See if winter is coming with five minimalist weather apps for iPhone

It’s hard to think of anything more exciting than weather—OK, there’s probably a few things: paperclips, the Pythagorean theorem, the Dewey decimal system…

The onset of global warming has made weather far more unpredictable and far less boring, so finding instant, accurate information has become more important.

Luckily, app developers have taken to re-imagining how we get the weather through some innovative iPhone apps that are slick, simple and cool (pun intended). To date, there are 4,772 total apps filed under “weather.” Here are five beautiful, minimalist weather apps that embrace good design and user interface. An honorable mention goes to Weathercube (free), for its kitschy, Rubik’s Cube-style UI, and Dark Sky ($3.99) wins the practicality award for its critical, human-speak notifications (“rain in one min,” e.g.).

Good Weather

Good Weather

Far more than temperature and precipitation levels at your current location, Good Weather features fun mini games that change based on the weather. A simple, no-frills interface features thick, rounded icons front and center that come alive with a swipe to the right. Make sure you check out the unique default locations (think: winter is coming). Price: Free.

Solar

Solar

The best part about Solar is the soothing color palate and clean, sans serif text. Slide your finger down and you’ll get a three-day forecast. Swipe right and you’ll switch locations. Drag your finger up (do this slowly) and you’ll get a sliding weather prediction for the next 24 hours. Watch as the colors, temperature and descriptions change. Price: Free.

Climate Clock

Climate Clock

Watch the time tick by as a minimalist, analog clock takes over your iPhone screen. Overlaid on a time of day and temperature-based gradient, Climate Clock has weather icons around the face instead of numbers, so you’ll know when you need to bring a jacket (always, if you’re in San Francisco). Price: $.99

Weather Dial

Weather Dial

Formerly WTHR, this deadly simple and “more beautiful” weather dial has only one main button: refresh. Stunning icons describe your local climate in plain English like “It’s Clear & 63°” and the app switches between light and dark themes for day and night. While the simplicity and attention to detail are gold here, the dial doesn’t support multiple locations like the rest of these apps. Price: $.99.

UltraWeather

Ultraweather

Ultraweather ditches the pastel colors and instead opts for a stream of outdoor Instagram photos with large temperature and weather icons nicely placed on top. Tag your shots with #cloudyuw or #sunnyuw and they’ll automatically appear in the background. The one downfall is there doesn’t appear to be much censoring, so plenty of unrelated pictures pop up. Price: Free.

Do you have a favorite weather app so minimalist and magnificent that it could land in the museum of modern art? Let me know in the comments!

And if you’re itching to take a stab at designing the weather, check out Weather Analytics for streamlined access to good weather data. Just don’t forget to bring your umbrella.

Control your technology, sans the remote

Myo

Gesture-driven computing, on your arm this year.

I get excited about two kinds of gadgets:

1. The kind that let us do more than we already can

2. Devices that take our daily interactions to the next level

I’m betting on MYO, a gesture-driven armband, to do both. And it’s coming out, albiet in a limited release (25,000), this year.

MYO promises to let us play our music with a snap, quite literally. A demo video shows the armband being used to play videogames, drive drones, annotate presentations, and rewind a video. It’s essentially a remote control, without the remote.

The developers of this innovative new concept, Thalmic Labs, are calling it effortless interaction. Backed with $1.1 million in seed funding, Thalmic consists of three canuks who graduated from Canada’s University of Waterloo and lifted off through Silicon Valley’s prestigious startup incubator, Y Combinator.

It’s essentially a remote control, without the remote.

Most of the devices we hear about today are just new ways of doing the same thing: a watch to check our messages or a screen of varying size that lets us use apps and connect to the Internet. It’s refreshing to hear about the occasional and potentially game-changing technology. The most exciting part about MYO is the price point. At a tenth the cost of Google Glasses, you can take your tech hands-free later this year for only $150.

Design this: free iOS graphic template

iOS 6 GUI

A digital design agency called Teehan+Lax is giving away what appears to be a top notch editable file for designing iPhone app screens with Photoshop.

With a high quality PSD like this, designers can easily mock up ideas for apps, workflows or even memes based in Apple’s latest iOS.

Why are they giving it away?

Because an important business philosophy noted in the Teehan+Lax blog is living by Tim O’Reilly’s motto: “Create more value than you capture.”

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Tim O’Reilly is the founder of O’Reilly Media, the major publishing house and technology conference promoter.

