The Kansas Severe Weather Awareness Week Packet contains some great stats on last year’s season across the Sunflower state. Some cool photos, too. It’s on the NWS Wichita website (I presume on the others, too) and I’m posting it here with their permission. Let’s just say my perception of the season wasn’t accurate — could have something to do with missing the NW Kansas stuff in June ;-)
I tried out the PYKL3 radar app on my Droid Incredible a few weeks ago. The free version is locked to a single radar site, and at the time the app was fairly early in its development. I planned to put it aside for a while and look closer to season to see whether it was worth the (pretty expensive, as Apps go) cost to go to the paid version.
I was quite impressed that Joe Jurecka, the developer, has become an active member of StormTrack, at least in that he’s been responding frequently to feature requests and offering explanations and updates about the software (it was about 5 pages into the thread when his membership was approved) . That’s tip-top customer service in my book, and I couldn’t get to the Market to download the paid app quickly enough — for that one reason.
And to say I’m heartily impressed with the app in its current state would be an understatement. It’s missing only a very little of what I use GRLevel3 to monitor in the field — storm-relative velocity, for example — but Joe says it’s coming. And based on where he’s come from, I believe him ;-)
Will it replace the laptop and GRLevel3? Not in a heartbeat. As I’ve said before, I prefer to have as many information sources as I can when I’m in the field. This is one more…not something that will replace anything I have. However — given the number of “unplanned” chases last year, I can see PYKL3 coming in very handy should I get into that situation again! (Note: he’s developing for the Android pad, too.)
Well, cold weather has been in the plains for the past few weeks … and so that means it’s time the blood starts churning for severe weather. Not so much the storms, of course, but the preparation for the season.
First new item this year is what I’ve taken to calling the “baby computer.” It’s what will handle my live streaming and GPS this season, replacing the Dell tower PC that was seat-belted next to the second row seat in the old van. That PC gave up the ghost late in the season last year (actually, all that’s bad about it is the CMOS battery, but the 8-year jump in technology in the PC that’s replacing it was just too good to pass up).
The new streaming PC gets the name “baby computer” because it’s so small. Completed, it’s just a little larger than two reams of copier paper stacked on one another.
This is the view in the top of the PC. For a size reference, look at the 1-quart cup just to its left.
This is the view in the right side. As it will be installed in the van, this will be the top.
I’m still waiting on the wi-fi card, which plugs in the center of the motherboard, then I’ll be ready to put the operating system and other software on it.
I’ll be able to do about anything media-wise from this machine. It has a multi-card reader, so I can pull the SD card from my video camera, the MemoryStick Pro from my still camera, and pretty much any other format. The reader also supports a SATA hard drive, and has a USB port. But with six USB ports on the PC itself, I have more of those than I need. A bit of overkill on the FireWire card, too, though I could conceivably plug in and stream two cameras using it. The FireWire port on my older video camera died a couple of years ago, so I doubt I’ll be doing that. With a 500 GB hard drive, I’ll be trying to stream my Flash video to the drive as well as live, giving me a backup to the Mini-DV tape in the camera.
But the most exciting thing is that it can run directly off the van’s 12-volt power. No more inverter! (Actually, I’ll probably drop 2 of the 3 inverters). I’m going to mount it to a platform that connects to the well that’s between the second-row captains chairs in the van, put some power filtering and surge protection in the package, and run the PC, the wi-fi router, the cell booster, and maybe one or more AA battery chargers all directly from the 12V plug that’s right there in the well. Eliminating the heavy-duty PC power supply and staying at 12V will have a huge impact on my battery and alternator drain/wear.
Add to it the DC-to-DC power converter I got for the laptop, and we’re just about AC-free. I haven’t decided whether to try and run the camera battery charger and the video camera off 12V or to leave them on an inverter this year.
That may be it for new stuff this year — we’ll see. But I’m pretty stoked about not needing all those inverters and wires running all over the place … just a module that can go in and out of the van at will. Chasing setup ought to go from over an hour to 10 minutes or less. That’ll be motivation to not leave the stuff in the van all season, reducing road-related jarring of the equipment. What’s not to like?!
I’ll have an update in a few weeks, when it comes time to make the mods to the van … I’m planning to run some power to both sides of the windshield where we can power the scanner and our phones. Looking forward to it!