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Using Commoditized Computers Setups for Stock Trading?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the tux-goes-to-wall-street dept.

The Almighty Buck 32

An anonymous reader asks: "Thanks to Walmart, TigerDirect, and Gnu/Linux, I can get computers at about $200 now. Thanks to Matrox, I have several multi-head video cards. Thanks to a hacker's convention last year, I have a truckload of monitors that haven't been put to use yet. I've been out of the financial markets since 1996. I'm itching to get back in now, especially since conditions will be very favorable shortly. Since I've lost my shirt in the markets already (most investors/traders loose their shirts at least once before striking it rich, and my beating was especially instructive), I'm now ready for better returns. Gnu/Linux is well known to support multiple monitor setups. I've seen 4 monitor setups per box in some financial firms, and I recently read a story on the National Weather Service using 3 monitor setups on another OSDN channel. I've also used a Quotrek trading monitor in the past, for monitoring stocks and other financials in real-time. This was before I was a penguinista. Now that I know a bit about Linux systems, I'd like to know the following: What Gnu/Linux applications can I use to monitor and/or process stocks, options, bonds, financial news, and other related information via low cost Gnu/Linux computing solutions, broadband, and multi-head video cards? Free software only, please"

"I'm not going back to paying hundreds of dollars per month like I did for my Quotrek (an FM receiver for stock quotes, possibly discontinued), or paying many hundreds for proprietary software that may not get the job done, or can't be modified or supported by the community. What free software applications do you use? What is a good multi-monitor layout? Any free software that picks up financial broadcast signals and decodes to a computer screen? Any slashdot tycoons want to help out other Slashdot readers?"

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32 comments

Ummm (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5868208)


"...I'm now ready for better returns. Gnu/Linux is well known to support multiple monitor setups."

If I were you I'd spend some time thinking about how not to get financially burned again, rather than compiling Gentoo and fiddling about with X. It may be a cute idea to have your own "trading room", but you'll soon feel stupid when your multiple monitor setup is reporting massive losses of your own cash. And I'm being totally serious here.

Re:Ummm (2, Funny)

spectral (158121) | more than 10 years ago | (#5868231)

No, see.. the point is, he'll be doing all this stuff trying to get it to work. By the time it's all set up perfectly, the market will have slumped again. He'll then let the setup go to pasture, then when it's about ready to climb again, he'll work on this, miss that one, ad inifitum.

Therefore, this IS his way of not getting financially burned again, as long as he realizes when the market's headed for a downward spiral :)

Re:Ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5871121)

What if he has it already figured out? Then he needs to know how to set up his hardware!

Answer the question asked.

Re:Ummm (1)

Doctor Hu (628508) | more than 10 years ago | (#5873704)

(Shrug)

The guy reckons he's learnt from the previous bust, and that the market's likely to start moving up in the forseeable future. He may even turn out to be right. His money (assuming he isn't 'pawning the family silver' that others have a call on), his choice. If he's looking at enough data to fill multiple monitors, though, and he's intending to act on it rather than just play at being a broker with a l33t setup, then it sounds as though he's going to be wanting financial data from the exchanges in real time, not delayed by half an hour or so. And realtime feeds tend to cost.

Numbers (4, Informative)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 10 years ago | (#5868280)

Fundamentally market data is just a stream of numbers, and once you have access to a stream, it's just a matter of deciding what you want to do with those numbers. There are plenty of Open Source apps for dealing with large blocks of numerical data, for example graphing it, running statistical algorithms over it, and so on, for example Octave and GNUPlot. There is even an open source library [quantlib.org] for quantitiative finance. And don't underestimate what you can do with just Perl/Tk. Postgres can take care of all your market history, and it's datatypes and query parser are sophisticated enough for data mining, or look at KDB [kx.com].

