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Comment: Re:Predictably... (Score 2) 538

by BillAtHRST (#40467519) Attached to: High-Frequency Traders Are the Ultimate Hackers, Says Mark Cuban
Wildly inaccurate. The typical spread (prior to decimalization) for actively traded issues was more like 6.25cents (a sixteenth), which was the difference between the bid and ask prices. A market-maker (or specialist) would typically kick back some of the spread to both market participants in the form of "price improvement", so the actual spread pocketed by the market-maker was probably more like 3-4cents.

For this, the market-maker assumed risk by committing capital to maintain a position in a security, and also was responsible for "maintaining an orderly market" in the securities in which it made markets. (In practice, NYSE specialists were much more accountable than NASDAQ market-makers).

In retrospect, this appears to have been a small price to pay.

Comment: Re:Best DRM: the license agreement. (Score 1) 635

by BillAtHRST (#39132529) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Copy Protection Advice For ~$10k Software?
I used to have a co. that sold budgeting software for commercial film production, and I can tell you from experience that if your prospective customers can use your software without paying for it, they will. (OK, not all of them, just most of them).
I ended up using hardware dongles, and while they were a big PITA for both me and my customers, the alternative would have been to simply give the software away.

Comment: Re:Not just useless, but actually toxic. (Score 1) 452

by BillAtHRST (#34041196) Attached to: LSE Breaks World Record In Trade Speed With Linux
Actually, it's not so much about the spread as it is about the size. The decimalization of the markets in 2001 had the effect of fragmenting liquidity, by allowing arbitragers to "ping" the market with orders with very little risk. (Google "SOES bandit" for more info).

Also, 25-cent spreads (a "quarter") had all but disappeared by that time, except for very thinly-traded issues. The average spread was a "steenth" (6.25 cents) back in those days, and in retrospect that wasn't so bad. It left enough room for both buying and selling broker to make a little money while giving the customer "price improvement" -- i.e., a better-than-quoted price -- esp. for large trades.

The SEC's rataionale for moving to decimal pricing was apparently to help the "little guy", but it missed the point that most "little guys" have their money invested with big mutual funds, etc. Decimalization actually hurt them (and their little-guy customers) by fragmenting liquidity to the point that it became very difficult to execute large orders without "price impact" (which is when arbitragers find out that a big fund is buying or selling and try to jump ahead).

At the time I was consulting with the 2nd largest "wholesale" broker on Nasdaq, and they shut down the business because they could not make money at sub-penny spreads. Fewer market-makers means less liquidity which leads to situations like the May "flash crash" where so-called "market-makers" run for cover by posting "stub quotes", rather than "maintaining an orderly market" as specialists on traditional exchanges are required to do.

Yes, specialists and market-makers made good money back in the old days, but for the most part, they earned it by risking their own capital. (And by having a vested interest in the overall health of the markets). When all is considered, it seems that "we" (as in society) may be paying a much higher price today.
Medicine

Woman Develops Peanut Allergy After Lung Transplant 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-extra-charge dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A woman in need of a lung transplant got her new lungs from someone with a peanut allergy who died of anaphylactic shock. Seven months after the surgery, the woman was at an organ transplant support group when she ate a peanut butter cookie and had a violent allergic reaction. So how had the woman's new lungs brought along a peanut allergy? A blog post dives into the medical details and explains that immune cells in the donated lungs couldn't have lived in the new body for long enough to cause the reaction... however, if they encountered an allergen (i.e. something peanuty) shortly after being transplanted, they could have trained the woman's native immune cells to respond."
Image

Terry Pratchett's Self-Made Meteorite Sword 188

Posted by samzenpus
from the x4-crit-modifier dept.
jamie writes "Fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett says he was so excited after being knighted by the Queen that he decided to make his own sword to equip himself for his new status... the author dug up 81kg of ore and smelted it in the grounds of his house, using a makeshift kiln built from clay and hay and fueled with damp sheep manure."

