Something a little different
During my recent trip to Massachusetts for CalConnect XIX I passed back via New York, surfing a few nights on the couch at the Washington Cube Garden1. This was just enough time for my new Davis VantagePro2 to arrive by UPS ground (phew!) causing me much consternation, as the box was about twice as wide as I expected it to be.
On opening it I discovered that the reason for the size was the physical dimensions of the rain gauge, leading me to realise that I had actually bought exactly what I wanted: a high quality weather station. Also leading me to wonder how the hell I was going to get it halfway around the world with me the next day.
Unfortunately that extra wide carrying case was in no way going to fit inside my suitcase. Fortunately it came with a handle. And those wonderful people at Air New Zealand gave me a Koru Gold upgrade for a 50th birthday present, so it was time to put it to the test...
Travelling on the subway out to JFK was it's own little adventure, but I made it out to terminal 5 and wandered around a bit before concluding I needed to be in terminal 7. Once I was in the right place I found the fancy people's check in counter and the nice lady there was only too happy for me to carry it to New Zealand, though she did aver that perhaps the security scanners would be dubious. Not a hitch there though: I guess they're used to letting everything through that's not specifically denied, so weather stations are fine because nobody would be silly enough to even think of doing that...
Being Koru Gold really helped at this point though, because it enabled me to
queue jump use the priority boarding line when getting onto the plane, and every airline in the US seems to have gone all-out for this "checked baggage costs more" approach, so the planes all fly with empty baggage holds and totally overstuffed overhead lockers. If this progresses I shouldn't wonder that the planes will get so top-heavy they roll over, but through the miracles of priority boarding I was able to commandeer all the locker space I needed before anyone else had even made it past row 40.
I confess that I was a little worried that it wouldn't be quite such plain sailing getting through LAX. I mean we all know what reputation this delightful little exit port has. In the event it was totally anitclimactic. If it has a handle on it, and it's about the same size and shape as a largish carryon then it's fine. There have been no recorded stabbings with wind vanes anyway - at least on aeroplanes - so clearly they are perfectly safe.
Finally back in my country of birth, thinking I was home free, I breathed a sigh of relief transferred my bags and nipped off to the Koru lounge for a much needed shower and change of clothes after I snuck the station through another scanner. By now the handle had broken, so it was looking decidedly more 'box' like and less 'carryon' like, and when I eventually rolled up at the gate with my boarding pass the attendant made a valiant attempt to relieve me of it, but she was too slow and I danced around her and swanned up the gangway to take my seat. I was slow, this time, having missed the first boarding call, and all overhead lockers were crammed full. There was no seat in front of me to put the weather station under. Fortunately a nearby cupboard proved fit for purpose and it was secreted there and we were underway.
At this point the guy two seats over said "didn't I see that weather station in New York?". Of course being bright yellow does make it a little conspicuous I guess, and I'm not renowned for my own inconspicuousness myself.
So that's how I got my new weather station home, and you can see right away that doing things the easy way would never even occur to me. Possibly this is why I run Linux: there just isn't enough challenge when you run a different operating system. On Windows someone has always written a program for your new weather station, and a Mac user wouldn't be seen dead with it because it's black and beige and comes in a bright yellow box!
So now I had to find some code to write.
I looked around and very rapidly discovered that some software called vproweather was available, which would happily talk to my weather station and download the data from it, write web pages, stuff it into a MySQL database and so forth. All, obviously, far too easy, so I thought aha! I could convert that to PostgreSQL, and then I would be happy and relax with the thought of a job well done.
So I downloaded the code in question an impressive several hundred kb of C code, cranked open a text editor and started to crawl through it and see where I could add the magic pixie dust to make it work with PostgreSQL. But it was not to be. My eyes glazed over or scales fell from them or something, and I realised that this particular edifice was beyond my help.
Back to square one. I downloaded the Vantage Serial Protocol docs from the Davis Instruments website did some quick googling and decided I should write a module to talk this protocol. And I should write it in Perl (it was a Thursday, and Perl always seems more sensible on a Thursday, and not because of Douglas Adams, either).
I beavered away into the night. Rain threatened, so I raced outside and installed the new weather station on the roof in the hopes that it's magnificent rain collector would collect. I raced back inside and was able to count the first (and so far, only) tip of the bucket.
And so I now release upon the world Davis::VantagePro my first perl module. Well, the first one I care to share with the world, anyway.
I have stressed it with very little testing, lumbered it with no planning or design whatsoever and so I feel it only fair that I should cast it upon the world with very little thought for it's survival or existential goals.
1 I seem to recall one night we came up with some fantastic names for Micah & Biella's Washington Square apartment, but I couldn't remember any of the good ones and had to slap a new one on there. I should also mention my stay at the Acetarium in Boston, which was a fabulous few days, but it would pad this blog post needlessly, and I've already done that.