USB to Serial Adapters

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gpraceman
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USB to Serial Adapters

Post by gpraceman » Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:50 pm

Laptops these days do not have a serial port, but most timers available today are designed to work on the serial port. To connect the two, you need to have a USB to Serial Adapter. You can get these adapters through many of the timer manufacturers or at stores like Best Buy, Micro Center and other electronics stores.

Be careful of ultra inexpensive adapters that you find online, as they may have counterfeit chips which may cause driver issues.
See http://www.prolific.com.tw/US/ShowProdu ... 55&pcid=41 and http://hackaday.com/2014/10/22/watch-th ... ake-chips/ regarding that issue.

I have heard from several people about problems using the one sold at Radio Shack, so I do not recommend that one.

Notes:
+ The adapter will come with drivers that you must install. The drivers will create a virtual COM port that race management software can then use. If you cannot find your drivers, you can try installing the drivers from the Prolific or FTDI websites (most adapters use communications chips from one of these two companies).
+ When the adapter is unplugged the COM port disappears from your system and will reappear when plugged back in. Some race management software will scan your system for installed ports, so you should have the adapter plugged in when using that software.
+ Older adapters may not be compatible at all with newer versions of Windows.
+ It is always a good idea to make sure that you have the latest drivers for your adapter installed. You can usually find these on the adapter manufacturer's website or the website of the derby merchant that you purchased the adapter from.
+ Windows 8/8.1 Notice - Older adapters, with the Prolific communications chipset, may not work with Windows 8/8.1. See viewtopic.php?f=16&t=7949

How to tell if USB to Serial Adapter is installed correctly (Windows XP and earlier):
1. Plug in your adapter to the computer (having it also plugged into the timer is not necessary at this point)
2. Click on the Windows Start button
3. Open up your Control Panel
4. Double Click on the System icon (if in Category View, switch to Classic View)
5. Go to the Hardware tab
6. Click on the Device Manager button
7. Click on the "+" sign next to "Ports (COM & LPT)". If you don't see "Ports (COM & LPT)" listed, then the drivers for the adapter are not installed properly.
8. Generally, a USB adapter will be labeled so you can tell which COM port number it is setup as (i.e. "USB Serial Port" or "Prolific USB-to-Serial...").
9. If the icon next to the adapter's COM port has an exclamation next to it, then the adapter's driver is not installed properly. Uninstall the driver (right mouse click over that port and select Uninstall) and then unplug the adapter. Try reinstalling the driver (follow the directions provided by the adapter manufacturer).
10. If the icon next to the adapter's COM port looks like a plug, then the adapter's driver should be installed properly.

How to tell if USB to Serial Adapter is installed correctly (Windows Vista, 7, and 8/8.1):
1. Plug in your adapter to the computer (having it also plugged into the timer is not necessary at this point)
2. Click on the Windows Start button
3. In the search box, enter the words "Device Manager", without the quotes, and hit the Enter key
4. In the Device Manager screen, double click on "Ports (COM & LPT)" to view the list of installed ports. If you don't see "Ports (COM & LPT)" listed, then the drivers for the adapter are not installed properly.
5. Generally, a USB adapter will be labeled so you can tell which COM port number it is setup as (i.e. "USB Serial Port" or "Prolific USB-to-Serial...").
6. If the icon next to the adapter's COM port has an exclamation next to it, then the adapter's driver is not installed properly. Uninstall the driver (right mouse click over that port and select Uninstall) and then unplug the adapter. Try reinstalling the driver (follow the directions provided by the adapter manufacturer).
7. If the icon next to the adapter's COM port looks like a plug, then the adapter's driver should be installed properly.

How to tell if USB to Serial Adapter is installed correctly (Windows 10):
1. Plug in your adapter to the computer (having it also plugged into the timer is not necessary at this point)
2. Right-click on the Windows Start button
3. Select Device Manager
4. In the Device Manager screen, double click on "Ports (COM & LPT)" to view the list of installed ports. If you don't see "Ports (COM & LPT)" listed, then the drivers for the adapter are not installed properly.
5. Generally, a USB adapter will be labeled so you can tell which COM port number it is setup as (i.e. "USB Serial Port" or "Prolific USB-to-Serial...").
6. If the icon next to the adapter's COM port has an exclamation next to it, then the adapter's driver is not installed properly. Uninstall the driver (right mouse click over that port and select Uninstall) and then unplug the adapter. Try reinstalling the driver (follow the directions provided by the adapter manufacturer).
7. If the icon next to the adapter's COM port looks like a plug, then the adapter's driver should be installed properly.

Doing the above procedure will also help you identify the COM port number that the adapter was setup as. Do note that this COM number will change if you plug into a different USB port on your computer.
Last edited by gpraceman on Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.


Randy Lisano
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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by ExtremePWD » Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:13 pm

Thank Randy. This will be a real helpful checklist to get setup faster.



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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by BigDozer66 » Tue Feb 13, 2007 9:45 pm

I think my 'old' laptop has a Serial Port on it.

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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by BenMarRacing » Wed Feb 14, 2007 2:42 pm

I thank you too. I hope we can automate our track in the future so I am tucking that list away for reference.



