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back to article Review: NetAtmo Urban Weather Station

Do we need a new obsession? Isn’t Facebook and Twitter enough for most folk? Some argue the British are obsessed about the weather. It’s hardly surprising we talk about it all the time, the weather here changes so much, it never fails to be topical. Well that’s how it used to be. Lately, Blighty has been blighted by a godawful …

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Toytown

I talked to a weather scientist about personal/automatic weather stations last year. He said anything below AUD25k (GBP16,843) is a waste of money..

His best piece of advice was if you wanted to know what the weather was like simply stick your head out of the window. It's free, up-to-date and highly localised.

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Re: Toytown

Did he explain why it's a waste of money, I'd be interested to know.

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Re: Toytown

About the only thing this does that sticking your head out of the window doesn't achieve is the air quality stuff:

a) Why obsess about CO2 in the house? Unless you live in a hermetically sealed pod, it is highly unlikely that you will be generating CO2 over 1,000ppm for extended periods of time and thus would not notice any effects. If your location is sealed well enough to allow such a build up from your cooker or boiler, then I'd reckong you'd be dead from CO long before you could care about the CO2.

b) The external air quality stuff is utterly useless. What they don't tell you on the glossy product web site is that there are only about ten CITEAIR monitoring stations in the UK, some of which don't appear to to be working and most major cities in the UK are not even covered. You can check the information yourself at http://www.airqualitynow.eu/ if you are interested.

Much more useful is the Defra site, which has UK-wide coverage in both urban and rural locations, again for free at http://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/interactive-map.

Really not sure what you'd do with the information anyway to be honest. Lock yourself in your positive-pressure isolation chamber in the basement on bad days? Move house?

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Re: Toytown

Really? Define "waste of money".

I have a cheapo £100 weather station and it is accurate enough for me. There is no way I can put it in a suitable grass field with no trees or buildings around it, so what's the point in using a £20k one? I'm not doing it for research (and indeed, some of the expensive climate stations aren't exactly located properly, either).

The rainfall figures are pretty accurate, and it shows pressure changes during interesting events even if it isn't calibrated to the nth degree.

This looks interesting for the pollutant measurements - but not really for 'weather' as such.

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Re: Toytown

Did he explain why it's a waste of money

Low quality sensors, mainly. If the Bureau of Meteorology or any other met service, could get away with low cost hardware then they would. Example: The anemometer on a decent weather station needs to be a minimum height above ground for any thing approaching accuracy. I would guess that most people couldn't be arsed to install a suitable tower in their garden to complement a 150 quid iPad app.

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Re: Toytown

About the only thing this does that sticking your head out of the window doesn't achieve is the air quality stuff:

Quite.

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Alien

Re: Toytown

Really? Define "waste of money".

Buying a telescope from Dixon's for deep space research.

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Re: Toytown

Really? Define "waste of money".

Sodding post edit function timed out on me so here's the rest of my response:

Joking aside, I live in the wettest town in Australia so I know a little bit about rainfall. We average over 4000mm per year with a record peak of over 7000mm. We can sometimes get over 500mm in 24 hours. 500mm is roughly London's annual rainfall, if you want a bit of perspective.

I get my weather info from the BoM Web site and a few natural indicators. When the farmer next door mows his lawn during the wet season it means it will rain within two hours. If the tree frogs start croaking during the day it means it will rain within 15 minutes. And so on.

Weather is about tried and tested observation, not apps with sensors that don't like the rain.

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Re: Toytown

You always get these condescending comments regarding amateur weather stations, which always miss the point - they are not designed to be part of a network that can forecast the weather a week ahead, but to provide an interesting indication of what is going on exactly where you live - yes, not where the nearest professional monitoring station happens to be. The sensors might not be precisely calibrated or perfectly positioned but are reasonably linear and are great at showing how conditions change. My £50 weather station told me yesterday that I got 6.5mm of rain when that intense April shower went over, together with a sudden temperature drop of 5 degrees. Fascinating stuff, as the author of this article has found out by studying the graphs such devices produce. And you can't stick your head out of the window to find out what the weather was like an hour ago.

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Facepalm

Re: Toytown

He's forgotten the "fun" aspect. A lot of people do that..

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But, but, but...

What's the point of a weather station that doesn't include wind speed and direction?

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Re: But, but, but...

Precisely. As someone who sails, I want to know how strong it is and where it's coming from.

