Disaster – What NOT to do

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Mr. Frank
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Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by Mr. Frank » Sat Mar 02, 2013 3:53 pm

I just finished my 3rd derby as chairman and it was a disaster. My first two were flawlessly executed. As you know, in running one of these events, a tremendous amount of time, effort, blood, sweat and tears are invested. To fail on the execution is beyond disappointing. Today, I had a series of hardware, software, and (lack of) planning failures that made for a very stressful day. For reference, I’m running a 4 lane, 42’ Best Track with Champ timer, solenoid start, and GPRM software.

Do NOT assume that because everything worked yesterday, that it will today, and therefore think it is not necessary to test every component. I know, it’s a no-brainer. I tested the solenoid and passed, so thought I was good to go.

Heat 1 – Everything works fine, but – the finish order was reversed. Yesterday during test, I had to select the Reverse Lane order. I thought maybe I had unselected it today by accident, but that was not the case. Decided to re-run the heat. Hit READY TIMER and got a Timer Port error. Checked the timer and solenoid and both were set to the correct COM port( BTW- Ditch the serial data, it’s 2013. I haven’t had to mess with com ports since Windows 95). Solenoid test worked but not the timer test. I ended up having to run the whole race in Solenoid Test mode and record results manually. The timer worked for that, but the display was only shown long enough to record finishing place but not time.

Do NOT think you do not need a back-up plan. Again, another no-brainer.

Thankfully, I had printed a master score sheet and also exported it to excel. Unfortunately, that was the extent of my back-up plan. I had no plan for dealing with ties and had no clue how to generate a Grand Finals schedule. We had calculated the standings based on points and determined the winners of each rank. For the ties, best we could come up with was a runoff. Fortunately, no-one complained their son had the “slow” lane. The top 4 of each rank were to advance to the grand finals. I tried to create a new race file just to generate a schedule. When creating a new race file, it prompts you for the file name. When I tried to type in the new file name, nothing would type into the field, and therefore, no new file could be created. So, instead of having a grand finals, we had to determine the overall winners based of the points earned in Round 1. And then deal with another tiebreaker.

On a positive note though, the boys had no idea the race didn’t go exactly as planned and they had a blast. Wish I could say the same about the parents.

FB
Longwood,FL
Last edited by Mr. Frank on Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.



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gpraceman
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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by gpraceman » Sat Mar 02, 2013 10:44 pm

Sorry to hear that Murphy's Law struck your race.
Mr. Frank wrote:Heat 1 – Everything works fine, but – the finish order was reversed. Yesterday during test, I had to select the Reverse Lane order. I thought maybe I had unselected it today by accident, but that was not the case. Decided to re-run the heat. Hit READY TIMER and got a Timer Port error. Checked the timer and solenoid and both were set to the correct COM port( BTW- Ditch the serial data, it’s 2013. I haven’t had to mess with com ports since Windows 95). Solenoid test worked but not the timer test. I ended up having to run the whole race in Solenoid Test mode and record results manually. The timer worked for that, but the display was only shown long enough to record finishing place but not speed.
Please email your HardwareDebug.log file to support@grandprix-software-central.com" target="_blank. That file is in the Documents\Lisano Enterprises\GrandPrix Race Manager folder and logs all communication between the timer and the software. Maybe the log file will reveal what the issue was.

BTW on the serial interface, there are no timers on the market that are true USB timers. The couple of USB timers out there just built USB to Serial Adapters into their timers. Serial communications are quite dependable. It is going through a USB port that causes many problems because any type of USB device requires device drivers to get it to work properly. I wish computers still had built-in serial ports, as they are far more dependable.


Randy Lisano
Romans 5:8

Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

Mr. Frank
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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by Mr. Frank » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:52 am

Thank you Randy, I'll send the logs. Later last night I was able to manually enter in the heat results.(At the event, like the save file problem, it wouldn't let me type into those fields) Once I got home though, I could.Was happy to see the the standings were the same as the ones we manually calculated. I was also able to generate the finals schedule. Wish I could drag everyone back up there to run them. I agree with you about having a serial port on the computer.

Thanks again,
Frank



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gpraceman
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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by gpraceman » Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:50 pm

I am not sure why you experienced a problem on race day. There is nothing, other that being in Demo Mode (not entering your serial number) that the software would prevent you from creating a new data file. There are no restrictions that would keep you from manually entering results for each heat, unless you were in "Test/Tie Break" mode.

The only thing that I saw in your communications log was that the port became disconnected a couple of times that day, while the software was still running. Later versions of the software do provide a warning about disconnecting a USB to Serial Adapter while the software is still running. Some users have experienced a severe sluggishness in their system when doing so. It is better to shut down the software first, so it can free up the memory resources for the port properly. Then unplug the adapter. I don't know if that was what you had experienced or not.


Randy Lisano
Romans 5:8

Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by rpcarpe » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:14 am

Good advice on back-up, and great customer support by Randy.

Have a plan B and maybe down to Z!:)


My wife started a new support group... Widows of the Pinewood Derby.

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rcmoeur
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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by rcmoeur » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:52 pm

I was visiting another Pack this weekend to observe their Pinewood Derby, sine we'll be using their track for the District Derby week after next. All in all, a very well-run event; however, just before the championship races, the master laptop went belly-up, and there was no other computer readily available configured with GPRM and USB/serial drivers for their timer.

But disaster was averted - another spare laptop did have Chris Sutton's Excel spreadsheets loaded, and the timer could still read 1st thru 4th, and with that combo, a Pack champion was crowned. :1st:



Mr. Frank
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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by Mr. Frank » Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:47 am

Yes, a second laptop loaded with all the software will be part of my backup plan going forward. I'll also be moving it indoors so everything can be set up the day before.



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gpraceman
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Re: Disaster – What NOT to do

Post by gpraceman » Fri Mar 15, 2013 8:45 am

Mr. Frank wrote:Yes, a second laptop loaded with all the software will be part of my backup plan going forward.
Also, you might want to have the data file on a flash drive. If one computer has a problem, pull out the flash drive and move it over to the other computer and continue racing where you left off.
Mr. Frank wrote:I'll also be moving it indoors so everything can be set up the day before.
What timing system were you using? There is only one timer that claims to work outdoors and that is The Judge from New Directions, but only if it has the "Sunlight Max" option.


Randy Lisano
Romans 5:8

Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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