Station Status Boards - Wish List

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John Bobinyec

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Well, the first version of the Station Status Boards seems like a success. I've had a few suggestions for improvements and so it's time to start thinking about the next version. I'm soliciting any suggestions now, because I really don't want to do a third version.

Any changes that I'm able to make will probably be customizable by you. If you like a new feature versus the old, you'll probably be able to choose which one you get.

Here are the suggestions that I have so far, and their status:

1. Add sound - The author of the Solari board display code that I use is looking into doing that. I'll add it when he creates it.

2. Add a local clock - The author of the Solari board display code is also looking into doing that.

3. Add columns - the traditional "FROM" column is missing. The reason is that I'm limited to 60 columns. If I add anything, I'll have to take something away to make room for it. So the traditional Solari display won't have any additional columns. See the following item.

4. Give just the information, without the Solari display. Sadly, some folks have grown up without having seen or heard a real Solari board. (Sure, there's Youtube). This makes them impatient to get the information. So an alternative display would be just a simple, static page. It'll have the "FROM" column.

5. Show the train's projected time. I don't deal in Amtrak "guesstimates" because frankly, I don't trust them. However, given a train's scheduled time, and its actual lateness (recorded at the most recent station), the two can be combined to show the projected time in the Status column.

Anything else?

jb
 

FreeskierInVT

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I'd love to see the digital board with a font like one on a real Solari board. I've only seen the board in New Haven, and I believe it has a font similar to Gill Sans MT. It would certainly be a nice touch.
 

jebr

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There's a couple things that I can think of:

1. On the Solari board, could the first result be loaded immediately, instead of waiting a few seconds to load the first result? Sometimes I wonder if the page is loading at all if I don't see that first result right away...Millenial impatience, I know. ;)

2. Could a mobile-friendly version of the information be made (sans Solari board, of course)? I'm not sure if there's a way to nicely format it, though, without chopping off relevant information, so this is more of a "brainstorm of something cool" than anything else.
 

Acela150

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I'm trying to be reasonable! :p

1. I know the current version has "Boarding" listed for On-Time trains, but when a train is late it won't list as "Boarding". Is it possible to fix that?

2. Spell the whole word "Early" and "Late"??

TIA,

Steve
 

pianocat

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I'm sure it's right in front of my eyes, somewhere here on the AU Forum, but for us 'newbies' can you give a link that takes us directly to the Solari boards? Is this pinned somewhere I'm not seeing? I found it by typing in to the search window, but would love to see this given more 'show' and I know lots of us still learning to make our way around here would benefit from a quick link. Thank you for your time in putting this massive project together!!!!
 

PRR 60

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I'm sure it's right in front of my eyes, somewhere here on the AU Forum, but for us 'newbies' can you give a link that takes us directly to the Solari boards? Is this pinned somewhere I'm not seeing? I found it by typing in to the search window, but would love to see this given more 'show' and I know lots of us still learning to make our way around here would benefit from a quick link. Thank you for your time in putting this massive project together!!!!
Here you go.

Station Status Boards
 

TVRM610

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Just my .02 but I wouldn't change much. The appeal for me is the actual Solari style. The local clock is really the only thing I would add. (and sound if you can just because it's fun.)
 

gmushial

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As much as the Solari type action is interesting the first couple of times... it get's old quickly waiting for the values to settle and the fact that they are displayed one line at a time. I would allow for the option of reducing the settling time (currently looks like 5 secs) maybe down to 1.5sec... or keep the 5 sec settling time but apply that to the entire board. ... though even then maybe reduce it to 3 secs?? The other request would be to fill the entire board in parallel and then apply the settling time ... but to sit and wait for all the lines to fill and settle: leaves it in the cute category vs useful... though as a software writer I can appreciate what it took to make what you have happen (and do respect that)... but would like a similar board, that I could use as a reference display.
 

