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July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America!: July 4 Windows Phone Apps

Can you see the fireworks from where you are?

Today is the Fourth of July, when the United States commemorates the congressional signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. Here’s what John Adams, who became the second U.S. president, said of that day, now 238 years past:

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

No worries, Mr. President. Just as Adams predicted, we celebrate the official break from Jolly Old England with patriotic parades, concerts, barbecues, family reunions, fairs, and — my favorite — massive displays of colorful fireworks. One of my fondest Independence Day memories: watching the fireworks show above the iconic Washington Memorial in Washington, D.C. as the National Symphony Orchestra played Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with real cannons.

Here’s a short two-minute video of it — watch for the smoking cannons!

Celebrate with us: Here are some Independence Day-related apps that you may enjoy, wherever you may be:

White HouseWhiteHouseapp: Get an inside peek in the life of President Barack Obama and his administration. Updated every day, you’ll see photos, videos, transcripts of the President’s daily briefing, the latest stories on the White House blog, and you can even vote in a one-question poll.

I just scrolled through the app, and features include a video of Vice President Joe Biden greeting the U.S. soccer team after their World Cup win against Ghana; and backstage photos of President Obama talking with British Prime Minister David Cameron after a G7 meeting.

Presidential Speeches: U.S. history fans and students, here’s an app that compiles the full text of some of the most important speeches made by the 43 American presidents.

They include John F. Kennedy’s 1961 historic speech on the goal to send a man to the moon (“No single space project … will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long-range exploration of space”) and Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 prophetic speech on slavery and its effects on the fledgling nation (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”). Within the app, you can save your favorite speeches as well as search for specific ones.

AccuWeather: Whether you’re preparing a plein air dinner party or a block-party barbecue, make sure your event doesn’t get rained out. This free app gives current, hourly and extended forecasts in almost three million locations around the world. Besides temperature, the app gives weather conditions on wind speed and direction, precipitation, humidity, UV index, and times for sunrise and sunset.

One of Accuweather’s more handy features: You can set your phone’s lock screen with an up-to-date weather forecast of your home location, and customize Live Tiles for other locations worldwide.

BeerMateBeer Mate: Beer is a staple of many a celebration, whether it’s on July 4 or another holiday, and I suspect it’s also a requirement at your fetes. This free app offers a wealth of information on beers from around the globe. If you search by style (“summer ale” or “German-style Eisbock”), you’ll learn about the character, flavor and alcohol content of that style, along with available beers you can purchase.

Beer Mate highlights a different beer and brewery every day, and you can rate and add notes on the beers you try. You can also share information on the beers and breweries via email or social media. The free version of this app does have ads, so if you’d like to opt out, try the ad-free version for 99 cents. Bottoms up!

Touch Fireworks: This is a cute little app, especially if you have children. Everytime you touch the black screen, you’ll see and hear fireworks explode. It’s no substitute for the real thing, but it’s a lot safer than setting off roman candles and bottle rockets in your backyard.

How do you celebrate your country’s National Day? Do you love fireworks as much as I do?

Follow our tips to take amazing firework photos.