Tried a little experiment with a speech program I'd written quite a while ago.
I dug it out, added CGI code (including the ability to say multiple numbers
with a "," separator) and stuck it on the pages. It uses 24 sound samples of my
voice [originally sampled on an Apple Macintosh] and can
construct any floating point number between -1 billion and 1 billion.
I've put a couple of links on the home page and a link in each individual
lottery page for "fun", but I think the speech needs improving before I extend
it further. Of course, the temptation is to link every single large number
I can find, but that's overkill !
- Thursday 15th June
Tried to install the latest ImageMagick binaries, but the montage command is
seriously messed up (now puts a stupid thin border around each of the bitmaps
in the joined gif, even if +display is used !), so I rapidly restored the
previous ImageMagick release.
- Wednesday 14th June
The largest C source file was split into two in order to speed up optimisation - all
source files for the lottery binaries are now under 17K each. The two
frequency charts are now interlaced as well as being transparent - it produces
quite an unusual loading effect in Netscape. I was phoned up by a journalist
from The Sunday Express national newspaper - it seems they will be doing
a lottery feature next Sunday and may mention my pages.
- Tuesday 13th June
Changed "person" into "ticket" when referring to the jackpot winner(s) on the
home page - this is because this week's single winning ticket was actually
bought by two people (50p each ?), who shared the jackpot between them.
scratchcard FAQ to include Game 4
details, but I'm only tracking jackpot details with the scratchcard, because
of the laughable prize structure. Reinstated the Sunday evening update cron job
(20.08 mail, 21.00 page re-gen) because Camelot seem to take ages to get the
right (as opposed to some correct-sounding, but wildly wrong) results
out to the media. Added yet another Georgia lottery results page to the
other lottery info page. The Computing
Services Department have fixed their teletext mail server now, so it should
be all systems go next Saturday.
- Monday 12th June
Uploaded the results for
Lottery #30. Fixed a ridiculous bug
with the non-bonus number version of the
last time a number appeared page -
it stupidly included the bonus numbers...duh ! Removed Computa-Picka
PC program from other lottery information because the
latest version is now shareware, but then added a Psion 3 (!) program in its
- Saturday 10th June
I might have guessed - the week after I've speeded up the teletext updates,
the teletext mail service in the
Computing Services Department breaks down
and there's no auto-updates over the weekend :-( I got a mention in
The Independent UK national newspaper, but it used quotes from me
taken from an interview with a reporter from The Sun (who never printed
- Friday 9th June
Re-phrased the "exclude/include"
sentence on the frequencies pages because someone moaned about its semantics.
Adjusted mail-parsing shell script so it doesn't update the pages on Saturday
evening if there's no change in the results (i.e. the 7 ball values and the
jackpot pool amount on ITV teletext page 123 remains the same between runs).
In fact, this code had been in there for months, but I deleted the previous
provisional results file each time it was run, so the script kept thinking it
was getting results for the first time.
Also refined the script so that only
2 pages (the home page and the
next lottery page) and a
single GIF are
re-generated during the Saturday updates, bringing the update speed down to
under 4 seconds. Previously, I'd been re-generating all the pages and 2
GIFs, which was pointlessly inefficient. Similarly reduced the Thursday
expiry boundary update speed to below 4 seconds.
Added expiry boundary to the
prizes and total prizes pages.
Scratchcard Game 3, not that anyone cares, is actually called
"Winning Sevens" (not "Lucky Sevens") - I've changed the
scratchcard FAQ to reflect this. Also
note that the rules are different for that game too, but the prizes are such
a joke that I'll leave you to wade through the FAQ to find out what
the difference is.
Added Super Draw info to the
results data file, avoiding the need to hard-code Super Draw details in
the lottery binaries. It also permitted me to add automatic Super Draw comments
in the individual lottery pages. At some point, I want to indicate
which lotteries were Super Draws in the
list of winning numbers page.
FAQ for these pages now includes details
on where my pages have been mentioned, both on and off the Web.
- Thursday 8th June
That high quality newspaper, The Sun, phoned me up (it seems I've now
attained the status of "lottery expert", even though I'm not really) and
wanted advice on the likelihood of double or triple rollovers (16 to 1 and
64 to 1 approximately I reckon), plus the estimated jackpots for such
rollovers (£30m and £40m respectively probably). The journalist
was writing the article today, so it may appear in tomorrow or Saturday's
Added the free Computa-Picka PC Windows lottery program by Quintin
Willison to the list of
other lottery information. After spending some
time downloading, unpacking and running "Captain Bibble's Lottery Predictor"
for the Acorn Archimedes, I rejected putting a link to it because it's
shareware, though Joel Rowbottom's WWW page for the software doesn't
actually state that, which is a bit naughty.
