– Ben Martens

CascadeSkier Architecture

A lot has changed since the last article about the architecture of the CascadeSkier apps. So let’s get geeky and peek behind the scenes.

The ecosystem includes a Windows 7 gadget, Windows Phone app, and a Windows 8 app. With all of these various applications (and more floating around in my head), it made sense to keep the clients as simple as possible. The complicate part is pulling in raw weather data from 11 different mountain sensors, 11 weather forecasts, and various web cams and links for each resort. That all happens on a centralized server. When the clients start up, they pull in a text file that has all the polished data and they display it. It makes it fairly easy to crank out new clients, and there’s a centralized location to make any changes to the data.

A configuration file sits on the server. It has a section for each resort and instructs the data cache how to pull the weather data from the raw mountain sensor feed and how to find the three day forecast from NOAA. It has contains a list of web cams for each resort and a bunch of related links like trail maps.

Every 15 minutes, the data cache refreshes by reading the config file, making about a couple dozen requests to various websites to pull in the data, and parses the data into a format that the clients can easily consume. At roughly the same interval, a tile cache generates live tiles for each resort so that the tiles don’t have to be generated on the phone or in the Windows 8 app. Depending on what parameters you pass in the URL to the live tile cache, you can get the tile with any combination of Farenheit or Celsius and metric or imperial.

Using the two caches also relieves pressure on all the various data sources. I don’t know how they’d feel about thousands of clients pinging their servers multiple times every hour. They probably wouldn’t notice, but this is better overall because the clients only have to make a single call to get the data from the cache and it’s instantly available.

This is the sixth ski season for the Cascade skier family of apps and it’s still going strong. The phone and Windows 8 apps are some of the highest rated and most downloaded apps in their categories. There’s even a line of clothing if you’re a superfan (or if you’re my mom.) In the grand scheme of things, this app is just a blip on the radar, but I’ve had a blast with it and it’s fun to hear from people who use and love the apps!