Connect with USB?

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KeithRamey
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Connect with USB?

Post by KeithRamey » Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:16 pm

Are any of the timer/software systems capable of connecting to a computer through a USB port?

I showed up to set up for a derby a couple of years ago with my new laptop and found out it only had a USB. I tried the RS-232->USB adapter route with mixed results. Of course, our pack's system is fairly ancient. Actually I can only tell you they have had it for more than the five years I've been around.

I saw one site that actually advertised that you could use the adapter. Has any one else had good results using adapters?

Thanks,
Keith Ramey


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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by gpraceman » Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:21 pm

I have had many of my software customers successfully use USB to Serial adapters. The important thing is to install the driver that comes with the adapter so that it will create a "virtual" serial port which you can then use with race management software. Most timer manufacturers sell adapters along with their timers.

There is a USB timer on the market (http://newbold.zoovy.com/category/Daytona/). However, what they have essentially done is to build an USB to serial adapter into their timer. You still have to install a software driver in order to use race managment software.


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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by MaxV » Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:20 am

I have successfully used a USB to serial adaptor with the Microwizard K2 timer on two different laptaps. Works like a charm!



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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by craig_newbold » Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:15 pm

The Daytona timer supports USB through one of two options; internal USB or external adapter. Both approaches work in a similar manner by making the USB interface appear to the PC as a traditional COM port. In effect the driver provides a virtual COM port to the system and any software that can access the port.

There will always be a driver required for a USB-based timer interface unless the timer is supported natively by the Windows OS. Even then there is a driver loaded, it is just transparent to the user since it is loaded through the Operating System itself.

If the Daytona timer was to implement USB without providing it as a virtual COM port then the communications method becomes more complicated. You still need to install a USB driver and in addition each application that will communicate with the timer (GPRM, DM, RV etc) must have additional code written and maintained to talk with the USB driver and continue to maintain COM port support.

I don't see the value in adding USB in this second approach. It doesn't save any cost, it adds complexity for the race software vendors, and it doesn't simplify life for the end user because a driver still has to be installed properly.

The primary benefit in using the internal USB interface is that it's a cleaner overall setup. In the case of the Daytona product it's also cheaper to use the internal interface because the serial cable is no longer required and the USB cable comes with the internal USB option.

- Craig Newbold



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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by KeithRamey » Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:59 pm

Thanks for the replies.

Not only did I install the driver, I contacted the manufacturer of my adapter and had a current driver emailed to me. My set up was The Judge finish line with Derby Master circa the late 90's. It worked most of the time, but there were glitches. Sometimes the screen would show no times, but times would get recorded. Then, I would check the file and find a zero time for 1 or 2 runs out of a total of 300. It could be a completely different problem. Who knows?

After another year in storage the finish line is not working at all. So, I'm looking around. I like the fact that the Daytona provides the USB option. Most of all, I like the expandability. I know we can't afford a wider track this year, but it would be great to be able to expand later.

Thanks again!


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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by gpraceman » Fri Nov 11, 2005 6:33 pm

KeithRamey wrote:My set up was The Judge finish line with Derby Master circa the late 90's. It worked most of the time, but there were glitches. Sometimes the screen would show no times, but times would get recorded. Then, I would check the file and find a zero time for 1 or 2 runs out of a total of 300. It could be a completely different problem. Who knows?
Sounds like a DM bug to me since times were being received. Race management software has to recieve the data from the timer, extract out the times for each lane, save it to a data file and then display it on screen, so there is a lot for the race software to do. The problems that I have heard of with USB to Serial adapters are that there is no communication, not partial.


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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by John Shreffler » Sat Dec 10, 2005 10:37 am

The USB-Serial cable solution will be the only practical way to interface to finish lines for those having computers with USB only. The best place to set up your computer is at the start line, because the software designs the races, i.e. who is on which lane for each race. If you are down at the finish line, you must do a lot of shouting.

USB is a very high speed connection, and can only travel about 10 or 15 feet. That is why you don't find long USB cables. Serial information can, by contrast, travel hundreds of feet.

I manufacture the Judge, and for the reasons above, have no plan to make my computer output in USB.

John Shreffler
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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by Slotown » Mon Jan 02, 2006 3:02 pm

I bought the Daytona with a USB port. It works great along with the GPRM. My only set up issue was when I installed the USB drivers it assigned the bridge to COM 4. For some reason I had a mental block thinking that it was COM 1 or 2. I didn't catch that till I looked to see if I was having a hardware conflict and noticed that it was assigned to COM 4. After I switched it worked great.

Be aware that USB cables are limited to 5 meters without repeaters, requiring the computer to be located either in the middle of most tracks or at the finish line.


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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by mrvoltz » Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:07 am

One thing to remember in order to avoid prolems.
Once you have the adapter working well and set up right, always use the same USB port for that adapter or it will reconfigure it as a new port and change the settings. I found this when using an adapter with my GPS.
When I plug into the same USB port everything works.


Dave Wright
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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:38 am

Slotown wrote:Be aware that USB cables are limited to 5 meters without repeaters, requiring the computer to be located either in the middle of most tracks or at the finish line.
That is one drawback to the Daytona (now called the Turbo), since it only has the USB connection.

With a serial port timer, you can use a USB to Serial adapter and still be able to use a long serial cable. We use a 50ft serial cable attached to our adapter, so we are able to put the computer up by the finish line without any problem.


Randy Lisano
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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by craig_newbold » Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:24 pm

I think there may be some confusion on how the Turbo system works.

Our Turbo models (formerly called Daytona) provide a 9-pin RS-232 compliant serial port as part of the basic setup, i.e. at no additional charge. This is the exact same interface and protocol as we have used on all previous DT1000/DT2000/DT8000 timer models.

As an option you can add USB to Turbo in one of two ways:

1. Use a USB to Serial Port adapter.
2. Purchase the optional Internal USB Interface.

If a customer purchases the internal USB interface they actually have two separate interfaces. Both interfaces transmit time and place data to the PC. The only limitation is that the timer can only receive data from the PC on one of the interfaces at a time. The timer is configured by a jumper to receive data via RS-232 or USB.

Since USB (either adapter or internal) can be added later I would suggest the following:

1. Use the included RS-232 serial interface if your PC supports it.
2. If your PC only has USB:
- purchase the internal USB port if you will use the PC at the finish line. (cheaper and cleaner solution)
OR
- purchase a USB to Serial adapter and one or more serial cables if you need the PC to be more than 15 feet from the finish line. (longer reach, but a little more expensive and clunky)

- Craig



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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:04 pm

Craig,

Sorry, my mistake for stating that the Turbo only has a USB connection. Thanks for setting the record straight.

Randy


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Re: Connect with USB?

Post by gpraceman » Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:07 pm

gpraceman wrote:We use a 50ft serial cable attached to our adapter, so we are able to put the computer up by the finish line without any problem.
I guess I wasn't having a very good day. I meant to write that with the 50ft serial cable, we can put our computer at the start gate.


Randy Lisano
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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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