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May 2000

Forrest Cook: NCAR's loss is Linux's gain

Forrest Cook. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

If you've ever checked the Web to see the weather at the Mesa or Foothills Labs, then you've seen Forrest Cook's work. Forrest, a systems administrator in ATD, created (with Jon Corbet and Chris Burghardt) and maintained the popular pages that provide real-time weather and a 24-hour log of temperatures, winds, and other variables.

Now Forrest is off to ply his Internet skills elsewhere. He's joining a couple of other NCAR alumni at a fast-growing, 'Net-based newspaper in Boulder, Linux Weekly News. "It's been on the Web for a couple of years. Jon [Corbet] and Liz Coolbaugh [formerly of CGD] started it." Forrest will be writing software to produce Web pages dynamically and taking on a few other yet-to-be-defined tasks. Since Linux Weekly News has no physical office, he'll be working at home. "That'll be just fine with me. Ask me in a year if I like it. I know two people who have gone that route and they both love it, so it'll probably be fine."

Forrest says his NCAR job "evolved massively" over 16 years. "I started out as a PAM [Portable Automated Mesonet] technician and worked as a software engineer for a while. Then I got into system adminstration--I've been doing that for quite a while. I started on the VAXes and got into Solaris-Sun when it was new. I've sort of followed the evolution." He's helped keep about 100 Sun workstations running for ATD users.

Linux is the next step in that evolution, says Forrest. The open operating system that competes with DOS and Solaris is "fairly widespread" in ATD, he notes. "It's sort of taking over the domain of the Suns. Instead of buying a $10,000 Sun, you buy a $2,000 PC with more peripherals on it."

Forrest will especially miss globetrotting for ATD. He helped set up networks for PAM deployments in the field, "going out there and making everything work for the scientists. Probably the best time I ever had here was going to Tasmania for ACE-1 [the first Aerosol Characterization Experiment in 1994]." Other memorable spots: "China. France. Australia. Wichita, Kansas. Huntsville, Alabama."

ATD's ML and FL weather sites will continue with the help of Santiago Newbery, Brandon Slaten, and Bob Rilling. The NCAR program officer at NSF, Cliff Jacobs, was so taken with the site that he asked ATD to set up a similar site at NSF's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters. You can see which way the wind's blowing there on the Web. Watch for Forrest's debut as a "booth dude" at an upcoming trade show near you. "That'll get boring pretty fast, I'm sure."

Bob Henson

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
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