Much Ado About Dashboard
You may have heard recently some of the chatter about Dashboard, Apple’s new technology for Mac OS X 10.4, announced at WWDC, to display little snippets of useful information in an Exposé layer.
It’s possible you did not. In that case, Vice President Cheney, please try and get cable TV or Internet access in your Undisclosed Location.
Especially if you read weblogs, you will probably find that July was just full of talk about Dashboard, which is in large part the work of active blogger Dave Hyatt and which uses souped-up XHTML and WebKit to power the widgets. No doubt some of excitement was due to the real-time previews and discussions on Hyatt’s Weblog, Surfin’ Safari.
Of course, while Dashboard is really cool technology, a dull roar from certain segments of the Mac blogosphere bemoaned Apple stealing yet another technology from innovative developers: Konfabulator. Arlo Rose, one of Konfabulator’s developers, told Geek Patrol about how sore he was over the misappropriation:
I knew they were real. But there wasn’t anything we could have done about it, I mean two independent developers don’t have the resources to go up against Apple the way Apple does with other people.
And, in the bigger picture, I honestly hope that Dashboard will do us more good than harm. It’s a subset of Konfabulator, and is modal. But I think it’s pretty low of them to call their objects Widgets like we do. It’ll cause confusion.
I think it was pretty uncouth of Apple to steamroll us rather than work with us. It would have made them look good to work with a 3rd party developer to make their application better and more integrated than just wiping them out.
It would have been nice if they’d made a gesture, However, I’m not sure what we would have done. As we’re not terribly far from having a Windows version and I can’t imagine that Apple would have let that live, and I think that’s a great opportunity for revenue.
(Those original widgets, for those of you who like a trip down memory lane, were called “Desk Ornaments,” and Bud Tribble and Andy Hertzfeld put a bunch together. The original control panel, designed by the always-brilliant Susan Kare, was designed as a desk ornament and used no text labels. Amazing stuff.)
I’m not really sure how far one ought take this logic, but Gruber continued to defend his remarks later, with the best rejoinder in a long time:
[M]ost of the “faces” in Panic’s Audion gallery could easily pass as Konfabulator widgets or Dashboard gadgets—the irregular window shapes, the transparency, the alpha channel blending. Same for Winamp, whose “skins” probably deserve to be recognized as the trailblazing example.
Brent Simmons, of NetNewsWire fame, doesn’t appear to be particularly worried about the precedent that Apple is setting (despite all the chatter about his product, NetNewsWire, being threatened by Safari RSS). However, he notes briefly that it would have been good PR for Apple to acknowledge Konfabulator, and “worth ten times the price they would have paid.”
To continue my long tradition of citing friends here at ATPM, Chris Turner says that in light of its massive resource bloat per widget it wasn’t ever worth it to use Konfabulator, whereas Dashboard might just be as long as it doesn’t eat RAM for breakfast.
It’s well worth considering that Microsoft intended for the browser to extend to the desktop with Windows 98, and that now Apple is asking Safari to do the same thing now, at least according to Todd Dominey. This would make Dashboard like ActiveX controls, which ultimately lock end users into Internet Explorer; can Apple corral those Dashboard-only XHTML extensions out of the Web? Dave Hyatt says yes, and reminds that Dashboard is really more like XUL/XPCOM (from the Mozilla project) than like ActiveX; he also informs us—the unwashed masses—that the plug-in that makes all of this tick will not be available in Safari or WebCore regardless. So at least, no anti-choice, security-risk problems forthcoming.
All right, enough on Dashboard. What else happened in the news this month? Not much, as far as the Mac blogosphere is concerned. Of interest may be:
- An interview with Evan Schoenberg, co-head developer of Adium, everyone’s (well, my) favorite third-party AIM client, in DrunkenBlog. He tells us of a cute crush one girl expressed using Apple BASIC, background on the Adium development process, and of course an anatomy of the two types of Adium users.
- Why is Mac OS X a better OS to use? If you’ve ever thought of an answer, you might enjoy James Duncan Davidson’s essay on the topic, explaining that having a desktop Unix that works well and reliably and doesn’t require a geek pedigree means focusing on only the hacking things you like doing. I can second this, having switched to a Mac because I got tired of constantly rewriting my /etc/printcap to get better results or rebuilding my kernel after buying a new piece of hardware. It’s the sort of thing that Unix geeks don’t realize is as powerful as it is until they try it.
It looks like that’s a wrap for this month. I’m going to be taking August (September’s issue) off, as the work schedule at my summer job is making life increasingly difficult to write, but I’ll look forward to seeing you all again the first of October!