Category Archives: Weather Site

New Blitzortung Power Supply

Due to my previous blogs about a dodgy power supply unit (PSU) used for Chatteris Weathers Blitzortung lightning detector, I ordered a low electrical noise PSU off ebay.com, I ordered the 5v PSU on the 5th January, I received a mail confirming dispatch on the 7th January and on the 10th January it arrived from Hong Kong!

I plugged the unit in the detected signal quality is excellent, the PSU was quite expensive, but well worth the money as the performance of the unit is considerable better than before.
2015-01-09 23.54.24 (Medium)
Spot the spelling mistake 🙂

2015-01-09 23.54.48 (Medium)
5v USB at 1A and an output of 8.5v which I have used to power thermostat controlling the temperature in the small equipment room.

2015-01-10 02.16.43 (Medium)
TeraDak unit next to my NAS.

TeraDak PSU
Although ‘smoothing’ is on, the trace is considerably better than anything before it.

signal2
Lightning detection trace, picked up from Scotland, so not that far away.

Lightning Analysis Reinstated

I have tweaked and restored the lightning analysis pages records_summary.php with the websites menubar link taking you to the records summary page, at the base of this page is a number of further links which drill into the details, (at the time of writing no new events have been generated since 2014).

The base program is called ‘Discharge’, a link to download this is on each lightning analysis page displayed.

Weather Station Equipment & Software

Thought I’d do a quick blog on the equipment and software in use at Chatteris Weather as I have made some changes recently.

The PC is a Hewlett Packard HPd530 tower unit, the original 360Gb hard drive has been supplemented with an additional 1Tb drive, this is used to store the mirror of the main C:drive and web site backups – this in turn is backed up to a NAS (network Attached Storage) and another hard drive in a removable caddy all just in case, wish we could predict a failure in advance!

crystal_ball_LG

The PC has 4Mb RAM and a Pentium 4 – 2.66GHz CPU, the operating system is XP Professional, Service Pack 3, this PC cost £80 (Ebay).

All powered elements relating to the weather station are on UPS backed power including the router.

The weather station is a Davis Vantage Pro2, with the following sensors:

      Wind Speed

 

      Wind Direction

 

      External Temperature

 

      Humidity

 

      Rain

 

      Solar

 

    Ultra Violet

Additional sensors, not part of the Davis Vantage Pro2, are fitted to detect lightning, these are the Boltek LD-250 and a community project – Blitzortung.

The Davis Vantage Pro2 is hardwired to a LCD display, this display also outputs the data via a USB port to the Weather PC, Weather Display software process this data and presents it in graphical and tabular form, this program is extremely comprehensive in functionality.

To allow an image to be included on the weather site, I have used a Canon digital camera operated by SebecTec software, should the software detect that the camera is ‘frozen’, a USB relay will operate, resetting power to the camera and causing the program to restart.

I use Startwatch to automatically start in sequence the following programs, (I use this over the System Scheduler as it displays CPU and memory usage, this application is left open on my desktop as the colour indicators next to each program show me instantly what is working well and what isn’t):

      Nexstorm – This is the local graphical interface to the Boltek LD-250 lightning detector.

 

      StormVue NGX Data Server – This is used for the remote web interface display.

 

      SebecTec – Camera software.

 

      Weather Display – Main program.

 

      WXSIMATE – Data collector for weather simulator and local forecasting software.

 

      WXSIM – Local weather simulator software

 

    WASP2 – Launches Nexstorm images to the web site and to the StrikeStar network.

Programs which start with the PC are:

      TSentry – Lightning Alert e-mail addon to Nexstorm.

 

      StrikeStarEU – Sends data to the StrikeStar network from Nexstorm.

 

    System Scheduler (Professional) – Executes programs.

Scheduled Programms – these are controlled by the System Scheduler –

      Discharge – Lightning analysis software displaying output on web site.

 

      Autolearn – This WXSIM addon works in conjunction with WRET Data Retreval software and causes adaptive changes to the WXSIM forecast based on analysis of history files.

