"Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." - Mark Twain
|Weather webcam image|
Weather webcams are always popular and it is easy and free to set one up yourself. Whether you run Windows, Mac or Linux there are tools and hosting available which only requires you own a webcam to be up and running on the web.
Basically you need three things: a webcam, software which can upload via ftp and a website which will host and publish your images.
Webcams are ridiculously cheap these days and if you don't have an old one in a drawer somewhere, they are available online or at your local department store for 10.00 and up. Generally, you want the best resolution you can afford with back light and white control, if possible.
Webcam software is usually included with your webcam or is widely available online. You will need a program which can upload your images to the web via ftp or sftp.
Free software for Windows is available here:
I use uvccapture, designed for still webcam images, it handles auto-exposure better than software designed for streaming video. It is available in the Ubuntu repositories or you can grab it here:
See "My Linux Setup" below for instructions.
For free weathercam hosting and making the images available online, I use weatherunderground. They will broadcast your images, create a video of the last 24 hours and even provide a weather calendar of the last month which offers videos for each day.
Ok. Lets get started.
Plug your webcam into a usb port on your computer. Point the camera out the window. This sounds simple enough, however there are considerations which may complicate your choice of view.
Direction: Pointing your camera either due west or east will result in direct sunlight on your camera and window glass during part of each day. This usually results in overwhelming glare which can obliterate the image. If possible, it is best to point your camera either north or south so it will not be pointed directly into the sun.
Distance: USB looses signal strength with a cable over 15' long. This can cause corruption of your images and an unreliable source. Choose a window which you webcam can reach without using an extension or keep the total distance under 15 feet.
Once you have decided on a view, next you will need to create an account with your host. In the case of this article, that will be weatherunderground.
Go here to setup an account:
Setup your webcam here:
First, select the FTP option and give some general information about your organization (if any) and location. Select your timezone. Your address is requested, but general area info is fine. Enter the City, State and Zip Code. Your latitude and longitude will be calculated.
If you have a Personal Weather Station (PWS) and would like to upload the data, you can enter the address, IP or url here.
Finally, you can choose to share your camera type and this info will appear on your webcam page.
Click 'Save Changes' and you will be taken to a page where your camera will be listed with a name like mywebcamCAM1. It will show the location you entered and allows you to add another webcam if you have one.
Go to your webcam software and use the following settings, per the WunderCam FTP Wiki:
"FTP SERVER: webcam.wunderground.com
Username: You will be provided with a Camera ID on the sign up page in the "Your Current Cameras" box.
Password: You will need to log in with the same password you use to access the Weather Underground site.
Directory: We actually move the file for you, so if your software requires a directory you should set it as '/', but otherwise leave it blank.
Filename: We also change the filename of your image, so a default name can be almost anything you'd like but 'image.jpg' is preferred.
Binary: Please make sure that you are uploading your images through FTP using the binary setting.
Image Resolution: There is no minimum or maximum resolution. However, the larger the resolution, the larger the file size, so please adjust your resolution and image quality settings to get the best image within the size limitations. "
Bookmark this page or link to it from somewhere else for a reliable free weathercam, accessible from anywhere (including from your smartphone). You will also see your webcam included in their weathercam 'library', which is available by clicking on the 'webcams' tab on the weatherunderground site.
Last, monitor your new webcam for a few days and adjust as necessary to reduce glare (clean the glass, inside and out), fine tune the image and make it as useful to you and interesting to others as possible. Finally, If desired, you can submit your webcam to a site such as 'EarthCam', to be included in their listings of worldwide webcams. As their tagline boasts, "Where the World Watches the World".
As Mark Twain noted, we may not be able to do anything about the weather, but we can monitor it closely and be prepared for it. Your new weathercam makes that easy and fun.
EDIT: In November, 2017, Weather Underground announced that it was discontinuing it's free webcam hosting. Over the next month, webcams started dropping off or rarely updating. Many users found other hosting or risked losing their web presence.
Happily, Weather Underground users were vocal about their "passionate support" for their weather webcam network and on December 7, 2017 announced they would "continue to allow users to add webcams to the Weather Underground Network."
Thank you, Weather Underground for listening to your customers and continuing this valuable public service and a big thank you to WU webcam users who spoke up and saved this network of free weather webcams around the world.
Read about it here: http://help.wunderground.com/knowledgebase/articles/1821811-wu-says-goodbye-to-webcams
My Linux Setup
Install uvccapture, then open Startup Applications and paste the following code into the 'command' section.
uvccapture -m -t600 -q75 -x640 -y480 -o/home/user/webcam/image.jpgThis string of commands loads the program and instructs it to refresh the image every 10 minutes (600 seconds), to use compression on the JPG file at 75% quality. It states the webcam resolution, which must be supported by your device. The last argument includes the location to save the image file.
More info and commands for uvccapture are located here: http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/natty/man1/uvccapture.1.html
For basic ftp upload of images, try this simple script.
Copy and paste the following into a text editor. Edit lines 4, 5 & 6 in the top section and line 5 in the bottom section:
# vi ftp-run.shSave the file as ftp-run.sh in the webcam folder. Right click on the icon and under Permissions, click to 'Run this file as a program'. I set up a cron job to run this script every 10 minutes with this command:
#run this file with ./ftp-run.sh
date >> $FTPLOG
ftp -n $REMOTE <<_FTP>>$FTPLOG
quote USER $USER
quote PASS $PASSWORD
arrow down to bottom
*/10 * * * * cd webcam && ./ftp-run.sh
Ctrl + x to exit
Y to save
More fun with your webcam: PortalView Live Desktop Wallpaper for Linux