VP-Compatible Third-party Software
Davis Logger & Software Topics
Handling weather data on PCs & websites is covered extensively on this site - here are some links to related PC and website topics (current page is shown unlinked):
So many Davis Vantage family weather stations have been sold around the world since the introduction of the original VP1 station in 2001 that a thriving market has developed in alternative/add-on software - mostly written by individuals unconnected with Davis - that is fully compatible with the data outputs of the Weatherlink data loggers fitted to Vantage stations. (NB See compatibility note at the foot of this page.)
Some of this third-party software possesses features well beyond those available from the standard Davis Weatherlink program or offers data presentations that are cosmetically more appealing. So, while there's no doubt that the Weatherlink software itself is a well-proven, robust and professional piece of programming, an increasing number of users choose to run one of these alternative third-party programs.
Please note that although we're listing this information here within our Products section, we don't currently sell any of these programs (with the exception of licences for the Virtual VP utility). The information is presented here simply so that you can view a listing of and links to the various programs at the same time as reviewing your choice of weather station hardware. Some of the programs are free and for virtually all programs you can download a 30-day trial version to see how well you get on with it before splashing out and buying a licence. Almost all of the programs are best downloaded from the authors' websites, where you'll typically get the latest versions and cheapest prices (for those programs that aren't free).
Note also that this section deliberately does not set out to provide a comprehensive critique of all the available programs, along with recommendations. Some of the programs (such as Weather Display) have so many features that it would take considerable space for a review to do them justice. And to keep any such reviews and associated recommendations up-to-date as new versions of each program appear would be almost a full-time job. If you're seriously thinking of trying an alternative to the Weatherlink software then our best advice is simply to trial the program for yourself. There are also online forums for most of these programs where you'll be able to ask, for example, how well a particular feature may be implemented in program X. (Remember though that most of the forums are frequented by devotees of the program in question and so you may not get a totally unbiased answer.)
But just as an initial pointer, for any Windows users wanting a main alternative program to Weatherlink, the two most popular choices in the UK are Cumulus and Weather Display.
The full listing of VP-compatible software below is divided into two main sections: alternative programs and add-on programs. Alternative programs are alternatives to the standard Weatherlink software, ie they typically provide a reasonably full set of features for logging and presenting weather data and for managing live weather-reporting web pages. The add-on programs, as you might expect, are designed to run in harness with either the standard Weatherlink program or one of the main alternatives and typically add some specific extra functionality to the set of standard features provided by the main program.
And, finally, before reaching the main listing there are two further important notes on VP-compatible software:
Windows vs other operating systems
It is a fact of life that the great majority of PC users run a version of Microsoft 32-bit Windows as their main operating system (OS). So, not surprisingly, most VP-compatible programs are also designed to run under 32-bit Windows - writers of third-party programs will obviously see the greatest interest in their programs by writing specifically for the Windows OS. The only other OS supported directly by Davis in a version of the Weatherlink software is OSX for the Apple Mac (although this is different and more limited than the equivalent Windows version). Note that even 64-bit Windows is not officially supported by Davis.
Although the widest choice of third-party programs is provided for Windows users, a few authors have specifically written programs for minority operating systems in the overall Unix family, most notably for Mac OSX and for Linux. So solutions are available for almost any common OS, but the choice of program and the features that a program offers may be relatively limited for anything other than Windows.
In general, we would suggest that even if you routinely use an OS other than Windows, it is well worth considering using an older 32-bit Windows PC as a dedicated weather PC. This is not a 'theological' view on Windows vs Mac or Linux, but reflects the fact that even if you find a program compatible with your OS that offers all the features you need, there still may be major practical difficulties to overcome. For instance, getting support for any apparent logger issues may be problematic - the Windows version of Weatherlink accounts for perhaps 98% of sales (at least in the UK), so few dealers are able to offer any practical support whatsoever for non-Windows operating systems. And remember also that the logger data needs to reach the actual program - most Weatherlink loggers these days are the USB logger version, which requires an appropriate third-party 'driver', written by the maker of the USB chip used in the logger (which isn't Davis), to deliver the USB data stream to the program. So even if the program itself may be nominally compatible with your non-Windows OS, if there's not a robust USB-chip driver available for that particular OS then the system overall can't work reliably.
