Edited Version January 27, 1999 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

'Acquiring EMWIN Weather Data Via Internet'

Amy Sebring
Technical Projects Coordinator
EIIP

Kenneth Bashford
EMWIN Project Coordinator
National Weather Service

The original unedited transcript of the January 27, 1999 Tech Arena presentation is available in EIIP Virtual Forum Archives < http://www.emforum.org >. The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the participants to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


[Opening]

Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Today I will present a how-to session on acquiring EMWIN data via Internet broadcast. We are also pleased to have Ken Bashford with us today to take your questions later on. Ken is the NWS Project Coordinator for EMWIN.

Kenneth Bashford: Good morning everyone, and thanks, Amy, for inviting me to this forum. This is my first time using the 'chat' format; should be fun. Before Amy goes on, I'd like to make a few brief remarks.

First, I'm a meteorologist, NOT a radio/electronics expert. My role is to look at EMWIN from the users' perspective and try to be of some help in that way. However, send your technical questions to me anyway; if I can't answer them, I'll pass them to someone who can.

Second, this is not a full-time job for me, it's only about 25% of my workload here, but it's by far my favorite 25%. I even try to answer e-mail from home on the weekends.

And finally, I think Amy has dug a lot deeper into the software than I have, so I gladly defer to her knowledge in this area. Thank you.

[Presentation]

Amy Sebring: There is a great deal to cover so we want to get right to it, but remember, you will have an online transcript available next Monday with all the links we are going to use today, so you do not need to make extensive notes as we go along. Also, if you do not have time to load all the links today, you can go back later to look at them.

For the benefit of our first-timers, when you see a blue web address, you can click on it and the referenced web page should appear in a browser window. After the first one, the browser window may not automatically come to the top, so you may need to bring it forward by clicking on a button at the status bar at the bottom of your screen.

Right before we begin the Q&A portion I will review how to submit questions. Background information for today's session may be found at http://www.emforum.org/varena/990127.htm. The NWS EMWIN page is now located at http://iwin.nws.noaa.gov/emwin/index.htm, and includes a good introductory overview.

The National Weather Service has done a great job with outreach to emergency managers about EMWIN, and those that are familiar with it know that it is available via satellite, and VHF rebroadcast in some areas however, I felt that many are still not aware that it is now available via Internet broadcast, and hence this session today.

Since you are all with us today, you have the equipment necessary to acquire the data stream, you just need the software. However, if you are behind a firewall, port 1000 needs to be opened.

Xenocode is the vendor, and you can try the WeatherNode software out for 30 days for free, and then if you find it valuable, the cost is only $79.95 to register. As Ken says, it is a lot of bang for the buck.

First let me briefly mention what data is available. The default configuration provides you with text and images for the entire country and also, if you are planning a vacation, Hawaii, the Pacific, and also Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean data is available.

Unlike other weather products available via Internet, you can set customized alarms for different types of messages down to the county level. With some additional plug-in modules, you can also set up automatic notification to others via email. You can also automatically update your Webpage if you have one, and with the ByteBlaster Server software, rebroadcast to other EMWIN users via Internet.

I first began looking at the Internet access last fall, but I re-installed for this presentation. It is even easier and faster now than it used to be! However, I disclaim any expert knowledge, and will defer to Ken or Xenocode Tech Support for details. That being said, let's get into it.

First, to see where to download the software, please click on http://www.weathernode.com/nodedown.asp. If you have a reliable connection, I would suggest trying the Full Download of WeatherNode 4.0 EZ. It will take about an hour with a 28.8 connection. If your connection is shaky, then you may want to break up the download into the individual disks. When you start the download, you will be prompted for a location on your hard disk. Remember where you put it, preferably in C:\TEMP or C:\WINDOWS\TEMP.

I would recommend you download and install the WeatherNode program first, and then go back and get other modules as needed. But while we are here on the download page, I would like to point them out. If you scroll down you will see an Update listed next. You do not need that if this is your first install.

Next is the ByteBlaster engine. You don't need that either if this is your first install as it is built in to the WeatherNode EZ version. Next is the ByteBlaster Server BETA. You don't need that unless you want to try re-broadcasting, either from satellite or from Internet data.

The next three, the FTP Plug-in, WeatherMail demo, and HTML Plug-in, you may want to go back and download later. I will be talking about these later when we get to the modules. Finally, the last one is also for retransmission via a modulator, and you do not need unless you plan to rebroadcast.

