Weather Station – Review

Submission by Ken Watt – I got a weather station from Skyview in the UK and it turns out that the system is the Oregon Scientific WM-918, which in this case is branded as Huger, from Germany.

After several months of use it has proved to be incredibly reliable and stable, my only complaint was that the software that came with it was a bit pants really and offered little or no hope of integrating it into the Homevision setup.

So, in a effort to get around the problem I started to trawl the net one evening searching for a solution and the answer was found in the form of Andy Keir’s Free WX program. And what a superb piece of simple software it is! It’s simple, easy, to the point and proved utterly reliable over the past few months and my thanks goes again to Andy for both writing the software and for keeping it free, it is by far one of the best free utilities I have ever stumbled across.

Anyway, after a conversation with Craig at CSi3, the manufacturer of Homevision, I found out exactly what was needed to get Free WX to talk to Homevision, mailed Andy Keir and, hey presto, a few days later Andy had very kindly written into Free WX the ability to output a Homevision friendly file and the two were talking away merrily. I have now been testing this for over three months and it is utterly superb as well as totally reliable, Homevision is now far more aware of it’s environment than once it was.

[Screenshot of Free WX in action over wireless LAN
to the VAIO laptop, click for a larger image ]

The thing now was what do you do with that information?  Well, the possibilities are thus far little used by me simply due to restraints on time, but for the moment HV logs all the weather as it happens and knows what the local forecast is and does perform some actions based on that new found knowledge. For example, should the weather be cloudy or raining the lights in the house come on that little bit earlier, not just so you can see where you’re going but as a deterrent against possible burglary! After all, how’s someone standing outside going to know if the lights were or were not turned on by someone in the house?

I have the house read out to me, via ACE and TTS, the forecast before I leave for work in the morning, that’s pretty cool, not especially useful but definitely pretty cool!

The one thing that is incredibly useful and I would wager a lot of people don’t think about his, is that when the temperature drops below say 2C, the house (if it’s a working day) gets us all up a few minutes earlier to allow time to scrape the car of ice and to allow for a slower journey to work, now that is very handy!

There are other things I would like to add, like telling us when the forecast changes during the day, if the forecast changes from sunny to rain or if rain is detected then it allows you to go and bring in the laundry from the line.

I know a couple of guys, Ian Bird for sure I think, uses the information for his horticultural hobby as it tells the irrigation system to cancel if it is not needed! As I said, the possibilities are vast and I’ve only just scratched the surface of what could be done with the combination but hopefully this has given you a few idea and an insight into the practical uses for such a system.

If i get the weather and the time I’ll take some pictures of the gear slapped on the house.

How is it done then? First things first, you need HV and a PC running! Then have Free WX running on the PC as well as a WM-918 weather station, basic I know, but some people are stupid enough to think that it would work without one of them I’m afraid.

Well the idea is really rather simple, what you have to do is let HV know which file to read, in the case of Free WX it is done by reading the file called FreeData.txt in the folder that contains Free WX itself (it only outputs the file to this location) which is a comma delimited text file. If memory serves me Free WX re-writes this file every two minutes or something like that, I have HV read the file once every five minutes.

Of course you also have to get HV to read the values into some sort of format that it can make sense of and for that you use a simple text file called “HVConfig.txt” in the Homevision folder, mine as it stands is here:

SECTION NAME: Custom data file
SECTION FORMAT: Comma-separated values
Variable 21

To use this, simply paste the text into a text file and call it “HVConfig.txt” in the Homevision folder and HV will then know where to put the variables for it’s own weather screens, the values shown in red are custom ones for my use only! Either change the ones in red to “unused” or write them to your own variables in HV. More information on what each value in the FreeData file can be found in the “help” section of Free WX or if you get stuck drop me an email and I will try to help.

So the only thing left to do is to get HV to read the file, as I said I have HV reading the file once every five minutes and this does not cause a problem at all with the command ;

Serial Port 1 transmit: “Read data file “C:freewxFreeData.txt”

This runs on a periodic in HV’s schedule and simply tells HV to read the file and update the values.

That’s it, job done – of course apart from all that programming you now need to do to use the data! 😉

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