Avalanche Center Home Update - January 5, 2007

An Update from the Avalanche Center
January 5, 2007

Quick Contents -

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This brief update covers some recent changes and improvements, many of them done over the holidays. There are also a few things that are still behind, particularly incident posting.


The annual fundraising auction is over for the most part. While there is still some wrap-up work to do it looks like we reached our goal of $2000, barely. If a few remaining items sell it will help. We still have a few things closing as soon as the 7th, and others lasting a bit longer. So keep checking back!

The auction is still open, partly as an experiment. There are a few donated items left, some avalanche store items, and a category for users to sell their own things. The front page has been slightly modified, and it lists the items currently available with the date and time for those closing on the next day. An annual membership is still included for all winning bidders and also successful sellers.

Most of the donated items remaining are smaller things. A couple were posted late in the auction, a few are limited in appeal by size or color specifications. One great deal still available is a big discount on an avalanche course with Alpine World Ascents - it's something that should go quickly, but it's primarily of interest to bidders in Colorado. Or planning to go there for a trip including a course. Donated items will still include free shipping.

We will continue to post items from the store. At the moment there are copies of the last edition of the Avalanche Handbook and a skiing skeleton shirt. We have a PIEPS DSP that was returned strictly to swap for an advanced model and we'll auction that shortly. It's new with full warranty. We will also be getting a couple of the new PULSE in and may auction one or two of those. So keep checking back. Shipping on store items is not always free and is specified in the listings.

Finally, the auction is available for anyone to sell relevant items. We already had one supporter sell a pair of skis using this feature. Feel free to sell avalanche safety equipment or any winter recreation equipment. There are no fees for selling or buying but we ask anyone using it to consider donating something from any proceeds on a successful auction. Shipping on these items is up to the seller.

Project News

Remember that you can now support the avalanche center by using Goodsearch as your search engine. Just go to Goodsearch.com and search for "avalanche" under charities. If you do this and count on Goodsearch remembering who you are supporting check in on their home page every now and then. Or every session if you don't allow cookies. They use a cookie to keep track of who to support and it expires every few weeks!

One day recently, over the holidays, I noticed spam was being sent through our server. As usual I caught this pretty quick, tracked down the compromised script, and disabled it. This happens every now and then and is one of the many challenges on the computing end of things. While spam is infrequently sent out until I squash it we have only had one case of a hacker actually putting a script on our server, and fortunately that did not so anything more than send spam. The lack of major security problems has been a result of diligence and quick reactions over the past ten years or more.

Even though it is not frequent, spammer breaches can get our server blacklisted if I don't catch it quickly. After I fix the problem most lists remove our server before long. But you might want to "whitelist" the csac domain to be sure you receive our mail, especially if you order something in the store. (If you do this by adding addresses to your book we only use two - snow@ and store@ ). AOL USERS - This is especially important since AOL is very quick to blacklist sites and very slow to restore them. Even when no other lists cause problems we have seen bulletin emails bounce from aol for a day or two.

Quite a bit of programming work was done over the past few weeks, in addition to the auction wrap-up. This included updating scripts (which is necessary for both security and features) and adding a few new things. Some of this is the basis for update information below. One project was to install a new version of the advertising program which fixes many of their initial problems. Other than a few lingering formatting problems we are close to being able to sell text ads similar to the Google Adwords program.

Forums and Gallery - New Lottery

There was an upgrade to install for the forum software. In the process I checked many of the mods (modifications) we use and a few of those had upgrades. Most of this is a matter of fixes - often for obscure issues or small security matters. I rarely notice any difference, but keeping up is one reason we don't have more security problems.

I did discover that the "Cash Mod" installed also has a lottery feature that works along with it. This was pretty easy to add, so I did. There is an icon and label in the red-font menu along the top of the forum and gallery pages. You can earn dollars by posting in the forums, and we'll redeem them towards membership or store purchases upon request.

You can give your dollars to somebody else. And now you can use them to by lottery tickets! It was set up last week with a base of $25, which is an annual membership. When a ticket is purchased that amount is added to the pool. It is set to draw a winner at some time chosen by the program, and it will restart. There is no direct involvement in when it ends, who wins, or how they are selected, so it's truly a random drawing.

It looks like the first drawing is in one day or so and the only tickets are the ones I bought to test it out, so the odds are good right now!

News and Education Sections

The News section is up to date as of less than one week ago. There are several new stories and the RSS feed is current. One is an interesting press release from a company who makes a component in the new Barryvox PULSE beacon. Which we now will be carrying in our store. And accepting forum dollars towards.

In the Education section there was an addition over the summer I forgot about in previous updates, which is a page linking to related glossaries and lexicons. Including comprehensive ones on meteorology and hydrology, and a French-English lexicon developed for use by Parks Canada.

One thing that's been put aside due to other priorities is course listings. I need to add those of the Sierra Mountain Center, who I owe an apology to for being so far behind this time of year. I had also planned to give free trial memberships good for a few months to all students of the programs that support us and list their schedules. That also had to be put on hold, but it's something I hope to get in place this season and continue in the future.

Until the next update ...

Thanks to everyone who supported the auction, and to those who have contributed for this season so far. I still feel behind on many things, but hope to catch up and begin working on a few new pieces of content. The Incidents section really hasn't been updated for this season at all, but the reports are ready to format and post. This is a big priority right now. Also the text advertising. We also had some interest in making advisory keyword lists available via text messaging. I don't know what will happen with that yet. The last email wanted to set up a phone call and I'm a difficult person to do that with, working mostly by email from varying locations and at odd hours. I'd like to support the idea if the interest in moving it forward is still there.

When I make some progress on these things, and some others, I will send out another update. As anyone who has supported us for a while knows, these updates are not regular and certainly not frequent compared to many sites. So when there is more news to disseminate I'll send and post the next update.

In the meantime, if you have lots of snow enjoy it. If you're in one of the many regions that has had a thin early season snowpack watch out for those buried persistent weaknesses. And if you're in one of those areas where winter has been more like never ending spring keep up some hope! For me the best skiing is always in the spring when the work diminishes and the days are longer - so there is still lots of time ahead.

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