Did Apple re-invent the anti-virus?

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

For the past few days, the blogging world has been abuzz with that "dashboardadvisoryd" thing. Indeed, it seems Mac OS X v. 10.4.7 contacts Apple's servers ever eight or so hours and ensures you did not inadvertently download a malicious widget. This, however, raises a great many grave questions.

25 Comments

Ttcrooks
2006-07-06 09:52:10
I use 5 widgets everyday - BBC weather forecast, UK traffic warnings, UK train time indicators, BBC radio, image/window capture - and the beauty of it all is it is so easy. I have another 6 widgets loaded that I use less frequently but worth it just for ease of access.
Only issue is that there are so many now it is hard to keep track of better ones.
FJ
2006-07-06 09:55:31
Ttcrooks,


Thanks for sharing!


FJ

Step
2006-07-06 10:27:05
I never used Dashboard until I mapped it to a hot corner in the bottom right of my screen. Now I use it all the time. Half of the time for utilities: calculator, translator, stopwatch, etc. Half of the time for at-a-glance stuff: Netflix, weather, lyrics, etc. So I'd like to see Apple work everything out in 10.4.x and give us a solid Dashboard 2 in 10.5.
ObbieZ
2006-07-06 10:59:26
I like dashboard for a small handful of things (what's the temperature outside, etc.), but I'd like it better if I could turn it off or disable it all together. I have a problem with applications that run whether I like it or not.
Niels
2006-07-06 11:03:11
I seriously doubt they are using the daemon to run a check for bad widgets. It's far more likely that it checks for updates to the Apple-provided widgets. Until 10.4.7 updates to the widgets were rolled up into system updates. By providing a seperate mechanism to check for widget updates, they can be updated with more frequency than the OS. Since most of the widgets rely on webservices, they are more likely to have changes to fix breaks caused by URL changes & thus need a more flexible update schedule than the OS.
daddydoodaa
2006-07-06 11:30:18
Love it! - with a big fat wet kiss; even raising my leg!


Use it to check out artwork from around the world, come up with color schemes, check weather, check web service feeds, print one-off envelopes, read Dilbert, search through StickyBrain, lookup phone numbers, check fonts, take various screen shots, calculations, ftp files....all available at the tap of a Mighty Mouse nipple. No bringing up a browser...


"... Dashboard has been a security nightmare. For starters, its implementation was approximate at best, placing files in hidden folders and providing no easy un-installers...the difficulty of knowing what, exactly was installed..."


All your security concerns apply to ANY software one downloads and installs on their Mac. Users see something on VersionTracker with 2+ stars or mentioned in a column, by a person they wouldn't know from Adam, then download and install away....WaHoooo! Here's my Admin Username and Password. Have your way with my Mac! It's free! Who cares where it came from or who made it?!


Actually, I've never had a Widget ask for my Admin Username and password since it goes into my Home Directory (I don't run as admin and am always leery of putting software on my Mac..).


I dig Dashboard, it makes my life easier.

Red
2006-07-06 12:48:16
This post seems a little off-base-bandwagonAppleBashing, to say the list. Every mac owner (save one) that I know of uses widgets to grab quick tidbits of info (beats the tar out of launching a web browser and keying in a site). Sure, I miss Watson a lot, but widgets perform a slightly different set of tasks for me, anyway.


I personally use about 5 widgets multiple times in a day (in ranked order: calculator, notepad, dobedo, weather, iCal). I use another 4 about once every other day (stocks, unit converter, dictionary, IPLookup, gandreas' solar widget).
Most importantly, my favorite widget of all time is the hula girl widget!! Whimsical fun, indeed!
For those who are annoyed by the first-time-load delay, get Dashboard Kickstart.


I have downloaded tons of widgets (from Apple's site) to try them out, removed them without a problem and not once had a security leak (yes, I monitor my logs on a regular basis).
I find that widgets provide that extra bit of functionality that a pen&paper next to your computer used to provide... A place to jot quick notes, perform a quick calculation without interrupting your workflow and tiling windows all over each other. I keep my company address in the notepad widget now for reference (as opposed to taping my biz card next to the phone). I love "dobedo" for a quick "what should I be doing now" status check. Slothcam is it's own bit of fun, and the IPLookup can be useful for figuring out where the skiddies are pinging me from.


Sure, there is always room for improvement, but widgets are darn functional *today* and darn stable to boot. I'd like to see widgets notify me of updates and bug-fixes. I'd like to see widget designers more conscious of screen space restrictions. I'd like to see widgets *not* take up 20MB of memory for no reason. And I'd like to be able to find new and useful widgets faster than Apple's web site.


On the flip side, what has the ultimate in insecurity, Microsloth, given the user community? The best I could find for XP is Rainlender--a shareware background desktop calendar that can sync to iCalendar files. If you're worried about widget security, just browsing the web with Exploiter on XP is enough to make one's computer crawl with nasties.



