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BBCWeatherJ — a simple Java command-line utility to retrieve and dump a BBC weather forecast feed

What is this?

BBCWeatherJ is a (very) simple command-line Java utility that dumps a 3-day weather forecast or observation report from the BBC Web site with minimal (or no) formatting. It retrieves the information as an RSS feed, parses the XML, and dumps the weather information to the console. The output it produces is lightly formatted (bold and underline) to make it more human-readable, but this formatting can be turned off, so the output can be fed into other scripts or applications.

BBCWeatherJ is the Java equivalent of the C-based utility bbcweather, but this Java version is more tolerant of the oddities of the BBC webserver.

BBCWeatherJ has the dubious distinction of being developed and built on an Android device, using the Java command-line tools of the KBOX project. Part of the purpose of BBCWeatherJ is to serve as a proof-of-concept for Java development under Android.

Installation (on anything except Android/KBOX)

Assuming that you a Java runtime (version 6 or later) available, installation consists of downloading the compiled Java JAR file and copying it to any convenient directory. Then run it like this:
$ java -jar /path/to/bbcweatherj-0.0.1.jar [options]
On Linux, you can download the source code bundle, unpack it, and run
$ make install-linux 
This will install a script that will allow the utility to be run as bbcweatherj.

Building (on anything except Android/KBOX)

Download the source code bundle, unpack it, and run
$ make clean all 
You might need to edit env.mak to indicate the path to the Java compiler. This build will produce bbcweatherj.jar in the deploy directory.

Building on Android/KBO3

You need to be running the KBOX shell for this, and to have installed the java-support package — see here for more details.

Download the source code bundle and copy it to the Android device. Unpack it using unzip (part of the KBOX base system). Then, in the source directory, do

$ ANDROID=1 make clean all 
You might need to edit env_android.mak to indicate the path to the Java compiler and dx utility. This build will produce bbcweatherj.dex in the deploy directory.

You can run the utility like this:

$ dalvikvm -cp deploy/bbcweatherj.dex net.kevinboone.bbcweatherj.CmdLine [options] 
Alternatively, do make install-android to install a script that will provide the utility as bbcweatherj.


When run without command-line arguments, bbcweatherj dumps a 3-day forecast for London, UK. The switch -o selects current observations rather than a forecast.

For other locations, use the name of a city on the command line, or a numerical location code. To get a list of supported city names, use bbcweatherj --list. So far as I know, the BBC does not publish a list of numeric location codes. These code can be found by using the BBC Web site to get a forecast for a specific location, and inspecting the URL used.

Only a small number of locations is built into BBCWeatherJ — most major UK cities. To avoid the need to use numberical codes, the utility will read location data from a user-specified file. Use the -f switch to specify the file location. The file should have the following format:

Location names can contain spaces (escaped by a '\') and punctuation, but bear in mind that such names may be tricky to enter on the command line. Because of a limitation in Java, the location names must be written using characters from the ISO8859-1 character set (not UTF-8). So care has to be take with non-Latin characters. There is a sample location data file in the source code bundle.

Sample output

$ bbcweather -o sheffield
BBC Weather - Observations for  Sheffield, United Kingdom

Wednesday - 20:00 GMT: Clear Sky, 2°C (36°F)
Temperature: 2°C (36°F), Wind Direction: North Westerly, Wind Speed:
9mph, Humidity: 66%, Pressure: 1018mb, Rising, Visibility: Very Good


Use the -w switch to set the console width if it is less than 80 columns; BBCWeatherJ breaks long lines at spaces to fit the console.


Most obviously, the BBC could change the format of its weather feeds, or the URL of the feed server, at any time. In either of these eventualities, this utility will need to be modified.

The output formatting (bold, underline) is done by emitting ANSI control codes to the terminal. This works with Linux and most real terminals, but will fail in the Windows console (thanks, Microsoft). Use the -n switch to turn off formatting altogether.

Legal, etc

bbcweather is copyright (c)2012 Kevin Boone, distributed according to the GNU Public Licence, version 2. In essence that means that you may do whatever you like with the software, at your own risk, provided that the original authorship remains clear. There is no warranty of any kind.


Compiled Java JAR file
Source code
Copyright © 1994-2015 Kevin Boone. Updated May 18 2017