John Bobinyec

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As much as the Solari type action is interesting the first couple of times... it get's old quickly waiting for the values to settle and the fact that they are displayed one line at a time. I would allow for the option of reducing the settling time (currently looks like 5 secs) maybe down to 1.5sec... or keep the 5 sec settling time but apply that to the entire board. ... though even then maybe reduce it to 3 secs?? The other request would be to fill the entire board in parallel and then apply the settling time ... but to sit and wait for all the lines to fill and settle: leaves it in the cute category vs useful... though as a software writer I can appreciate what it took to make what you have happen (and do respect that)... but would like a similar board, that I could use as a reference display.
I borrowed (with permission) the solari display code. The rendering of the board takes place on the user's device, and is quite (expensive - programmer jargon for the fact that it takes a lot of machine effort). Each character slot simulates a drum. The time and train number columns have 12 characters - 0-9 , blank and "blur". "Blur" looks like a figure 8 and is inserted in between the display of each legitimate character. The other columns each have those plus the letters plus special characters. The user's computer has to simulate rolling the drums. That takes a lot of effort. If each line is started too soon after the prior line, the computer quickly becomes bogged down, trying to do too much at one time. The visual effect of the flaps flipping is quickly lost. Rendering the entire board at once looks pretty ugly, and seems to take forever.

So, the only alternative option will be to create a static page so that the information can be presented all at once. The user will be given a choice as to which type of board he will get to see.

jb
 
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gmushial

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As much as the Solari type action is interesting the first couple of times... it get's old quickly waiting for the values to settle and the fact that they are displayed one line at a time. I would allow for the option of reducing the settling time (currently looks like 5 secs) maybe down to 1.5sec... or keep the 5 sec settling time but apply that to the entire board. ... though even then maybe reduce it to 3 secs?? The other request would be to fill the entire board in parallel and then apply the settling time ... but to sit and wait for all the lines to fill and settle: leaves it in the cute category vs useful... though as a software writer I can appreciate what it took to make what you have happen (and do respect that)... but would like a similar board, that I could use as a reference display.
I borrowed (with permission) the solari display code. The rendering of the board takes place on the user's device, and is quite (expensive - programmer jargon for the fact that it takes a lot of machine effort). Each character slot simulates a drum. The time and train number columns have 12 characters - 0-9 , blank and "blur". "Blur" looks like a figure 8 and is inserted in between the display of each legitimate character. The other columns each have those plus the letters plus special characters. The user's computer has to simulate rolling the drums. That takes a lot of effort. If each line is started too soon after the prior line, the computer quickly becomes bogged down, trying to do too much at one time. The visual effect of the flaps flipping is quickly lost. Rendering the entire board at once looks pretty ugly, and seems to take forever.

So, the only alternative option will be to create a static page so that the information can be presented all at once. The user will be given a choice as to which type of board he will get to see.

jb
John - thanks for the reply. As someone with something like 2m lines of code under his belt (wrote my first pgm in Oct'69 [FortranIV ;-( ]) I painfully understand the tradeoffs.

And I very much appreciate the look of the display as it is - obviously much effort has gone into it... a job well done.

But as I posted above - the "cuteness" of the simulation kind of wears a bit thin after a couple watchings... that combined with the human eye not recognizing things faster than 20ish frames/sec, I'm wondering if one couldn't shorten the virtual drum to build to the final display - I believe currently you're honestly walking through the sequence of characters... how about skipping every other, or two out of three - that would speedup the display, but still give the Solari type of effect. [having seen displays speed up as we've moved from js + others, to html5 canvas... wondering if that might not be a path forward? Yes, do painfully understand that most users don't have IE 10's or equiv so as to be able to display such... but over time they will (that's why we're moving our software forward now, and waiting for the users to catch up).]

W/re a non-Solari type of display - that would be hugely useful. [btw, since you hang onto old data, how about an option of displaying the last n days worth of displays - same time of day request, just different date.. such would be hugely useful for a potential rider to get a sense of the OTP/OTR for a train or set of trains... just a thought.]

