|Tue Feb 20, 2007 - 8:42 AM EST - By Harv Laser|
Update: Since this review was published, TreoCiel has been upgraded to V1.5 in June, 2007.. with faster rendering and some cool new features.
"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it ". So goes that famed old quotation, spoken ages ago by Charles D. Warner, although often attributed to his friend, Mark Twain. It's usually good for a laugh, although if you stop and think about it, there isn't a single living thing walking, crawling, slithering, swimming or growing out of the ground on this planet of ours that isn't affected by the weather, in one way or another, for better or for worse.
The weather is part of almost everyone's daily conversation. "Man is it hot / cold / windy today" or "honey, better bundle up and get the snow shovel" or "beautiful day we're having" or "it's supposed to rain this weekend, guess we'll have to put off the barbeque."
As a kid, I was fascinated by, and owned a lot of science toys, and although I can't remember if I scrimped and saved the ten bucks it cost (that was a LOT of money for a middle-class kid around 1960) or if my folks bought it for me, I had one of these in my bedroom and it was my favorite toy � I installed the wind speed and weather vane bits on our roof, ran their wires down through my bedroom window, and, after tediously following the assembly instructions, proudly admired my ability to bolt, screw, wire, and glue a couple hundred parts together. I often planted myself in front of the console for hours and learned quite a bit about the science of meteorology. No, I couldn't control the weather, but I felt like the king of weather, sitting in front of that bank of dials and charts and switches and blinking lights.
My cherished Lionel Weather Station got tossed when we moved out of that house, but a few years ago, thanks to eBay, I nabbed one exactly like it, "Mint in box" as they say, for, well, I won't say how much. No, I didn�t assemble it, but once in a while I take it out of the closet and admire it - just the smell of its plastic casework literally takes me back to when I was ten years old. You might laugh, but the older one gets, the more one yearns for their long lost childhood stuff. Well, at least I do.
So the weather affects all of us in many ways - where we live, what we wear, how or if we drive, our heating or air conditioning bills, and even our health. Despite huge advancements in the science of weather forecasting over the decades, that discipline is still far from perfect, (ask yourself how often "the weatherman" is wrong).. and we still talk about the weather, but can't really do anything about it. Well, for the most part we can't, although if you want it to rain, get your car washed. Always works for me.
Since you probably wouldn't be reading this if you didn't own a Treo, you've most likely used it numerous ways to get weather forecasts, whether you're planning a business or pleasure trip and need to know if you should pack an umbrella and raincoat or tubes of sunblock for your journey to some other city, or just to know how hot or cold it is where you are (and if you dare wash the car)..
There are many free sources of weather information your Treo can deliver, usually via your Blazer Web browser and WAP versions of popular sites such as AccuWeather, The Weather Channel, and others, which, like TreoCentral's own mobile site put a graphically light, fast-loading version of their sites on your phone's screen in seconds.
You can also pull down nation-wide and city-specific audio feeds of The Weather Channel with Kinoma Player 4 EX (look for "Weather" in the Kinoma Media Guide), and full streaming video from TWC with pay services such as smarTVideo, both of which I recently reviewed.
All of these alternatives just scratch the surface of the ways you can get weather information and forecasts in your hand, wherever you go or for where you plan to go.
Okay, what's a "ciel" you're wondering. Well Tr�oCiel's developer Kigosha is a French company, and the English translation of "ciel" is "sky". "Treo" in French phonetically translates to "tr�s haut" or "very high", so the program's name is a play on words: Tr�oCiel = "very high in the sky." Appropriate for a weather forecasting program, cute, eh?
Tr�oCiel is a slick and VERY solid little PalmOS weather forecasting program, a single .prc file that eats just over 200k when installed. (It's also freshly available for Windows Mobile). Happily, this lovely little program will install into and work perfectly from either your internal memory or your storage card, and it functions identically from either location. Since it pulls down weather updates over the air, you'll naturally need a data plan, but it need not be an unlimited one as each time you ask Tr�oCiel to fetch the latest weather data, the connection only lasts a few seconds.
It's available as a fully functional trial version which will let you try it ten times before you have to pay for an unlock code to continue using it. The program costs 9.95 Euros (about US$12.00) and in my opinion, is worth every cent.
The advantages of Tr�oCiel vs. web site browsing and some competing free software are the following as I see them:
After installation, the first thing you'll want to do is set up one or more "stations" or city locations for graphical display. Simply use the pull-down "Stations / New" and punch in either a Weather.com station ID (such as USNY0996, which you're unlikely to know anyway) or a location name like "New York, NY". Tr�oCiel pulls data from Weather.com based on those ID codes, but you don't have to know them. Just enter a city name, like "New York" and the program connects to Weather.com's database to give you all the locations or variants of that name. Try "Paris" for example and you'll get a list choices like "Paris, France", "Paris, TX" and many others.
Pick your choice, and it's added to your stations list. Just repeat the process for however many cities / stations you want to monitor.
Next, let's set up some preferences. Tr�oCiel graphically displays three different weather parameters (temperature, precipitation, and wind speed and direction) on the "Y" (vertical) axis. Time in either hours or days displays on the "X" (horizontal) axis. Three different ways of displaying the screen are at your fingertips in two prefs windows:
Okay, now you have one or more stations / cities set up to keep an eye on their weather conditions. Fetching fresh data is a piece of cake. Just choose the station you want to update, then use the menu / update pull-down or smack the center button of your five-way pad.
And, as the French say, Voila! Tr�oCiel makes a data connection, fetches your stations' data, and in a few seconds, displays it graphically with appropriate temperature ranges, wind speed and direction, and little icons for day and night, sunny, cloudy, rain, or snow forecasts.
With the Custom Views preferences panel (pictured above) you choose which of these three parameters and ranges to show on screen at any given time and you can set up three separate ways to view them:
Tr�oCiel always tells you how old its on-screen data is in the upper left-hand corner of its screen, and besides the three different graphs, you get two different views � hourly (with a white background for daylight hours) or a ten-day forecast view.
The graphics representing weather conditions and wind direction are displayed only when they change so the screen doesn't look like an explosion in an icon factory.
Since Tr�oCiel's display is always wider than one screen's worth, you can easily navigate it either with the left and right side of the five-way pad, or your stylus or finger.
There are no sound effects for rain or thunder or anything else, nor are there any radar images, time-lapse images, or severe storm warnings. Tr�oCiel operates silently, which keeps the program small and fast. Its screen layout is logical and attractive; the only real downside is that for those of you who like to customize the living daylights out of everything, all of the displayed numbers, chart lines, and graphics are fixed in size and color � you can't modify any of them except for what's allowed in the program's preferences. This may bug some folks, but play with the program for a while and I think you'll find that its layout makes sense; you've got plenty of ways to display weather forecast data, whether hour by hour through a single day, or spread out over a ten day period, for as many cities as you want to keep track of, and it's easy to add more city stations or delete those you don't want to use any more.
One thing the Kigosha might want to consider adding is some kind of automatic data update in the background. Although you can always tell how old the charts and information display is just by looking at the upper left corner of the screen, you only get the latest data by manually asking the program to update it. And what's easier than pressing one button to do it anyway?
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