I Am Super Nerdy Tonight

That’s best described as building your own software in kit form. And you have to supply a few of the parts, in the form of libraries, on your own.


If you’ve been following along you know I’ve become a little obsessed with GrADS. It’s a weather analysis and display program. It was written by scientists to do scientific research. It swallows data and spits out charts, graphs and maps.

Recently, Ryan Maue of WeatherBell demonstrated GrADS is capable of much more. He replaced the color tables with new ones created using a whole new design concept where the color spectrum is broken down in an unusual way. His maps are amazing.

I looked at all this and wondered if GrADS could be used to supplement what we get at work and for my other projects down the road?

The answers appears to be yes, but GrADS is proving itself an elusive conquest. GrADS doesn’t have a slick graphic user interface. It accepts typed or scripted commands using its own language.

Learning computer languages isn’t hard, but GrADS has old, often dated documentation. It’s like a highway where twenty mile stretches are missing from time-to-time.

Good grief I feel I’ve been on a treasure hunt! It’s a shame. What this program does is pretty cool.

I’ve written to and been in touch with a handful of people who understand it. Some helped. Others said they shared my problems.

As of tonight I know how to show observed data like temperatures and winds, plus computer model outputs. A stranger whose post I read on a discussion board is sending me scripts to ingest and display radar. I’m good to go.

My GrADS install is running on a little Raspberry Pi, the $35 computer I’ve written about. It’s more than enough power to handle the load I’ll give it.

Of course there is a problem. Well, actually a few problems.

The latest version of GrADS runs on Linux, but there’s not a version for the Pi’s Linux.

I know, complex. Hang in for another minute.

There is a GrADS version for another flavor of Linux. It’s possible that package can be converted. I’ve already installed a program called Alien to try.

If that doesn’t work the next step is compiling GrADS on my own. That’s best described as building your own software in kit form. And you have to supply a few of the parts, in the form of libraries.

It’s an arduous task with no guarantee of success… and it scares the crap out of me. It’s real propeller head stuff. I am deep in the weeds here, aren’t I?

You can’t screw up the Pi because everything runs off micro SD cards. Worst case, wipe the card and start again.

If everything works, I’ll soon have GrADS 2.1 on the Pi and begin to write scripts (little programs actually) to make maps and other graphics.

It’s such a challenge. I’m 19 again.

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