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NASA Rally Sport grassroots!!!
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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone ever done any investigation on using bar codes in conjunction with time cards?

Some interesting possibilities there...

Anders
 

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Anders, we did some investigation on using barcodes...although we didn't actually put together any prototypes.

Barcodes on the cars...on the outside anyway...would seem to be a non-starter, as just about any amount of dirt renders them unreadable.

Barcodes on timecards might work better, but it would require the capability to print and barcode the things on the fly...and in the field.

Then there's the gadgets you have to have to read them...it seems that there are very few that are weatherproof...and goodness knows, stuff you use on a control has to be weatherproof! It would also require some training for the workers...and I've found many of them somewhat resistant to new methods and devices.

At the moment, the gain, IMNSHO, does not justify the investment.

We looked into transponders, too, but couldn't locate a sensor that didn't require digging up the road.

Bruce
 

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you might be able to print out bar code stickers quickly...
 

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NASA Rally Sport grassroots!!!
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Discussion Starter #4
Yeah, agreed on the no-go as far as external barcodes. I was imagining barcodes printed right on to the time cards. Or perhaps a reverse sticker that stuck to the _inside_ of a window?

Anders
 

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Yeah, agreed on the no-go as far as external barcodes. I was imagining barcodes printed right on to the time cards. Or perhaps a reverse sticker that stuck to the _inside_ of a window?

Anders
Once we figured out that the readers weren't waterproof, improving the bar code itself was kinda academic. Printing the timecards would work, but I think you'd occasionally have to have the ability to reprint a car's information - thus barcode - on a new timecard in the middle of nowhere. At the moment, it's a car number with a ballpoint. And you'll still need a manual backup log.

If we go all WRC on this - price being no object, of course - we have shelters at every control, laminated waterproof timecards with not only barcodes but mag stripes to record the times. Oh - and generators at the controls to provide 110v AC...might as well heat/air condition them, too...
:)

Bruce
 

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your other left, you idiot
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A solution in search of a problem?

You know, as I was sitting in Kenton this weekend, trying to program my ham radio for cross banding - I actually thought of you Anders. Before I knew what you did for a living, I asked you a question, you gave me some geeky, non-relevant answer, and I said "you're an engineer, aren't you?".

Why are you going down this road?

Yeah, agreed on the no-go as far as external barcodes. I was imagining barcodes printed right on to the time cards. Or perhaps a reverse sticker that stuck to the _inside_ of a window?

Anders
press on,
 

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you gave me some geeky, non-relevant answer, and I said "you're an engineer, aren't you?".
That reminds me of a Microsoft joke, "and the guy in the window held up a sign that said 'You're in a helicopter'"

Why are you going down this road?
Because doing math on paper got boring for engineers about 40 years ago when TI came out with the first "pocket" calculator.

I could see a few really cool apps. If you used that fancy packet radio stuff, instant, paperless scoring is possible. At every time control the car would be bar coded, and the corrisponding arrival time could be uploaded over the radio net. Seems cool to me.

Besides, innovation is finding solutions to problems people haven't had yet!!!

That or maybe Anders is just bored today.

Jeremy

And PS - they do make weather proof (even water proof) bar code readers. UPS, FedEx and a our wearhouse people use them. Cost might be an issue since they are those fancy wireless inventory tracking units.
 

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just another old phart
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Shoot, I thought this was going to be about a better method of getting your favorite drink when you could no longer talk coherently...
 

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And PS - they do make weather proof (even water proof) bar code readers. UPS, FedEx and a our wearhouse people use them. Cost might be an issue since they are those fancy wireless inventory tracking units.
What I should have said was that there weren't any weatherproof units that would fit in any budget anybody could ever imagine having. Some of us engineering types actually have to stay within budgets. :)

BTW, we've tried packet radio, too...not to mention satellite. Rallies, unfortunately, are not only run out where the trains don't run, but out where the radio waves don't run very well, either. Some rallies have made packet work, but there are others that...well, see budget comment above.

Bruce
 

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your other left, you idiot
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mandatory thread drift

For that, you just need a good waitress.

May I recommend Jenna at the Library. She even does the now obligatory closing spiel - "Get the f**k out of my bar!".

Shoot, I thought this was going to be about a better method of getting your favorite drink when you could no longer talk coherently...
press on,
 

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NASA Rally Sport grassroots!!!
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Discussion Starter #11
You know, as I was sitting in Kenton this weekend, trying to program my ham radio for cross banding - I actually thought of you Anders.
Cross-banding? You're such a radio dork. Ok, you would be if you weren't TRYING to cross band but just doing it. My rig does that too and I love it... even if I need the manual and 15 minutes to get it working. ;)

Before I knew what you did for a living, I asked you a question, you gave me some geeky, non-relevant answer, and I said "you're an engineer, aren't you?".
HA! Rally is like a magnet for engineers. How about this: for my first rally EVER (which was a little 60 mile TSD) we built a custom rally computer that tied into the ABS sensors....

Boy, was it horrible! *grin* One, those sensors don't give you crap below about 18 mph, and two, when programming the thing we had NO idea what kind of info would be useful to display.

