Alachua Co. EMWIN Project

Alachua Co. EMWIN Project
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

AC-EMWIN Server Hiccup Last Night (Now Resolved)

Looks like the AC-EMWIN server had a hiccup, last night...

The AC-EMWIN server program locked up at about 8:45pm. All the other SUB-programs kept operating and passing on files which were apparently stuck in the ingest directory (the place where the program temporarily places new bulletins just downlinked, which are USUALLY then immediately *deleted* after they've been processed). So ZFPs and HWOs that didn't get deleted from the ingest dir (because the program locked up at just the right time) and the other subprograms just kept pulling them so they got duped to some Facebook pages a couple times overnight. As well, the radar images from 8pm last night kept getting resent all night until I noticed it early this morning after getting up.

As to how I even noticed that things were locked up... On getting up I noticed that the EMWIN test clients - here at the house, and which are connected to the main server remotely - weren't offering up the normal early morning beeps and sounds that occur when they receive the usual morning ZFPs and HWOs and paints things on the map. After years of being used this this, you notice something's not right almost immediately. This caused me to take a look around and check for problems. Indeed, the AC-SKYWARN web page hadn't refreshed the watch/warning map since 8:30pm last night. All the text bulletins on the AC-EMWIN page were "old" from late yesterday afternoon/evening. As well, no (current) bulletins were being sent to the surrounding area Emergency Management Facebook pages which were subscribed to us. (EEK!)

We're in the middle of some current ongoing weather so I didn't even bother to deal with checking logs and figuring things out. I just rebooted the machine entirely right away and that seemed to take care of it.

...So things are again working properly. I'll keep an eye on the server to make sure it doesn't happen again. The program usually worked very efficiently and I almost never had any problems with it and it's pretty stable so I don't expect another problem like that.

Coincidentally, the server hiccup started the process of me checking ALL resources for the possible problem and this included checking Alachua FreeNet. While it's not part of our server problem, I discovered that Alachua FreeNet is also apparently down, too. Something hung on THEIR server, too, last night and some of you may notice that your web page dirs are empty. (EEK!) I've notified AFN admin about it and they're taking a look. So in a way, you can thank our own server hiccup for causing a causal exploration which ended up discovering the AFN outage. :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Error Corrected ON AC-EMWIN Hurricane Graphics Index Page...

WHOOPS! Caught an error on our hurricane graphics index page and corrected it. We prepare the index page manually and if there's a confusing situation as happened with Hernando - where it died, then reformed again, and the NHC renames the old to TC-8 and starts a completely NEW set of bulletins for a newly-formed Humberto it throws off all the rest of the naming system on our page. So post-Humberto deformation, Humberto became TC-8, Ingrid became Humberto, and Jerry became Ingrid, etc. So we added an additional line of code to handle the TC-8 graphic, and then adjusted the numbering of all the subsequent graphics so that they were correct again. Sorry for any inconvenience. Was a pain in the butt for us, too. :)

Incidently, if anyone is good with web page coding and would like to submit to us some new code which might handle all that automatically and create a page that looks the same way it does now, we'd be glad to use it.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

AC-EMWIN Now Serving Cape Coral FD Facebook Page...

In addition to serving the Facebook pages for the Bradford County and Gulf County EMAs, we can now add the Cape Coral Fire Department to the list. All three EMAs are now receiving weather alerts from Alachua County SKYWARN's EMWIN program. So I guess we can officially brag that we're serving the panhandle, north central, and south Florida areas. This is in addition to providing many people in the local area general public with weather alerts to their cellphones, pagers, and personal email accounts...ALL FOR FREE!!!

This from an organization that begs NO money from people - claiming no dues, grants, or funding.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

ACEMWIN-HURR-L List Gets A Publicity Boost from NOAA...

It started with 842 hits to the ACEMWIN-HURR-L list web page in one day!!!

On Monday (7/15/2013), we had just 35 or so subscribers. On the very next day, Tuesday, we suddenly had 842 hits to the ACEMWIN-HURR-L page, and a total of 171 subscribers to the list! That's a jump of about 140 new subscribers...IN JUST ONE DAY!

...Un-be-LIEVABLE!!!

[UPDATE: As of 7/25, the web site has seen nearly 2000 hits since the beginning of the month, and membership has reached to OVER 400 subscribers, now. The attention has waned drastically since the first few initially frantic days, down to an average increase now of about 10-15 new subscribers per day, with larger increases seen during periods of tropical activity. Can't complain.]

This, after NOAA listed us on a government web page of "alternate" informational weather bulletin sources across the US. Why? Recently NOAA/NWS sent out a notice (see here) that the free weather bulletin services offered by GovDelivery would soon cease as of July 31st.

It all started on July 10th. What called our attention to all the ballyhoo was quite a number of sudden odd hits from NOAA to the ACEMWIN-HURR-L list. (The ACEMWIN-HURR-L listgroup offers up a number of various types of NHC-issued hurricane bulletins, and offers users the power to customize WHICH hurricane bulletins they want to receive through the list. The list iteslf gets the bulletins from the server owned and run by the Alachua County EMWIN Project, which provides weather alerts to local area users for free as a public service.) That's when they put us on their list (see here). They must have been researching our listgroup, at first - which explains why all the suddenly noticed hits in the IP logs. Right after that they obviously added us to their list. Next thing you know, IP logs began showing HUNDREDS of people looking us up from all over the United States as well as across the globe. Especially attention grabbing were the hits from the US Department of State, and the Dept. of Homeland Security. Gotta make us feel proud. And of course even more hits come from people from all walks of life. We also can't help but notice all the subscriptions from entities from all those various islands in the Atlantic, too. Very interesting.

