Changes to the Weather Site

There have been some changes to the Pelley’ weather site over the past few months.  There were main two drivers for these changes:

  1. I have been wanting to replace the PC-based workstation that was responsible for gathering the statistics from the weather station; and
  2. The Oregon Scientific WMR-968 weather station’s sensors either had failed or were in the process of failing.

Of the two, the second was the real driver given that without the sensors there could be no weather data.

I was never really satisfied with the old weather data on the site.  The software, FreeWX-WI, was growing no longer supported.  It was a great product over the years and Andy Keir had really moved on to new things.  Mr. Keir provided a great product for free and it would be too much to expect him to rewrite the application from VisualBasic 6 to VB.Net or whatever.  That being said, “Thank You, Mr. Keir for your wonderful work!”

That being said, I never spent the time to get the raw data from the application over to the website and then formatted for presentation.  I depended upon the Weather Underground for the presentation and that was Flash based.  While I may not like the fact that Apple doesn’t support Adobe Flash on iOS it is what it is.  I have an iPad so it also affected me too.

However, the real driver was that the sensors for the WMR-968 were failing after about five years.  The winter of 2010 caused the rain sensor to fail.  This wasn’t such a big deal as rainfall generally isn’t a big interest of mine and it doesn’t measure snow, not even what we call snow on the northeastern Avalon, so I wasn’t that concerned.  However, when the temperature/humidity sensor failed – first the sensor itself and then the solar panel and transmitter – and then the wind gauge started becoming erratic it was obviously time to fix the problems.  When I looked at the solar panel/transmitter for the wind gauge it was starting to corrode internally.  A quick email to Oregon Scientific showed that I could get replacement sensors, not always exactly the same, the cost was greater than the cost of a new system, the choice became obvious.

The options I considered were the Oregon Scientific WMR-200 and the Davis Instruments Vantage Vue.  As much as I’d really like to go with the Vantage Vue it was far too expensive.  Especially when you had to add on either the USB interface or network interface.  The Vantage Vue is  really, really nice but the budget wouldn’t accommodate it.  Oh well, maybe next time.

I also wanted to remove the dependency on a PC-based workstation collecting and displaying the weather data.  To get around this, I had to find a USB-to-IP “server”.  They tend to be called servers and I guess that they are.  One of the challenges was that I originally looking to be able to replace the Osprey 100-based video capture card as well (it was also housed in the weather station PC) that took the weather pictures.  This would have meant that the device would have had to have been able to capture video streaming data.  (I had an old Belkin Video Bus-II USB capture device that I would have used between the camera and the USB-to-IP server.)  I didn’t find many USB-to-IP servers that would support video.  They all supported printers and external hard drives but very few would support streaming video.  I found two: the
Lantronix UBox 2100 (since discontinued) and the SIIG USB over IP 1-Port.  Again, price had to win out.

I’m not 100% happy with the SIIG.  I have a weird issue whereby the device locks up and has to be physically powered off and on to restart.  The support from SIIG isn’t all that great.  They email me back to call them but then I can’t seem to hook up with the tech on the other end.  From what I’ve read others haven’t found SIIG support a point of excellence.  I think that this is an issue with what I suspect is the BusyBox firmware.  There isn’t a firmware upgrade listed and since I can’t hook up with SIIG support to find out if they know of the issue.  I’ve done port scans against the appliance and can only find TCP 80 and TCP 515 (printer) – thus, no way to ssh or telnet into the box.  I’ve also tried digging through the web pages but there doesn’t seem to be a back door (which is probably a good thing) to get to some diagnostics.  Anyway, I think that I can live with it for now.

Of course, the SIIG USB over IP 1-Port, Linux and the Belkin Video Bus-II capture device working.  It also didn’t work very well under a Windows XP virtual machine (more about that later) with respect to CPU loading.  I then had to look for a IP Video Server.  There are quite a few on the market, or at least eBay, that you can choose from.  After digging around, I found the Aviosys IP Video 9100.  It was simple and inexpensive.

This still wasn’t the greatest solution because it really didn’t have a way of SCP’ing, or if absolutely necessary, ftp’ing, the web images.  This is where the information from CanVision’s site came to the rescue.  I had the URL for the frame grab.  Next, wget is the solution to download the image from the IP video server.

Why I noted at the start that I wanted to get rid of the PC workstation for the weather station the reality was that I couldn’t get rid of it.  I needed some application server-like device to house the software for the web camera and the USB-to-IP server.  The sad fact is that most of the Linux-based software didn’t really cut the mustard.  In addition to that, most of the software, such as the USB-to-IP server, NEEDED to be run on Windows.  However, I now had the ability to virtualize the Windows XP workstation and I have the licence to do so since it was an early standalone copy.  I run virtualization at home under VMware’s ESXi 3.5 product.  This is a free product that only lacks the fancy features of VMware’s vSphere product but for free it is great.  Those “in the know” will note that this isn’t the most current 4.1 product.  The sad fact is that ESXi 4.1 is only 64-bit and my IBM x225 is only 32-bit.  It also means that I really don’t have any way of accessing USB-type devices.  Well, that is a bit of a lie: you can but it is unsupported and I don’t like that.

Anyway, I now have gotten rid of another piece of hardware.

The final part was the weather software.  As I noted above, FreeWX is no longer supported or maintained.  After searching for new software, and realizing that I had to have Windows for the USB-over-IP client software I decided to stick with Windows, I settled on Sandaysoft’s Cumulus Weather Station Software.  It supports the WMR-200 weather station (at least in the beta version which is really stable) and allows me to upload the data to the weather station site.  It also uses PHP which is important.

So, what’s left to do?  I am still not satisified with the site’s layout.  I still have to work out the PHP programming to have dynamic weather icons to reflect wind force, etc.  And, of course, I still have to resolve the SIIG USB over IP server lockup.

Anyway, take a look at the Weather Site.

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