*Coder Blog

Life, Technology, and Meteorology

Category: POSIX

Modeling a Storm – Followup

I talked about modeling the October 2006 Buffalo Snowstorm in my last blog entry. I just wanted to follow-up with the results. Here is an image showing the final poster.

I presented the poster at the National Weather Association’s Annual Meeting held in Tucson, AZ this past October. The poster session was about an hour and a half if I remember correctly, and during that time I had a chance to talk about the project with a lot of people. It was fun to discuss the outcome from all the work I did on the project. A few weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to hear I had won the Best Undergraduate Student Poster Presentation award!

In the end, all the time and effort I put into it was well worth the results. I’m not sure if/when I will do this again, but I’ve learned a lot about what is involved in meteorology research, and have found that I rather enjoy it.

Inside DynDNS Updater 2.0

I’m thrilled to link to a major update of DynDNS’s Mac client, DynDNS Updater 2.0. I’ve been working on the DynDNS Updater for quite some time, and this release is a complete re-write that has a lot of new functionality. Looking at 1.x and 2.0, you would never know the projects were related; there are far too many changes to even list. To try and summarize, DynDNS Updater 2.0 is built from the ground up to give a completely modern Mac experience to people who use the services provided by DynDNS. The updater now has auto Sparkle updating built-in, Growl integration, a custom Dashboard Widget, and an interface that looks right at home on both Tiger and Leopard. Core technologies like OpenSSL, libcurl, and pthreads are used on the back-end.

In case you aren’t familiar with DynDNS as a company, their products solve the problem of managing DNS for just about every type of user, from individuals to large companies. I believe Dynamic DNS is the project that is most well-known (at least that is how I heard of them years ago), giving users with dynamic IPs a method of having a static name point to their computer. The DynDNS Updater’s primary function is to watch out for IP address changes on your Mac, and let the DynDNS servers know when there is a change. The updater is broken up into two separate executables, one is a Cocoa application where you configure your accounts and hosts. The other executable is a background daemon running 24/7 that performs all the grunt work.

I started working on version 2.0 last year. Jeremy Hitchcock and the rest of the DynDNS crew had some nice feature ideas for the next version, and I mocked up a design that would implement some of these features. I was pretty excited about the project and started working on what was to be a fairly advanced update. Fast forward to around March or April of this year when the first beta was being wrapped up. This beta had the foundation of a solid background daemon where I tried to stick to the basic POSIX libraries, so it could run on multiple platforms. At one point, I was regularly compiling it on Linux and it was working well (I haven’t tried this for quite some time since then). The daemon was completely threaded, and supported multiple network connections. Unfortunately, while the code design was solid and the product had a lot of nice new features, the UI was horribly difficult to use and the interface to configure these complex setups was not pretty. The mock-ups looked nice, but actually using it is where we ran into problems. Seemingly simple operations took multiple steps, because a lot of advanced options had to be taken into account.

Enter FJ de Kermadec and his team at Webstellung. They suggested bringing the project back to basics–thinking more about the typical use case and not all the features we could give to power users in unique situations. Webstellung put together some very impressive UI design mock-ups to get things started. Jeremy gave the go-ahead, and it was back to the drawing board as I began coding up the fresh interface. Fortunately, since the daemon code was designed with flexibility in mind, it could be re-used by dropping the new interface on top of it. The initial UI creation went pretty quickly, and within a few months a new application was born. The first beta was ready just before WWDC this year. As soon as I started using this UI, I knew it was a keeper. There were a few adjustments that had to be made, but overall the interface is very intuitive. After the functionality was mostly complete, it was time to focus on the interface polish. We went through several iterations of the software, catching small changes here and there that all added up to a nice shiny app.

If you’re currently using DynDNS Updater 1.2, definitely upgrade to version 2.0. And if you aren’t, download the app anyway and check it out. Dynamic DNS accounts are free for up to 5 hosts, and it’s pretty easy to set everything up.

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