Use of a Wireless LAN or bluetooth for slalom competitions

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John Gilmour
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Use of a Wireless LAN or bluetooth for slalom competitions

Post by John Gilmour » Mon Oct 13, 2003 1:31 pm

I don't know crap about computers....but how about a larger TV display...or since so many laptops now come bundled with WIFI or Airport....

is it possible to have a wifi connection that could easily span an entire slalom course? Anyone who brought a wifi enabled device or wireless lan card could see the results. (chaput, UR13 ) Using a wireless lan might relieve the organizers from having to set up monitors.

(is this reasonable?) /cost effective?

We would never have to bother the organizers for the PDF file afterwards because you could go home it already.


I searched on Ebay and found this. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... tegory=176

It says a range of 100 meters. If we put this device in the middle of a slalom course I guess we might be able to use it for a 200meter (600 foot) salom course. Fits 100 cones. Actually I don't think it is unreasonable to have people come walk up the course a bit to see times. Having various devices able to see times and cones + brackets would certainly keep up away from pestering time keepers. We would also know when our number is coming up to race.

Would Blue tooth enabled cameras also be able to send photos quickly for collection to one main laptop?


Or is bluetooth the wrong protocol to use as opposed to 802.11 or others. Are there protocols which as not limited to the number of users, range, or less bandwidth limited? Or is bluetooth going to work across so many platforms that it is the correct choice?

HA ha ha You could get your run results over a PDA with wireless- or actually post them on the web in real time Fluitt and Riodan have those new PDA phones ( I suppose this is unreasonable)
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Howard Gordon
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bluetooth / 802.11

Post by Howard Gordon » Mon Oct 13, 2003 3:25 pm

Originally, Bluetooth was defined with just a 10 meter range, but a newer specification has defined Bluetooth Class 1 devices with 100 meter range, which is a significant improvement. However, the radios still require line-of-sight connection, and the 2.4GHz signals don't deal well with any obstructions, including trees, bodies, etc. So practically speaking, the range is still inadequate for anything beyond relatively short tight slalom courses. Though 802.11b devices support a higher data rate than Bluetooth, they operate in the same power and frequency range, and therefore suffer the same limitations.

Though 2.4GHz is more in vogue, signals in the 900MHz frequency band are better suited to pass through objects. I'm currently working on a project to develop a wireless camera, starting initially with Bluetooth Class 1 radios, and have migrated to radios in the 900MHz band.

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High frequency vs low frequency.

Post by John Gilmour » Mon Oct 13, 2003 5:55 pm

Would something like this be any better?

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... gory=44997

I guess like anything low frequency signals have better penetration than high frequency signals.

My hopes were for compatibility with an existing standard so people would not have to buy specialized Wireless lan cards to match the frequency. That's why I thought about bluetooth or 802.11

Again...maybe we don't need much coverage...just some coverage.

The other option perhaps is if we were to run a network cable we could put one or two "repeaters" along the length.


------disclaimer- not realistic ....yet.......................

I do think it would be great if we could all network together and be able to amass everything on a central server. (You could have multi video feeds coming onto your laptop).

I had this crazy idea of having lots of video feeds coming into one place- but I guess the bandwidth would not currently support anything other than stills. If it were possible all the time codes could be easily synched. And we could make multi camera professional looking videos with everyone just contributing their own shots.

What Kenny is doing now will be very difficult without time codes being synched. Luckily the FCR beeps are audible over a lot of the course.

For now- it would just be great for people to be able to see their times without having to go to a central board, and without having to worry if someone copied it down correctly. Plus promoters would have a way of easily diseminating directions and the like.
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Howard Gordon
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wireless

Post by Howard Gordon » Mon Oct 13, 2003 6:44 pm

Bluetooth and 802.11 have some very nice features for complex communication architectures such as local area networks where you want to hook up a bunch of computers, but they're a bit too complex for basic signaling applications.

It really depends on what you want to accomplish. There are some nice digital radio modules for 900MHz that can be easily interfaced to a computer via RS232 or USB. I'd have to think about how you would build a cone sensor that could detect off-center placement - though an accelerometer would trigger on movement, you'd still have an issue with counting cones that were knocked by flying cones from the other lane. Video image processing for recognizing cone movement would be slick, but not easy unless you could place cameras overhead.

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Just to be able to see Gesmers desktop is plenty.

Post by John Gilmour » Tue Oct 14, 2003 2:24 am

Actually I'm not talking about the bowling alley way of counting cones. Though Howard- if you can figure it all out- that would be very cool. I suppose we could have some Piezio electric Spots that triggered a coded signal that was unique to each spot and was recorded over a LAN but for now...............

Much simpler.

I still would have cone counts be manual and the timing crew would enter the cone counts into the Gesmer spread sheet as par usual.

