Unidata Users Committee Meeting Summary 13-14 March 1997 Boulder, Colorado (draft)


Mohan Ramamurthy (Chair)			Greg Byrd, COMET
Greg Cox					Brian Heckman, COMET
David Dempsey					Mary Marlino, COMET
David Knight					Bill Pennell, UCAR/UOP
Steve Koch
Jennie Moody
Michael Morgan
Charles Murphy
Melanie Wetzel
Doug Yarger

Dan Vietor, ATAC				Sally Bates
John Merrill, Policy Committee			Steve Chiswell
						Ethan Davis
						Ben Domenico
						David Fulker
						Linda Miller
						Don Murray
						Sandra Nilsson
						Mike Schmidt
						Tom Yoksas

Administrative Matters

The next meeting will take place prior to the 1997 Summer Workshop. It was proposed for either the 20th or the 19th and 20th of June, 1997. As planning continues, the date(s) will be confirmed. Most of the meeting will be dedicated to planning and coordinating workshop activities.

A review of the action items led to a discussion by Dave Fulker of Action 3, pertaining to the use of IDD for distribution of regional models, e.g., MM5. Fulker reminded the UserComm of the principles document pertaining to the IDD. Fulker described the steps that Unidata is taking to make model data available to the university community using the LDM. Unidata is preparing a plan to be submitted to the NWS for a machine to be installed at the NWS/OSO for facilitating access and distribution to model data being made available from NCEP.


Reacting to a discussion about keeping the community informed, it was agreed that Unidata would continue sending email announcements to the community about upcoming UserComm meetings, including topics for discussion, prior to each UserComm meeting.

Director's Report-Dave Fulker

Fulker reviewed the five-year proposal to be submitted to the NSF for Unidata funding, in its entirety. In reviewing the proposal strategy, he referenced the seven major objectives:
  1. Community Building
  2. Data and Metadata Access
  3. Data Management Software
  4. Display and Analysis Software
  5. User Support Services
  6. Network Utilization
  7. Education


Fulker was asked to send a community announcement referencing the URL link to Unidata's five-year proposal, after it has been finalized and sent to the NSF.

There were remarks by Committee members about data and metadata access which resulted in the following action item:


Unidata should seek access to the FSL-NOAAport archived data using LDM technologies.


Unidata should follow the progress of the EOSDIS and any parallel development taking place for client-server development using netCDF. EOSDIS DAAC in-a-box should also be tracked.

Fulker said that several advances in data management software should improve access to retrospective data throughout the Unidata community, a departure from the current Unidata model of focusing on real-time data access.

The area of display and analysis software will address the topic of advanced visualization software. The Unidata Users and ATAC committees will be tapped for their expertise and recommendations in this important area.

The development of Java tools will be done to provide a collection of platform independent packages for Java. Basic Java image viewers will be created to be used with McIDAS and GEMPAK, initially leading to a Java toolkit to provide more complex functions.

A receive only version of the LDM is being created in Java and should begin by mid-1998. This version will be similar to McLDM, except it will be available to the broader community. A full version of a high-speed LDM should be completed in time for NIDS (1999).

To provide for automatic IDD routing, Unidata is looking at multi-cast IP. It was suggested that Unidata check the telephone companies to see what they are doing, before spending a lot of resources in creating something that might be adopted from some other source.

There will be new products on NOAAport that will require decoder development, e.g. the GINI format. Within the GeoSif, a complete set of Java decoders will be produced by year 2001.

NetCDF development to address packing should be completed in 1998. A shift from NetCDF to Java libraries is planned. A client-server form will draw on the DODS work and should be underway by the year 2000.

The overall goal of the Geosif effort is to help the Unidata community utilize object-oriented methodologies and tools, especially the Java language.

Initially, a basic set of interactive meteorological applications with capabilities for storing and retrieving associated data will be created. Later, applications for analysis and display (including 3-D visualization), for handling data distributed among multiple locations will be completed for joining Unidata systems with Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The UserComm recommended that Unidata track the existing visualization packages being used at universities to enable use of the data in a seamless manner.

Relating some of the timelines and data access items included in the proposal, Fulker reported that there will be a NOAAport Receiver at UCAR, hopefully by 4th quarter of 1998. A plan to have at least two universities purchase NOAAport receivers across the U.S., to provide redundancy and reliability was also mentioned.

