Yes, it’s another weather related post. The weather in North Carolina has been on everyone’s mind since we are under exceptional drought conditions.

low lake level

The water level in the pond outside of our office is so low that mollusks are now within reach of the blue heron that often stops by, leaving the shore littered with their shells.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a weather station out at the farm and I used the HTTP data collector in OpenNMS to store information from that system in RRD files. It used the software supplied by the vendor, and to be quite frank it wasn’t very good. It would gather the data from the weather station and create HTML files locally, and I’d use scp to move them up to the server. Unfortunately the process would hang every day or so, and I’d end up with long, flat lines in my OpenNMS graphs since the web page wouldn’t update.

I remembered that the serial protocol for communication between the computer and the weather station console was published, if not open, so I went looking for the specs in case I could code up a script or something to bypass the packaged software and get access to the data.

Instead I found something much, much better.

There is a project on Sourceforge called “wview” which does pretty much anything I could have asked for and more. It’s lightweight, fast, runs from the command line, and has many more features than the vendor’s software, and it’s GPL’d. It was obviously written by a weather geek for weather geeks.

It provides a great web page out of the box, and even has Weather Underground integration built right in.

While the vendor probably needed a piece of software in order to drive sales of the hardware, they obviously focused on making it pretty versus useful. That added complexity resulted in crashes, whereas wview has run like a tank. I am just thankful that the product manufacturer was wise enough to open the protocol which enabled wview to exist.

This is open source at its finest. Ben went ahead and added it to fink unstable, so now I’ve got package management on top of everything else. That was one small way to give back to the project, and I also sent in a donation (which means wview now has as many donations as OpenNMS [grin]).

Know what’s strange? Just like when I bought In Rainbows I was happy to spend the money. I didn’t feel like I was forced to do it.

It seems that so many industries now seem to think that the only way to get people to buy stuff is to force them. The music industry in particular seems intent on persecuting their customers, and the US wireless phone market seems to be getting more and more proprietary everyday, with the major carriers coming up with more ways to lock in their clients.

The success I’ve had with wview makes me wonder what would happen if a little openness entered the wireless phone market. What wonderful applications would be written from the point of view of users and not manufacturers? The carrier that took that leap would get my business, and I’d be happy to give it to them.

But my guess is that it’ll be a rainy day around here before that happens.

4 thoughts on “Drought

  1. A “virtual mobile operator” (like Virgin Mobile, Helio, etc.) that focuses on giving freedom to its subscribers would indeed be an interesting thing. You’re not the first person I know to ponder such a thing — perhaps we’ll see it materialize…

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