Software is nothing without data. Here we discuss some places where you
get useful data for home automation projects.
There are a few weather services available presently. Yahoo Weather provides data in an XML format that works well, but requires a stylesheet
to convert it into anything useable. Granted it's not much, but it means you
need a heavier piece of code to parse it and produce a speakable output.
Minerva comes with an update script and XSL file to download the forecast,
and convert it into a speakable form.
No graphics are currently available. Although if you sign up to
Weather.com (who also
supply Yahoo!) you can get a script to embed into your web page, that includes
The are two components to this problem, knowing the radio frequencies, and
knowing the programmes. The first is easier, since Ofcom
maintain a complete list of these. Here's the Excel spreadsheet of radio frequencies.
For those prefering XML, there's a Minerva-compatible list of UK radio station frequencies.
This data applies to the UK. If you have
the equivalent information for other countries, then please email me,
To get the programme guides it's necessary to visit the web site of the
station in question. For example, the main BBC stations can be found
I hope to provide this in a common format in the future.
Depending on how and where you usually store your diary will depend on how
you can incorporate this information into other applications. If you use
Outlook, for example, then you're out of luck! This is handled by the
closed source Microsoft Exchange Server. Although several projects are
underway to liberate this data, it's best not to advocate their use in the
Most people are currently using Google calendar to maintain their schedule.
Even private calendar data can be accessed remotely, if you have the right
URL. The Minerva Calendar Applet can interpret this information
to tell you what events are on the current day. Retrieving this magical
private URL can be done quite easily, and is explained here.
Along with web surfing, TV is probably the most common waste of time on the
planet :) We therefore need someway of knowing what's on.
In the UK, Bleb.org
is the best on-line data source for TV schedules. Period.
I use this to generate automatic schedules everyday.
It is also the source used for the TV Guide applet.
The only problem is that ITV is not availble. It seems that the BDS (Broadcasting Data Services) are deciding to play hardball, and stopping people from re-distributing the TV listings. So the only way to get them is to pay the licensing
fee, or scrape them from the ITV web site directly.
For those of us reliant on public transport for our daily commute, knowing how (and where) to retrieve the data is invaluable, and Live Departure Boards is good for that.
The National Rail site has the advantage of using GET requests, so you can
bookmark your journeys. For example, this is my trip into work, and my
Although I haven't found an XML feed for this data, it's easy to embed this
page into another, or scrape it.