findU is a database archiving weather, position, telemetry, and message data. The primary source of data is an amateur radio system called APRS, some weather data comes from an internet based system called the Citizen Weather Observer Program. This large (58 GB) database is hosted on two servers using data replication techniques. the data is constantly updated (about 20 new reports come in every second), and is accessed via a number of dynamic web pages. Some examples:
Reports are also archived from an amateur radio payload aboard the International Space Station which relays APRS reports from amateur radio operators around the globe.
Among findU's most significant uses is the forwarding of over a hundred thousand near-realtime weather observations to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration daily, where the data is checked for accuracy, and used by NOAA and the National Weather Service in a variety of ways.
Here is a page that describes all of the CGIs which are available on this server. This sometimes lags behind the latest developments, but it is the best place to start. Check the news link at the top of this page, and especially the APRS SIG at TAPR, for the very latest news.
Directly creating a URL by editing the parameters is not meant for beginners, though by reading the documentation and experiementing a bit, anyone should be able to get the results they are after. Other people have written web pages that allow you to enter requests to findU via forms, this is an easier way to build the URL you need. I'm sure I've missed some, email me your favorites.
|N1BQ's page, the original
email questions and comments to Steve Dimse email@example.com. First, make sure the question isn't answered in the FAQ below...
The process of reports getting to findU via amateur radio and APRS is complex. First, your station transmits the data, likely it must travel through one or more digipeaters before reaching an internet gateway, which forwards it to a hub in the APRS Internet System, and then finally to findU.com.
Problems can occur anywhere along this path, though by far the most common are in the early stages...an individual's RF system has a problem, their path is not set correctly to be digipeated by their local RF network, or their local IGate is down or misconfigured. From the internet there is absolutely no way I can diagnose these problems. Your best bet is to seek out a local APRS user that can listen for you on RF, and try to figure out what is wrong. If you are writting your own software, or manually entered an APRS string into a hardware or software configuration file, you may have misformatted the data. findU tends to follow strict interpretation of the APRS standard, and some errors may be displayable in some client programs but not findU, a typical example is an incorrect number of digits in a lat/lon. You can always check findU's parsing error page to see if findU is detecting an error.
I have no problems with adding other radars, but the following requirements must be met:
1. The radar image alone must be available in GIF or PNG format with a fixed URL and constant scale. I may be able to work with JPEG or other graphic formats, if everything else is possible let me know.2. Image provided without any copyright restrictions (this is the big gotcha, I've not found any outside the US that meet this requirement). Here is the US National Weather Services statement: "The information on government servers are in the public domain, unless specifically annotated otherwise, and may be used freely by the public." If you are submitting another site, either submit the URL of a page stating there are no restrictions, or the contact information of the person that stated the use was acceptible. Some countries allow non-commercial use, and while findU itself is non-commercial, I am unable to guarantee how people use findU, in fact I know of several sites that do use findU for commercial purposes. Commercial use must be acceptible, or an exception made for findU, I will not accept the risk of copyright violation. 3. Someone must create a geo file for the image(s). This is detailed on http://www.findu.com/geo.html I do not have time to do all this, so if you want your local radar images, it is up to you.
The decision in favor of duplicate filtering was, and still is, the correct one...without it, the APRS IS data stream would be perhaps ten times its present size, which is already big enough to cause problems. PropNet now has set up an alternate network which is suitable for propagation studies.
I had expected that the Linux Lunacy Geek Cruise I went on October 2001 would convince me once and for all of the benefits of free (as in speech) software. In fact, it had the opposite effect...I spent a lot of time with the infamous RMS (Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation) since we ate dinner at the same eight person table. Let's just say the discussion was as enjoyable as, and far spicier than, the Holland America food! After all the arguments and much contemplation, I've come to agree with the equally infamous ESR (Eric Raymond, also on the cruise, talk about storm-at-sea!), that RMS and FSF are seeking power (defined as the ability to make decisions that affect others), not freedom (the ability to make decisions that affect yourself). Now that I really understand it, I find the FSF vision of the world a scarier place than even a Microsoft controlled world. Software is a creative work (RMS agrees), the disposition of which rightfully belongs in the hands of the creator or their employer (RMS turns red and starts screaming, because useful creations like a home improvement TV show, how-to book, or software program, morally belong to the collective). I believe the decision to donate code for the public good is an altruistic act, not a moral imperative, and a choice deserving admiration, not expectation.
There are other reasons besides commercialization, like the amount of time it would take to document, distribute, support, and re-integrate code from an open source project. If you want the code, think about the reason for a minute. Is it because you want to see the magic? Nothing magic, this is a simple, though large, database driven web application, there are hundreds of examples you can view on the web, and dozens of books that you could read on this topic. It is to create your own findU site? How useful would that be, and if you do draw users away from the original, how can the public be sure any bugs or improvements will be on your site? Perhap to change one thing that bothers you and send it back to me? When am I to find time to judge the worthiness of all the modifications? Something else? I am always willing to listen to other viewpoints, but I need a compelling reason to open the code, and I just haven't found it yet.
My choice for now is to keep control of the code, and provide a service to the community for free (as in beer!). Not a purely altruistic decision, but the one I am most comfortable with. In the event I someday lose interest in findU, it will be passed to someone else for development. Over the years many have offered donations, and I've decided to accept them now, as well as place Google adds on the pages. None of this will make me rich, but perhaps snough will accumulate to eventually pay for the next server findU will run upon.
Recent events force me again to clarify this. If you use findU upon some user-generated action, please think hard about the most efficient way to accomplish this. I've had people use findU to show unaltered radar images by using an off-the-radar station. findU had to fetch the image, realize there was nothing to draw, then send it out again. All this instead of the person getting the image directly from the NWS. Others grab a list of hundreds of raw reports and use one. Please act as if you realize that findU is the limited resource it actually is. If you have questions about any use please ask.
About the findU server