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WeatherStar 4000+

A live version of this project is available at https://weatherstar.netbymatt.com

About

This project aims to bring back the feel of the 90's with a weather forecast that has the look and feel of The Weather Channel at that time but available in a modern way. This is by no means intended to be a perfect emulation of the WeatherStar 4000, the hardware that produced those wonderful blue and orange graphics you saw during the local forecast on The Weather Channel. If you would like a much more accurate project please see the WS4000 Simulator. Instead, this project intends to create a simple to use interface with minimal configuration fuss. Some changes have been made to the screens available because either more or less forecast information is available today than was in the 90's. Most of these changes are captured in sections below.

Acknowledgements

This project is based on the work of Mike Battaglia. It was forked from his work in August 2020.

  • Mike Battaglia for the original project and all of the code which draws the weather displays. This code remains largely intact and was a huge amount of work to get exactly right. He's also responsible for all of the background graphics including the maps used in the application.
  • The team at TWCClassics for several resources.
    • A font set used on the original WeatherStar 4000
    • Icon sets
    • Countless photos and videos of WeatherStar 4000 forecasts used as references.

Run Your WeatherStar

There are a lot of CORS considerations and issues with api.weather.gov that are easiest to deal with by running a local server to see this in action (or use the live link above). You'll need Node.js >12.0 to run the local server.

To run via Node locally:

git clone https://github.com/netbymatt/ws4kp.git
cd ws4kp
npm i
node index.js

To run via Docker:

docker run -p 8080:8080 ghcr.io/netbymatt/ws4kp

Open your web browser: http://localhost:8080/

Updates in 5.0

The change to 5.0 changes from drawing the weather graphics on canvas elements and instead uses HTML and CSS to style all of the weather graphics. A lot of other changes and fixes were implemented at the same time.

  • Replace all canvas elements with HTML and CSS
  • City and airport names are better parsed to fit the available space
  • Remove the dependency on libgif-js
  • Use browser for text wrapping where necessary
  • Some new weather icons
  • Refresh only on slideshow repeat
  • Removed Almanac 30-day outlook
  • Fixed startup issue when current conditions are unavailable

Why the fork?

The fork is a result of wanting a more manageable, modern code base to work with. Part of it is an exercise in my education in JavaScript. There are several technical changes that were made behind the scenes.

  • Make use of the new API available at https://api.weather.gov (documentation). This caused the removal of some of the original WeatherStar 4000 displays, and allowed for new displays to be created.
  • Changed code to make extensive use of ES6 functionality including:
    • Arrow functions
    • Promises
    • Async/await and parallel loading of all forecast resources
    • Classes
  • Common code base for each display through use of classes
  • Separation between weather display code and user interface
  • Use of a modern date parsing library luxon
  • Attempt to remove the need for a local server to bypass CORS issues with the various APIs used. This is almost workable but there are still some minor CORS issues with https://api.weather.gov.
    • The necessary CORS pass through URLs have been rewritten so they can be deployed on Node.js using the included server or through S3/Cloudfront in a serverless environment.
  • Proper settings for static resource caching
  • Build system integration to reduce the number of scripts that need to be loaded

What's different

I've made several changes to this Weather Star 4000 simulation compared to the original hardware unit and the code that this was forked from.

  • Radar displays the timestamp of the image.
  • A new hour-by-hour graph of the temperature, cloud cover and precipitation chances for the next 24 hours.
  • A new hourly forecast display for the next 24 hours is available, and is shown in the style of the travel cities forecast. (off by default because it duplicates the hourly graph)
  • The "Local Forecast" and "Extended Forecast" provide several additional days of information compared to the original format in the 90's.
  • Narration was removed. In the original code narration made use of the computer's local text-to-speech engine which didn't sound great.
  • Music was removed. I don't want to deal with copyright issues and hosting MP3s. If you're looking for the music that played during forecasts please visit TWCClassics.
  • Marine forecast (tides) is not available as it is not part of the new API.
  • The nearby cities displayed on screens such as "Latest Observations" and "Regional Forecast" are likely not the same as they were in the 90's. The weather monitoring equipment at these stations move over time for one reason or another, and coming up with a simple formulaic way of finding nearby stations is sufficient to give the same look-and-feel as the original.
  • "Flavors" are not present in this simulation. Flavors refer to the order of the weather information that was shown on the original units. Instead, the order of the displays has been fixed and a checkboxes can be used to turn on and off individual displays. The travel forecast has been defaulted to off so only local information shows for new users.

Wish list

As time allows I will be working on the following enhancements.

  • Better error reporting when api.weather.gov is down (happens more often than you would think)

And the following technical fixes.

  • Caching of the animated gifs, specifically after they are decompressed

Issue reporting and feature requests

Please do not report issues with api.weather.gov being down. It's a new service and not considered fully operational yet. Before reporting an issue or requesting a feature please consider that this is not intended to be a perfect recreation of the WeatherStar 4000, it's a best effort that fits within what's available from the API and within a web browser.

Disclaimer

This web site should NOT be used in life threatening weather situations, or be relied on to inform the public of such situations. The Internet is an unreliable network subject to server and network outages and by nature is not suitable for such mission critical use. If you require such access to NWS data, please consider one of their subscription services. The authors of this web site shall not be held liable in the event of injury, death or property damage that occur as a result of disregarding this warning.

The WeatherSTAR 4000 unit and technology is owned by The Weather Channel. This web site is a free, non-profit work by fans. All of the back ground graphics of this web site were created from scratch. The icons were created by Charles Abel and Nick Smith (http://twcclassics.com/downloads/icons.html) as well as by Malek Masoud. The fonts were originally created by Nick Smith (http://twcclassics.com/downloads/fonts.html).