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Author Topic: Desktop PC alternative for running a weather station...  (Read 4514 times)
K3GM
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« on: October 04, 2017, 07:15:10 AM »

I've been running a Davis weather station for over 10 years on a couple of different desktop PC's.  As a volunteer station, I upload  my data to a site which ingests it and feeds it to the National Weather Service who uses it to create their surface maps.  My PC runs 24/7, uploading data packets every 5 minutes.

I've been looking at ways of decreasing the power consumption of the host computer. I've been looking at a thin client as a possible alternative.  The software application I use is avaliable in Linux.  I'm led to believe that a thin client does not have any resident software applications.  Is this true?  Are there any other alternatives?  This would be dedicated to the weather station only with nothing else running on it, and it would have to be capable of connecting to the Internet .
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AB2RC
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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2017, 08:10:25 AM »

If the software is available for Linux have you considered a Raspberry Pi?
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K3GM
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2017, 08:20:37 AM »

I'm examining all possibilities, but I haven't worked at all with Raspberry Pi.  One other tjing I need to consider and faiked to memtion is that the application keeps a log which is used for for creating daily records.  So the hardware would have to be able to store the data for retrieval at anytime.
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KX4OM
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2017, 11:04:16 AM »

The Raspberry Pi (Model B+, 2 or 3) can connect to the internet via the onboard Ethernet jack, and it has 4 USB 2.0 ports. A USB stick can be used for storage or a 2.5" hard drive with a USB-SATA can be connected. A 3.5" hard drive would need a power supply. I have used my B+ for web browsing, but it's intended use is as a very low power, always on file server on my LAN. A keyboard and mouse can connect to the onboard USB. The standard video output is HDMI, but composite video is also available. The Pi machines also have a bank of GPIO connections available.

I can't see any limitation in running your weather station.

Ted, KX4OM

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K3GM
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2017, 11:42:52 AM »

Thanks, Ted.  I'll examine that further.
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N0NB
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2017, 08:54:18 PM »

I ran WeeWX with a Pi model B and my Vantage Pro 2 for a while a few years back.  To avoid writing to the SD card I used a 2.5" hard drive connected via USB.  I had problems with frequent lockups of the drive and Pi.  The longest it would run would be seven days, sometimes less.

After I gave up on that, I used my desktop and then moved to a dedicated laptop several months ago, but the fan in it is dying.  I am looking at SBCs with integrated SATA.  There are a few out there.
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73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

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NA4IT
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« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2017, 03:24:21 AM »

Some info on RPi and Davis WX Station.

http://n4ser.org/2017/weather-station-raspberry-pi/
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K3GM
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« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2017, 05:29:21 AM »

All great information, thanks.  Yes, I'm running a Wireless Vantage Pro2 as well.  The thing I like about the current platform is that it runs troublefree.  I almost forget that it's running as I rarely use that PC. It use to be our primary PC until tablets appeared on the scene back in 2010.  I recently checked it's power consumption, and it was right around 35 Watts.  That equates to about $7.00 a month on the electric bill.
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N0NB
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« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2017, 07:39:36 AM »

Here is what I am looking at now available from Olimex:

A20-OLinuXino-MICRO without the onboard NAND. 55.00 Euro
A20-MICRO-Debian-SD select Debian and Class 10 cards aren't available locally. 9.95 Euro
SATA-CABLE-SET 5.00 Euro
Power supply adapter 12V/0.5A 6.95 Euro
Power plug adapter from European to US standard 1.00 Euro
BOX-MICRO-B 14.00 Euro

The box is the clincher for me as a 2.5" drive can be installed.  A reasonably priced SSD will make for a perfectly quiet setup that should be reliable as I would put /home, /tmp, and /var on the SSD, which should handle the most frequently written portions of the filesystem.  WeeWX writes a lot of data very frequently to the database and I did kill an SD card using it with WeeWX.  An SSD of sufficient size should be able to wear level and handle the writes.

