Widgets of the week: 6/17/2005

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In my latest roundup of cool and/or useful Dashboard Widgets, I cover ways to quickly view your schedule, your IP address, and the status of eBay auctions, as well as a nifty RPN calculator. Oh, and I ask the rhetorical “Why?” for a Widget.

iCal Events (   ; free). Some of the best Widgets are those that provide a quick and easy way to do something that would otherwise take more time or steps. iCal Events is a perfect example: It displays pending iCal entries in a handy list—a quick switch to Dashboard and you can see all upcoming events, including their times and the calendar to which each event belongs. Clicking an item in the Widget launches iCal to view the event. You decide how many days to display (today only or as many as two weeks' worth), as well as which of your iCal calendars’ events should be displayed—if you subscribe to any sports or TV schedules, it’s a great way to quickly see when a game or show is on. And unlike most Widgets, iCal Events is resizable, which can be quite useful when you're trying to view the next week's meetings.

iCal Events screenshot

Network Stat (   ; free). If your Mac uses DHCP to get an IP address, that address will change regularly—which means that if you want to host Personal File Sharing, Web Sharing, or Internet or LAN gaming, you have to figure out what your IP address is at a given moment and then provide it to anyone trying to connect. In the past, I’ve recommended the free IPMenu, a menu bar item that provides your current IP address, but why waste precious menu bar space when Dashboard is perfect for such a task? Network Stat checks your IP address at the interval you specify and then displays your current local (internal) and Internet (external) IP addresses; if you have multiple network interfaces, it provides the IP address for each. Clicking the icon for any interface gives you an expanded view that displays that interface’s IPv6 address, netmask, broadcast IP, and MAC address. Finally, the Widget also shows your current Network Location. (Note: The external IP address has been intentionally blocked out in the screenshot below.)

Network Stat screenshot

eBay Watcher (   ; free). If you’re a frequent eBay buyer or seller, this Widget is a handy way to keep track of the status of an auction: Enter the item number and the Widget shows you the auction title, current bid, time left in the auction, and the current high bidder. You decide how frequently the status is updated—from every 5 seconds to once an hour. It can track only a single auction, but if you want to monitor more than one, you can always launch multiple instances of the Widget.

eBay Watcher screenshot

RPN Calc (   ; free). I can be a bit of a geek at times—not that that should come as a surprise to anyone, considering that I write for a computer magazine. But one of the sure signs of this is that I insist on using RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) calculators. I started using one when I was a teenager and ever since, regular calculators have seemed quaint and limiting. So I was quite pleased when I learned that Tiger’s Calculator application finally provides RPN input; then quite disappointed to realize that Apple’s Calculator Widget doesn’t. Thankfully there’s RPN Calc, an RPN-based scientific calculator that also includes more functionality than either of Apple’s calculator offerings. Some people will miss a clickable number pad, but the lack of one keeps the widget small.

RPN Calc screenshot
RPN Calc inverse view


Widget “Why?” of the Week

Each week I give a good-natured poke at a Widget that makes me think, “Why was this thing actually created?” This week’s “winner” is Terror Alert . What does it do? It shows you the nation’s current “Terror Alert” status, as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. Now, granted, in this day and age, it’s good to be aware, and if you spend a lot of time worrying about the current Terror Alert status, this might be just the Widget for you. But my guess is that the people who really need to be alerted to changes to Terror Alert status at a moment’s notice have big, red phones on their desks that serve a similar purpose. Besides, the Widget doesn’t even have an alarm to let you know when there’s a change! (I’m joking...sort of.)

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