EOSDIS should begin flowing through the IDD by the year 2001.

Fulker indicated that an additional three people are included in the resource requirements of the proposal.

During the NIDS discussion, a UserComm member said that some TV stations are using NIDS after the data is four hours old, rather than waiting for the 48 hrs in Unidata's contract with WSI.


Sandra Nilsson should contact WSI to check on an amendment to the contract to use NIDS after four hours, rather than the 48 hours currently required.

Domenico reported that the University of Washington is using the LDM for distributing 88D Level II data.

The proposal is on line and available for review by the committee and was included in Section B of the notebook. Fulker suggested that the UserComm can provide input until Tuesday, March 18, 1997.

Fulker mentioned some early planning activities of a GPS network, with UCAR's UNAVCO and FSL, which is envisioned to move toward approximately 100 sites (including universities). The network will provide, among other measurements, Precipitable Water Vapor. It is envisioned that NSF-MRI funds could be available for cost sharing toward purchasing the GPS systems for universities.

Policy Committee Report - Mohan Ramamurthy

Ramamurthy reported that the Policy Committee meeting was devoted to three main items.
  1. Proposal Framing
  2. OS/2 sunset resolution
  3. MRI initiative
The OS/2 sunset resolution was discussed at length. The next agenda item covered the issues and Unidata current thinking of the resolution.

Policy Committee Resolution-OS/2 (Fulker, Murray, Yoksas)

(from January 23-24, 1997 meeting)

Resolution 1: The Policy Committee recommends that the UPC develop an exit plan for OS/2 that results in the sunset of OS/2 by June 1998. This plan will be considered by the Policy Committee at its next meeting.

There are 50 sites using OS/2 on campus. This number reflects sites using a combination of Unidata's suite of software, McIDAS-X, GEMPAK and OS/2, including the OS/2 only sites.

Fulker pointed out that the context for the Resolution out of the Policy Committee is for the UPC to develop a plan for the future; one that would not depend on continued existence for OS/2. The plan should cover two major issues:

It was pointed out that the Resolution should not have been so specific and it should have provided for discussions across the community. The Resolution was seen as a potential for generating ill will. An alternative was recommended that a comprehensive approach was necessary and that additional information was needed.

John Merrill, acting in the capacity of Policy Committee liaison, said that the recommended plan is intended to provide a smooth transition for OS/2 users. Merrill indicated that it was the Policy Committee's intent to motivate an effort at the UPC to create a plan showing how the transition would work and provide for continued service to all Unidata participants.


Unidata should clarify the status of the Space Science & Engineering Center (SSEC) plans for OS/2, including specific dates of sunset plans for OS/2, if they exist.

The Unidata Users Committee discussed the OS/2 issues and suggested a counter resolution to the Unidata Policy Committee. It is:

RESOLUTION to Unidata Policy Committee

The Users Committee requests that the Policy Committee reconsider its recommendation that the UPC develop a plan for the sunset of OS/2 by summer 1998, in favor of a comprehensive transition plan that will allow the UPC and the Unidata user community to achieve the goal of platform independence by 2003. The development of this plan should solicit input and discussion from all segments of the user community and should address their diverse needs.


Fulker was asked to forward the OS/2 Resolution to the Policy Committee as soon as possible for their response.

UCAR Geosciences Research, Education, Academic Technology Team (GREATT) initiative - Bill Pennell & Mary Marlino

An overview was provided of how this initiative was launched at the Heads & Chairs Meeting last year, following the UCAR Board of Trustees Meeting, and the current status of the initiative. The initiative required UCAR to work with universities and the AMS, and to follow the Unidata model to promote use of multi-media.

Be it resolved that the Heads and Chairs encourage UCAR (Unidata, COMET, UOP), NSF, and AMS to build on the Unidata model to work with universities to:

  1. develop more effective ways of developing existing multi-media materials in university courses;
  2. develop new platforms for delivering software;
  3. offer support to faculty to learn to implement such materials in university programs; and
  4. establish standards and cataloging frameworks for such products.

It is envisioned that this project will have a strong university governance policy consisting of university participants; not a "rubber stamp" approach. The NSF has been very supportive of this initiative and wants to see it serve the broader geoscience and community colleges.

