Celebrating 25 Years of FinishLynx—A History of Lynx System Developers

Lynx System Developers—A Startup Story

By: Matt Bradley

Usain Bolt 9.72 World Record FinishLynx

Usain Bolt poses in front of Lynx equipment after running 9.72 at the 2008 Reebok Grand Prix.

March 24, 2017 – Lynx System Developers was officially incorporated on March 24, 1992 and today marks the company’s 25th anniversary. In 1992, the company’s flagship product—the FinishLynx timing system—became the first photo-finish camera to produce digital race results for track and field. 25 years later, FinishLynx is the most popular photo-finish results system in the world, with thousands of customers across 6 continents and 135 countries.

But long before Lynx System Developers became a world leader in fully automatic sports timing, it was a small startup company from Massachusetts looking to capitalize on a simple idea—that race results should be captured digitally. As a way to celebrate the company’s 25th birthday, we’ll be looking back at the early days, including the people, circumstances, and technology that helped it succeed.

The Old Way of Timing

For years, world-class events like the Olympics used film-based cameras to capture photo-finishes. These cameras were more accurate than hand-timing, but were notoriously expensive and cumbersome to operate. They could only record a short amount of time (mere seconds) before the film would run out, oftentimes before all the competitors even crossed the finish line. The sports timing industry survived for decades with film-based cameras, until a better solution came along. Read more

Introducing the FinishLynx Online Help Manual

We’re proud to introduce: The FinishLynx Online Help Manual 

The Process

 For the past few months, we’ve been working to create a comprehensive, updated, and functional FinishLynx manual to replace the outdated PDF version. To achieve this, we completed four major (and tedious) steps:

  1. Input the old FinishLynx 4.0 Operator’s Manual into web format and reorganize as necessary (the 4.0 manual PDF was last updated in 2001).
  2. Integrate many years of release notes into logical categories and sections. For instance, any LapTime features from the past few years now all live in a single, consolidated LapTime section.
  3. Remove or update any old content (SCSI, old products, etc.) and add new images where needed plus YouTube support videos where possible.
  4. Create a site hierarchy that is both user-friendly and searchable.

The new online FinishLynx manual site has already undergone multiple testing rounds and has been reorganized more than once to provide the most functional site possible to its users. While we are still enhancing and updating the information, we hope that its inherent value can be fully appreciated as a large step up from the previous method, i.e. the PDF 4.0 Operator’s Manual. 


Benefits of the new online operator’s manual:

  • Up-to-Date: It will constantly be updated with the latest release notes, technology, and software information — unlike the current PDF version of the FinishLynx manual which is a few years old at this point.
  • Searchable: The key feature of this user manual is that it’s a search engine of sorts for FinishLynx information. You’ll no longer need to look through page after page for the answers you’re trying to find. 
  • Mobile-Friendly: Have a question during your meet? Pull up the Online Help Manual to quickly find your solution. Use this resource across all of your devices.

Visit the manual here: help.finishlynx.com

Online FinishLynx Manual - Homepage

Please feel free to send any feedback to: feedback@finishlynx.com

FinishLynx File and Directory Best Practices

In a previous blog post, we discussed meet management file formats, FinishLynx software formats, and meet management integration as a way to understand how FinishLynx communicates with a meet management program. This post addresses the best practices of data management as it relates to the files saved by FinishLynx. 

FinishLynx will save three (3) types of files with each event run:

  1. LIF File: Results file used by meet management
  2. .EVT File: FinishLynx event file — one file is created for each race
  3. .io1 (.io2) Files: Camera files  that are associated with each specific .evt file

All three file types are typically named by the event, round, and heat numbers (i.e. 4-1-1). This means that from one meet to another, there will be multiple files with the same name that may overwrite one another. It’s also possible that results from the LIF files of previous meets may be pulled into meet management software if that data is not managed. 

This issue is easily solved by creating a sub-folder in the shared directory for each meet:

  • One folder should be saved to the shared input/output directory on the meet management computer. 
  • The other folder should be a sub-folder of the event directory saved on the FinishLynx computer. 

