Widgets!

19 Aug

Those of you who’ve begun using Mac OS X Tiger have already discovered the wonders of desktop widgets. I’m still on Panther at home, but started using widgets earlier this week on my work laptop when I installed Konfabulator.

Widgets? Konfabulator?
Okay, I’ll back up.

“Konfabulator is a JavaScript runtime engine for Windows and Mac OS X that lets you run little files called Widgets that can do pretty much whatever you want them to. Widgets can be alarm clocks, calculators, can tell you your WiFi signal strength, will fetch the latest stock quotes for your preferred symbols, and even give your current local weather.”

Wikipedia’s entry on widgets says, “Originally desk accessories were developed to provide a small degree of multitasking, but when real multitasking OSes became available, these were replaced by normal applications. However, the widget model is attractive because of ease of development. Most widgets can be created with a few images and from less than ten to several hundred lines of XML/JavaScript/VBScript, depending on their complexity.”

Verdict: pretty cool
So, yes, I downloaded and installed Konfabulator (recently purchased by Yahoo!) and began setting up widgets on my Windows XP laptop at work. Right now I have the following widgets open:

  • Banner, which causes a message of my choice to appear on my desktop background. (Currently, “Wade is teh awesome”.)
  • Analog Clock, now ticking away in the upper right corner of my screen. It just looks nicer than the time displayed in my System Tray.
  • Volume, which for some reason is better at adjusting my computer’s volume than any other volume control interface I have.

Recently, I’ve run:

  • What To Do, which I think may be one too many To Do lists for me. Seriously, I have at least three in different places.
  • Launcha, an application/file/folder launching toolbar that I probably won’t use until someone comes up with a way to keep it from cutting off the names of the items I put in its menu.
  • Hula Girl, a cartoon island girl who dances a hula. My desktop background is currently set to a photo of the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, so when I run this widget it looks like she’s dancing on the beach in front of the hotel. I am easily amused.
  • Glow Ball, 5 glowing balls which change color based on my computer’s CPU load, free memory, wireless signal strength and battery capacity. These are things I’d want to know were I testing my system, but I’m not. I’m just writing, so I turned it off.
  • Do It! Ben Stiller in the movie Starsky & Hutch, exhorting me to “Do it! Do it!”
  • Seattle Traffic Cams, so I’d know what I was facing on my drive home last night.
  • Stardate, which…um…tells me the current stardate, as if I lived in the world of Star Trek.

As you can tell, widgets can be useful or useless. They’re certainly addictive. It’s like collecting marbles, or baseball cards.

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