The facts about WeatherBug

WeatherBug CTO Christopher Sloop responds to security concerns from columnist, readers

Editor's note: WeatherBug and its CTO Christopher Sloop came under fire recently from 'Net Buzz columnist Paul McNamara, as well as readers of that column . Today we offer Sloop an opportunity to respond.

Most questions about WeatherBug involve the issues of spyware, adware, resource consumption and interaction with other applications. I will address each here.

Spyware and adware concerns: The simple truth is that WeatherBug is not spyware. No major anti-spyware vendor classifies WeatherBug as spyware.

One reason people may associate WeatherBug with spyware is a brief six-month business relationship we had with Gator more than four years ago. We moved quickly to end that relationship when it became clear Gator's business practices were not in line with ours. We deserve credit for being proactive in ending this relationship before adware and spyware became hot topics.

Another way to understand why WeatherBug is not spyware or adware is to appreciate how the application works from a technical standpoint. WeatherBug is simply a Web browser customized for smaller Web pages that fit within the application. The WeatherBug application uses an Internet Explorer COM component to display Web pages. The remaining functionality is to deliver live, local temperatures from the WeatherBug network and National Weather Service severe weather alerts to the system tray.

All calls WeatherBug makes in the background are simple HTTP requests and are for the following purposes: 1) checking for weather and forecast information; 2) checking for National Weather Service severe weather warnings; and 3) checking for application "look and feel" settings for fonts, background graphics and URL locations.

Nor is WeatherBug adware. We're not an advertising or marketing company - we're an information company. The network of 8,000 professional-grade WeatherBug Tracking Stations that make up the WeatherBug network generate live information you cannot get from any other weather source. Data from the WeatherBug network is used not only by consumers but also by TV meteorologists, energy traders, emergency managers, the federal government and schools.

My hope is that the public can move past this issue and focus on the future of WeatherBug. We are focused on providing more ways to access WeatherBug information via open formats such as RSS, podcasts and APIs.

The start-up behavior of WeatherBug is completely customizable. You can enable or disable the application's ability to start when Windows starts, and you can set the behavior of WeatherBug to start in full-screen mode or minimized to the system tray. By default, the application is set to run when Windows starts because the core utility of the application is to alert customers of severe weather.

WeatherBug is comparable with, if not better than, other popular desktop applications regarding resource usage. For example, WeatherBug uses about 8MB of RAM when running in the system tray, compared with Yahoo Messenger's average 25MB of RAM. AOL Instant Messenger uses about 0.01% of CPU, as does WeatherBug. WeatherBug uses around 30 bit/sec of bandwidth, as do AOL and MSN Messengers. (For testing details, click here .)

I have heard a small number of reports of WeatherBug interacting or causing issues with other applications on a system. We have never been able to repeat these issues or prove with any certainty that WeatherBug was the cause.

WeatherBug has never been installed on a computer without proper notice and consent; this has always been part of our practices when distributing the application. We have received some customer complaints about our uninstall process, but these concerned technical issues with an old version of the uninstaller that required the user to exit the application first. Our current version addresses these uninstall issues; as a result, reports to our customer service group have dropped dramatically.

As WeatherBug looks to the future, we will be in a constant state of improvement.I am committed to listening to your feedback and acting on it.

Sloop is CTO at WeatherBug. He can be reached at cdsloop@aws.com.

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