You, Too, Can Be A Weatherman

Oregon Scientific personal weather monitoring station
Oregon Scientific
To one degree or another, we all care about the weather but some of us are a bit more obsessive than others. Personally, my favorite weather gauge is a small rock hanging from a string attached to a tree limb. The instructions are quite simple: If the rock is wet, it's raining and if the rock is moving it's windy.

But some people want a lot more information which is why there is a TV channel and numerous websites dedicated to weather buffs.

There are also gadgets you can buy. One of the latest is the Complete Regional Weather Station with MSN Direct Weather Service from Oregon Scientific.

The $199.95 desktop device comes with a free subscription to MSN's wireless weather data service, which is available in most areas of the United States via FM radio signals. You don't have to do anything special to tune in the service – the device picks up the signal automatically soon after you install the batteries. The MSN signal also sets the weather station's clock so it is always accurate.

The weather station's monochrome LCD screen displays a fair amount of information including the current time, a scrolling text message that can include severe weather warnings, air quality level or other weather or local environmental information. It also tells you sunrise and sunset.

Other portions of the screen tell you the UVI (ultra violet index) for your area, updated throughout the day as well as the wind speed, high and low temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, rainfall inches per hour and other data. There is also a three-day forecast which includes high and low temperature as well as chance of precipitation.

In addition to receiving data from the MSN network, the device has internal sensors to give you the actual indoor temperature and relative humidity. Alternatively, you can display, heat index, wind chill and "comfort level" to give you an indication of the perceived temperature.

Brookstone offers a smaller, simpler and cheaper ($85) 5-day Wireless Weather Forecaster that receives its data from AccuWeather.

Like the Oregon Scientific product, it gets a wireless signal that tells the device approximately where you are. It doesn't have sensors to give you the exact temperature in your room but – based on where I live – I could set mine to get data from weather stations at a choice of nearby airports.

It gives you the day's predicted high and low readings, an icon with general current conditions and predicted lows, highs and general conditions for the following four days. It also has a radio controlled clock that you never have to set.

Both devices look reasonably good on a desk or coffee table and provide lots of information at a glance but there free ways to get the same information without having to spend $200 or even $85.

There are numerous weather websites that provide all of this data and more., for example, not only gives you the basics but even has an "arthritis index," pollen forecast and data about typical weather during various times of the year., a service of The Weather Channel, has equally detailed information along with weather maps and radar tracking. Most local TV, radio and newspaper websites also have weather information. You can also get summary Weather Channel data in the Go Local section here at

The National Weather Service website, supported by tax dollars rather than advertising, provides an enormous amount of weather detail including UV alerts, aviation and marine weather and, of course hurricane information and warnings.

Although I'm a bit taken back by its pricetag, I do think that the Oregon Scientific device could be a useful way to help teach kids about weather, humidly, UVI and other environmental factors. It puts the information out there for them to see at a glance but kids could get that same information from the web with just a little extra effort.

Of course, you can get weather information on radio and TV or, even if you don't have a weather rock tied to a tree, you can always look out the window – or even better yet – step outside and look at the sky.

A syndicated technology columnist for over two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
By Larry Magid