Lottery Companion 2

Harry Sideras has a look at this program to help you win the Lottery...

I'd read a couple of things about the earlier version in ST Applications and the glossies and decided to take a look when Mark advertised it in the Usenet area on the Internet. I contacted him and he sent me v2 by return.

My motivation for trying it is because I still use an old commercial Pools program and wanted something that would give some statistical help for the Lottery too - not that I do it you understand, but my mum spends hours looking at a pile of numbers she doesn't comprehend every week and I wanted to give her something that'd stop her talking to ime/i about it!

Let's get one thing straight first. The odds for winning the Lottery are absolutely enormous - so unlikely as to be ridiculous. Officially they are 1 in 13,983,816, which means that if you stick a quid on every week the statistical probability is that you'll win once in 268,920 years or once in every 13,446 generations - it's that low and there's nothing that you or this program can do to significantly change these odds.

Well, that's buggered up the likelihood of using this program, hasn't it. Except that it hasn't of course. There are still 60-odd million lottery tickets sold each week, which means there'll be four or five winners every Saturday and who's to say it won't be you? groan

Here we go then. Lottery Companion is shareware and as an encouragement it uses a registration reminder which interrupts use of the program until a sentence is re-typed verbatim. This occurs after every certain number of menu operations and is very annoying indeed. You're also restricted in the unregistered version from adding to the history file of each lottery draw after it occurs.

Registration costs just a fiver and provides you with a master disk which contains a Key file, up-to-date history data from past draws and a receipt for your cash, but lasts for only 6 months after which you'll need to re-register if you want to have continued personal support. This sounds quite harsh but I've found Mark's support to be excellent up to now and even before my registration period has expired, v3 is being actively worked on and responds to many users' suggestions.

v2 improves on earlier versions by being Falcon compatible, but unfortunately it isn't entirely graphics card compatible because it screws up the menu options so that they're barely readable. A bugfix has already been sorted, but it isn't available in the current release.

The first thing you are asked to do is select a maximum number of Data Sets from a dialog box offering three choices, then a file selector comes up with a mask offering *.LCD files, followed by another file selector with a mask of *.LS2 files. Why? What are they?

Well, if you're one of those who likes to dive straight into a program you won't have a clue, nor will you be much the wiser after you've played with the program for a while and read the hefty 66Kb manual, nor even the 8Kb readme file! It's best explained in the help files available from the Help menu option after the program's up and running (a bit late).

A Data Set is a list of six numbers that you will have selected for a single 1 entry on the lottery. You may have just put a pound on or you may've put a fiver on - whichever is the case, you can enter these numbers into a 'Data Set' within Lottery Companion and save them to disk so that the program can automatically check your success (or more likely failure) after you enter the draw numbers on a Saturday night (if you don't have anything better to do!).

The option of selecting the Data Set when you boot the program enables you to recall several sets of numbers that you may have put on - for example you may do a personal set of numbers, one with the family and one at work in a syndicate - each set can be recalled from disk using a different filename.

The number of Data Sets available to you is only relevant if you have a 512Kb ST where memory will be a problem, but think about it - if you need more than 1000 Data sets it implies you're putting on more than a grand's worth of entries each week, so unless you're just experimenting with the program, the default is perfectly acceptable for all practical purposes.

The most aggravating thing is that this information can't be saved into a default file, even in the Registered version, so it has to be selected each time you load the program up. This is another feature that's sorted out in the proposed v3 upgrades.

The screen that you're eventually presented with is comprised of several menus and the main window is filled with information from the Help files. Operation of the program is sometimes held back by the help info being written to screen, but menu selections are buffered so it'll catch up eventually. The option to switch off help info is also coming in the next upgrade.

So, we're in. Now what? Well, the program comes supplied with a history file of all past draws (the LS2 file that we mysteriously selected earlier) and we can view it by going to the Stats menu. Many options are offered here - the number of times each number has been selected, a Hot/Cold option that puts the numbers in order of how often they've been picked, a bar chart, a history file of every draw including what Machine and ball set were used, and a Pattern display showing similar information, but including info on what order the numbers were picked in.

The Stats menu goes even further, though. Extra menu entries offer you quite a daunting dialog, familiar to users of other B.Ware software, that enables you to filter out selected information. If you want to just see the pattern for the last several weeks, each of the machines separately or a multitude of other options it's here in this dialog. My favourite option is to exclude the entry of the Bonus Ball from the data because this is only relevant if I've already got five of the others and this, obviously, hasn't happened yet (otherwise I wouldn't be typing this now!).

After displaying this info on screen in the form that we've chosen we've got the option of printing it out from the File menu option. Everyone has a different method of selecting numbers and the options available cover the majority of them, although upgrades promise additional options that are fashionable in the daily newspapers for making choices. Mark's keeping up to date with these and is including them as well as catering for rumoured changes in the way the Lottery itself is operated.