BTW: I suspect Amtrak will pay good money for your display once you get it sorted out... and once integrated into their system, you should have better/faster access to the status data.

the best to you - greg
 

John Bobinyec

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But as I posted above - the "cuteness" of the simulation kind of wears a bit thin after a couple watchings... that combined with the human eye not recognizing things faster than 20ish frames/sec, I'm wondering if one couldn't shorten the virtual drum to build to the final display - I believe currently you're honestly walking through the sequence of characters... how about skipping every other, or two out of three - that would speedup the display, but still give the Solari type of effect. [having seen displays speed up as we've moved from js + others, to html5 canvas... wondering if that might not be a path forward? Yes, do painfully understand that most users don't have IE 10's or equiv so as to be able to display such... but over time they will (that's why we're moving our software forward now, and waiting for the users to catch up).]
W/re a non-Solari type of display - that would be hugely useful. [btw, since you hang onto old data, how about an option of displaying the last n days worth of displays - same time of day request, just different date.. such would be hugely useful for a potential rider to get a sense of the OTP/OTR for a train or set of trains... just a thought.]
The presentation of each character is all part of the Solari display code that I borrowed. It's particularly complicated and strange to me, so I won't be "wading" in there if I can help it.

The non-Solari display is the way to solve this problem.

I originally thought about being able to scroll from day to day, but am not thinking that that would be so useful. It would be novel, of course, but overly complicated for the benefit it provides. The users are more interested in how a particular train has been doing, not about what might have been going on at a particular station at a past point in time. They can get that information now from the train archives.

Thanks for your suggestions.

jb
 

battalion51

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This is more of a wish list thing, but I think it'd be great if you could query a Solari board for trains between two stations. For example, when I lived in Maryland I would go buff at Havre de Grace, so if I could query a board with all trains between BAL and WIL it could potentially give me an idea of what's in the block for what's en route to my location. The challenge I could see from a programming perspective is that if your range is too wide (say NYP-WAS) you could get too many results. Likewise if a train doesn't stop at a particular stop some things would get missed. For example if I put in a range of NRK-ABE it likely wouldn't pull any results because I don't think any Amtrak train stops at both. Could that be overcome?
 

I always rode the Southern

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I just want to say thank you John for whatever reasons you did this. I grew up with the Solari boards, as a child,spending many long layovers in Cincinnati Union Station. I was fascinated with the sound and visual rhythm of the boards. So I use your link, not for any practical purpose, but for pleasure, just to experience those moments again and trigger the memories. My only wish would be to hear the sound in addition to the visual. :)
 

John Bobinyec

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This is more of a wish list thing, but I think it'd be great if you could query a Solari board for trains between two stations. For example, when I lived in Maryland I would go buff at Havre de Grace, so if I could query a board with all trains between BAL and WIL it could potentially give me an idea of what's in the block for what's en route to my location. The challenge I could see from a programming perspective is that if your range is too wide (say NYP-WAS) you could get too many results. Likewise if a train doesn't stop at a particular stop some things would get missed. For example if I put in a range of NRK-ABE it likely wouldn't pull any results because I don't think any Amtrak train stops at both. Could that be overcome?
Probably, but I don't think I'll be tackling this one. The appeal is just too narrow.

I believe you can get what you need from the maps themselves, along with a little figuring.

Thanks,

jb

Amtrak Status Maps (statusmaps.net)

ASM Alerts (http://www.dixielandsoftware.com/Amtrak/alerts)

Station Status Boards (http://www.dixielandsoftware.com/Amtrak/solari)
 

battalion51

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The maps have definitely made it a lot easier for sure. Its just a bit challenging when you're trying to figure out what's up next and when it should be going by you. Still love both products either way!
 

JoeRids

Service Attendant
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Sep 1, 2013
Messages
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I love the Solari boards, could spend hours watching them roll.

Quiz: What stations still have them?

-Boston South Sta

-New Haven

-Newark Penn

-Philadelphia 30th St.

-Atlantic City (I think?)

How about Wilmington, DE and Baltimore? Any others?
 

Acela150

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I love the Solari boards, could spend hours watching them roll.
Quiz: What stations still have them?

-Boston South Sta

-New Haven

-Newark Penn

-Philadelphia 30th St.

-Atlantic City (I think?)

How about Wilmington, DE and Baltimore? Any others?
Every station on your list has had them, NHV, NWK, PHL, and ACY still have boards. This guy hopes the one at PHL never goes away. Also RTE has a Solari Board.
 

JoeRids

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I thought Trenton replaced theirs when they remodeled the station..
 

Aaron

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The URL is case sensitive, and a station code that's lowercase in the URL will produce a station not found message. For someone who might just be editing the URL directly instead of always going back to the start page to query different stations, it would be nice if your program would accept a lowercase station code there as well.
 
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