While we are here at Xenocode, let's look at two more pages. This next page contains some hardware accessories that will allow you to take alarm signals from your computer and trigger external devices. http://www.weathernode.com/x10modls.asp

And finally, the WeatherNode software works on filenames, and it is a good idea to understand how they are constructed. Generally, the first three letters represents a message or product type, for example LFP stands for Local Forecast. The next three letters represent the data source and this is generally a weather service office, for example CRP = Corpus Christi.

The last two letters represents the state as in TX. This is followed by the file extension which indicates the file format such as .TXT or .GIF. Therefore, in our example, the text local forecast issued by Corpus Christi would be stored as LFPCRPTX.TXT.

In some parts of the program, you can designate products desired using wildcards, for example ???CRPTX.TXT would indicate all products issued by the Corpus Christi office. In other parts you cannot, for example the mail program and the HTML module do not seem to allow wildcard matching.

For a nice, concise list of these codes, see (and perhaps bookmark) the following page. http://www.weathernode.com/names.asp

Ok, once you have downloaded the WeatherNode program, you install as with almost any other download. You can use Start, Run, and then Browse to find and execute the downloaded file. Then an install program will run. It is recommended that you accept the default directory of C:\WEATHER. You must restart your computer after the install, then reconnect to the Internet, and start WeatherNode from your Programs list.

This next graphic is similar to what you will see when you start up. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin1.gif

You are actually looking at 5 different windows, and I have other modules running which are minimized. We will go through these in a clockwise rotation. At the top left is the WeatherNode menu. The Modules option on the menu is the main thing you will use. It gives you access to all the various modules and plug-ins, except the WeatherMail program which must be started separately, at least for now.

Before we go on, there is one more module that normally runs minimized, called the Housekeeping module. Here you can specify certain products to save, or archive files. Unless you are very familiar with the products you desire, such as experience with the Weather Wire, it is probably wise to leave the default settings alone. You may inadvertently screen out products you actually want to have.

Here is the Housekeeping module and it provides a good list of products available by type: http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin2.gif

Lets go back to our first image http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin1.gif

Next on the top right is an Image Processor. The trial version limits you to one image processor, but the registered version allows six. There are several graphics products included with the data stream, including satellite, radar, and others. You can automatically capture succeeding images and animate them. This is quite easy. This next link is a sample animation. It is a fairly large file, so we will pause for it to load and run. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin3.gif

Back to our first image http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin1.gif. Proceeding down, bottom right, the next is an AFOS processor, again one with the trial version, six with registered version. There are several products that may be overlaid on each other.

Next on the bottom left is the ByteBlaster Engine. When you startup, the engine will connect to an available server and start downloading data that is being transmitted at that point. It is as fast as the satellite stream, that is, 9600 baud, and is only a block or two behind the satellite, so the data comes in very near to real time.

The main points about the ByteBlaster is to set an Option to Auto-Reconnect on Server Disconnect, and you can also specify a server address if, for example, someone in your state were operating a server, and you wanted to access that data only. But normally you would leave that alone.

And finally, the main module which is the State/National Module. This is where you will have the most interaction with the program. Notice the Alarms Option on the menu. I am going to show setting alarms for an entire state, however, you can do the same thing for your county only, or for yours and some surrounding counties.

You actually select a state or county by clicking on the map. The bar below the menu will show what is selected. By choosing Add Selected County or Add Selected State from the Alarms menu option, an Alarm Configuration window is displayed, such as http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin4.gif

Here you designate which products you would like to alarm and which colors to use. The colors refer to colors displayed on the map when an alarm is triggered by receipt of the corresponding file. I have selected Red for warnings, Yellow for some types of statements, and Green for others. As you move your mouse into each column, you may set these alarms separately, however, the maximum number of alarms is set only once.

Also note the External Alarms. These can be thought of links to other modules, including an Auto-Print Manager, the AlarmSpeak .wav Player, and the X10 Controller. The latter is the device we saw earlier on the Xenocode Accessories page. As Ken mentioned to me, you could actually configure the system to turn on your coffeepot in the EOC!