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Re: But, but, but...

or one that you can't get wet. Seriously, in England (especially 'up north') how is supposed to be outside AND dry? There simply isn't a way for it to be exposed and yet not exposed. Forget a bit of rain, what about 3 months of torrential downpours followed by 4 ft of snow?

If there were ever a case of not fit for the intended purpose this must be it. To the best of my knowledge nobody has actually yet made a chocolate fire guard, but watch these guys, it may be next!

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Anonymous Coward

Useful

I travel a lot. Having this gadget at home allows me to know how to dress/what to prepare for when coming back home. Also, in the winter, the CO2 and humidity alerts help you do something about it before the headache sets in.

drawback: the netatmo send weird alerts on your iPhone. sometimes wrong, sometimes days later.

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Re: Useful

As far as I know, CO2 levels within reason don't cause headaches. Air contains about 20% oxygen which is what you need; 1 or 2% of non-poisonous CO2 isn't going to make a noticeable difference.

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Happy

interesting

but just a little bit too expensive for my mild curiousity in weather recording.

That reminds me of a joke present I got one year. It's a £1 weather station comprising of a cube of sponge attached to a string for you to hang outside.

You look out the window and view the sponge to see what the weather is:

If it is dry it is sunny

if it is wet it is/was raining

If it is frozen solid it's very cold

If it is white it is/was snowing

If you cannot see it then it's foggy

If it has gone it was extremely windy

clever huh?

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Anonymous Coward

Not sponge, logging chain

Your sponge is OK, but in Kansas we use a logging chain to get a few extra readings:

* If the chain is hanging straight down, it's not windy.

* if the chain is hanging at a 45 degree angle, there's a mild breeze.

* if the chain is hanging straight out, it's windy.

* if links are snapping off, it's a high wind.

* If the chain is spinning around, it's a tornado - get your camera and go outside!

* If ice is bouncing off the links, it's hailing.

* If the chain is suddenly white hot and melting, it's a lightning storm.

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Re: interesting

Hotel Hana on Maui has an 'ancient hawaiian weather rock' that works along the same lines. Too funny listening to the staff tell the mainlanders about it then listen to them asking where they can buy one from. It really makes you wonder how some people survive.

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WTF?

WTF?

It doesn't do wind or rain and costs HOW MUCH?

I have a cheap FOSHK (CHinese company that makes all the Maplin and other cheap, "real" weather stations) from Signatrol and it does all this and UV/Lux levels and with pywws on a Linux box connected to the indoor unit uploads it all to Weather Underground so they can do the heavy lifting of display and recording. All that for £99 (plus the Linux server that's just a box, hanging around). Oh, WH-3080 for reference - it's cheap, probably only nominally accurate, but it's consistent.

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Go

Re: WTF?

Same set-up here, except with a Raspberry Pi running pywws. Works a treat.

Surely, the point of these (relatively) cheap, small weather stations is that they give sufficiently accurate information about local climate conditions. Like, quite how windy does it get in my garden? Or, when the weather forecaster says it's going to be 20 degrees, how warm does it tend to actually be? Or, has it been so dry for the last few days that I might actually have to get the watering can out?

Leave the careful calibration and site location issues to the global weather scientists - that's their job. And I think they've got enough problems of their own to be sorting out without dissing the amateur scene!

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Anonymous Coward

Ok...

...so it's expensive and has an outdoor sensor module that really isn't any good outdoors? Sounds a bit crap, TBH.

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Trollface

Re: Ok...

Maybe that's why it was iOS only - the sort of thing fanbois like to waste their money on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ok..., but quite inadequate

Agreed, all outdoor weather station sensor must be rain protected and mounted high enough above ground to not be flooded, because rain is not rare and can be torrential on occasion. The cheap Maplin USB one I have is rain and sun protected by having a slatted circular cover which goes over the main unit containing the batteries, connectors and electronics.

There really is little point having an outdoor weather multi-sensor unit which cannot stand rain, and not measure wind speed, wind direction, or rain rate, because these are at least equally important as temperature and humidity.

I may become interested in this device if:

* it becomes environment protected via a vented rain and sun shield cover

* it can be mount above ground on a pole, so that it can't be flooded or the sensors blocked, say by snow!

* it adds rain rate, wind speed and wind direction sensors

* it does not require an external proprietary website to send data to a PC or handheld device, and can be interfaced with existing separate weather software like Cumulus.

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Not really much of a "weather" station

As mentioned by someone else, without wind speed and direction, not really a "weather station", urban or otherwise. Outdoor temperature likely to be inaccurate - no Stevenson screen, has to be undercover.

