Weather Station

My interest in amateur radio and introduction to APRS also got me interested in maintaining a home weather station. When I lived back in Virginia, I first deployed a home weather station and took the steps of interfacing it with a 2m radio for use on APRS. I also attended National Weather Service weather spotter training… even had a card at one point with my weather spotter ID number. After the move to Kansas, I continued to keep a home weather station active and had a working webpage linked from the blog where one could see the latest weather data.

Pairing the Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station with a linux system was never straight forward. My previous linkage between weather station, computer, and radio had been Windows-based. UI-View32 was a sound and stable program. My desire to ditch Windows for linux acted as a strong influence to make the leap from UI-View32 to the linux-based Xastir, but the problem was with the Vantage Pro2’s data stream. As mentioned earlier, the good folks at Xastir finally created a work around using weewx to use the Vantage Pro2, Xastir, and my TM D710A to dependably beacon out my weather data.

But here is what I need to do… I need to capture all the steps of how to set everything up as well as mark all the references I used to gain eventual success. Documentation! I have mentioned before that this blog services as my station notebook and I think that is still a great idea – but it requires a bit more work on my end.

An example of a great reference that I found is a blog post entitled: New Weather Station – Davis Vantage Vue – Part 2 of 2: Linux installation. In addition to maintaining a link, I am also going to grab a copy of the post and save it as a pdf file as a backup reference. We know that information on the internet will not be here permanently.

The other reason that I need to capture these reference sites is that I have a habit of leaving tabs open on my browser. Before you know it, I have tab after tab – and I don’t want to close the tab because… well, that was sure interesting and possibly useful. The cure for my tab addiction is to lay it out here in the blog.

Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny

What’s the difference between Partly Cloudy and Partly Sunny?

I found a great resource: the National Weather Service Glossary

The NWS defines Partly Cloudy as “Between 3/8 and 5/8 of the sky is covered by clouds.” And Partly Sunny, “Between 3/8 and 5/8 of the sky is covered by clouds.” But here’s the trick, “The term “Partly Sunny” is used only during daylight hours.”

Mostly Sunny is “When the 1/8th to 2/8ths of the sky is covered by with opaque (not transparent) clouds same as Mostly Clear, except only applicable during daylight hours.” While Mostly Cloudy is “When the 6/8th to 7/8ths of the sky is covered by with opaque (not transparent) clouds. Same as Considerable Cloudiness.”

It sounds like the progression works as follows:

Mostly Clear or Mostly Sunny: 1/8th to 2/8th clouds
Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny: 3/8th to 5/8th clouds
Mostly Cloudy: 6/8th to 7/8th
Cloudy: 7/8th or more

Linux in the hamshack

I have endeavored to have my hamshack be 100% linux for a number of years. Licensed in 2001, my ham career really got going when I returned to the States in 2005. Upgrading to General and getting on HF, I integrated a computer into my operations. Ham Radio Deluxe was one of the most popular at the time and I used it – great for logging, digital modes, and rig control. When I had fun with APRS, I used UI-View, which was Windows based.

My first experience with linux was in the late 1990s. I had limited success. Not much later, Ubuntu gave me more of an opportunity to use linux for meeting my requirements for computing. I began to dip my toe in, using linux for rig control and logging. I switched to Mint around 2010-11. I found that Mint was easy to use and allowed me to use fldigi for digital modes, rig control, and logging. ARRL’s LOTW could also be used with linux and was integrated into fldigi. It was hard to find any aspect of the amateur radio hobby that required a computer and could not be done with linux.

Except, in my case, for one area of pursuit. APRS and my weather station. I had become a Davis Instruments fan since I got my first weather station in 2005. As mentioned before, UI-View handled the APRS portion and Davis had its own Windows-based software for handling the weather data the console produced. Back in 2011, the standard for linux-based APRS was Xastir. Xastir is a solid application and I had success using it to handle both internet and RF APRS traffic. But Xastir would not play well with the Davis Vantage Pro2. There was internet talk of a work around using a MySQL database. I had no luck. I kept my system on Windows, using UI-View for weather and APRS.

About two years ago, my Vantage Pro2, which I had since I was over in Iraq in 2007, finally died. The sensor package was mounted off my chimney when we first moved in to our current house over a decade ago. A great location for the weather station as it it high and clear of obstructions. Our roof, however, is steeply pitched and not something easy for me to traverse. I had gotten a TV antenna installation guy to install it – he did a great job. I think I had him back a few years later to swap out the battery. At one point, the board on the unit when bad and I replaced it. Then two years ago, one of our dogs shows up with an anemometer cup in her mouth. Perhaps a good sized chunk of hail had it the cup? Outside temperature data stopped working.

The old Vantage Pro2 with missing anemometer cup.

