IR Tanks and Side Bets

Get $200 for guessing when Free Day is over! And checkout the tank visualization game that came out of RoboJoust.

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Free Day is coming! (It's not today!) 31 days away (January 7th, 2010) and we're not sure what kind of a mess we've created. It's going to be a heck of a day. What we do know is that everyone seems to think they know when the deal is going to expire. I think it will be over by 11AM. Others claim, without a doubt that $100,00 will be gone in 5 minutes (you're so wrong!). Everyone has their guess. So why not start a side bet? A game inside of a game really...

The person who can guess when Free Day will end without going over (Price Is Right rules apply), will win a $200 SparkFun credit. Here's the rules:

  • Guess messages must be sent from an email address that is currently registered with SparkFun. You must have a SparkFun customer account, but you don't have to have placed an order, so anyone can submit a guess, just create an account.
  • Guess emails must have the subject "Free Day Guess: HH:MM:SS" (no quotes necessary), where the string of letters is a time (i.e. 09:13:51)
  • Time guesses must be in 24hr format ("Free Day Guess: 03:15:00" is 3:15 AM!) and will be considered in MST
  • Time guesses MUST have seconds to be counted ("Free Day Guess: 9:15" alone is not acceptable)
  • Send as many guesses as you like - we will only count the last one you send
  • Guessing is open now and closes at 11:59PM MST January 6th, 2010 (the day before Free Day)
  • Price is Right rules (closest without going over)
  • If there are multiple entries for the same winning second, we will randomly draw a name from the pool of winning entries is where you send the email with the subject "Free Day Guess: 11:02:45" for a guess of 11:02AM and 45 seconds.

We're not checking that email box for any reason so don't send customer service requests there. There is no cost to participate, and we are not going to do anything with your email addresses so don't worry about receiving spam from us. We just like a good guessing game whenever possible.


We've made it on to Hack a Day for a couple projects over the weekend. Chris Rojas, Tim Holmberg, and Ryan Owens put on a hack robot session this weekend in the SparkFun lab/classroom. The truly amazing thing was how it started out as a robot competition and turned into a Physical Computing/Robot Tracking/Visualization project. It's hard to describe so watch some of the videos Tim and Rojas have put up:

Check out more about this Community Core Vision project using Processing and a bunch of tanks with IR on Chris' site. Tim's got some great videos and pictures of the event as well!

And to coincide with that, Rojas has been working on his iPhone Tank control application:

We can't wait to see they can build next!

Comments 30 comments

  • shutterdrone / about 13 years ago / 4

    Wow, what's up with all of the negative comments? These guys are trying to do something nice for their customer base, and all of the "know-it-alls" come in to rain on their parade?
    Here's a hint: if you know enough to know about effective load-balancing and spike handling strategies, you should also know enough to start with the presumption that someone there is at least as smart as you.
    Then, if the presumption proves wrong, you can get your smarter-than-thou rocks off by jumping on the "any idiot could've seen that coming," bandwagon, and only appear half the smart-a.. you do now.

  • skot123 / about 13 years ago / 2

    I really hope that you've given your ISP warning about this event. (I am sure they appreciate that you are waiting until after the holiday rush to do this.)
    Without knowing the network architecture...i suspect that the bottleneck will be with the load-balancer. (OH, how i hope it is a high end F5 or Citrix with licensing for a LOT of connections)

  • frank26080115 / about 13 years ago / 2

    Why not give a $100 discount for orders over $150? My orders here regularly go over $100 anyways. If I end up not getting the credit I might just forget about the order altogether since the items are closely related.

  • beardy / about 13 years ago / 1

    It's anybody's guess. Those that have done the cold math could be right but they're assuming that there's only a thousand people clicking 'buy'. I expect there'll be a few more than that which will possibly draw the whole process out.
    1st guess: 09:01:15
    2nd guess: 09:27:30

  • kj6dig / about 13 years ago / 1

    I can't wait I'm staying up all night... oh wait I have to! its my job.

  • RickF / about 13 years ago / 1

    Free Day Guess: 09:37:00

  • DLC / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'm going to buck the trend of the "experts" out there and say that everything will come off fine. Sparkfun is "paying it back" to their customer base and as such positive karma will come into play. In these days of "spit on your customer" sorts of mega-corporations who only pay lip service to customer service and the whole "customer experience" I applaud Sparkfun going their own way.
    As for the, er, cynics suggesting changes to the plan in order to get something even if catastrophe strikes - I will also buck that trend, I want the stuff whether I get it free or not! I want Sparkfun to still be here next year so I'm not going to complain if I actually have to pay for it!
    You go guys!

  • pvogel / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'll guess Free Day will end at 9:05am MST

  • erikkate / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'll guess free day will end at 9:01:00AM

  • polypolyman / about 13 years ago / 1

    Doing the math:
    1. Assume an order, to get to the free day confirmation screen, takes 100KB of data on average.
    2. Assume every single person who gets it uses their whole $100 - that's 1000 people.
    3. Assume that 1000 people are watching their clocks with their fingers (or their scripts) on the trigger
    4. Assume that those 1000 people have infinite bandwidth/zero latency connections.
    5. Assume the sparkfun line spikes to 100mbit as you say it can.
    The contest can end within 8 seconds.
    I submitted my guess, though I pushed it up a bit higher to take lag, human error, etc. into consideration.

