The Highland Webcams Story
My name is Joel Vardy, I am both a skier and a (not very good) snowboarder. I built Highland Webcams because I was frustrated looking at the webcams of the Scottish ski centres, but only seeing the dusk/dark images at the end of the day.
The archive is currently in its sixth iteration, some details of the development are below:
The first was knocked together in a few days, it was very primitive and only archived images from Cairngorm Mountain where I predominantly skied, I had issues with it saving corrupt images, and soon started working on improving it.
The second version was quickly developed, it fixed all the issues I'd found from my first attempt, this was running on dedicated server, and ran well over the 2010/2011 season.
However after collecting over half a million webcam images my programming flaws were showing through with the system slowing down. The server was turned off on June 15th 2011.
A few months after turning off the server I began work planning, and developing the next version, this was built from the ground up for scalability.
I had also realised that other people may have the same issues as me, and want a central location to view an archive of webcams over the Scottish Highlands, so this version would be publicly accessible, unlike the other two versions. This meant moving from a server in my house, as the archive has previously been.
In the third version I added the ability to generate a timelapse on the fly which makes for some really interesting videos, and a nice summary to a day. I also added some advertising to offset the costs of the server.
In March 2013 I made some significant changes to the codebase behind Highland Webcams, the code changes brought Highland Webcams inline with my other projects in terms of best practices.
- I never really used the timelapse functionality, and it was another thing to maintain, so I removed it.
- I removed ads from the website.
- I decided to be open about who was developing this.
- I worked on making the site more usable on smartphones.
In June 2014 I removed the ability to log in and manage the webcams and images, I didn't often use this functionality, and removing it made the codebase more manageable.
In August 2014 I made some minor styling updates.
I generally like to play with new technologies in a real world application, so when Lumen (a PHP framework) was released, I decided to rebuild Highland Webcams with that.
Other Useful Websites
I built the website to integrate, and not compete with existing websites, below are resources I frequently read/use:
- Winterhighland - The website allows the public to post reports, with photos, outlining conditions, winterhighland also provide a great number of the webcams used on this website; they also have several weather stations, which are amazing! There is also a form on Winterhighland, which is very useful, with some well-informed people regularly posting, as with any forum, just ignore clowns.
- highland instinct - What I find so useful on highland instinct is the Scottish ski history section which has a wealth of information relating not just to the five current centres, but also projects long since forgotten.
- Haggis Trap - This website is built around providing information about the narrow gully situated at the bottom of Glencoe's Main Basin.
- Save the Ciste - Based around providing information about the Ciste chairlifts at Cairngorm Mountain, and a petition for the reinstatement of them.