Rather than attempt to fix/repair the existing unit, it was time to replace. Over a decade is a long time to be exposed to the elements. I purchased a new Vantage Pro2 but then had a hard time finding someone to install. The local tv antenna guy took one look at my roof and said nope. A month ago we were getting our chimney inspected and cleaned and the gentleman was showing me pictures of the crown of the chimney. He’d just climbed up there. I asked if, for a reasonable fee, he’d be willing to swap out the weather station (and the VHF/UHF antenna). We struck a deal and now the weather station was operational again.

But could I still achieve my goal of a linux-based APRS/weather station? Enter weewx. This is an application that is like the Swiss army knife of weather station apps. I am not sure of what it does not do. The key aspect is that weewx produces a file (wxnow.txt) every minute using the same format used by APRS for weather data. Even better, the good folks at xastir created a script ( that copies the wxnow.txt information and pulls it into xastir. This was the solution!

And it works! Both weewx and xastir are happily working together on their own minimalist linux box, pulling in weather data from the Vantage Pro2 console via a serial connection while xastir is using a serial connection to transmit the weather data via my TM-D710A TNC functionality into the APRS system via RF. Weewx also creates a simple weather webpage which you can see here.

I kept a careful list of all the steps I completed in installing both weewx, MySQL, and xastir that I will post here soon – in case I need to reinstall. As of now the system seems to be stable and working nicely.

Get crackalackin’

As Fall is here, it is time to put together a To Do list of everything I have been putting off all Summer and the beginning of the school year.


I have four of these rigs and they need some TLC. I need to make sure they have the updated firmware on the main unit, TNC, and operating panel.

The latest versions:
TNC: 1.02 – May 2011
Operating Panel: 2.12 – Janurary 2015
Main unit: 2.10 – May 2011

For the benifit of emergency operations, I have been performing the modificiation to the TM-D710As to open the frequency range.

Standard frequency plan. I developed a spreadsheet of the repeaters in the greater Kansas City area, frequecies for FRS/GMRS, the Kansas City Airport (MCI), Sherman Army Airfield, and various national park frequency plans. This is the first step in standardizing the configuration across all four of the TM-D710As. I can additionally take the spreadsheet and use it for programming my HTs. This should allow for a memory channel standardization that will make my life easier.

Weather Station

The current Davis Vantage Pro2 I have installed on the roof needs maintenance. Wouldn’t it be nice to get the top of the line version?

For some time I have been talking about finding a weather station setup that will work with a linux-based computer. That quest continues. I have read about a piece of software called Meteo that is suppose to work with Xastir.

And if I can’t get Xastir to work with the Vantage Pro2… is there another comparable weather station that WILL work with Xastir? Life would be a lot easier without Windows.

HF Antenna for home

I need to string up the Carolina Windom I have had sitting on the shelf for the last few years. The G5RV that is up now is showing its age (not to mention one of the legs is drooping badly). Now that the leaves have fallen, I should be able to get the Windom up there without too many problems (… famous last words).

HF setup in the mobile

Time to get going. I have all the materials I need. What I don’t have is an installation plan… mainly for the Tarheel antenna. I can’t do a hitch mount because I need the hitch for pulling my travel trailer. Two possible options: (a) get a swinging gate for the back bumper where you could mount a spare tire and a water can or (b) find some way to afix a mount coming out behind the left rear tire.

Homebrew Weather Prediction?

I enjoy having a weather station at home. It is hooked up to APRS,, and I even have a weather webpage. One of the standard exchanges of information in most general QSOs is the weather: temperature, rain, …. I also like telling the folks in Florida that my humidity is 40% (I am not a fan of humidity having expierenced Fort Benning, GA in the summertime and monsoon season in Korea, not to mention my unairconditioned room at The Citadel (although I hear they have air conditioning now!)). It is easy to look at my desktop display and get all the data I need. I have heard of some folks who have a way to pull their weather data directly from their weather stations and input it into their PSK QSOs. Pretty slick, but I have never figured out how to do that (… yet).

All that being said, I do not get into weather prediction that much. If I see the barometer dropping, I may check the locak National Weather Service radar to see if anything is moving in (weather here moves from west to east). But if I wanted to get into weather prediction, this would make an interesting homebrew project: The Tempest Prognosticator.

Developed in the 1850s by Dr. George Merryweather, this device used leeches that would ring a bell if a storm was approaching. The device was even featured in Britian’s Great Exhibition of 1851. Despite the publicity, Dr. Merryweather was never able to get the government interested in putting the device into use.

