- Thursday 29th February
I've adjusted the colours yet again in the
lottery links section - this time the links are white and
grey and the background is now as low as I can set red before it becomes
black really [strangely, PC browsers display pure red backgrounds much
lighter than UNIX ones !]. As an experiment, I've added a Saturday 8.00pm
teletext mail request to see what happens when there's two mail requests
a minute apart (there's already an 8.01pm mail request).
These lottery pages have been exclusive to the Connect server for a full 6
months now, so I've decided that it's time to delete the old "these pages have
moved" message page that was on our Departmental
WWW server (where these pages
had resided until 31st August 1995). This should hopefully force any
auto-checked links to that old location to be flagged as incorrect and be
fixed. I've also been chasing up on some of the more important sites
(i.e. not people's personal home pages !) that are still quoting the old URL
and e-mailing their maintainers to ask for an update.
- Wednesday 28th February
I've publicly released full lottery page
access stats for the
first time, which have completely replaced the somewhat
uninformative and often out-of-date "external sites" stats line at the top of
these What's New pages (which I've now removed). These new stats will be
re-generated automatically each evening, rather than by me having to manually
run a stats script to include a new figure on these pages.
BTW, the lottery pages are not
the most popular pages on Connect, you'll be surprised to learn !
They are #2 though, trailing well behind the
Liverpool FC Mighty Reds pages.
Well, there's a lot of international
Liverpool soccer fans and you can't play the UK lottery outside this country,
so that's my excuse :-) I changed the individual lottery page background colour
yet again, but this time using Mosaic PC 2.0 as the benchmark - it's now a sort
of aquamarine colour, which doesn't dither badly and looks reasonably OK.
- Tuesday 27th February
I've changed the individual lottery page background to be toilet roll blue as
an experiment - the previous purple colour was dithering too much, making
the text fairly unreadable. One of these days, I might actually get the right
colour combinations that are legible on all browsers.
No wonder the majority of WWW sites have white or black backgrounds - these are
the only ones that browsers don't screw up !
- Monday 26th February
Uploaded the results for
Updated the details about
automatic page generation to include the lowdown on
the bhs process, plus a few other bits'n'pieces I forgot about (e.g. the
lottery links page generation). Removed "David and Debbie's
Pages" from the Saturday evening WWW results scan because the info returned
from that site via "lynx -dump" is not parseable. It's exclusively in table
format, so the results aren't on a single line, which my code requires in order
to parse the information correctly. I've replaced it with a scan of the
history report page of
Mark Butler's Atari ST Lottery Companion pages, which meant a slight adjustment
to my code to look for the draw number in the results line.
Just in case there's any dispute over the use of the term Lucky Dip,
I thought I'd start using it on these pages from today onwards before
Camelot put the Lucky Dip button on their lottery terminals next month.
This means the old Quick Pick page no longer exists and has been
replaced by a new Lucky Dip page, which
does exactly the same thing of course. I've made fractional brightness
adjustments to some of the pastel backgrounds to hopefully avoid dithering.
It looks like the pages updated incorrectly between 6.01pm and 11.01pm (two
separate virtual lottery page auto-updates) today, actually deleting almost
everything under the lottery tree (except the virtual lottery entry log stuff,
which I've now moved away from the WWW tree so you can no longer see them !).
Diagnosis indicates that I was probably to blame - I was thrashing the Connect
server trying to gather lottery stats [which I've now had to abandon doing
so - the WWW log file for February was 125MB long !] and I think it hit the
update software, which got stroppy and trashed everything. I've adjusted the
dir/file deletion limits downwards in the update software so that they are
below the current lottery tree size, which should avoid future problems.
- Saturday 24th February
First update came in at 8.32pm (with a pre-draw jackpot pool estimate),
followed by a jackpot pool estimate at 9.14pm
and an exact jackpot pool figure at 10.43pm. In fact, the exact figure would
have appeared at 9.14pm if ITV teletext had remembered to update the 4th
sub-page of page 123 (they'd done the first 3 !) by then.
All three updates were quicker than a certain other
site I could mention that claims to
be the "fastest and hottest UK lottery site on the Internet" :-) Checking the
WWW page grabs, it appears my pages were the first on the Internet to update
with the UK lottery results. Not bad for a set of pages that are automatically
updated - just wait until I get a home Internet connection...
- Friday 23rd February
My subscription certificate for 2 tickets per draw
for 52 draws arrived today. It was interesting to note that, apart from the
numbers and dates of course, this second certificate was absolutely identical
to the first one I got a year ago. This included an absolute date range
(25th March 1996 to 16th March 1997 inclusive), which implies that Camelot
aren't planning 2 draws per week during that period, despite what the press
and even Camelot's phone line have been saying. If they do introduce
2 draws a week, one assumes that the subscription would cover 52 draws (i.e.
