VLab User Guide

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

PART I.  Virtual Lab (VLab)

1. What is the purpose of this site?

The VLab aims to provide all NOAA meteorologists, hydrologists, climatologists, and support staff (IT/ET staff, managers) a means to collaborate on research initiatives, and share the results of observations, case studies, and in-depth research studies, at minimal government expense, that avoids the common obstacles to research collaboration and science sharing, including work schedule conflicts, budget shortfalls, and participant location.

2. Who developed the VLab site?

The site was designed and evaluated by a national team composed of field and HQ personnel.

3. Was the VLab site evaluated before national release?

From mid 2011 through mid 2012, the site was evaluated by the team, utilizing usability testing. The science sharing portion of the site was based on previously evaluated initiatives.

4. What does the VLab site include?

The site includes tools for both research collaboration and science sharing.   The VLab offers collaboration communities and provides valuable information to the NWS through communities such as the "AWIPS Community". 

5. I Can't remember my VLab password. How do I change it?

The VLab uses the NOAA LDAP for authentication. This is the password you use for example to log into your Google email account. If you need to change your LDAP password, use the process you normally use to change your gmail account password.  VLab users who do not have a "@noaa.gov" email address as referred to as "external partners".  External partners who forget their passwords should send an email to "vlab.admin@noaa.gov" and cc their NOAA sponsors to request to have their passwords reset.  

6. Is VLab being backed up? What is VLab backup policy ?

Now that VLab is in IDP the backups are handled via snapshots. The VLab applications either store updates to the database or to the file system. Within the IDP environment the file system changes are written to directories under /export/vlab_shared. This directory is NFS mounted and controlled by a netapp. The netapp uses snapshots at the following interval:

  • A weekly on Sunday 00:15 and retains 2 copies
  • A daily at 00:10 and retains 2 copies
  • An hourly at 5 past the hour and retains 6 copies

All snapshots are available at:

/export/vlab_shared/.snapshot

The snapshots give us the ability to restore any files if needed. If there is a problem we can go into the /export/vlab_shared/.snapshot directory and recover files (e.g., git, svn, document library).

The db01,2 systems are using vdisks local to the systems. Those systems are on a NetApp datastore, so a catastrophic failure of a netapp would mean restoring the entire netapp from backup. In order to minimize the time required to restore the database in case of a major failure the database is dumped nightly and stored on the NetApp managed partition (e.g., /export/vlab_shared/backups/db).

 

Additionally, all of the VLab data and snapshots stored on the netapp in College Park are copied off site to the Boulder, CO IDP facility every 6 hours.

7. How do I get notified of VLab outages/maintenance windows?

There is a routine 30 minute maintenance window the second and third Thursday evening (After 6 PM ET) of the month.  In order to enable NCEP/NCO to keep the VLab servers patched and secure we failover all services to the other side during this time.  The actual downtime of the VLab services is typically less that a few minutes for Redmine, Gerrit, and Jenkins, and less that 15 minutes for VLCS.

VLST uses an email list outside of VLab to send notifications of non-routine maintenance work or in the event of a VLab outage.  Please subscribe to the vlab-notifications list at:

Subscribe to Outage Notifications

PART II.  SCIENCE SHARING PAGE

1. What is the purpose of this page?

The  Science Sharing page serves as an online resource of papers and presentations designed by and for NWS personnel.
It allows all NOAA personnel an online mechanism to share research, case studies and observations, at minimal government expense, that avoids the common obstacles to science sharing, including work schedule conflicts, budget shortfalls, and participant location.

2. Who has the ability to share information on the Science Sharing page?

All personnel of the NWS and other related NOAA entities (e.g., NSSL, OAR) have the ability to access the Vlab site, view existing documents, and submit their own to the site. This site may be especially beneficial for those who may not have the writing skills for a journal paper, or public speaking skills for a conference presentation.

3. Isn't it better to submit papers to peer-reviewed journals, and presentations/posters to national conferences, rather than the VLab site?

Journals and conference presentations are not easily accessed by all NOAA entities.  Whereas journals and conferences serve as a mechanism to share information from NOAA to external sources, the VLab site serves as a primary mechanism to share science with other NOAA entities.

4. What level of peer-review are documents on the Science Sharing page given prior to publication on the page?

The review level is similar to that for conference preprints.  The local SOO, DOH, or Science Program leader is responsible for reviewing submissions from that office, to ensure the scientific integrity of the submissions. There are 2 levels of accountability for the quality of a submission: the author and the reviewing SOO, DOH, or Science Program Leader.  

5. What types of documents are accepted on the Science Sharing page?

Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and PDF files are the primary types of documents accepted.  Links to external resources (e.g., web pages) can also be provided in documents.

6. How did the Science Sharing page evolve?

The Science Sharing page is modeled after an NWS Southern Region science-sharing initiative called STORM (Science, Technology, and Operations-based Research in Meteorology). STORM was developed and conducted by

Pete Wolf (SOO, WFO Jacksonville, FL) and Jason Deese (lead forecaster, WFO Peachtree City, GA), and evaluated across the Southern Region in 2009.

7. Who is the audience for documents uploaded to the Science Sharing page?

All personnel of the NWS, and related agencies (e.g., NSSL, OAR) serve as the audience. The Science Sharing page is a primary science-sharing source within NOAA for NOAA personnel.

8. How does the Science Sharing page relate to the objectives of the NWS Strategic Plan?

The Science Sharing page relates to all objectives of the Strategic Plan. Accomplishing plan goals at a national level requires sharing of information, experiences, observations, and research between and among NOAA entities, with the goal of building the knowledge level at all entities.

