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The dow will be over 12,000 before I get the graphic done
April 7, 2010 10:31 AM   Subscribe

For seven minutes everyday, a part of my job nearly kills me. I need the assistance of people with computer programming abilities.

Hi.

I'm a production employee at a TV station. I run what's called a Deko, which puts up most of the graphics you see on screen during our newscasts.

Every day during our business block I have to update a full screen graphic with the day's closing averages for the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P.

The computer that I have to use for this task (getting the market numbers) is an extremely old windows 95 computer running a very old version of internet explorer. Most of the time, when I got to Yahoo! Finance to get the numbers, the browser crashes, the computer crashes, etc. And I barely make it in time. This is stressful as hell as you can imagine. And because this computer has to interface with another very old piece of equipment that feeds still images into my Deko, upgrading the computer is out of the question. I don't get reception on my blackberry in the control room so getting the numbers that way is out of the question too.

BUT!

I've just learned that there is a way for our Deko graphics computer to update graphics from a .txt file.

So, I'm wondering if there's a way to like set up a program that pulls the market numbers from Yahoo! Finance and dumps them to a .txt file. It would be awesome If I could also automate this and have it only pull the numbers at a certain time, like 20 minutes after the markets close.

I don't know. I'm on the verge of a heart attack for seven minutes everyday trying to get this important piece of our newscast ready.

Any advice?
posted by tylerfulltilt to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You could check out Yahoo Pipes. I think that may fit the bill, but it also may be overkill.
posted by zazerr at 10:35 AM on April 7, 2010


"Any advice?"

Tell your boss that you need new equipment. It's completely unreasonable for them to expect you to keep working with 15-year-old crap.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


This link http://download.finance.yahoo.com/d/quotes.csv?s=%5EDJI&f=sl1d1t1c1ohgv&e=.csv should give you the DJIA as a .CSV file, which can be opened in Excel or another spreadsheet, or in notepad.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you got to Yahoo Finance, the link is the "Download Data" link on the page (search for this text).

Just copy those links & load them up when you need the data.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:38 AM on April 7, 2010


Example: Here's the NASDAQ Here's the Download Data link
posted by MesoFilter at 10:39 AM on April 7, 2010


Tell your boss that you need new equipment. It's completely unreasonable for them to expect you to keep working with 15-year-old crap.

Seconding this. Even if you work at a small, local station, you can get a nice, modern desktop running Windows 7 for somewhere in the $300-400 range. That can't be a lot of money to them.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:43 AM on April 7, 2010


The OP says upgrading the computer is out of the question because it connects to another old piece of technology. Not sure why people aresaying a new computer is the answer. Frankly, havin seen a lot of the old shit people in television use to get their jobs done this doesn't surprise me in the least.
posted by dfriedman at 10:47 AM on April 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can you reformat and clean up the old computer? Is it used for anything else?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2010


You could install the Off By One browser. Pages will lose their CSS style but it should load all those pages with relative ease, since it only does simple HTML (not CSS) rendering.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2010


The OP says upgrading the computer is out of the question because it connects to another old piece of technology. Not sure why people aresaying a new computer is the answer. Frankly, havin seen a lot of the old shit people in television use to get their jobs done this doesn't surprise me in the least.

That doesn't mean the craptacular Win95 machine can't still be used for sending the data, while a new cheapo laptop is used to check Yahoo Finance.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:56 AM on April 7, 2010


So you have one piece of equipment, which is extremely unreliable, which crashes often, but without which you can't do your job? Definitely bring it up to your boss. There has to be a way to do this with less-balky hardware that isn't prone to failure, doesn't endanger your entire operation, and doesn't open you up to a major problem if/when the thing finally does fail.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:58 AM on April 7, 2010


To everyone saying "Upgrade TMFA!" Believe me. I've been there. I've asked. It isn't happening. Not until the entire station goes HD. Which means not for another 4-5 years. Minimum.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2010


If you can use a text file, you can download the data on a different computer and then just load the text file into the old PC via email. If your Deko works, I'd be wary of reformatting the PC, there's a good chance you'll end up with a driver missing.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:02 AM on April 7, 2010


You might try pulling the market numbers from a site other than Yahoo. Other sites might be less wonky on a computer running older software.

Can someone in another part of the building be made responsible for pulling up the numbers and then phoning them in to you?
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:07 AM on April 7, 2010


@doctor_negative. That's what I was kind of thinking. Our graphics are fed through automation with the exception of full screen graphics. I don't know why this particular workflow happened. I just sort of inherited it.

The .txt file doesn't need to reside on the old Win95 computer. It can sit somewhere else in the building on any other computer that's on the network. So if someone knows how to get Yahoo! Pipes to do what I'm looking for then a faster and newer computer somewhere else in the building can generate the .txt file and I can point the Deko to it.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 11:07 AM on April 7, 2010


I don't have a Win95 machine to test this on, but I would suggest using the command line tool 'nc' (NetCat, originally for Unix but there is a windows port here) and putting together a batch file. I believe you will have a hard time getting DOS' ECHO command to escape the & and % symbols in the URL. If you save the URL in a text file and use the TYPE command with a pipe to nc it should work. The end result will be a simple batch file that when run will download and display the market rate. No web browser and nothing likely to upset the delicate balance of Windows 95.

