Dark Sky App – the only app worth buying

Dark Sky's radarDark Sky is one of the few apps I use that I rely on. I’ve used it most days for over a year; it cost £2.49, a princely sum for a mobile app, but has paid for itself time and time again in predicting when it’s going to rain and for how long.

I first came across it on an up-and-comers piece in the New York Times, or possibly the Washington Post, last year. It was claimed by several reviewers that for quick trips on foot, when you weren’t sure if the heavens were about to release a month’s rainfall in seven minutes, it predicted the likelihood with uncanny accuracy. And saved you from getting absolutely rodded with rain.

Bollocks, I thought. If the iPhone has taught us anything, it is that we love weather and love knowing what might happen with it in the next day, 48 hours or two weeks. There are an avalanche of near-pointless weather apps in the App Store, so many that developers have taken a zen approach of minimalistic design in order to distinguish themselves from one another, dispensing entirely with numbers and icons and simply using colours to reflect the conditions. Cute, but pointless. I assumed this app was another fabled attempt to beautify the mundanity of weather by employing an overpaid UX agency twerp with horizontal hair and purple, skinny jeans.

But Dark Sky doesn’t attempt to forecast miles into the future – just as well because even in 2014, this is the darkest of scientific arts. It looks ahead by 24 hours and shows you where the rain currently is, on a map – a normal map with contours and boundaries and not coloured shades of blue and green and purple. It then animates where the rain is likely to be, and using your brain you can see whether it’s going to hit you or not. Or, in my case, whether it’s going to screw up my day’s cricket (I used to use rainradar.co.uk for this, as do most cricket journalists, but Dark Sky is infinitely more accurate and useful).

Dark Sky

Their latest update is out today and it makes an invaluable app now beautiful, along with temperature displays and other neat additions such as finding out where the nearest storm is relative to your location. The more you zoom out, to see the country as a whole, the further back in time you can “view” how grizzly the weather has been. And if it’s about to wazz down near you in the next 20 minutes or so, you’ll be notified.

This will probably be the only geeky app-love post I write this year, as most of the others I use add little but stress and annoyance to my life, but Dark Sky is the absolute bomb – especially for a country mesmerised by the gloomy grey blanket above our heads.

Internet journalism in 1981

Great video from 1981 on the wizardry of computers and how it might change journalism, one day. We have come far!

iPhone signals the death of SLR photography

The iPhone has single handedly transformed how easy it is to take and share photos. So good is the quality, so easy is it to take and edit photos, that for many photographers it has replaced the point-and-shoot pocket camera they keep as backups.

It’s remarkable how quickly this has happened. When the iPhone first came out its camera was a nice addition to a transformative device. It took poor quality stills with lots of noise and artefacts; the fact you could quickly email them to friends, though, showed its future potential. But with the latest iPhones, the quality is now so high, and the software available to tweak/improve/modify photos so advanced, that many professional photographers are using them as part of their workflow or, in some cases, their main device entirely.


Anyway. All this came to me while sitting in Starbucks, of all places, escaping the humdrum of the office and playing with SlowShutter, an app which makes low light and slow-shutter photography ridiculously easy. For 69p. Has the iPhone signalled the death of photography or the generation of something new?