Aspiring entrepreneurs should take note from Teehan+Lax, which has found success through being unique, working hard, establishing core values, and learning to say no. Founder Jon Lax blogs about it here.

Get the ios 6 GUI for iPhone 5 here: http://www.teehanlax.com/blog/ios-6-gui-psd-iphone-5/

2012: the year of the smart watch

UPDATE: Walt Mossberg of All Things D just posted his take on one smart watch after spending a week with it. See “Sony’s SmartWatch Not Ready for Primetime“.

http://vimeo.com/user6295201/im-watch-the-first-real-smartwatch-in-the-world

Mark my words.

Wearable technology is it.

As the digital world starts to overlap and sometimes, overshadow the physical world, it seems inevitable for those two worlds to merge a little more seamlessly.

Google’s Project Glass, a pair of sci-fi specs that layers notifications and interactivity over your standard vision, may look silly right now. By 2015 it’ll be right on target.

Right now, you need to consciously use a device to unlock the online universe. Whether that be smartphone, tablet or computer, we have to pull something out of our pocket, unlock the screen and tap.

What if you could reduce those three steps to just one? Tap.

Until we start using Google’s goggles, we have a new wearable innovation in “smart watches” — new-age wrist straps for geeks like me who think having all that tech a glance away is pretty cool.

While not everyone is into that whole interconnected, online all the time lifestyle, many people have forgotten how to exist without the Internet. Without convenient, online access people go bonkers. I’ve seen it at the Genius Bar.

They’re just jonesing to connect and get back their email. I try to keep calm and compute on, but even 10 Mb/s makes me want to pull my hair out sometimes.

But that’s neither here nor there.

This invention is really starting to pick up steam with some serious startups and even a tech juggernaut (think, the Walkman) stepping into the game.

HERE ARE 3 SMART WATCHES TO KEEP AN EYE ON:

First off, hot on Kickstarter right now, Pebble. e-paper watch, a device that lest you connect to your smartphone for notifications, caller ID, weather and of course, time.

Next up is i’m Watch, from an Italian manufacturer. This one starts significantly higher at $469 for a multi-touch, multi-tasking digital timepiece that claims to be “simply the first” of its kind. All of the above are included in a bright, LED glass square strapped to your wrist. Check email, take calls, tweet. One-handed. Er, wristed.

Sony is joining the startups in the competition with its own, aptly named SmartWatch, price TBA.

Sony's aptly named "SmartWatch" is coming soon and doesn't have a price listed. It is compatible with most standard watchbands for inexpensive customization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Along with i’m Watch, Sony’s take is a dead ringer for the ultimate product + accessory that planted this seed: Apple’s iPod Nano + a “watchband” from LunaTik or iWatchz.

That little duo can be had for as little as $129 for an entry-level 8GB nano and $24.95 for the cheapest strap from iWatchz, totaling just under $170. But the Nano doesn’t connect to your iOS devices just yet. And it can’t take calls. Yet. As soon as Apple releases an update for the software running these wafer-sized gadgets, it will be a well-poised competitor again.

Until then, these new smart watches are essentially wrist displays for smartphones, connecting to both the phone and the Internet via a wireless Bluetooth connection.

While both a cool fashion accessory and useful tool (and toy), naysayers will call it “frivolous”, “overkill” and “unnecessary.”

If any of that is true now, it won’t be for long.

Facebook just bought Instagram…don’t flip out just yet

Image

My jaw just dropped with the news I received from MacRumors that Facebook, the social network, is buying Instagram, a photo-sharing app and the rising star of the social media world.

I know what you’re thinking…

W…T…F?!

Another media giant buying out a smoking hot tech start-up, turning the cool new indie thing into the latest corporate toy.

Luckily, Facebook appears to be taking a very smart approach here: become the financial backbone of what’s already become an established sensation, and one that’s here to stay.

So, hopefully, that means we don’t see INSTABOOK anytime soon.

Just last week, game developer Zynga purchases OMGPOP, the company behind the latest buzzworthy iOS game Draw Something.

And it wasn’t so long ago that Microsoft, the biggest kid on the tech playground, bought Skype. Another shocking moment in tech buyout history.

Now think about the two players in a buyout like that: people love Skype, and everyone hates Microsoft. Skype brings us closer to our relatives afar through free or inexpensive international phone calls and video calls. Microsoft makes Windows PCs! Blegh. Viruses, nerds and Bill Gates.

