Troubleshooting your Judge or Transponder
Number 1 Problem
The first step in troubleshooting is to determine whether the problem you are having is due to a defect in the equipment, or a flaw in the way it is being operated. There are many things that could go wrong with the equipment, such as failed components, dead batteries, defective cables, defective start gate switch, improper computer set up, etc.
But the place to start troubleshooting is to make sure you are following the Three Rules when operating your finish line. Failure to follow these rules accounts for 86% of problem reports.
Help! Sometimes things get out of sequence during a derby, and the computer is reporting impossibly long times!
It is likely you closed the start gate when the Judge was hot (green light flashing), and did not do it cleanly, accidentally starting a race you didn't mean to. Always close the gate right after the cars are away, certainly before the red display ends. During this period, The Judge ignores the start switch. But after the green light is flashing, The Judge is ready, and cannot distinguish between an oooops, a switch bounce, or the start of a real race. The Judge issues a text warning if it finds the start gate open, but derby software packages do not act on this warning. You are allowed to close the gate at that point if you do it cleanly, but on older Judges there is no way to be sure the timer didn't start.
The J Series Judges and Transponder will tell you the status of the timer, so you will know if it is ready (green winking) or busy (dark).
Help! My Computer does not seem to be picking up the start signal from the start gate switch.
If you are using a start gate that uses a hinged aluminum angle as the peg bar (BestTrack or New Directions solenoid gates), it is likely that your magnetic switch is not properly mounted. Keep in mind that the switch actually operates when the distance between the magnet and switch is about 1.0 inch. A hinged aluminum angle does not allow enough displacement when the gate opens to achieve this separation if you mount the magnetic switch so that the elements are close together when the gate is closed.
If you have an aluminum track, ground it. A large chunk of metal isolated on a wooden or linoleum floor can build up considerable electrostatic charge, especially in winter when the humidity is low. You know how a spark can jump from your finger to the doorknob after walking across the floor? Same thing, only the track is a lot bigger than a doorknob, and has a lot more electrical capacity. If you plug your computer into electronic finish lines or other items near the metal track, you could damage your computer with one of those sparks. Secure a wire under one of the track's assembly screws, and run it over to a metal electrical conduit or cold water pipe. Make a good solid connection, not a tentative one.
Help! I can't seem to make communication between the Judge and my computer. Is there a good way to tell whether the Judge or cables are defective, or if my computer just not set up properly? Yes! Do the Paper Clip Test.
Unpower the Judge. Select a small paper clip, not the big size. Straighten it out, and bend it back on itself with tips even and nearly touching. Unplug the serial cable at the computer (or USB converter), and insert the paper clip tips in holes marked 2 and 3. Now power up the Judge, and if you get a DOUBLE light show (instead of a single light show), it means the Judge and computer cable connections are good.
Help! Everything appears to work correctly, but once in a while the race management software picks up some obviously erroneous results. If you are using 120 volts near your track, make sure you are not laying the power cord along the modular cable running from the Judge to the start gate. We have confirmed that there is enough electrical field surrounding a common extension cord to corrupt the data being transmitted to your computer.
Help! My illuminator board does not light up! Right. It is emitting infrared light. You cannot see the light, but that doesn't mean it is not there. I get at least 20 calls per season about this. See the note at the top of this page regarding the new illuminator diodes currently being used.
Help! My Judge won't work outside! See Sunlight Max.
Help! The Judge won't detect the cars. I can make it trigger only when I put my finger right against the sensors! Your room is aglow with natural light from windows, doors, or there are strong incandescent lights shining on The Judge. Reduce the amount of natural or incandescent lighing, and use florescent lighting instead.
Help! I can't make the microswitch work reliably with my start gate! In 2001, I changed to a magnetic switch for the start gate, and this complaint has gone away. The magnetic switch adjustment is not critical: sort of like a hand grenade, close is good enough, and much more reliable. We can help you upgrade to a magnetic switch. Give us a call.
Help! I removed the screws on the bottom, just trying to... (you name it), and now things rattle around inside and I can't make things tight again! Removing the screws will not help you open up The Judge, if that is what you were trying to do. Slip a butter knife under the end caps to cut the adhesive. Remove end caps, and shake out the flat spring nuts. If you have lost any, send $3 and a SASE. Using a tweezer or small needle nose pliers, put the nuts back on the screws. Glue the end caps in place with GE Silicone II. If you are curious as to what is inside The Judge, send $10 and a SASE, and I will send you the complete schematic diagram. The microprocessor code is proprietary. Attempting self repair or modifying your Judge will void your warranty.
Help! The last cub master wrote lane numbers on the Judge with a permanent marker, and did a very sloppy job. Can it be cleaned? Probably. During manufacture, I scrub the plastic with Comet on a green Scotch Guard pad. If you lose the gold label in the process, give me a call, and I will send you a new one.
Help! I cannot make computer contact with The Judge, either in HyperTerminal or my derby software program. The most common reason for this is that your computer has been configured to boot up with the serial port already assigned to a Palm Pilot or similar device. This prevents other programs from accessing the port. Look for the device icon in the tray at the lower edge of your screen, right click, and close it.
Help! My computer has only USB ports, not serial. Stop by your Best Buy or other computer store and get a USB-Serial cable. We also offer this item at $29. This device makes your USB computer think it has a serial port. Most Judge owners want to be at the start line with their computer, and USB signals do not travel over long cables. Serial messages easily travel on long cables, so this is most practical format at this time.
Help! What are the Serial Port settings of the Judge? 9600 bits per second, 8 Data Bits, 1 Stop Bit, and No Parity. Flow control does not matter.