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July 28, 2005

My First Trade

I made my first trade today. It was as simple as I had expected it to be. Just enter the number of stocks and the symbol and voila!

I know it sounds bad, but I'm treating this as more of an experiment than anything else. I have no grand illusions of being able to quit my job and live off dividends, but rather I want to have the experience of being in charge of all my personal transactions.

Because I'm treating this as an experiment I figured I would try and see how much money I could lose ;) by playing risky penny stocks. That probably makes me an evil trader that could possibly atificially alter stocks. Don't get me wrong, I'm just one person and I will not do anything crappy like a pump-and-dump, but if I were multiplied a couple hundred times then the market could (possibly....maybe) be artificially altered. Like I said, though, this is an experiment.

Posted by Guy at 2:56 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2005

Step 1: Funding

So far, so good with Scottrade. I funded my account today simply by dropping by one of their local branch locations (they have 233 across the US) and writing them a check. One of the reasons I went with Scottrade is because you can open an account with as little as $500USD, which is exactly what I did. I want to think that I won't lose this money, but I remain pessimistic and believe that I will. Time will tell.

Posted by Guy at 9:38 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2005

Guy - The Day Trader?

I signed up with Scottrade [scottrade.com] today in the hopes of supplementing some large purchases with a little bit of capital from stock sales. I'm already pretty well diversified with my retirement accounts, this is more of a thing for me to play with.

Why Scottrade you ask? Well, out of the three I was considering (E*Trade, Ameritrade and Scottrade) they had the best rates and lowest fees. Compared to E*Trade's $14.99 and Ameritrade's $10.99 trade fees, Scottrade's $7.00 seems like a bargain. Of course I don't plan on making lots and lots of trades, but it's still nice to know it's relatively low-cost to make trades. Also, and this was the real kicker for me, there is no account maintenance fee. Surprisingly, there is an average of $15 - $20 just to keep an account open with other online brokers. However, I'll blog about my future dealings with Scottrade and mention any other (possibly hidden) fees and whatnot.

Posted by Guy at 8:49 AM | Permalink

July 20, 2005

Small Languages

I've always loved the smaller programming languages that never quite made it big time, i.e. used to create mainstream applications. The esoteric, the confusing, the pragmatic, the extremely low-level I like all of them for different reasons. However, I play with each of them then place them on the shelf and try to reproduce their best features in my work.

That being said, one type of language I never found much use for are the embedded languages. I first started playing with an embeddable language when Lua [lua.org] was released. It was fun, but I couldn't really use it for many practical things. Then Sleep [java.net] was announced a few days ago and I started reading more about some embeddable languages for Java. I guess technically these can be considered alternate languages for a JVM, but languages such as Groovy [codehaus.org] actually market themselves as JVM scripting languages.

Moral of this digression, use the best tool to get the job done, but make sure you can get the same tool in the future because it might break.

Posted by Guy at 7:23 PM | Permalink

EarthImagePlugIn: Part 2

After playing around with the EIPI I saw they were moving around large buffers (actually int arrays) which caused lots of memory bloat and some lags in performance. I was hoping I could provide just a BufferedImage as an OMRaster, but unfortunately when the sub-image is generated on a change of projection the EIPI needs to generate an OMRaster that conforms to that projection. For example, when dealing with an Orthographic projection you need to warp the image (raster) yourself.

The current EIPI does this by iterating over every pixel of the projection, converting these to Lat/Lon points, and looking up pixel values from their cached image based on the calculated degrees per pixel and each Lat/Lon point from the projection.

I just think there has to be a better way.

Posted by Guy at 5:21 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2005

EarthImagePlugIn

I was playing around with OpenMap's EarthImagePlugIn [bbn.com] this weekend, which I must say is really cool, and I noticed that it used a lot of memory and was kind of slow. Of course I was using a 7.5MB gif image of the world, but I have another image that goes up to 31.5MB.

I wondered about where the performance bottlenecks and memory bloat were coming from, so I took a look at the PlugIn code. It seems that it's not utilizing any Java 1.4+ imaging functions, such as the ImageIO class. I replaced their image loading method with an ImageIO call and memory usage dropped significantly. I didn't do any timings, so I couldn't check the performance gains, but I think I would have recognized any significant speedups.

I also noticed un-optimized translation routines in the ImageTranslator inner-class. I'll try and help that out too.

Posted by Guy at 6:03 PM | Permalink

July 14, 2005

Audi-licous

I was thinking of getting a new car sometime in the next year or so and I was having touble deciding what to get, but I think I know now. Currently I'm pimping a Nissan Pathfinder and with a 35+ mile commute (each way) I'm really feeling the current oil crunch madness. Couple that with the relatively mild climate of Maryland thus negating the need of my 4x4 and I'm looking car. Of course my wife insists on a few features, otherwise she won't even consider driving it. There not stupid (cheap) things either like leather, CD-changer, etc. No, she wants something new, factory-new, with AWD.

