Setting up a home weather station and putting it on the Internet.

Eight years ago I had an Internet connected weather station on my roof. It was great because not only could I see the weather outside my house when I was away,  it also told me what the temperature and humidity was inside the house too. After three years of the station being online and the Windows PC that ran the weather software being on continuously, the hard drive failed. I previously had an incident where I lost all my backup disks and so I didn’t have a backup of the Internet weather program. On top of that, Cox Cable who hosted the my weather station stopped giving their customers a small free amount of access to a web server. The web space was available at “www.cox.net/your-email-address/”.  So by the time I decided to repurchase the Internet interfacing software for the station I didn’t have anywhere to serve it to the Internet. I remembered that Apple offered the same service with their paid .mac accounts so I looked into that. It seems Apple decided to do the same thing Cox did and they discontinued that service also. A few years ago I decided I wanted to explore having a “real” web site and I bought “terrymiller.org”. The first thing I did was set up my email but the email didn’t work well. It generated mail client errors because of the email site certificate. So I just kind of dropped the whole project. When the hosting contract came up for renewal I decided to change my hosting company to FatCow. I heard good things about them and they, as it turns out, are a local company. I love doing business with local companies. When I moved, FatCow ask if I would be interested in “terrymiller.net”. So I picked that domain up too and here it is. FatCow does have amazing customer service. I was having problems in my head trying to figure out how to separate the two domains. I called FatCow at 5:15 AM the other night and talked to Casey. He has amazing. He was able to explain everything and I would now recommend FatCow to anyone. Great customer service. Anyway, It has been running around 110 degrees here lately and the idea of resurrecting the weather station hit me. What a great use for the .org site. So this entry is going to be about the process of re-installing my weather station and connecting it to the Internet.

I had my house painted and a new roof put on last year so the old weather station on the roof was pretty much destroyed by the construction folks. So this will be like starting from scratch… again. At this time I have a dedicated PC I’m going to use, an eMachines PC that I bought from Frys Electronics to replace the ancient PC that gave it’s all running the old weather station. We’ll see how long this one lasts. This 15″ MacBook Pro that I’m writing this on was bought in 2007 and has been powered up and running for all of that time. I sleep it at night but I use it continually during the day, every day. I sure hope that eMachines PC has the same fortitude.

The contents of the box.

The parts.

Friday, July 6th, 2012, the Davis Vantage Vue weather station arrived along with the optional WeatherLink® Software with data logging feature. The weather monitoring head requires minor assembly. I needed to mount the anemometer cups, the wind vane, the rain measuring spoon and the battery. After that, I installed the batteries and powered up the console. The The console led me through the setup procedure. Metric vs English units etc.

The desk console for the Davis Vantage Vue system.

The Davis Vantage Vue monitoring console.

The two devices are communicating through their spread spectrum radio. There appears to be plenty of range. I have tested all the functions and everything works. I will need to make minor adjustments to the mount on the chimney. Specifically, raise the mount by 18 inches because the wind vane id mounted on the bottom of the unit. My mounting post is a 1″ heavy duty PVC pipe screwed to the chimney. You are pretty much denied the use of a fireplace here in Phoenix during the winter because of air quality restrictions.Mine hasn’t seen a fire in a decade. I’ll remove the remnants of the old La Crosse 2310 and mount the new Davis Vantage Vue tomorrow.

The sensor head mounted on it's pole.

The La Crosse 2310 served me for several years without a single problem. The PC died and by the time I got around to replacing it, Cox had stopped giving web space to customers so I had no Internet server to put it on line. I have a .Mac account but Apple removed that capability also. So It just sat there unused.The only problem with the La Crosse unit was that there is a separate module for monitoring temperature, humidity, the batteries and the radio for wireless communication with the console. It came with a four conductor telephone type cord type cable to connect the module to the weather sensor. I had mounted the module under the eves on the north side of the house to shielld it from the sun. However, I still needed to run the cable over the edge of the roof, exposing it to sunlight. The wire ultimately rotted in the sun and even the protected wire under the eves dried out and became brittle and cracked. This new Davis station has no wires. That should solve that problem.

I spent the evening installing the software and configuring the computer. I like the software put out by Ambient Weather to put my station on line. It’s what I used with the La Crosse and I was familiar with it. The way it works is it requires that the program from the station manufacturer be running and it gets it’s data from that program. Therefore I have to install, configure and run the Davis “WeatherLink” software first. Then Install the Ambient Weather software and run them both concurrently. When that was done the only thing left to configure was the connection to my website server. I own two domains, “www.terrymiller.net” and “www.terrymiller.org”. This blog is on the ,net site so I decided to install the weather station on the .org station. The weather monitoring program and the original data exist on my PC here in Phoenix. The Ambient Weather program converts that data on my local PC into a series of jpg images and web pages. The local PC then sends the images and the web page HTML files to the server at FatCow to have them displayed on “terrymiller.org”.  It’s a tad bit complicated. The Ambient Weather program uses a protocol called FTP to send the pages and the graphics to the www.terrymiller.org site. FTP is an Internet protocol called “File Transfer Protocol”. It logs onto the remote site with a log-on name and password, transfers that data and then logs off. I have it set for five minute updates. That’s why the site clock never exactly matches the local clock exactly. There can be up to five minutes difference. The time lag is due to the process of formatting the data from the weather station into jpg files and then transferring those images to the server via FTP. My local PC has to act as middle man and hand the data off.

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