View Full Version : How do you install a Computer Lap Counter/Timer system???


RiderZ
12-02-2007, 07:55 PM
Hey guys i need some help on installing a lap counter/timer system on my 4-lane Tomy layout.I've been reading Greg Brauns website on this and still scratching my head a little.I understand the part on how to install the harness with the photo-cells into the track.But what about the light source.Do i need regular LED's or infrared LED's.I see his red led light bar is out of stock.Also what is needed to hook this up to my HP laptop.This laptop was purchased new last year and does not have a joystick or printer port.It does have several USB ports and a RJ-45 network jack and an RJ-11 modem jack.Can i plug Gregs interface cable with the photo-cells right into the RJ-45 network jack on my laptop?If someone with some experiance on Greg Brauns LapTimer 2000 system could chime in here to get me on the path to counting laps i would greatly appreciate it!!! Photos would be a plus.Thanks :)By the way i would prefer the photo-cell set-up over the reed switch set-up.

wheelszk
12-02-2007, 08:59 PM
Contact, SwamperGene. He will help

RiderZ
12-02-2007, 09:29 PM
Thanks wheelszk-I PM'ed SwamperGene to see if he can help.Hopefully he'll post his knowledge on this.I'm trying to get a winter series going this winter for about 8 drivers and i really need this lap timer/counter to make things simple in the scoring department! :)

1976Cordoba
12-02-2007, 11:44 PM
Dude -- easiest thing I ever used:

http://www.trackmateracing.com/

So easy a caveman could do it. :lol:

Scafremon
12-02-2007, 11:48 PM
In regards to your light source, people often prefer an infrared light source so that you do not have a visible light shining down on the track under your light bridge. The cars break an 'invisible beam' of light to register a lap. If that is the look you want, then go with infrared LED's, as long as your sensors under the track are rated to receive infrared signals.

As for connecting to your computer, I can't help on the USB interface cable, as I found an older computer that had a LPT port, and wired it that way. If you have access to an old computer with LPT, it's a good way to go for a computer that can be dedicated to your slot track. You don't 'need' a newer technology computer to run your track timing software.

RiderZ
12-03-2007, 08:43 AM
Dude -- easiest thing I ever used:

http://www.trackmateracing.com/

So easy a caveman could do it. :lol:


I've looked at the TrakMate package-but at $198 its a little more than i want to spend on a system.I've also been looking at used laptops on ebay and have'nt found anything at a real reasonable price. :rolleyes:

Slott V
12-03-2007, 11:12 AM
You can use an overhead incandescent light source or use LED's in a bridge. The LED's can be visible or infra red. TrakMate gives you a tuning program to test the sensors and make sure they are reading the light source.

For your laptop you need a parallel port to USB adapter cable:

http://www.cwol.com/usb/usb-parallel-printer-cable-adapter.htm

-Scott

Scafremon
12-03-2007, 05:07 PM
I've also been looking at used laptops on ebay and have'nt found anything at a real reasonable price. :rolleyes:

I went with an older laptop on my set-up, but after some time, I realized that a separate monitor wall-mounted flat-panel would be much better then using the laptop monitor. A 17" non-widescreen is the largest you really need for Tracker 2000 based on it's resolution, and if you can find one of these, they should be fairly reasonable. I will probably go with a 19" non-widescreen, and these can be found new for about $100.00

Once I get that monitor, I will probably change out the laptop for an old tower PC, because the laptop would then just need to be accessed for the keyboard, it becomes fairly bulky for just that purpose.

joejoeguns
12-03-2007, 07:34 PM
If you have a Salvation Army outlet near you I scored a computer with monitor for 15 bucks.I use Lap Timer 2000 with 10 watt/12 volt desk lamp bulbs from Menards for like 3 dollars each,on a light bridge.I power the bulbs with a 12 volt trickle charger from walmart.

