Apps: Put some sparkle in Independence Day

Look in the app stores for ways to

Look in the app stores for ways to put some sparkle in the Independence Day celebrations this year, including where to find fireworks displays. This show is the TD Bank Celebrate America Fireworks in Eisenhower Park on July 2, 2011 in East Meadow. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

While apps for mobile devices aren't quite as American as apple pie just yet, there are more than a few that showcase the best and brightest features of our country. They are also very helpful in planning any Fourth of July celebrations. Here are our five favorites.

This American Life
(iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, $2.99; iPad, $4.99)

In many ways, "This American Life" host Ira Glass is the founding father of long-form journalism and storytelling in the digital era. His weekly one-hour program chronicling the stories of everyday Americans has been a mainstay on National Public Radio for nearly two decades and is consistently one of the top downloaded podcasts on iTunes.

The app contains hundreds of episodes as well as audio and video extras to please any TAL fanatic. You can also browse for segments by contributor name and share your favorite episodes with friends on Facebook and Twitter. And, while you can hear the most recent episodes for free via the podcast (and on your local NPR station), ponying up a few bucks helps to keep the lights on at the nonprofit.

Roadside America
(iPhone, iPod Touch, $2.99)

Roadside America contains a plethora of strange stuff to see, including the big, the small, the spooky, the religious, the natural, the unnatural and the historic, among many, many others. The iPhone app relies on your location to let you know about nearby sites and is equally helpful when you're out on the open road or just sitting in your living room. The app also includes browsing via more than 70 preset categories, including Crime, Dinosaurs, Freaky Hoo-Ha, Monsters, Route 66 and Zombie Army. Note that after you select your primary region, you can either add other regions for $1.99 each or pay $5.99 to unlock all of U.S./Canada.

Hevent
(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, $0.99)

Looking for something to do this Fourth of July? Check out the Hevent app for inspiration regardless of where you are headed. This comprehensive event app has everything from music and nightlife events to activities for family and pets. Simply pick the category of event you are looking for, and then Hevent provides dozens of nearby options.

Fireworks
(iPhone, iPod Touch, $0.99)

If you're disappointed that you won't be near a grand fireworks display for the Fourth, download the Fireworks app and create your own. The app synchronizes with the music in your iTunes library to set off your own personal digital display. Choose from 15 locales around the world, and then set your preferred scale of explosion and spark size.

Stack the States
(iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, $0.99)

Just because school isn't in session on July Fourth doesn't mean it's a day without learning. In this fun geography education game, kids learn capitals, the shape of states and their locations on the U.S. map. There is also a slight physics component, which involves literally stacking states on top of one another.

The foregoing compilation is from reports by Appolicious.com, and Tribune Media Services.

Tech bytes

Take a vacation -- from email

A summer vacation is good for the soul. A vacation from email may be good for the heart. A study from the University of California at Irvine found that when workers take an enforced break from reading email, stress levels go down. Researchers said workers "removed from email" for five days displayed more natural heart rates than their email-reading colleagues, whose heart rates indicated they were on "high alert." -- Peter King

Address unknown

While you already may have too many email accounts to remember, if you're a Facebook user, you just got one more. The giant social network unilaterally changed users' default email on their "contact info" pages to an account ending with @facebook.com. The move is seen as an attempt to jump-start Facebook's little known and little used email service. -- Peter King

Galaxy quest

Demand for Samsung's Galaxy S III has meant a shortage of units for consumers hoping to buy the hot new smartphone. With sales expected to be 10 million in the first two months after its June launch, the phone has engendered the kind of frenzy that usually only accompanies a new Apple gadget. Samsung said that the supply shortage was rapidly getting back to normal. -- Reuters

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