House Calls

Keep your software updated! (Or, you aren’t getting what you’re paying for)

In this insightful blog post from Mike Gibson (account on required to view):

He notes a lot of people are running old versions of his software:

GRLevel3 versions:
2.17 : 57.1%
2.18 : 1.5%
2.20 : 6.1%
2.21 : 35.2% (current 8/15/2015))

GR2Analyst versions:
2.13 : 22.1%
2.20 : 11.0%
2.21 : 52.6%
2.22 : 14.3% (current 8/15/2015)

GREarth versions:
2.12 : 0.5%
2.13 : 2.9%
2.14 : 1.8%
2.15 : 0.3%
2.16 : 17.4%
2.17 : 0.3%
2.20 : 5.0%
2.30 : 9.5%
2.31 : 62.4% (current 8/15/2015)

As you can see, some of these users, who are AllisonHouse customers, are using old versions of the software. This is a problem, because, as an AllisonHouse customer, you aren’t getting all the features and data you paid for, on both our end, and on the software end of things as well. For instance, as of this writing, GR2Analyst is now at version 2.22, which fixes an issue with
forecast model sounding data not being ingested into the program, which helps dealias velocity data. In GRLevel3, you aren’t getting 1 minute to 90 second updates from NWS/FAA radars which have upgraded to the latest operations software, which will soon be all of them!

If you have PYKL3, RadarScope, or other phone apps, updates are usually pushed out automatically. Currently, however, Gibson Ridge software requires you to go to the website, log in and grab the updates. To all our GR users, we encourage you to check at least once every 3 months, before a major event, and if things stop working properly, whichever comes first. So, after you get the chores done this weekend, hit the website, and download the latest updates. This helps reduce frustration on your end, trouble tickets on our end, and makes both of us happy campers. So, If you aren’t (as of 8/15/2015) running GREarth 2.31, GRLevel3 2.21, and GR2Analyst 2.22, head to, and sit back, and watch the weather roll in!

As an aside, I have made a request to Mike Gibson to have future versions check for software updates. If you think that this is a good idea, the thread I linked to near the top of my post is where you should post that request.

Windows 10 and AllisonHouse: is it time?

By now, most Windows users should see a logo at the bottom right corner of their taskbar showing a window pane. That is the box that, when you click on it, lets you reserve and download a large 4 GB (gigabyte) file which contains Windows 10, Microsoft’s newest operating system. Once downloaded, it then prompts for an install. You can schedule it whenever you want. Being a geek, I naturally chose “immediately” AFTER I had backed up my critical documents, pictures, and videos. If you are smart, you will do the same, even though I had no issues with my upgrade. There have been reports of some ASUS laptops or computers losing all contents on the hard drive after the upgrade (whoops!). Make sure you back up the data, and also, make sure you back up the license number from Windows and also with Office (take a picture of it with your phone). You’ll need it in case things go awry.

As I type this, I am on Windows 10, 64 bit, using Service Release 1 (SR1) which was released at noon Central time today, August 5, 2015. They don’t call them “Service Packs” anymore that fix bugs, they are called “Service Releases” as Microsoft has shifted to a continuous upgrade of their OS, rather than once every few years. Anyway, SR1 fixed a number of bugs users had reported, including getting the “Blue Screen of Death” coming out of “sleep mode” (I had that issue), and some apps just weren’t working. These have been fixed with this Service Release. So, the big question: should I upgrade to Windows 10 from an *AllisonHouse* standpoint, leaving all other variables aside?

Here’s what I can tell you. All the GR apps from Mike Gibson run just fine on a Toshiba laptop with 8 GB of RAM and a higher-end video card. GREarth had an issue where it would crash, but tonight (Wednesday August 5, 2015), with the release of SR1, the issue appears to have been fixed. I am running it now, and hammering it loading lots of stuff…with no issues. GRAnalsyst, GRLevel3 all work without issues. In fact, I have noticed that they are running better and faster than before! I actually had to slow down the animations because they were going too fast with the settings I had them on!

AllisonHouse Maps has been working splendidly, without issues so far.

Maps MODIS Terra depicting Super Typhoon Soudelor

So, let’s assume your computer passes the tests that MS requires for your laptop or desktop to have for Windows 10. Is it time to upgrade? My assessment is this, as of August 5, 2015, with SR1 now installed:

Yes, with significant caveats. There are still significant known issues with the OS (and yes, the same could be said about any operating system), and could affect your enjoyment of the products, depending on the end user’s laptop or desktop. We have NOT fully tested AllisonHouse Maps yet with Windows 10, so we cannot vouch if it will work fine for everyone yet. Additionally, I’ve talked with other system administrators, and they have been having considerable “Blue Screen of Death” issues, until SR1 came out today (August 5, 2015), and the verdict is still not in on it yet; I haven’t had much of a chance to play with the OS after I installed the patch to see how much was fixed. Caveat emptor!