RiderZ
12-03-2007, 08:00 PM
Thanks for all the tips guys but i think your missing my point.I already have a $1000 laptop to use i need to know what has to be done to hook the LapTimer2000 system up to my laptop.C'mon guys i know several of you have the computer systems on your tracks-how did you hook them up.My laptop has an RJ-45 network port on it.Can i just plug the RJ-45 connector off of the photocell harness into this port.Does it have to go to a printer or joystick port???????????? :confused:

RiderZ
12-03-2007, 08:01 PM
Does anyone know if Greg Braun is still alive? He does'nt reply to my emails.I guess he does'nt want to sell his product!!! :rolleyes:

Scafremon
12-03-2007, 08:43 PM
I think we get your point, and have offered some good suggestions.

And no, you cannot use your RJ-45 port.

RiderZ
12-03-2007, 09:08 PM
I think we get your point, and have offered some good suggestions.

And no, you cannot use your RJ-45 port.
Hey Scaf-thanks for your help.I search for answers elsewhere!

rudykizuty
12-03-2007, 09:24 PM
Does anyone know if Greg Braun is still alive? He does'nt reply to my emails.I guess he does'nt want to sell his product!!! :rolleyes:

Besides the fact that he's a one man operation, I think to be fair, we have to also realize that he is probably in the midst of filling holiday shopping orders. I would hope those are getting priority over tech issues right now.........I have stuff on order to give as Christmas presents :cool:

All joking aside, I'm sure you will hear from him at some point.

PS I agree with Scaf........there have been some good ideas thrown out there. I particularly like the printer cable converter to USB.

Stay cool, dude.

Scafremon
12-03-2007, 11:05 PM
Hey Scaf-thanks for your help.I search for answers elsewhere!

You're welcome! :)

There are talented slotters at SCI also, and I'm sure somehow, someway, you will find the answers you are looking for.

Just keep in mind that we do 'get it'. We have been there, and done that. We have computers that are without joystick and parallel ports, and we had to make decisions on what to do. Slott V linked you to a cable that will help(there will be still be some wiring mods you will have to do to get your sensors connected to the adaptor cable), Cordoba offered a complete solution, and I and others have have mentioned that a 'lesser' computer might also be an option.

We aren't going to let a fellow slotter not get his computer timing set-up working. :thumbsup:

BewstdGT
12-04-2007, 01:41 AM
I feel your pain bud, I never got my timing setup to work with the infrared lights so I got a little bitter. I think Greg has actually rewritten some of the wording in his wiring schematics because it seems different than it was back when I had tried this. But his wording isnt very clear on some of the wiring and he leaves out some details. Everyone seems to like the IR LED setup but I never got it to work but I blame my lack of any electronics knowledge and lack of good instructions. Just keep plugging and eventually you find your answers.

If it were me, I would find a really old laptop with windows 98 or something. Should be able to find something like that for under $50 easy.

Franko
12-04-2007, 12:15 PM
My Laptimer 2000 a la Greg Braun works great. Used the infrared led in a bridge. Hooked up to an old primeval PC running Win 98. Why anyone would use a $1000 laptop for a lap counter is beyond me. I could get at least 50 slotcars for $1000. And not care about crashing them. Smash them on purpose even. I looked at using an old laptop at one time and there were no compatible data connections. The proverbial answer for directions "you can't get there from here" applies. Unless you're a techno-geek with a spinner hat and you can trick a connection.

Scafremon
12-04-2007, 12:37 PM
Hooked up to an old primeval PC running Win 98. Why anyone would use a $1000 laptop for a lap counter is beyond me.

I agree on using the ancient PC. As for the $1,000.00 laptop, I don't think the OP purchased this for his track system - it is just the computer that he already has and wants to utilize.

Having used a laptop for my set-up, I found it just wasn't as convenient as I thought it would be. The optimum place for the screen to be visible to everyone was not the optimum place to have the keyboard/mouse for entering info and starting a race.

Slott V
12-04-2007, 07:07 PM
I've got a nice 64 bit HP laptop with a 17" monitor I'd like to use someday for my track so I too am wondering about the connections. I want to dive into Phidget boards and the SlotTrak 8 program.

I know lap tops use different plugs but there are adapaters to make just about any peripherals work. The tricky part is making the laptop recognize pin assignments from the P Port connection and i have heard it can be difficult with XP Pro or Vista OS. And as far as the keyboard placement, most any laptop can use a separate keyboard and monitor for that matter.

