First implementation of the Pilot Status screen to aid the retrieve team.
Initial work began on 'Check In By Download'
Experimentation and full implementation of automated SMS
Automatic plotting of pilots on the map began mid week
Pilot Status screen extended to display a version for arriving pilots.
Further work on automated plotting to allow use of different co-ordinate sets
Lat/Long co-ordinates abandoned due to the 'human' factor which makes them very difficult to decode in software - UTM selected as the way forward.
Plotting system extended to show positions of busses.
Plotting system enhanced to plot the task automatically on the map.
Auto reply system now identifies pilots by phone number (if they don't include pilot number in SMSs)
Plotting system now converts the UTM coming co-ordinates to decimal Lat/Long for transmission to Tom-Toms (all drivers had Tom-Toms and this made finding pilots very easy)
Better decoding of incoming texts now requires very little human intervention.
System extended to have the ability (switchable) to send bus details (Number of bus and telephone number) to the pilot as the pilot's details are sent to the bus.
Muli-lingual interface added to some parts of the system to cope with registration by French operators.
Fault tolerance (power outage) developed due to someone unplugging the power to the network - all machines will now function independently until communication is restored.
Initial meeting with PWCA where FastRetrieve was selected for use in the Paragliding World Cup
FastRetrieve and CompCheck integration work - FastRetrieve now populates the scoring database from its registration info and has a direct link to the status of downloads for 'report back' (or Check In) purposes - pilots downloading a track log are now set as 'at base' by default.
Multi Screen ability added to FastRetrieve to allow a Pilot Status screen to display only the pilot numbers in various colours (for use, at the time, in a different room)
Due to the 'purely CDMA' status of mobile telephones in Korea, an interface was added to allow importing of SMS data from an external application (in this case a web browser)
Colours and status indicators on the Pilot Display screen were changed to make the screen more intuitive.
Pilots in Goal was made a permanent figure on this screen (previously this figure would reduce as pilots checked in)
Some pioneering programming work by British Open competitor Wendy Griffiths saw the start of the 'live task map' - in its infancy it simply plotted the pilots and busses on a Google Map but it showed me the way to go forward with Java.
Work began on a remote version of FastRetrieve which can be taken to goal or on the course and will sync with the main system via SMS or over the internet.
The live map was enhanced to show the task as it was decided, mark the goal clearly and show pilots in different colours as busses were assigned to collect them. It was also changed to leave a mark after the pilot had been collected so that, at the end of the retrieve, there is still a record of where everyone landed.
Terrain mapping was added to the live map.
The comms system was enhanced to accept the task definition by SMS from takeoff.
Further work happened on the remote system. A compression algorithm was developed to fit as much detail as possible into the 160 character limit of an SMS.
During discussions with Ulric Jessop (CompCheck) the concept of the live leader board was born.
Work commenced on the Live Leader Board.
Futher work was done on the communications system to the internet for the live map (and the upcoming leader board) which was being problematic at the time.
The map now has two ways of keeping track of busses. The bus can move on the map when the pilot is picked up OR when the bus is sent to the next pilot - this allows a bit more versatility for the operator.
The whole comp was dedicated to producing a stable version of FastRetrieve since I was to leave 3 days before the end of the comp and, for the first time in its short history, FastRetrieve was left in the hands of another person. Thank you Susan for your attention during the training phase which meant the whole thing stayed together at the end.
The Spanish pulled a neat stunt at the last moment which suddenly meant CompCheck would not be used to score their competition - instead they would use FS. As a result, FastRetrieve now has an interface to FS which, at least, allows the 'Check In By Download' to work - it was impossible, however, to get the live leader board working using FS.
The live leader board was introduced on day 1 and proved an instant (though somewhat unreliable) success - work went on all week to improve its stability and by the end it was fairly stable.
It was also compressed, to avoid scrolling problems, into 4 columns of 36 names giving it a total capacity of 144 competitors.
The ongoing battle to get organisers to supply Tom-Toms (this is the best way to fully utilise FastRetrieve) finally got to me and I bought 5 Tom-Toms for the system. One of the locals decided to tell me it was much better with a local driver who knew the area and was stunned when (after he had spent 1.5 hours trying to find a pilot who, he swore, would require a 4 wheel drive to collect) I gave one of the Tom-Toms to Ruth (she's only driven for us once before) and 25 minutes later she returned with the pilot having 'in her words' driven straight to his feet.
Work continued on the Live map which now displays pilot name and landed time, lists of pilots on busses and, by the end of the week, a comprehensive list of pilots in goal.
This week and a half event is an odd one - we've been mobile quite a bit and the development time has been scarce. Finally, all the comms to internet issues are sorted and, considering how bad the connectivity is here, is working perfectly.
The system now places a holding page at www.fastretrieve.com/download first thing in the morning, updates this with task details and map as soon as the task is defined and then switches to the leader board as soon as downloads begin.
There are also various pages which can now be displayed on the large screens which we have this week including task stopped or cancelled, reminders to report back at base and various notices to competitors.
Bad weather for most of the week meant there was a lot of spare time to work on the software. A general consolidation of coding changes over the last few comps helped to streamline the system quite a bit..
Major development for this week is communications with the SPOT satellite network allowing the Live Map to plot positions of competitors while flying - this will be rolled out over the next few comps to track as many pilots as possible using this and similar tracking systems.
This has been a busy period. For only the second time in its short history FastRetrieve will be used in a comp without its programmer - I will be in China at the time with the Paragliding World Cup - once before it has been used as an 'unsupervised' system but, in that case, there was a week to train the operator before leaving for another comp. A lot of work has been done to iron out small 'bugs' that are a mere annoyance to me but would cause considerable trouble for people unfamiliar with programming.
As part of the above work, FastRetrieve now maintains a database of the sites it has been , and will be, used at. When a task is defined, the system automatically selects the correct map for the task and loads both CompeGPS and the map on its own.
The COMMS server has been rewritten to decode the PDU format which SMSs are sent in - this is to avoid possible decoding errors which have occurred in the past when the phone fails to decode the message itself.
Inbox module will now accept a directly typed version of an SMS - to allow voice messages to be simply interpreted.
Various problems with hitting the incorrect button in Inbox are now sorted - the system will ignore an incorrect entry..
Pilot display screen now places itself on the secondary monitor removing the need for the operator to do this - it used to cause some intersting problems.
Dedicated modules (ie Monitor, Mapping, Comms etc) were produced for the Slovenia comp to simplify operation.
The inbox now identifies the sender of the SMS by name along with displaying a list of all pilots mentioned in the message.
Again a lot of bad weather which allowed even more development work to be done. FastRetrieve now updates the live map in a completely different way which improves the responsiveness - on average, a pilot is now visible on the live map approx 3 seconds after we know his position at HQ.
Live map now also plots the start line on the map - this is in anticipation of more 'live tracking' data becoming available.
Work is ongoing to allow FastRetrieve to download its own map of any given area prior to a comp - this will be extended to autocalibration later on.