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Fall, 2006 - Featured website

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Congratulations to Ken True for winning the fall 2006 featured website. Please pay this very nice site visit at Gary Oldham had a nice list of questions put together on that he asked all of the previous winners which are listed below. It's always nice to know a little bit about the person who wins so here goes....

1. When did your site go live? went live in February, 2004 as a modified one-page WeatherLink template published to a Comcast personal webpage . In March, 2006, the website was completely revamped to a multi-page XHTML 1.0-Strict/CSS/PHP design.

2. What weather station do you use, and why? Any extra sensors/add-ons/custom things like radiation shields?

I have a Davis Vantage Pro, installed in February 2004. It is a cabled system with a FARS, mounted on a tripod on the roof (since there is no sky-view in the back yard). In March, 2006, I added the Solar and UV sensors to the ISS making it a "Vantage Pro Plus" (wish I'd spent it at the beginning.. would have been cheaper then). I'd had two Oregon Scientific stations for a few years before (one cabled, one wireless), but both had various sensors fail after a couple of years, so when I retired, I decided to get a pro-quality station which would last for a while. I'd read Gary Oldham's writeup on the Davis system and did a lot of research and found the Davis VP enjoyed a good reputation for reliability and quality of measurements. I haven't been disappointed -- other than tweaking the rain collector to readings matching a 4" rain gauge (the Davis had read about 15% low) and a slight adjustment to the humidity sensor reading, it's needed nothing else for continuous operation..

3. What weather station software do you use and why?

I started with WeatherLink 5.4V since it came with the serial datalogger for the Davis VP console. In October, 2005 I joined and saw lots of folks using other weather software to make great looking weather websites, so I starting looking at other packages. Gary's writeup on software packages was incredibly helpful in showing the pros and cons of the software available, and I tried most of them and it came down to VWS and WeatherDisplay. I didn't want to 'replace' WeatherLink as it had served quite well and had good historical reporting capabilities. Fortunately, on, I heard about Franson's GPSGate software (which allowed two devices to share a single serial port) and decided on WeatherDisplay for the additional weather software. Steve's VirtualVP replaced the GPSGate when he released it, and I've been running two weather programs since then. It was the outstanding activity of developer Brian Hamilton and the support available on the Weather Display forum that convinced me to go with Weather Display. With all the configuration options it was a stretch to get it configured as I wanted, but well worth the effort.

4. What software do you use in your web development?

I use Dreamweaver 8 for most of my development, with a fair amount of 'notepad' too. It was a daunting task to learn to use it at first, but it has great capabilities and allows easy site syncronization. It also has built-in highlighting for HTML, PHP, CSS and JavaScript which make it much easier to spot small coding errors. I've been using Dreamweaver since version 3 (about 6 years).

5. What’s your motivation behind having your site on-line?

I really thought it would be nice to see MY weather conditions, and not just the conditions at San Jose Internation Airport (KSJC) about 8 miles away. The San Francisco Bay area has many microclimates and 10 miles can mean 10 to 20 degrees difference in temperature at the same elevation. I originally published the one-page website for my own use -- then I got a couple of unsolicited mail messages from folks who liked having 'our' weather so visible, and 'thanks for offering it'. That was the kick-start to version 2.0 of the website with more features of interest and an easily navigable design.

6. Did any other web sites, weather or otherwise, particularly inspire you and/or your design?

Oh yes! When I joined, I saw the sites designed by Tom at, Larry at and Ken at and said "Wow! So that's how a site could be made". I had to see what I could make using their great ideas. I'd been using HTML and CSS for years, but I really wanted to experiment with XHTML 1.0-Strict/CSS and learn PHP, so I started from a built-in Dreamweaver 8 XHTML 1.0-Strict template called '2-column-left-nav' and learned from there. I was really pleased to be invited to join the Southwestern Weather Network ( ) by Chris, Ken and Matt (SLOweather, Capitola and WeatherBus) and with their encouragement and ideas, we'd jointly developed as a group of weather enthusiasts.
As I say on my site, many thanks to Tom and Larry for their freely shared PHP scripts -- it's how I learned PHP coding by studying and adapting them for my site. Seeing others offer webcams and lightning detectors and GRLevel3 radar also prompted me to loosen the pocketbook and add those to my site too.

7. What plans do you have for your site in the future?

I'm still looking for a good menu system that will work without having to enable JavaScript so I can offer better navigation. Every PHP script I write seems to require a new section on my scripts pages (which is half the fun). I'd love for some businesses in the area to use one of my stickers to post current conditions -- right now, only two other sites are using the stickers (and Thanks Larry for the sticker software!)

8. Do you also send data to CWOP, Weather Underground, or Weather for You? If so, why? If not, why not?

When I started in February 2004, I signed up with CWOP and Weather Underground to report my weather data (at 5 minute intervals). Apparently, I was the first from Saratoga with Weather Underground as my ID is KCASARAT1. I also send data to WeatherForYou, the Weather-Display MML site, AWEKAS and the Southwestern Weather Network. The lightning data from the Boltek is shared with StrikeStar USA. I'm pleased that the CWOP data gets rolled up for NWS climatological studies. I've also signed up to have the CWOP data analyzed for data quality and try to check calibration on my station's instruments with alternative sites and my sling psychrometer and 4" rain gauge.

9. When and how did you first get interested in weather?

I remember growing up in Houston, Texas and being fascinated watching a line squall march across our area. When we moved to Sacramento, CA in the late '50s, the weather was much more tame than in Texas, but I still enjoyed looking for the unusual cloud formations. It wasn't until about 1999 when I purchased the first Oregon Scientific (wired) weather station that I could say I became a weather buff, and it's been a continuous hobby since then.

10. What has been your most rewarding experience in having a weather web site?

I think it was having the first unsolicited email from someone in the neighborhood thanking me for offering local weather observations, and that they used it daily. It was a great motivator to improve the site and add additional features! It's also been a real pleasure to have other weather sites use my PHP scripts.

11. What would be your advice to someone wanting to get started in weather watching as a hobby?

I would recommend that you buy the best instrumentation you can afford at the start -- I'd bought the cheapest (twice) and was only really happy when I had a reliable and feature-rich weather station. Don't forget to get some auxiliary equipment to help calibrate your station: a good thermometer (I have a 0-50C in 0.1 C increments), a 4" rain gauge, and a sling psychrometer for relative humidity. It's probably more interesting to live in someplace that HAS weather (instead of our wonderful Mediterranean mild climate), but rain is fun too  

12. Your site has clearly impressed and inspired a number of your peers. What would be the single most important piece of advice you’d offer someone wanting to either start a new weather web site or improve the one they already have?

I would say keep the site simple and informative, and to have it work well without requiring Browser add-ons to view the main site or navigate the site. I have a hate/love relationship with JavaScript, so I've tried to build the maximum functionality without requiring JavaScript (or Java) be enabled. I'd added AJAX real-time updates (which is JavaScript) and I love it, but if you turn off JavaScript, you'll see the same info, just not updated every 5 seconds. The nifty features (like WD Live, Mesomap Live, Stormvue) do require plugins (Flash, Java), but folks should have to navigate to those pages if they want -- all the main weather data should appear without requiring browser-side scripting or plugins.

The other thing I'd recommend is to test your site with a variety of browsers -- I use FireFox as my primary browser, but always try to test with IE, Netscape and Opera to make sure the page renders properly. I also stick to an 800px wide space so even older systems don't have to scroll right to see the data.

Keep the pages small (under 100K total) wherever possible so even dial-up folks don't have to wait for page loads. That also means avoid show-only graphics unless they are directly associated with weather information (I have a sticker, netcam thumbnail, forecast icons, animated GIF radar, and one logo on my homepage for 114K with 67K in 14 images, 41K in the animated GRLevel3 radar thumbnail, thanks to Jim McCurry's PHP script).

13. Please tell us a little about yourself – your age, occupation, family, other hobbies/interests, etc. Help us get to know you as a person more than we get to through this (and other) forums.

I'm a life-long unabashed nerd since grade school. In high school and college, I carried my trusty Keuffel/Esser Log-log-duplex-decitrig slide rule in leather case dangling from my belt and a full nerd-pack in my shirt pocket. Nerds really rule!

I graduated from UC Davis (BSEE) in '69, married '70 to Holly, and we have two children, Kimberley-30, Ryan-26. Holly and I are now 'empty-nesters', and kinda relieved. Neither child nor my dear wife share my enthusiasm for things technical (sigh.), and have no interest in the weather observation.

I started programming while at UC Davis, but with card-decks and WATFOR, it wasn't a great success. I worked at Fairchild Semiconductor from '69 - '81 and Intel Corp. from '81-'04 and retired in Feb, '04. Along the way, my interest in programming went from Tymshare Basic, Xerox Fortran and Macro Assembler, TSO, MVS Macro Assembler, SAS, PL/1, Turbo Pascal, Visual Basic, BSDi shell, Perl, and now PHP. I had the happy circumstance to ride the wave of computing development from Mainframe, to PC to LAN to WAN to Internet and then to Security Architecture. I got started in web design/use in the early 90s with Mosaic and NCSA web services. My group and I helped put Intel on the internet with web/firewall services, and proxy servers so Intel employees could have reasonable personal use of the internet. Much of the programming I did was glue-ware for log-crunchers and management systems for the firewall complexes we designed. From 1999 to 2003, I led firewall engineering for the (now defunct) Intel Online Services group - a webhosting venture on a massive scale. Built 4 big datacenters (east/west coast US, UK and Japan), but when the Internet bubble burst, so did our operation. Spent the last year at Intel as chief architect for enclave security (lots of Powerpoint foils, not much programming).

The weather station has offered an opportunity to continue my programming hobby and let me continue learning. I'm really pleased that folks have found some of my scripts useful too, so I continue to share them freely!

14. Please feel free to add any other information or comments you’d like other people to know.

I want to thank the folks on the old (now hosted here with lots of the same faces) for all the advice and and discussions. You are the ones who inspired me to develop the weather hobby and the website to report it. I'm very proud to have been a part of resurrecting the as the current, and thank you all for rejoining our new discussion forum and for keeping Gary's vision of an independent weather enthusiast's forum alive and well.

Congrats Ken!  :D

(Glad somebody nominated you.  :wink: )

Nice writeup.

Thanks Tom!

I was really stunned when you'd nominated my site, and am greatly honored by the voting -- I had no idea the poll would be so close (or that I would inch by your great site in the poll).

As I'd said many times (and continue to say on my scripts and about pages), you have my great gratitude for creating and sharing your PHP (and AJAX)  scripts and WD templates for the world to use (and many sites use them!).  It was through yours and Anole's weather-sticker scripts that I began my sojourn with PHP coding.  Websites around the world are thankful for your pioneering and sharing!!

Best regards,

Great Job Ken!!


(p.s.   now I dont feel like an old guy anymore either LOL)

Very well-deserved, congratulations Ken :D


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