Well, I've always liked VW so I figured I would give Passats a go. New 1.8 4Motion Passats weigh in at about $24k - $27k. The new models coming out for '06 start at around $29k - $30k (I think). Umm, that's a lot of money for something that will depreciate as soon as I take it off the lot. Long story short I was able to get my wife to make a concession, the vehicle doesn't need to be factory new.

With this new information in hand I crunched some more numbers. I knew I liked the Passat, but I didn't like the depreciable factory price. It wasn't the price that killed me, but the fact that I could lose so much money on it. I thought to myself, what about a high end Passat, the Audi A4? An A4 a couple of years out actually costs less than a new Passat! Sounds good to me, but the platform isn't without its faults. More on that later.

The moral, to avoid car depreciation get a car a couple of years out and you can also get something better than what you wanted.

Posted by Guy at 11:34 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2005

Fubooee

This [fbui.org] is something I'll definitely have to check out when I get my Mini-ITX system back up. It looks like just the thing for embedded UI's that don't want to drop into user mode, but prefer to have a single binary ala "monolithic kernel mode".

It supports most i/o operations and graphic primitives. It also claims to support a limited MPEG playback capability. I'll have to test this. Maybe VideoLAN client (VLC) would be a good port for this. Hmmm... Another interesting project for when I have more time.

Posted by Guy at 6:33 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2005

Google Hate / Google Love

After testing out the Google Web Accelerator and giving it (in my opinion) a fair chance I've decided to stop using it on all my computers. It really didn't live up to my expectations. First, I didn't see the promised speed increase and second, I didn't see the promised speed increase.

However, I did install the Google Toolbar for Firefox today. I took a look at the Options for it and I think I found something cool! They have this "extension" (for lack of a better term) called AutoLink that will make some information on a web page into linkable objects. For an intro see this page [google.com]. From the intro

For example, if you see a street address, you can click AutoLink and you will get a link to a map of that address. AutoLink works for:
  • Street Addresses
  • DHL, FedEx, UPS and USPS tracking numbers
  • Book or publication ISBN
  • Automobile VIN

I tested it out on some restaraunt's websites to see if it would recognize their addresses and most of the time it did. I there's some funny formatting, like a | (pipe) between the street address and city/state then it won't recognize the address. Obviously there needs to be some tweeking, but not bad for Beta.

Posted by Guy at 3:55 PM | Permalink

July 3, 2005

Ripping It Up

In my last post I said that Nero Vision Express (NVE) had helped me out al sorts of ways, but turns out there were some problems that were easily fixed by using a different tool. NVE provided a really good interface for working with vob files, but it choked on some codecs. It handled resizing and adjusting the frame rate of the source great. I even had success with most video codecs that I tried. But, I couldn't get any audio codecs to work correctly. Also, NVE never allowed me to specify properties for audio codecs, so I think that was the major problem.

So, my method was to use NVE to produce an AVI with compressed video (XviD, either single or two-pass) with uncompressed (PCM) audio. I would then run the AVI through VirtualDub to compress the audio. Not the cleanest way of doing things, but it worked. The whole time I was asking myself, "self, how come VirtualDub can't handle vobs directly?" Well, it turns out that a "hacked" version can.

Enter VirtualDub-MPEG2 [free-codecs.com] and it's sidekick AC-3 ACM Decompressor [free-codecs.com]. With these two pieces of software I was able to directly input vobs to VirtualDub, apply transformations, encode and save off as an AVI. Looks like I jumped the gun on my praise of NVE.

All in all I think that NVE has the potential to be a great piece of easy to use software, but in the end it's just broken. The ability to compress audio is a must and the ability to batch encoding jobs would be a killer feature. I guess when a new version of the Nero suite is released I can evaluate it again, but for now I'll be using VirtualDub-MPEG2 and the AC-3 ACM Decompressor.

Posted by Guy at 3:15 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2005

Ouch! Not Smart Anymore

Well, I had my wisdom teeth removed today, guess I'm not so wise anymore. 4 in 1 shot! So, instead of going back to work I'm just watching Office Space and encoding some anime that I ripped.

Speaking of ripping, I think I'll write a tutorial on the way I do it and send it to Doom9 [doom9.org], popular purveyors of all things ripping and encoding. It seems that a Nero tool works best for me so far as compared to Gordian Knot. Back in the day I was a big fan of Gordian Knot, but compared to Nero Vision Express - or is it NeroVision Express? Either way, it seems to work for me along with a couple of different codecs.

I really must applaud the Nero team for everything they've done for the industry of working with optical media. Their tools are always relatively easy to use, stable and error-free. A splendid and impressive combination.

Posted by Guy at 4:27 PM | Permalink

Feedster

Just claiming my feed for feedster here.

No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

Posted by Guy at 4:14 AM | Permalink