BUT- the screen that Gesmer is working off of could be read by everyone who had a wireless LAN card.

In effect we would just be broadcasting Gesmer's desktop. That way no one would be looking over his shoulder and the racers would have a way to quickly compare their times to other racers.

Lets say I am Luca. Luca wants to know how fast his upcoming opponent is. In a large 32 man knock out bracket he will race racers 32, 16,8,4,2,
He has the advantage of knowing how fast his opponents are. Since in the round of 32 racer number 16 races number 17 (the closest seeded pair) he knows that neither 16 or 17 are sandbagging- they can't risk it. So the times posted for 16 and 17 are "true" times. So he can compare his time to the racer who won that bracket and know with some accuracy the speed of that racer- if an exceptionally fast time shows up...it may signal a strategy change or equipment change for Luca.

In the round of 16 racer number 8 races number 9...Luca should check that time.

Same in the following rounds.

This is a huge advantage for qualifying first.

With some regularlity the times should drop as Luca faces seeds closer to his time...but he knows where they stand.

But in the last rounds- which come quickly, Luca may not have time to go to the timing table- and might need the info sooner.

Of course there are similar advantages for the number 2 seed. but the seeds are 3 apart so there could be larger gaps and more possibility for people to hold back. As you move down to the number 3 position things again are about the same as for 2- about 3 seed positions apart.

Of course there are plenty of other reasons to want to know your times- you may have done an equipment change and want to know the effects.. You might be forced to make an equipment change, or strategy change or other change and so forth.

Anyway- having your times and the times of other racers available to you is the important thing- and without some huge Red Bull board that costs a billion bucks- I think this might be our affordable solution. LAN cards can run about $20 used on Ebay. And of course the new Pentium chips are bundled with it anyhow.
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gotcha

Post by Howard Gordon » Tue Oct 14, 2003 11:03 pm

Okay ... I didn't understand before what problem you wanted to solve. In that case, Bluetooth or 802.11 is the right solution, since you basically want to create a wireless LAN that allows remote access to files on Dan's machine. Of course, Dan's machine is a Mac, so creating a shared file network environment with Palm or WinCE based PDA's could be an interesting challenge. Bluetooth is probably the best choice, since it's built into a number of PDA's now.

The Bluetooth protocols do support file sharing, but you'd need an Excel spreadsheet reader on the PDA's.

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Macs and networking.

Post by John Gilmour » Wed Oct 15, 2003 2:17 am

Should I get a Mac or PC? Do Macs integrate seamlessly with networks?Or could a Mac run excel in emulation mode in windows without any significant slow down (since there is very little number crunching really going on).

Or for the Excel quandry...is there a way to automatically "migrate" the times (in real time) from Excel to a
simple list so Excel is not required to read the file?

You know this could be very fun.

I imagine in a few years when lots of people/spectators have Bluetooth PDA's they could read commentary- strategy and so forth, along with rider bios/stats and all sorts of neat stuff during a race. Some preloaded bio would pop up with the rider.

Hey Howard- let's make some money- we could do this for baseball and football games- and of course you could sell advertising.
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Post by Howard Gordon » Wed Oct 15, 2003 3:52 am

It would be very nice to have this info in real time. Dan could probably create a macro that exports from Excel to a simple text file or even HTML - that would be very slick if the data posted to a website in real time.

With the low resolution of a PDA screen, some thought would have to go into formatting of the data, but technically this isn't a big challenge. I don't have a PDA with Bluetooth, but I'll keep an eye open for a bargain.

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Post by Mickey Williams » Wed Oct 15, 2003 5:33 am

Rather than build a server-centric app, you might have better results with a simple peer-to-peer app. I know I could whip up something P2P Windows-centric fairly easily if I had time, but I'm fairly clueless about Macs. On the other hand, if you want multiple viewers and not a lot of interaction, a laptop with a small web server could dispense HTML that could be consumed by any html client. It should be pretty easy to get Excel to spit out some XML that we could XSLT into a page.

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Why not just bolt 2 or three of these onto parking meters?

Post by John Gilmour » Wed Oct 15, 2003 12:40 pm

So the concern would be making Dan Gesmers files readable in real time on the web?

Then with regular Wifi anyone with a web enabled device with wireless could see the files in real time- just hit the "refresh" key?

I don't know computer jargon- but your concept makes sense as server centric things wouldn't be as common as wireless web devices in a few years.

What are the bandwidth differences?

Could we stream video on the web (we would likely need a hard wire high speed connection....hard) and have enough bandwidth to view it on a wireless lan (if we did it through a server we wouldn't need the web uplink)? Or would we be just limited to racers posted times? Which I think would still be fine.

A wider bandwidth LAN does seem attractive for promoters as they can just plop monitors anywhere they wanted without having to deal with wire runs...a timing system is already plenty to deal with. Having "Instant video replay" possible- even if not implemented initally would be cool.