Virtual VP (VVP) is an inexpensive utility that provides a very handy solution to a specific problem. This problem is that a VP logger can only pass data to one specific program at a time. If one program is talking to the logger then a second program can't get a look-in until the first program completely drops its communications link to the logger. What this means in practice is that two or more programs cannot simultaneously be receiving live weather data from the logger and so the default situation is that you can run only one main weather program at a time.
You may say - so what - why does this matter? And if you've already chosen one main weather program that delivers all that you need then it doesn't matter - there's absolutely no point in running a more complex PC configuration than you need. If a simple solution meets all your requirements then stick with that - it will typically be the most reliable answer.
But often what happens when users start to look around at third-party programs is that they like some features from one program and some from another. Their ideal solution would often be to run both programs in parallel and to make use of the best features from each. What VVP does is to make this possible. When installed, VVP is the one and only program that talks direct to the logger. It then copies the logger data accurately to multiple client programs, each of which - in its innocence - thinks it's still talking directly and exclusively to the logger. So with VVP you can run multiple weather programs all at the same time. (And even if you're not sure whether you need to run two simultaneously long-term, what VVP also delivers is the capability to keep one main program running full-time while investigating the features and performance of other alternative programs.)
There's more information about VVP on its own page.
Alternative Programs Listing
These programs are multi-featured alternatives to the standard Davis Weatherlink software, which is supplied free with each new Davis data logger. We're not attempting to provide anything other than listing and linking information here - there simply isn't space for any summaries of features or of display examples (although a few display examples can be found elsewhere on our introducing loggers and software page). For any more detailed information please follow the links to the product descriptions or support sites for each program. NB There is a comparative review of a number of these packages on the WXForum website originally written a few years back by Gary Oldham and last updated in 2006. This is obviously rather out of date now (it doesn't mention Cumulus at all for instance) but still has some value as a starting point for comparing the various programs.
For Windows users, Cumulus and Weather Display are probably the most popular alternative choices, although Virtual Weather Station is also well supported in the US. For Mac and Linux users, Weather Display, WView and the relatively new WeatherTracker (Mac only) programs seem to be the only well-known options. (As you'll gather, Weather Display is the most universal program being available - obviously in different versions - for all common platforms.)
Feel free to let us know about other unlisted programs, provided they offer comparable features and are available in a robust, finished version.
|Virtual Weather Station||Ambient Weather||www.ambientweather.com||Forum||Win32|
|Weather Display||Brian Hamilton||wwwweather-display.com||Forum||Win32, Mac, Linux|
|WeatherTracker||AfterTen||www.afterten.com||Not Known||Mac OSX|
Add-on Programs Listing
Although there aren't too many add-on programs available as yet, their range is quite diverse. We're going to classify them as follows, but noting that these three categories are fairly arbitrary:
Integrated add-ons to the Davis Weatherlink software
We can nominate three programs here, two marketed by Davis themselves and one made available by Weather Underground. These are programs that add extra functionality to that provided by their parent Davis Weatherlink software and are described as integrated because they run at the same time as Weatherlink and tap into into the real-time data interface exposed by the Weatherlink program. The two Davis add-on programs are also integrated in the sense that they add additional menus to the main Weatherlink program menus. (There may be further very specialist add-on modules out there in the market that we're unaware of. Davis do actually publish an SDK to allow developers to create new modules and it's surprising in some ways given the popularity of the weather stations themselves that more such modules haven't been released. The reason may be that the SDK uses a relatively unappealing (to programmers) mechanism for interacting with the Weatherlink program.)