 

      WXCompare – The scheduler runs the sequence of logging scripts in order that WXCompare functions.

 

    Acronic – Every Sunday an automated backup is taken.

Software used to administer Chatteris Weather is:

      Filezilla – Data transfer.

 

      Notepad++ – Editing.

 

      TeamViewer – Remote access for diagnostics or restarts.

 

      WDL Configurator – This is the programming package for Weather Display Live which is used on the site.

 

    CCleaner – File and registry cleaner.

I haven’t mentioned Blitzortung as the controller has a built in web server allowing me to access it via a web browser, no local software is required.

What I’m finding is that the PC is slightly under-powered in terms of performance, both the Weather Display and WXSIM forecast programs are quite resource hungry, the former especially when creating hourly and daily movie files and the later when it is generating a forecast, due to lack of processor power I had to move the creation of the Twitter feed to the half hour as their was just too much going on the hour and subsequently Twitter data did not get published.

2014-12-27 21.42.25 (Medium)The lower screen has Weather Display showing, the Weather PC is the taller of the two, you may just be able to make out the removable Hard Drive caddy on top of the smaller PC, I use this to backup each of the PC’s.

Dramatic Difference with Lightning Detection Signal

After finding the radio interference problem caused by a plug in power supply unit, (link to Thread), this also caused power quality issues to the Blitzortung lightning detector to which it was powering, here we have a before and after traces of background noise:

blitz badPulses caused the automatic gain to be reduced, effecting the detection range.

blitz goodConsiderable improvement of signal quality.

detectionLightning detection trace, this trace was captured during the storm activity in the image below.

station

The green squares indicate stations online, the grey squares are stations that are currently offline.

Web Site – Alerting of Inaccurate Data

Data has to be accurate and reliable, this is especially true of weather data, Chatteris Weather uploads in ‘Rapid Fire’ mode its data status for a whole range of variables every 2.5 seconds, this allows the gauges and wind speed and direction to seem so responsive, so how do you when the site its not updating or putting it another way, how do you know if the data is stale?

Here at Chatteris Weather, we use three ways (excluding the status update page).

First

If the site is going to be down for maintenance, we will post up description and predicted down-time, this message will be displayed in a yellow warning box at the top of each page.

Second

The Weather PC uploads a changed file each and every time, this file is called clientraw, a script within the weather template compares the time of last clientraw arrival with the current time, if no change has taken place, a yellow alert box will open on the home page and it will say that an error has occurred and the clientraw file has not updated for x minutes.

This works really well, however, as I have an older PC running numerous weather related programs, when one which is particularly heavy on processing starts, the clientraw error might appear until this program finishes and PC resource are again available, an example of a short duration, but high processor usage is the creation of the movie files used in the time-lapse playback pages.

It may well be that clicking on refresh, will clear the error message.

The clientraw error message is fine to let site visitors know of a problem, but I need to know if something’s not right without constantly being sat on the site, I have done this in a number of ways, one is using a free service provided by Pingdom, this checks the accessibility of Chatteris Weather and sends me an e-mail if it gets no response, I have set the check time to every 15 minutes, the downside to this method is that Pingdom has to visit the site in order to determine if its available and consequently my ‘Whos-Online’ script counts it as a visitor, hence installing the RevolverMap as this discounts these ‘bot’ visits.

ping logo

ping1Example of Pingdom status report.

Pingdom alert e-mail examples (The check-time was originally set to 1 minute before I relaised the impact on visitor numbers) –

PingdomAlert DOWN:
Http://www.chatteris.biz (www.chatteris.biz) is down since 12/08/2014 08:49:37AM.

PingdomAlert UP:
Http://www.chatteris.biz (www.chatteris.biz) is UP again at 12/08/2014 08:58:37AM, after 9m of downtime.

