Environment Canada Releases iOS and Android Weather Apps

This is great news for all Canadians looking for a reliable weather app that doesn’t come with pervasive tracking and ads like The Weather Channel and other commercial apps feature.

The new WeatherCAN app (iOS and Android) gives you exactly what you’d expect from an official Government of Canada app with hourly and seven day forecasts for locations across Canada. The radar views aren’t as good as what an app like Storm Radar from the US Weather Channel offers, but that’s more a function of the outdated weather radar infrastructure in Canada.

WeatherCAN also offers all-important push notifications for severe weather and other Environment Canada advisories and weather statements.

On the downside, it’s only Canadian weather, so if you want weather for locations around the world, then you’ll need another app for that. It’s also not as fancy graphically as something like the Weather Network app, but as mentioned above, commercial weather apps are not the best in terms of tracking and ads. They also have a bunch of cruft like “viral” videos, and other junk that clutters up the whole app.

Check it out if you want a no-frills, functional weather app that will keep you in the know.

Spring Half Marathon Plans

I’m super excited to have found a half marathon that takes place very close to our vacation spot in Hilton Head Island this March.

We arrive on Saturday, March 9, 2019 and on the next day, I’ll be running the Palmetto Bluff Half Marathon. Palmetto Bluff is about 45 minutes from our place in Hilton Head Island, and a 9:00 A.M. start time will make for a pretty easy get up and go on Sunday morning.

The course looks lovely – absolutely dead flat through the beautiful South Carolina Lowcountry on a big 13.1 mile loop. The little town where the race starts and finishes looks quaint and southern which will provide Ginny with an enjoyable couple of hours while I’m out running. There’s some photos from the 2018 race here.

After the race, there’s beer, food and some live music.

De-Centralizing DNS

The internet is not supposed to have single points of failure or massive companies that control vast swaths of pages, or websites.

I’ve been actively de-centralizing my online presences of late and the last step was to leave Cloudflare and spread my DNS around a couple of different places. Obviously, a bunch of my sites rely on Hover’s DNS since I work there, and my domains are managed there. But not all of them use Hover. In a couple of cases, it’s easier to use a different provider.

The reason I don’t like Cloudflare is that it’s clear they are attempting to use their size (and the fact they offer a free service) to try and become a dominant DNS provider. Basically, the Facebook or Google of DNS. Not good.

They control way too much and have far too much access to data about sites people visit. Better to rely on DNS providers that are solely interested in offering DNS services vs. trying to profit from data gathering.

Early 2019 Results

Two weeks into 2019 and I’ve already posted my highest monthly run total since last May. I think it’s fair to say that I’m back on track now after six months of taking it easy.

With any luck I should just barely top 200km for the month which is something I haven’t done since last April.

January Training

Things are starting to come together now and I’m finally getting into the swing of things after seven months of not-so-consistent running. The key, as usual, is to have a schedule and then to stick to it. Duh.

I made a nice calendar again with runs on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The distances are a bit less than my marathon plan since I’m not running a marathon this spring. I’ve got two 6km and one 8km runs during the week, 5km on Saturday and then a longer Sunday run. Right now that’s about 15km and a weekly total around 40km which will increase as the Sunday runs get longer.

I’m at 40km for the year now after just one week, and on pace for a solid month that might be close to 150km depending on the Sunday runs. There’s a lululemon challenge on Strava that’s got me chasing 80km by January 25th and I’m right on target for that as well. There’s also a New Balance challenge to run 91 miles (146km) in January which seems doable without to much trouble assuming I can ramp the Sunday distances up to get there.

It’s nice to not have the whole big marathon plan in the calendar, but it’s also good to have a fairly aggressive plan to start the year. I missed having goal races to go after and while it’ll be a 30km and a half this spring, that will still be enough to get me out for those runs during the week.

Tech Updates

I made a call to Bell today to make some changes to our various services they provide to us. Specifically, that’s home phone, Fibe TV and fibre internet.

My intention was to get rid of the home phone completely, but for various reasons related to the ridiculous ways companies like Bell and Rogers price things, it was cheaper to keep the home phone for a while longer.

