Dec 282009

Adam Boggs has release version 0.9 of the BrainStorm, a storm chasing tool for the linux platform. The new platform integrates web-based maps, such as Google Maps, radar and warning polygon data, and gps data pulled from an attached device.

The software is released under the GPLv2 license and as source code, so you’ll have to build it and install it yourself. While this is helped along by the use of autogen, there are dependencies that are not listed. The following had to be installed on my Ubuntu 9.04 system:


After installing these two I was able to run autogen, which will have a default prefix of /usr/local/ . A third library came up as not loadable when I went to run the binary, libosmgpsmap, a quick install of libosmgpsmap0 resolved this.

I was not able to test the GPS capabilities since I didn’t have mine handy enough. I’ll test that out at a later date.

As for the radar and severe overlay…

It only comes with radar sites in the ‘alley’ and are hardcoded, making the software somewhat useless in this respect for those outside of the radar coverage area. The warning polygons are actually overlayed images from the NWS site so they do appear pixelated. It seems this is how the software mainly works, by overlaying images upon the map, rather than creating shapes from polygon coordinate sets.

For the radars that it does offer, you can view various types of radar data that are available on the NWS site, including 1 hour precipitation and both velocity types. Only one type of radar can be viewed for all visible radar sites at a time. You’re also not given a choice of elevation angles so I’m assuming it is defaulted to the lowest.

The key here is that it can show your position in relation to a storm and give an idea of what is warned and not, on linux. For that, it does a good job… if you’re in the radar umbrella. What really needs to be improved is the ability to change more properties, such as radar types and sites to show, and even what is shown on the screen.

I look forward to where the software goes from here and so is Adam from the sound of it. It’s written in C/GTK+ and Adam states that anyone is more than welcome to help out.

Mar 252009

Yesterday I tested out the key addition to my storm chasing arsenal, streaming video. is my new home for streaming all of my storm chases this year. I chose them not only because I favor their choice in technology, Flash Media Encoder with a cloud-based infrastructure, but because of their open support for the chaser. Other services require non-compete and exclusivity agreements, something I’m not really about. Might work for some people, but I’m just a leasurely chaser who isn’t out to make a buck, but won’t mind if a few float my way.

The primary concern was my switch last year from Sprint to AT&T for cellular serivce. I was able to use Sprint’s EVDO Rev.A last year to pull down radar data without a problem, even while chatting it up amongst other chasers. There’s no doubt the EVDO blows the socks off of 3G (they’re both technically 3G but I’ll just use their industry designation) in terms of download, but can be fairly equal in the upload. For downloading, AT&T is quite behind but so long as I can get the data I need, when I need it, then I’ve not much to complain about.

So with my father, grandfather, and several other chasers/watchers, watching, I set out to stream my drive home from work. The first issue was that I failed to set my bitrate… 3G doesn’t like it when you try to upload at 650kbps apparently. After pulling over and going down to 100kbps I was able to stream with little to no stuttering or stalling. Success!

The next step is going to be testing the uploading of video while downloading radar content and maintaining chat via SpotterChat. Perhaps I’ll give that a go this weekend on my trip up to the Nation Weather Service for a SkyWarn meeting.

The one problem that presented itself was the lack of SpotterNetwork updates. While I did have the client open, and was even able to manually send an update, it failed to send automatic regular updates of my position. The client looks kind of janky in my opinion, like something you’d see the AOL skriptkiddies in the mid 90s using. I toy with thoughts of writing my own client in Ruby and Shoes, perhaps if the Earth’s rotation slows and we get some more hours in a day.

This past weekend I installed two NMO mounts into my trunk lid and currently have a 1/4 wave and 5/8 wave dual band antennas. One will be used for my Kenwood TM-733A while the other for APRS and listening to other frequencies. Eventually I’ll have two 1/4 wave dual-band antennas on there so the wind won’t bother the thin aluminum they used for the trunk lid.

Once the APRS is up and running full time in my vehicle I’ll not have to worry about sending SpotterNetwork updates directly as it will just pick up my APRS updates. I’m looking at ways to integrate SpotterNetwork, APRS, and Twitter and I’m currently working on the Twitter implementation of that.

The last peice to all of this is getting my wife involved. Next month I’ll be taking her with me to the SkyWarn training in Garden City so she can get familiar with the cloud structures, radar signatures, and what it’s all about. This is also so she won’t be as clueless should I be gone on a chase when severe weather heads for the area. After that I’ll teach her some basics on radar imagery so she can help navigate when we go out on a few chases this year. I’m really excited to bring her along so she can see that I’m not actually driving INTO the tornado, as has been previously thought.