Makes yuh feel so good to see that. This kind of stuff just keeps happening with us. Other notable moments to make us proud came when Bradford County Emergency Management came to us with a request to send Bradford-related storm bulletins to their Facebook page, which was soon followed by Gulf County EM with the same request. On top of that, we're serving severe weather bulletins to the pagers, cellphones, and emails of many local and surrounding area users. We're also sending same to numerous different email listgroups, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

It makes you feel really proud. You work so hard to put something together so that it can be helpful in service to the public. You put your own money into it; your own blood, and sweat, and sometimes, yes, even tears. You ask for no money or attention or awards in return, and you get...THIS. This is proof that what we're trying to do is truly meaningful...that what we're doing is important. This kind of attention just makes it all worthwhile and it's *better* than receiving some silly piece of paper or a plaque of wood with your name on it.

This is wonderful. You work so hard. You're patient. Then it all WORKS...perfectly. And it helps people.

At the risk of sounding a little like the A-Team's Hannibal here (sigh)...I LOVE it when a plan comes together!

More information about the Alachua County EMWIN Project and all of the things that it now does, and what it can do for you, can be found at http://alachuaskywarn.org/emwin.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

AFN Web Pages Down...

Alachua Freenet web page access appears to be down. This means that the Alachua SKYWARN page will not be accessible from there. Instead use the MIRROR site at http://www.fireline.org/skywarn . It is the exact same page, at another site, and it is not affected by the AFN downtime.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Newly-obtained AC-EMWIN IP Address Blocked...

Last week, we discovered that the Alachua County Office of Emergency Management was..."blocking" us. Well, it wasn't quite that simple...

After doing some further research, we discovered that the problem wasn't nearly so simple as one agency blocking us. Apparently, there are multiple varied sources out in Internet-land which keep track of IP addresses which spam. Then people - especially many government agencies - subscribe to these lists in an effort to try to weed out spam. Unfortunately, after a while, the spammers then release the tarnished IP addresses back into the Internet wild. Then the companies who sell them - the Internet Service Providers, or "ISPs" - turn around and RE-sell them again (now that the IPs have had plenty of time to glean plenty of bad reputation) to innocent, unsuspecting people in the general public.

Along comes now the Alachua County EMWIN Project, which just moved it's server to a better location with a generator backup and two Internet lines for the "just in case" situations. Upon moving to this new location, we acquired a "new" IP address. Unbeknownst to us, this pariticular IP address was one which had such a bad reputation that it was listed not just in one but in MULTIPLE spam-tracking databases. These databases apparently have the power to "blacklist" the IP addresses to such an extent that in some cases people were not able to receive our alerts.

When we first began to notice this was going on, it was because we were getting some emails stating that some of our alerts to some people were being blocked because our IP was being blacklisted as a source of spam. The emails weren't very clear though, and made it seem as if it might be the end user who had had us blocked. On further backtracking, it became apparent that the user wasn't responsible at all. The user's ISP was using these blacklists to block emails from so-labelled IP addresses. The County of Alachua uses at *least* one, called Barracuda Central. And when we checked, that's when we found that we were listed in about five.

We sent out a few querying emails to some computer-related listgroups in the hopes that someone might be able to shed more light on how to combat this. A few people helped out with links to places which help you find OUT how many databases have you listed. This began an effort to try to get us "delisted" from all of the blacklists.

(*sigh!*)

Apparently, us end users have to watch out for this. APPARENTLY, places like Cox and AT&T aren't going to TELL you if the IP that they're selling you has a bad reputation; and APPARENTLY, they don't bother to *check*, either. So it's on us. We're assigned the "new" IP address, and we have NO idea that it's been used by someone else in a bad way. And then the nightmare starts.

I've spent the last week trying to communicate with five different blacklist databases to try to get us delisted. I think I've been successful, but it's going to take a while to find out. Apparently, like the search engines, they're all interconnected. One borrows from the other, borrows from the other, and so on. So you have to find out all the contact information, and write all the emails. Then you have to wait 48 to 72 hours for most of the databases to recognize and remove you. And in some cases, it can take even longer.

...Good lord! What a pain in the ass! I think that the ISP sellers should be the ones who "clean up" the reputation FOR you if they're going to sell you an IP address. Meanwhile, I think we've cleaned up the mess, now. What was it that the little lady said in Poltergeist, again? Oh yes... "...THIS house...is CLEAN." (poses for the camera)

Let's hope we never have to go through THAT again. :(

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dust Settled...

Looks like everything is again working. Web pages show normally. Text and graphics products are again flowing to the web sites. Graphics are again displaying on the web pages. Everything looks good. If anyone notes anything amiss with either the AC-SKYWARN or AC-EMWIN web pages, please let us know. Todd