- Tuesday 31st December
In a major coding session up until about 2am this morning, I added
the machine and ball set to the
Live Updates system, which now means that all
relevant info is available live during the TV show on the
home page and individual lottery page.
You would have thought it
was easy to add the machine and ball set, but it was tortuous !
There are now four separate sets of info to track (the 7 winning
numbers, the estimated jackpot, the machine and the ball set), each
with their own stats in the status page of course.
Fixed a bug that caused the META refresh tag to remain on the home
page and individual lottery page after the
bonus ball had been submitted during last Saturday's live update.
I simply wasn't checking the live updates status file prior to outputting
the header of the HTML document (which included the META tag).
Added conditional code (deactivated at the moment - will be enabled as
soon as Lottery #116 completes on Saturday 1st February 1997)
to handle 2 draws a week. This included changes
to cron jobs, HTML documentation and C code, none of which you'll see until
I enable it of course. Some of the major changes (particularly to the
Background Information tree) were to change all references
of "week" to "draw" instead and also put in conditional statements to
add in "Wednesday and" in front of "Saturday" where appropriate.
Phoned Camelot again about the Lucky Dip figures
and they had both the very latest figure (for last Saturday) and
the "delayed" one from the Saturday before that. No other mid-week figures
yet and they still are sticking to their guns with the "incorrect"
23rd March 1996 Lucky Dip figure (which is actually the following week's).
- Monday 30th December
Still can't get the Lucky Dip sales figure for the draw ending the
21st December 1996 - Camelot say that the Christmas break has slowed down
the issuing of those figures. Also, they are purging results from their
PC interface on the Camelot phone line "so that it will fit on the screen",
so I can't double-check the first ever Lucky Dip sales figures for 23rd March
1996, which is amazing ! I had to leave my number and get them to phone me
back with the info...and they gave me the following week's figure instead
(for 30th March 1996). Ho hum.
Received my modified Subscription Certificate through the post today. It now
finishes on 22nd February 1997 instead of 15th March 1997 because I opted
to go for 2 draws a week subscription from 5th February 1997 onwards. I'll
probably get a reminder to renew in about 3 weeks' time (should be for
£208 !). Shrunk the height of frequency chart GIFs so they are 738
pixels high now, which should fit on most people's screens without scrolling
and they are about 1K smaller as a result.
Added 3 more external UK lottery WWW sites to the "results grab list",
now making 8 in all (more than there's ever been). There are at least 5 more
UK lottery sites not grabbed for various reasons, including being out-of-date
(a crime !), not available in non-table text or no ALT tags for the winning
ball graphics (and no winning numbers text elsewhere !).
- Saturday 28th December
I had a similar problem to last week with the generation of the winning
ball GIF from the updated results data file. It didn't happen during my home
testing because the live updates status file is on the same machine there
of course (it has to be copied back by cron from the live server to the
build machine in the work setup).
The cron job was crazily spaced at 5
minutes to do the copy back, so by the time the software had been
compiled and run, the fully updated live updates status file wasn't available
on the build machine, so it tried to generate a GIF from a half-updated
status file, which was no good and the GIF didn't get created.
I've fixed the cron job to mirror back every minute next week during the
period 8.03pm-8.14pm, which should be quick enough to beat the software
Phoned up Camelot a bit later than usual for the mid-week sales figures
(basically, I forgot to yesterday and, of course, being located at home means
I can't get access to the fax which has been sent to the work fax machine).
Anyway, there's a new tone-activated interface (use **4 to get to a person)
at long last (took them over 2 years to put that in !), but on a Saturday
morning, there's only 4 staff manning the phones, so they bizarrely couldn't
get me the latest Lucky Dip sales figures (I have the other figures though).
When I phone tonight for the results, I'll ask for that missing Lucky Dip
sales figure as well.
I now automatically remove the META refresh tags from the lottery home page and
the individual lottery page once the bonus ball has been submitted via the
Live Updates system. Did the usual round of weblint, spell checking, link
checking, linting and re-compiling with gcc. Found one broken link, two
mis-spelled words and 3 HTML syntax errors, but it's hardly surprising because
I hadn't done this check for quite a while.
Did several "dummy runs" of the live draw this afternoon, simulating different
stages of the live updates. Everything's going smoothly (fixed one minor
problem - I wasn't re-generating the latest 7-ball GIFs when the results
get put into my main results data file), so expect the first trouble-free
live update tonight (fingers crossed !).
- Thursday 26th December
Reverted various pages back to 8.03pm draw time, ready for next Saturday.
Changed code so that external WWW pages are grabbed and parsed on a Saturday
evening, even if I have a live blocking file created when I register for
the Live Updates. However, the resultant parsing is written to a
different status file if a live blocking file is present and hence
skipped over by various page-generating routines. This allows me to keep an
eye on the format and update speed of other sites, but without using their
info if I'm providing live updates.
Went through a major overhaul of the Live Updates system to the point now
where the "updated frequencies" and "draws since last appeared" lines in
the table on the individual lottery page now appear line-by-line as each
ball is drawn out - this makes them the fastest UK lottery stats anywhere in
the universe ! I've also been doing several "dummy live draws" and smoothing
out last week's problems with the wrong date.
