Saturday, March 12, 2011

Naturally disastrous with Apps.

As you know, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Sendai, Japan yesterday, causing 10m (30ft) high tsunami waves that swept over the coastal areas near there. The tsunami affected pretty much all of the Pacific Ocean, with places like Hawaii and California seeing its effect (albeit much more mildly).

To top it off, the one nuclear reactor is still giving problems, most recently with a small explosion from pressure buildup.  If you're a Final Fantasy 7 fan, all I can think about is Daiichi Reactor = Sector 1 Reactor, and the explosion / leak was caused by AVALANCHE, and not by the earthquake. For those not a fan or not a gamer... Well,... Google is your friend.

During such a time, I found myself glued to any real-time source of information. Twitter, CNN, BBC, whatever.  So I ended up downloading some apps for my iPhone in order to stay fully connected to the situation.  

Here is the list of what I downloaded and my review of them, following.
  • Disaster Alert
  • NHK World
  • AJE Live
Each of these were downloaded for different reasons.

Disaster Alert
This App is brought to you by the awesome folks at Pacific Disaster Center out in Hawaii.  The PDC give a real-time account of what is going on in the Ring of Fire area (pretty much all of the Pacific Ocean) in terms of natural events (earthquakes, tsunamis, etc).  
The App is based off Bing or Google satellite maps, with icons pointing out whatever event is happening at the moment in that location.
  • Pros: Easy to view map with icons and quick links to simple text-based information.  Bing's map scrolls around and around.  Simple use for simple app.  FREE is key!!
  • Cons: No push notifications, but I guess that's understandable. Highly active areas, like the bazillion aftershocks in Japan, would mean a bazillion push notifications. Also, Google's map doesn't scroll around and around. 

NHK World TV Live
If you've been watching any of the clips of the tsunami, NHK World is the referenced station in almost all the videos.  NHK is the major TV station of Japan, and NHK News would be the equivalent to CNN or BBC news.  This app shows certain NHK TV Shows, though recently most of the coverage has been about the quake.
  • Pros: Can watch what is going on in Japan with the quake in real-time. Shows videos of the areas, the relief effort, etc. Simple to use interface. Basically it automatically starts the live feed on app start. No options here. It just is exactly an app that does live feed!  Oh, and it's FREE.
  • Cons: No language options. The raw feeds are in English and sometimes in amateur journalism style.  Sometimes you might get another language other than English.  I'd prefer being able to choose which language but I guess that would take away from the simplicity of the program.

Probably the only American News App I got.  I thought about getting CNN, but.... Actually I'm glad I got this app. It's basically the MSNBC news app and also supports some of its shows, such as Today Show, The Rachel Maddow Show, even Countdown with Keith Olbermann (even though that's done).
  • Pros: IT HAS PUSH NOTIFICATIONS! So immediately I knew about the leaky nuke plant, about the aftershocks in Fukushima, etc.  The interface is kind of awesome.  Click on one of the 'peacock feathers' to go to that section.  They have videos from stories and from their shows; they show tweets from users from their shows.  The ads aren't that intrusive.  Free content is free!
  • Cons: What is everyone's fascination with black background for interfaces? That's really it. I really like this app.

AJE Live
If you don't know what AJE is, it is Al-Jazeera, the ever-growing news station that brings to the world the real news!  But wait, don't CNN, BBC, MSNBC, FOX do that? PSH NO. They are all politically riddled (especially right-centric Fox) news stations. They don't show the full truth. They dont think we can handle the truth!!!  Well, we can. And Al-Jazeera is out there to prove that we can. Before, people thought that hey, it's an Arabic name, therefore THEY MUST BE TERRORISTS!! News from terrorists! Ahh!! ....No. They aren't terrorists. They are just straight up raw news. You want the truth of what's going on in Egypt or Libya, not the sugar-coated stuff that the American/British news are offering you? Then get it here. Don't hate just because they have an Arabic name.
  • Pros: Real news for people who can handle the truth. Better news, faster load times, simpler interface, free live feed.  FREE App too!
  • Cons: Though the interface is simple, it is kind of cluttered when drilling down to view articles within a section.

Bottom line is, THEY ARE ALL FREE. 

Also, let us hope that Japan comes out all right after this. 

Note to future self: And the world is falling apart...
Note to near-future self: Isn't technology wonderful?

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