Happy clouds and sunshine danced upon the big blue digital face of the WeatherNow console in my living room one fine morning. It was to be partly cloudy, with a mild breeze and a high temperature for the day of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
But the windchill factor outdoors, my new little device said, was a harrowing 117 degrees.
I went outside to check. Perfect autumnal crispness. Slight wind. No sign of that 117-degree burner.
Despite the one hiccup with windchill, the WeatherNow console, a $199 tabletop weather description and forecasting station made by Oregon Scientific (www2.oregonscientific.com), proved an apt tool for planning outdoor recreation over the last month.
The device, which scans Microsoft DirectBand radio signals to update current conditions every two minutes, provides localized information on myriad meteorological concerns, all without the aid of Internet or TV.
To name a few, the device displays: indoor and outdoor temperature; humidity; wind direction; wind speed; dew point temperature; heat index; UV index; rainfall for last 24 hours; sunrise and sunset times; phases of the moon; probability of precipitation; and a four-day weather forecast for your area.
Setup is as easy as plugging in a power cord. Just give it some juice and the console is ready to go, scanning the air for little blips of information mingling among unused FM frequencies.
The WeatherNow console, like any device based on Microsoft DirectBand technology, works in most metro areas in North America. Its distribution in rural areas, however, is quite spotty.
In my tests, the console worked as promised, displaying more weather data than I ever care to know. Its operation is straightforward for basic info, though I keep the manual close by in case I want to dig deeper into the data.
The windchill error was a strange one-time reading. Otherwise, the device seemed accurate for garnering forecast and current conditions for my hometown.
I personally am no weather junkie. I rarely read forecasts online and have not seen a television report in years. But the WeatherNow console grew on me right away.
The unit can be used as an alarm clock, and so I put one in the bedroom at home. A quick glance at the display every morning helps me plan my ritual after-breakfast bike ride, essentially telling me what to wear and which bike to use on the ride outdoors and into the elements beyond.