More and more judges are turning to personal digital assistants or PDA's to aid in judging. There are many tools that are currently available, and I would hope many more to come. The two most popular devices are the Palm Pilot and compatibles, and the Pocket PC and compatibles. Pocket PC devices can come with PocketWord, which is a scaled down, but still a very powerful version of Microsoft Word. Palm Pilots use a popular program called iSilo. The Wizards of the Coast judge web site has a download section for palm pilots in this format. I can only write from the perspective of the Pocket PC and would hope for someone add to this article from the Palm perspective. I have included Palm information where I could.
PocketWord displaying the Universal Rules
For the Pocket PC many of the documents are available in word format from the Judges CD Rom. If your device does not support word documents, then consider downloading the .txt versions. Some of the rules come in Acrobat format, which is better for the newer devices than plain text files. Wizards of the Coast does not currently include bookmarks in their PDF Documents, but if they started that practice, then they would be friendlier to PDA's, which often have a hard time scrolling through large bodies of text.
Speed and battery life are the two main factors in a PDA's usefulness. It's of little value to the judge or the players if the document you are trying to read takes longer to load and locate than a walk back to the judges station. When I used my Jornada 540, it was only valuable as a timer. With my 400mhz Toshiba e740, it can load and find a word document rapidly enough to be of service. In one situation at the Legions pre-release, I was asked if the Mistform Ultimus was also a shadow creature type. I replied that shadow was an ability, not a creature type. The player asked if I could check. I was able within a few seconds to show him on my PDA that shadow was not listed in the S's for the creature.
In order to accomplish this I had to set up my E740 in advance. One of its nice features is a "Home" button with multiple application tabs. I set up one tab as "Magic Documents." Within that tab I have added shortcuts for the Penalty Guidelines, Floor Rules, Universal Rules, Magic Comprehensive rules, The Judge Handbook in PDF and the Legions FAQ. I plan to add the Oracle as well.
I always make sure to bring my charger. Battery life for my device is about 1 hour. This can be sufficient for time keeping, and the occasional reference, but the danger is that if the device looses all power, the entire contents of their volatile memory is lost.
Timekeeper can track three events simultaneously
More often than not, the event you are judging does not have a large LED Clock counting down the round. When this is the case, or when too many people are standing at the judge's station blocking the view of the clock, it is helpful to have a countdown clock of your own. My recommendation is TimeKeeper by Conduits Technologies Inc. for Pocket PC. It is inexpensive, and lets you customize the functions. I have three custom situations set up on my device. The first is Monthly, which I use for the local events I judge, we run a JSS/Type II, a Sealed, and extended. I can keep time on the three events simultaneously. Next is Qualifier, for when I judge Pro Tour Qualifiers, where there is one main event, and multiple draft side events. The multiple timers are set up as Main, Draft 1, Draft 2, etc. Finally I have Pre-Release, in which I might be timing up to four pods. I have several preset durations. Round, which is 50 minutes, quarterfinals, which is 60 minutes, and semi-finals, which is 90 minutes.
I would like to see connectivity become a stronger feature in PDA's for judging. Right now, for many reasons there is little reason to connect PDA's to the judge's computer. It is possible to connect via Infrared to the PC but the limited range and access to the judge's station makes this difficult and impractical. The same applies to using a cradle to connect. The best answer is wireless connectivity. The Toshiba E740 offers 802.11 wireless Ethernet built in. Other devices have cards that can be purchased to add this functionality. Without going into too much technical detail, it is possible to attach a small USB wireless adapter to the judge's computer, and establish an ad-hoc network between the devices and the laptop. This allows the judge's computer to have all latest relevant documents available to the PDA judges for download. I recently used this feature to transfer the complete list of all cards in text format to my Toshiba PDA.
DCI Reporter supports a feature that is half way to making connectivity to PDA's valuable. It is possible to output pairings by player, and by table to text files. Currently this is done manually, which makes more work for the computer operator. If however, DCI Reporter automatically output this data into a default folder, each time pairings are generated, and this default folder had been set up as a share, then judges would be able to transfer these files directly to our PDA's from the floor.
It is also possible for the judge's computer, or another computer on the network, to serve web pages to the PDA's. This is significant. All of the newer PDA's and many of the older ones have the ability to view web documents. The possibilities of a web based network between the floor judges, the main tournament computer and DCI Reporter is exciting to say the least.
While many of these PDA's are expensive right now, technology is known for getting faster, smaller, and cheaper. The future is one of a networked judge, giving rulings, taking results, and recording warnings, maybe even running the tournament, all from their PDA.
Hint to DCI: If you could convince the Developers of DCI Reporter to publish an API, I would be thrilled to volunteer to write and support the web interface for PDA's!
There are two TimeKeeper programs by different vendors. Both are available for a small price at handango.com. The one for the Pocket PC is by Conduits Technologies Inc. and the one for Palm OS is Emcon Emsys Technologies.
Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm and Pocket PC
This is PDF document reader available for free from www.acrobat.com.
iSilo is a document format for Palm devices. It is a free download at:
Important judging documents are available at the Judge Download page
There is a Yahoo group for the discussion and dissemination of information about PDA's in judging.
Creating an Ad-Hoc network to a Windows 2000 laptop.