  • SlyVixsky / about 13 years ago / 1

    EricWertz: It'll be over when the order system seizes-up -- T+8min.
    Lets be blunt, there will be over 1,000 users sitting on their computer, waiting for the clock to cycle over to 9 am before they click, so freeday will end as soon as it starts :)

  • tycen / about 13 years ago / 1

    I agree with shutterdrone - this is great and I'm so grateful. Besides, they stated this a chance to stretch the legs of their new server cluster - we are their Perf test team (and while perf testing doesn't usually cost 100k, it sure is a cool way to do it).
    @Rich - shhhhhh - you told people?! The less that know the more chance there for us.
    Sidenote: I got my Getting Started with Arduino book in the mail today and promptly ordered my first Duemilanove. Looking forward to free day to grab some extras!

  • mvsopen / about 13 years ago / 1

    This is a totally awesome idea, but I can already smell the bits burning from here. Think of the scale of this event: I tell two friends, and they each tell two friends, etc. In just 10 hops, you're up to 1024 customers. There were 280 viewers listening to Nate on the AdaFruit chat last week, so if each of us talked to only two other people, then that limit has been reached.
    Suggestion for next year: Order item "X" and get an equal value off of item "Y". This would result in a small profit for SparkFun, plus would weed eliminate those who will only register because they want something for nothing.

  • oaky812 / about 13 years ago / 1

    can we get a count down clock? or maybe a way to sync our home pc with your rig? peoples clocks might be off from yours by a few seconds, and it seems that it wont be much longer than a minute

  • Steven Osborn / about 13 years ago / 1

    I predict with in 60 seconds one of two things will happen:
    1. Your servers will start failing to server some requests, but a few manage to get through and a few lucky people will land some free stuff. While your site is effectively down for 2-3 hours. This is fairly common behavior for a PHP/Apache stack. (best case)
    2. Your server falls over miserably before 9am due to load.
    So can the bet be when your server will fall down the first time OR the orders fulfilled. Because I'm thinking 8:45am.

  • mowcius / about 13 years ago / 1

    "It would also be cool to see the geographic distribution of the Free Day recipients. (Nothing fancy - a Google Maps mashup loaded with the 1,000 Zip/Postal Codes & Countries of the 'winners' would do the trick.)"
    Sounds like a cool idea too...

  • EricWertz / about 13 years ago / 1

    It'll be over when the order system seizes-up -- T+8min.

  • kitscuzz / about 13 years ago / 1

    I think you're underestimating the power of the internet. Did you hear about when the codeweavers "lame duck challenge" was fulfilled? They had a $70 piece of software they offered for free.
    They opened the floodgates and let people start downloading at 11pm (an hour before they said they were going to let it happen), just to test the waters for how bad the server strain would be. They purportedly didn't start panicking until they hit something like 1,000 requests a second for the free software. And that wasn't even for physical stuff! It was just a download! $100 per person is going to bring the server to its KNEES.
    If I were you guys? I would plan to have a hyper-minimalistic interface ready for free day. It's every web administrator's worst nightmare, even if it only lasts 10 seconds. People will be pounding the servers for the rest of the day, even if the money is long gone!
    Good luck you guys, this sounds like it's going to be awesome! Hope I can manage to get in on some of this :)

  • GorillaCoder / about 13 years ago / 1

    Step 1: register 36000 accts.
    Step 2: post a guess from each acct for
    every second from 9AM till 7pm.
    Step 3: profit ...
    ack, ignore this message, off to go register email accts with 10000 different domains ...

    • Whiternoise / about 13 years ago / 1

      You'd need quite a lot less than that. If you assume that Free Day will finish within an hour, you'd only need 3600. I would be tempted to do it for two hours i.e. 7200 assuming the servers break before everyone's orders are through!

  • bcanon / about 13 years ago / 1

    Awesome idea on the side game stats, crwper. It would also be cool to see the geographic distribution of the Free Day recipients. (Nothing fancy - a Google Maps mashup loaded with the 1,000 Zip/Postal Codes & Countries of the 'winners' would do the trick.)
    Sparkfun ppl - you guys are definitely getting people excited! Great job on making it a lot of fun to source parts!

  • crwper / about 13 years ago / 1

    I'm a bit of a data junkie, and would love to see the distribution of guess times (raw data if possible) once the competition is over.

  • jbookout / about 13 years ago / 1

    fail...not even a mention :)...i was there with my bot designed for robojoust, even though the competition was a bust...details are @

  • aboe / about 13 years ago / 1

    I haven't noticed any slowing of the site today.

  • Teiresias / about 13 years ago / 1

    Yeah, after the behavior of the site today, I'm thinking a better plan might be a more modest overall discount on all orders that day with an order size limit per order with the same one order on that day limit per household.
    At least then you get the orders period instead of having people cancel orders because they miss out.

  • jughead / about 13 years ago / 1

    What time does the free-buying start, is it midnight 1-6-2010?

  • Dan40 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Even on the wrong day, the website slowed down to a crawl. Did you upgrade your servers yet?
    In addition, your comments seem to be 20 minutes off from actual time. Can you please correct this?

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