I am sure there would be a way to interface the slugs with some kinda of Arduino device that would send out weather predicitions via APRS data. 🙂

Ham radio and my year in Korea

Here is a a re-cap of my amateur radio activities during my past twelve months in Korea:

(1) DX – I enjoyed working a good bit of DX, enjoying most QSOs with stateside contacts as well as Pacific exotics. The greatest limitation I had was my operation location and resulting inability to ideally situate an HF antenna. Living in the barracks (the ultimate in CC&R) restricted any type of permanent antenna installation, further limiting my options. I solely used a Buddipole (which after many additional accessory purchases, became two Buddipoles). Despite the antennas being positioned next to a three story building, I was able to make contacts to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa. I credit this to improved band conditions over the past months and also the Buddipole… it’s a keeper.

(2) EchoIRLP node – I brought my embedded EchoIRLP node to Korea and interfaced it with a Kenwood VHF/UHF rig. Again, with my poor location and inability, I could not have an antenna installed outdoors. Instead, I kept the Kenwood rig at its minimum wattage setting and used a roll-up J-Pole made from ladder line. With my HT also set on minimum power, I was able to make effective use of the EchoIRLP node. My primary contacts via the node were with the XYL back in Kansas. She has a mobile VHF rig, to include APRS. I could check to see when she was on the road for her morning or afternoon commutes, connect through my EchoIRLP node here in Korea to our EchoIRLP node back in Kansas. With the XYL’s rig set to the frequency of the Kansas node, I could frequently ride along with the XYL and harmonics as they moved about. Additionally, the Echolink capability of the embedded node allowed me to regularly talk to my dad, KD6EUG, while he connected to my node via an app on his cell phone. Another great enjoyment was the ability to monitor the different IRLP reflectors and sometimes participate in ongoing nets. I am sold on the flexability of the embedded EchoIRLP node and will take it with me again when I get deployed for a long duration.

(3) D-STAR – starting with a D-STAR Dongle, I moved to a DV Access Point and got an ICOM D-STAR HT. I enjoyed playing with D-STAR and the ease of having the Access Point as well as the IC-92AD ( made using D-STAR pretty straight forward. There is no aruging that the audio quality for D-STARS is poor. The complicated nature of setting up a rig at home for the XYL would also make D-STAR a poor choice to replace the EchoIRLP node. However, I enjoyed having the flexibility of having the ability of getting on D-STAR.

(4) Linux – all my radio operations here were supported by using the Ubuntu distrobution of Linux. After toying with CQRlog, I have settled on fldigi as my primary interface to my HF rig.

(5) APRS – although my APRS operations here were limited to the internet (Korea has virtually no APRS traffic), I used xastir ( to show where my operating location was and also advertised my EchoIRLP node.

(6) WX station – never happen. I could not find a good location to place the collector, so it is still in the box. More importantly, wgoohat I didn’t get the opportunity to learn was how to interface a weather station to the APRS application xastir.

(7) Stars & Stripes article – I was able to discuss my amateur radio experiences with a reporter from Stars & Stripes.

The Ham Notebook

I got my March issue of CQ Magazine and enjoyed the renaming of the Beginner’s Corner column to The Ham Notebook. Columnist Wayne Yoshida, KH6WZ, explains the name change to reflect a column that contains information that every ham should know. Continuing on the notebook theme, Wayne notes the importance of record keeping for on air activity, a way to track contacts for the various awards, changes to the station setup (to include antenna modification, addition of new radios, etc.), and as a project log to reflect what’s on the bench. He points out this “notebook” can be kept in a hard copy format or digitally based to take advantage of quick searches for what you are looking for.
I couldn’t agree more with Wayne. To an extent, I’ve used this blog to keep notes on what I am doing and record successes and failures. I use the blog as a reference consistently. I am a little less disciplined about keeping a dedicated hard copy notebook. I have many of them floating around but I need to make it a regular habit of using the hard copy journal to keep track of what’s going on in the shack.
Speaking of what’s going on – I had the computer that was running my weather station and APRS go down.

The Shuttle K45 is a minimalist piece of hardware that I picked up about 18 months ago. Friday at 6pm the K45 died. I did a cursory inspection of the computer and didn’t notice anything miss. I did some minor troubleshooting to no avail. I figured it was probably the power supply. I took the computer to a local repair shop who determined that it was the motherboard that had gone bad. Back home with a bit of internet research I found that the dead motherboard was an epidemic caused by a handful of bad capacitors. I am going to try to swap out the bad ones and see if I can bring the K45 back to life.
Meanwhile I have swapped in an older computer that I had been using some time back to run the weather station and APRS.

Sunday Snowy Sunday

Lots of snow here on the eastern edge of Kansas. We got a good dump of slush on Friday but with the temp too high none of it stuck. Then Saturday afternoon the temp dropped below 32d F and decided to stay around 29d F. Saturday night the snow started coming down and has not stopped since.
The snow has been a big hit with Sarah:

My trusty Toyota Tundra (no recalls yet… keeping my fingers crossed) is wearing a nice, thick coat of snowy goodness:

I’ve rekindled my interest in EchoLink and now have a full blown EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and am using a TM-D710A to run the node as well as my APRS weather station. What I have been enjoying most so far about IRLP is the ability to tweak and play with the linux software via a (or multiple) terminal session(s). It is helping me improve my linux skills.