These instructions assume you want to share files from the laptop to mobile devices, and are somewhat familiar with networking. This type of networking is often referred to as WiFi, and uses the 802.11 protocol. Compatible devices will reference the 802.11 numbers so that you know they will work together. To accomplish this, you will need to establish communications from the laptop to the PDA's, establish a login for the PDA's on the computer, and probably purchase a wireless network device.
A network requires three parts for each computer/device on the network. Each computing device requires a hardware device, a software connection, and communication settings. A wireless network requires additional communication settings such as radio frequency. Each of these is explained here.
All network hardware performs the same basic function. Whether it is built in and called a Network Interface Card (NIC) or plugs in and is called a Network Interface Adapter (NIA) the hardware adapter provides the gateway from the computer to the network.
For each network interface adapter that is in a computer, a software network connection is created by the system, usually at the time of installation. These network connections hold the settings that the hardware uses to identify the computer to the network, and the method the computer will use to talk on the network. A computer may have multiple connections, identities and communication methods into multiple networks. This allows us to add temporary hardware to a laptop for ad-hoc networks that does not interfere with any other network settings on the computer. For wireless connections, there is additional software on the computer that manages the radio transmission settings.
The Basics: A Laptop, A PDA, and a LinkSys wireless USB network adapter
I use the LinkSys wireless USB network adapter as my NIA. They retail for $69.99. They are small, lightweight and require no external power. They do not require opening the case of the computer to install. Adding this kind of network device will not interfere with other types of networking already established on the laptop. If you are already using the laptop in a wireless network, then purchasing a second wireless adapter and installing it will allow you to add this kind of networking without interference to the original.
Follow the manufacturers instructions to install the wireless adapter on the laptop.
The next step is to setup the network connection. Here there be tigers. Most installation instructions will also include the steps to accomplish this. For Windows 2000 the path is:
Start->Settings->Network and Dial up connections->Local area connection->properties->Internet protocol->properties
Make certain you are setting up the properties for the correct device. The top of the first properties window may have something like this:
3Com 3C920 Integrated Fast Ethernet Controller (3C905C-TX Compatible)
Note that the first word "3COM" is the manufacturer. This is how you make sure you are changing the setting for the correct device, when there is more than one. My network settings say "LinkSys" at the top of its properties page.
In an ad-hoc network each device is manually assigned an IP address. For simplicity sake I assign the laptop to be 192.168.1.1 with a mask of 255.255.255.0. The default gateway and DNS servers do not need to be entered. Each additional device/PDA that is added to the network is assigned the next address available. This would be 192.168.1.2, 192.168.1.3 up to 192.168.1.254
The final step in setting up the PC is setting up the wireless profile. The network adapter you installed will have also installed a wireless local area network (LAN) monitor program. Find and Open this program. There are basic and advanced settings. We will ignore the advanced settings because we assume we don't need encrypted communications.
The software I am familiar with allows you to have multiple profiles. The profiles are groups of settings that establish links with different wireless networks. Each device is like a radio scanner and can identify multiple radio networks if in range. Each profile is like a preset radio button on your car.
Create a new profile. I usually call this profile ad hoc. This name is only relevant to the computer it is on and is for your reference. Wireless networks are identified to each other by a term called the SSID.
A wireless network has three basic settings; A name or SSID, a channel, and a type.
I choose my SSID to be the word "magic". I use the default channel 6 on my device.
The network type must be 'ad hoc'. These settings must be the same on all computers and PDA's that wish to communicate. When PDA users scan for a network, they will see that the ad-hoc network 'magic' is broadcasting on channel 6, and may connect.
Unfortunately for the uninitiated, you now only have your hardware communicating. Some windows operating systems require Usernames and passwords for people to access the computer. This also applies to people that want to access the computer through a remote device. Once you have the devices talking, they still need to code to get past the gates. Windows 95 and 98 laptops may not require remote users to log in.
Establish a user account on the laptop for remote devices to log into. Instructions on how to do this are on the computer itself.
Finally for the laptop, create a folder and share it. I would suggest that only the judge's user account be given access to the shared folder. Instructions on how to do this are also on the computer. Big Clue: Right click on the folder, select "Sharing..."
You as the computer user are now done. If the PDA Judges can't connect, blame them and claim ignorance, unless you forgot that one last step. Really, it's a little one. Tell the PDA users the name of your computer. Not what you call it in private moments, but it's actual name, found by right clicking on the "My computer" icon and selecting properties.
Creating PDA wireless connection to the judge computer.
Fortunately, if you buy a PDA with 802.11 built in, it comes with instructions on how to set up. If you buy a card to give your PDA 802.11 capability that too comes with instructions on how to set it up. But just for kicks, here are the basics.
The PDA has the same basic needs as the laptop (food, shelter, love, chocolate). The network connection must be set up to use a fixed IP address, and the Wireless connection must be established. Ask your dear friend at the computer for your IP Address.
Next find the wireless LAN utility on the PDA.
Set the PDA to ad-hoc network type, channel 6, SSID of magic, and scan for connections.
Once you locate and establish a connection with the laptop you are almost ready to exchange files.
From the PDA, use the file explorer to open a network connection, supply the name of the computer, the login and password and you're in!
You also have one final step. Go to the computer owner, and ask him or her to actually put some files in the shared folder. A few useful word or text files might be helpful.
Next month, how to establish a web server for PDA wireless clients!
Ultimately, the laptop owner needs to have a cheat sheet for the PDA owners. The cheat sheet would list the following information:
PDA Assigned IP address