I’m A Coder… Sort Of

When I mention I’ve been coding most of you have no clue what I’m talking about. A little explanation today. Coding is among the most rewarding and frustrating things I do!

First, an acknowledgment. I have a mentor in Greg Senia from Shelton. The amount of help he’s given me is immeasurable. I’d be dead in the water without him.

Atom text editor handling two files simultaneously. My new favorite text editor.

Coding simply means writing instructions a computer program can read. Each program has its own little language with strict rules. They’re all similar, but all different.

Spelling counts and only 100% passes. Keys you didn’t know existed like “|” and “`” and “{}” and “[]” become critical.

Most of what we do with computers and cellphones is done in real time. We’re in control. The programs I write run autonomously, sometimes without a keyboard or monitor, triggered by a clock. They won’t run years without any intervention, but they’re pretty dependable day-to-day.

My goal is animated maps at HD quality. Some of these short movies contain 120 separate maps. Each map is rendered individually and sandwiched between a basemap and overlay. The mp4 HD movie is made next. Once created it’s scanned to produce the optimum 256 color colortable for the animated gif. Phew.

My code has to communicate with three separate programs and the computer’s Linux operating system. Files and values are passed back and forth as the different programs perform different parts of the process. One of my scripts takes nearly a half hour to run while gobbling up a few gigs of data, writing over 7,000 separate maps and producing more than fifty animated HD movies.

TV stations purchase expensive systems to do this. This seemed like a better idea for me. It’s a ton of work and extremely unforgiving but the payoff is huge.

The programs I’m using, GrADS, ffmpeg and QGIS are all open source and free as is the Linux operating system, the cartography and weather databases and even the “Open_Sans” font family I’m using.

These programs are thinly used. Help is often tough to find. A few weeks ago I spent a full night looking for a problem causing a crash every time a certain program ran. Greg found it within thirty seconds. He’s a lot more experienced. Beyond that, my text editor conspired by breaking up long lines in a way which hid the cause. A true FML night.

Tonight Greg figured out how to label the correct time and time zone on forecast maps, stumbled upon a bug that would have randomly bit us later and showed me how to re-write all my code as a series of modules.

Yeah — rewrite all my code. I’m working toward long term efficiency, but it will cause pain today.

He’s given me some sample code and hints at approaching problems. Now I have to make it happen.

Write once. Run many.

Still to come, radar maps in real time and numbers on my forecast temperature maps. I am very pleased with how this is working out. Take a look at some samples below. The high quality mp4’s have around ten times the resolution!

7 thoughts on “I’m A Coder… Sort Of”

  1. Geoff, I am so proud of you! You work so hard to get the Dr weather correct. Your the best, don’t forget to thank Helaine (probably not spelled right)for her being there for you!

  2. Geoff
    I have heard people say that their bodies were falling apart, but their minds were sharp as a tack. I am in hopes that you are in remission, and this doesn’t apply. That being said, I have done a minute bit of coding in BASIC for work and it was exasperating. The amount of work that went into one of the examples you gave is staggering, and they all came out beautifully. Unless you’ve tried it, most people don’t have a clue about how much work went into one gif, and you are doing it on a regular basis. My hat is off to you!!. Modularize, that’s the trick that I learned in my shrimpy little 75 line project. Kudos to you mentor, teacher, and advisors. You have learned well grasshopper. Continued success and good health to you and Helane, we miss you back east.
    Dave Neto

    1. Dave –

      I’m the weirdest cancer survivor. There’s no way you could look at me and know what I’ve been through. Because I lost some weight I look healthier today!

      I am back to where I was before the disease was discovered. Make no mistake — parts were removed from me. That has only meant a few adjustments, much less than anticipated by me and my doctors. I eat what I want when I want. I love to sleep and nap, but I’ve got the strength to stay up all night working, as I did twice in the last week.

      My treatment has ended: surgery, chemo, radiation and more chemo. I’ll be closely monitored for a few more years.

      It’s still too soon to officially say I’m cured, but that seems to be the case. This is exactly where a cured person would be at this point and there is no sign of cancer in my body. I am exceptionally lucky.

      Before my journey began the odds against this outcome were approximately 10:1 against.

  3. Hi Geoff
    While talk about coding makes my eyes glaze over LOL, I very much appreciate the results of it. So happy you are well and doing what you love. I still check here when we are headed for bad weather. Even if there is nothing weather related I like “tuning in”

    Please know you are greatly missed.

  4. The maps are looking excellent. Post some code snippets! I haven’t looked beyond this article yet, but the website looks like it’s had a nice improvement, as well. Excellent.

  5. I tried a little online course in coding. I got so frustrated I gave it up. I’ve programed machines in a PLC language and had no problem understanding that, but, this coding is so frustrating. I wish I could grasp it. I really envy you doing this.

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