Life, Technology, and Meteorology

Month: August 2005

Hurricane Katrina

In case you haven’t heard, hurricane Katrina will be hitting Florida during the next several hours. It’s pretty cool that they used Katrina’s name, since it’s not too common of a name to begin with. Anyway, thought I would take the opportunity to post another snapshot of Seasonality 1.1, this one is from Fort Lauderdale, FL:

Though completely new for this version, I’ve posted about the new satellite imagery a few times previously so I won’t talk about that here (that’s one heck of a storm though!). However, in this shot you can also see some new features in the graph views. For one, there are two new graph types, a Pressure Graph and Wind Direction Graph (I haven’t quite finished this one yet). Also, each graph now has a gear menu where you can choose which graph to display. Originally I thought I would just let people choose what the secondary graph would be, but in the end figured it wasn’t difficult to let people specify which dataset to display for both of them.

The list of new features for version 1.1 is pretty incredible. I’ve had more check-ins to the code repository than I can count, and as of right now I’ve added about 6000 lines of code since the last release (not including a lot of code refactoring). Furthermore, there are many areas where I was able to improve performance (sometimes 2 or 3x). It should be a pretty cool release, and hopefully sales will reflect that afterwards. 🙂

If you have it, you'll use it…

Back when a G4 Powerbook was my primary computer, I had a gig of RAM and that was more than enough. So when it came time for me to upgrade and I went with a G5, I figured 1.5G would be pretty cool because it was 512M more than what I had before, which was always enough.

Unfortunately, it only took a couple of months of adjusting to having dual processors and a G5 that I started running out of memory…daily even. I didn’t have to quit apps like I used to on my Powerbook to make a small fraction of CPU time available for the current apps I was using. Having dual processors is just such a huge bonus, and it’s very rare that I actually peg both CPUs, usually only when compiling. The result, memory filled up, swap started going nuts (there’d be times I would find myself using 1.25G of swap), and the machine just slowed down and kept me from getting work done.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I finally decided to buy another gig of RAM, and it sure has made a big difference. I don’t feel nearly as crunched for space, and I don’t have to go through every so often and quit apps that I haven’t used in awhile. The thing is, if you have the RAM, you’ll use it. I found that out pretty quickly when I glanced at Dash Monitors after a day of working and noticed that most of my RAM was being used. Here’s a screenshot:

You’ll notice this screenshot also shows a new stat that Dash Monitors can monitor: Swap space. I’ve had a lot of requests for this feature, and I finally got around to implementing it. A lot of people just wanted to know how large the swap files were (by looking in /var/vm), but I felt that didn’t really show how much swap the computer was actually using, especially when you start using so much swap that each swap file is 1G or more. You might have a 1G swap file but only be using 50M of it, that makes a big difference. I found that by running sysctl, you can get some good virtual memory stats:

[Quiksilver:~] mike% sysctl -a vm
vm.loadavg: 0.26 0.25 0.25
vm.swapusage: total = 512.00M used = 205.92M free = 306.08M

Then it was just a matter of interfacing with sysctl APIs directly from MTK and the widget plugin. Works great, and I think it will be a good addition to Dash Monitors 1.4 when it is released.

Anyway, I think this will hold me off for a good amount of time. I still have 2 free DIMM slots, so I can always go for 1 or 2 more gigs, but by that time this machine will probably be getting close to the end of it’s life span. In the mean time, I’m happy and definitely enjoying the extra RAM.

Pine River Road

I never thought I would say this, but one thing I miss about Tucson is driving. Not driving in the city…no driving in town is absolutely horrible. Driving on mountain roads is what I’m referring to. In Tucson, there were a couple of good twisty roads, like going out past Gates Pass, or Catalina Highway up to Mount Lemmon. Catalina Highway was especially fun to drive as long as you drove it at an off time when you wouldn’t get stuck behind other cars. It’s about a 45 minute drive of pure twisties, as you ascend from the Tucson valley at 2500 feet all the way up to the top of Mt. Lemmon at 9800 feet. Needless to say, you waste a ton of gas flying up that hill, because it is quite steep. But it’s a heck of a good time and you have some beautiful views along the way. Not to mention that it’s a great place to escape the heat of Tucson summers…when it’s 105 degrees in the valley, it will only be in the upper 70s up on Mt. Lemmon.

Until today, I thought that twisty roads were non-existent in Mt. Pleasant. Country roads are almost always straight, except when moving from one township to another. Townships were new to me…but the basic gist is that Michigan is broken up into 6×6 mile blocks of land called townships. This was how they sold the land back in the 1800s before Michigan became a state, and I want to say that it cost less than $1000 to buy your own township at the time. Nowadays, when a road borders two townships, there will usually be a quick S turn in the road, so the two townships split the road maintenance cost. It’s pretty amusing sometimes when you cross from one township into another and the road switches from a horrible gravelly mess to a nice blacktop. Anyway, I digress. Earlier today, I found a pretty decent twisty road. It’s a little bit outside of town, but it’s fun to drive and there isn’t a whole lot of traffic. The street is called Pine River Road, and it’s southeast of town about halfway between Mt. Pleasant and Midland. It takes about 15-20 minutes to drive from one end to another, and along the way you have some good sweeper turns and a few nice sharp corners.

I doubt I’ll get much of a chance to drive there, but it’s definitely cool to have a nice road to take when I’m just itching for some zoom-zoom.

Network Downtime

I apologize to everyone who was trying to get to my site and couldn’t these past few days. The network connection here went down Tuesday evening, and it’s maybe worked 5% of the time since then. It looks like the connection came back online early this morning, and this time for good. We’ll see if it lasts. Luckily I was able to transfer Gaucho Software’s website over to a hosting provider fairly early on in a short interval when the connection was working, so there was minimal downtime there. I have backup mail and DNS servers outside my network here as well, so those services weren’t an issue.

I’m really frustrated at this point because it took so long to fix, and it seems like it was a routing configuration issue. If hardware breaks and needs time to be replaced, that’s one thing, but to take several days to track down a routing issue seems unacceptable to me. I’m glancing around for other ISPs in town, but it’s difficult because DSL isn’t available where we live, and it’s pretty expensive for a business class cable modem line. The company I’m with right now offers a wireless link that’s 768kbits up/down and is only $5/month for a static IP.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. Just wanted to let people know I didn’t fall off the face of the earth. 😉

Seasonality 1.1 Preview Images

Seasonality 1.1 is coming along pretty well, and I thought I would take this opportunity to show everyone one of the biggest changes: the satellite/radar view. Seasonality 1.1 will allow users to browse the whole earth in the image view, not just a location’s surrounding area. This has been a lot of work, but I think the results are an order of magnitude nicer than the last implementation. Here are some sample screenshots. You can click on any of these to see the full sized image.

That’s right, you can zoom waaay out now to see the big picture. Satellite cloud overlays are available world-wide.

In this picture of Arizona with the cloud mapping turned off you can see the much-improved terrain resolution. The new terrain has 4x the res of Seasonality 1.0’s terrain, and if you took a full res image of the earth you would have 21600 x 10800 pixels.

Another shot, this time of the Caribbean to show the cloud resolution. It is much lower than the terrain resolution, but with bi-cubic scaling it isn’t as rough around the edges.

I would love to get this release out the door ASAP, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for international location support. I finally found a source for global weather forecasts, so I’m pretty happy about that. At this point, I’m thinking it will be ready in September, but no guarantees. 🙂

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