Where is the Sun? SunCalc has your answer

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 8.20.19 PMAs the Northeastern US has been pummeled by snow, the roads have become treacherous day after day after day.

Just look at the mess on the Pennsylvania Turnpike last Friday. 5 miles of accidents. Over 100 cars involved. Good grief. (can you say “demolition derby”, boys and girls?)

Although this string of accidents is still under investigation, it is likely that icy roads, sun glare and drivers who were moving too fast for the conditions are all to blame.

As I watched the coverage of this on TV, I was interested in the “Sun Glare” discussion. I learned that there is a website that will calculate sun direction.

On SunCalc you can enter ANY address and apply ANY date to that address, and see the angle of the sun for sunrise, midday and sunset.

While it’s not something that would be everyday handy, I can imagine situations where this would be great information to have. Campers and hikers, for sure. Any other ideas?

I looked at the sun direction aimed at my own home, and confirmed that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to take down the tree that protected my picture window from a full blast of direct sun in July. uh oh :shock:

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New Weather App is now my Favorite for the iPhone: BeWeather

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 7.17.07 AMI’m a bit of a weather geek, I think. I have 6 weather apps on my iPhone, and today I bought another. :shock:

(It’s always nice to have a new visual, and when it also works so perfectly, pulls together the info that you want/need, well then, …. yay!)

Former Blackberry users may recognize this, as it was a favorite on that device.

There is a free version, but I quickly upgraded to the full version. (You download the free version, and if you want to upgrade, you are given the opportunity within the app.)

First of all, it looks beautiful. You get to select the screen that you would like to see when you open the app. You can choose a still photo, or an animated scene that matches your weather, or a radar map.

I chose the animated scene and it is stunning. Day’s have light, night is dark. The clouds move, the fog rolls….it’s just plain pretty. These screenshots are still for this blog, but on the iPhone, they are active and moving.

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It is very easy to use, and full of information. Slide the screen left or right to view your other locations. If the location has a severe alert, a red icon appears at the bottom of the screen. A tap on that red triangle brings up the special news that is relevant to your area. Slide the screen UP to see both an hourly forecast and a 7 day forecast. Tap any hour and see the forecast by the minute. Touch the radar symbol at the bottom of the screen to see your local radar.

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And see those three little dots on the bottom right? Tap that to see a boatload of webcams in the area.

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It’s intuitive and stunning, and is now my go-to weather app.

The free version will limit your options within the app. You will only have the ability to save 2 locations, you won’t get the ‘minute’ forecast and the temp badge will not appear on your home screen. Other options are missing as well. I’m delighted with the upgrade, as the extra features make it just plain wonderful, but the free version is still worth the download.

BeWeather for your iPhone is FREE in the iTunes store. The upgrade is $2.99. You must have iOS7 on your iPhone to run this app.

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Careful! The infamous Polar Vortex can hurt your phone!

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 8.14.37 PMMy goodness ….. it has been COLD around here, today. I live in the eastern US, and the term “polar vortex” has been on everyone’s (frozen) lips.

When I glanced at my iPhone during the night, one of my apps had thoughtfully left a chilly notification on the screen “temperature has gone below 0.” :shock:

Schools were closed and reporters were on the streets, tweeting pictures of bank-temperature signs announcing numbers like -7 and -3.

Made me wonder: Can iPhones work in that kind of cold?

Turns out that the answer is: Nope. Your iPhone will fail in sub-zero temps.

Apparently the screen display and the battery can not handle these extreme temperatures. Apple tells us that the iPhone battery functions best between 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. (-2 is a long way from 32!). When the phone starts getting sluggish, it’s your signal to warm it up. Put it in your pocket or tuck it in somewhere against your body for warmth.

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at 8.16.41 PMIn 2012, the Mikro PC (PC World Finland) put some phones to the temperature test. They started in a room of 32 degrees and started lowering it in steps of 9 degrees until eventually all phones stopped working.

The iPhone 4s that they tested started acting odd at 23 degrees and and at 9 degrees it stopped working altogether. Some other phones kept functioning as the temps continued to drop. Non smartphones made it all the way to -40, but that was the limit for any phone. You can read all about this test by clicking here.

I heard one newsperson announce that compared to being outside, you would be warmer if you climbed into your freezer. Yep, it’s pretty cold.

When you venture out, remember to bundle up … good advice for both you AND your iPhone.

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Today’s Tech and the Oklahoma Tornado

photo credit: msnbc

photo credit: msnbc

There are no words to describe the horror of yesterday’s tornado in Oklahoma.

We watched it live from around the country. I can’t imagine what that was like for people who were at work in Oklahoma City, watching the television coverage of the storm as it raked through their own neighborhoods, a few miles away. And if they had kids in those schools? I have no words.

I subscribe to a Twitter feed from the National Weather Service, and the alerts were coming in by the second with precise locations targeted to take shelter or get away. Tornado warnings were issued 25-40 minutes before the tornado struck.

photo credit: CNN

photo credit: CNN

Today’s tech can warn us and let us watch, but after the storm has passed, can it help?

Yes, it can.

The American Red Cross is helping loved ones find each other through the website Safe and Well.

You can donate to the Red Cross online, or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, or you can donate by phone by calling 1-800-RED CROSS.

A list of shelters can be found, here.

The Salvation Army has also set up a donation form online.

photo credit: CNN

photo credit: CNN

When a tornado of this magnitude rips through neighborhoods like this, personal belongings can end up miles and miles away.

A Facebook page has been started to reunite people with their belongings so that hopefully some photos and other items can find their way back into the possession of owners. This Facebook page was actually started after an earlier tornado, but has been expanded to include the disaster in Moore. (As I write this post, I just saw an interview on television with an Oklahoma senator who lives 80 miles away from the tornado area and he was holding up a photograph that had floated down into his yard. A perfect example of how helpful this Facebook page can be.)

