by David Hakala
It’s all too easy to get lost in your computer and the Web, totally ignoring the real world. Writers and programmers do it all the time; so do gamers. But sooner or later you have to get up and go outside. It would be nice to know what’s going on out there. A number of online weather services can put the current weather report for your area right on your desktop so you don’t even have to look out the window.
There’s a free desktop weather application available at Weather.com, home of The Weather Channel. It provides current conditions and several forecasts: 12-hour, ten-day, pollen counts, driving, golf, etc. It’s all a bit overwhelming, really. The best thing is to set the program to just display the current temperature in your system tray. If there are storm alerts, the system tray icon will turn from blue to orange and red, and blink. Then you can open the full program and see what’s happening.
WeatherBug.com has a similar tool you can download. But unlike Weather.com’s real-time updates, WeatherBug’s application checks for forecast and current condition updates only every few hours. This is useful if you have a dial-up Internet access account, but with an always-on connection it’s inferior to Weather.com.
The Advanced Searchbar for Internet Explorer puts weather in your browser, along with many other tools. The searchbar searches more than 100 search engines at once, providing more search results than ever before. That’s good or bad depending on how much time you have. It uses the FreeWeather.com site to display current conditions and forecasts in real time.
For Mac users there are a number of free desktop weather applications. Son of Weather Grok is one example. It taps into NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) data center using four-letter ICAO codes for Airports. Son of Grok will show the temperature, sky conditions, humidity, wind speed, pressure, ceiling, visibility, and much more.
Remember Paul Simon’s lyrics from The Only Living Boy In New York? “I can gather all the news I need from the weather report.”
David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dhakala