The problem you have is twofold. All this stuff is quite low level; you could build something as good as Reuters Dealing/3000 or a BridgeStation out of it, theoretically, but now we're talking about money, we're really talking about time. To integrate QuantLib with Octave with GNUPlot will take a substantial amount of work on your part, altho' once it was done, you could process a feed almost as well as any commercial trading desktop.

The second problem is getting the feed. If you subscribe to say a Reuters data feed for real time streaming quotes, then the cost of a Reuters terminal is really negligible; you're paying for access to the feed. If you take the feed without the terminal, you still need libraries (like SSL) to actually use it in your own application, or you need something like Tibco eFinance to translate it into XML for you, and you also need something that can format messages back to your counterparty in a format they will accept, say FIX or FpML, - this is probably the easiest part to develop yourself, FIX handles all the instrument classes you're interested in. What you need is access to a feed that comes in a useful format, and which can be sourced for in a contract that doesn't involve taking a physical terminal anyway.

Re:Numbers (1)

kapital (471240) | more than 10 years ago | (#5870624)

uh, hold on a bit before you run out there and conquer the market:

1.quantlib is really used for pricing derivatives and checking the risk profile of options positions. it kicks ass, but i don't think you'll really be able to use it in a real time data feed scenario. i mean, most trading desks (i'm talking professionals not mangy ass day traders) only use something like quantlib once or twice a day. it just takes too long to calculate the greeks (especially the vega) since it's usually done numerically.

2. if you do want to play around with quantlib in a way that is much superior to trying to integrate it with octave and gnuplot (talk about the lego-land approach!!), try this R Quantlib [eddelbuettel.com].

3. don't know what you want to do exactly, but probably something like LinuxTrader [freshmeat.net] would be plenty for your needs. what you really need is an efficient way to display a lot of news and quotes. anything else is probably overkill. i mean, what do you really think you're going to do anyway???

Re:Numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5875587)

1.quantlib is really used for pricing derivatives and checking the risk profile of options positions. it kicks ass, but i don't think you'll really be able to use it in a real time data feed scenario. i mean, most trading desks (i'm talking professionals not mangy ass day traders) only use something like quantlib once or twice a day. it just takes too long to calculate the greeks (especially the vega) since it's usually done numerically.
Hmm... at the bank where I work, the traders do this many times a day -- a lot. In fact, we're building semi-realtime risk systems... (with the calculations on linux, because it's fast and cheap). On the other hand, we don't use quantlib, and big banks have deep pockets... Saying that, though, I'd be amazed if most hedge funds didn't have similar systems...

Uh oh, I think somebody's addicted..... (3, Interesting)

dmorin (25609) | more than 10 years ago | (#5868514)

  • I'm itching to get back in now... There's excitement, and then there's compulsion.
  • conditions will be very favorable shortly. So you tell yourself.
  • I've lost my shirt in the markets already . And should have perhaps learned your lesson. Admission of a problem...
  • most investors/traders loose their shirts at least once before striking it rich...and justification of why it's not really a problem.
  • I'm now ready for better returns. Expectation of a better future with no reason. Isn't that one of the layman's definitions of insanity, repeating the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result?
Dude? Seriously. How about a nice savings account? maybe some cd's, short term bond funds? How's your credit card debt?

Re:Uh oh, I think somebody's addicted..... (2, Interesting)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 10 years ago | (#5875697)

Dude? Seriously. How about a nice savings account? maybe some cd's, short term bond funds? How's your credit card debt?

No shit. I used to work for real financial traders, doing risk management systems. We thought the day traders were great comedy.

Note to the OP: If you're so sure you're right about your vast financial acumen and your ability to go up against trained professionals backed by billions of dollars, then prove it by playing a little game.

Instead of trading with real money, just pretend. Keep track of all your trades, deducting for fees, commision, spread, and the other sorts of friction. If you can make pretend money for three months, and do better than a good fund, then you might be ready to swim with the sharks.

Otherwise, just admit to yourself that you are playing the ponies, that you are playing a big, fun, but very expensive video game.