9.  Why don't I see a way to upload my document to the Science Sharing page?

Only SOOs, DOHs, or Science Program managers can upload documents after review, so only they will have a button displayed to add a document to a particular folder or subfolder.

10. Is there a size limitation to documents uploaded to the Science Sharing page?

Yes, it is 20 MB, including images.

11. The font size on the page is small.  Is there a way to zoom in or otherwise produce a larger font size?

You can utilize "CTRL" and "+" to zoom in, and "CTRL" and "-" to zoom out.

12. Does the Science Sharing page allow for feedback to be provided on a particular document?

Yes. At the bottom of each document, there is a link in which a reader can provide constructive comments for the benefit of other readers.  The comments provided should relate not just to the quality of the work, but its relevancy to the strategic plan and to other areas of the country.

13. Is there a way to view the document while online, rather than simply download?

Currently, documents can only be downloaded. View the document description prior to downloading.

14. What if my agency/office does not have a SOO or DOH position?

Offices or agencies without a SOO or DOH should assign a "science program leader" with the responsibility of reviewing submitted items from their particular office/agency and uploading the items to the VLab site. Likewise, an office with a SOO or DOH whose strength is not in research could assign another staff member as a "science program" leader or focal point, with the same VLab responsibilities.

PART III.  YOU MAKE THE CALL (YMTC) PAGE

1. What is the purpose of this page?

The YMTC page serves as an online resource for submissions of shorter length than common papers or presentations.  These submissions are focused on interesting observations, case studies, tools, techniques, and decisions.  They offer a key learning point that the author wishes to share with other offices. 

2. Who has the ability to share submissions on the YMTC page?

All personnel of the NWS and other related NOAA entities (e.g., NSSL, OAR) have the ability to access the VLab site, view existing documents, and submit their own to the site.  This includes submissions on the YMTC page.

3. What level of peer-review are submissions on the YMTC page given prior to publication on the page?

The review level is similar to that for conference presentations or preprints.  The local SOO, DOH, or Science Program leader is responsible for reviewing submissions from that office, to ensure the scientific integrity of the submission. There are 2 levels of accountability for the quality of a submission: the author and the reviewing SOO, DOH, or Science Program Leader.

4. How did YMTC begin?  Who developed the idea?

YMTC began as a science sharing initiative in the NWS Southern Region.  It was initially designed by Jeff Cupo (currently MIC at WFO Mobile, AL), in collaboration with Pete Wolf (SOO, WFO Jacksonville, FL) and Southern Region HQ (SRH). A revamped version was initiated in 2011 by a Southern Region team led by Pete Wolf and Kenneth Widelski (now at WFO Sterling, VA), in collaboration with Amy McCullough (WFO San Angelo, TX), Trisha Palmer (WFO Peachtree City, GA), and SRH members Corey Pieper and Melissa Kreller. 

5. Why are submissions written in a question-answer format?

A goal of YMTC is to provide submissions in a form that serves as a training opportunity for others.  The key point of the submission is presented in a manner such that others can learn from. The question and answer focus on a key point of the submission being shared by the author.

6. Who is the audience for submissions loaded onto the YMTC page?

All personnel from the NWS and other related agencies (e.g., NSSL, OAR) serve as the audience.

7. How does the YMTC page relate to the objectives of the Strategic Plan?

The YMTC page relates to all objectives of the Strategic Plan. Accomplishing plan goals at a national level requires sharing of information, experiences, observations, and research between and among NOAA entities, with the goal of building the knowledge level at all entities.

8.  Why don't I see a way to add my submission to the YMTC page?

Only SOOs, DOHs, or Science Program managers can add your submission, after review, so only they will have an "add new" button to add a new submission. 

9. Does the YMTC page allow for feedback to be provided on a particular submission?

Yes. At the bottom of each submission, there is a link in which a reader can provide constructive comments for the benefit of other readers. The comments provided should relate not just to the quality of the work, but its relevancy to the strategic plan and to other areas of the country.10.  Is there a size limitation on YMTC entries?

Submissions to YMTC should be short and simple, preferably no longer than 2 Word pages. The size limitation is 20 MB, primarily related to images incorporated into the submission.

11. A particular submission contains a small image that is difficult to see. Is there a way to view a larger version of the image?

You can right click on the image, and then select "View Image" to see the full size version of the image supplied by the submission author.

12. The font size on the page is small.  Is there a way to zoom in or otherwise produce a larger font size?

You can utilize "CTRL" and "+" to zoom in, and "CTRL" and "-" to zoom out.

13. What if my agency/office does not have a SOO or DOH position?

Offices or agencies without a SOO or DOH should assign a "science program leader" with the responsibility of reviewing submitted items from their particular office/agency and uploading the items to the VLab site. Likewise, an office with a SOO or DOH whose strength is not in research could assign another staff member as a "science program" leader or focal point, with the same VLab responsibilities.

PART IV.  Development Services (VLDS)

1. I'm trying to add someone to my project but I don't see them in the list of potential members. Why are they not there?

Before someone can be added to a development services project, they must have logged into Redmine once. Ask them to log into the following page:

https://vlab.ncep.noaa.gov/redmine

Detailed instructions on adding a user to a VLDS project can be found at:

https://vlab.ncep.noaa.gov/redmine/projects/vlab/wiki/Help_for_Project_Owners#Adding-Members-to-a-Project

2. I have just been invited to participate in an AWIPS2 software development project, how do I access the software?

Go to the following AWIPS2 wiki and clone the development registry:

https://vlab.ncep.noaa.gov/redmine/projects/awips2-builds/wiki/Baseline

3. I want to develop AWIPS2 code, where do I go to get started?

The AWIPS2 community has a detailed set of instructions for setting up and installing the application. Go to the following VLab page: AWIPS2 Installation Page

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