After several initial steps that have already been taken, a needs assessment will be done to find out what services should be provided. Investigation of multi-media that would be effective for the classroom, including tools, content, materials will be discussed. A proposal to the NSF will be created for funding. This money will not be taken from the research funds at NSF. Mary Marlino, previously from the USAF Academy, will lead the project within the UCAR Office of Programs.

The first year funding would be for development. During the first year, the following activities would take place:

Points made included:


To provide cross fertilization, the Unidata UserComm would like to have a representative as liaison at the Policy group meetings for GREATT, and would like a GREATT Policy group representative to be a liaison at the Unidata UserComm meetings.

Linux Issues

This topic was raised due to a recommendation of a small group (6-7) of Unidata university users that Unidata adopt Linux as a Unidata-supported Unix platform.

The positive aspects of running Unidata software on Intel based platforms (ie PC's) were discussed. Several options exist for Unix based operating systems on PC hardware exist such as Linux and Solaris x86.

Given that the UPC supported packages GEMPAK and McIDAS are currently supported on other platforms that utilize byteswapped (Little Endian) architectures (eg Dec ALPHA and Ultrix systems for GEMPAK, OS/2 for PCs by McIDAS), the porting of these packages to a PC based Unix operating system has generally been possible within the current framework.

Unidata currently has one machine configured for testing Linux. A machine configured with Solaris x86 may also be possible in the near future.

At present, GEMPAK, McIDAS, and WXP have all been ported to Linux. The experiences of porting each of the packages were described to the committee. GEMPAK requires Motif which is distributed with Solaris x86, but must be purchased separately for Linux.

The support issues associated with PC based platforms were raised, including configuring hardware and drivers, as well as the mix of products available from different vendors. The general problem of obtaining support for Unix operating systems at sites was mentioned as a concern as well.

An action item encouraging Unidata to create an Intel-Unix mailing list which can be used by sites interested in discussing this platform/operating system combination was suggested. This would facilitate the exchange of information regarding the combinations of operating system and hardware configurations for which they have experience. The desire for this list to be indexed via the WWW in a manner similar to the way the other Unidata email lists are archived was expressed.


The UPC will create an email list for Linux users and track the community interest using Linux and Solaris x86.

Workshop Planning - Melanie Wetzel and Dave Dempsey

Melanie led a discussion on the summer workshop framework. See Dave Dempsey's written summary (Section B in notebook).

The expectations of participants should be to learn how to teach remote sensing with scientific content and learn how to integrate the materials into the classroom.

Sandra Nilsson reported the following registered participants and breakdown to date:

Unidata has created a Web server location for creating materials to be included in the workshop and presentations to be made for the workshop.

There will be four groups assigned to the following subject matter areas:


Unidata should add a link to a page of resources to be used for the workshop.

Possible Software Needs:

John Snow has a special software requirement for the GIS software package of IDRISI.


Mike Schmidt will check the GIS software packaging and licensing issue.

Hardware Needs:

The projection system was discussed. This will need to be investigated further by checking with SCD to determine if their display system is the best solution for the needs of the workshop.

The next meeting, prior to the workshop, needs to be devoted to final coordination activities, the BAMS article and Exit Survey. The UserComm should attempt to collect information on future activities, such as regional workshops, meeting participant expectations and conducting a one year follow up activity.

GOES-Unidata-Wisconsin Data Stream-Tom Yoksas

Two issues relating to the community using the Unidata-Wisconsin datastream came to light after the GOES-8/9 Visible products were transitioned from 8 km to 4 km resolution:

There were three options discussed pertaining to bullet one:

  1. community solution: feeder sites could produce reduced resolution products that would be sent to sites having reception problems,
  2. send out higher resolution imagery as a series of low resolution tiles,
  3. splitting single feed requests to an upstream site into multiple requests from the same site.

Since option three is straight forward to implement, it was decided to conduct a test between Purdue and SUNYA. We are awaiting test results.

The second item (bullet two) was discussed among the Committee and it was felt that the Unidata community favors the higher resolution products over lower resolution products that have greater spatial coverage.


Unidata will survey sites to find out which ones are losing the 4km data. In addition to this issue, Unidata will query the sites about adding the statistics to their IDD site information to make tracking easier at the UPC.

This link provides a the full list of the Actions and Resolution to the Unidata Policy Committee from the meeting.

Linda Miller lmiller@unidata.ucar.edu

Questions or comments can be sent to lmiller@unidata.ucar.edu

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