How to start an experiment on 5 laptops at the same time?
July 25, 2006 9:58 AM   Subscribe

How to start a program on five computers simultaneously. Usb splitter (not hub)? Network tool? Send ASCII code over ethernet?

I'm a TA in a undergraduate experimental psychology class, and my undergrads have an experiment whereby five people are simultaneously doing a cognitive task on laptops (all wireless and hooked to the net). It's imperative that the experiment software starts simulatneously, however none of the stimuli presentation software supports communication over LAN.

Ideally there would be some clever tool to send any ASCII key/keyboard press, that I can then set my psych software to start on.

Another less desirable alternative is some form of usb splitter that outputs a single USB keyboard to 5 laptops.

Any thoughts?
posted by Smegoid to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by ed\26h at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2006

I may be missing something but if you just want them to start at the same time, why not have the software set up to start at a certain time and make sure all the laptop clocks are synched up beforehand?
posted by vacapinta at 10:14 AM on July 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks ed\26h that could do the trick.

Vacapinta, unfortunately the demands of the experiment require that we be able to start whenever the subjects are ready. So time is not fixed. The idea is that the experiment participants think they're playing against each other, when in reality they're all playing against a preset program. But to maintain the illusion the software has to start simultaneously.
posted by Smegoid at 10:43 AM on July 25, 2006

Perhaps it might be possible to have the subjects hit "Start" or something on a count of 3? This might work especially well if you want them to think they're playing against each other.

I don't know if this fits within the experiment protocol, though.
posted by JMOZ at 11:03 AM on July 25, 2006

yeah, psexec will do it, or you could whip up a little script using win32.process in WMI to cause a process to start interactively on all the desktops simultaneously...

Is that the only design goal- have them all start, on-demand, at the same time?
posted by hincandenza at 11:38 AM on July 25, 2006

Response by poster: The idea is that they're being told the programs are communicating over the LAN such that they will get to see each other's responses real time. In reality they're all playing against a preprogrammed set of responses. The problem is that to sell the illusion I need to synch or start these programs at the same time. If one person gets ahead of the others and they hear him/her clicking out of synch then we're screwed!

Ideally there'd be a way of sending a button press over LAN as not all laptops are the same speed so even starting the program at the same time won't help (they all have different load times) but once loaded they can be set to wait for a button press or ascii code or anything. Hmm, might just have to find some other trick.

I hate to answer my own question, but I can set the software to accept MIDI. So MIDI over lan might be the trick! It seams easy to send one midi channel to multiple computers.
posted by Smegoid at 11:56 AM on July 25, 2006

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