Overall, I was able to reduce the monthly bill substantially, while maintaining basically the same TV package we had, and also upgrading from 300Mb/s fibre to full gigabit fibre.

We’re still considering getting rid of TV and phone completely and going gigabit only, but that will wait for a bit. I think streaming services aren’t quite there yet in Canada, and OTA is a bit of an investment in terms of an antenna and also a tuner/PVR plus a more powerful server for Plex.

On the phone side, we now have some sort of basic line with no features. I may just disconnect the phone entirely since literally the only people who call us are air duct cleaning companies, Bell Canada, polling companies and charities looking for money.

Hair of the Dog

Fun times with Heather. She won the women’s masters open division and I had a great run to finish 49th out of 142 which is squarely in the front of the mid-pack (as usual).

In the home stretch, heading to a sub-45 minute 9km.
Representing Eastbound Run Crew, striking the usual pose.

Running into 2019

Last year wasn’t exactly a stellar one for me in terms of running. The first half was fine, with a normal training session heading into the BMO Vancouver Marathon. The race didn’t go as I had hoped, and so heading into the summer, I dialed back the mileage and took it easy.

Later in the year I did start to get back into the swing of things with Eastbound Run Crew (EBRC) runs on Monday evenings and Downtown Yonge Running Room (DYRR) Sunday runs. I ran 77km in December which is a far cry from what I used to do in the average month.

The break was nice, but it’s time to start getting back to a regular running lifestyle again.

Hair of the Dog

That started today with the Hair of the Dog race. It’s a 9km run from Balmy Beach Club down to the entrance to Tommy Thompson Park and then back. I ran well this morning and did a 44:38 for the 9km with about a 45 second negative split. A shot of schnapps at the 4.5km turnaround likely helped.

2019 Training Plan

Heading into 2019, I’ve set an 1,800km goal for the year. That means 150km a month which is quite doable for me, assuming I get back to my old habits of running four or five times a week. My plan is this:

  • Sunday: run with the DYRR (or EBRC) for about 15-20km to start, and eventually more. I’ll run the marathon training plan until it gets to the 29km and 32km runs which I’ll likely cut short at 23-26km depending on how things play out.
  • Monday: run 8km with the EBRC weekly.
  • Tuesday: rest day.
  • Wednesday: run a steady 6-8km on my own around the neighbourhood or on the treadmill.
  • Thursday: run a steady 8-10km on my own around the neighbourhood or on the treadmill.
  • Friday: rest day.
  • Saturday: run an easy 5km (or take a rest day).

That’s approaching the marathon training plan I’ve done over the last few years, but I don’t intend to run one this spring. Instead, the focus will be on the 30km Around the Bay Road Race and maybe a half marathon in May.

That plan allows for some long runs in Hilton Head in March, but not the really heavy distances I’ve had to do when training for the marathon. I can fit a couple of 20km runs in and still be ready to go 30km on March 31st.

We’ll see how things go from there. By the end of May I should have a 30km and a half marathon done and a good base in place to continue training over the summer and into the fall for a faster half marathon and maybe a run at my personal best.

Getting into PHP

I used to know a fair bit of PHP and could write simple WordPress plugins or basic pages. With the recent interest in Shortcuts, I started thinking it would be easier to do some of the little things I wanted to do with PHP on the web instead of using Shortcuts on my iPhone.

My first little project was a TTC Flexity Streetcar Delivery Tracker. The TTC is getting new streetcars from Bombardier on a regular basis, and myself and other transit users and fans like to track the arrival of new cars.

The TTC API, provided by NextBus provides some clues that a streetcar has arrived and is being tested or has entered service. Using the API, I’m grabbing data about an array of vehicles and then showing them in a table. That wasn’t too difficult to do for desktop, but getting it to look good on mobile was a bit tougher.

A few tutorials later, I got the media queries figured out and I’m showing the table rows as cards on my phone.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out and I’m already thinking ahead to my next little project. While there are a bunch of good apps like the Transit App that will tell you when your bus is coming, they are a little too complicated for Mac to use.

I’m going to make here a special webpage that will show her the next two buses home from Variety Village. It’s just the information she needs in a simple presentation.