If you are an aggressive early adopter, be ready for hiccups, but I am enjoying my Windows 10 experience so far (although the start menu will need some getting used to). If you want a more stable system, I’d say wait a few more months and a few more Service Releases to get all of the major bugs ironed out. If you dread upgrading at all, you have time. Windows 7 will likely be around for quite a while longer. But, Windows 10’s web browser is finally modern, fast and slick…and it works well…unlike Internet Explorer (for me, anyway). It’s not the greatest browser ever invented, but it finally makes a very serious run at Chrome, Firefox, etc for speed, quality, reliability and convenience. As a result, the AllisonHouse Maps experience on it is excellent, as far as I can tell. And, the OS once again is very friendly to desktops as the horrid Metro UI (the “blocks”, if you will”) is essentially gone. But, tablet users need not worry: it should be a great experience for you as well, by using the Start menu. All in all, it’s fast, practical, and intuitive: what Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 wasn’t. And, AllisonHouse supported apps work well on it, from my end of things. As always, your experience may vary. As I close this article, I’ll say it again: If you upgrade to Windows 10 from 7 or 8/8.1, back up ALL important documents, pictures, music and video in case things go awry first. And that’s a great practice to do, even if you don’t upgrade. One hardware failure and you lose everything if it’s not backed up, so make it a regular practice to do this. In theory, everything that is on your computer will still be there, and work, when you go to Windows 10. That’s how it’s supposed to be, anyway.

Well, enough from me. What do you think? Any other crazy early adopters out there like me?

On the level: clearing up radar data misconceptions

When you subscribe to AllisonHouse, depending on the package you buy, you will get Level 3 radar data, or both Level 2 and Level 3 data. Some people may come to the conclusion that super resolution data is Level 2 data, and Level 3 is not. Let’s examine what each one is, and what it does.

First, yes, there is Level 1 data. Level 1 data is unprocessed, raw data. You may think “that’s what I really want!”. In reality, you don’t. The unfiltered, unprocessed data actually contains issues that are processed and fixed in level 2 and level 3 data. You would see a lot more noise, and a lot less signal, in this data. It would considerably harm more than good, for nearly all of our customers. It isn’t distributed to anyone outside of the National Weather Service.

Level 2 data has what has come to be called “super resolution”, or 250 meter resolution for velocity, and 1/4 km resolution for reflectivity. Close to the radar, the resolution is higher, but the data is averaged when the resolution is higher close to the radar. In any case there is some processing that occurs: some buildings and some false returns that are always there are filtered out or reduced in magnitude (reflectivity from wind farms cannot be eliminated, unfortunately, because real echoes would be filtered out as well). You get base reflectivity and velocity at all tilts, along with spectrum width, as the radar scans,

Level 3 data is more processed. First, because of bandwidth issues (more on this in a moment), the resolution of reflectivity data is reduced to 1 km, and 1/2 km for velocity data per pixel. You also only get the lowest 4 tilts of the storm. This is why you cannot generate a 3D view of the storm using level 3 data…you can only see 4 “slices” of any storm. But, you also get a lot of processed and derived products, such as:

1 hour, 3 hour and storm total precipitation estimate
Vertical integrated liquid
TVS signature, mesocyclones, hail indicators, storm relative velocity

And a lot more.

Because of all the derived products, and because each radar site only has so much bandwidth, they cannot send everything out at full resolution. So, a lot of these are sent at high resolution, but not at “super resolution”. Sending out the data has bandwidth concerns, as is limited capacity on the satellite feed they uplink the data to, known as NOAAport. That’s the feed the National Weather Service offices (and AllisonHouse) get the data from, in real time.

But, did you know that there are super-resolution base reflectivity and velocity products in level 3 format that are sent to the National Weather Service in Washington, DC? The issue is that you *can* get these products, for a nominal fee of about $120,000 a year. AllisonHouse has decided not to pay that fee and get those products because:

1. The super resolution data only goes out to 124 miles
2. It’s already available with Level 2 data, and that goes out to 248 miles
3. The latter is sent via fiber, not via satellite, and through cooperative agreements, we are able to provide you this data at a reasonable price.

But you might ask: I want my cake, and eat it too! What are the chances of us getting level 3 super-resolution base reflectivity radar and velocity data, even if only out to 124 miles?

Well, the answer to that is: maybe. A few years ago, the National Weather Service infrastructure, from the satellite feed, to their Web server farms, and internal routing couldn’t support it. Over the past few years, major upgrades to their web farm and a major speed increase to the satellite feed now make it worth discussing. And, in fact, they are discussing transmitting it to the public (and AllisonHouse!), and how to archive it as I speak. So, while it won’t happen tomorrow, there is a chance that it will be available in the future. And AllisonHouse will, of course, keep you updated if any additions are made to the National Weather Service data feeds.

But, here’s the good news: with AllisonHouse, you can have your cake, eat it too, and we’ll keep giving you as much cake as you can eat! By the cost of a family pizza per month, you get all the site radar data you need: Level 2 super-resolution AND level 3!. Just get our Storm Hunter subscription, and you’ll have the complete Level 2 and Level 3 feeds to your favorite software. And, you’ll have the most powerful information to make informed decisions right at your fingertips…all of this without chocolate, raspberry cream or banana cake all over your fingers. Bon Apetit!