Widgets of the week: November 4, 2005

In this week’s Dashboard roundup, I focus on diversions: keeping track of your favorite teams and playing cards and board games.

More Conference Call widgets (   ; free) Back in September, I told you about a cool widget called Conference Call, which displays the schedule and results for your favorite college football team. Evidently Conference Call has been a hit, because the developer has since released a number of other versions for fans of other sports and levels (and renamed the original): Conference Call Gridiron (college football), Conference Call Gridiron Pro (NFL football), Conference Call Hoops (college basketball), Conference Call Hoops Pro (NBA basketball), and Conference Call On Ice Pro (NHL hockey). Like the original, you choose your conference and team, and the widget shows you your team’s entire season schedule: dates, times, and whether each game is at home or away. Lines for game that have already been played include the final score and are color-coded—green lines for wins, red lines for losses. (Click on the score to view Fox Sport’s game recap in your Web browser.) The team’s current record is also displayed, and clicking the “Visit team details page” link opens your browser to your team’s page on the Fox Sports site; to view a similar page for an opponent, click that team’s name in the schedule. You can collapse each widget so that it takes less space on your Dashboard by clicking the ball/puck icon. If you’re a sports fan, the Conference Call widgets are fun ways to keep track of your favorite teams.

Conference Call Hoops Pro widget

Mondo Solitaire (   ; free). I’ve said it before (a couple times, in fact): Dashboard is a great environment for simple games—when you get bored, you can drop into Dashboard for a quick diversion and when you’re done (or when your boss walks by) you can just as quickly get out. And if you’re a fan of solitaire, Mondo Solitaire is probably the widget you want. It offers 31 different kinds of solitaire, many with multiple variations—you get over 50 variations in all. (You choose the game, as well as the table background and card design, via the “back” of the widget; when you choose a game, the back of the widget also displays the rules for that game, a summary of its characteristics, and related games—a nice touch.) When playing the game, you can either drag cards to the desired locations or double-click a card to auto-play it. Mondo Solitaire isn’t as full-featured as Solitaire Till Dawn, my favorite Solitaire game for the Mac, but it’s got enough games to keep you busy during your “coffee break.” My only major complaint is that I wish you could minimize it when you’re not playing, as the widget takes up a good deal of Dashboard space.

Mondo Solitaire widget

SuperBrain (   ; free). On the topic of games, I have fond memories of the 1970’s “board” game Mastermind. If you’re not familiar with Mastermind, here’s the gist of it: Your opponent chose four pegs of varying colors and arranges them, in secret, in a particular pattern. You get 10 guesses as to the pattern; with each guess, your opponent tells you how many pegs in your guess are the correct color but in the wrong location and how many are both the correct color and the correct location. If you can nail down the pattern in 10 guesses or less, you win; if not, you lose. It was a great game for kids, but with four-peg patterns and only five colors, anyone who took a methodical approach to guessing could win every time.

SuperBrain is a Dashboard version of Mastermind, and it’s every bit as fun as the original except that it’s designed for a single player—the computer chooses the pattern. However, SuperBrain improves on Mastermind by letting you adjust the difficultly level: If you want to make the game even easier, you can reduce the number of possible colors to 3; if you want more of a challenge, you can have as many as 8 colors and up to 8-peg patterns. If you thought Mastermind was too easy, give an 8-color, 8-peg-pattern game of SuperBrain a try—you still get only 10 guesses!

SuperBrain widget

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