Third

An additional way of alerting site visitors is with script ‘Flatline-check.php’, this offers an alert message to site visitors that a problem exists and that it has been escalated, this script not only reads the clientraw file, but crosschecks that certain key sensors are working, it does this by creating a file called flatline-status.txt, this file display a range of readings:-

1) Average Wind Speed
3) Wind Direction
4) Outside Temperature
6) Barometer
72) Dew Point Temperature

The parameter numbers relate to clientraw table as above. Every 30 minutes a schedule (cron job) runs on the Go Daddy server which compares the latest ‘flatline-status.txt’ file to the earlier version, if they have changed indicating a healthy upload, no action is taken, if a problem is detected i.e. no changes made, I get an alerting e-mail, the next time data is refreshed, I get a further e-mail informing me that service has been restored.

‘Flatline-status.php’ actual alert e-mails –

Weather Data Appears Flatlined.
01-03-15 2:16 pm now. Last data change recorded at 01-03-15 1:35 pm (0.0 26 3.9 1017.1 3.2)

Weather Data Back Online.
Back active at 01-03-15 3:14 pm (4.1 329 4.2 1018.9 3.4)

error2Alert messages – this was after a planned power outage.

The top message was generated by ‘clientraw.php’ script, the lower messages based on ‘Flatlines-status.php’ would have appeared some 27 minutes later followed by an alerting e-mail, these are the ones pasted above.

Well, that’s how I do it so hopefully the data displayed is current, if not, at least two of us will know 😉

UK Extremes Script

I’ve noticed over the last few weeks, that every now and again the menubar, which is on the left side of the web page, has generated a string of errors which clear after a short while. The script responsible was ‘worldextremesGadet.php’ which uses the web site ogimet.com to gather UK weather highs and lows, after about the third time of this happening I started looking around for an alternative in case it fails completely.

I noticed a number of other private weather station sites displaying the same data derived from the UK Met Office, so after searching WXForum, I found the scripts and installed them, after re-reading the forum thread and making the required changes, everything is now working as before, but with the addition of the sunniest place in the UK information (not that it matters at this time of the year!).


extUK Extremes located in the Menubar – (Image only in case you were wondering why it hasn’t updated!).

Martin from Hebwx wrote a small script which I have also incorporated, this automatically changes the year used for the copyright notification and also brings in the Met Office Logo which is a nice addition.

Weather Site 1st Year in Operation

Chatteris Weather has been online for a year on the 28th December 2014, or should I say, been online using a template of Saratoga Weather, combined with the URL of Chatteris.biz and a new web host in e-rice.

My original site was hosted by Talktalk, one a new host was sorted, all the original files regarding build details etc, were transferred. A link to these pages can be found in the menubar under External Links, clicking on WEB will take you their.

Over the past year lots of modifications and tweaks have been done (and continue to be done) to keep the site as bug free as possible and to keep on top of dead links, sometimes pages or complete scripts have to be disabled to maintain the site in working order, I decide to revisit the effected scripts and see what could be done, tackling the script “Who-Online” first.

The script ‘Whos-Online’ required a GeoLiteCity upgrade file to be installed every month, during last months update the SQL database became corrupt causing the weather site to fail, I was reluctant to upgrade to a higher script version as the original one took a lot of effort to get working, however, no other option existed and I upgraded from V2.25 to V 3.00.

With the help of wxforum members, the new script is now working, I also took the opportunity to attach a table showing the nation flags of visitors. (Update – The flag table would only register visitors who visited the page with the table on it, I have changed to Revelovermaps as this allowed me to link the small globe in the menu bar to the main display on the Whos-Online page so no matter which page is viewed, it is included within the counter)

During the process of installing ‘Whos-Online’ I noticed that the cloud height graphic was not being displayed on the pages where it is used – Cloud Type Page – for example, this was found to be linked to an error generated in the weather templates Setting.php script, the cloud graphic script -cloud-base.php – can work without the link to Settings.php as data can be called from other sources, as soon as Settings.php was commented out, the graphic came back online.

So two results in one, happy birthday Chatteris Weather 🙂