Folders can be named with the meet name, date, or both and should be created within a shared directory. Simply point your input/output directories and event directories to the new folders for each meet.

Lynx Meet Files

Event Directory Settings:

Event Directory Settings

 

Database Settings:

Database Settings

 

As always, if you have additional questions please feel free to contact technical support


 

Upgrade Vision Cameras from Home with Instant Upgrade Codes

FinishLynx instant upgrade code screenshot

FinishLynx Instant Upgrade Codes

Version 10 of the FinishLynx sports timing software was released in November 2016 alongside the new high-end Vision PRO camera. Version 10+ brings many new features, one of which is the ability to upgrade camera firmware using special one-time redemption codes. We call this feature Instant Upgrades. Now many of the most popular camera upgrades can be enabled right from your computer.

When you purchase a compatible Vision upgrade, you will receive a digital code via email that can be redeemed immediately. Simply type the code inside FinishLynx to instantly activate the new add-on. You no longer need to ship your Vision camera back to the Lynx headquarters to enable features like LuxBoost, VDM, PLC, and other popular add-ons. Save time, save shipping costs, and save headaches with Instant Upgrades. Read more

FinishLynx File Formats for Meet Management Integration

Learn More About Lynx File Formats & Extensions

When using FinishLynx with a meet management program, there are a number of files that are created that allow one program to communicate with the other.  It can be helpful to understand what these files are, the purpose they serve, and where to find them. In general, the files are created in one of two places; either FinishLynx or the meet management software.

Meet Management File Formats

Meet Management files are used to create a schedule in FinishLynx and populate each event with start lists/entries. These files include:

.PPL File – a list of each competitor and their ID/Bib number (if used)
.SCH File – a list of each event, round and heat in the schedule
.EVT (Classic Event Log) – a list of each event, round, and heat with the ID, lane assignment, and name of each athlete entered. It may also contain other relevant information including affiliation. Open with a text editor like Notepad to view the contents.

FinishLynx Software Formats

Files produced by FinishLynx include:

.LIF File – This file contains the results of each event, round, and heat in the following comma-separated format: 

Place, ID, lane, last name, first name, affiliation, <time>, license, <delta time>, <ReacTime>, <splits>, time trial start time, user 1, user 2, user 3

This file is used by meet management software to populate results and score the meet. This simple text-based data format can then be shared across the network with race scoring programs or uploaded to the web and formatted for live results. Below is a screenshot of a .LIF file:

FinishLynx .LIF file screenshot

FinishLynx .LIF file screenshot

 

Meet Management Software Integration

To ensure successful integration of the two software programs, these files must be saved to a shared folder. In FinishLynx, set your input and output directory to that folder under the Database | Options

FinishLynx database options dialog box

Finishlynx Software Database Options Dialog Box

 

It is recommended to save these files to the meet management computer (if using more than one computer) as they are utilized by the meet management software. 

FinishLynx creates other files that should be saved to the capture computer as they can only be accessed by the FinishLynx program and may need to be reviewed after the meet is over.  These include the event files (Boys 3000.evn) and associated camera files (Boys 3000.io1). 

Create a folder on the C: drive and set the Event Directory to this location under the Event | Options. It is recommended that you create a new folder for each meet.

Finishlynx event options dialog box

Finishlynx Software Event Options Dialog Box

 

Have some specific questions about connecting FinishLynx with your meet management software? Contact tech support now

Remote Positioner Motor Home Repair Guide

The remote positioner for Lynx photo-finish cameras is a popular add-on that allows for the remote adjustment of cameras from within the FinishLynx software. The remote positioner contains small motors that enable the camera to tilt, swivel, or pan while mounted atop a tripod. In some cases—especially during tight storage—a motor can be broken and will require repair. If you have a broken positioner motor, Lynx will send you the replacement and you can complete the repair at your own convenience. Rather than sending your positioner back to Lynx, you can save time and money by replacing the motor(s) yourself. The process is very straightforward. After receiving your replacement motors, please follow the steps below. 

To begin, find yourself a work area that is flat, clutter-free, and well-lit. 

