Timing a race and my typical network setup

Mentioning “timing a race” and the word “typical” in the same sentence is not entirely an oxymoron!  Sure, part of the excitement of running races, timing races, providing race timing software, helping people learn how to time a race, etc. is the variety involved in those things.  But some things are indeed typical, like my network and computer setup I usually use.

So here is a rundown, for a medium-sized race of about 400 participants.  (Well, that’s what I call a medium-sized race, anyway!)  And I’ll assume (gulp) that the event organizer decided to provide on-site race day registration.

  1. Wireless router, WPA secured, plugged into uninterruptible power supply (UPS) plugged into an electrical generator
  2. Seven (yes, 7) laptops handling new participant registration
  3. Four laptops handling pre-registered participants
  4. One laptop to serve as the Good Times “database server,” in a secure location, plugged into electrical generator, screen locked
  5. One printer connected to any of the new participant registration laptops
  6. One laptop to serve as the timing computer, plugged into electrical generator
  7. Two IPICO Sports Elite Readers (one to serve as starting and finish line, the other to serve as finish line backup) plugged directly into the wireless router, and sucking power from the electrical generator

All devices share the same Local Area Network (LAN) space with 192.168.x.x IP addresses.  The new participant registration laptops and the timing computer can receive IP addresses via DHCP; the database server and the Elite Readers should have static IP addresses.

One of the features of Good Times for which I’ve grown especially fond is the shared database.  This eliminates the need for the various computers to be sharing files (via Dropbox, etc.) in order to do their jobs.  It also makes it significantly easier for me, or for any of the Good Times service providers.  And the shared database, provided by Microsoft SQL Server, has been incredibly reliable.

Oh, and to leave you with a semi-random thought around reliability: When working with the IPICO Sports Elite Readers, everything except the Elite Readers could come crashing down and you’d still be able to recover.  Why?  Because the Elite Readers keep the chip result files in their own memory, allowing Good Times to pick them up at any time.  With the computerized timing with manual entry, recovering is a little more difficult.  We’ve built in a logging system so every bib entered is logged on the timing machine itself, in addition to being saved to the database.  If the database server goes down for some reason in mid-race, you could still recover.  Unfortunately, if the timing computer itself went down (and you were only using one) then recovering would be basically impossible.  Stopwatches anyone?

We’ve recently added some videos to our YouTube Channel demonstrating how all of the chip timing integration works.  Please check them out if you haven’t already!

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