The Weather Channel, TED, Dr. Tran, & more

You know, coming up with a weekly article that discusses free stuff is not as easy as you might think. I usually think about what topic I'm going to write around a week or so in advance, that gives me time to find and play with related apps, podcasts, and shows, which can take a week to do (I do have a life beyond The Mac Observer) [Editor's Note to self: Remove non-TMO distractions from Vern's life so he can focus on what's really important, free stuff on iTunes.]. Only then do I begin to think about what to write, and I may write several versions before settling on one that works for me.

By that time it's usually Wednesday or Thursday, and I'm scrambling to write the article, format the photos, then put it all together in Dreamweaver before publishing it for edit and review. As Bryan or Jeff will attest, I often don't get the article finished until late Friday afternoon.

This Friday will be a bit different. I'm still scrambling and the article will arrive late, but the real difference is that I have absolutely nothing to write about. Visiting relatives and other distraction threw my imperfect schedule into chaos and though there's plenty of freebies in the iTunes Store, I've had little time to come up with something interesting to discuss and no time to review. That leaves me with 2 options:

1. I could fake it.
2. I could just do the best with what little I have.

Faking it is off the table. I'm many things, but I'm not going to tell you I looked at something then offer an opinion of it when I haven't so much as read the title.

That leaves doing the best with what I have, which means revisiting stuff I've told you about before.

The good thing about this is that the items are apps and podcasts that I actually use, a lot, so I feel confident in recommending them. So let's get right to it.

When I first got my iPhone one of the things I didn't much care for was the included weather app because it gave only the barest minimum of weather info. I moved on to WeatherBug, which was an improvement because it included a radar map and video forecasts, but I found it still lacking key features such as animated radar and verbose alerts. (Note: WeatherBug use to try to charge you for displaying verbose severe weather alerts, something you get free from the National Weather Service (NWS). Now there are no alerts available in the app. They may still pop up when alerts are issued, but the last time I checked, which was a while ago, WeatherBug only displayed the alert title and gave no details, which was essentially useless.)

The Weather Channel's app fixed all of that by providing good local short term and long term forecasts, video, animated radar, and the full severe weather alerts as issued from the NWS, and it's all free.

There are better weather apps available, but those you have to pay for. The Weather Channel app gives timely information and, as far as I can tell, it's been as accurate as other forecast outlets.

If you're looking for a good free weather app The Weather Channel app is about as good as a free weather app can get.

Another app that I use far more frequently than I thought I would is the TED app.

TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and it is yearly meeting of the minds where anyone doing anything of interest to the greater global community can talk about it.

It's not a forum for the egotistic, the folks who talk or perform at TED appear to be genuinely altruistic in their intent. They want to help, inform, entertain, and amuse. These are some of the brightest and most talented people on the planet and if we are ever visited by aliens considering whether the Human Race is worth saving, it is my sincere hope that they stop in on a TED conference before pressing the button.

The range of subjects is staggering. The app lets you access both video and audio TEDs segments. I watch 2 or 3 shows a week and there is always something new.

Grab the TED app. It's really very good.

OK, if there's one podcast that I come back to time and again it's Dr. Tran. I don't know why.

Maybe it's because the sick and very strange humor appeals to me. Maybe it's because…umm, the sick and very strange humor appeals to me. Whatever the reason, I get a kick out of watching. Always cheers me up.

Dr. Tran contains language and situations that may be offensive to some. Be warned, it is not for kids or the sensitive.

Start with Here Comes Dr. Tran and work your way through the rest at random.

Funny stuff.

OK, that's it for this week.

Well, almost.

I've been reviewing a desk lamp for a couple of months now.

Yes. I said desk lamp. Believe me when I say that I was as puzzled about this lamp as you may be. Anyway, it's a Berkeley Lamp from BlueMax, and it's about as high tech as a desk lamp can get.

What makes it high tech is that it's a florescent lamp that is dimmable!

I should have a full review out in a week or two so stay tuned.

OK, that's a wrap.

More free stuff in the iTunes Store below (with direct links).