A little corner of the Empire on the web.

09 June, 2013

Kindle Weather Display (from Windows)

I admit it, I'm interested in the weather. What can I say? I'm an Englishman and a sailor, I need something to talk about, and some way to know whether it's shorts weather, or if I need to take a brolly to work. Add in the fact that I love tinkering with gadgets, and have a mini server box sitting in the corner of my living room that spends large parts of the day doing very little, then I was very interested when I ran across Matthew Petroff's Kindle Weather Display blog post.

The only problem was that although he has all of the files available for download from that page, and a barebones hint on how to use them, it assumes a certain familiarity with Linux and its tools, and assumes that you're using a *nix server for the web server, and a *nix machine to do the install from, much of the Kindle hacking needed as a pre-req makes similar assumptions. I've barely touched Linux in the last 10 years (why deliberately make life hard for yourself when there's better choices out there?), was planning to set this up on my Windows Home Server box, and to do it all from my Win7 laptop. Clearly I was going to need to rewrite a few things, and work a few things out.

This is my tale of how that was done, so that you may read it, and do the same yourself.

To accomplish this you're going to need a few things that most people apparently don't have lying around their homes for some reason:

  1. A Kindle to dedicate as the display - while you could use the same Kindle that you use to read in bed at night, or on the train in the morning, that really won't be very convenient. Beware also that we're going to be hacking the Kindle and doing some (potentially harmful to the Kindle) things that will not be covered under your warranty. That said, if you hunt around you can find Kindle 4's for a fraction of their retail price on eBay, the one I'm using is an ex-shop demo unit that I got for a hair under £20.
  2. A Windows server (or at least a Windows box, doesn't necessarily have to be server hardware or a server OS sku) that will be switched on all the time, with an "always on" internet connection (the server itself doesn't need to be accessible from the internet). I have an old Tranquil PC SQA-5H that I use to run my home services, so that'll do me.
  3. A web server installed and running on your Windows server - all we need is a way to serve static PNG images over HTTP, so you won't need anything fancy. Personally, I'm using a Windows Server SKU, so I'm using the built-in IIS web server but pretty much any web server will do, Apache is probably the next most common, and I've used that for projects in the past.
  4. A basic plain text editor that understands the difference between Windows and Unix line endings.
    MS Word absolutely won't do, that's a Word processor not a text editor, Windows Notepad is no good either as it can't handle Unix style line endings. Something like Notepad++ or TextPad (which I'm using) would be perfect for this, many programmer's IDEs (such as Komodo, Eclipse or Visual Studio) also include this if you already have one installed, but don't go installing an IDE just for this as it really would be overkill.
  5. A basic familiarity with Windows and basic, common Windows tools - I'm happy to walk you through the Unix/Linux tools and commands but I'll expect you to know what you're doing on the Windows side

Warning: this is going to be a long one, so I'm dividing it up into a few parts over a few days, click any of the links to skip to parts you're interested in, or read the whole series to do it all. You can do some of the following steps in different orders, but I found it easiest to start with setting up the server while I was still searching eBay for a cheap Kindle.

Next: Setting up the server.

  1. Introduction
  2. Setting up the server
    • Weather Services
    • Getting the Image Tools
    • Scheduled Tasks
    • Download the Scripts
  3. Setting up the Kindle
    • Jailbreak your Kindle
    • Setting up USB Networking (1)
    • Setting up USB Networking (2)
    • Installing Kite on the Kindle
  4. Putting it all together
    • Setting up the Weather Display on the Kindle
    • Setting up Cron on the Kindle
    • Useful References and acknowledgments
    • Todo