Ok, this is all well and good but it doesn't make much of a program and certainly doesn't warrant a fiver registration. Neither does it make use of a computer, which is at its best when number crunching. So, what else has it got?

The answer to this lies in the Pick menu. In here there are several options - Random, Hot, Cold, Range, Manual and Wheel.

The screens offered for the first four options are basic to say the least. You are offered the choice of requesting a certain number of Data Sets to be created, up to the limit selected at boot-up and allowing for whatever sets are in memory already, and the computer picks out that number of 6-number sets. 'Random' is obviously completely random, 'Hot' biases the numbers chosen to those that have already come up quite frequently, Cold does the reverse, and 'Range' is a bloody horribly implemented option that is more trouble than it's worth and I refuse to describe - see the manual.

The last two options in the Pick menu are the most useful in my opinion. The first allows you to manually enter the six numbers of your choice into a dialog box, which is ideal if you select your numbers using the printouts using your own adhoc method. Nothing much else to say about this. The final option is the Wheel.

The best way to think of the Wheel is to imagine the Perms used in the pools. The screen is another of those daunting B.Ware efforts that has so many options you don't know what to do with them, but it's comparatively easy to handle. Along the left you have a range of boxes allowing you to select from 7 to 16 numbers, depending on how many numbers you want to perm from. At the top right you have options of Random, Hot and Cold and clicking on one of these buttons will fill the boxes beneath with a set of numbers equal to the number selected in range boxes - when selecting Hot or Cold you will also get a dialog that lets you determine how strong the bias is toward these type of numbers based on the history data file. The bottom left corner offers you the opportunity to make some of your numbers 'bankers', which means that when you eventually click the 'Produce Wheel' option it will ensure that your bankers will be in every set produced. Finally, you get the option to edit the maximum number of sets you want to use - after all, I don't think anyone has any intention of sticking hundreds of quid on each week.

That lot sounds complicated. Let me give you a quick example of how you'd use it in practise.

Let's select 9 numbers from the Range boxes and select the COLD box to get a selection of nine numbers that haven't come out so often yet (they should be due soon) and we'll give the numbers a high bias (or 'weighting'). We can, if we like, rearrange the numbers that come up so that our favourites (or bankers) are in the first two positions and select the number 2 in the bankers section to make sure they come up in each set that eventually gets produced. This will reduce the total number of variations on these numbers from the maximum of 84 to just 35.

This means œ35's worth, which is obviously far too much, so we'll put a limit in the sets required box of 5 (5) and select Produce Wheel. Seconds later we've got our numbers sorted and our Data Sets file is automatically saved to disk ready to check on a Saturday night! Nice one - now we're talking!

There's a lot that can be done with this option and it really depends on your imagination. It can be used with the Random/Hot/Cold buttons or you can input your numbers manually, so it replaces the other options in the Pick menu if you want - the limit is your imagination.

Finally, the moment of truth. It's Saturday and Anthea's just jiggled her way across our screens. Mystic Meg has taken a break from writing for magazines and done our heads in with her astrological diversions. Some celeb or other has done their party piece or advertised their new product in front of the captive millions and the numbers are drawn.

We dash back to our STs with the info, select the Data sets that we need, go to the Draw menu and enter the details of Ball machine, Ball set and numbers in the order that they're drawn and immediately Lottery Companion informs us that we're doomed to another seven days with nothing to live for... B^{

Some of us will be lucky and we'll be teased with a tenner, but there's nothing else to be done but go through the newly saved Stats reports and see if we can pick out another pattern for next week. It may be depressing, but rest assured that Lottery Companion will have saved all the info to make our best choice for next week.

In summary, Lottery Companion 2 is a nice little program. It does everything that can be reasonably asked of it, even though it's quirky in the way it does it. You couldn't say that it has a delightfully modern interface, but the information it gives you is effective and useful and it's being actively supported with a lot of the options being tidied up, several new report layouts being supported, the option for expansion with midweek draws and multiple entries and a warm welcome from the author for any good suggestion for improvements.

The registration terms are a little on the harsh side, even though the cost is very low, and the restrictions in the unregistered version mean you'll either like it or dump it. Personally, I like it and there's little to compete with it other than Dr Graham McMaster's programs that he offers in ST Applications at 7 (which I have no experience of).

I don't give scores for programs on the grounds that they're meaningless. If you haven't sussed it from what I've written a score wouldn't help you.

Program: Lottery Companion 2
Author: Mark Butler
Contact: Mark Butler, 8 Brookside, Leicestershire, LE10 2TL, UK
Note: Version 4 is the latest version

Harry Sideras

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