I've been running a Davis VP2 for 4 years, probably the best "amateur" weather station. Uses RF to communicate with the base station, much further than wi-fi, gets uploaded to my website every 3 seconds. But it is £600. The Oregon Scientific ~£130 before that annoyingly inaccurate particularly temperature. I got what I paid for.

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Anonymous Coward

Is interesting, but you can build your own for about £30.

Just need a Raspberry Pi or Arduino, a cheap Temp/Humidity sensor and Bob's your uncle. And I'm sure it isn't hard to connect up/make a wind speed/direction thingy too.

Built an indoor temp/humidity sensor with an lcd display for temp/humidity/dew-point just for the heck of it using an Arduino Uno. Easy enough to output the data to a Raspberry Pi acting as a LAMP Server to host your own mini weather site. And from what I've read, those £50 weather stations you can buy from places like Maplin can be plugged straight into a RPi, just need to download & install the drivers/software and away you go.

Ok, so it won't be quite so whizz-bang as an off-the shelf unit, but judging by the accuracy of the Beeb's weather forecast it won't be any worse, either...

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I had a cheap unit such as you are suggesting. You get obsessed with the accuracy - a five degree or more increase when the sun comes out and shines on it gets extremely annoying, particularly when publishing to a website. The cheap ones aren't at all accurate, I've been there.

If you build one yourself, you've got to use good components and build a decent Stevenson screen around it and do lots more than buy a couple of cheap sensors.

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Pint

"You can build your own for about £30"

You can buy the components for your own for about £30.

Then add on your own time to assemble, cut fingers, swear, download, format, fail to connect, google fix connect, get in trouble with other half for not turning up for dinner, get it working, sits on desk with lose wires for a month, finally box and mount on wall.

I like doing stuff like this - its fun and educational to play with this sort of stuff. Proper geek stuff. But some people just want to buy it and use it. And if you had to charge yourself for your time, how much would it really cost you.

But have a beer for being a fellow geek. :)

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Accuracy

@Steve 39: "a five degree or more increase when the sun comes out and shines on it gets extremely annoying, particularly when publishing to a website. The cheap ones aren't at all accurate, I've been there."

They're not bad if you take the trouble to separate the sensors, extending their cables. Mine has wind speed/direction on a gable-mounted pole as high as possible (though still only just above the flat roof of neigbouring flats), temperature sensor somewhere permanently in shade and rain sensor on a flat roof (not on the pole where it's subject to vibration).

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Anonymous Coward

@Velv (and any other geeks...)

Top tip: Those plastic boxes your take-away comes in are great for housing any gadgets you make, water tight/splash proof too :)

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Holmes

get the gas cooker fired up

...and it would easily double that in a trice.

..thus proving that CO2 is the *result* of warming...

..i'll get my coat..

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FAIL

I'm not sure how accurate the outdoor sensor can be, if you have to keep it in a shed (or worse a greenhouse????) to keep it dry? What its actually doing is recording the temperature and humidity in the shed or in the greenhouse - not outdoors.

Plus, surely the point of any of these home weather stations is to provide a forecast? It should be relatively easy to see from a a drop in pressure and an increase in humidity that its likely to rain etc...

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"Plus, surely the point of any of these home weather stations is to provide a forecast?"

No. That's the point missed.

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WTF?

"...it can’t be fully exposed to the elements..."

"...it can’t be fully exposed to the elements. It needs sheltering as you’re not supposed to get it wet,..."

This was a joke, right? A weather station that you are not supposed to get wet?

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Anonymous Coward

Network enabled: SNMP?

It's network enabled: that's good.

It requires specialized software to get it on the network: that's not good. My WiFi thermostat does this the right way IMHO: If it cannot find your network (it's down, or the unit's not set up) it creates its own network that you connect to and configure it.

It takes specialized software to use: that's not good. How about giving me a nice set of SNMP traps?, and/or a nice RESTful interface I can hook into?

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"Lately, Blighty has been blighted by a godawful climate that hasn’t seen 20°C in six months"

good job its call winter

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Boffin

Legal in UK?

>> 915MHz or 868MHz communication between modules

I thought these things needed to be on 433mhz band to be legal in the UK?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISM_band

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Works with Linux

Just for info I set mine up using Ubuntu Gnome 13.04 - 64bit. The install wizard is a universal Linux binary that should work with any distro. Just open the web page as per the instruction sheet, plug the indoor module into a Linux PC with the USB and follow instructions. The only "trick" is the downloaded wizard needs to have it's permissions set as executable before running as superuser.

So far works as advertised.

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