ScoreKeeper News: Volume 8 - December 15, 2005

Testing Your Scoreboard

When setting up for a meet you may want to test to make sure that results are displayed properly on your scoreboard. When things go wrong there are some techniques that can make it a little easier.

ScoreKeeper supports three different types of scoreboards. The first is capable of displaying large amounts of information at a time and the display is usually customizable. Communication is via an RS-232 serial port. This type includes Daktronics and White Way scoreboards and others that use the same interface.

The second scoreboard type is the ScoreKeeper Flasher scoreboards. These are single-line displays that are completely controlled by ScoreKeeper. Like the first type, communication is via an RS-232 serial port.

The third type is represented by Elite Technologies scoreboards. Communication between ScoreKeeper and the Elite system is via a Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) protocol and is initiated by Elite. Because they use a completely different interface and cannot be tested like the others, the Elite Technologies scoreboards are not discussed further in this article.

Sending Data

When using ScoreKeeper Flasher scoreboards, the data format is mostly fixed and is controlled by a limited number of options. The data layout is very specific to what is required to format the displayed information. The content and format is preset; the length can vary depending on the size of a gymnast's name, the number of decimal places to display in fomal average scores, and the number of judge scores. The latter two are based on a settings in the scoreboard definition. Only one gymnast's scores are sent at a time and for only one event at a time. The individual judge scores can be included or suppressed.

With the other scoreboard types, the data format and content is very mutable based on a variety of settings in the scoreboard definition and the number of teams in the meet. These types of scoreboards receive the data from ScoreKeeper and store the entire block of data in a memory buffer. The scoreboard controller selects data from the buffer and places it on the scoreboard.

As mentioned above, with both of these scoreboard types, communications is via an RS-232 serial port. This is usually a 9 pin female D-shaped plug on your computer. Some older computers use a 25 pin female D-shaped connector. From there, it is very specific to each installation how the connection is made to the scoreboard. For ScoreKeeper Flasher scoreboards, a normal serial cable connects the computer directly to the scoreboard. Flasher boards can be chained together so that one computer can control multiple scoreboards. When set this way, the scoreboard for each event is set to a different address so that the data will display on only the proper scoreboard. With other scoreboard systems, the computer may connect to an intermediate device that sends the data on to the scoreboard controller.

In either case, it is important that the communication settings be the same on the scoreboard controller and in ScoreKeeper. In ScoreKeeper, these are program settings and are entered on the Scoreboard tab of the Program Preferences screen (Edit > Program Preferences). One of the most common problems is selecting the wrong COM port in ScoreKeeper. Computers typically have two COM ports but can have up to four without special hardware. One of the two is often an internal modem. Figuring out which COM port to use can be tricky but there are only four choices so even trial and error should get you there without too much effort. You can look in the Windows Control Panel to help select the proper port. Go to the System icon and look for the Device Manager. It may be on a tab or a button depending on your version of Windows. On the device manager list, look for and expand the entry for Ports and look for COM ports. That should tell you which port or ports are active.

The baud rate (communication speed) is also important. 9600 baud is a good place to start. It is the default for most scoreboards including ScoreKeeper Flasher. Start with No parity, 8 data bits and 1 stop bit. These are the most common settings.

On to the Testing

The easiest way to test your scoreboard is to start with an old meet that already has data. After selecting the existing meet, go to the score entry screen, highlight a gymnast with a score, and click the Save button to resave the same score and send data to the scoreboard. If everything is working, the scores should update on the scoreboard. If the scoreboard was not updated, start checking for reasons why. The first place is in the meet setting. Go to the meet list, and click the delta (blue triangle) button to change the meet. Go to the Output tab and make sure the appropriate scoreboard definition is selected then save the change. Next go to the Scoreboard menu and make sure that Enable Live Scoreboard is checked. If it isn't, click the menu item to check it.

If you had to change either the meet setup or the Scoreboard menu, try entering another score to see if it updates the scoreboard. If it still doesn't update, check the communications parameters again and make sure they match what the scoreboard controller uses. If those match, the next step is to see if the signal is getting from the ScoreKeeper computer to the scoreboard controller. Some controller computers have a screen that allows you to see what is being received into their memory buffer. If your controller does not have this feature, you could try using a communications program on the scoreboard controller computer. One that is handy is HyperTerminal which is build into Windows. You can set it up to wait for a transmission and you will see whether data comes across when you enter (or re-enter) a score into ScoreKeeper.

Another thing to check is the wiring connection from ScoreKeeper to whatever it is you connect it to. Sometimes this is an translator or booster box, often with lights that will blink when data is sent. If you or someone helping you can watch these lights when a score is entered into ScoreKeeper, you will know if the information is at least getting that far.

For ScoreKeeper Flasher scoreboards, each scoreboards are set to a numeric address. The default address is 1. Within ScoreKeeper, each event is programmed to send data to a specific address. If these addresses do not match, the scoreboard will ignore the data. From within ScoreKeeper or ScoreKeeper remote, you can reprogram a board's address. In either program, go to the Scoreboard menu and select Change Flasher Board Address. Reprogramming the scoreboard address requires either that you know the board's current address or that you use the universal address of 0 (zero) for the Old Address.

Using Test Mode

If you would rather use the current meet for entering test scores, you can enable Test Mode by clicking the Use Test Mode check box on the File menu. You will probably not notice any change in the way ScoreKeeper behaves except that when you enter a score which would have set a home team record, it will not record that test score as the gymnasts new record score. When you are finished testing and you remove the check from Use Test Mode, all the scores you entered during testing will be cleared.

IMPORTANT:  If you enter any real scores then go out of test mode, the real scores will be cleared as well.

Debug Files

If data is getting to the scoreboard controller but is not displaying properly, it usually means that the scoreboard is set to expect a different data layout than what ScoreKeeper is set to send. ScoreKeeper has a feature that can help you figure out what is happening. When you send data to a scoreboard, a program option lets you also create a debug file with the exact same data that is being sent to a scoreboard. This works for all scoreboard types. You can then examine the file in Windows Notepad or some other program to see if it matches what your scoreboard is expecting. One kind of program that is especially useful for this is a hex editor that shows the file in both text view and hexadecimal with the precise offset of each character in the file. This can be compared to the printed layout to see if they match. One such program, the one we use is called XVI32. It is free and can be downloaded from http://www.chmaas.handshake.de/. An advantage to using a hex editor instead of Notepad is that some scoreboard files contain control characters that do not display properly in Notepad.

To enable generation of this debug file, go to Edit > Program Preferences. About half way down on the Scoreboard tab, look for the Output File group. Check the box labeled "Send scoreboard results to a file" and enter a path and file name for the file you want to create. You can also use the ellipses button to select a folder and enter or select a file. When enabled, the debug file will be recreated every time data is sent to the scoreboard.