Friday, February 22, 2008

Solvang Intermediates

The good news is the satellite guys got the satellite VPN going yesterday, as a proof-of-concept. I e-mailed my TTWare timing software down to one of their technicians in LA. He was sitting in one of their mobile units idling in the parking lot of their offices near LAX, running TTWare. I was 300km away in San Luis Obispo, running TV graphics to the 1/10 second from his data. It was cooler than hell. Tracy and Eric, the satellite guys, were stoked. There was about a 3/10 second latency, which is amazing considering every UDP packet send out by TTWare has to travel 22,000 miles from LA straight up to a satellite, and then 22,000 miles straight down again to me in SLO.

The bad news is that Jimmy B, the race organizer, decided not to pay for the satellite service today for the Solvang TT. It's a bummer, but I can't say I blame him. For a one-hour tape-delayed show, real-time on-air running clocks for the intermediate is a cool luxury but hardly a necessity. Even if we ran live timing via the satellite link all day, probably only 3 or 4 racers at the intermediate would make air in such a short show. Hell, with the weather forecast looking so bad, we probably won't have any video footage from the time check anyway, because the RF video links have been spotty at best.

So what we're doing is this. I'm sending my colleague Bruce out to the 12k Time Check with a laptop PC running TTWare, and an eVDO modem. He's going to time the intermediate with TTWare, and my TTLiveToWeb software plug-in will update one of my test servers back at my office in Hawai'i. In the truck, I've written an interface to grab the XML off my test server back in Hawai'i via a web service and shove it into one of my character generators to build intermediate rankings. The commentators and PA announcers will browse their laptops to my test server to get a page of rankings. The rankings page has an AJAX refresh every 10 seconds, so the intermediate results will be close to real-time.

As long as the eVDO keeps working, and as long as I don't have a power failure back at home (very likely, since Maui has power failures almost every day), it should work adequately.

I won't tell you what the URL of my test server is, because it's just a crappy old T23 Thinkpad sitting on my desk in my office, and it can't handle much traffic. Maybe next year I'll use a commercial server so FOS (friends of Skunk) can follow along with the live timing.

If you see any intermediate rankings on the broadcast tonight, you'll know it worked. It'll look something like this.

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