- Wednesday 7th June
Fixed an old bug with the
number of winners page -
I hadn't been highlighting all the non-millionaire weeks [I'd mistakenly
excluded rollovers] in bold. Also added links to the individual lottery
pages from those type of pages, plus I managed to further remove whitespace
from a couple of them as well. I blew off BBC Radio Merseyside and cancelled
the proposed interview - I'm still suffering from the scars of yesterday's
Changed background colour of ball gifs to
be "grey78", which is the closest named X colour I can find to mosaic and
netscape's grey background (yes, incredibly, despite there being about 100
named greys, neither browser uses them for the background !). It's a little
irrelevant because the ball gifs are transparent, but it means I can tile
them in my background when I login :-) In fact, I now have the tiled set
of this week's 7 winning numbers as my login background - what a saddo, eh ?
If you have a UNIX system, the
ImageMagick utilities and a copy of one of the 7-ball GIFs, then this is the
command that will nicely tile the background for you on a 1280x1024 screen:
display -window root -colors 8 -bordercolor grey78 -border 96x8 Balls.gif
- Tuesday 6th June
Moved lottery page link out of lottery check table (and put it next to the
winning balls) in the generated page from the
multiple ticket checker - the same link was
displayed up to 16 times ! Also added the latest lottery date to the multiple
ticket checker form.
Bought a second ticket because of the rollover.
Despite its dubious relevance, I've now included extra versions of some of the
Numerical Analysis pages to include bonus numbers
in their calculations. Although it sounds easy enough to do, there was some
quite painful code rewriting involved, believe you me. I've only really done
it because the
lottery TV show includes bonus numbers
in its frequency announcements. Put the date of the next draw on the home
page. Had to fix one of the new bonus-included pages [forgot to actually put
the extra bonus code in !].
I was fuming on the way home after having picked up today's
Liverpool Daily Post and discovered they'd used an even bigger
version - in colour this time - of the hideous photo taken by its sister paper
the Liverpool Echo back on
BBC Radio Merseyside phoned after seeing the Post feature and were really keen
to do an interview with me tomorrow, but I think I'm getting a bit tired of all
this media hype: what's wrong with stating the URL, having a few screen shots
(or descriptions of screen shots if it's on the radio) and leaving it at that ?
Before you ask, I was getting cheesed off before I saw the Post
article or heard from BBC Radio ! The first thing I snapped at the poor
radio person on the phone was "I don't listen to the radio, so there's not much
point really" :-)
It's interesting to see how the "media landslide" happens - you
get a chain of media chasing after the "story" (if there really is one - it's
just a set of Web pages after all) - each reporter having seen an article
or interview by the previous one ! It's hard not to get cynical and weary
about the whole thing - I just want to maintain these pages and occasionally
criticise people for doing things wrong [it's in my nature, as you've probably
guessed by now]. If there's one thing that these Web pages have taught me,
it's that no-one seems to take pride in doing a comprehensive reporting job
nowadays and that's the raison d'etre for these pages of course:
mainly to show up how crap the UK media have been at reporting lottery
- Monday 5th June
Uploaded the results for
Added a new
What I've Spent So Far page so that people can
find out how I'm personally progressing (aka failing) in my attempts to become
a multi-millionaire. Scrunched up the
Background Information index page because it was about a
page and a half of links. Added a date column to the
last appeared in a draw page.
Added ball set, machine info and draw order to all the individual lottery pages.
Shifted first mail request on Saturday evening to 20.08 to hopefully get a faster
update of the pages. Added yet more links to the
other lottery information page.
A bloke from the Liverpool Daily Post newspaper rang me up after
spotting yesterday's article. It looks like they are going to do a feature
on the lottery and will mention my pages - they wanted to take a photo of me,
but after the last fiasco of a picture in the Liverpool Echo, I refused
point blank. I somewhat "guessed" the unwon jackpot prize this week because
Camelot's phone line didn't even have the details until Monday afternoon
[it seems that an unwon jackpot really confuses them w.r.t. the total prize
pool and the size of that unwon jackpot]. However, this formula revealed the
(int)((64,826,761.00*0.45-931,366*10.00)*0.52) = 10,326,358
Camelot didn't release the unwon jackpot figure of £10,326,358 until
Monday lunchtime, but I had it on my pages at 9.40am on Monday - meaning I'd
actually beaten the organisers by some 3 hours...
