A Networked System for Pile Up Competitions

On Sunday afternoon a week prior to the 2008 Austin Hamfest (Summerfest), I received a call from my radio pal Gary (W5ZL-SK). After the typical W5ZL BS, Gary got down to business and indicated he would like to run a CW pileup competition at Summerfest and he wanted it to be computer graded so the results would be easy to produce. He wanted to know if I could come up with something along those lines? It sounded simple enough and by Tuesday I emailed him a small application for the competitors to use (see the Player application below) and a second small application to do the grading of the logs (a small part of the Host below). Well, Gary was glad to get something but he was not impressed, his main complaint being "It's not networked, we'll have to run around in our sneakers and gather the logs for scoring!". Needless to say, with the short timeframe we had, that is exactly what we did. But the seed for the application had been planted as had the programmer's itch to do it and by the end of September the first edition of a networked version called PileUpNet, along the lines of Gary's original vision, had been developed and a detailed description had been prepared for PileUp! the on-line contesting journal published by the Contest Club of Finland. [Note: Unfortunately it appears that those issues are no longer available on-line but here is a link to the draft copy.]     

As the name suggests PileUpNet is a collection of networked applications developed by the author to support  pile-up competitions similar to those conducted each year at Dayton by the Kansas City DX Club. PileUpNet is also the system referenced in the "CW Pileup Competition 101" article in the November/December 2011 issue of the National Contest Journal. A detailed step-by-step guide for setting up and running the system is also available as well as a separate document describing the network setup procedure for Win 7.  Interested readers are referred to the guide document for a detailed description of the system and how to use it. It has been used in the following pile up competitions so far:

  • August 2008 Summerfest Pile Up Competition in Austin, TX sponsored by the Central Texas DX and Contest Club
  • August 2009 Summerfest Pile Up Competition in Austin, TX sponsored by the Central Texas DX and Contest Club
  • March 2010 W5FOC Meeting in Austin 
  • March 2011 W5FOC Meeting in Lafayette, Louisiana
  • May 2011-Present Dayton CW Pile Up Competition sponsored by the Kansas City DX Club
  • July 2011 W0DXCC CW Pile Up Competition sponsored by the Kansas City DX Club
  • August 2011 Summerfest Pile Up Competition in Austin sponsored by the Central Texas DX and Contest Club
  • April 2012 Pile Up Competition in Letohallen, Norway sponsored by the LA Contest Club
  • July 2012 Northern California Pile Up Competition held at a joint meeting of the Northern California Contest Club, the Mother Lode DX and Contest Club and the Redwood Empire DX Club
  • April 2013 W5FOC Meeting at Canyon of the Eagles, Texas
  • July 2014 World Radio Team Championships (WRTC) CW Pile Up Competition in New England, USA 
  • August 2014 Summerfest Pile Up Competition in Austin, TX sponsored by the CTDXCC
  • March 2015 Greater Houston Hamfest CW Pile Up Competition in Houston, Texas 
  • August 2015 Summerfest Pile Up Competition in Austin, TX sponsored by the CTDXCC
  • August 2015 Pacific Northwest DX Convention in Everett, WA
  • August 2016 Summerfest Pile Up Competition in Austin, TX sponsored by the CTDXCC
PileUPNet can be used either as a standalone kiosk application in which individuals walk up and play and receive immediate feedback as to how they did or as a networked configuration of four applications: a PileUp Host, a Player, a Manual Logger, and a Real-time Scoreboard. By far the most entertaining configuration is the latter. With the exception of the Host application the number of clients of each type is optional. Since the Host is the central managing agent there can only be one Host. The system is currently sized for six players, two manual loggers, and four scoreboards. The Host Application is the central applicaton in the system. It is used by the competition administrator to manage the test, serves as a network hub, and has responsibility for performing the following tasks:
  • Controlling the playback of the audio file on each of the player machines
  • Monitoring the status of each of the player machines and alerting the administrator of any connection problems.
  • Scoring each of the participant's logs in real-time from inputs received from the Player Applications

  • Time-stamping the score of each participant for use in the real-time playback ("Morse Race") on the scoreboard
  • Receiving and scoring logs submitted from each of the Manual Loggers

  • Creating pseudo time-stamped scores of participants whose logs were submitted from Manual Loggers
  • Posting the results via communication with a Scoreboard Application

  • Ensuring orderly conduct of the competition including ensuring that a new contestant or manually entered log does not inadvertently zero out or replace the log of a prior contestant.

