Today is bringing some new experiences. I made my first public code release, and I’m writing my first blog article. I never was actually eager to start blogging, mainly because I thought that I don’t have that much to say to the world. But now, since my first few Bytes of code wander round the web, I feel the urge to tell its story.
My dad is a part-time PE teacher, the other half of his time he guides canoeing tours or works as ski and snowboard instructor, like myself. His latest occupation is “Mobile Leistungsdiagnostik” (directly translated ‘mobile performance diagnostics’, even if it isn’t very helpful). He offers sport clubs and such that he analyzes their training methodologies including lactate tests and the whole shebang. On this account he expressed the need for a time measurement system with light barriers, that ideally worked wireless. At that time, I was in my first year of study at the university, and had just learned how to code “Hello World!” in Java. I figured, that in this case buy clearly dominated build, as I had no idea how I even could implement a working timer application, not to speak of a light barrier arrangement. So I started to google.
The first thing that attracted my attention was how few companies shared the time measurement market. In Germany, around 10 small companies offer their (more or less handy) solutions to small to medium size businesses. The second major point was the price. A full-blown time measurement arrangement with two light barriers, wireless communication and some (presumably crappy not really pleasing) LCD display and printer as output is available at an Austrian sports outfitter at the (ludicrous) price of € 3,500 (about $ 4,400 ,without taxes). For interaction with a PC you have to buy a stopwatch with USB for € 250 and a program for a meager € 320. Even if you don’t want wireless or a display, have a RS232 interface built in your notebook and are willing to put up some time for coding , you end up around € 1,000. Finding mainly offers of this kind, I quickly stopped searching, and the matter was forgotten.
Nowadays, I have a better grasp of how computers work, and know my ways around C programs. My dad was close to buying some expensive utilities, but I said “No need for that, I’ll work something out.”, and so I started writing ls-watch. Originally, what I had in mind was a really small GUI with measured times showing up. The main innovation should be the USB interface: a plug-and-play experience, easy to use without prior knowledge of the system. This remains true until now, but I have shifted the focus of development a bit towards the GUI: it shall be able to import and export the measured data. Another main concept is part of the reason why I released it under GPL: if I’m already coding it for my dad for free, I can share it with as many people as possible. Accordingly the program should be able to interact with a wide range of time measuring applications through an interface, so many people can modify it to their own needs without too much hassle. The implementation of a USB – light barrier module is next in the queue, directly after the main program is working correctly.