NOAA Science On a Sphere 4.0.1 Release Notes

This page documents new features, enhancements, and bug fixes for Science On a Sphere® 4.0.1, released September 2012. For detailed information on using any aspect of Science On a Sphere®, please refer to the Manuals menu located on the Support tab of the SOS website.

Preliminary Information

Science On a Sphere® version 4.0.1 includes three major new features, namely Annotation, Zooming, and Layering. In order to run SOS version 4.0.1, your SOS computer’s operating system must be upgraded to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.  

We are recommending a two phased approach to prepare your system to run SOS version 4.0.1. The first phase and the longest part of the process involves upgrading your SOS computer’s Ubuntu operating system to version 12.04 LTS, followed by updating the SOS software to version 4.0.1. The second phase involves updates to the iOS OS and the SOS Remote App. Please perform Phase I on your backup SOS computer first, make sure it is working properly, and then perform the updates on your main SOS computer.

Please follow all instructions carefully, and let us know if you have any questions along the way.

Phase I Installation Instructions

Upgrade the SOS computer’s operating system to Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and then install SOS version 4.0.1.

If (and only if) you are a Distributor, use the following instructions instead:

If (and only if) you were a Beta Tester for SOS 4.0.1 and you already upgraded one (or both) of your SOS computers to Ubuntu 12.04 and you were running SOS Beta 4.0.1, use the following instructions instead for updating your SOS computer(s) to the official SOS version 4.0.1.

  1. Download:
  2. After downloading, open a terminal and run the command sh This should change your SOS version to the official release version. If you run SOS and for some reason the correct release version is not showing up (look at the version information under SOS Stream GUI’s SOS > About SOS menu...the version number should no longer include "beta"), follow the instructions for manually updating the SOS version in the Troubleshooting section at the bottom of this page.

Phase II Installation Instructions

Here you will find Phase II Installation Instructions for properly upgrading your iOS device to run SOS Remote App version 4.0. Please follow the instructions carefully, and let us know if you have any questions along the way.


Update your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch) to a minimum of iOS version 5.1.

  1. On your device, go to Settings > General > About and look at the Version entry.
  2. If the version number is less than 5.1, go to Settings > General > Software Update. iOS will automatically check for software updates. If an update is available, download the update and then install it by following along with the prompts.


Install Version 4.0 of SOS Remote App on your iOS device.

Go to iTunes > Apps and click on Check for Updates. An update indicator for SOS Remote App should appear. Make sure the app is selected and then sync your device with iTunes.

Alternatively, you can update the app directly from your device. Tap on the App Store App on your device. Then, tap on the Updates tab. The SOS Remote App should appear under the Updates list. Select the app and continue with the update prompts.

SOS 4.0.1 Updates

Major New Features

  • Annotation: Draw onto the sphere in real-time to highlight areas of interest during a presentation. Drop icons onto the sphere to provide additional visual cues.
  • Zoom: Zoom into a region on the sphere to get close up views of data.
  • Layering: SOS Version 4.0.1 introduces multiple geographic layers in a single SOS clip. Individual layers can be toggled on and off, and the level of transparency of each layer adjusted. In addition, one or more datasets can be interactively overlaid and blended over another dataset.

Minor New Features

  • In an SOS playlist file, the “data” and “pip” keywords can now contain a URL as its value. For example,

  • name = http image test
    data = /pics/sos_locations/denmark/full/DSC00796.jpg
    pip = /ftp_mirror/astronomy/milky_way/all_sky/media/thumbnail_big.jpg

Updated Documentation

Each of the following documents, referenced here for convenience, are accessible via the

Manuals menu option located on the Support tab of the SOS Website. The documents describe various aspects about how to use each of the new features.

For ease of access, all aspects (new user interfaces, specifying new features in a playlist, new automation commands, etc.) of the three major new features (Annotation, Zoom, Layering) have been placed into a single document:

Video Tutorials

The following videos, located on the Science On a Sphere® YouTube channel, are helpful tutorials that demonstrate how to use the new features.

Demo Playlist

The demo playlist provided below is an SOS playlist of clips that demonstrates how each of the new features can be used with various datasets. We recommend experimenting with each clip in the playlist. The playlist file has comments preceding each clip to help you understand the purpose and use of the new features. You can use any Text Editor to view the contents of the playlist file. In addition, we have provided a compilation of screenshots of each dataset in the playlist.

  • Download and then place the demo playlist anywhere in the /home/sos/sosrc/ directory. Then, on the SOS Stream GUI application running on the SOS computer, use File > Open... to select and load the demo playlist, and then do File > Update Playlist Data... to make sure you have a copy of all the demo playlist’s datasets on your computer.
  • Download: Demo_SOS_4.0.sos

  • Download the following icon and then follow the instructions in the demo playlist comments regarding which directory to place the icon in. (This icon is used to demonstrate one of the features of Annotation.)
  • Download: boat_icon.png

  • Demo playlist screenshots
  • Download: Screenshots of Demo Playlist

Bug Fixes

  • The fast forward and rewind functionality when playing a video dataset is now more robust and reliable.
  • When in Alignment mode, using the desktop mouse (left click and drag) connected to the SOS computer no longer causes the grid image on the sphere to erroneously rotate.

Known Bugs

  • Audio clips may play incorrectly when adjusting the Frame Slider bar on SOS Stream GUI.
  • In some instances on the SOS computer’s Wii Alignment GUI, pressing the “Stop Alignment” button does not properly exit Alignment mode until SOS Stream GUI is restarted.


  • The initial idea for the keyword background in a sos playlist file was to provide a basic two layer capability for a clip. This functionality has been replaced by the new layering feature. Although the keyword background will still be supported in a sos playlist in SOS version 4.0.1, we are requesting our users to use the new layering keywords instead when creating clips that have layers. Using the layering keywords will provide more user control for each layer of a clip.


  • Some of the rotation buttons on the Wii Remote are no longer working after upgrade to SOS 4.0.1.

    If you are using the big blue Linksys dongle (see here), you probably need to upgrade to a new dongle. We are currently recommending the TRENDnet TBW-106UB (see here), but any 2.1+ bluetooth dongle should work. It appears that the main part the old dongle prevents from working is the rotation unless done with the D-Pad.
  • Nvidia driver issue

    Older sites may have a package nvidia-173 installed. This package will conflict with more current nvidia drivers keeping SOS from running. If the projector X server does not start (can be checked by running ps aux | grep sharevts and checking if a process is running), run the following commands to remove the bad driver:

  • sudo apt-get purge nvidia-173 nvidia-current
    sudo apt-get install nvidia-current
    sudo reboot

    The X server should then start.
  • SOS not running correct version

  • If SOS continues to run a different version other than 4.0.1 (check this by going to SOS Stream GUI’s menu bar and selecting SOS > About SOS), check that your Start SOS desktop icon command reads:
    env SOS_DEBUG=1 sos –s
    You can check this by right clicking on the SOS icon and selecting Properties and then looking in the Command field.

    If your icon is correct and you are still not getting the correct version, open a Terminal and run:
    sudo update-alternatives --config sos
    Select the correct version from the list and then SOS should start as the correct version.