Craig
2006-07-06 13:05:26
daddydoodaa's right that the security issues you're arguing about in Spotlight are relevant to the operating system as a whole. Now, that said, fire up Keychain Access, go to the System Keychain, and notice the warning Keychain Access provides about the Dashboard Advisory certificate!
Daniel
2006-07-06 13:07:05
I use Dashboard every day, constantly - and with no ill will toward it. It's become as much a part of my computing experience as Expose has - granted, I don't have very high expectations of the 'widgets' concept, but I've gotten more than I could've ever asked for in usefulness from them. It's exactly as Red described above - it's like having a pen and paper next to your computer. They do what they do, and they don't bother you otherwise. They're not a separate task or application for you, and they don't require you to take your mind off of what you're really doing. I have 10 sticky notes open on my dashboard right now - that's just fantastic, in my mind. Dashboard provides the "desk-like" functionality to complete my experience, and gives it to me whether I'm in a coffee shop or really at my desk.


The Hula Girl widget is a classic, by the way. I hacked mine, though, to always open with Jesus instead. (I'm an assistant kids' pastor at a church.)

crystalattice
2006-07-06 13:07:36
I used to have quite a few Widgets but they just ate up memory. On an eMac w/ only 512MB, burning up 100MB was easy. Now I've reduced it to just two widgets that I use occasionally.


I like the idea but there's just too much memory being used for it. I also hate how long it takes for Dashboard to load when first called; I tried an auto-start script but it crashed too often.


Personally, I would rather use my widgets in Opera vs. Dashboard because they are always visible (if I want) and I can actually make them go away by closing Opera.

Chris from the Amateur Traveler podcast
2006-07-06 13:27:22
I use Dashboard for things I want access to quickly like 4-5 post it notes with quick notes, clocks for here and there, calendar, calculator. I like the ability to get there and do something and then quickly hide it again.
FJ
2006-07-06 14:05:22
All,


Thanks for sharing! Just to clarify a point, I have no intention to bash Apple in any way here (as I said, I do applaud the engineers). I do think however that Dashboard was not introduced with the proper warnings, something Apple acknowledged and started correcting a little while ago in its marketing litterature.


FJ

Zac
2006-07-06 16:58:40
Dashboard still has a few kinks to iron out (load times are a big one), but I think it is still a useful feature as it stands and is definitely wirth keeping around. I use it daily.
Adam Christianson
2006-07-06 18:51:36
I recently wrote this article on my blog asking why we feel that Apple should integrate so many features into the OS. I find this especially interesting since many of the "features" people suggest are secondary to core OS functionality. Also, many times there are already 3rd party solutions (i.e. Konfabulator) that perform the job and those can be installed at the option of the user who wants or needs that feature. Why "bloat" the OS and force features on those who don't care. For sure Widgets can enhance a user experience, but they don't really make the FInder more useful.
Ross Hill
2006-07-06 19:08:42
I use weather, thesaurus, currency converter, and calculator and they do a fine job :) I think if you use the dashboard as intended - a bunch of little things you might have laying around your desk, then it is a great tool. I think it would be fair to guess that they upgrade it in some way for Leopard.

2006-07-07 02:09:00
I use dashboard every day. I am constantly oepning it to use the calculator, converter, itunes, address book etc. It is the best feature in 10.4. Better than spotlight, automator and H.264 put together.
Ian Betteridge
2006-07-07 03:22:50
It's pretty typical of the militant wing of Mac Fandom for someone to accuse you of bashing Apple when all you're doing is saying you don't like a feature in OS X.
El-Ric
2006-07-07 04:27:37
Although I can see why people think it's cool I've always thought Dashboard a complete waste of time and effort. I mean, desk accessories went west for a reason eh ?


The first startup item that runs on my system is my dashboard killer ;-)


fitzgeraldsteele
2006-07-07 09:28:29
The industry (Apple, Yahoo, Opera, Typepad, Firefox) seems to be telling me that I *need* widgets - they're everywhere!I use weather and calculator every so often. But other than that, I don't find widgets terribly useful. Yahoo/Konfabulator seems a bit more useful to me because you have the option of putting them on your desktop, always on top, or on the hidden layer. That sems more flexible than Dashboard. I put a semi-transparant clock always on top, calendar and weather on the desktop, and everything else on the hidden layer.


Sherlock is still around?


artMonster
2006-07-07 19:08:47
I use very few widgets (though I have a number of them installed)... however, I can't live without the World Clock set to Tokyo time, Ambrosia's Easy Envelopes, and the Weather widget.
Flip
2006-07-07 23:03:11
Dashboard is really confusing for novice users.


I wish it was an optional install.

rgalgon
2006-07-10 06:29:16
I'll never use the dashboard on my laptop. They take way too long to load and I can get to all the information or features they would provide much faster through other routes. The only way I see it being used/useful is pherhaps on a desktop Mac having the dashboard come up as a screensaver. But besides that I think they really dropped the ball with the Dashboard, as its nothing more than just a novelty item to every mac user I know. (like in the article, I'm sure there are people that use it @comment 1, but I don't know anyone)
Mike
2006-07-11 01:46:11
I prefer Konfabulator, with its always visible on the Desktop widgets, even though they take up space. They are also easier to configure through the Konfabulator Menu.
Sean
2006-07-12 10:34:20
"The interfaces are lickable and many of them provide fun or marginally useful "


Why would I want to lick an interface?

Ralph Barhydt
2006-07-23 12:07:07
I have dashboard installed and never use it. It was cute and seemed useful, but it isn't. How do I get read of it? Also, I think I have some malware on my system that is sending out spam, but don't know how to find it. Advice?