Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Fixed a long time bug

As a programmer, I was told to never admit mistakes. It makes the entire world of computing seem vulnerable. Especially to those that don't understand the complex nuances of the task. The eclipse-chasers web site has been an on going, learn as I go, project since 1999 and contains millions of lines of code in the form of HTML, PHP, Javascript, and CSS files. When I go back and try to change something, it can be a real education as to what I did wrong and so on. Much of the code was created using reference books containing equations and so the comments all link back to those references. It can be laborious at times.

Fortunately, I am a rather good programmer and know a few tricks of the trade. For one, I use modular structures. Another is that without thinking much about it, I use Object Oriented Programming as a natural language. This makes working the code much easier and I can often correct or modify things quickly as a result.

But there has been one that has been bugging me. Several users have reported that when entering information for an annular eclipse it was logged as a total. All the input matched up with a total, but it was just not being saved correctly.

I have poured through that code carefully and could not find anything that would cause these problems. For years I searched and then, yesterday, the bug manifested itself clearly and I was able to correct it! I am pleased to report that annular eclipses should be recorded properly and not require webmaster intervention. I thought I had licked this problem last March, but I had missed a small module and now it is back in a proper way, no longer an orphaned child of a quick hack.

This has been a good week for fixing simple bugs. Just sent an update to Fred's eclipse-wise correcting a stupid omission on my behalf.

Keep adding your observations to the log and encourage others to do the same! And let me know if you find anything amiss.

Monday, 11 July 2016

TSE2017 Where you going?

At the recent CAS meeting I did a talk about the upcoming TSE next summer. The most frequent question, asked in many different ways, was: Where are you going to be?

While nothing is final at this time, I have been looking at several possible locations. All of these can be reached from central Ohio by car in a day or two. Here they are in the order I researched them.

First was Casper Wyoming. The chances of clear sky there is pretty good, in fact, it is about the best along the eclipse path you will find. Madras Oregon area is better, but Casper offers some other features such as a good road system heading along the central path towards the East. If the weather is bad in Madras, chances are it will be bad anywhere one can drive that morning. That is not the case in Casper. Bad weather in Casper does not mean bad weather towards the East, in fact it can be quite different as one leaves the mountains and heads in to the Great Plains.

The problem with Casper is one of extreme price gouging by the hotels. This is a grand opportunity for them and rates are running very high, if you can find a hotel. A friend who has relatives in the Cheyenne area said this happens around big rodeos too. So I guess you could say the eclipse is just another rodeo for them.

My second choice was Grand Island Nebraska. There really isn't much in terms of tourist things in Grand Island, mostly flat farmland, but the climate studies are very good (they get worse to the East) and a major highway runs just past Grand Island and remains in the central path for quite a distance to the East and West. I have not heard of any price gouging going on there, let me know if you have other information.

The third choice is the Nashville area. While climate studies are not as favorable as the locations further West, they are not bad and the eclipse cooling effect may play into favor. Lines of hills and the rivers tend to draw weather up and over Nashville or to the South. This location is looking pretty good and we are waiting to get some price quotes. From Columbus, Nashville is a six hour drive.

Nashville area totality map - courtesy of Michael Zeiler, GreatAmericanEclipse.Com

Assuming we can get good hotel rates in the Nashville area, we are leaning that direction. Want to come along? Maybe we can get group space?

Let me know your thoughts and plans!