I used LapTimer 2000 and Greg Brauns instructions for building a sensor cable a few years ago and managed to get it all working without a hitch, though there were a few settings to go through before it all worked with the sensors. My buddy's 11 year old son uses the system on his own all the time so it is a pretty easy and reliable system to use. ;)

-Scott

RiderZ
12-04-2007, 07:58 PM
No really guys i appreciate all your advice.I think i'm going to just bite the bullet and $pend the money for a TrackMate 4-lane HO system.And yes the $1000 laptop is whats available.I bought it for the wife last X-mas! :drunk:

Scafremon
12-04-2007, 08:55 PM
Laptops will definetly work, and I am currently using one. It's just that once you start connecting a remote monitor to it, and a remote keyboard, the laptop becomes not much more then your CPU, and a cheapo desktop works just as well for the purpose, and even better in many areas.

I happen to have a docking station for the laptop I am using, so it is nice that all the peripheral connection are on the dock. I just undock and move the laptop, and any cables I have connected (parallel cable, monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound) all stay connected to the dock. Without a docking station, it would be a minor nuisance if you had to undo all those, as in the case where this laptop is also your primary computer for other tasks elsewhere.

On other thing to consider is, if your laptop has a 17" widescreen (16x9 aspect) Laptimer 2000 will be displayed in a smaller window then if you were using a 15" 4x3 aspect monitor. A screen size of 17" 4x3 will give you the proper resolution for the program.

For now, I am using what I have available, which is the laptop. But this will be changed to a desktop, or possibly even a little Epia PC that used to be in my car, as soon as I get the monitor I want.

Then, maybe even daisy chain a bunch of lil 7" screens, and have one at each driver station.

AfxToo
12-04-2007, 08:59 PM
Most newer laptops have a second digital or analog video connector for attaching a second monitor. With the low price of decent sized flat panels it's easy to justify adding a second monitor for better viewing. WinXP and Vista support multiple monitor very elegantly.

What we really need are native USB track sensors. USB is really a full fledged multi-node communication network, unlike serial and parallel ports, and requires a microcontroller to handle bus communication. I'm thinking that the cheapest route to USB could be to adapt an inexpensive USB mouse (or two) to bridge the track sensor inputs to the USB bus. If you could find a cheap 4-button USB mouse (or two 2-button mice) it's reasonable to expect that you could replace the mouse button contact closures with inputs from reed switches or dead strips. I've seen 2-button USB mice for 5 bucks at computer stores. Of course someone would have to write a small program to transfer the mouse based track sensor inputs into a form that can be used by the timing program. This is all very doable...

RiderZ
12-04-2007, 11:18 PM
Well i talked to Greg Braun by phone this evening and i think we got everything squared away on getting his system installed & connected to my laptop.He was very helpful on all my questions.Now i just have to wait for it to arrive. :rolleyes:

Scafremon
12-04-2007, 11:40 PM
Glad to hear it RiderZ! :thumbsup:

Slott V
12-05-2007, 12:14 PM
There are some newer set ups available for slot car track timing and control that use USB interfaces.

There are these 2 software/hardware combinations I know of right now, and they are very similar in design and operations:

SlotTrak 8 (http://slottrak.com/) ($100)

PC Lap Counter (http://users.skynet.be/bk274532/index.html) ($80)

For about the same price as the TrakMate Lap Timing System or maybe even less, you can have USB controlled lap sensing, track power control and more. Both are written to use the Phidget USB computer interface relay boards and both pieces of software offer all kinds of cool options through the Phidget boards. including control for external starting lights and sounds. The European PC Lap Counter software even has options to use advanced web cam motion detection that can be set up for lap counting, track calls and other wild ideas. They also offer the ability to control track power on each lane. The PC Lap Counter has a very interesting Pit Stop/Fuel Management feature that could make for some interesting racing. Both these set ups are a little techy but both developers offer tons of illustrations and support.

The Phidget boards go for between $65 to $100, depending on the level of relays you want.

-Scott

rudykizuty
12-05-2007, 01:11 PM
Just when I thought I was beginning to understand this stuff.......

Are phidget boards something new?

lolagt
12-13-2007, 11:52 PM
I got my infered lights and sensors at raidio shack for about 25 bucks . i use track mate but i use a older computer with a printer port.

BewstdGT
12-14-2007, 02:34 AM
I got my infered lights and sensors at raidio shack for about 25 bucks . i use track mate but i use a older computer with a printer port.

Im convinced the printer port is the only way to get consistent results with trackmate. The usb and adapter things just arent as easy to setup compared to running a few wires right to an old PC port. Its the easiest to figure out and understand. Just my .02! This is what I plan to do because its the cheapest and easiest.

RiderZ
12-14-2007, 10:24 AM
I received my LapTimer2000 setup but i have to wait till Christmas.Wife's orders!!! :rolleyes:

13013comstock
12-14-2007, 11:29 AM
I'm glad you hooked up with Greg Braun, RiderZ. He has always responded to my e-mails within a couple days and has been quick to ship my orders.

I constructed a lap timer/counter system with info from Greg's site, parts from Radio Shack and Lap Timer 2000. After a great deal of messing around, I finally switched out the Radio Shack sensors for the game port sensor setup from Greg. The components are assembled in a neat well-built package. The sensors Greg uses are smaller than the Radio Shack ones (Radio Shack #276-145), so they fit under the track better (I don't have a permanent layout, so I don't mount the sensor and wiring from underneath the table. I didn't want to elevate the track a great deal at the sensor location).

For a light bridge, I used a model railroad pedestrian bridge - Bachman Industries, "Plasticville", Walthers Part # 160-45172 ($12.00, currently out of stock) or Walthers Part # 160-45003 ($26.00, in stock, completely assembled). These can also be found on ebay or at your local hobby store. I painted the bridge and attached some racing decals. For the light array, I used four Radio Shack infrared LEDs (Radio Shack #276-143) per sensor (total of 16). This allows for the positioning of the bridge to be less critical and avoids miscounted laps - not having a permanent layout, it does get bumped sometimes during the heat of the battle. I used a Radio Shack 12V power, 500 mA power supply (Radio Shack #273-1774) and 68-ohm resistors (Radio Shack #271-1106). To understand the electrical side of this, check out http://led.linear1.org/led.wiz - enter in 12V for the source voltage, 1.28 for the diode forward voltage, 29 for the diode forward current (both from the Radio Shack specification) and 16 for the number of LEDs in the array. The page then shows a picture of the array assembley. I mounted the LEDs in a peice of plastic using LED holders (Radio Shack #276-079) and glued the assembly to the underside of the pedestrian bridge. The electrical part took me an few hours one afternoon. I could post some picture is you're interested.

RiderZ
12-14-2007, 01:12 PM
Thanks for the info "comstock".Yes please do post some pics for me-as they say pictures are worth a thousand words!!! :)

13013comstock
12-14-2007, 04:54 PM
Yeah, my post was a bit wordy. I uploaded some photos to my gallery. I'm not sure the best way to post them in a reply (acceptable size and resolution? how to resize?).

RiderZ
12-14-2007, 06:13 PM
Thanks for the photo's "com".Thats the same bridge i purchased from Greg's website.I purchased 8 IR led's from him & a 12V powerpack too.My soldering skills are great so i should be able to get this up and running without too much of a hitch.Thanks again.By the way post up some pics of your track layout! :)

RiderZ
12-14-2007, 09:35 PM
Talked the wife into letting me open up a Christmas present a little early.Got it all setup & running in no time.Worked right from the get go.Very pleased with the results.Now i just need to get a few buddies over and commence with the racing!!! :) I need to build a shelf for the laptop to set on for easy viewing.

RiderZ
12-21-2007, 06:19 PM
I 've been having problems with the LapTimer 2000 system missing some lap counts.After alot of tinkering around with it i found that the IR led's were the problem.So i bought a string of battery powered LED's to try out.It worked better than the IR led's but still need a bit more light.I also wired in two 12V bulbs and mounted them to my over track gantry and now it works perfectly.No more missed lap counts.Plus i kinda like the looks of the lights at the start/finish line! :)