I’m excited to announce I am releasing a long-running side project of mine https://temperature.express. It’s built to get you a forecast quickly in a graphic format.

Example Temperature Express forecast

The basic code for it is open source and available on Github. A few excerpts from its FAQ help to explain the project:

What is this?

The National Weather Service provides a huge amount of forecast and climate data for free including an hour-by-hour forecast for the next 7 days. Unfortunately, getting it displayed in a concise format is not something they do well. The main graph attempts to display the most relevant parts of the forecast (high and low temperature, wind chill, heat index, clouds, precipitation and dewpoint) in an easy to digest format.

Why is this better than my weather app?

This web site is meant to be fast, fast, fast. If you add a bookmark to this web site to your home screen I’d be willing to guess that this web page loads faster than your weather app and gets you the information you’re looking for 2-3x faster every time.

I chose an intentional minimal design to leave as much space as possible for the data. I’m an engineer, I prefer accurate information over cute, bubbly buttons.

Why a graph?

It makes it quicker to answer the typical weather questions like: Will it be warmer or cooler tomorrow? – Just compare the heights of the red line. Is it going to rain tomorrow? – Look for the blue filled areas. Will the sun be out on Saturday? – Look for no grey filled area on Saturday.

The graph makes it much easier to convey how the weather will change during the day. Your favorite weather app, or search result card might simply say “Sunny, High of 80” today. But that tiny little bit of information might mask something important like the temperature dropping to 60 by 5 pm. That big temperature drop might mess up your evening plans if you were going to be outside.

If you’re interested in the exact values, just tap any point on the graph to get the exact value and the time for that value. Or, If you want to view most of the data as a table, you can get one by clicking the table icon on the menu. I think you’ll quickly see that the graph is a much easier to digest format.

Why do you work on this?

I’m a programmer. JavaScript, HTML, Node.js and other web technologies are not part of my day job, but seem to be where the innovation is happening. I use this and other side projects to keep myself up to date with them.

Windows 7 added some nice features that help you to arrange windows on screen. But I find that WindowSpace does an even better job. Even though I usually work with dual monitors, I find myself needing to put windows side by side, top and bottom or maximize them vertically. By dragging a window or resizing a window to any edges of the screen WindowSpace accomplishes all of these tasks. But it gets better. If you want to snap windows to one another, even while resizing them, just get them close and window space takes care of the rest. The final feature that I find comes in handy from time to time is being able to make any window always on top. Typically I do this with either calculator or notepad. All you need to do is click the icon in to corner of the program, then use the new WindowSpace menu to make the program always on top.

TweetDeck is a Twitter client that helps you keep track of everything on your timeline. It’s core feature is a multi-column view that lets you group your tweets together however you’d like. You can add friends to groups, so their tweets will always show up in a particular column. A column can also be configured for search, so you’ll see any tweets with your search term in them. I often use search when watching a prime-time TV show live, to see what other people are saying about it, or to see if anyone picks up on some subtlety that I may have missed. It can make TV watching a very interactive experience.

Handbrake is a video transcoding application. Most people use it to shrink videos down to a size that their iPod/Phone can handle. For transcoding software, it’s very easy to use, with presets for a lot of common formats and handheld devices. Select the file and what you’re going to use it on and you’re ready to go. The software also has all of the nitty-gritty options that you could possibly need to fine tune the video output you get from it. Finally, it’s multi-threaded, meaning that it will use all of the available processors on your system which gives it a huge performance increase.

My new computer with Vista-64 arrived yesterday, and now that I’ve got the majority of my data copied over and programs installed, I’m compiling my thoughts on both Vista and the 64-bit environment.

The first thing that I noticed is that you need to be careful to look for the 64-bit downloads for the software that you’re installing. I ended up downloading and re-installing things several times after I ran a program and realized that it was running in 32-bit mode.

How can you tell if something is running in 32-bit mode? Open up task manager and look at the processes tab, in the image name column look for a *32 after the name of the file. If it’s there, then it is running in 32-bit mode. I’ve also noticed that programs that run as services, such as backup and AV programs, run their configuration applications in 32-bit mode, but if you look at the all process tab, I’ve found that the underlying engine that actually does the scanning or backing up runs in 64-bit mode.

Here are some of the programs that I use regularly and their 64-bit status.

  • Firefox – The 64-bit version is called “Minefield” You can have this and Firefox installed simultaneously, and they share extensions, preferences, history and cookies. This is convenient so you don’t have to maintain two separate copies.
  • JungleDisk – You’ll need to download the 64-bit version of JungleDisk. Every part of the application runs in 64-bit.
  • Adobe Flash – Flash is not yet supported in 64-bit browsers, both Minefield and Internet Explorer. The good news is that it runs just fine in the 32-bit browsers running in Vista 64.
  • AVG Anti-Virus – The free version of AVG runs in 64-bit mode. Note that only the scanning engine does this, not the front-end configuration application. Also, there’s no need to dig around for a different installer, the 64-bit one is included in the normal Windows installer download.
  • PicasaPicasa does not yet have a 64-bit version for Windows. I have had no problems running the 32-bit version, however.
  • GIMP – The GIMP has an experimental 64-bit version. The installer actually requires you to check a box that reads “I promise I won’t bother the developers if I can’t get this to work” before it lets you install it. I haven’t done a lot of work in GIMP yet, but I have yet to run into any problems with it.
  • VLC – The free Video Lan Client (VLC) does not have a 64-bit version yet. I have had no problems running the 32-bit version, however.
  • Itunes – Itunes has a 64-bit version, you’ll need to do some digging to find it through Apple’s site. Here’s the link to Itunes 8.1, the newest available at the time of this post.

As for drivers, I was able to locate 64-bit drivers for my printer, scanner, bluetooth adapter and video card from their manufacturers’ without any problems. All of this hardware is under 3 years old. I would expect some problems finding updated drivers for hardware that is older.

Although it got a bad rap to start, I’m quite impressed with Vista overall. Some of my favorite features that I’ve found so far include:

  • Start menu search – Open the start menu and start typing. Windows will immediately show you what matches your search from both programs on the start menu and your documents folder. If the one at the top of the list is the one you’re looking for, just press enter, otherwise select it from the list on the left side of the start menu.
  • Windows Flip 3D – Instead of switching between windows using Alt-Tab, try Win-Tab. If you’ve got Aero Glass Enabled, you’ll get a cascaded preview of each open window to flip through. A nice effect, and it can help locate the window you want when you’ve got a lot of windows open.
  • Aero Glass – The top-of-the-line theme for windows. It includes translucent window borders, minimize and maximize animations and glowing window controls. Normally I’ve immediately turned off all of the eye-candy on a new install of XP, even reverting back to the Windows 2000 style taskbar, but Microsoft got it right this time. The animations and other eye candy do not seem to effect the performance, and with a decent graphics card, are actually handled in the GPU and not in the main processor.
  • User Account Control – Although many people are annoyed by just how often this pops up, I find it an excellent tool for securing your computer. The theory behind it is that any time a program wants to make changes to a protected area of the system (install a program for example) Windows will alert you to this and require you to enter the password for the administrator account. This is an excellent way to keep malware from installing itself automatically in the drive-by download fashion. It’s unfortunate that so many people turn it off.