I've also fixed all page problems when the re-generation is run on Saturday
at around 8.05pm (i.e. without the number of winners and the prize amounts
for the draw that just took place) - previously, the "all winning numbers"
and the winners/prize amounts summary pages were incorrectly including an
additional week in their tables.
- Tuesday 24th December
I bought myself a "Lottery Winners" 1997 calendar, which cost £4 and
seems to be exclusive to W.H. Smith. Each month has a cartoon of what a
lottery winner would do with the money, the dates are laid out just like
the grid of UK lottery playslip and there's some dated winning number lines
for that month (7 empty circles per week) for you to fill in with the
However, February onwards doesn't have the extra lines needed for the
midweek draws, which somewhat spoiled it for me :-(
- Saturday 21st December
Well, the live update was better than last week's with only the wrong date
on the home page for about 5-10 minutes until I spotted that one (looks like
I'll have to move the Live Updates status file out of the way until the
full results come through). Everything's settled down now and I've disconnected
(at least until the wee small hours) - I've downloaded changes to my home
machine to allow me peruse them offline and make sure there's no errors.
- Friday 20th December
Received the usual mid-week fax from Camelot and updated
the sales figures.
- Monday 16th December
Next Saturday's draw is at 8.08pm (extended TV show to see
off the horrible Bob Monkhouse), so I've been adjusting the
cron jobs, CGIs and docs appropriately.
- Sunday 15th December
I've had time to reflect on last night's problems and I've
added some safeguards and behaviour "protocols" now:
- If the live update status file is missing the bonus number
and the results data file isn't (I compare the most recent
6 main numbers in the two files - any differences mean that
we're in the middle of a live update of course, so I use
the live update status file in that case), then I assume
I've forgotten to submit the bonus number and I ignore the
live update. A similar check is made comparing the two
most recent jackpot pools (but it just has to be non-zero
for the results file and zero for the live updates status
for me to ignore the latter).
- The correct thing for me to have done last night was
to have gone back to the live update, submitted all 7 numbers
again and then use the resulting live updates status file
for generating pages up until about 9.30pm, at which point
I should have the full results and no need for the status
file (which should be deleted both on the live server and
the build machine).
- There was stage between about 8.15pm and 9.35pm where
I couldn't update the latest individual lottery page properly.
This wasn't, for a change, anything to do with the live
updates status file, but the 1 jackpot winner/£0
prize code, which I've now fixed.
- Info about auto-refresh is now automatically displayed,
rather than me pointlessly typing it in. The Overall
Live Updates Status page now auto-refreshes, as does
the individual lottery page (I forgot to set up the
latter last Saturday !), although both remain at 5 minute
refresh intervals until the draw itself (when they
switch to 10 second intervals).
- The "missing" bonus ball during the live update was
probably due to me failing to click "Send Update" properly
after it was drawn - my mistake, I'm afraid. It really is
panic-stations during the live draw and I probably switched
window focus too quickly.
- I had an incorrect number (27 instead of 47) for a short
while and I was perplexed as to why this happened, so I got out
the video tape of the TV show and played back the draw. It
turns out that Alan Dedicoat's pronunciation of "47" didn't
emphasise the "f", so it sounded like "rty seven" and I typed
it in as 27 ! I know this sounds far-fetched, but a) I don't
look at the TV screen during the draw and b) I was too busy
preparing the stats analysis to listen to the numbers being
read out again in numerical order - a mistake I won't make
next week !
- One very unfortunate side-effect of the wrong number was
that I didn't spot it before the virtual lottery draw and, yes,
you've guessed it, someone managed to match 4 numbers with the
"bad" 27 as one of the four. I had to reverse the draw, apologise
to the "false" winner and re-draw it (and there was no winner
for the re-draw with the corrected 47 number).
- You can now type "9.8" or "9.8m" or "9.8 million" (as
well as 9800000 or 9,800,000) for the jackpot pool amount
during the Live Update. Previously, it only awkwardly accepted
integer numbers (scaling anything less than 100 up by a
million) and the TV show always reads it out in that abbreviated
form, despite the onscreen caption having it displayed in the
full integer format. Anything outside the range £6m to
£60m will be ignored.
- Saturday 14th December
Well, that wasn't exactly smooth - I'd modified the source code
to some crucial bits only an hour before the draw and I
forgot to upload them from home to the work build machine,
leading to utter chaos. It looks like I'm going to have do a
lot of Live Updates testing because the bonus number submission
fell over (I suspect I just simply didn't submit it, but this
shouldn't matter - the code was using only 6 balls until I
trashed the live updates status file) plus something
was seriously wrong with the one of the numbers I submitted
(either I typed them in wrong or the live system munged them).
What a mess...I've now learned not to do software
development on Saturday evening. Anyway, it looks like Sunday
is going to be testing day at home :-( I'm going to try all
sorts of permutations to see where the problems are.
I've created a Live Updates
for tonight's 2 hours of mayhem. I'll adjust it each week as I get
into the groove (as Madonna would say) and it should become a very
useful checklist of what I've got to do each Saturday evening (and
Wednesday evening too from next February of course).