Speaking of linux, I have been piecing together my iPORTABLE-mounted station. Each box comfortably fits two components. Box #1 has an IC-7000 and an LDG AT-200pro tuner. Box #2 has a Dell Zino HD and an Alinco DM-330MV power supply. Box #3 will have an embedded EchoIRLP node and a TM-D710A. Box#1 and #2 are already assembled and it makes for a nice, portable working station. Back to linux… it has long been a desire of mine to switch as much of my computing to Ubuntu as possible. Currently the Dell Zino has a dual boot configuration of Vista (which was already installed) and Ubuntu 9.10. I have been trying to put together a nice amateur radio software collection on the Zino and have had mixed results. For rig control, it is hard to beat the Windows program Ham Radio Deluxe. The closest linux version I’ve been able to find is an application called Grig. Not quite what I want to take advantage of all the bells and whistles that the IC-7000 has. I’ve been listening to the excellent podcast Linux in the Ham Shack for recommendations (episode #13 is dedicated to rig control), perusing the January 2010 issue of Linux Journal (the issue is dedicated to Amateur Radio and Linux), and am also looking at shackbox, which is a linux distribution designed with amateur radio in mind. I think I am going to give shackbox a try and see how it goes.

… all of this on a snowy Sunday.

If you get a chance, connect to my EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and say hello. You’ll help me procrastinate in finishing my paper on the Army Amateur Radio System.

Here Comes the Sun

After a week of cold temps here on the eastern edge of Kansas, it looks like we are finally going to see some relief and also bid farewell to all the snow that’s been hanging around.

Some initial high temps back around New Year’s Eve was able to melt a bit of the snow around my weather station perched way up on our roof. Then temps dropped and my wind vane froze pointing almost north (indicated by the solid red line at the top of the graph).

Some increased sunlight and rising temps finally freed the vane. Probably next will get some melting snow making the rain collector indicate some rainfall.

My Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station is going to need a good spring cleaning, replacing the on-board battery, cleaning off the solar panel that helps with power, and cleaning out the rain collector.

So far, so good with my new weather station >dedicated< computer setup. The computer has been puttering away without issue. I do still need to hook up the UPS to keep both the computer and radio alive should the AC power get interrupted.

Let it snow!

It is snowing now – NWS says we’ll get 2 inches. I am hoping for more. I’ll have to do a bit of shoveling to clear the driveway in the morning, then I’ll head out with the 4 year old for some sledding. Should be a good time, although with the low temps (the high today was 10F) we will have to bundle up a bit. It has been so cold since New Year’s Eve that the wind direction sensor on my Davis Vantage Pro2 has frozen, pointing north.

I’ve been doing a little configuration work in the shack. I decided to dedicate one of my computers to running my weather station/APRS combo. Before I had the software (Weather Display and UI-View32) running on the same computer I used for my HF work. Things got busy with the log and Ham Radio Deluxe going plus the APRS and weather applications. Moving the weather and APRS applications onto its own computer should give me a bit more stability. I installed a dual boot configuration of Win XP and Ubuntu 9.10. I am initially sticking with Win XP as I know it works well with both Weather Display and UI-View32. My plan is then to migrate to Ubuntu 9.10 and run Xastir and the Linux version of Weather Display. I need to do some googeling and see who else is doing that and see what issues they ran into. I did find and interesting linux application called wview – will definitely explore that. Looks like it is also a replacement for Weather Display Live.

I have a new computer than I am going to dedicate to just HF operations – one of Dell’s new Zino computers. I like the small form factor and I will also install a dual boot configuration to have some fun with both Win XP and Ubuntu.

The old (circa 2005) desktop computer that used to run both the HF ham applications, Weather Display, and UI-View32 has now been moved to another table in the basement and has become the arcade machine. My cool xmas gift was the X-Arcade Tankstick – an amazing arcade controller that is built like an old school arcade console. Along with MAME software I have been able to play some wonderful, classic arcade games: Pac-Man, Galaga, Berzerk!, Robotron, Battlezone, and my favorite – Scramble. The Tankstick also has a trackball, so I have been able to relive the glory of both Missile Command and Centepede as well. I’ve had the four year old behind the joystick playing Frogger – and she did pretty darn good. It is hard to beat the classic arcade games.

The plan for my HF station, based around my Icom IC-7000 is to mount it in two iPortable boxes. The set up will include the IC-7000, a tuner, power supply, and the Dell Zino. If (…when…) I am deployed again, I will be able to have these two iPortable boxes sent out to me. I’ll take some pics as I put the iPortable station together and post it here.