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Sat, March 23

Storm-tracking from the comfort of your computer chair

Q: How can I track storms on the Internet?

A: Several websites offer the latest weather forecast for a specific location. Enter the phrase "weather forecast" into a search page like Google, Bing, Yahoo, or the like. Click on one of the choices and enter your zip code or city and state.

One of the interesting features on these sites is current radar information. Radar will show storm systems moving through the area. The radar maps use colors to reflect the intensity of the storm. Usually, light green reflects storms having the least intensity, with dark green stronger, and yellow even stronger. Sometimes, blue is used to show those producing snow. Check the legend shown next to the map for proper interpretation.

Most maps can be animated to see which direction the storm is moving. You can zoom in or zoom out or look at regional compared to local maps to see what is coming. Sometimes the map includes information about how fast storms are moving, temperature, wind speed, etc. Most sites also include satellite images that show the amount and strength of cloud cover.

Having this information about storms can be interesting, but it is still useful to check the forecast, since forecasters can add information on overall movement of systems, past trends and the like to refine their projections.

Q: My kids are very active in sports and my photos often miss the action as they slide into home plate or whatever. The photos are usually taken too late. Is it me or do I need a new camera?

A: Compact digital cameras are wonderful but they do have a few limitations, and you've run right into one of them. They suffer from shutter lag, which means that there is a distinct time lag between your pushing of the shutter release and when they finally take the actual photo. This lag is caused by the time the camera spends while auto-focusing and determining the correct exposure, among other things. The newer cameras are much better at reducing this shutter lag time but they still have it. You can try using a technique where you shoot before the decisive moment, but this often proves difficult to predict.

My suggestion for taking action photos is to use a digital SLR (dSLR) camera. They use a different method of focusing and are therefore almost instantaneous when you click the button. Of course, they are much larger and will not fit in a pocket or purse, but that is offset by their speediness when taking action photos. Like the compacts, newer dSLRs are faster than older dSLRs due to improvements in the technology.

For your purposes, I recommend buying a newer dSLR with a telephoto lens that reaches out to at least the equivalent of 200mm, preferably more.

The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group located in Prescott. We hold several entertaining and educational meetings each month to show you how to get the most out of your computer. For further information, please visit E-mail questions for future columns to


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