26 weeks) rather than the just one draw a week for 52 weeks. If the latter
was true, then how would I subscribe for the mid-week draw ??
- Thursday 22nd February
home page colour again to use yellow toilet roll colour on the
suggestion of a user (who was the first one to give me RGB values to try
out...). This no longer dithers on PC Mosaic 2.0 - yippee !
- Wednesday 21st February
I've revamped the colours on most sections to use pastel backgrounds
(Andrex toilet roll !) with black text and blue/dark blue links.
This tends to combat the dithering
effects of certain PC and Mac browsers, although PC Mosaic 2.0
continues to look fairly wretched with most non-black/white backgrounds except
the pastel green virtual lottery one.
I've had a few complaints that the black background of the
numerical analysis section causes the pages to print out
incorrectly, but I've not been able to reproduce this. I suspect it's a PC
Netscape 1.X bug when sending black-backgrounded pages to the Windows
printer driver, but we only use Netscape 2.0 on PCs here now, which prints
such pages perfectly to a LaserJet 4.
- Tuesday 20th February
I've analysed what happened on Saturday with the screwed-up
it reads like a catalogue of mishaps ! Firstly, the 8.00pm ITV teletext mail
returned too quickly (8.02pm snapshot, processed at 8.03pm) and had only ??'s
in the mail. Next, the 8.25pm BBC 2 teletext mail request returned
quickly (8.32pm) and had a line for this week's numbers ("17 Feb:"), but
actually had no text on the rest of the line ! Because these numbers take
priority over all other results, an attempt to scan in the numbers (blank
spaces !) was made and back came ridiculous values.
Worse was to come as the 9.00pm ITV teletext request came back at 9.05pm with
the winning numbers, but these were ignored in favour of the faulty BBC 2
line. Next came the 10.00pm BBC 2 request (came back at 10.06pm), but that
still had a blank line after this week's date (this was incredibly
poor of BBC 2 teletext, but I should have ignored this faulty line), meaning
that all bets were still off.
BBC 2 teletext finally fixed their blank results line (probably during Sunday),
damage had been done on the Saturday evening (because I don't re-request BBC 2
teletext pages on Sunday). To circumvent this ever happening again, I've
taken these extra measures:
- Moved the first ITV teletext mail request back a minute to 8.01pm, where
it will permanently stay.
- ITV teletext winning numbers now take priority over BBC 2 teletext's
equivalent (ITV update them more quickly than BBC 2 - I only "trusted" the
latter because ITV had been mucking around with their teletext page format).
- Ignore BBC 2 teletext lines that only have the date and no numbers in
- Extra BBC 2 teletext requests at Saturday 11.30pm plus 9.30am and 11.00am
on Sunday morning, just in case they are late entering the numbers.
- Extra ITV teletext request at noon on Sunday just to be on the safe
side (e.g. a slow announcement about double rollover jackpot amounts).
After looking at the times when teletext info is updated, I've moved the
second ITV teletext mail request back a minute to 9.01pm, moved the second
BBC 2 teletext request forward to 9.25pm and set the "failure message" time to
be 10.00pm now that we know that BBC 2 teletext are fairly dozy. Fixed
provisional information credit code so that if the winning numbers and
jackpot amount both came from the same teletext source (ITV in other words),
then the credit is collapsed to a single reference (this was done for
WWW sites, but not for teletext).
The final step was test all these changes by simulating Saturday's incoming
e-mail (I took a copy of the final Saturday mailbox, reset it, added a mail
message, ran the new parsing code and then repeated the process until all the
e-mail was exhausted). The new code ignored the BBC 2 teletext blank line
nonsense and switched to correct ITV teletext winning numbers for the 9.05pm
update and the jackpot update at around 10.35pm. Studying the dates of the
grabbed WWW pages, two concurred at 8.55pm (Might BU and Yearling), so they
probably would have been used until 9.05pm.
Fixed a long-standing bug with the signing of the balances returned from
a Have You Won query. I was initialising a static
char for the sign of the balance, which was kept across function calls
of course, leading to incorrect balance signing (e.g. "-0") under certain
rare conditions. Darkened the red background even further in the
lottery links section, which makes the green links more
readable (on UNIX Netscape 2.0 anyway).