If you need help let me know, I could throw something together in a few minutes later tonight.
posted by ChrisHartley at 11:07 AM on April 7, 2010


Is it possible for you to install a different browser that might not crash all the time? Neither Firefox nor Chrome installs on Windows 95 as far as I can tell, but you can get Opera to work.

I installed Opera 9.5 (with the Winsock 2.0 update) on Windows 95 earlier this year, and it worked fine.

There are scripts that might allow you to save an RSS feed to .txt, but I don't know where to find a good feed for the source data.
posted by gemmy at 11:16 AM on April 7, 2010


I have nothing for the OP except to say that this sounds like a job for Perl, but for everyone saying "Just upgrade! That's totally unreasonable!" you reeeeeally don't know what you're asking. My father is a research chemist with close to a million and a half dollars in grants annually, and he has to maintain a machine with NT4 Service Pack 2 because that's the only configuration that will run one particular piece of software that controls one extremely specialized piece of hardware without which an entire multi-year project goes utterly tits up. Sometimes upgrading really, honestly can't be done.;
posted by KathrynT at 11:19 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The .txt file doesn't need to reside on the old Win95 computer. It can sit somewhere else in the building on any other computer that's on the network. So if someone knows how to get Yahoo! Pipes to do what I'm looking for then a faster and newer computer somewhere else in the building can generate the .txt file and I can point the Deko to it.

If nobody else volunteers, I can write you a .NET program (which will work on a modern PC) that will download the info you want from Yahoo and save it to a text file.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:23 AM on April 7, 2010


Just sent you a python program that I think meets your needs.
posted by bitterpants at 11:37 AM on April 7, 2010


You'll be spending more time on this asinine requirement than it costs to tell your boss to spend 400 bucks on a NEW computer. You already have internet. You just something that can connect to it. You don't need to change anything on the old '95 beast; it can still do its job. (But seriously... what happens WHEN it dies? And it will.) If he can't spend $400 on making sure the numbers are correct (especially on something so useful... like a computer made in this CENTURY) then well... I suspect you have other problems as well. Heck, I'm pretty sure for $50 you could get something used of craigslist that would work.

That rant being said... I will attempt to be helpful. A quick batch file is the way to go. I was thinking nc as well, but on preview someone beat me to it.

Or watch another station that shows the numbers 5 minutes before you do.
posted by cgg at 11:38 AM on April 7, 2010


1) Download netcat and extract nc.exe. Put it in a new folder on your desktop.
2) Create a file url.txt in that same folder with this in it (DJI and ^IXIC are stock symbols, replace or add using commas to separate):
GET /d/quotes.csv?s=%5EDJI,^IXIC&f=sl1d1t1c1ohgv&e=.csv
3) add a new line (hit enter) at the end
4) Create a file in the same folder called getrates.bat with this in it:
type url.txt | nc download.finance.yahoo.com 80
pause
5) Double click getrates.bat and it should display something like this:
^DJI 10903.56 4/7/2010 2:53pm -66.43 10961.95 10962.66 10896.69 117449560
^IXIC 2433.47 4/7/2010 2:53pm -3.34 2433.1 2442.27 2429.55 0

OR you can just download and extract this zip archive that I just put together following steps 1-5.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:07 PM on April 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wget for Windows is free and easy to use. Add a scheduled job to run a batch file with a one-liner and you are set. You may have to clean up whatever html you scrape.

wget -p http://www.xyz23.com/file01.html
# The -p or --page-requisite option causes wget to fetch all files
#+ required to display the specified page.

wget -r ftp://ftp.xyz24.net/~bozo/project_files/ -O FILENAME
# The -r option recursively follows and retrieves all links
#+ on the specified site.

wget -c ftp://ftp.xyz25.net/bozofiles/filename.tar.bz2
# The -c option lets wget resume an interrupted download.
# This works with ftp servers and many HTTP sites.

posted by benzenedream at 12:32 PM on April 7, 2010


Just to note, your 15 year old PC may not last 5 years. Once it dies, you won't have any pretty graphs at all. That can be something you can bring up to your boss: it's not a matter of extra capability, but a matter of the hardware failing.
posted by chengjih at 12:56 PM on April 7, 2010


benzenedream beat me, but I second the wget approach, followed by a link such as MesoFilter mentioned. If necessary, put the wget call into a batch file followed by a script (perl, python, etc) that will reformat the csv file to the format required by your software.
posted by mysterpigg at 1:13 PM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Tell your boss that you need new equipment. It's completely unreasonable for them to expect you to keep working with 15-year-old crap."

