Dark Sky - New & Improved
09/01/12 -11:21 Filed in: Software | Bad Weather Cooking
I’m going to take a break from writing about the Big Green Egg to write a follow-up blog entry about a great iPhone/iPad app called Dark Skies. It is now at Version 2 and has added a great new feature. When I first wrote about this app I had only owned it for a short time. Now that I’ve used it throughout the summer, I can tell you how it has performed over time. If you haven’t heard about the app I suggest you read my first blog entry DARK SKIES - A COOL WEATHER APP and then come back here and read this article.
I am going to start with the performance first. Dark Skies has been in a word: Amazing!! When it predicts you will be getting rain the start time seems to be accurate within about 1-2 minutes. The worst it has been off (that I’ve found) is the rain was 5 minutes late starting. On one occasion Dark Skies was saying we were going to be having very heavy rain and it was gonna start raining in about 25 minutes. I was planning to cook steaks on the Egg and I decided I didn’t want to have to run in and out to my EZ-Up during heavy rain. I eliminated one of my sides so I could get the steak on the Egg before the rains came. I had just finished grilling my steak and no sooner had the screen door closed behind me and I heard a “Whoosh”. It was the sound of the rain, but it wasn’t just rain, it was like someone dumped a huge bucket of water out. It was raining so hard I couldn’t see my neighbor across the streets house. It was like it was in a cloud. While the steak was resting for 5 minutes I went to pull the french fries out of the oven and we lost our power for the next 3 hours. Dark Skies definitely saved this day including my steak and fries. By knowing what was coming and when it was coming I was able to move up my cook and get it in. I went to a 3 day outdoor folk festival and Dark Skies helped me choose which venues to go to. With it’s help I was at outdoor stages when it wasn’t going to rain and covered venues when it was. It batted 1000 and I stayed dry.
We have been having a lot more severe storms than usual this summer and this can tend to be the hardest thing for Dark Skies to predict. It absolutely nails conventional showers where an already establish system is moving into your area. What is tough for Dark Skies, and weather forecasters, to predict is severe weather where you get popup showers that develop quickly due to the unstable atmosphere. You can’t expect something to predict rain where rain clouds don’t exist. So this means unlike a regular storm, you won’t necessarily get a 1 hour warning. Instead you will be warned when the new storm develops and it may only be 15 minutes if that is how far away the storm is from you. For me I usually don’t plan on cooking during times when really severe weather is predicted. So I keep an eye on the conventional weather radar to see if a storm system is approaching and if it is headed in my general direction and fire up Dark Skies with the knowledge if it is severe weather I may get less than an hour’s warning. Once again remember this is severe weather and for this, 15 minutes or so warning when the rain is going to start isn’t bad at all. It was very interesting one day when we had some small but severe storms pop up quickly around here. One cell went just north of my town by a few miles and one just south only about 5 miles apart from one another. Dark Skies told me no rain for my area. The other nice thing is Dark Skies gives you a graph of the expected rain intensity over the next hour and you can see when their might be breaks in the rain or when it will be tapering off.
IWhen you turn on the new Notifications feature in Dark Sky 2.0, you are given a choice to silence the notifications during certain hours - like while you are sleeping. Also you are given a choice of rain intensity that will trigger the notification. Although this feature is a beta feature, it is very well thought out.
The killer feature added in the recently released Version 2 of Dark Skies is notifications. Right now it is a Beta feature, but I hope they keep it. If you activate it you get a warning within 5-10 minutes or so of the start of significant rainfall. It has several nice features you can control in the settings. The first is the intensity of the rain required to give you an alert. You may only want to be alerted by the presence of heavy rain. I’ve got mine set to light rain and so far it hasn’t been intrusive, in fact it has already proved useful in several occasions when my grill was still uncovered on my car windows were open. A nice touch to this is you get notified once per storm. They also have a do not disturb feature where you can turn off alerts during a specified time range, such as when you are sleeping. The alerts have their own unique tone and put up an iOS styled alert which remains on your devices lock screen. It is a rather soothing sound and I actually leave mine on 24/7 for that reason. If the iPhone is in an other room I won’t hear it. The first time I heard this new alert I didn’t know what it was and when I looked it was telling me light rain would begin in 5 minutes. The alert caused me to go through a mental checklist of things that might be affected by this rain, which was arriving several hours earlier than predicted the night before on TV. I had just enough time to run out and cover my Egg which hadn’t cooled down enough when I went to bed the night before.
I’ve come to use and rely on Dark Sky on my iPhone even more than on my iPad. While I like the iPad interface better because of the bigger screen size, my iPhone is alway with me & I am finding Dark Sky is also handy when you are out & about like I was here.
Over time I have come to rely on Dark Skies more and more. You need to understand what it is and what it can and can’t do, but it works well within it’s area of focus. That niche it has carved out for itself is giving you accurate predictions of precipitation expected in your location over the next hour. The app is currently for the iPhone and iPad only and is a universal app, meaning for the current price of $3.99 you get a version that works on both your iPhone and iPad. I started using it on my iPad, but I am finding even more uses for it on my iPhone over time.
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