Discovered that Mosaic 2.7b2 for X
ignores (hard space), which I'm pretty sure is a bug (Netscape 1.X,
Netscape 2.0 and UNIX arena are all happy with it). Changed the top level
pages' background from skin colour to sky blue, which looks a little better
on PC browsers that dither backgrounds.
- Monday 19th February
Uploaded the results for
Lottery #66. Included a new
trivia analysis page (for InterLotto too) to
mop up previous occasional requests for such info. This also meant I could
remove the ball sum info from various other pages. Removed redundant trailing
".00"'s from the InterLotto version of the
best performing tickets
page - these were appended to combination counts, whereas they should only
be shown on monetary amounts of course.
There was a problem with the
virtual lottery data file - a couple of submissions had
an embedded carriage return at the end of the e-mail address that was
submitted, causing utter chaos with the results scanning software. I've fixed
the virtual lottery CGI form code so that a trailing CR is stripped from any
submitted e-mail address. More serious than this was the mess the balls were
in when I came
in this morning: 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, ?, 0. Now that's useful :-( It turned
out to be a combination of BBC 2 teletext not updating their results correctly
and me not anticipating that they'd type in half a line (just the date) and
no results !
Fixed multi-comment problem in the index page to the
lottery links section - it was putting comments in that
file and not the sub-index pages ! Also removed the extra
<P ALIGN=center> that was present just after the <H1> on all
automatically generated pages - it should only be present on a few of these
pages (it was centreing text straight after the H1 header, when it shouldn't
have been). Netscape 1.X (and many other browsers) doesn't have
<DIV ALIGN=center> but does have <CENTER> (ho hum,
US spelling !), so I've added
the latter around tables and appropriate form input boxes, but I've also
kept the DIV tag in for those truly HTML 3.0 compliant browsers (i.e. Arena).
- Sunday 18th February
I kept an eagle-eye on ITV teletext page 123 this morning and it appears that
they now wait until somewhere between 10.00am and 10.30am to put the exact
jackpot at the top of each sub-page. To compensate for this tardiness, I've
added a Sunday 10.30am teletext mail request. Ran all the C software through
lint and gcc, plus I weblinted and spell-checked all the lottery WWW pages.
- Friday 16th February
Yet more slight colour adjustments (just in brightness, nothing major) -
will this task ever end ?
- Thursday 15th February
Changed the brown background on the
numerical analysis pages to black (that and white seem
to be about the only background colours that aren't dithered on
PC browsers). More trouble with our SuperJANET connections meant a loss
of net access for about 2 hours this afternoon.
- Wednesday 14th February
I've made further (and hopefully final) fixes to the
lottery links navigation. The problem was caused by using
cpp macros directly in the lottery links source code, instead of calling my
common C code for headers and footers generation.
I've toned down the individual lottery page colours, leaving only dithering
adjustments to make.
The home page looks bad with PC Mosaic 2.0 and PC Netscape 1.22, but
that's really the fault of browser dithering bugs, which
I guess I'll have to work around before I can move onto other things.
Basically, if you're using a PC, stick
with Netscape 2.0 or Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 [why does IE claim that
links are "shortcuts" ? Dumb or what ?]. Anything else just
doesn't cut the mustard w.r.t. current WWW browsing and if you disagree, then
you've obviously not surfed the Web recently.
- Tuesday 13th February
Added, er, "cute" navigation at the bottom of sub-pages - just a simple chain
of mini lottery balls spelling out the link. It adds an extra graphic
connection to the pages, but all navigation graphics are under 2K, so it's
not too much of a strain. It also gave me a chance to correct some of the
navigation - the page header now determines what the navigation
is in most circumstances. It meant I've fixed the
Lottery Links search return page navigation - it was going
back to the main lottery home page, but now it points to the lottery links
home page. A similar problem, now also resolved, was afflicting the entire
Numerical Analysis section's navigation. I also fixed
the index page navigation of the
virtual lottery, which I'd pointed to itself !
There's still a few colour schemes left to sort out, particularly w.r.t.
allowing monochrome users to be able to read the pages (some colours end up
as black or white on mono screens when you'd expect them to be the opposite).
I tweaked a few link colours to hopefully fix this, but the two main concerns
left now are 1) do any browsers horribly dither the backgrounds ? and 2)
the individual lottery pages still have a lurid colour combination [cyan on
purple with green links] that needs sorting out. Other than that, I'm
reasonably happy with what I've done so far.
My lottery subscription renewal
form came through the post today and I was disappointed
to see that you can still only subscribe to a maximum of 2 tickets per week
on a form (nothing stopping you getting multiple forms of course). They're
still also only allowing you to subscribe for 26 or 52 weeks, which is
silly (you should be allowed to subscribe to any number of weeks [with, say,
a minimum of 13 weeks]).