And either way, only gamble with money you can afford to lose. If you have trouble telling the difference, then put the rest of your money in the hands of a friend and tell them not to let you have it for trading. Because an awful lot of people who thought they were pretty smart have ended up losing their houses, their retirement savings, money from family and friends and, quite literally, their shirts. And often, when they did something illegal to get the money, they even lost their freedom.

Well said (1)

mckwant (65143) | more than 10 years ago | (#5881556)

I'm just curious, but how did your trader friends figure out when to SELL? After BSchool, I did exactly what you describe, and found I could buy things just fine, but giving up on the stock was the tricky bit.

If it'd gone up, then it probably ought to go up more, but if it was down, it was due for a rebound. The only time I felt OK about selling was just after a peak, which can't have been healthy.

Obviously, I'm comfortably in index funds now, and not really paying attention to the market. Whatever keeps my mind off my 401k...

Re:Well said (1)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 10 years ago | (#5882120)

I'm just curious, but how did your trader friends figure out when to SELL? After BSchool, I did exactly what you describe, and found I could buy things just fine, but giving up on the stock was the tricky bit.

The glib answer I give is that we used cutting-edge neural networks. But since this is Slashdot, I'll reveal the truth: We had good traders.

How they got that way, I dunno. The best traders were street-smart guys with nerves of steel who had been doing it for years. If you asked them why they did any particular trade, they'd be willing to talk about all sorts of economic, business, and financial issues. But then the honest ones would say, "Hell, I don't know. I just felt like it was time to sell."

To get more traders, we'd start with fresh youngsters. They'd clerk for a while, and then we'd put them in the pits under supervision. Either they got it or they didn't.

The reason I don't normally explain this is that everybody thinks that they are pretty smart, that they can get it. Especially geeks. But this is a lot like watching the Olympics on TV and saying, "Hey, I can run and jump. I could do that!"

But stepping into the ring with professional traders is worse than just turning up at the Olympics and giving it a go. Because you're not just going up against the best people in the world; you're also going up against all the advantages that money can buy. It's like showing up as a natural human at an Olympics where the athletes from rich countries have all the performance enhancing drugs and maybe some cyborg body parts.

Obviously, I'm comfortably in index funds now, and not really paying attention to the market. Whatever keeps my mind off my 401k.

That's exactly the way to do it. It'll never make you rich, but it guarantees that you won't be begging for change when you retire, which is exactly where the OP is headed.

More than two monitors (2, Informative)

mcgroarty (633843) | more than 10 years ago | (#5868543)

Not exactly the original question, but for more than two monitors, your best bet is to grab ATI Radeon PCI cards for each additional head. You can get them at around $60 per head, as opposed to many times that for the Matrox 3 and 4 head solutions.

If you're using DVI-D LCDs in the mix, don't grab nVidia PCI cards if you can avoid it. Their driver support is flaky at best when more than one card exists, and the unofficial (free) nVidia drivers only support DVI-D on the head the machine boots on.

Trading apps (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 10 years ago | (#5868717)

What Gnu/Linux applications can I use to monitor and/or process stocks, options, bonds, financial news, and other related information via low cost Gnu/Linux computing solutions, broadband, and multi-head video cards? Free software only, please

I find gcc is a solid option, though I use (!gnu) javac more often than not... (kidding) With many of the data feeds coming in as XML, it was pretty easy to parse and display the data. By the time you finish your development, the market might be improving. Free as in beer, or free as in speech? A GPL or BSD license can be had, but alas, Ars-Fartsica analysis of the market was better than mine. The tools are worth more than the portfolio, and that is not saying much!

Mutiple monitors are for pretty graphs. (3, Insightful)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 10 years ago | (#5868795)

And the trading takes place on a text terminal connected to an IBM mainframe with code written in the 60's, audited by a cast of thousands, and just plain works. Period.

So your likely SOL.

