ServerPronto: The Hotel California of Server Hosting?

I don’t need my ServerPronto account anymore, because I use SliceHost’s flexible and easy-to-use solution. So time to close my ServerPronto account and save myself $30 or so per month…except…

…it seems to be very difficult to close a ServerPronto account! I’ve tried. I’ve jumped through the hoops they set. More than a month has passed since I completed the process but my account is still merrily open…

A little bit of googling reveals that many people have trouble closing their ServerPronto account.

Any tips on what I can do from Germany, to force a Florida, USA based company to get their act together and close my account?

The Ongame Network Problem

Here’s a quick illustration showing why Poker Copilot doesn’t yet have a HUD for Winamax and other Ongame Network clients on Mac OS X.

On your Mac, in Spotlight, type Accessibility Inspector, and run the app. Move your mouse over an application, such as iChat, and notice the Accessibility Inspector give you a bunch of info about that app:

Screen shot 2009-11-30 at 12.44.39 PM.png

Now start Winamax and move the mouse over the Winamax app. Notice how the Accessibility Inspector doesn’t show info for Winamax, and furthermore freezes up for a few seconds?

So Ongame Network team, if you are reading this, that’s a simple way to reproduce this problem on the Mac with your P5 engine. We here in the Mac OS X world would all be extremely grateful if you could fix this.

I check this every so often to see if it has been fixed.

Bob Walsh’s Top 5 Tips for Improving Your Software

Some good stuff from Bob Walsh in this discussion:

1. Look at trial downloads to sales ratio. If it’s dismal [
2. Look at your overall traffic. If it’s low, what are you going to do about it? Consider a microsite: it works.

3. Look at your primary market (the keywords that people find you with). Is it too narrow? Use Google’s new Wonder Wheel to find better keywords.

4. Look at your product – does it have a regular online heartbeat of incremental goodness (fixes/improvements) so people know it’s alive?

5. Look at yourself – Is your tech support giving your customers a great experience or making them hate you? Lou Carbone is the master re engineering customer experience: highly recommend his book.

So how is Poker Copilot doing on these 5 items?

1. I’m happy with the customer’s first-time experience, although I do want to add a couple of short video tutorials to explain things a bit.

2. Poker Copilot traffic has a continuing upward trend. However I suspect that with some concerted effort I could improve the slope of the trend. For a long time I’ve been thinking of seeking help with this from Dave Collins’ crew at SharewarePromotions.

3. I’m not so concerned about this at the moment.

4. Regular online heartbeat? Yep, yeppity, yep. I even fixed some minor glitches this morning. Heartbeat is pulsing regularly and strong.

5. Book now added to my to-read list.

Show Mucked Hands Only on Showdown?

An anonymous commenter asks:

One thing with the mucked cards – it really isn’t necessary to show them if the hand does not go to showdown. Is this something that could be changed easily?

Makes sense to me. Unless I hear a good case for otherwise, I’ll make the next update of Poker Copilot only show mucked cards if the hand goes to showdown.

Finding Leaks with Colour and Bars

In preparation for a set of new “Leak Detector” screens in Poker Copilot, I’m reading Stephen Few‘s “Now You See It: Simple Visualization Techniques for Quantitative Analysis“. The subtitle is tedious, better would be “Make Awesome Charts.”

I’m getting a lot of value from Few’s book on using colour and simple charting techniques to make analysis easier. Here’s what I started with:

Screen shot 2009-11-28 at 12.05.26 PM.png

The info is there, but you have to read and compare all numbers carefully to spot the patterns.

Step 2: I added colour to show positive and negative numbers:

Screen shot 2009-11-28 at 12.05.38 PM.png

Now we can immediately see that I’ve been losing money with 44, and winning with all other pocket pairs. But some info is still hiding, requiring careful manual analysis.

Step 3: Show the magnitude with a coloured bar:

Screen shot 2009-11-28 at 12.05.45 PM.png

Ho ho! Now the patterns are clear. I’m doing something wrong with TT and 99, which should be good earners: my winnings are positive but only just. Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks are all paying out well, so I’m happy with the way I play them.

The Tao of Programming

From The Tao of Programming:

A manager went to the master programmer and showed him the
requirements document for a new application. The manager asked the
master: “How long will it take to design this system if I assign five
programmers to it?”