One interesting point is that they have a box to tick on the form that says
"If you would like us to send you information about The National Lottery
and further National Lottery games, please tick this box...". Needless to
say, I ticked it and will hopefully get lots of lottery info through the
post. Anyway, I've sent my cheque off for £104 to cover two tickets a
week for a year (adding one to each of the first ticket's numbers for the
second ticket), now that the estimated jackpot is typically £10m a week.
I thought it was a bug in UNIX Netscape 2.0b6a, but it appears to be in
UNIX Netscape 2.0 as well: sometimes transparency of the home page lottery
balls is lost now that a coloured background is used. The browser sometimes
removes transparency but doesn't use the transparent colour as you might
expect - instead, some random colour fills the gif background. A Reload
fixes this, but it is distracting. Made sure that the virtual lottery entries
are available for counting at 7.30pm on Saturday (I didn't update them after
6.30pm, as an eagle-eyed user spotted).
- Monday 12th February
Uploaded the results for
Lottery #65 and awaited the backlash about the
new colour schemes :-) The first problem that emerged came from PC Netscape
users who couldn't see the checkboxes or radio buttons in the virtual lottery
entry form because of the black background.
I've made it a dark-ish green for the moment to temporarily solve that
problem until someone comes up with a better colour scheme. This was a shame
because I really liked the virtual lottery colours (black background, yellow
text, light and dark cyan links).
Changed the background of the home page to a "skin" colour (not dissimilar to
Connect's, albeit a little darker) instead of the somewhat garish
orange colour. Also changed the background (and link colours) of the
background info pages to plain white instead of some yucky
aquamarine colour I previously had. Finally, after running out of "decent"
background colours, I used another blue background (slightly lighter than the
What's New background), this time for the
virtual lottery pages.
Fixed a bug with the WIDTH and HEIGHT attributes of the returned gif when
submitting tickets via the
Multiple Ticket Checker or
Have You Won ? pages.
- Saturday 10th February
Moved the two contributed wheels (19 and 174 tickets) into the
Wheeling Challenge section where they really belong.
Played around with the page colours several times, but they're still pretty
bad (the only decent combination is probably on these What's New pages) !
Added WIDTH and HEIGHT (plus BORDER where necessary) attributes to all
IMG SRC graphics, including those dynamically generated via the
Have You Won page and other such CGI interfaces.
There appeared to be a mail problem at our site at around 8.00pm (two e-mail
requests were strangely delayed), meaning that the first update didn't
happen until 8.38pm. I also accidentally set the Sunday morning mail request
to 12.09am instead of 9.00am, meaning I missed the ITV teletext exact jackpot
update. Don't ask me why they are now waiting until Sunday morning to change
the jackpot figure at the top of their pages because they know the exact value
less than 90 minutes after the draw !
- Friday 9th February
Took a work day off and started mammoth alterations to these pages. The
first thing I had to do was to "macroise" the pages - that is, write a header
file of cpp macros which could be called from template files and
could also be #include'd into my C code. The template files use the extension
.bhs (no, you can't see them - they are not in the WWW area) and there's a
binary I've written called "bhs", which passes the files through /lib/cpp
to resolve macros.
Here's the top and bottom of this What's New page in terms of the .bhs file:
new_heading(What's New On These Pages: February 1996)
Yes, I've used lower case for these macro names otherwise they'd get
expanded and I've also started the #include in column 2, so that you can see
it ! I have cpp macros for these calls in "master.b", which expand to
include all the appropriate HTML. The same bhs system is used for
MerseyWorld pages, but the big
difference is that I can also #include the "master.b" macro definitions into
my C programs, so that the CGI and page generating code can use the same
macros (though I have to #ifdef certain macros in the context of the C program,
such as calling printf() to output text and so on).
Other problems with the bhs system included: the stripping of spaces around
macros (I used to force spaces where I needed them), the dire effect
of apostrophes in cpp macros (I have to use ' instead) and the fact that
ANSI cpp (/lib/cpp.ansi on HP UNIX) won't substitute macro variables inside
double-quoted strings, meaning I have to use K&R cpp (/lib/cpp, which does
do such substitutions) and hence my software is now built in "dangerous"
K&R C rather than ANSI C. This caused problems because I discovered that
HP's K&R C doesn't auto-cast ints to doubles when passing ints to
a function expecting a double (ANSI C does !), so a load of casts had to be
This new system means that a change to the macros will propagate to all
manually generated .html files and also to the CGI software and the
automatically generated pages. It means that if I want to change the colour
of a certain set of pages (some manual, some automatic), a once-only edit
to a macro and then a re-generation is all that is required. It also has
the nice side-effect that the bottom of every single page has navigation and a
copyright message, which has never been the case before.