  • Rescoring all entries in case an error is found in the valid callsign checklist

  • Performing post-analysis, for each of the valid calls, of the percentage of the players that had good copy on that call.
  • Performing post-analysis for each of the players showing the calls correctly copied and the percentage of all the players that copied the same calls.
The Player Application is the application used by the competitors to log the call signs they copy as a pile-up audio file is played on their machines under the control of the Host. Each entered call is sent to the Host as well as logged locally on the player machine. This application can be operated in either a networked or standalone mode. If for some reason it is not desired to set up the competition in a network a competition could be set up as a group of one or more Player Applications with competitors stopping by to play during a competition period and results announced at the end of that period. The Player Application has capability to compile the scores and to enter the paper logs.  Recently (April 2013) a practice mode has been added to the Player Application that allows the user to practice on pile up competitions that have been held over the last 10-15 years, primarily at the KCDXC Hospitality Suite at Dayton.

The Manual Logger Application is the application used by administrative assistants to enter the logs of competitors who have elected to log on paper. Following completion of the manual log entry the log is submitted to the Host over the network for grading and presentation on the scoreboard(s).

The Scoreboard Application is a separate application whose only role is the real-time presentation of scores received following grading and ranking from the Host. It is an optional piece since the Host application also contains a scoreboard but with somewhat less scoreboard functionality. A feature of the scoreboard application that increases spectator interest is the "Morse Race" view of the results. This feature, which was added for the 2011 Dayton competition, allows playback of the top five finishers thus far in the competition while at the same time showing in real-time how the current competitors are doing vs the top five and identifying at the end of the session any new members of the top five. Scores of the top five and current players are shown in real-time with advancing bar graphs. The most effective presentation of the scoreboard is via either a digital projector or an HDMI connection to a large flat screen HDTV. Beginning in 2015 the Scoreboard also supports a random drawing feature for awarding door prizes to randomly selected participants. 


In addition to the above applications the system contains a Utility Application which is used to install the proper files on each machine depending on it's assigned role in the system. The system contains a few old audio and checklist files but does not include the capability to produce new files. If that is desired it is the responsibility of the user is to supply an audio wave file and a checklist text file listing the valid calls on the audio file. The audio can be either CW or SSB but to date the system has been used primarily in CW  pileup competitions.

Networking and Other Requirements
Although the system has been run on peer-to-peer networks and on wi-fi networks in both cases using a mixture of machines running XP and Windows 7 it is very strongly suggested that you plan to use a wired network implemented using a router/switch as a network hub. The presence of many cell phones in the waiting room area tend to make the a wireless implementation very unreliable due to time outs resulting from numerous collisions. Some adjustments may be required to the security settings of each machine and certain hibernate and screen saver features should be disabled. It is also advisable to disable the tap feature on the touchpad of any player machine.

System Availability

If you are thinking about running a competition you should first read the Methods to Consider document. After reviewing that document and discussing it with your sponsoring organization to reach a decision on which method to use contact me to determine the next steps. I continue to update PileUpNet with the latest version dated June 13, 2012. If you need an update to your current version or you are interested in using PileUpNet for your own pile up competitions or have questions concerning it's use that are not answered in the above documents please contact me at 

cqxsupport@no5w.com


73/Chuck/NO5W


Copyright: C.W. Sanders, NO5W
Last Updated: 13-November-2016