Re:Mutiple monitors are for pretty graphs. (1)

Uart (29577) | more than 10 years ago | (#5878530)

Its true. He won't be able to pull off anything like what the "big boys" use - not that Linux couldn't... it just won't, not for him, real firms spend millions creating systems to handle their trading, they pay craploads for realtime quotes from the markets themselves, they don't trade electronically through a broker... THEY ARE A BROKER... etc.

Then again, if the dude wants to play... let him play.

Re:Mutiple monitors are for pretty graphs. (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 10 years ago | (#5886885)

Actually, no, not anymore. Certainly trading terminals still exist, but a lot of companies have systems in between the market and their traders that are a lot more than a text terminal.

Write your own (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5869175)

That's what I did, sort of. I used Qt/Kde with the KHTMLPart to parse through the web interface for Ameritrade and get the quote information. I haven't worked on it for a while, but I got basic log-in/quote retrieval/buy/sell done, but there's no UI yet, it's currently being called via perl scripts to throw the data into a MySQL database for further analysis so I can tweak my strategy. It actually didn't take very long to write the KHTMLPart app to do the basics, only about a week or so, working an hour or two a day, and more on weekends. You can try using the embedded Mozilla to do it, but I found the KHTMLPart to be easier to work with.

Maybe if I get a decent UI (I would need some requirements/specs from a real trader though), I may start up a SourceForge [sf.net] project. A search on sf.net for stock trading yielded quite a few results, so maybe you could look there?

if you wanna roll your own .. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5869504)

ftp://64.226.245.10/mytrack.linux401.tar

from a company called "Track data corporation"

a friend of mine emailed me about it last year, their website http://www.mytrack.com seems to be down at the moment but his description:

The SDK is a C library and an example test program.

Once you have the test program compiled and a 30 day trial account setup then you can log into the their system and get streaming feeds on news and stock tickers as the trades happen if you sign up for the live feed or 20 min delay otherwise. To sign up online you also need to download the windows application but once the account is set up then it's not needed anymore.

haven't tried it myself as I don't trade,
and don't plan to trade.

sounds like you need this (2, Insightful)

paradesign (561561) | more than 10 years ago | (#5870482)

GA [gamblersanonymous.org]

you my friend have bigger fish to fry first. good luck, im pulling for you. if you dont like that, theres always the slots to fall back on when trading goes bad again.

THE STOCKMARKET MUST BE STOPPED (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5871954)

1) In the long term, counting fees and stocks that get delisted (always ignored by those "long-term 15% growth" frauds) the stock market does worse than lending your money to US Government. If you beat the US Government at inefficiency, it can only be on purpose.

2) The stock market is a lottery used to defraud Middle America out of significant portions of their savings to fund the morally decrepit cesspools of blueblood aristrocracy seeping in from Europe.

3) But won't the great stalwarts of American power, the corporations, collapse if we take all money out of the stockmarket ? No, in fact nearly ALL corporate growth is funded internally from profits. The only exceptions are the occasional IPO that isn't a fraud (name one!) startups funded with founder's money, not stock or VC.

Take all your money out of the stock market now. It will only cause the collapse of the remaining Enron and WorldCom pyramid schemes, not true blue real American powerhouses like GM, Monsato, Colt, and LFP publishing. Cash out your 401k's and put the money in the bank, where it will be lent to people like you -- through mortgages and small business loans.

STARVE GORDON GECKO.

Re:THE STOCKMARKET MUST BE STOPPED (1)

The Clockwork Troll (655321) | more than 10 years ago | (#5873161)

Alternately, learn how to play the aristocrats' game and make a nice nest for you and yours.

For too many it seems, money is a matter of principle before principal.

You're doing something wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5876339)

...if you need up-to-the-second stock quotes, displayed on a dozen monitors.

It's this kind of mentality that gives the stock market it's notoriously irrational, illogical behavior.

