First try with my DIY Weather Station Kit from [Anonymous Co.]

2015-11-09 08.51.36About a month and a half ago I moved to to my new place, and as you may guess, I’m still unpacking. In today unpacking activities, I found a bare cardboard box that was roughly sharpie-labeled with my handwriting as containing a “Weather station”. It took me a while to remember why the hell  I had a weather station but after opening the box it came all back to memory.

Three and a half years ago I got this weather station kit from a company “Manykits”, or something like that, as compensation from some ill-packaged product that I bought from them that had arrived incomplete. At that time I got really excited to setup my own weather station, but soon realized the place I lived in at that time didn’t have any place where I was going to be able to install a weather station. So sadly I put it back in its box and put it on the back burner.

Back then I didn’t think that a small, kit-oriented tech company would soon disappear, and all their documentation, libraries, shields and support would also vanish with them. Can’t find them anymore, and obviously I had originally contacted them with an email address I can’t access anymore. So today I found myself in the sad situation of finally having a nice garden with room for a weather station, a very nice weather sensor kit and absolutely no idea of how to put it together. I cursed a bit while thinking I should have at least tried to make it work indoors back then when I got it, just so I could realized how hard this was gonna be and still be able to contact the guys that sent it to me.

Lesson learned: In a fast-paced world as the one we live in, in which small companies can disappear as fast as plate of nachos, make sure you get as much support and documentation you can from them before they vanish/get acquired/go overseas.

After looking online for several hours, I found that seeedstudio had sold this kit also some years ago (now it just shows as somebody’s “wish” from ’11) but not anymore, then I found that Sparkfun sells it for a modest price, but nobody has any documentation for it other than a very bare bones manual that they dare to call “The datasheet“. Then, after following a couple of links I found that Sparkfun even has a “tutorial” of how to set it up.

So with a little bit of more info in my hands I decided to give it a try and put it together but I didn’t want to follow Sparkfun’s tutorial since there they do way many more things of those basic things I was intending for it. I thought I could just Science The Shit Out of It. After all, I’m a mexiCAN, right?

Bad idea. Not having any documentation, wiring diagrams, datasheets, or anything other than the little gadgets and a multimeter (oh yeah, and “The Datasheet”) didn’t really let me understand how it all worked. I cut some cables, disassembled some breakout boards, reconnected everything to comply to The Datasheet’s wiring diagrams, and it didn’t work. Regardless of my tries it didn’t work. The kit included the now discontinued seeedstudio’s Grove-Base shield, and I have no idea how it’s wired, but if I plug the anemometer to the shield, it works! If I use a different -custom- connection (following The Datasheet) it doesn’t! It seems that these cheaper-end companies don’t really care on providing enough info to their consumers. Maybe they think of us as cheaper-end consumers as well… Note to self: Don’t be THAT cheap…

So, after really baking my noodle for all the afternoon I ended up folding and buying Sparkfun’s weather shield. It looks like a simpler shield that will just work as a breakout for the RJ11-6 connectors (WHY DID THE MFG CHOSE THIS TYPE OF CONNECTOR?!), and that’s it. I’ll have support if I get lost, and yeah, there’s a tutorial I can follow.

I feel a little bit ashamed of this. Regarding electronics I’m a novice but I’m not naïve. I took several classes during my undergrad, I’ve designed and assembled circuits, I understand how things work and how they’re put together, (hell, I’ve even made my own sensor!), and I’m really good at understanding documentation… when it makes sense. But this kit is a lost cause. I can’t believe they try to sell it for parents that want to have a nice weekend project with their kids. No way to put it all together as it is.

So worry not, amigos! I’ll wrestle it myself and then post as good as a tutorial as I can. Maybe I’ll just document my project as much as I can. Just in case any of you were as interested in your backyard’s weather as I am of mine… Or you could always just go ahead and follow Sparkfun’s tutorial instead.


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