Monthly Archives: March 2014

Race Timing: Be Reachable

Today, I received one of these via UPS:

lghbs730Necessary?  Sort of.  I mean, I didn’t have to get this particular type, nor even this particular brand and model.  Oh, what is it?  It’s an LG Tone+ Bluetooth Stereo Headset.  I’ve always liked the concept of hands-free phone operation, but have never found anything that meets my three requirements:

  1. Good stereo sound
  2. Good outgoing call quality
  3. Very very low geek-factor

In all fairness, not all Bluetooth headsets and ear-pieces look too geeky.  Manufacturers try to make some look elegant even.  But let’s face it, when I see people walking around with some chunk of plastic sticking out of one ear, it looks pretty geeky to me.  Now, call me a hypocrite because these do look geeky, too.  My only hope is that the “collar” generally stays hidden beneath my collar, and it looks like I’m just wearing earbuds.

This particular model is supposed to have one of the better outgoing call quality, which is very important to me.  I don’t want people to know I’m on a hands-free device, and not surprisingly the background noise commonly heard in lower-end Bluetooth devices always gives it away.

What does all of this have to do with Race Timing?  I’ll tell you: be reachable.  I mean, be very reachable.  Especially to the Event Director and volunteer staff.  And on race day, which can be rainy, windy, snowy, hectic, frantic, stressful, and just basically nerve wracking the last thing you need is to not hear your cell phone ring or have a low quality conversation.

How to time a race, race timing software, chip timing, and all of the fun things we do can quickly turn sour when you’re incommunicado because you’re not prepared with a decent way to talk with people.   Good luck!

(And, no, I do not plan on demonstrating these on our YouTube Channel.  I could be swayed, but you’d have to ask very nicely!)

Timing: More Lessons Learned

Well readers, I must say that at times I can get very frustrated with Microsoft Excel!  For instance, did you know that when Microsoft Excel encounters a long string of characters like this: 058002281248 it treats it as a number like this: 58002281248?  Well, it does.  Furthermore, it’s important to understand that in the world of chip timing, each one of the characters of a chip ID, whether it is numeric or not, is very important!  So treating 058002281248 like 58002281248 is not good!

Why, you ask, is Microsoft Excel even mentioned here in the same post about chip timing?  When it comes to how to time a race, sometimes you have to prepare data in the background and then import into Good Times.  For example, importing a bunch of racer bib numbers and assigned chip ID’s.  That’s what I did last weekend, and I used Excel to do it.  Two out of 451 runners failed to get results, because during the data prep (using Excel) I didn’t notice that Excel took that leading zero off of their chip ID’s.  Fortunately, we caught it early and were able to fix the chip ID’s and reprocess the results file: problem solved.

The positive outcome of this was just further evidence of the importance in using tools that do not automatically mess with your data!  Tools like: Notepad on a Windows machine, or TextWrangler on a Mac.  Lesson learned.

Race Timing Two Winter Races

Disclaimer 1: We only have 7 days left of winter.

Disclaimer 2: It doesn’t feel like winter.

Disclaimer 3: Technically I’m only timing one race, and even then it’s in an unofficial capacity!

Okay, now that I have those disclaimers out of the way, it’s going to be a fun and chilly weekend here in Southwestern Montana as I’m helping with one race tomorrow, then timing another race on Sunday as another live test of Good Times Software’s new RFID (Chip) Timing interface.

Those of you who are familiar with chip timing already know the importance of making sure your timing systems’ clocks are synchronized.  Many of the elements involved in how to time a race start to fall apart of clocks aren’t synchronized!  Automated syncing of the IPICO Sports Elite Reader clock with the timing computer clock will be something we test this weekend.  The new chip timing interface in Good Times allows the timer to choose whether to sync the Elite Reader clock to the PC clock, or vice versa.

Chip timers also know that when the same timing location is used for two different purposes (such as a shared starting line and finish line) that timing software must be magically aware of that.  When a runner crosses a timing pad and the electronics send a Chip ID to the timing software, the timing software must “know” whether that is the runner crossing the pad at the start of the race, or crossing the pad at the finish.  Timing software generally uses “time ranges” to accomplish this.  In the scenario above, an eight-minute time range setting in Good Times causes the software to calculate finish times only when seen occurring after eight minutes into the start of the race.  The time range is customizable, of course, and eight minutes is ample time for runners at the start of the race to cross the shared starting/finish line timing pad and move away from it as they enjoy their run.  Make sense?  Hopefully!  This has been tested before, but we’ll be proving it again this weekend, too.

Have you visited Good Times Software on Facebook yet?  If not, please do!  Also, readers, just over two weeks remain in our Winter 2014 Promotion.  Refer someone who ends up becoming a Good Times customer, and we’ll send you $100.  It’s that easy!  For more details, visit GoodTimesSoftware.com/reward.

RFID Chip Timing – Nearing Completion

Hello Readers…

Today is an exciting day!  Our development team has completed the “Alpha” release of Good Times software’s RFID Chip Timing interface.  An alpha release is essentially the point in time when coding is complete, and the software is ready to be tested in the wild, albeit at very limited scale.

It’s exciting because when considering race timing and how to time a race, chip timing is necessary for larger races.  And Good Times’ power, simplicity, and ease of use is something seriously missing in the larger race market where timing software is complex and archaic.  So our introduction of our chip timing capabilities is going to be truly remarkable.

Live testing with quite a few upcoming races is already scheduled.  The next one is one week from tomorrow!  I’m not sure I’ll have any videos on our YouTube channel, but I may.  Make sure you check just in case!   And if you haven’t browsed the rest of our site, take some time to do that now.  And you can find us on Facebook, too.

Spring Training

Well, time for Spring Training.  I’m not talking about the baseball scene, but the wonderful world of running!  And, readers, it’s still mighty cold here in the tundra better known as Montana (not to mention it’s not quite spring yet anyway.)

As evidence in the up-tick of Good Times Software FREE Trial downloads, event planners and timers must be prepping, too.  Which makes perfect sense: spring and summer is a huge ramp-up period for running races of all kinds.  With plenty of people thinking about how to time a race, it’s good to see them thinking about it now while there’s still time!

If you’re planning your event, check out Good Times Software on YouTube.  You’ll find plenty of “how-to” videos, demonstrating everything from setting up events, to registering participants, to timing events, displaying results, and giving awards!  I’ll be adding more videos soon, and when we release our RFID (Chip) Timing capabilities into the core software I’ll certainly be demonstrating that on YouTube.