Thursday, November 1, 2007

Weathering the storm: forecasts on your Pocket PC


By James Booth

Isn't it great to waste half your work day just staring out the window at the weather?

But not for you... You're stuck in some windowless bunker. Or trapped deep in the cubicle matrix of a glass and steel monolith; no natural sunlight to be found.

So what do you do? You bring the weather to you, that's what. You bring it to you right on the Today screen of your Pocket PC. In this product shootout, I'll be examining two weather utilities for the Pocket PC: Spb Weather from Spb Software House, and Pocket Weather from SBSH Mobile Software.

Weather on demand

PDAs have come a long way from the electronic organizers they began life as. Not only is it now the norm for them to connect to and share data with our computers, but most can now access the Internet. A majority of PDAs even run a pared-down version of the same operating system as our computers. It is commonplace for those same devices to even include cellular phones, offering a self-contained mobile Internet connection.

So what is the point of this history lesson and diatribe? Just this...

Today's devices can do pretty much everything, everywhere. Even bring you the weather.

Both of these applications work basically the same way. They connect to an online weather server, download the forecast, and display it on your Pocket PC. The differences lay in the "fine print" so to speak. So, if you'll turn your head and cough, we'll get on with the examination.

Spb Weather ($14.95)

Spb Weather comes from Spb Software House, makers of many fine Pocket PC applications, including the previously reviewed Spb Backup.

Spb Weather is a weather forecast application and plug-in for your Today screen. It features five different view modes, multiple skins, is relatively easy to set up, and allows for multiple weather sources. In addition, it has been designed to integrate with Spb's Mobile Shell, Diary, and Pocket Breeze. Figure A below shows a capture of my Today screen, featuring Spb Weather.


Spb Weather integrates with your Today screen. (click for larger image)

Setup is easily accessed via the context menu, where you can set the display, skins, etc. Spb Weather comes with six cities pre-programmed, but adding new ones is relatively simple as you can see in Figure B.


Setup is easy. (click for larger image)

You can look up by ZIP code, city-state-country, or you can program in a location by the citycode used by the weather servers. Although Spb Weather comes with Gismeteo as the default weather server, you can set it for just about any one you're familiar with.