Lottery Post Journal

Enhancements

I writing this Blog entry on the new version of Lottery Post.  It's working really well, so it's only a matter of time before I can release it.  Before doing so, I have a lot of testing to do, especially on IE 5.0 and 5.5.  I don't use those on my dev machine, so I'm a bit nervous that the testing will reveal some flaws in the CSS workings.

Anyway, when I was recoding the Inspector and Deflate pages, I discovered some glitches that the new version fixes.  The glitches don't affect the functionality — everything works just fine — but the code that automatically feeds the predictions and past results into the page is not perfect.  That has been corrected in the new version.

Red-Letter Day

Today represents a major milestone in the reconstruction of the Lottery Post web site.  I have just finished taking one complete pass through the entire web site, changing every single page to the new XHTML 1.1 standards.  I had to recode literally every single page, in what was perhaps the biggest block of code I've had to edit.  (I learned just how big Lottery Post has become.)

(Nobody but I can see the new site - it only exists on a test environment at the moment.)

The recoding has been a huge learning process as well, as I was forced to learn a bunch of new techniques.  Lottery Post will truly be leading-edge design when it's finished. 

From a developer's perspective there are some very cool things, like completely table-less designs.  Every HTML coder learns to layout pages by creating a bunch of table tags, often nesting tables within tables within tables, in order to achieve the desired layout.  Table-less layouts do not use any tables at all to achieve the layout, instead relying on cascading style sheets (CSS) to position everything.

I have learned that coding completely with CSS is one of the most frustrating things you can do.  The thing that makes it so frustrating is that not one single browser brand has a bug-free implementation of CSS, and they each interpret code differently.  So when you finally get something working perfectly, you bring up the page on a different browser and it looks like garbage.  So then you have to go back and recode it again.  Then, it breaks on a third browser brand.  And so on until you get it working in every browser.  Pages even work different in different versions of the same brand of browser.

At this point I will be going through each page a second (and perhaps third) time, making more modifications.  But these changes will take nowhere near the amount of time as the first set of changes.  (I've been at this for about 3 months now.)

The ironically funny thing about this is that most people will look at the new site and say, "well, there's not much difference."  If that happens, in a strange way it will be a compliment to the work I've done, because the trick in this redesign is to make it appear the same as before.

However, there will be some very good changes (that I've mentioned before) like an all-new text editor.  Now, people will be able to create and edit tables right in the editor, and pasting stuff from other web sites will work better.  Plus, Firefox and Mozilla users will be able to edit using the rich text editor, and Safari is beginning to support it as well.  (The latest version of Safari has partial support.)

In all, a very exciting day for me personally, and a big relief to finally get to this point.

BBC: Just Pathetic

Here's a great example of how big, traditional media has become unhinged in their desire to manifest a liberal ideology.  In the UK, election campaigns are taking place — a time when media outlets need to be especially careful about fairness.

But instead of fairness, the BBC is is doing its best to derail the conservative candidate.

Just read the article below, which appeared in the Telegraph.  I stll can't believe that not only would the BBC do such a thing, but then they would try to justify their actions.

Just pathetic!

BBC PLANTS HECKLERS TO DISRUPT UK CONSERVATIVE RALLY

The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader.

The Tories have made an official protest after the hecklers, who were given the microphones by producers, were caught at a party event in the North West last week. Guy Black, the party's head of communications, wrote in a letter to Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, that the hecklers began shouting slogans that were "distracting and clearly hostile to the Conservative Party".

These included "Michael Howard is a liar", "You can't trust the Tories" and "You can only trust Tony Blair".

Mr Black's strongly-worded letter accused the BBC of staging the event "to generate a false news story and dramatise coverage. . . intended to embarrass or ridicule the leader of the Conservative Party". The letter said that BBC staff were guilty of "serious misconduct". At least one of the hecklers was seen again at a Tory event in the North East, Mr Black added.

Last night, the BBC claimed that the exercise was part of a "completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling" and said that other parties' meetings were being "observed". However, The Telegraph has established that none of Tony Blair's meetings was infiltrated or disrupted in similar fashion.

