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R.I.P. Googlicious: Weather, Weather, Everywhere… Except From Google

For at least the last four years, Google has maintained a not-so-secret Weather API that let hobbyists and people like us build weather applications for the rest of the world to use. Google never provided a word of documentation nor even a comment about the Weather API other than obscure mentions by a few Google employees. Google, of course, is not stupid. They know everything there is to know about analytics, and it was no secret that the Weather API had an enormous following worldwide. It was the one and only source of worldwide weather information that didn’t require an API key for access. Most API keys translate into restrictions and monthly fees.

Without a word of warning or comment, Google shut down the Weather API last week. Still no comment a week later despite the howls of righteous indignation from the developer community. Just for the record, this is no way to run a railroad. Of course, Google had no obligation to continue a service that cost them money except for the fact that it earned them enormous goodwill from those around the globe using their service. Earth to Google: these are the same people that have made your company one of the wealthiest in the technology industry! Some have argued that this was a "private service" that was never intended for use by the public. That, of course, is pure horse #2. Google was well aware of the usage by millions of people worldwide. Does anyone think for a moment that Google lacked the necessary skills to secure the Weather API if they had not wanted people to use it? So let’s get real. Like its fruity corporate neighbor, Google loves to introduce "almost secret" technology and rely upon Buzz (remember that one?) to make it a household word. The Weather API was no secret by any stretch.

And there’s another downside, Google. At a time when you’re supposedly encouraging the notion of Cloud Computing, it does the technology little good when you reaffirm how fragile an organization would be if it chose to actually put all its eggs in one basket and rely upon Google infrastructure. What company in its right mind would consider moving to a platform such as Google Apps for Business after observing this sort of corporate behavior? Electing to begin charging for a service is one thing. Phasing out a service after fair notice to those using it was also an option. But blowing a heavily-used service completely out of the water without warning to those relying upon the service is really unacceptable corporate conduct. Makes one wonder what lies just over the horizon with Google Voice, doesn’t it? We’re big fans of Google. But this time around, I’m sorry. Google gets a well-earned D- in our book.

So the question becomes how do we minimize the carnage and put Humpty back together again for those that foolishly relied upon the Nerd Vittles text-to-speech Worldwide Weather app and its underlying Google Weather API. Fortunately for all of us, there are other players in the Weather API marketplace. Here’s a list of 26 of them. One vendor really stands out from the pack. In fact, many believe that Google itself was using its services to power Google’s own weather API. That service is Weather Underground.

What we’ve done is rework the existing Worldwide Weather application in such a way as to minimize the upgrade hassle for those of you already using the broken one. If you’re just getting started, we’ll put all the working pieces in place so there is no patch required. So choose whether to upgrade or install from scratch from the options below, and we’ll have you up and running in a couple minutes.

Regardless of whether you’re just getting started or upgrading, what you will need (that’s new) is a free Weather Underground API key. This lets you issue up to 10 queries a minute and 500 queries a day against Weather Underground’s weather data. Because current conditions and forecasts are separated into separate queries, it means you can actually dial up 5 queries a minute and 250 queries a day without expense. If your needs are more extravagant, Weather Underground has very reasonable rates. Just follow this link to sign up for your Weather Underground API key. Write it down. You’ll need it in a minute.

Upgrading Existing Worldwide Weather App. If you’re currently using Nerd Vittles’ Google News, Weather, Stocks & Dictionary app or Incredible PBX 4, or Incredible Pi, you can upgrade the included Worldwide Weather component by logging into your server as root and issuing the following commands:

cd /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin
mv nv-weather-google.php nv-weather-google-old.php
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/wunderground.tgz
tar zxvf wunderground.tgz
rm wunderground.tgz
nano -w nv-weather-google.php
nano -w nv-weather-wunderground.php

When the new weather script displays in the nano editor, cursor down to line 21 and replace 12345 with your actual Weather Underground API key. Be sure to preserve the quotes. Then save your change: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter. That’s it. You’re back in business. Dial 9-4-9 to obtain a spoken weather report for almost any city in the world.

Installing the New Worldwide Weather App. If you’re new to all of this and would like to use either Incredible PBX 4.0 or just the News, Weather, Stocks & Dictionary app, start by reading all about them at the links above. Once you’ve installed either application, log into your server as root and issue the following commands to insert your new API key:

cd /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin
nano -w nv-weather-google.php

When the new Worldwide Weather script displays in the nano editor, cursor down to line 21 and replace 12345 with your actual Weather Underground API key. Be sure to preserve the quotes. Then save your change: Ctrl-X, Y, then Enter. Now you’re ready to go. Now you can dial 9-4-9 to obtain a spoken weather report for almost any city in the world.

Test Drive. Want to try the new service out for yourself? We’ve set up a Raspberry Pi with Incredible PBX to demonstrate how easy all of this can be with a $35 computer. Just place a call to 1-843-284-6844, choose option 2, and say the name of the city and state or country for an instantaneous Worldwide Weather Report. Enjoy!

Originally published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Astricon 2012. Astricon 2012 will be in Atlanta at the Sheraton beginning October 23 through October 25. We hope to see many of you there. We called Atlanta home for over 25 years so we’d love to show you around. Be sure to tug on my sleeve and mention you’d like a free PIAF Thumb Drive. We’ll have a bunch of them to pass out to our loyal supporters. Nerd Vittles readers also can save 20% on your registration by using coupon code: AC12VIT.

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  1. Thank you again Ward for the super fast fix! As always really appreciate everything you do. Bye bye googlicious & hello Weather Underground. Everything working great on my shuttle pc. Ordered my raspberry pi also & cannot wait for it to come. 🙂

  2. goog is tough like that, they can make changes that have huge ripple effects across lots of businesses. I try to make sure that my business isnt fully dependent on them. I’ve made that mistake in the past.

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