The price of the above is right now just south of $110.00 plus the cost of an SSD.  If I can do this for $150 to $200, it is worth it to me as I take providing my weather data in a reliable manner very seriously.  If I can get 5+ years out of these components without failure, I will consider it money well spent.
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73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

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K3GM
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« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2017, 12:02:53 PM »

I'll take a look, Nate.  Thanks.  I even have my Cumulus weather software in the boot up.  So if I get an OS update, the PC will restart and launch Cumulus automatically.  The PC is a large UPS.  So I've put considerable cash into this volunteer effort.
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KE8WO
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« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2017, 08:49:27 AM »

I suggest a Windows 10 based low end 2 in 1 PC. These are on the order of about $125 to a few hundred $$'s. They have very similar spec's: Intel  quad-core Atom processor, 2 or 4 GB ram memory, 32 GB of SSD like storage, USB port, HDMI port, microSD slot for more storage, is battery powered, WIFI & Bluetooth and a detachable keyboard. I have an RCA Cambio (yes, RCA!) that has these specs that cost me about $125 via Walmart. Amazon carries these as well.  I've seen the RCA as low as $100 at Walmart.

This 2 in 1 PC can act as a tablet with a 10 inch touch screen or as a low cost laptop PC when the keyboard is attached. I'm not sure of the current draw when plugged into its power adapter .. something like 2 amps at 5 volts .. but then it charges up the battery, then runs off the charged battery for a time, then kicks back in to top off the battery (as any laptop plugged into its power source does).

I've had mine for about 6 months and it has worked very well doing routine things like email, spreadsheets, etc. (using Microsoft Office) and web browsing including watching videos, etc. I never would expect a low end PC to work with Windows 10 this well. Very usable.

I assume the Davis s/w is Windows compatible and needs just an ordinary USB port.

So .. just an idea to consider. This would be more of a plug and play approach vs a more detailed project, that you may be after.

KE8WO

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K3GM
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« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2017, 01:32:21 PM »

.....I have an RCA Cambio (yes, RCA!) that has these specs that cost me about $125 via Walmart. Amazon carries these as well.  I've seen the RCA as low as $100 at Walmart........

KE8WO

Nice! Love that idea.  I could transfer the log files in whole right over and it wouldn't skip a beat.  Headed to Wally World tonight, so I'll have a look. 
They're currently $99.98.  Thanks, Gary!
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KE8WO
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« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2017, 06:35:19 AM »

K3GM: If you get one of the RCA Cambio 2 in 1 PC's a couple of tips:
- Always charge it with the supplied charger with the small barrel connector. Powering it via the USB ports will not work well due to the current limitations on these USB ports.
- Do get a microSD card and plug it in. Set up windows to store all your user files, downloads,etc. to it. Use the built in 32 GB of storage for mostly Windows 10 usage. I have a 16 GB microSD card and it is plenty of room for how I use the RCA.
- After charging and connecting it to WIFI, expect the Windows 10 update process to take a couple of hours. Just set it aside, powered up, and let it do its thing.
- When using it with the keyboard docked, I usually us the upper left function key (it has a tiny icon of the keyboard's track pad) to disable the track pad ... it's too easy to inadvertently touch the track pad and move the cursor somewhere on the screen not intended.

KE8WO
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N0NB
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2017, 11:15:48 AM »

I received the Olimex stuff yesterday.  A little bit of an initial issue as the image was configured to set a static IP address to eth0.  I mounted the micro SD card in my laptop and edited the file to force it to request an IP address via DHCP.  Once done and booted up, I was able to SSH in and was off and running.  Some more configuration to do and then get the files transferred over and let it run.
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73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

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K3GM
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« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2017, 10:58:00 AM »

KE8WO: Gary, my $99 Cambio arrived today and is updating Windows 10 as I write this.  Its not a screamer, but it should be up to the single task I want it to do.  Can you tell me where I can direct the OS to utilize the SD card for storage tasks?

Next up is finding if and how I can port all the log and settings files from the Cumulus weather utility over to the Cambio so I dont miss a beat and retain 10 years of weather log data.
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