The Conservatives have called for an apology and an assurance that no such incident will occur again. It has also demanded that the BBC promises never to broadcast the footage. The corporation said it would investigate "very fully". It and other broadcasters have a statutory duty to remain impartial during election campaigns. The corporation's guidelines for producers state: "Our audiences rightly expect the highest editorial and ethical standards from the BBC."

Tory officials became suspicious at the meeting in Horwich, near Bolton, last Wednesday, when they saw BBC camera crew focusing on the hecklers rather than Mr Howard. They twice challenged the two men and a woman involved, and discovered they had been equipped with radio microphones.

Mr Black said that they described themselves as "shoppers". In fact, they were under direction from a BBC team making a programme called The History of Heckling for the BBC3 channel. The programme, whose producer is Paul Woolwich, is in the process of being edited.

Mr Black's letter said of the hecklers: "It is entirely clear to me that the success of their presence required an element of performance on their behalf, and that this was a premeditated event intended to disrupt the course of Mr. Howard's speech.

"I do not believe that the BBC should be in the business of creating news. It also appears that the same crew was at the Michael Howard visit to Stockton-on-Tees and it can be no coincidence that someone with them was one of these 'hecklers'.

"I understand that Sally Freestone, the assignments editor UK Special Events, was 'aghast' that the BBC had engaged in such behaviour.

"This is a clear and serious breach of recognised BBC producer guidelines, and accordingly a breach of Section 5.3(b)1 of the BBC Charter Agreement. I also believe that the recordings which were taken of these organised hecklers, of ordinary members of the crowd and/or of Conservative officials who reacted and were recorded, would amount to 'surreptitious recording' under those guidelines."

Such recording requires advance approval from the relevant department head, Mr Black noted, and consultation with the BBC's controller, editorial policy. "Is it suggested that these requirements have been satisfied?" his letter asked, before concluding: "My disappointment with the BBC for this attempted coup d'theatre is profound." He addressed his letter to Ms Boaden, who took over as director of news from Richard Sambrook. Mr Sambrook, a key figure in the row between the Government and the BBC over the death of David Kelly, the Iraq weapons expert, is now director of the Corporation's World Service and Global News division.

Last night a BBC spokesman said: "This is a completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling. The programme observes hecklers at other parties' campaign meetings and not just the Conservatives. The hecklers were not under the direction of the BBC and their activities did not disrupt the meeting in any way. The incident at the Michael Howard meeting only plays a small part in the overall programme. However, we will be investigating the complaint very fully and will be replying in due course."

The spokesman was unable to provide details of any other campaign meetings attended by the BBC3 crew. He said that the hecklers had not been paid a fee, but could not say whether they had received expenses. The dispute is the latest in many rows between the BBC and the Tories. Last autumn the Conservatives lodged an official complaint about Mr Howard's Newsnight interview earlier this year in which Jeremy Paxman questioned Mr Howard about the sacking of Derek Lewis, the head of the Prison Service, when he was home secretary in 1995. A Conservative spokesman claimed that the continued focus on the case of Mr Lewis, almost a decade after the event, showed the "endemic bias" of the BBC.

Many Conservatives are still angry about coverage of the May 2003 local elections when - despite the Tories gaining 565 council seats - the BBC focused on the resignation of Crispin Blunt, the shadow trade minister.

Sith Comic

Biorhythms

I have strong sense that biorhythms do in fact exist.  As hard as I try to keep things going when I reach a peak, they invariably fall again.  Perhaps the older I get the more I am able to recognize the peaks and valleys.  Too bad the valleys have to be such valleys. 

Just the fact that something important to me appears to be ending this evening is sad.  I wish there was some other way.  I can't really say what it is, but it means a lot.

Over 14,000 Members

Lottery Post now has more than 14,000 members - growing quicker every day.

Here's a Clip From Revenge of the Sith!

This is offered for Hyperspace members to preview on the Star Wars website, so I figure it's OK for me to post here.  This is about the first minute of one of the tracks from the new Star Wars movie - ENOJY!

Click Here to Listen

The song will loop after it finishes, so just close the window when it's finished playing.  (Or keep it open to listen a few times.)

I got the SW3 soundtrack early!