Necessary Tools:

  • 1/4″ socket driver
  • 3/16″ socket driver
  • Medium Phillips head screwdriver

Note: Some older Positioners will require a 5/16″ socket driver as larger nuts were previously used. 

If you’re only replacing the Pan Motor, skip steps 5-6, 8. 

Step 1: Turn the Positioner so the back legs are closest to you. Remote Positioner

Step 2: Begin by removing the 2 short screws from the back legs of the mounting plate.

  • Remove the 2 long screws from the front legs of the mounting plate and remove the plate. 
    Remote Positioner Step 2

Step 3: Remove the 4 screws from the base of the Positioner.Remote Positioner Step 3

Step 4: Flip the Positioner over and remove the bottom plate. Unplug the 3 cables. 

Remote Positioner Step 4

Step 5: Using the 3/16″ socket driver, remove the 4 jack screws from the sides of the serial plugs.Remote Positioner Step 5

Step 6: Using the 1/4″ socket, remove the 2 nuts from the circuit board; remove the board by pulling up and away.

Remote Positioner Step 6

Step 7: Remove the nuts and washers from any broken motors. Transfer the stand to the new motor. 

  1. Replace the old motor with the new motor with the wires pointed inward. Remote Positioner Step 7
  2. Replace the washers and tighten the nuts.Remote Positioner Step 7b

Step 8: Replace the circuit board.

  1. Tighten the nuts. (The motor mount nut may need to be adjusted for the board to fit.)
  2. Tighten the jack screws. (Over-tightening may cause the screws to break.)

Step 9: Plug the motors into the board taking note of the labels and motor positions — right, left, pan

Also keep in mind that the motors are upside down and therefore reversed.

Remote Positioner Step 9

Step 10: Replace the bottom plate with the pan motor to the back.

Step 11: Flip the Positioner over and tighten the 4 screws on the base.

  1. Tighten the two long screws on the front legs of the mounting plate.
  2. Tighten the two short screws on the back legs of the mounting plate. 

 

If you need any additional help, please contact tech support: 978-556-9780 or support@finishlynx.com

2016-17 Lynx Winter Holiday Schedule

Haverhill, MA – The Lynx Headquarters will be closed for an extended winter break during the 2016-17 holiday season in order to spend some time relaxing with friends, family, and loved ones.

Our Haverhill office will close on Friday, December 23rd while we attend our annual employee holiday party. This year the Lynx team will be returning to Dave & Busters to enjoy some food, drinks, and friendly competition in the form of arcade games. The office will reopen at 9:00 AM (Eastern Standard Time) on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Limited technical support may be available by calling the office and following the prompts to leave a message: (978) 556-9780. You can also submit a tech support web form and may receive a response via email.

 

2016-17 Holiday Schedule

Close: Friday, December 23rd
Re-Open: Tuesday, January 3rd

 

From our Lynx family to yours, we wish you the best
over this holiday season and a very happy new year!

Santa Lynx

 

New FinishLynx 10 Software & 20,000 fps Vision PRO Camera

The Most Powerful Sports Timing Camera Ever Made

Vision PRO Photo-finish sports timing camera

Vision PRO Camera

We’re excited to announce two new product releases: The EtherLynx Vision PRO camera and FinishLynx 10. The (5L600) Vision PRO combines all the user-friendly features of the Vision camera, with the speed and power of the EtherLynx PRO. The Vision PRO immediately replaces the older EtherLynx PRO (5L300) as the new standard for timing high-speed sporting events like horse and greyhound racing, cycling, and motorsports.

Capture Up To 20,000 Frames Per Second

Chengdu Vision Pro Horse Racing Photo-Finish

Vision PRO Capture

The Vision PRO is, without a doubt, the most powerful sports timing camera ever released. The Vision PRO comes standard with 3,000 fps, but can be upgraded to 6,000 or 20,000 fps.  It builds on key features introduced in 2015 with the Vision camera (like power-over-ethernet and LuxBoost), while adding increased frame rates (3k-20k) and image heights (up to 2048 pixels) making it ideal for timing high velocity finish lines. The camera includes support for features like:

Vision PRO Camera Datasheet

EtherLynx Vision PRO Camera Datasheet
EtherLynx Vision PRO Camera Datasheet
5L600-Vision-PRO-datasheet.pdf
Version: 11/2016
732.6 KB
4716 Downloads
Details...

