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New Weather Station

Published by marco on

 My old weather station finally died. I’d inherited it about 25 years ago from a good friend in New York. It came from my apartment in Kew Gardens to Switzerland, where it was first mounted in my kitchen and then office for many years.

The cord was covered with electrical tape from several incidents involving my first rabbit Oz. After a dozen more years, the plastic casing on the wire leading to the outside thermometer had become very brittle—especially after years of being shut into the window casing as we opened and closed it.

I was able to repair the cable several times, but it finally frayed too close to the sensor nodule for me to be able to repair it. It had outlived the company (Radio Shack) that produced it by five years.

 We went to the Migros Do-It Center to pick up a new weather station. The new ones are all much fancier with a plethora of features, none of which obviously combine to form a product I’d like. We ended up picking one that looked reasonable and had a colorful display, because why not?

We got it home only to discover that it doesn’t quite satisfy. What’s wrong with it? Well, it’s just a bundle of unsatisfying design decisions that leads you to wonder whether anyone actually works with use cases.

You can either plug it in, in which case it is on all the time or you can use batteries, in which case it is on for only five seconds after you press a balky button on top. You have to give it a good press to turn it on.

The old weather station was just on all the time, but with an LED that you could read in the daytime. We have another weather station in the kitchen that is the same, but has a back-light that you can turn on by—get this—pressing a small button on the back. This would be massively inconvenient if I hadn’t had the brilliant idea of mounting it on the wall and putting a little stick-on rubber nodule on the wall aligned with the back-light button. So, you can just press the front of the screen, activating the button on the back, and temporarily illuminating it. You can’t read it at night from a distance, but that’s not a requirement.

The new weather station advertises itself as coming with a pedestal, which is fancy. However, the cable is so short that there is no place I can put it so that it reaches a power outlet. Adding an extension cord to the already bulky power adaptor seems like massive overkill for a weather station, as well as being ugly as hell.

Luckily, the place where I’d mounted the old weather station was just above an outlet, within reach of the 1-meter cord.


However, the fancy pedestal is not an optional component. It is a permanent part of the case, so it protrudes from the back of the device instead of presenting a nice flat surface to lie flush with the wall. This doesn’t seem to have bothered the designers at all, as they chirpily put a hole for a hook or nail directly above the 1-cm protrusion.

So, my next job was to install a much more stable and longer hook than the old weather station had required—that one was light and flat enough to hang from a short nail rather shoddily placed in the wall. No drilling required for the last dozen years.

Now I’ve got the clunky thing mounted and plugged in and it’s time to set up the outdoor thermometer/hygrometer. My office window has blinds and faces the main walkway along the building. There is nowhere to put the device other than on the window sill or taped to the window. I taped it to the window. It fell off less than 12 hours later. I now have it lying on the window sill, just waiting to fall out the first time we actually raise the blinds—which we almost never do—or for one of the neighborhood kids to take a shine to it.

Still, the weather station is now installed and functional.

And it’s so colorful.


But, the number that is the most important to me—outside temperature—is in a darkish-blue on a black background, which is difficult to read at a distance. For most of the morning, the sun shines in the window, making it even harder to read.

I can read the indoor temperature, the barometric pressure, the phase of the moon, and the time perfectly. In fact, the time is, for whatever reason, the biggest read-out on the screen. It’s as if the designers thought to themselves, “I know they bought a weather station, but shouldn’t the most prominent piece of information be the time? What’s the point of knowing the temperature if you don’t know what time it is?”

Did I mention the phase of the moon? What phase would you say the weather station is showing? A new moon, right? One look out the window on the night the picture was taken reveals a moon that is positively full, a veritable spotlight.

It’s not as if I don’t have any other clocks in the house, or on my arm, or on my phone. Can we please just focus on delivering the information specific to the device?

At any rate, I’ve now got a clunkily installed weather station whose screen never turns off, but on which I can often not read the most important piece of information. In most light conditions, the weather station is an excellent clock, but is terrible at telling us the outside temperature. It shines all night, permanently semi-illuminating my office.[1]

Were I to use batteries instead, I would have to constantly test the stability of the hook I’d installed by pressing down on a balky/sticky button on top of the front edge of the screen, which juts out 2cm from the wall, most likely dashing the whole thing to the floor on the second or third try.

I miss the 25-year-old weather station already.

Now, I just have to convince my wife to let me return this one within 7 days and try again with another one. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I don’t have to write a follow-up post.

 The MIOStar Weather StationAs luck would have it, that would not be the case. It turns out Migros in Wetzikon is so gigantic that they have two places with weather stations: the hardware center and the electronics center. Each has completely different weather stations. Kath says there are even more online. I found the best one, pictured to the left. It only has the information that interests me, along with the nearly unavoidable clock, which is, at least, displayed in a smaller font than the temperature, unlike nearly every other weather station on offer. It is pictured with its soothing orange backlight engaged. The light turns off after a few seconds. It is activated by a large and easy-to-press button on the back. It is only battery-powered and the display is active in non-backlit mode at all times. The controls are intuitive enough that I didn’t need the manual to change it from the default AM/PM setting.

All’s well that ends well.


Casual light pollution definitely seems to be a design trend.

As I sit here, in semi-darkness, I am warmed by not only the glow of my weather station—the blue-on-black is eminently legible in this light—but also an absolutely penetrating red glow from a portable vacuum that insists on announcing that it’s CHARGING as well as a clock on the oven in the kitchen that is not only blinding, but is also positively superfluous and cannot be disabled.

As I noted above, I am not lacking for portable chronometers. The oven’s job is not to crow the time 24 hours per day—and, yet, this is what it does.