Pets are also being reunited with their owners through the online effort.

photo credit: CNN

photo credit: CNN

The photos of the devastation show an area that looks like a bomb has leveled it. Coverage is continuous this morning on most news stations in the USA, and a comprehensive collections of photos are here and here.

So tech is helping warn and cope. But it can’t prevent. Maybe someday we’ll be able to flip a switch and dissipate a storm. Now that would be a technological advancement to cheer about.

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This Week’s “Weekend Distraction” is the Perfect Storm: Are You In Harm’s Way? Be Prepared!

photo credit: cbc news

This week, my “Weekend Distraction” has been preempted by Mother Nature because she is offering up a huge distraction of her own.

Those of us who live in the Northeastern part of the United States are about to get clobbered by a storm that the media has dubbed “Frankenstorm”.

Apparently, the hurricane that is coming up the east coast is going to strengthen, increase in size, combine with other weathery things and then EXPLODE into an enormous storm. This is a “Perfect Storm” scenario (like the movie) except this storm will happen over land. “Unprecedented”, they say.

Here is a sampling of the warnings we are receiving:

* “We looking at one of the worst storms on record that we’ve seen in this region,” said Carl Parker, hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel.

* The rare mix of merging weather systems over a densely populated region, experts predict at least $1 billion in damage.

* The resulting storm “will be like a nor’easter with a hurricane embedded in it,” said Bryan Norcross, hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel.

* “We’re not trying to hype it,” National Weather Service meterologist Paul Kocin tells Bloomberg News. “What we’re seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century.”

* National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Jim Cisco said: “We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting.”

* “The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage and I’m thinking a billion” this time, Masters said. “Yeah, it will be worse.”

We are being warned that it is highly likely that we will have major power outages for a significant amount of time. (The storm itself is expected to last for days. Yes, you read that right… days!) They are warning of power outages that will last a week or more.

Since I live right in the middle of the predicted mess, I am contemplating my life without power. (We do not have a generator). No power means no cooking, no heat, no refrigerator, no freezer, no (gasp) blogging!!!

And then there is the internet. It is fickle under the best of circumstances, so I’m sure a “Frankenstorm” will be a great excuse for it to quit. (I guess what I’m saying is that I might not be around for a few days.)

If you live in the Northeast, it is time for you to prepare. Once you are buckled down, have your batteries, water and other supples, there are a few apps you might want to add to your emergency kit.

My dear friend alerted me to an app from the American Red Cross designed for emergency preparedness. (thank you, Mona!) Although this app is called Hurricane by American Red Cross, it is really much more than that. It is a great app to have on hand for all severe weather.

It includes emergency plans, shelter locators, radar information, notifications of warnings in your area (I woke up to a notification of a flood watch) and … a tool kit, with a strobe light, flashlight and a loud alarm to signal for help.

The American Red Cross also has a fine First Aid App, and it pairs nicely with the one, above. It also includes emergency plans.

Best of all, the content is contained ON your device, so even if you lose your connection to the internet you still have the step by step emergency information.

While you do still have electricity, make sure you keep your devices on full charge, so when the power goes out you’ll have maximum usage.

A car charger can be a big help (if you have a car :) ). When the power goes out, you can charge up your phone from your car. I plan to pick up a car charger on Saturday as part of my preparing for this storm.

Note to owners of e-readers: Charge them up! There may be some long, powerless nights ahead for a lot of reading time.

Even if you are not part of this, uh, “adventure”, both of these Red Cross Apps are FREE and full of good information.

Hurricane by American Red Cross is free in the iTunes store.

First Aid by American Red Cross is free in the iTunes store.

Today’s Tech is Watching Us, And Catching Tornados on Film

photo credit: CBS_Fan via photo pin cc

I’m not too crazy about all these security cameras everywhere. They have become so common, that I wonder if there is any “spot” in a populated area that isn’t being filmed at any moment? It’s a little creepy in a way, but I guess it’s also a part of life in 2012.

However, on the upside, there is a bonus to these cameras.

Since they are on ALL the time, they capture things that otherwise can’t be seen.

Over the last few years, there have been numerous tornados caught on surveillance cameras, and the results are astounding. Before these cameras were so commonplace, it was unlikely that a human could witness the power of the storm as it worked its destruction.

Here are a few amazing security camera catches:

The video below was taken in Parkersburg, Iowa, 2008.
It’s a peaceful Sunday morning in the bank. Several cameras throughout the bank are running.
And then the storm hits….

The video below was taken in Henryville, Indiana, 2012
A news report will narrate the films that the security cameras in a school caught as a tornado blew through.
Hang on to the very end of this video to watch an entire gym area simply wiped away.

The video below was taken in Alabama, 2008
This surveillance camera catches cars tossed in the air.

Solar: A Stunning New Weather App for Your iPhone and iPad

I have quite a few weather apps, and I really thought I was “done” ….. until I saw this one. Solar was just released this week, and it is very different and very beautiful.

I love simple utility apps, and Solar fits this perfectly. It won’t give you lots of details, but it gives you the current weather, temperature, and the forecast for the hours and days ahead. All the stuff you really need.

And the screens are presented with beautiful colors. Subtle, changing colors. Hot temperatures will present with reds and oranges, cooler temperatures display with soft blues. Gorgeous.

You can add cities and swipe from screen to screen to see them quickly. A double tap will put four on the screen at once.

Slide your finger up, and you can watch the clock move and the temperature displayed for the hours ahead.

Slide your finger down, and the next three days of temps and weather are on the screen.

Lovely to look at. A delight to use.

Solar is 99¢ in the iTunes store.

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