Comment: Re:Good Fix... (Score 1) 460

by BillAtHRST (#32277858) Attached to: New "Circuit Breaker" Imposed To Stop Market Crash
The securities markets are open to all -- including "investors" (i.e., those who buy with a "long-term" horizon, whatever that is these days) and speculators. The speculators engage in what is called arbitrage -- finding discrepancies in the market and taking advantage of those discrepancies to make a profit.
It can be argued that the speculators serve a useful purpose by keeping the markets "efficient" -- i.e., making sure that prices don't get too out-of-whack.
To a large extent, this problem was caused in the late 90's when the SEC mandated that stock prices be quoted in pennies rather than the quaint eighths, sixteenths, etc. (of a dollar). This led to traders being able to game the system with minimal risk by "stepping in front" of published (and presumably real) quotes for a dollar (i.e., a penny times 100 shares, which is a "round-lot" order).
The idea of decimalization was that it would benefit the small investor, but in fact most small investors (i.e., you and me) invest through mutual funds or something similar, typically managed by an "institutional investor" (e.g., Fidelity). The narrowing of the bid-ask spread made it much more difficult for institutional investors to find large blocks of liquidity without "market impact" (what happens when other traders find out if there's a big buyer or seller in the market).
There are markets are designed for institutional investors and that don't exhibit this behavior -- one is a company called Liquidnet, which only allows institutional investors and specifically excludes the "sell-side" traders because of the problems mentioned above.
There is a lot more to it, and yes, the markets continue to get faster, with "co-location" being an important factor now (because the speed of light is "too slow", many traders locate their computers in the same data center as the exchanges to eliminate transmission delays). Some traders boast of microsecond and even nanosecond latencies, but for the most part they are cooking those numbers to make them look better than they really are.
Media

Lack of Manpower May Kill VLC For Mac 398

Posted by timothy
from the vlc-generally-rocks dept.
plasmacutter writes "The Video Lan dev team has recently come forward with a notice that the number of active developers for the project's MacOS X releases has dropped to zero, prompting a halt in the release schedule. There is now a disturbing possibility that support for Mac will be dropped as of 1.1.0. As the most versatile and user-friendly solution for bridging the video compatibility gap between OS X and windows, this will be a terrible loss for the Mac community. There is still hope, however, if the right volunteers come forward."
Open Source

Linux Kernel 2.6.32 Released 195

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the download-compile-reboot-repeat dept.
diegocg writes "Linus Torvalds has officially released the version 2.6.32 of the Linux kernel. New features include virtualization memory de-duplication, a rewrite of the writeback code faster and more scalable, many important Btrfs improvements and speedups, ATI R600/R700 3D and KMS support and other graphic improvements, a CFQ low latency mode, tracing improvements including a 'perf timechart' tool that tries to be a better bootchart, soft limits in the memory controller, support for the S+Core architecture, support for Intel Moorestown and its new firmware interface, run-time power management support, and many other improvements and new drivers. See the full changelog for more details."
Image

Scientists Say a Dirty Child Is a Healthy Child 331

Posted by samzenpus
from the snack-is-going-to-be-on-the-floor-today dept.
Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California have shown that the more germs a child is exposed to, the better their immune system in later life. Their study found that keeping a child's skin too clean impaired the skin's ability to heal itself. From the article: "'These germs are actually good for us,' said Professor Richard Gallo, who led the research. Common bacterial species, known as staphylococci, which can cause inflammation when under the skin, are 'good bacteria' when on the surface, where they can reduce inflammation."

Comment: Re:De Icaza Responds (Score 1) 498

by BillAtHRST (#29670277) Attached to: London Stock Exchange Rejects .NET For Open Source
Sorry, but I do this for a living, and nobody who has a clue is using Java for low-latency application development. All the benchmarks and whitepapers are fine and dandy, but in the REAL WORLD, Java simply can't handle (very) heavy loads without falling over.
I don't know why that is, but suspect that it's simply a matter of too many frickin' layers.
The other issue is that Java performance is simply not deterministic because of the GC -- everything is fine for a while, and then you have a 100ms spike when the VM decides to do GC. And yes, I know that there's a lot of work going on to address that, and some of it is promising, but it simply ain't there yet.
I have no idea how much of this is also applicable to .Net, although I suspect at least some of it is. I also suspect that the bigger problem is that the whole project ended up being a gigantic clusterfsck, between Microsoft and Accenture (and who the heck thought Accenture knew anything about designing trading systems anyway?)
Last point: you think that was bad -- the volumes in UK are WAY lower than here in the US, so one can only imagine what would happen if they tried to roll out something like this in a really high-volume environment.

Comment: Re:Great... the windows tada guy... (Score 1) 196

by BillAtHRST (#29497413) Attached to: Brian Eno Releases Second iPhone App
If you read about this you'll find that he was intrigued by the idea of creating a 6-second piece of music that would actually be... well, music. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Eno#The_Microsoft_Sound) Some of his other "innovations" include "oblique strategies" (http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000914.php) and "Frippertronics" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frippertronics).

I'm all for computer dating, but I wouldn't want one to marry my sister.

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