The "RhodyWeather App

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A meteorologist goes coding & we get a “RhodyWeather” App

A meteorologist goes coding & we get a “RhodyWeather” App

Pleased to bring you this by RINewsToday meteorologist, John (Jack) Donnelly. Each day he sends us the weather - sometimes at 2am - he's hardworking, and now he is talking about the technology part of what he does - for those of us who work with #tech all day, it's pretty interesting.  For those who throw their hands up at learning new things - try it - see if you can surprise yourself and create something pretty cool.

By John Donnelly

When I was a little kid, any talk of computers was usually found on futuristic TV shows and science fiction movies where, in them, the processing units were room-sized behemoths with panels of colorful blinking lights and levers. It didn’t appear that anyone quite knew what made them tick. I bet if any sci-fi movie character saw today’s ubiquitous smartphone, whose computing power is about ten thousand times that of the systems that handled the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, they would think they’d be looking at pure magic. Yet, as far as computing technology has come, our age is also that of near unlimited accessibility, where anyone, even me, with a little help from our connected technically minded experts freely volunteering knowledge via the World Wide Web, can develop programs and software sitting on their couch.

Which brings us to the web application.

As part of a program at my place of business, we were encouraged to continue our personal learning, something that would help us in our field of work. Couple that with the knowledge that computers and software applications will continually have an increasing role in our everyday lives, I thought it prudent to learn a bit about how we communicate with our electronic ‘third hands’. The path I chose was basic Web Development, learning how a website is constructed, and how to put together just a simple web page. Even the most simple locally housed “Hello World!” routine, that is, typing your programs name in your browser window and getting “Hello World” to show up on your screen took some doing, particularly for someone who, although a constant end user, has little to no development experience. But on we press, and like Rhode Island roadways full of potholes, cracks and general deterioration, they are still roadways that eventually lead somewhere.

After getting a decent grasp on the HTML and CSS, which are the structural and visual components of most web pages, I then dove into the functional aspect of the system, that is, utilizing a programming language to add functionality to my page, which then becomes more than just a page to look at. Using any of these programming languages, such as Javascript, Python, Ruby, PHP, etc., in my case Javascript... enables the program to actually do things, and in the case of our application, the program, which even in its fledgling state has over 2,000 lines of code, goes to the “outside world” and grabs data that can then be manipulated and displayed. It puts two APIs to use, which are Application Programming Interfaces, websites designed to make data available to developers, a mapping API to work with locations, and a weather API, from which current and forecasted weather data is extracted for the given location. Companies will simply put data on a server and make it available, you just have to know how to go and grab it. That’s just what our little weather app does.

Also, no additional equipment is required, as all necessary tools needed for web development are now themselves “web based”. This application was put together through an online Integrated Development Environment, or IDE, where everything you need, from the code editor, to the file system, to the terminal is all in one program.

As of now, the app consists of two pages, the home page, at the top of which you’ll find a dialog box in which to enter an address, followed by current weather data for my home town of Providence, and a three-day forecast. Below that are a series of links, the first of which, “Rhode Island weather” takes you to the second page, “locals”, again for Providence conditions and a written discussion and forecast map with weather features. Below that is a link to a decent radar page which also includes satellite data put together by the good people at the College of Dupage, and finally a required link to the Dark Sky weather API. The RhodyWeather name at the top doubles as a home button which will take you to the home page in addition to the back button at the bottom of the forecast map on the “locals” page.

This will be a constant work in progress, as are most software applications requiring updates and bug fixes, so enjoy, and be on the lookout for improvements.Try it out - here: