Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are You Still
Browsing in
the Stone Age?

There can be no disputing the fact that we aviators have it pretty good when it comes to online weather products. With a few clicks of your mouse, it is very easy to have before your face a full menu of data that will be precisely what the FAA briefers at 1.800.WX.BRIEF at looking at on their displays.

I have always been an advocate of online WX for flight planning, but that comes with this caveat: Never, ever fly without talking with a briefer first unless you can consider yourself a "Master Level" aviation weather guesser by using the Internet as your primary tool. If you cannot find the very latest TFRs, freezing levels and other stuff that will get you (a) killed or (b) have your ticket ripped from your clenched fist by the FAA, then you had better stick with the telephone.

But if you are like me and can find your way around WX on the web easily, then listen carefully:
I have discovered the very coolest in Firefox add-ons, one that allows you to split your browser windows into a series of smaller windows each holding thumbnails of various web sites. I configured my set-up to show 15 WX sites [see photo above] that I use constantly to check the weather before a flight. Click on any of these little thumbnails and the real site opens full window in a new tab. Simply awseome.
Sounds like fun you say? Very efficient you say? Want to know how to do this fun little Firefox trick, then here's the drill if you want to show this set-up each time you open Fox:
(1) Go here and download Firefox 3 for Windows, Mac or Linux
(2) Install the browser.
(3) Go to your preferences/main, and select "show a blank page" under the "When Firefox starts"
(4) Go here and add Fast Dial 1.90 to your browser, then restart Firefox
(5) Navigate to your favorite weather sites, and once there, right-click and at the bottom of your contextual menu should be a choice to "Add to Fast Dial".
(6) I use command-T on the Mac to bring up the Fast Dial window showing a number of small thumbnails. The one you just added will be there. In your tools/add-ons menu, click "add-ons", open the prefs for Fast Dial, and configure to show your desired number of thumbnails. Rinse and repeat many times to add a bunch of sites to the Fast Dial thumbs.
It is really easier then it sounds. Here are the 15 sites I use:

California METARS
Oregon METARS
Washington METARS
ADDS Java PIREPs
NASA GOES West Interactive Infrared Satellite
ADDS CIP Icing
Weatherimages.org Jet Stream
DUATS Pacific NW NEXRAD radar
ADDS Northwest Winds Aloft tables
NWS RIDGE Radar sites
Fltplan.com
Airnav
FAA Graphic TFRs
GOES Western US SECTOR Infrared Image
ADDS Lowest Freezing level