Thursday, August 16th, 2018 7:47 Z

Site Updates

July 29th, 2018

Due to changes in Google's business model, Google no longer allows the number of free Google Maps map loads that they used to. Previously you could have 25,000 map loads per day before mapping would automatically shut off, without charging us. Now you can only have up to about 28,000 map loads per month from desktop users. Map loads from mobile devices will be free, at least for now. After that, Google starts charging you automatically for each additional 1,000 map loads from desktop users if you have a billing profile associated with your account. Google is trying to force sites to add a billing profile. This has been a confusing point. Some of our projects are not currently required to have a billing profile. However, our recon mapping project was required to add a billing profile. Until we did, it would only allow a single map load per day without an error notice. We switched the Google Maps API key we were using for recon mapping to the one we were using for model mapping, which did not require billing to be added, at least as of now. If Google succeeds in forcing us to add a billing profile to that project as well, we will be forced to set a daily quota of about 900 map loads to not be charged. They do not allow setting a monthly quota. Because our site often experiences a surge in map loads over a few days for a storm, a quota of 900 is way to low. We can experience tens of thousands of map loads for certain storms, sometimes exceeding over 100,000 map loads in a month. On rare occasions we have previously hit 25,000 map loads in a single day and had mapping shut off under the old billing rules. However, that included mobile and desktop users, and under the new billing terms map loads from mobile devices are free.

All Google mapping on our site will eventually need to be moved to another mapping service, likely ArcGIS. However, to do that fully could take a few years, most especially for the model mapping in the model system. Other mapping will not be as difficult to switch. Until a particular map is switched, certain areas may have mapping removed if we need to avoid hitting a certain quota. We can't allow ourselves to be charged thousands of dollars when we don't even have ads on our site. Live recon in the recon system, using CesiumJS, is not impacted as it does not use Google in any way.

Our site has other issues as well.

Our site can no longer directly download obs from the NHC's recon archive. Our site cannot connect to their "https" site due to outdated software on our host's server that we can't upgrade. We would have to pay a lot more for hosting, maybe four times as much or more, if we switched to a new server and we might not even be able to do what we could before due to the demanding nature of our site. We plan to retrieve the obs through HurricaneCity's recon system. We hope to have this implemented this summer. Until then, if obs are missed in our system when checking individual product files from NOAA's FTP server they will not appear unless they are manually added later.

We also have to switch all Adobe Flash diagrams to being JavaScript based, a major undertaking it we can't use a 3rd party charting app. (We might even use the free Google Charts, but the way Google is going, that might not be free for long either.) That must happen by the end of 2020 when Flash will no longer be updated by Adobe.

There are also issues with our live recon display. When selecting a satellite layer in the CesiumJS display in Google Chrome, the panel will scroll to the bottom in most cases. In addition, satellite data does not currently automatically update in the Cesium display. You must refresh the page to update satellite imagery. We want to also add the time of the latest available imagery.

We also need to update satellite imagery options in the Google Maps model display. (For the Atlantic, satellite overlays are not available.)

We need to rewrite the NOAA P-3 radar feature to download less files as it stores twice as much data as it needs to. We're not even sure we'll be able to have this imagery in the future. The data is stored in two places on NOAA's FTP server. One place only has it when they make it available there. Imagery is every 5 minutes. The other location might always have it. It is every minute. But the data we need is stored in a single file. To have the imagery in real time we would need to download a massive file constantly, which we can't do. It would take too much bandwidth, among other likely technical problems. The file would probably be too big to download automatically after the mission is done.

We're also in the process of rewriting the HTML in the model and recon systems so that the sites can be more mobile friendly in the future. Then a lot of these issues above happened. And there are other smaller issues.

We also have to update the other pages on our site as links get out of date. And the satellite overlay feature.

All of these issues are going to take years to fix. And we have other projects we're working on too. As a result, this site is going to become less stable moving forward. There is simply no choice.

May 28th, 2018

Our site can no longer, as a backup, download obs from the NHC's recon archive. Our site cannot connect to their "https" site. We are trying to work on this issue, which may be related to being on an older server. If we can't get it resolved, our site may have to move. If obs are missed in our system when checking individual product files from NOAA's FTP server they will not appear unless they are manually added later.

May 24th, 2018

The vortex decoder has been rewritten to allow for the new vortex format. The new version went online this evening. Future updates are likely to occur over the next week or so.

May 23rd, 2018

The "SSEC Overlays for Google Earth" file we have has been updated with GOES-East imagery. We still have to update other areas of our site to use the new GOES-East imagery.

The vortex decoder has been completely rewritten. For now, it is being tested offline. Within a few days, to a week, the new version will replace the old version online. The new decoder will still be able to decode older versions of the URNT12 vortex message.

May 15th, 2018

We are currently in the process of rewriting the vortex decoder in the recon system. There is a new vortex format which adds new information, as well as reorders some of the old information. For now, each vortex message in the 2018 format will be mostly undecoded. You can learn more about the vortex message change here.

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