Please be careful when offering or following advice like that. Oh, sure, it seems right on first glance, but I highly doubt those giving such advice are aware of the challenges of just keeping a media job these days. Also, it's not uncommon for businesses that run very highly specialized pieces of software to have badly outdated computers simply because it's stable and it won't run on newer hardware - and yes, they go through hell when it dies and they have to upgrade... but not all software will run on all computers. I sold a ten year old Mac last year and a pro-audio guy snapped it up because he still needed to run OS9 natively.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:13 PM on April 7, 2010


Ask your boss for a second computer that is completely independent from your Deko system. You're insane to have broadcast equipment connected directly to the internet. If money's really tight, ask for a netbook (or see if the IT guys have any old boxes lying around)

I understand the need for the (old) computer to stay tied to your (old) Deko unit until the station can afford to upgrade to a shiny new Chryon. However, the security implications make your setup incredibly risky -- broadcast equipment should never have direct access fo the internet unless it's absolutely, positively necessary.
posted by schmod at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2010


The Deko system likely has a scripting language built in so it should be able to extract values from the simple CSV my batch script fetches. wget is probably more fault tolerant than nc and is likely a better choice. A 15 year old Windows machine is going to be quite delicate and the less you do to shake the foundations (touching the registry, etc) the better. I've never used perl or python on a Windows 95 machine but I suspect they throw their weight around a bit, updating the registry, etc.

Working on this issue brings back memories of why I switched to Linux back in 1994 - the DOS implementation of ECHO and batch commands in general are really, really, really bad. The beauty of scripting in Unix is like a breath of fresh air.
posted by ChrisHartley at 2:23 PM on April 7, 2010


Just tested this on WinXP. Your mileage may vary.

1) Download the Wget binary installer from this link.
2) Note the directory it installs into. On my system this is C:\Program Files\GnuWin32\bin\ but this might be different on Win95.
3) Make a directory somewhere on the hard drive e.g. C:\Quotes\ that you can write to with your usual login.
4) Open a DOS Window and type the following at the prompt (minus the drive letter and CurrentDir prompt):

C:\CurrentDir>"C:\Program Files\GnuWin32\bin\wget.exe" "http://download.finance.yahoo.com/d/quotes.csv?s=%5EDJI,^IXIC,^GSPC&f=sl1d1t1c1ohgv&e=.csv" -O C:\QUOTES\TODAY.CSV

This should result in a file C:\QUOTES\TODAY.CSV (quoted CSV) that should be close to what you want. If you create a file called GETQUOTES.BAT and place the one-liner above into it, it will dump out the quotes into your file upon double clicking.

You can add other stocks by symbol in the area after "s=" in the URL separated by commas (e.g. ABCD,EFGH,IBM). Thanks to Mesofilter for the initial URL. I'd stay away from installing any other scripting languages, cygwin, or .NET libraries on the Win95 machine as these may muck with the operating system and break existing functionality.
posted by benzenedream at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2010


Our graphics are fed through automation with the exception of full screen graphics.

Is there a solution where the information doesn't have to be displayed as full screen graphics? Maybe cover MOST of the screen, with just a sliver of "newsroom" showing at the top and bottom?
posted by wwartorff at 3:18 PM on April 7, 2010


I don't get reception on my blackberry in the control room so getting the numbers that way is out of the question too.

Walk out of the control room.

Bring piece of paper with pen.

Get quotes on blackberry.

Re-enter control room.

Seriously, it sounds like it would be quicker than 7 minutes to get it on your blackberry, or at least less frustrating and maybe a chance to get some fresh air or accomplish some other task.

Or maybe there is an email newsletter you could find that can email you market summaries, either to your blackberry or a work PC.
posted by jameslavelle3 at 7:14 PM on April 7, 2010


Alright, quick update on the situation. First of all, many many thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Extra big special thanks and internets to ChrisHartley, benzenedream, and bitterpants for the solutions they've offered.

I'm using the combination of wget and Yahoo! Finance downloads to generate a csv file with the days numbers. That was the hardest part of it. Now It's just a matter of connecting that full screen graphics template with the csv file.

You guys have no idea how helpful you've been. I don't have to dread the time between 4:07 and 4:14 every day.
posted by tylerfulltilt at 10:44 AM on April 8, 2010


because this computer has to interface with another very old piece of equipment that feeds still images into my Deko, upgrading the computer is out of the question.

Windows is really very good at backward compatibility. You may well find that whatever old software you're relying on running in Windows 95 still works on Windows 7.

Even if it doesn't, it might well work if you clone your entire Windows 95 environment into a virtual machine running in Virtual PC or VirtualBox under Windows 7 or Linux.

How much pain would you be in if the old computer up and died completely? Because a 10+ year old PC is really very likely to do just that. Personal computers are not built to anything like the reliability standards of typical professional broadcasting equipment.

If I had any IT responsibility at all inside your business, I'd be making it my business to find out how to get the PC side of things workable on new equipment, purely because of this reliability issue.
posted by flabdablet at 3:38 AM on April 11, 2010


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