New FinishLynx 10 Timing & Results Software

FinishLynx 10 contains support for a host of new features, including several new add-ons for the Vision and Vision PRO cameras. Some of the major features in version 10.0 include:

  • Double Mode & 20,000 fps captures
  • Auto LuxBoost for LuxBoost-enabled Vision cameras
  • Video Display Module upgrade (output scoreboard data & images via camera HDMI port)
  • Electronic Viewfinder upgrade (Align camera using external video viewfinder)
  • Find & Reboot Vision cameras directly from software
  • Digital Upgrade Codes allow some camera upgrades to be unlocked via download
  • Set Default Total Laps for use with LapTime devices
  • Backwards-Compatible with every FinishLynx camera ever released

Download The FinishLynx 10 Software Update Now

[archived] FinishLynx 10.01 (11/28/2016) (3.2 MB, 5798 downloads)

See the PDF and video release notes below to learn more about all the new features available on the Vision PRO and FinishLynx 10.0 software.

FinishLynx 10 PDF Release Notes

FinishLynx 10.01 Release Notes
FinishLynx 10.01 Release Notes
FinishLynx10-01-release-notes.pdf
Version: 10.01
339.0 KB
3125 Downloads
Details...

FinishLynx 10 Video Release Notes 


Read more

Fix Vision Camera Ethernet Issues on Windows 10

Since the upgrade to Windows 10, many users have reported issues with the ability of the Vision camera to load to FinishLynx. Often, users will see the camera load only to have it red-line within moments.

A simple fix to the power management settings of the Ethernet port can solve this issue:

  1. Navigate to the Control Panel
  2. Open Device Manager
  3. Find the Ethernet Adapter (also possibly listed as Realtek Family Controller, Local Area Network etc.)
  4. Right click and select PropertiesDevice Manager Screenshot
  5. Select the Power Management tab
  6. Un-check the box that says “Allow the computer to turn of this device…”Power Management Tab
  7. Close the windows. Restart FinishLynx, power cycle the camera and attempt to load the cameras

 

If you continue to experience issues, please contact Lynx technical support at 978-556-9780 or by emailing support@finishlynx.com.

Protect Your Equipment from Unexpected Weather

Here in New England, weather is a constant surprise. With the common phrase, “See all four seasons in a day,” it’s safe to say we keep ice scrapers in our cars year-round — just in case.

If you’re lucky enough to be timing a race from the press box, most weather-related concerns aren’t as pertinent. But many aren’t so lucky. So how do you prepare for unpredictable weather at your races? What measures can be taken to ensure all of your sacred timing equipment is kept safe? There are at least two major elements that could be disastrous to your meet: water and wind.

Rain and Snow

Lynx camera - winter

Icy Lynx rain cover

Timers everywhere have stepped up their creativity when it comes to keeping their equipment dry. We’ve seen large Tupperware bins customized to fit a camera, cardboard boxes folded to cover a laptop, entire timing booths set up inside of cars even.

  • Lynx Rain Covers – The standard for rain protection, Lynx rain covers come with each photo-finish camera and have proven themselves time and time again. A clear benefit to this style is their snug fit, preventing the wind from carrying them away. Plus, their pliability allows for easy transportation and storage. Added bonus: they have been known to keep snow off the cameras as well!
  • Plastic Bags – We’ve heard many different tools for waterproofing, but one item is a unanimous must-have — Garbage bags. No matter what creative setup is in place, plastic garbage bags are always useful in a pinch. Plus, keep your RadioLynx wireless start receivers protected from the rain by using a plastic zip-lock bag with a hole cut in one corner for the antenna.
  • Plexi Covers – These tend to have their own set of pros and cons. On the one hand, their sturdiness offers a sure sense of reliability against the rain. Something to consider, though, is their bulkiness. If you have multiple cameras being moved from meet to meet, the hard covers can take up a good amount of storage space. As you can see below, the plexi covers are available for IdentiLynx video cameras too.

Read more

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