May 6, 2019 at 2:56 pm #25750
As has been mentioned on many an occasion before, I was very early to the cord-cutting party many years ago when pennies had to be pinched during my first (but not last) stay-at-home-dad stint. One of the things I seriously invested time (and a bit of the saved pennies) into was finding weather warning software that would take up the job of letting me keep an eye on the weather now that even local TV was off the table (the mountain immediately to my south blocked any signals from Fort Smith, and I was too far away to pick up over-the-air TV from Fayetteville). And, as is pretty well known now, I found that software, including a radar app, a warning app (complete with on-screen “crawlers”), and the handy marvel of live vintage infographics that is the WeatherStar 4000 emulator, which I not only used at home, but frequently showed off at OVGE in later years. It wasn’t uncommon, if bad weather was inbound, for me to fire all of these up at once and carefully arrange the windows on one of my monitors at home. Everything in one place at a glance.
A month or so ago, I was hit between the eyes with a minor (severe) brainstorm: I rarely have a reason to fire any of that software up in Utah, but could it still watch western Arkansas and could that output be gathered in one place and streamed?
Turns out that, thanks to the marvel that is OBS Studio (the same software I use for Mission Log Live), the answer is: oh hell yes. I did the graphics and set up the screen as a thought exercise (and because that’s how you learn to do new things with software), and here recently I’ve been doing exactly that, initially on Facebook, and then multicasting to Facebook, Twitter and Youtube via restream.io.
The process is really simple: build a “frame” graphic with transparent “windows”, set OBS up to capture and transmit the output of various windows (Interwarn’s watch & warning map, StormLab’s radar views, and the WeatherStar 4000 emulator), along with a window for the current satellite view, which has to be manually downloaded maybe a couple of times an hour (it’s a GIF hosted by the National Weather Service). If the satellite view isn’t being updated on the web, there’s a block of rotating info text that can cover that spot on the screen. It looks really good even on a phone.
Why continue to live with the weather that no longer affects where I live? Simple: the TV stations in Fort Smith have all – and this now includes KFSM, the CBS affiliate that long maintained it would never do this – made a run for the border (meaning the Missouri border, a little bit south of which is the suburban explosion surrounding Wal-Mart headquarters, perceived to be a much more desirable advertising demographic than impoverished Fort Smith). Skeleton crews might be on hand to cover news and weather in Fort Smith…but in the case of at least two of the stations, they would have to drive down from Rogers/Bentonville, over an hour and a half away.
At times, Fort Smith might as well not have any media outlets, because it sure as hell gets no coverage. Hence these streams. I don’t get on camera or on mic. I don’t need to. The information is all right there, automated. Warnings and watches are displayed live as they come in. And as these are older apps, in some cases dating back to WinXP, they don’t hog a huge memory footprint; the other night I had the weather stream going while I was editing Phosphor Dot Fossils videos. (And by the way, OBS can be set up to stream only the audio I want it to stream – warning beeps, yes; the music I’m listening to at the moment, no.)
The response has been pretty enthusiastic, at least on Facebook: people who can’t receive the local TV stations or are disappointed with the coverage, people who just like having the data in front of them instead of shouty talking heads blathering to fill time, people who dig the retro look of the old Weather Channel displays, and so on.
The one hiccup I’ve run into: Facebook has killed a couple of the livestreams because of a “violation of music copyright” claimed by Universal Music Group… even though there’s no audio on the feed other than warning beeps.
That problem seems to have vanished since I started using restream.io, for whatever reason.
“Is there a way to make money off this?” is the natural follow-up question… and that’s no one I have an easy answer to. If anyone wanted to advertise, I’d want that kept strictly to one of the little video windows, rather than interrupting the feed. Even if I had someone on the ground in the Fort Smith area to sell ad time, I doubt anyone would go for that. There’s a note at the end of the info text (which isn’t always on screen) about pitching in via the existing Patreon for theLogBook, but that’s about all. I’m open to ideas.
The last couple of times I did a stream, there were folks watching who I didn’t even know. Because word of mouth has already spread that fast. Because this is needed.
It already has its own Facebook page, its own Twitter account, its own YouTube page. Let’s see what happens. Maybe I can piss off some of my former TV cohorts. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I already had the software. Now I’m just putting it at other people’s disposal.
May 19, 2019 at 10:24 am #25881
A tornado hit the south side of Fort Smith on Saturday, with ground zero being a place k8track and I once knew as Phoenix Village Mall. The site of the former Venture department store (in the 1980s and early 90s) is now a large call center, and one of the city’s biggest employers; its roof was removed and deposited, less than gently, on the employees’ cars in the parking lot outside.
I don’t normally record my weather streams, since they can be hours long, but I did hit “record” on my streaming software when the first tornado warning dropped in the vicinity of Fort Smith, and let it run for about an hour, at which point things calmed down a bit.
Now here’s the cruel irony of this whole project: apparently a week after I started this project, the servers powering Interwarn, the program which displays the county maps with live updated watches and warnings…were shut down. I had to manually refresh and update the graphic posted on the Tulsa weather service office’s website. That’s a huge blow to this project, since the idea was to eventually get my former media server PC (the one that Little C knocked off of a table into the floor) fixed up and dedicate it to this feed, effectively making it a 24-hour thing, bad weather or not.
I am trying to set up a similar software package, Weather Message, which can also generate the maps and update them automatically…supposedly…if you can set it up just right. Under present circumstances it’s not cheap, and the documentation is rather…opaque. Losing Interwarn may be the death knell of @WestarkWXfeed.
Monday and Tuesday are expected to be hell days too. I’ll probably continue to babysit those manually.
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