Weather wise

Don't wait for the eights--bring The Weather Channel right to your desktop with this free gadget.

Instant access to real-time local weather information is one of the Internet's underrated pleasures. There are Web sites, feeds, gadgets, widgets, e-mail and IM alerts; just about every Net platform has brought you the weather at some point. Free desktop utilities that import weather conditions and usually display the local temperature in the system tray are perhaps the most popular Web-based weather-watchers. The Weather Channel is perhaps the most trusted name in coast-to-coast cable TV weather forecasting and related information. Put the two together and you have The Weather Channel Desktop, a free utility that does what the other weather gadgets do, but much more. But, though free, to download and use, its versatility comes at a price: advertising.

The Weather Channel Desktop gives you instant access to the weather-, climate-, and health-related information that comprises The Weather Channel's extensive daily programming. The local radar; traffic, road, and travel conditions and maps; national and international weather news; information related to allergies, colds, and flu; sports and exercise updates; weather trivia; video; and a lot of other useful stuff that is undeniably handy to have in one spot.

To get all that free, you have to look at some ads. The main interface has annoying Flash ads that you can stop but not defeat, and a "mini" mode that apparently only works with the paid upgrade you have many opportunities to buy. Still, if you don't mind animated ads, which are hardly uncommon online, then The Weather Channel Desktop has a lot to offer.

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