- Agriculture & Turf Management module (Davis product 6511): This adds some specialist menu options and reporting tools of particular interest to farmers, green-keepers etc which can provide weather index values of relevance to crop growing, such a growing degree days;
- Email Alerts module (Davis product 6512): This is a module that can be set to dispatch emails when one or more weather parameters passes some preset threshold value, eg wind gust above 30mph. Note that if an email is addressed to an email-to-SMS gateway (separate subscription required) then this feature provides a way of automatically sending text messages to a mobile phone as a way of providing weather alerts;
- Weather Underground uploads: WU (www.wunderground.com) is a well-known website that collects data from private weather stations all around the world. The WU add-on module is available as a free download from the WU website and provides the necessary functionality to run automatic uploads of Weatherlink data to the WU database;
Real-time web-page programs
This is a specific category of add-on program that allows web pages to display genuinely real-time weather data with updates, in principle, as often as every 2-3 seconds, thereby being able to show individual wind gusts on a public web page. Traditional (D)HTML-only web pages are not suitable for such high-frequency updates and so special web-page technology using Flash or Silverlight is needed. A bonus of using Flash/Silverlight is that cosmetically very attractive web page presentations can be designed, so not only do do these displays update frequently but they also look great too. It's well worth taking a look at some example of what these real-time programs can deliver - the web page results can be very impressive.
There are currently three different real-time webpage programs available. In every example to date, the task of generating these displays is split between two different programs. The real-time display program takes care only of the final graphic display in the user's web browser and relies on a feed of pre-processed weather data in a specific format from a 'parent' program, which is one from among the alternative programs listed above. So, for example, Weather Display Live (WDL) is the Flash real-time program that accepts a data feed from the well-known Weather Display (WD) program.
To be clear, WDL and WD are completely separate programs, written in fact by two different people in different countries - it's just that WDL is designed to understand the stream of weather data that WD can output. There is, as yet, no agreed standard format for passing data between the parent program and the real-time display generator and consequently each real-time program can only be used in harness with its own intended parent program. Also, it's a fact that Davis have not seen fit to provide a suitable feed of processed data from their Weatherlink program and so there is no generally available real-time display program that can be run together with Weatherlink (although there is at least one private prototype of such a display). So the only way to run such a real-time webpage display is also to run the appropriate paired parent program. The available programs are:
- Weather Display Live (for Weather Display)
- WeatherFlash (for Virtual Weather Station)
- Cumulus Realtime (for Cumulus)
This is a small group of utilities that are described as offline because they don't integrate with their parent application in processing live weather data. We'll probably limit this category to add-on utilities for the Weatherlink program itself - there will also be add-ons available only intended for use with other major alternative programs like Weather Display, but it's difficult for us to keep any listing of these properly up-to-date, so it's better to look in the main resource pages for the program in question, for example for Weather Display itself, the main website or forums. There are three examples to date here:
- WXSIM: WXSIM is a unique software package for forecasting weather. Although the primary role for automatic weather stations is to measure and log current weather conditions, it is also possible to use the trends identifiable in weather readings as a basis for forecasting future weather by computer program. While there are limitations to this approach, WXSIM does very much represent the state of the art in how well such a PC program can perform. By using an ancillary program (WXSIMATE) WXSIM can read data files produced by the Weatherlink program (and also by certain other VP-compatible programs such as Weather Display) then use these to identify and input current trend data into the main WXSIM program;
- Weatherlink archive file editor: The Weatherlink program provides for some editing of existing archive records (for example if a spurious sensor reading has been logged and is distorting long-term records of highs & lows) but it quite limited in what it can do. The utility linked to here provides more powerful editing features;
- Weatherlink Reporter - Monthly Edition (WLR-ME): This is a utility intended to provide a powerful tool for generating attractive PDF monthly reports of weather data. There is a minimal report generator included within Weatherlink (NOAA Reports), but this is very limited in what it can produce. Please note that WLR-ME is currently only available as an early beta with some known bugs, but may be of interest for preliminary evaluation. A more complete version is planned for release by Q2 2010;
To be clear, all Vantage family stations - ie original Vantage Pro 1, the more recent Vantage Pro 2 and the latest Vantage Vue models - use the same set of data loggers, most commonly the 6510USB or 6510SER loggers. And whichever station model is used to generate the raw data, the output format from the logger is essentially** identical. So VP-compatible software should in general be compatible with any of the the main current types of Vantage station, ie VP1, VP2 and Vue.
** Strictly speaking, the precise data output format can vary in one or two details with the console firmware version. It's also obviously essential that the linked PC is matched appropriately to the logger's output interface type (ie USB or Serial or Ethernet). So in practice the PC configuration may need tweaking to achieve 100% compatibility of software with the particular station and logger types, but this should be readily possible to achieve in the vast majority of cases.