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NOAA Weather Radio

In early 2007, I discovered that my favorite weather site, Weather Underground was soliciting its users to add NOAA weather radio audio streams from their home stations.  I already had pretty much everything that I needed, sans a dedicated weather radio.  A quick look at RadioShack turned up a model 12-260 weather radio for under $30.  Even though this unit does not have an external speaker jack, nor an external antenna jack, both were easy to add.

Once the I/O interfaces were added to the radio, the software needed to be added to the server.  A Dell PowerEdge 400SC server using Slackware Linux runs pretty much my whole business and home weather station.  Adding the recommended iceS software to this system was actually fairly easy.  Setting up the software was not nearly as easy...

The Weather Underground NOAA Weather Radio Wiki contains a good deal of information on setting up a Linux based system, including a sample XML config file, but some of the settings were a bit vague.  Here is a copy of my XML config file, as well as the metadata file for your viewing pleasure.  The later is setup to display various information in the OGG player window.  The layout should be pretty much self-explanitory.

Some people may question the rather reduced sample and quality rates.  Amazingly, listening tests seem to indicate that these rates provide the best listening quality.  Your results may vary, but in any case, my upload bandwidth is about 15% of my total DSL connection.  As an added bonus, the load average increase on the server is insignificant, making it a "win-win" all around.

Why OGG?

As stated above, I have chosen to use the OGG audio format to upload the NOAA weather stream.  Some may question my use of this format over the much more common MP3 format, which is the only format that the WU flash-based embedded web player supports.

Well for starters, MP3 is a closed source, licensed, and patented format.  Yes folks, in countries that recognize software patents (such as the USA), you need to pay money to encode MP3 data!  Even the Weather Underground NOAA Weather Radio Wiki warns of the inability to legally download the lame_enc.dll (AKA MP3 encoder), and instructs people to "disregard these instructions" when the installation program advises otherwise.  Personally, I would rather not be sued by anyone, no matter how small the chance of being caught.

Fortunately, the OGG format does not have the above silly patent or licensing requirements.  Sure, it requires something other than Windblows Media Player to listen to the stream.  But anyone even moderately interested in streaming media is using a different media player, which is almost guaranteed to support the OGG format with little or no effort.