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My two sons are in cub scouts. The iconic cub scout activity is the pinewood derby. You are given a block of wood, four nails, and four wheels. There is no motor. Instead the cars start at the top of an incline and race down.

The track has a sensor at the end to track the time of the cars. Our pack has been using Grand Prix Race Manager. Last year we couldn't get the sensor to register and were forced to handle everything manually. That was not fun.

The pack master wanted to just purchase the latest version of the software but I decided to try another path. DerbyNet is a open source software to run a pinewood derby. Within a few minutes of downloading the software, I had it detecting the sensor. After entering a few racers in, we were able to do some test runs.

There was nothing wrong with using Grand Prix Race Manager. It wouldn't surprise me if the latest version fixed our problem. My preference for open source software was mainly a personal preference. I do feel open source software is about social good which lines up with the goals of scouts.

DerbyNet worked great. The software ran a web server. You connected to it via a web browser. You could login as the race manager to do check in and start races. You could connect other browsers in kiosk mode. The race manager could then choose what was displayed in those browsers.

Our pack had one projector showing current race results. We should have setup a second display with the racers on deck screen so that we could prepare the next set of racers faster. After the race, I switched the display to show standings. All the displays were nicely animated which I didn't expect.

The pack master was surprised by how little I did during the races. Once the race started I was able to sit back and let it run. I only interfered when there was a problem and the race triggered before it should have. It did have a minor problem when you didn't have a full set of racers. The software would sometimes turn on more lanes than it should. This required you to manually trigger those lanes or wait for the ten second timeout.

To combat that problem we placed all the scouts in a single "den" within the system. That way we would have few if any times where we were running less than all lanes. It did make it so we couldn't get the results by den. I've since learned we could have used subgroups to specify the actual dens because the subgroups are all run together.

I highly recommend the software to anyone running a pinewood derby with a supported sensor. Next year I hope to have it available during registration so that we can take pictures of all the cars as they signup.

Fedora Setup

We ran the software under Windows. The installation for Windows was very easy. I've since tried it under Fedora without the sensor software as I don't have the track. After downloading the software, I copied the racemgr folder to /var/www/html/. I kept it in the racemgr folder rather than putting it in the root but it doesn't really mater.

I created a local folder inside the racemgr folder. I set that folder to apache for owner and group using 'chown apache.apache local'. SELinux still prevented apache from writing to that directory. I needed to set the file context for the directory with:

semanage fcontext -a -t httpd_sys_rw_content_t /var/www/html/racemgr/local ; restorecon -v /var/www/html/racemgr/local

An additional directory stored the database. That directory was named by the year and placed in the root directory. I don't know if that can be easily changed. In my case it created /2019/. I then did the same command as above but replaced the path to local with /2019. We may still run it under Windows so that anyone can take over when my kids move to boy scouts but we'll see.


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Last modified: 2019-02-15, 20:06

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