When the pre-defined warning is issued, the area will be colored accordingly on your map. By setting Track Alarms to ON from the Alarms option on the State/National menu the warned area will be centered in your window. Here is an example from yesterday morning, however, only my 33 counties are displayed. I believe there were more. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin5.gif

If you had set up a sound on the Warning Configuration, a sound would have gone off as well. If you click on the map in the warning area, the text is displayed. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin6.gif

You can define your own warning sounds. This next graphic is the AlarmSpeak Player on top, and the Windows Sound Recorder (see Programs, Accessories, Multimedia later) on the bottom. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin7.gif

I used the Sound Recorder to make two short voice recordings. I created a subdirectory named WAVS in the C:\WEATHER subdirectory and saved them there. Then I was able to designate them using two different External Alarms. Apparently the Player module must be running to work. Yesterday afternoon I got several Winter Storm Warnings in a short time.

Here is the recording for warning, which if you are configured to handle .wav files through your browser, you should be able to play. http://www.emforum.org/varena/warning.wav

A quick word about two other modules. The FTP module, if you downloaded and installed looks like the following. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin8.gif

Xenocode suggests that when running ByteBlaster, to turn the scheduled updates off, since you are getting those files via ByteBlaster. But if you had been shut down, you can do an Immediate Update of either 1 hour or 3 hours worth of data to bring you up to speed quickly. This will retrieve a large compressed file and then decompress it.

Here is the WeatherMail program set up with Isabel to receive some of the products for the Vancouver area. http://www.emforum.org/varena/emwin9.gif

She informed me last night that she had successfully received some of the products.

I am also experimenting with the HTML module to see if I can get some products automatically loaded to a local prototype webpage at http://home.earthlink.net/~asebring/. I haven't managed to capture anything yet, slow weather day I guess, but you might check back in about a week.

I will close with a little bit about user support. A Users Manual is provided in the download, but it is not updated yet to include the ByteBlaster info or some of the newer modules. There is some online help provided, and further info is on the Xenocode Website.

Ken has also provided us with information about an EMWIN List Serve which you can subscribe to by sending an email to [email protected] with the message "subscribe emwin-users [email protected]" where you substitute your email address.

There has also been an EMWIN Conference in Houston recently, and another one is planned in Oklahoma for this coming February. Info about the Houston conference is on the Xenocode page at http://www.weathernode.com/emwincon.asp, and the OK conference info is at http://www.onenet.net/~odcem/emwinconf.htm.

Before we open it up to the audience Ken, do you have anything you wish to add at this point?

Kenneth Bashford: Yes. Great overview. One unfortunate deficiency of the data stream is that we can't include live local radar in the national feed; however, it's possible for this data to be inserted into a local re-broadcast.

Amy Sebring: Thanks Ken. Audience please enter a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to be recognized, go ahead and compose your comment or question, but wait for recognition before hitting the enter key or clicking on Send. We are ready for questions now.

[Audience Questions]

Question:

Kevin Starbuck: What is the speed of the download?

Amy Sebring: 9600 baud, hat is the max from the satellite.

Kevin Starbuck: Will it be increased in time

Kenneth Bashford: Not in foreseeable future. Goal is to keep it inexpensive for users.

Question:

Gil Gibbs: Got in late due to local link - did I miss on how to connect to the NWS link?

Amy Sebring: Yes Gilbert, please review the transcript.

Question:

Kevin Starbuck: Do you have to keep WeatherNode running in the background of your computer to keep the information current?

Amy Sebring: Yes you do. I will say that if you are going to do a setup that uses several graphics or AFOS processors and run the various modules that I have shown, you would almost want a dedicated machine.

Question:

David Crews: Does FEMA have a connection through NEMIS?

Amy Sebring: Cannot answer for FEMA David, but I would expect them to have a direct link to NWS! Ken?

Kenneth Bashford: I don't know.

David Crews: FEMA has Internet access in the DFOs, but it would be a lengthy procedure.

Question:

Jose Musse: Application international, example PERU?

Amy Sebring: Jose is coming to us from Peru Ken. Does the data go that far south Ken?

Kenneth Bashford: The GOES satellite coverage is Western Hemisphere. The data comes mostly from US & territories.

Question:

Cindy Rice: Amy, is there a spec for what the minimum for a dedicated machine to run this?

Amy Sebring: Yes, I have it and it is basically a 486, however you will want something pretty up to date with a good chunk of memory and graphics acceleration. Would you agree Ken?

Kenneth Bashford: Yes!

Question:

Kevin Starbuck: Could you go into some more depth about how it posts information to a web page? Is it text, images, warnings, in other words what exactly does it post to a page?