Famous last words (1)

Moonwick (6444) | more than 10 years ago | (#5876585)

I'm now ready for better returns.

I've been ready for three nubile young women to start attending to my every last desire ever since I hit puberty. Now where the hell are they?

Here's a hint: the stock market isn't an easy game to be played. Go stick your money in a mutual fund that's managed by someone competent, or invest in a well-run company that's got a long history of success.

And if you think you're too good for that, you may as well just cut me a check, because in the end your money's just going to end up in the hands of people less foolish than you; how about we cut out the middlemen? I'll even draw up some stock certificates [lileks.com] for you to frame.

Oh BS. (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#5878153)

If someone has the smarts to earn the money, they have the smarts to manage their money. Just do some research and quit assuming the only way to win is to get rich quick.

Very few people get rich quick. I'm getting rich slow. Start early, be consistant in your investing (a same percentage every month, preferably over 10%) and ride the long term success. If your looking for a short term miracle just skip stocks and play the lottery. You'll have about as good a chance of succeeding.

Everyone where I work wastes money on bullshit schemes, lotteries, etc... If they would be sound in their budgeting, planning and career choices they wouldn't have to hope to win powerball to get rich. The sad thing is I never chip in and they all laugh about how sad I'll be when they win. The difference is the chance I'll be a multi-millionaire is closing in on 100%. I guess getting rich slowly is too much to ask.

BTW I have degrees in Finance and MIS with Accounting and Economics being my hobby areas (I could have gotten degrees in both Accounting and Economics as well but I figured 2 degrees were enough). I am planning on getting a Masters in Economics next year (or the year after depending on my financial situation) just for fun.

Re:Oh BS. (1)

The AtomicPunk (450829) | more than 10 years ago | (#5878772)

If someone has the smarts to earn the money, they have the smarts to manage their money. Just do some research and quit assuming the only way to win is to get rich quick.

BTW I have degrees in Finance and MIS with Accounting and Economics being my hobby areas (I could have gotten degrees in both Accounting and Economics as well but I figured 2 degrees were enough). I am planning on getting a Masters in Economics next year (or the year after depending on my financial situation) just for fun.

Ahh... well, I suppose your myriad of degrees explains how you can be so naive as to make an assinine comment like "If someone has the smarts to earn the money, they have the smarts to manage their money."

I guess technically you didn't say "manage well" ...

I hate to tell you this but investing is easy (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#5881176)

Simply do some research, invest, keep up with the companies you've invested in.

I guess since you're not confident enough in your abilities, everyone should turn all their assets over to a manager.

How about buying a house, can you trust yourself to find a low mortgage rate? I guess you'll need your mother to hold your hand on that one too. Can you open a checking account, IRA, savings account, 401k, ...

The only assinine thing about my comment is I assumed dumbasses like you could figure out how to invest. Sorry, my bad. Go call your mom.

Re:I hate to tell you this but investing is easy (1)

The AtomicPunk (450829) | more than 10 years ago | (#5881495)

I see you've realized how idiotic your comment was, hence your need to personalize it and flame away.

I do quite well as investing, have a rather large 401k, and have owned my own home for quite some time. I've never run a balance on a credit card, never taken a loan out for a car, and save what most people would consider an obscene percentage of my income.

However, I'm aware enough of society to realize I'm in the minority. What's your problem? You don't venture out of your basement much?

lol... (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 10 years ago | (#5881631)

I never thought you could do it. I'm so proud of you.

You are not in the "minority" as you put it. Millions of people own their own homes. I guess you need to pat yourself on the back.

Just so you know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5886909)

...you sound like a complete asshole. Seriously.

Re:Oh BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#5891929)

Perhaps with his many degrees he has at least learned how to spell "asinine" correctly.
It seems to be a trick you haven't mastered yet.

Re:Oh BS. (1)

Moonwick (6444) | more than 10 years ago | (#5880280)

Maybe you should use those degrees to read what a post says before you go attacking it.
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