Dashboard – Danger Will Robinson!

There’s some panic in-suing about Tiger’s new Dashboard functionality. Some notes from Macintouch this morning. Here’s the jist:

[Dave Schroeder] When Safari is in its default state, i.e., with “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading”, what happens is the following:

  • The widget is downloaded, unpacked, and moved to ~/Library/Widgets (a website could do this automatically)
  • The next time you run Dashboard, the widget is in your shelf (when you press the “+”)
  • You must deliberately run the widget

Mac OS X likely assumes that if you click it, you intend to run it. The only problem I see here is that a widget could be auto-downloaded (and installed) somewhat surreptitiously, and you might not notice it for a while. There probably should be some sort of prompt in Safari at download time (which it now does for applications).
In the meantime, the sure fix for this any many other past questionable download situations is to always uncheck “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” in Safari’s preferences. This way, the file is downloaded, but it remains in its packed/compressed form.

Automatic installation of Javascript powered web apps on your computer? Can you say ActiveX. Apple better get this hole plugged fast or else they’ll be joining Microsoft on the evening news for virus attacks.

That said, I do think the Dashboard does hold a lot of promise. A few problems I’ve noticed so far using Dashboard is waiting for widgets to refresh, sucks. Rather than having to set every widget with refresh options, Apple should create a Dashboard preference panel that allows the user to select a widget and choose it’s refresh options. The widget developer shouldn’t have to worry about stuff like that. Also, it should be trivially easy to delete widgets. Right now you have to dig into your library directory to get rid of them and then restart Dashboard. Widget Manager is a nice little freeware app to handle removing Dashboard widgets. A cool addition would be a way to ping a developer’s download site so you can find out if you have the latest version of a widget. You’d think Apple would have thought of some of this–granted it’s still a v1.0.

A couple cool widgets I’ve found so far:

  • TiVo Now Playing – Looks up the most recent recording in you TiVo Now Playing queue. Very nicely done.
  • Flores – Email checking app that displays itself as a vase with flowers. The more flowers you see, the more email you have. Mail already tells me when I have new email so I don’t need it for that. I use it to ping Gmail as I don’t regularly visit since it’s mostly my junk mail account.

A good, albeit slow, dashboard site (with RSS feed) to keep track of new widgets.