But so far, Skype is still Skype. Big bad Microsoft hasn’t closed up Skype’s shop and rates haven’t changed (as far as I know). For once, a merger has gone smoothly, and independence reigns, while corporate parents Microsoft still gets the perks. In this case, that’s Xbox Kinect integration.

For previous tech mergers gone really bad, we can always look to AOL Time Warner.

And more recently, AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post has been a learning experience for both sides. More on that from TechCrunch.

Here’s to hoping Facebook keeps its promise and Instagram remains great.

Change is more than just a buzz word

Like it or not, the future is here.

Whenever a culture evolves, the media are the first to evolve with it.

We, especially journalists, have to see what is working, what is changing and change with it. Everyone knows the new medium is online, but the concept isn’t as simple as it sounds.

It’s a migration of a physical publication to a digital, interactive, multimedia Web site that features more than just online replications of what’s in print. The print will always exist, for the iPhoneless will need something to read at the coffee shop and students will need something to pick up on the way to class.

But education is having a hard time catching up, especially many college journalism programs. From the Associated Collegiate Press Journalism Convention I attended over the weekend, I took away two key ideals: we cannot look back and professors need to start learning from students.

There are many new forms of writing that have come up in the last few years, and each one is important. Students must be able to write for print, broadcast, online, blogs , local and national. As leading newspapers are folding, local publications, online startups and semi-professional media blogs are thriving.

Well, maybe not thriving, but at least surviving. Smaller newspapers have an advantage because we market to a niche audience: no one covers the Cal Poly beat with as much effort and enthusiasm for Bronco pride as we do here – just take a look at this week’s front page (why my column is here).

In fact, The Poly Post was just awarded fourth place in the ACP Best of Show competition for four-year college weekly broadsheet publications at the new media convention. The convention hosted more than 900 college journalists in San Diego. The Post maintains student interests at all costs, differing from the public relations take of the PolyCentric articles on the campus Web site.

We provide insight, objectivity, and the ability to keep an eye on campus organizations and questionable activities. However, we are held back by three major problems: education, apathy, and resources.

Education

Our writers come in with little training, despite the numerous prerequisites we are often forced to override just to get enough support. A year of writing for The Post will help your skills more than many reporting classes, because you learn each week by writing about something new and getting out into the field.

Apathy

While student bodies at universities like UC Berkeley are infamous for their activism, commuter schools like ours face a lack of overall enthusiasm and motivation on a daily basis.

Most students seem to be here simply because they got in or because Cal Poly was close to home. The communication students don’t even seem to care about published work or their student newspaper, when these are the most critical elements for job experience.

Resources

The total editorial staff of The Poly Post includes less than 20 students, and half of us spend hours upon hours every weekend in an office that looks like it hasn’t changed since 1965.

While we broke down the cubicles just last summer, the only signs of modernism are tucked away in the three silver and black iMacs used for production. Our resources force us to work hard, but hinder our abilities to thrive in the changing generation of journalism .

We focus so much effort on the print publication you may (or may not) put your hands on each week, we’re left with little energy or time to spend on the podcasts, videos, slideshows, and interactivity we are slowly incorporating into our Web site. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to see continuous updates, like the re-launching of the Web site next quarter, news videos from broadcast journalism students at thepolypost.com/cppvideos, and online coverage of the men’s basketball team all week long as they enter playoffs.

So what are we left with? While the communication department is not completely behind the times here, the print-centric mindset still dominates and students see online as second-fiddle to what should be the priority if any of us are looking to get hired in a job(less) market that just surpassed 10 percent unemployment in California, and is leaving more than 80,000 without jobs nationally.

Does that even matter?

Most of us need to make it on our own. Journalists can no longer market themselves as simply a reporter: we have to be multimedia journalists, bloggers, designers, photographers, and Twitterers.

The systems must continue to evolve and if that means setting free a tenured department head to bring in a cheaper, younger and energetic chair, we should be looking to do that anyway. Isn’t the students’ education more important than one teacher’s job?

Professors who employ blue book writing tests should also take note: have us type our essays, and you’ll get better work. Extensive handwriting is tiresome and old-fashioned. There’s stripped-down word processing software available, so don’t think it’s not possible. There is no direct conclusion here because things will keep changing.

This newfangled technology is not something to be scared of, Luddites. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and creation that we keep inventing new ways to increase productivity and better ourselves.

My single greatest discovery at the convention was something that’s been right under my nose: Google . The mail, documents, and applications features have so much worth looking into for organizing, editing, and creating that any idiot can get savvy without sophistication.