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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Applications Folder: Cool Cat Saves the Weather

When I got my home weather station back in 2004, its Mac compatibility came in the form of a PC serial-to-USB adapter and the Davis WeatherLink app, a Java-based app that was years behind the PC version. It worked, more or less, but it was unreliable and had some sort of memory leak—at one point I had to write an AppleScript that would just quit and re-launch the app every few hours. I kept looking for alternatives, most of which were incredibly obscure unix scripts that were not remotely intended to run on the Mac.

Then in 2009 I found WeatherCat by Trixology, which has been my weather station app ever since. As you might expect from such a niche app, its interface is a little… homespun. But it’s got a lot of power and flexibility.

WeatherCat
WeatherCat

I’ve integrated it with my smart home tech by using its trigger system, which lets you fire off events when specific changes in the weather occur. Back when I used to have a colored smart bulb outside my front door (I don’t anymore), I had the light turn blue when it got below freezing. Since the weather station’s console resides in my bedroom, I can use Weathercat to detect when the humidity in my bedroom goes over a certain percentage, at which point it fires off a script that triggers an event on the IFTTT website that turns on a dehumidifier in that room.

The best thing about WeatherCat is that it not only comes with HTML templates, so you can view the current weather status in any web browser, but that it has a complete template language so you can customize it to your heart’s content. I stacked some functionality on top of that by having it output PHP code, so I could write smart templates that dynamically change based on weather conditions. I also use the flexible web templates WeatherCat generates to create a very simple text file that feeds a tool (BitBar) that displays the current temperature in my Mac’s menu bar.

I’ll be honest: my weather page design was created in the early 2000s and is hopelessly out of date. One of these days I will try to design a new, modern version, but for now it suffices. At some point I read up about JavaScript-based charting tools and created a bunch of charts for my page, though I’m still using WeatherCat’s (ugly, but functional) charts for a lot of data. I am not comfortable enough with the existing tools to figure out a way to more beautifully present the data coming from my weather station, but you never know. One of these days I might figure out a way to display pretty data.

Finally, many apps these days will let you point their weather data source at a personal weather station on the Weather Underground network. WeatherCat supports Weather Underground, so I’m able to call up the temperature in my backyard and display it on my iPhone and Apple Watch, via the Carrot Weather app.

WeatherCat may not be particularly beautiful, but it has served me well for nearly a decade. I’ve got the historical weather data archive to prove it.

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