Already you can buy used older laptops for nearly nothing. $500 would likely buy about 5 of these and a slew of batteries. With a Kennsington Lock and brackets that Geezer-x could make (hey Eric- don't you just love how I volunteer your services? Don't worry we'll probably never do it.) we could have these bolt onto parking meters (or run the cable through a few cinderblocks- or around a car bumper). Perhaps the cheap old ones available now won't work for us, but in a year or two the cheap USED stuff will be fast enough with all the needed connections.

We could use "durable laptops" if needed- though some used ones appear to be slow. Here is one such candidate that is water + shock resistant and I believe the display is suited for sunlight. The toughbook. Completed auctions show them going for about $100-$150 each. A 802.11 Lan kit is available for them. Cops dig 'em.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... gory=42205

The newest Toughbooks seem to have excellent speeds though more expensive. They claim to be able to survive being run over by a car and to take repeated 3 foot drops to the pavement.


Again the laptops aren't needed, just the information wirelessly.

Hey Howard- isn't this how we met in the first place? Isn't this how I dragged you into this whole scene lol... :)
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Post by Howard Gordon » Wed Oct 15, 2003 2:56 pm

Mickey -

Excel should function the same on a Mac or PC, and Java runs on the Mac, so there's no issue in placing a web server there. I agree that a macro that creates web pages is the best approach - any browsers on the local wireless net can access the numbers, plus potentially we can bridge the files to another server on the Internet.

JG -

That's the idea - Dan's machine would act as a web server for anyone wanting to access the results with their browser. Then it's just a matter of setting up a wi-fi based on 802.11 or bluetooth, and having viewing devices that can connect to the network and access the data.

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Post by Mickey Williams » Wed Oct 15, 2003 4:40 pm

If you know someone that's a macro god, that's great, but you don't really need to have an Excel macro build the web page - if you can just save some exemplar data as XML, I can write some XSLT that will take the XML as input and run a transform into HTML. If you have a stable schema for your XML document and some XSLT, it's fairly easy on most platforms to generate HTML pages on the fly, using the XML as input.

Another advantage of emitting XML is that it would potentially reduce the amount of work that Dan and the spreadsheet box need to be responsible for. If somebody can get me the XML from a recent race, I can try out a few transforms.

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Post by Howard Gordon » Wed Oct 15, 2003 9:34 pm

Mickey -

Dan's interested. Send me your email address (to hgordon@surveyor.com), and we'll close the loop.

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Publishing Excel data to the web

Post by Daniel Gesmer » Thu Oct 16, 2003 3:39 am

Mickey, get in touch with me anytime at SeismicSK8@aol.com

Does Excel offer any built-in features for publishing straight to the web?

This would be very straightforward if the race database were programmed in FileMaker instead of Excel. World Cup Skateboarding (managers of most of the world's elite vert/street competitions) have a FileMaker-based system that integrates diectly with their website. However, head-to-head race bracketing is far more complex to program in FileMaker.
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Tel : +1 720-937-8948

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Re: Publishing Excel data to the web

Post by Mickey Williams » Thu Oct 16, 2003 5:50 am

Daniel Gesmer wrote: Does Excel offer any built-in features for publishing straight to the web?
I'll send you an email directly, but just so that it's here - Excel 2003 does allow you to publish directly as a web page, and you can set it up so that the page is republished autmatically when a workbook is saved. I'm not at all familiar with Excel on the Mac, though. So maybe we can try a few options and see what works best/easiest.

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Post by Jani Soderhall » Thu Oct 16, 2003 12:00 pm

Mickey and Dan,

I'm not sure it's such a good idea to post directly from Excel, or let Excel build the layout, except for one reason: that Dan would still be in total control. It might be worth it.

Otherwise I'm more for the idea that the spreadsheet would generate the raw data in an XML file which could then be used in multiple way on the resulting HTML pages. For example by sorting the result in different ways, presenting one page for Qual results, another for each of the brackets etc.
I'm too much of a database nerd. I like when the (same) raw data can be used in different ways, so XML and XSLT would work well here. However it makes the whole thing more complex and that in itself may be the strongest argument against this solution. We need the spreadsheet and the internet update to be easy to configure and work.

I've been thinking about automatic updates at regular intervals, but I'm not sure it's such a good idea. It would be better if the update, ie the generation of the XML file(s), would be triggered by some action of Dan's. That action would call a macro (that Dan writes) which outputs an XML file and calls a method which will FTP the file to the appropriate location.

(I agree with Dan if the whole race spreadsheet would have been done in a database and not in Excel it would be much easier to handle the information and use it in multiple ways. But I could require quite a lot of work to replicate the existing stuff outside of Excel.)

/Jani

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