- Sunday 4th June
Had my name and these pages mentioned in a lottery article on page 21 of the
Sunday Telegraph (I bought the paper, even though I normally don't buy any
papers). Interesting to see that they say I'm a Doctor, but I haven't got a PhD
and I've never said anywhere (on these pages or to the journalist who rang me on
Thursday or anyone else in the world for that matter) that I have one...
- Saturday 3rd June
Yet again, the TV show voiceover didn't specify that some of the figures he was quoted
for the past frequency of balls actually included bonus number balls as well, which I
think is a bit of a con, since they are largely irrelevant. He said 31 had now appeared
8 times (7 times normally + once as a bonus number). Also, for the number 29, I didn't
think much of the analysis: "performed well in the past too" - especially silly since
it was drawn after number 1, which had only appeared twice before. The bloke seemed to give
up with the sixth main ball and the bonus ball - no stats at all for either of them were given !
Personally, I think that the TV commentary of the draw is far too rushed - why not put up the
stats as captions, so we can read them if we want and we don't get this garbled, frantic
attempt to give out stats before the next ball comes out ? Instead, we could go back to a
measured announcement of just the ball numbers and leave the screen to do the talking !
The page auto-updates went reasonably, although perhaps a little too close
for comfort (e-mail arrived at 20.28, with only 2 minutes to spare before the
next mailbox parsing).
Shortly after the draw, ITV teletext typed in the wrong estimated jackpot
7 times in its various pages for Lottery #30.
Their claim that it would be £12m was ludicrously low, because £10.3m has
already rolled over into it ! A phone call to Camelot confirmed that the correct
estimate was £20m.
- Friday 2nd June
instant scratchcard FAQ for Game 2 and 3 details,
but I don't know whether to laugh or cry at how badly Camelot have structured the prizes.
I don't know what they're thinking of with the crummy Winning 7's (Game 3) scratchcards,
but this spiralling downward trend of the jackpot prize size is simply unbelievable !
I just really don't give a monkeys about the scratchcards as they stand (I mean, £7,777 would
keep Cedric Brown [Chairman of British Gas] paid for only about 5 days !). Newsflash
expiry kicked in correctly and deleted the 2 oldest newsflashes.
Added yet more navigation links at the bottom of almost all of the pages. Added a new
TV FAQ page and updated the
lottery FAQ page while I was at it.
Further slight adjustment of the expiry boundary code - remember that a
lottery expires each Thursday at 23.00 from now on (25 weeks and 5 days
after its draw) and the pages are regenerated at that time to adjust the
boundary appropriately. Added "umask 022" statements to various scripts to
make sure any files created by them are world readable (I do a recursive
permission change at the end of the scripts, but that could be 10-15
I've been nearly a week behind on my TV viewing (it's all on tape), so I got finally around
to analysing the new "statistical" information that the voice-over bloke was giving out as
each ball came out during last Saturday's National Lottery Live TV show. The number
37 was interesting - the bloke stated that it was a previous bonus number (correct, but pretty
irrelevant) last December. Bzzzt ! It was actually a bonus number for
Lottery #2 which took place on 26th November.
Also, when the number 13 came out, he said it had been drawn 3 times before. This is true,
but one of those three times was as a bonus number, which should have been stated as well.
This is because bonus numbers are generally irrelevant in the lottery, as they only apply to
a few hundred (out of the 60 million or so) tickets at most. The ironic twist is that no
stats at all on the draw's bonus ball (number 9) were given out, which confirms that it's
- Thursday 1st June
Discovered that these pages now account for 50% of the hits to our
Departmental Web server.
E-mailed the folks at
Internet magazine to point out that,
like a lot of other people, the URL they've been quoting for these pages
(see page 60 of the June 1995 issue) isn't quite right. Added more links to the
Other Lottery Information page.
I'd been experimenting with backgrounding GIF generation whilst foregrounding
HTML generation. It sounded good in theory, but the permissions weren't set
properly on the generated GIFs because I did a foreground permission change
that finished before the GIFs had been created ! I've now abandoned that line
of experimentation - my home HP UNIX workstation didn't have the oomph to do
it anyway (the GIF generation really slowed down).