- Friday 13th December
Received the latest mid-week fax from Camelot and updated the sales
figures as usual. Coded the META refresh tags for the live update tomorrow
(the refresh time decreases as the draw approaches).
- Tuesday 10th December
Fixed a path problem with the InterLotto CGI that was caused dynamic GIF
generation for InterLotto to fail and also to display a broken GIF because
an image link wasn't right. Added confirmation that InterLotto are to
sponsor 2 * SFr50 prizes (Wednesday and Saturday) when the second UK lottery
draw starts instead of their current SFr100
- Monday 9th December
I kept on installing the dummy CGIs and the working CGIs in the wrong domain,
which was rather silly - took me quite a while to get it right. It should be
- Sunday 8th December
Today was "national domain shift day" as I moved my pages up a level from
the old domain to the new one:
It wasn't as easy as it sounds because I had to leave a dummy CGI behind
and also change a lot of coding variables to refer to / instead of
Fixed some bugs in the overall Live Updates status page, including an
unwanted extra CR in the pre-formatted version and next week's date being
associated with the latest draw, rather than last Saturday's date ! I also
screwed up the results data file w.r.t. the date of next week's draw,
which prompted me to release the new domain at around 5pm today instead
of around midnight.
Things left to do with the new domain and the live updates include:
- A full link check.
- Adding META REFRESH tags to the home and individual lottery pages
from about 7.30pm Saturday onwards (decreasing the gap between refreshes
as time progresses, until the live draw is reached, when they'll be 10
- Telling the zillions of sites linking to the old address to point to
the new one instead.
- Saturday 7th December
Spent most of the day so far updating lottery links and getting ready for
this evening's live draw. Updated the background on the
InterLotto Stats pages to include the snow and holly
stuff for their Christmas period.
The live draw went reasonably well, although someone beat me to typing
in the estimated jackpot pool :-) I managed to edit the live page as
things happened during the TV show, which was
an Internet first. It was weird that ITV and BBC teletext both
got the number of 3-match winners wrong by a full million and
only BBC fixed it quickly. I beat Chris Prickett to the full results update
and may have done the same with the
Live Update, though it was difficult to tell because I
too busy updating my own pages to check !
- Friday 6th December
Received the weekly fax from Camelot and duly updated the mid-week
sales figures. Yippee ! Full Web browsing has been activated from my home
machine - I can now see the DNS server and the rest of the world OK from
my ISDN home connection.
- Thursday 5th December
The Pipeline 50 ISDN box is finally working - it turned out that the
2 of the 3 cables tried were faulty and simply didn't talk to the box.
I can't see the DNS server at the moment as I type this from home and
even if I could (should be fixed tomorrow hopefully), the ISDN connection
refuses to get past one of the local routers here, which is bizarre and
would prevent me from directly Web browsing.
Three workarounds for this Web block would be 1) run lynx via
telnet (definitely only an emergency kludge - no graphics for one thing !),
2) run a proxy server for our machines at work which I'd use from home too
[I think this is a good long-term solution] or 3) re-configure our network
setup to allow an ISDN connection to get past the router [a good short-term
solution until we sort out a proxy server]. At the moment, I'm using option
1 (lynx via telnet), but it's not much fun I must admit.
In case you're curious, problems earlier in the week were caused by the
Pipeline box having a hugely screwed-up configuration, which prevented it from
talking to anything via ISDN (I was convinced I was to blame [e.g. plugging
things in wrongly], but it was nothing to do with me). It was fixed by
totally resetting the Pipeline to factory defaults and then re-configuring
it completely from scratch.
- Wednesday 4th December
Lots of things are due to happen prior to the Christmas break, including:
- Activation of my home ISDN Internet connection. I've been struggling to
get it to talk to my HP UNIX workstation ever since the line was installed a
week ago. It looks like the Pipeline 50 box simply refuses to talk to the line
(which I've confirmed works OK by both getting BT to remotely test it and also
by hooking up an Arpeggio Lite to it and using it to route an analogue
phone down the ISDN successfully [that's 6 days to get the first outgoing
call on the ISDN line...grrrr...]).
- The shifting of my lottery pages to a new top-level domain.
I've been doing bits'n'pieces of coding for this in recent weeks, but the
domain's now ready to go, so it's likely I'll activate it on Monday. There's
going to be a problem with switching into secure mode with the new domain
(i.e. it doesn't have a secure certificate for the new domain), so I'll have to
find a compromise and use the old domain to display the virtual lottery
entry/claim forms and run the CGI.
- A shift of www.merseyworld.com and
all virtual domains supported by it [including my new lottery domain] to a new
2Mbit/s line supplied by Cable Internet, which should dramatically speed up
access (anything up to 10 times faster I suspect) for users not on SuperJANET
(.ac.uk sites), whilst slowing down access for SuperJANET users unfortunately.
- Moving all Connect Web and FTP activities to a new higher-spec HP UNIX
server (more RAM, more disk and two CPUs), which will also be running
- Monday 2nd December
Uploaded the results for
Added "Part of MerseyWorld" to the footer of all the pages,
since it's now linked to from the index page of