Why are you going down this road?
1) Yup, Jeremy caught me: bored. ;)
2) Need to get some more checkpoint clocks, so was thinking about options.
3) Jimmy, you think my geekiness had limits??? :D HA!

Anders
 

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NASA Rally Sport grassroots!!!
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Discussion Starter #12
What I should have said was that there weren't any weatherproof units that would fit in any budget anybody could ever imagine having. Some of us engineering types actually have to stay within budgets. :)
The weatherproof ones look like about 500-700 dollars. The cheapo ones are about 69 dollars... perhaps disposable would be the way to go?

Anders
 

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It works very well for Michigan Hare Scrambles races and has for at least a few years. They do it in all kinds of weather, tho I don't know what kind of equipment they use.

You get a barcode printed with your competition number that goes on your helmet.


If it gets muddy, they just wipe it and zap it. It makes sense for them as they get riders coming thru making laps at all different times and the old way was to find the rider on a board and put a check mark next to his number for each lap. Lots of lost time and plenty of opportunity for error with the old way.

Here's a dude gettin' zapped:



edit...

oh yeah..and if you think WE have a lot of classes...



furthermore...
M-Masters
A,B,& C- as stated^
V-Veteran
S-Senior
SS-Super Senior
L-Light Team
H-Heavy Team
F-as stated^

P-peewees
Y-Youth
J-Juniors
 

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The weatherproof ones look like about 500-700 dollars. The cheapo ones are about 69 dollars... perhaps disposable would be the way to go?

Anders
The reader then has to store its information someplace (internally?) and/or be able to upload it immediately to something (laptop? memory card? satellite?)which will eventually end up in Scoring. This stuff all has to be simple to use and foolproof enough to be able to send it out with the average control worker, have him operate it correctly and have it come back intact. Add those considerations and the price goes up a bit. Oh yeah - then write the software to handle it...

If you can embed a trained geek with each control crew, the price goes down quite a bit.

Don't forget that no system is failure-proof, so you still have to write on timecards and keep a manual log. Even WRC, with all its electronic wizardry, still keeps manual logs.

Bruce
 

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NASA Rally Sport grassroots!!!
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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
I haven't seen any readers with internal storage, but yes, as you described, the zapper would be only one part of the system. The other would be some sort of stage clock with memory. Trust me, as an electrical engineer who specialized in embedded system hardware design and software construction, I know that there are many other pieces. :D

The infrastructure issue of how to return the info to scoring is an interesting one....

But how about turning the idea on it's head? No scanners at the controls, only bar code printers. The printer prints a sticker that you stick on the time card representing the time. One scanner back at scoring, when the cards come in, boop boop boop the time card is read!

Anders

Cheers,
Anders

edit: Oh, I realize now that maybe that's what Jake B was saying all along. :)
 

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The reader then has to store its information someplace (internally?) and/or be able to upload it immediately to something (laptop? memory card? satellite?)which will eventually end up in Scoring. This stuff all has to be simple to use and foolproof enough to be able to send it out with the average control worker, have him operate it correctly and have it come back intact. Add those considerations and the price goes up a bit. Oh yeah - then write the software to handle it...
Well, since most of the expensive ones are designed for warehouse workers and mail carriers to use, I'd say the learning curve is not that steep.

A simple unit could be made that stores the data in flash, has an interface to the scanner and a serial/USB/Ethernet port for data access plus for sending over the HAM network. Total cost: ~$50USD + $50 for a scanner + $50 for packet TX setup = $150USD per timing team...

Also, since I haven't been to a rally w/o a working radio net (and seen stages cancelled because of a down net) then I'd say any system that uses that would be reliable for the purpose

If you can embed a trained geek with each control crew, the price goes down quite a bit.
Actually I've noticed that most of the timing people, HAM people etc are trained (and cerified) geeks along with at least half of the competitors (all us codrivers + a few random drivers).

Don't forget that no system is failure-proof, so you still have to write on timecards and keep a manual log. Even WRC, with all its electronic wizardry, still keeps manual logs.

Bruce
True, nothing beats a pen and paper in the long run, but the bar code thing would still be cool.
 

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If you really want to consider this, talk to Mark Buskirk. He did a stellar job of scoring (his own program) at the one-time-only Cadillac Rally that Jimmy put on. He also has installed barcode systems in everything from furniture warehouses to duck processing plants. Yes, you can even barcode poultry.
 

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You'd have to weigh the introduction of several more failure points against the advantages of the system. What ARE the advantages, anyway? Eliminating errors caused by poor penmanship?

You'll notice in Eric's picture, the young lady is recording on a clipboard.

Packet radio, as noted elsewhere, works only if the infrastructure is in place...merely transmitting packets doesn't guarantee they get anywhere. And remember, you can't use the same repeater the rally safety net uses.

Bruce
 

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You'd have to weigh the introduction of several more failure points against the advantages of the system. What ARE the advantages, anyway? Eliminating errors caused by poor penmanship?
I agree, Bruce. I wasn't necessarily advocating it, just pointing out examples to show it could be considered feasible. Necessary? Another question entirely. :D
 

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Another thing to consider when introducing new gadgetry is that, unlike FedEx employees or warehouse workers, the vast majority of the people that will be using them only see them once or twice a year.

Bruce
 
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