June 06, 2020, 03:51:17 PM

Author Topic: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.  (Read 526 times)

Offline techknight

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the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« on: May 02, 2020, 07:51:55 PM »
Some of you may have been following this project of mine, but some of you may not have.

Through some crazy reverse engineering efforts, and then software development right behind that, I managed to get the STAR 4000 hardware running again since its demise in 2014.

I present to you, the first graphical Local Forecast since that fateful day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCcgaJrjaYs

I have a raspberry pi as the video source into the unit, and the graphics card has a hard time with the signal coming out of the Pi. its kinda noisy, but, the 4000 was originally designed and tuned to the composite output from a VideoCipher module which is slightly different than a non-encoded NTSC signal as VC generated the horizontal front/back porch and sync pulses internally during descrambling.

« Last Edit: May 02, 2020, 07:56:11 PM by techknight »

Offline twcclassics

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2020, 06:12:40 PM »
Is that how the real 4000's radar looked towards the end? I've never seen that before.
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Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2020, 06:28:30 PM »
Thats my own personal touch. I thought adding a regional radar would ad my own little spin on it.

Same basemap ratio so when I switch over to local radar, it'll look right. Keeps the math simple, and keeps the memory usage low as its very limited. I only have 2MB to work with for assets.

Also, this is an enhanced radar so it shows the snow and mix precip types as well. The radar the 4000 never had, and should have. :-)

But the unprojected basemap works with the NWS CONUS as well. so I have options, and can go either way.

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2020, 06:31:47 PM »
Heres what it looked like when that QLCS moved through awhile back:


Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2020, 06:46:17 PM »
and I cant forget this tidbit:

Captured during the 3 supercells that trained in south carolina a couple weeks ago.

Note: the video source I am using is a Pi, and it distorts the framebuffer a bit which I need to fix. I have to retune the graphics card to match that of the Pi's composite signal since the card was originally designed to lock onto a VC descrambled signal.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 06:49:46 PM by techknight »

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2020, 07:00:43 PM »
Oh and one final thing:

one of my 4000s was heavily degraded and I had to fix this mess:

you can kinda see my raspberry pi video source superimposed into the signal. That obviously wasnt normal. But luckily I fixed all that mess. :-)

Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2020, 07:09:54 PM »
And boy, Aint that a pretty sight?

Both my plasma and CRT.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 07:12:54 PM by techknight »

Offline Frix

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2020, 11:09:45 PM »
Now THAT is really interesting. Never before would I see a 4000 functioning in some form that isn't simulated before.
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Offline ap215

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2020, 02:19:08 AM »
Now that's impressive.  :thumbsup:

Offline crazybangles

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2020, 09:16:18 AM »
Impressive. Can't get enough of it.

Offline WeatherSTARIII

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2020, 08:03:20 PM »
Oh and one final thing:

one of my 4000s was heavily degraded and I had to fix this mess:

you can kinda see my raspberry pi video source superimposed into the signal. That obviously wasnt normal. But luckily I fixed all that mess. :-)
That's pretty cool that you got it to work again. As for the degradation issues, how did that happen? Was the circuit or video boards dirty or dusty?
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Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2020, 08:04:50 PM »
Heh, I wish it were that simple. But, nope.

there are ICs that fail on the graphics board which cause that mess. In the case of this particular one, one of the 2 SRAMs had failed, and the RAMDAC had failed.

Then after fixing that, the framebuffer had bad jitters which was the result of the 3.58Mhz color burst oscillator crystal going bad. I had to change that too. These things have had a hard life.

Offline twcclassics

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2020, 09:29:03 PM »
That's amazing. How did you set this up for your area? And how did you customize the radar?
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Offline techknight

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2020, 09:28:04 AM »
Well, its a collaboration of a few guys including myself. This STAR and its data is remotely managed just as if TWC would have done it, so I have it setup as a "set it and forget it" style. So now it operates as a self-contained unit. I put it on the same system that we manage our WeatherSTAR Jrs on. So they all inter-operate together.

Anyways, it took me almost a year to get to this point. After I had reverse engineered and got the WeatherSTAR Jr running again, I took knowledge from that and brought it over to the 4000 project.

Since the 4000 has no program or assets until its downloaded from the satellite, I had to basically write all new code from scratch. Only thing the unit had was the RTOS Kernel in the ROM, Which I scrapped as well.

I ended up writing my own parallel tasking kernel thats much simpler, and loaded into RAM instead, so I can always patch it and recompile the C code.

Since I wrote all of the code, I simply added a new product descriptor into the presentation lineup and rendering it. I still need to add local radar, but I am waiting on my new Data Cards to come in which has a few circuit changes to add a secondary RX Channel back from the 68K CPU, so I can get current buffers back into the presentation scheduler. (So things draw in the right slots, and off-screen).

As I have full control over the software I wrote, I can pretty much do what I want, and when I want with the exception of the limitations of the hardware which some of it was fun to work around. Just as TWC had to work around it. Doing something simple as the Travel Cities Forecast takes an orchestra of delicate IRQ/code execution timing bouncing back and forth between 2 CPUs on 2 different cards. All while being executed during the VBI. Nightmare.  :cry3:

All of the graphics and text assets are rendered in code just as it was originally with the exception of the bitmaps which are recreations, However the Font Assets are from the WSJr. the Jr had 8 fonts, you only ever saw 3 or 4 onscreen.

Thats why it looks so realistic, Because, well, it is.  B)

I don't want to hog the entire spotlight because I do really have to thank the group of guys I worked with and continue to work with that helped me bring this into fruition, they shall remain nameless unless I have their permission to mention them, or they mention themselves :-)
« Last Edit: May 16, 2020, 09:34:20 AM by techknight »

Offline Bryan

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Re: the Real WeatherSTAR 4000 Lives again.
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2020, 07:18:25 PM »
That's awesome!