- Thursday 8th February
Further fractional re-positioning of numbers within each ball again as I
decided to move the numbers 44 and 48 one pixel to the left and the numbers
20, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 29 one pixel to the right.
The usual re-generation of all 6-ball and 7-ball GIFs then followed.
This is the last set of adjustments I intend to make, although there are two
unfixable flaws remaining. The first is that X Windows decides to leave a huge
gap between the two digits in the numbers 10 to 19 [could theoretically be
solved by handling inter-digit gaps myself, but I can't be bothered]. The
second is that "0" is one pixel taller than any other digit (the bottom row of
the character is one line lower) for the X Windows font (vr-40 in case you're
curious) I'm using ! And, yes, this time I've remembered to dump and restore
the new ball bitmaps :-)
- Tuesday 6th February
I've slightly adjusted the virtual lottery
entry form to stress that you have to
answer the virtual lottery question correctly to be in with a chance
of winning, just in case it wasn't obvious to people (who may have thought
that you could put any old answer to the question and still win !!). I've
removed the last mention of "real prize" from the
virtual lottery pages,
since it should be obvious that we're offering money by now.
It was a good job that I backed up my work machine's hard disk to DAT
yesterday, because the HP engineer arrived today and replaced the internal 1GB
drive with a brand new one. The old one wasn't exactly faulty, but was making a
racket at the best of times and became a jumbo jet-cum-fridge occasionally. It
was only a matter of time before the drive expired and since the
whole of Connect is moving to new accommodation shortly [yes, we'll no longer
be based in the Computer Science Department, but we'll still be on the same
LAN], I figured I'd better get this annoyance (and potential failure) fixed
before the move.
- Monday 5th February
Uploaded the results for
Lottery #64. Fractionally adjusted the
x position of numbers inside these balls: 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 31
(one pixel to the right), 21 (two pixels to the right) and 4 (one pixel
to the left). It meant re-dumping all 7-ball (UK) and 6-ball (InterLotto)
GIFs for the lotteries that have taken place so far.
- Saturday 3rd February
The first update arrived too early (it just had ?? on ITV's teletext page
123), so it was a good thing I scheduled the BBC 2 page 750 request for
8.30pm. I've moved that request forward to 8.25pm for next Saturday. ITV
teletext didn't update the exact jackpot figure at the top of their pages
until somewhere around 9.00am on Sunday morning, which meant my 8.30am update
missed it. I've moved that update back to 9.00am.
- Friday 2nd February
My machine at work (an HP 9000/735/125) is now sounding like a 25-year-old
Indesit fridge-freezer. A colleague's identical workstation from the same
batch also had the same problem a few months back, which turned out to be
the bearings in the hard disk drive. An engineer will come soon and fix it
(probably by replacing the drive), which means I'll have to dump the system
disk to DAT and then restore it after the engineer's done his stuff. It's
important that the machine isn't disrupted too much because all the lottery
cron jobs are run on it !
- Thursday 1st February
Hmmm...I didn't save the text of this day for some reason, so I'm
retyping it from memory ! (Hopefully) fixed a long-standing mail filter
bug with InterLotto mail updates by surrounding it with a simple lock file.
If multiple InterLotto e-mail was sent with little or no gap between e-mails,
the updating would go awry because the mailbox would be updated several
times during the processing of the first e-mail ! This shouldn't happen again,
Scrunched up the index page
to this What's New section and also pointed the
home page What's New link to the latest What's New page
(i.e. the one you're reading now !) instead of to the index page. This
unfortunately meant that the
future plans page was much harder to locate,
so I've put a mention of it at the top of this page.
these pages registered a 77% increase in the number of unique external sites
(yes, proxy servers only count as one site !) accessing them. I'm sure two
consecutive double rollovers during January had a lot to do with this, but
it's nice to see that more than 1,000 external sites are visiting a day...
Oops, I'd moved a window in front of the latest InterLotto balls when
it was dumping them, leaving the corner of an xterm as part of the balls.
It would have been quite amusing if I'd caught it early and fixed it, but
the fact that it spent most of Thursday like that was a bit embarrassing :-(
It's a good job I browse around a local copy of the pages at home most
evenings, otherwise this could have been bad news if it hadn't happened on
an InterLotto draw day.
It's the risk you take when screen-dumping GIFs on a display that's actually
being used at the time.