Amy Sebring: I see only text available via the HTML module at this point. The graphics options do not appear to be accessible, but I am not sure. Ken, do you know?

Kenneth Bashford: I'm not sure where Xenocode is with that, but I'll check.

Amy Sebring: Hopefully they will add in future Kevin if it is not currently available. The process would be the same.

Question:

David Crews: Is there a feed from the CEOS data base? (NOAA Remote Sensing) Also doesn't this need a sound card? FEMA PC do not have sound cards installed.

Amy Sebring: You would need whatever makes the computers go DING for sound warnings, but yes, I think you would need a sound card for the recorded wav files. Ken, do you know about CEOS? I am not familiar with that.

Kenneth Bashford: No feed from CEOS.

David Crews: Sound Cards with multimedia plus memory! CEOS also is set up with emergency info.

Question:

Cindy Rice: Amy , do you know if this would work with a third party modeling package (HAZUS, CATS - Consequence Assessment Tool System, ArcView (Spatial Analyst and related components) etc)?

Amy Sebring: I am not aware of any direct connections between the programs Cindy.

Kenneth Bashford: EMWIN just brings files into your PC, mostly text, gif, and jpg. Anyone can develop applications to use these files.

Cindy Rice: Maybe not direct connections but can the files be saved to ported to other programs or are they encrypted someway to work within WeatherNode?

Amy Sebring: Yes, I may emphasize that you do not need to be an emergency manager to get and use either. Files are plain text and accessible graphics formats.

Kenneth Bashford: No encryption; once you have these files, you may do as you like with them.

Question:

David Crews: Amy does monitoring EM require your PC to be dedicated to this task only?

Amy Sebring: I mentioned earlier David, that if you have a setup using several modules and processors and several alarms, it probably should be dedicated, and especially if you are re-broadcasting in some manner. But with minimum setup it should run in background OK.

Question:

Kevin Starbuck: Can modules be turned off and on as desired?

Amy Sebring: Yes, with exception of Housekeeper. Housekeeper must be running as it is managing the incoming files. Also you must have ByteBlaster going to get the data stream.

Question:

Kevin Starbuck: Can you post information to a file server so that personnel on the server can access the information from throughout a facility or even a city?

Amy Sebring: Well, you can use the ByteBlaster server to rebroadcast via Internet, but then the user would need to have the ByteBlaster client to access; otherwise, you can post to a Webpage.

Kenneth Bashford: The short answer is yes. The data can be distributed across a network, just another software application.

Amy Sebring: You could also place the data on a shared directory if people knew where to look for it.

Final Question:

Amy Sebring: We have time for one more question. If none, I will ask Ken what the NWS has planned for the future of EMWIN.

Kenneth Bashford: Some vision stuff. How about going mobile with a 3-inch ceramic antenna embedded in the roof of your vehicle receiving the Emwin data stream along with music on other channels, and coordinated with your GPS system to tell you which way to go to get out of the twister's path.

[Closing]

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Ken for being with us here today. Would you put up your official email address for follow up questions?

Kenneth Bashford: [email protected]

Amy Sebring: Thanks and I am at [email protected]

Kevin Starbuck: Thanks for the program, Amy and Ken! Very useful information.

Amy Sebring: Ava, can you give us a heads up for upcoming events?

Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. Tomorrow night, Thursday 8 PM EST, we will have an informal Mutual Aid session. Any topic or discussion is welcome.

Next week, we start off the month of February with a Round Table discussion by a new Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Counselors at Law. David Graham and John Zangerlie will be leading the discussion about Baker & Hostetler's Emergency Response & Crisis Management Capability on Tuesday, Feb 2, 1: 00 PM EST. You will find this Round Table very interesting. We were glad to have David Graham with us for the first time today.

On Wednesday, Feb 3, 12: 00 Noon EST, we have a Virtual Library presentation. Jennifer Wilson and Arthur Oyola-Yemaiel, co-authors of Quick Response Report #110 will present their paper, Emergent Coordinative Groups and Women's Response Roles in the Central Florida Tornado Disaster, Feb 23, 1998. URL for paper is http://www.Colorado.EDU/hazards/qr/qr110/ar110.html ...

Please start off February by adding these opportunities in the EIIP Virtual Forum. Back to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you audience. We will adjourn for now, but you are invited to return now to the Virtual Forum room for some open discussion.

[Post-script: Kenneth recommends keeping an eye on the Xenocode Website for further developments in the future.]