Saturday, November 16, 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey, the Weather, and Web Programming

In 1968 I saw the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and one part of it, in particular, stuck in my mind. Around the spaceship were screens that would cycle through tables and graphs of various operating parameters of the ship. Since then I've carried the idea that it would be interesting if I could have these types of displays in my house, showing information on what was going on as far as the various systems in the house and the environment around it.

A few years ago I bought a Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2 Weather Station. My brother Jim has always been interested in weather, and my sister Monica took a course in weather forecasting when she was in college and gave me a copy of some of the handouts from that course at the time. I guess I caught the interest from them. Well, I had the weather station set up at my house in Chicago but I took it down when I moved to Asia. Now that I'm retired and living in Florida I set it up again. It gave me the idea that this could be one of the sources for data for the "2001" displays.

My idea was to create a screensaver that I would put on each of the computers around the house so that when they weren't being used they would start cycling through the various graphs and tables. I thought the best way to do that was with web pages, but I didn't know anything about web programming. Fortunately my nephew Matt did. I got a single board Linux computer and dove in. I then realized how steep a learning curve there was. The little UNIX knowledge I had was from twenty years ago, but worse than that, it wasn't just UNIX I needed. I had to learn at least a little something about HTML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, and SQL. Every time I got stuck though, Matt was able to bail me out.

Well the webpages are finally working, and I have been saving weather data every five minutes since May, 2013 (with some hiccups) and so I have included some screen shots.

Now I just need to turn them into a screensaver and phase I will be complete.

Further Work

Besides adding another sensor or two to the weather station I want to measure things like my electricity, gas, and water usage, including monitoring the performance of the pool equipment and HVAC, and maybe even things like lp gas and carbon monoxide sensors. But at least now I have a platform on which to build.

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