(Editor's Note: This is the second part of Gary B. Smith's diary of his often frustrating, frequently funny efforts to get set up to day trade from home. For part one, click here.)
Now, where was I? Oh yeah -- buried under cables, digging through manuals, perusing the "Downloader Users Manual"! You know, the normal fun stuff that makes computers so darn easy.
Okay, so there I was, all set to go, but had a data feed that wasn't compatible with
. This was going to be a nightmare. First call was to
to find out what my options were. Thankfully, I only had a few choices, primarily
I called S&P first, and the sales guy said I could hook up via satellite or cable box. Right, like I really want to be rigging up some satellite connection. But -- surprise -- Comstock takes care of all that for you. Still, I thought the cable option would be easier, because the people who owned our house before us were nice enough to install a cable outlet in the basement (where my wife hides both me and my office).
Next call was to BMI, and I really liked their service. The sales guy was easy to talk to, he had a contact at Omega, he was a trader too -- man, we were bonding! And, they had lower prices than Comstock. The BMI cable box was on its way that day.
I was soooo close now, I could feel it. But, I still needed a rapid response order entry system. I tried day trading using both
. It can't be done. You need to get your orders in at exactly the right price and time, and you need to know immediately what you're filled at. Sometimes both vendors could provide that kind of response, but sometimes they couldn't. The risk was just too great, even though I do like those low fees.
Now, remember that
uses? Well, that's the same software used by both
AB Watley and an excellent but lesser-known competitor,
Tiger Investment Group. The only difference is that the order entry feature is activated and linked to your brokerage account. The response time is phenomenal, but to do the software justice, I'll need to spend an entire column telling you about it, and giving you a review of both it and the respective brokers.
At the time, I had not heard of Tiger, so I phoned Watley and got that process started. You've all set up brokerage accounts. Gee, almost as much fun as filling out your tax forms. But, I waded through their paperwork, they sent me the software, I wired them the money, they gave me a password, we did the hootchie koo, and bingo, I was up and running about seven days later.
While this dance was going on, the BMI cable box arrived. Only a little bigger than your TV cable box. Installing it was a no-brainer. Hooked the darn thing up to the cable outlet, and then ran a wire into my serial port. (Which, I'll admit, did take me a while to figure out where and what it was.) Okay, turbines to speed, and ... nothing. No signal, no channel, nothing. For some reason, the box was looking for
(that's the channel BMI sends its data on) and couldn't locate it. Now, I knew we got Turner, so that wasn't the problem. I took the box to another room, and sure enough it worked there. My head was starting to hurt again. Was it a bad box, or a bad cable outlet? Since the box worked in another room, it had to be the cable outlet. But whoever heard of a bad cable outlet? Well, I can thank those
people who sold me this house: They used a cable connection in the basement, but ran it to an antenna! Great, now I had to call the cable company and have them come out and run a live wire into the basement. I thought about doing it myself, but I think you can see my track record at this point wasn't so hot.
I remember a few years ago, the odds of getting the cable people to come promptly was about equal to the odds of
being bearish: zilch. But, maybe it's the competition, or maybe
(CVC if you're trading it) has its act together. Whatever, they were at my house within 24 hours, and I was up and running moments after Mr. CVC left.
But ... STILL NO DATA WAS STREAMING INTO MY COMPUTER! Whoops, I had forgotten to call BMI and have them initialize the box. And, of course, I realized this about five minutes after they closed for the day. Boy, I was really having fun.
All right, no problem. I called the next morning and got things squared away. Data feed ran perfectly, and TradeStation worked fine. Now, it was time to trade.
Uh huh. Right. Well, almost. That morning, I kid you not, AB Watley was down. Hard down. Now in their defense, they have since fallen on their sword and admitted they were pitiful. So I forgave them, and later that day started day trading.
And after all this ... I hacked. No, really, I stunk up the joint. I was miserable. The worst trader in the world. I was like a 2-year-old handed the keys to a Rolls Royce. No, make that a 2-year-old, BLINDFOLDED, with a Rolls Royce. But, damn: I had neat equipment.
But, I sucked it in, and got a tad better each day. I was just getting good -- well, good is liberal -- when we left for
. This would be great. I would leave everything on, let the BMI box shove a few days of data onto my hard drive, and come back ready to rock.
Wrong. Not 20 minutes after we were on the plane, my town had a power hit, and my system automatically shut down, and then rebooted. Without starting up the BMI software. No software, no data. No data, impossible to trade. Now I only had to do two more things: 1) order an uninterruptible power supply; 2) kill myself.
Okay, quick review: I now have TradeStation 4.0; BMI cable box; ASC software; and Townsend Analytics software provided by AB Watley. Also, if you're scoring at home: an IBM Aptiva, 32mb, Pentium chip, Windows 95, and 2 gig on the hard drive (I think -- who can tell?). And, it all works. Slowly at times, but it works. Oh, and I now am also the proud owner of an APCC Back-Ups Pro uninterruptible power supply. All of which guarantees that through thick and thin, through all conditions, no matter what happens ... I can lose money with the best of them!
Okay, enough about my travails -- is all this stuff any good? Is it helping me be a better trader? And, more importantly, is day trading really the way to go? I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't say ... stay tuned.
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Have more questions for Gary B. Smith? Get your answers instantly at Gary's upcoming live chat on
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Gary B. Smith is a freelance sportswriter who trades for his own account from his Connecticut home using technical analysis. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. His column, Technician's Take, appears every Monday. His Q&A column, TSC Technical Forum, appears every Saturday.