“It will take one year,” said the master promptly.

“But we need this system immediately or even sooner! How long will it
take if I assign ten programmers to it?”

The master programmer frowned. “In that case, it will take two

“And what if I assign a hundred programmers to it?”

The master programmer shrugged. “Then the design will never be
completed,” he said.

Preview of Poker Copilot 2.20

Poker Copilot 2.20 is now available to download. This is a preview release. It’s almost identical to last week’s update, except it works. PowerPC HUD problems and HUD flakiness are, to the best of my knowledge, fixed.

Update Instructions:

  1. Download version 2.20 here.
  2. Open the downloaded file.
  3. Drag the Poker Copilot icon to the Applications icon.
  4. If prompted to replace an existing version, confirm that you do want to replace.

Now you’re done and ready to hit the tables.

PowerPC Issue Resolved

Software bugs are so much easier to fix when you can reliably reproduce them. I now realise I should have got myself a PowerPC Mac for testing Poker Copilot eons ago.

With the help of my newly-purchased old school PowerPC-based Mac Mini, not only did I quickly and easily find and fix the “No HUD for PowerPC in Poker Copilot 2.19” issue, I also found some other minor issues.

Before I release an update though, there’s more testing to be done. So far the signs are positive. I played on four poker tables at once for a couple of hours, tracking Poker Copilot’s CPU usage and memory usage. I’m happy with the results. This chart shows Poker Copilot’s CPU usage for a period of about an hour from that 4-tabling session:

Screen shot 2009-11-26 at 11.32.54 AM.png

Mac: It Just Works…Except When It Doesn’t

I bought a PowerPC Mac Mini on eBay last week. The goal: use it to reproduce problems Poker Copilot users experience on PowerPC Macs. And to improve my test lab.

The Mac Mini came from a Berlin eBay seller to Cologne on Saturday morning. But the OS X reinstall DVD wouldn’t work. Turns out it was for a slightly different model of Mac Mini, and didn’t like being used on my model. So back to Berlin with the Mac Mini on Monday morning.

This morning it came back to me as speedily as a well-thrown boomerang, this time with the correct DVD. At start-up, a freshly installed Mac OS X 10.4 greeted me. Nice. Exactly what I wanted. But it wouldn’t connect to my wireless Internet modem. With no good reason why. Ah bugger. These are supposed to be the problems that Windows users faces. Not me in my brave new world of Apple.

So…there went the greater part of the day figuring out a solution. These are problems I enthusiastically embraced when I was a student. But not now.

The cause of the problem: I had Mac OS X 10.4. The original. 10.4.nothing. Once I got a newer version of Tiger on to the machine, life became better. Updating on a machine without Internet access made things somewhat tricky.

And best of all…when I run Poker Copilot 2.19 (a sort-of unreleased blog-readers only version) with Full Tilt, I experience the exact problem people raised. Yes. Now I can try the solution I’ve quietly put together.

Stay tuned…

Queues, the Software Panacea

There’s a fun story here about how two Microsoft support guys back in the late 80s worked out how to crash the entire support team’s phone system.

It was right about then everyone’s phones died. Anyone who was talking to a customer was cut off, and our phones didn’t work at all for about 20 minutes.

The underlying problem was too many logging statements being written to a database, which got overloaded, crashed, and then crashed the phone system. My immediate thought: they needed a queueing system for logging statements.

It’s quick to put something in a queue. The system can take items from the front of the queue at its leisure. It will catch up with backlogs when people are at home sleeping.

Poker Copilot is full of queues. Queues, queues, queues. It seems almost every difficult technical problem I face in Poker Copilot can be solved with a queue.

When hand history files are updated, Poker Copilot places them in a special queue where the most recently updated files go to the front. A busy little worker thread takes a file off that queue, parses the file and places each parsed hand into another queue. When you move poker tables around, causing the HUD to move, there’s a queue. Feature usage tracking is placed in a queue. Twice. First on your computer and then on the feature tracking server. All database queries in Poker Copilot are placed in a queue.

Java version 5 and upwards makes queues easy. It has several types of thread-safe queues with high concurrency built in.