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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by BigDozer66 » Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:30 pm

My 'old' laptop does not have a serial port so it is a good thing I bought the Microwizard K3 Grand Prix Kit that came with one! 8)

Lynn


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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by Stephen's Dad » Fri Apr 13, 2007 10:55 am

We used a Belkin USB to Serial adapter however neither of the serial ends was fitted with the screws (both ends had female lugs?) so the fit had to be reinforced with good old Duct Tape where the serial cable meets our Grand Prix timer. LOL

If you go this route MAKE SURE to secure the cables well. If the connection is lost during use, my Dell Inspiron 9300 requires a reboot to recognize the USB device. This proved to be a real pain in the butt since a car handler knocked the cable out of the timer during the race causing an ugly delay.


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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by SlartyBartFast » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:17 am

Isn't it about high time that timer manufacturers included a USB interface? It's not like USB is cutting edge anymore.

As I slowly advance in my adventure to create my own timer system, I found the following parts:
http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_ ... ucts_id=58
http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_ ... ucts_id=70

Incorporating the FTDI chip and a USB conenctor should be a simple change to existing timer designs. The cable version may make for easy modification of old boards.



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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by gpraceman » Mon Dec 10, 2007 11:30 am

SlartyBartFast wrote:Isn't it about high time that timer manufacturers included a USB interface? It's not like USB is cutting edge anymore.

As I slowly advance in my adventure to create my own timer system, I found the following parts:
http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_ ... ucts_id=58
http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_ ... ucts_id=70

Incorporating the FTDI chip and a USB conenctor should be a simple change to existing timer designs. The cable version may make for easy modification of old boards.
NewBold's Turbo timer has the option of a built-in USB interface. Essentially it is has a built-in USB to serial adapter and as such still requires the user to install a driver that will create a virtual COM port so it can be used with race management software.

There really isn't much incentive for manufacturers to offer a USB timer. With USB you are limited to the length of cable (about 16ft), unless you buy a signal booster. With a USB to serial adapter, you can use a 50ft or longer serial cable to stretch between the adapter and the timer. The USB interface also adds complexity and they would have to get the software manufacturers to support it. Whereas, the serial interface is tried and true and bound to be around as long as there are adapters for those computers without serial ports.


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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by SlartyBartFast » Mon Dec 10, 2007 12:34 pm

gpraceman wrote:The USB interface also adds complexity and they would have to get the software manufacturers to support it.
Actually, the FTDI chips are probably similar to what NewBold is using then.

A driver creates a virtual com port. It's essentially a Serial to USB adapter.



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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by gpraceman » Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:07 pm

I updated the original post to include instructions for MS Vista.


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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by John Shreffler » Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:55 pm

Isn't it about high time that timer manufacturers included a USB interface?
There will never be a USB Judge, because most customers want to be at the start gate with the computer, so that they can be conversant with the folks setting the cars, rather than shouting the length of the track. The USB signal is super fast, but has a very short range, much shorter than the track length.

I might be offering wireless in the future. Cables are a bit of a drag.


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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by gpraceman » Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:11 pm

John Shreffler wrote:The USB signal is super fast, but has a very short range, much shorter than the track length.
Yep. Using a USB to Serial Adapter can at least allow people to use long serial cables so they are able to place the computer at the finish line.
John Shreffler wrote:I might be offering wireless in the future. Cables are a bit of a drag.
I'm checking out some Bluetooh devices that show some promise. They purport to have long range and be plug-in-play, for easier setup. The USB to Serial Adapters are a hassle since you have to deal with drivers. Invariably, as people move on and new people come in, the CD with the drivers gets lost and the person taking over can't seem to get communications to work and has no idea why. Then you and I get calls and emails for support. Hopefully, using these devices will help limit those issues. We'll see, once I can take a breath and test them out.


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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by SlartyBartFast » Mon Mar 10, 2008 3:57 pm

John Shreffler wrote: There will never be a USB Judge, because most customers want to be at the start gate with the computer, so that they can be conversant with the folks setting the cars, rather than shouting the length of the track.
Why does the timer have to be at the finish?

The sensors could easily be at the finish with the timer adjacent to the computer communicating by USB.

But yes, all the easy USB solutions involve serial com port drivers.

I haven't had a chance to see what's involved in a proper USB plug-and-play setup.



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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by terryep » Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:05 pm

Good luck on the Bluetooth, I tried an IOGear RS232 to Bluetooth converter and eventually gave up on it. It would only work sporadically.

You can still buy serial port cards for PCs but if you want a Laptop with serial port you have to get a Panasonic Toughbook.

I'm using the FTDI chip for my RS232 to USB adapter. Vista finds the driver on the net automatically. You can make use of the poweron signal to reset your timer and you may be able to use the USB +5V@500mA to power the timer as well.
Terry



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Re: USB to Serial Adapters

Post by digger » Sun Oct 26, 2008 11:08 pm

Thanks for the info guys. I could not get my cabel to work last race becuse I am computer dummmmmmmmmmmmmm now I mite be abel to make it work thanks again!!!



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