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Chatteris Weather is a non-for-profit community interest site, a number of users have asked how can they contribute to the sites running costs which I really appreciate, in response to that I have placed a discrete ‘Donate’ button at the base of the web sites left hand menubar, clicking will take you the secure PayPal area where an amount of your choosing can be entered.




 

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.

Electrical Interference – The hunt with my mate Billy.

I have had a problem of a really strong pulsating radio interference signal lifting my noise floor, the strongest signal were at 350Mhz, 521.5Mhz, 924.7 Mhz, 990.3Mhz, 1.802Mhz, 145.537Mhz and 145.000Mhz detected by my trusty AM radio, Billy.

SAM_5244 (Large)Billy the Fish with a broken gill.

Preliminary investigations walking around the house and outside pointed to it being the neighbours solar panels as when I got near to his garage where the inverter is located, Billy went nuts, it was as though it was radiating out everywhere, putting Billy over my buried radials in lawn amplified this signal up, even putting the radio near the earthed outside tap picked the interference up.

As I was convinced the interference was from outside of my house, the only way to prove this was to turn the power OFF to the house, so with Billy in hand, I turned the power OFF expecting the radio to go quiet, but it didn’t!

Looking around in the garage, where I turned the power off, for a source of the noise, I saw the UPS for the PC was ON, turning this OFF the noise reduced, but still did not stop, walking around with Billy the interference was still very evident.

Went inside the house and heard two other UPS bleeping, the first one is in a room directly above the garage and as soon as I turned this OFF the majority of the noise stopped.

SAM_5251 (Large)

The next visit was to a room off my home office where my network kit is installed, the main UPS is fitted there, turning this off and the radio went dead quiet, so much for my theory of blaming the neighbours solar panels!!

SAM_5246 (Large)

So now to start turning things back on, with all the breakers off, I turned the main power switch ON, and the radio stayed quite, turning the breakers ON one by one, I didn’t get very far until the radio kicked off again.

First breaker causing a problem was the garage sockets, turning the switches on the sockets OFF in turn, I came to one which stopped the noise when turned off, it was a 12v switched mode power supply for a camera causing the interference.

The next breaker to cause me a problem was the one to the house sockets, switching this ON, yet again caused the radio to detect interference, back into the house with Billy, the hunt was on!

It turned out to be right under my nose in the office, it was the Blitzortung lightning detection controllers power supply unit.

SAM_5243 (Large)

I will investigate sourcing a low noise 5v DC linear PSU as well as making improvements to the controllers earthing as I don’t want to disable the unit.

I do have background hum from the power supplies feeding the Netgear switches and other small load items, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was and I know what’s causing it, which is good, total elimination is the optimal solution, but proberbly unrealistic, so bit by bit I’ll chip away and get the noise floor as low as I can.

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 🙂

Weather Site Tweaks

Due to having a stinking cold I’ve been banished to my man cave so I took the opportunity to update weather pages which haven’t worked properly or just plain needed a coat of looking at.

The most noticeable adjustments have been:

Menu Bar & Contact Form –

I have added a shortcut graphical link on the Menu Bar to  a newly configured Skype account call button, the call button can also be directly accessed via the Contact Form page.

Ham Radio Page
Added Stormy.gif to lift the page out of being slightly bland.
Added Solar X-Ray and Geomagnetic Field status.

The source for both of these can be found in my Links page.

Space Weather Page
Due to a major upgrade to the site where the links for this page derive from, the wxspace.php script which is behind space weather called on images and information which simply wasn’t there, Martin from Hebrides Weather (www.hebwx.co.uk
)
has done a great job in re-establishing the bulk of the relevant links and making the script available via the WXforum, this enabled me to get the page up and running again quite quickly, also, for the very first time I have the 3 day Solar-Geophysical Forecast running which is automatically updated every 30 minutes.

Festive greetings from Chatteris Weather.

CCTV Pan/Tilt Controller – Part 1

A good friend of mine asked is I could get him a CCTV Pan/tilt head so he could remotely control the position of his aerials which would be especially useful in the tracking of satellites, some time later I noticed that a guy was upgrading a CCTV system, I went over to him and asked I could have the scrap head, came home with it and straight onto the internet for the make and model, but more specifically the wiring details.

The one I obtained was made by Shawley Antony Ltd who are no longer trading, but the head works just fine on 24vDC with the added bonus of having electromechanical brakes for both Pan and Tilt and having potentiometers so that I can have a go at getting positional feedback displayed.

In order to make a decent project I used Ebay to get a joystick, Pulse Width Modulator motor speed control and a voltage reducer all from China at silly prices.

I created the personalised overlay using Visio, this allows me the layer the drawing and the dimensional drilling detail can then be used to template the drilling pattern before being turned off, and the finished overlay printed.

SAM_5220 (Medium)Control Unit under construction

The way the controller will work is via a 24vDC supply, the 5vDC regulator will provide power to the LM3914 which will be configured for spot display of voltage derived from a potential divider circuit using the head pots, the LM3914 will drive the LEDs indicating the compass positions, I’m not sure if this will work accurately reflecting the head position, but that will be for the next part of the blog when the parts arrive. A similar arrangement will be used to drive the three LEDs showing if the head platform is at the horizontal, transitioning or vertical plane.

The switch marked Pan/Tilt Power, when operated will release the head brakes and light the associated LED, also, power will be applied to the speed controller enabling the joystick to operate the head at a variable speed set by turning the Speed Control knob, the advantage of using a pulse width modulated speed controller is that the motor does not lose torque at low speeds and will therefore not ‘stall’ under load.

SAM_5221 (Medium)Awaiting parts to complete the controller

The picture shows the internal setup for the motor left/right/up/down movement which is operational, the flying leads have been attached to the LEDs ready for the next stage…Watch this space for the next installment.

Link to Part 2.

Changing Call sign

I didn’t realize how many programs or places I needed to change my details from the old Intermediate call sign to my new M0HTA one, so I thought I’d list them:

Echolink (both desktop and Mobile App)
QRZ.com
APRS (Mobile App)
DL-FLdigi (High Altitude Balloon tracking)
FLdigi
Ham Radio Deluxe (including update status html file)
WSPR
MMSSTV
RSGB
European Phase Shift Club
eQSL.cc
HRDLog.net
Chatteris.biz Ham Radio links

I’m sure I’ve missed a few as well!!

General information and status updates.

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