I was able to obtain the Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith Soundtrack, even before it is released to the general public.  Like typical John Williams music, it is very invigorating.  Fitting for the dark tone of the movie, it is unlike other Star Wars soundtracks, although many of the familiar themes are there -- just in a very dark way.

I wish I could post it for others to hear.

300,000 Messages

I wonder how many other people noticed that we just went over 300,000 messages posted at Lottery Post?

That is a tremendous amount of lottery knowledge and data all in one place - a resource unlike anything else in the world.  I'm looking forward to the release of Microsoft SQL Server 2005, which has a number of programming facilities that will enable me to build a more robust and fast searching capability.  Then the whole Lottery Post forum database will be instantly searchable in many different ways.

As it is right now, the Lottery Post database is a very advanced database, again unlike most other sources out there.  It is a custom database structure I built on a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 platnorm, and allows a good amount of searching as it is.  Anyone can search the entire 5-year database, and can access any of the 300,000+ messages posted.

Many forums are cripled under that many messages, and as a result, delete or archive old messages , making them unaccessible to the public.

I also custom-built the Lottery Post database server (a dedicated database server), using 8GB of memory, and a RAID-5 array using 9 Hard disks, with a automatic hot-spare.  (All 10,000 RPM Seagate hard disks.)  One of these days I'm going to put together an article that details all the technology that goes into the production of this web site.

Anyway, that 300,000-message barrier has been reached, and things continue to grow faster every day.

New Amazing Technology

Holy mackerel, I just installed a new piece of hardware which is WAY too cool.

My wireless Microsoft mouse broke, so I had to buy a new one.  (If you're not using a Microsoft wireless mouse, you are missing out on the best mouse out there.)

Anyway, I was just about to buy a replacement of exactly the same thing (Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2.0) when I noticed that Microsoft now sells that same mouse with a "fingerprint reader".

I started doing some more reading and discovered that the fingerprint reader is encased in the same USB dongle that a regular wireless mouse requires, except that it has a small oval-shaped glass sensor on the top.  It takes up the same space that a regular dongle takes up.

The device is designed to use your fingerprint instead of using a username and password everywhere you go on the Internet.  It comes with special software that stores all your passwords for you.

A side track here: my first worry was that I don't want something storing all my passwords on my hard disk for someone to hack.  So I did some research.  It turns out that all the passwords are stored with a double non-reversible encryption technique, using a key that is based on random elements, plus your password.  Meaning that it is a very unique key that is as hard to break as any SSL connection on the Internet.  Plenty safe for me.

Getting back to the story, For an extra $20 over the cost of my regular replacement mouse, I bought the fingerprint reader/wireless mouse.  Installation was very easy, but I think it's important to install the software before plugging the new hardware in.

The first thing I noticed is that it asks you for your login password into Windows.  Once it learns your password, every time you restart your PC and come to the login screen, you just touch your finger on the sensor and you are instantly logged in.  I am totally amazed at how FAST it reads your finger and logs you in.  Plus it makes a cool subtle beep noise through your speakers to let you know you're recognized.

If you have multiple people using the PC, it recognizes every individual person, and logs into the correct account.

Then, when you're surfing the Internet and create a username and password somewhere, you tell the fingerprint reader to remember your login credentials for that page, and every time you come back, just a touch of the finger logs you in.  Plus, like everything else, it recognizes different people using the same computer - for that one page.  Really cool!

The first site I tried it with -- of course -- was Lottery Post.  I logged off, and went back to the login page.  Then I touched the sensor to let it know I wanted to remember my credentials, and it popped up a window asking for my Username and Password.  I entered them, and that's all I had to do.  Now, when I click Login and go to that page, I touch my finger on the sensor, and it instantly logs me in like magic.

The cool factor from 1 to 10 is an 11.

The real up-side to this, as I see it, is that I can now create longer and more complex passwords, because I no longer have to remember them.  By doing so, I will have increased my personal security greatly.  What a great thing that I can increase my security level, while making logins happen instantly.

The only downside that I have heard so far is that it doesn't currently work with the Firefox browser - just Microsoft IE.  However, I have no doubt they'll ad support in the future, when the outcry gets loud.

Highly recommended.

Here's a link to Microsoft's product page for the fingerprint reader/wireless mouse:

http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/productdetails.aspx?pid=035