Several features will send weather updates to your phone or home PC

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As we embark on the second half of the hurricane season, it's time to review some helpful weather widgets. They won't change the storm a-comin', but they might help us all be a little more prepared.

Historically, I've found weather programs an annoyance. I'm just as happy to go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Web site to watch weather rather than use a program that might collect data on my Web-browsing patterns.

What really grinds my gears is when these programs are installed unknowingly as part of another program. If I'm downloading a chat program, I want a chat program, not all this other junkware.

Computing doesn't just take place at the desk anymore. The new crop of weather widgets is doing the job right to bring us our forecasts on the fly. Specifically, I've been very impressed with some of the meteorological measures taken by several services for the iPhone. As we saw with Mobile Google Maps, hopefully these will be available to the rest of the mobile community soon.

There are two services I've noticed that are going a great job.

First is the built-in iPhone weather widget powered by Yahoo. This handy program will give you a five-day forecast for multiple locations. I had to ask smitten iPhone owner Mr. Data, "Why do you need the weather for some place other than where we live?"

His reply: "It provides conversation fodder for talking with Grandma."

So whatever your reason, it's available.

Another handy feature is the access to Yahoo's city guide. My husband could easily pull up the restaurant ratings, movie theaters and hotels in the area. This would be great if we were visiting a new place.

The more hard-core weather fan might appreciate the AccuWeather iPhone Web site: www.accuweather.com/iphone. This site allows for a 15-day weather forecast and up-to-the-minute live radar maps.

If there's a hurricane coming, I'm going to want to use this service before the Yahoo weather widget.

For those who are still wired to the Web, there are weather options for you, too. AccuWeather has a pretty comprehensive array of applications that will bring you the weather, whatever their pleasure.

Non-iPhone Mac owners will like the dedicated widget that can be installed to their OS X Dashboard.

Vista users have a very similar application that can sit in their dock or on the desktop. Windows XP fans also can download a desktop application.

If you're not so hot on installing a full application onto your computer, there are plug-ins offered for the Firefox and Opera browser: ForecastFox and the Touchthesky widget. All of these AccuWeather applications offer severe weather alerts, radar and instant access to weather videos.

If you live life like me and access e-mail on your phone but can't connect to wireless networks for Web browsing, there are e-mail forecasts and alerts that you can easily set up. Sure wish they could let me know which streets are flooded.

E-mail Heather Hamilton at primadata@morris.com.


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