Astro widgetery

Apologies to all you PC and Linux folk – this one is for Mac fans. It was no surprise to find that the Fermi first light sky map was today on Astronomical Picture of the Day (APOD). However I didn’t need to go to the web site to check it out. I have a Widget that sucks down the latest APOD every day. For the non-Macees, widgets are tiny little applications (few hundred K typically) that run inside the Dashboard. They are apparently dead easy to write (not that I have tried yet …) as they are basically web pages, written with HTML and Javascript, but instead of being run by a browser, they run inside the Dashboard runtime environment.

As a result, there are now hundreds of these things, including a whole bunch of astro related ones. As well as APOD, you can get several different planetarium style viewers, including a free version of Starry Night, widget versions of the Vizier catalogues and ADS literature search, two different solar image viewers, and the latest Astronomical Telegrams. Those links are to the web-pages. To find the widgets, go to the Apple download page, browse, and enjoy. Its rather addictive, as they are so easy to download and try out. As well as all that astro stuff, there are lots of amusing things, like a Universal Translator, a Roman Numeral Clock, and regular stuff like weather forecasts etc.

A lot of this stuff you can of course also get with VO tools like VODesktop, Aladin, or PaperScope. The advantage of the widgets is they take about 3 minutes to understand.  The advantage of the VO tools is that you can carry on and do some real work with what you find.

If you want to know how to develop widgets, go here.

4 Responses to Astro widgetery

  1. Tony says:

    In fact, anyone can have widgets by using iGoogle ( http://www.google.co.uk/ig?hl=en ). I’ve also got APOD as a widget as well as ones showing the time in several cities, weather, quick links to wikipedia and xe.com as well as the all-time essential daily Calvin and Hobbes. I even get a theme to the page painted by Rolf Harris 🙂

  2. andyxl says:

    Ah yes. Google gadgets. Had heard tell but never tried them out. Also cool and lots of stuff but somehow not quite as much fun. Not sure why. Are they same kind of thing – wee bits of html, css, and javascript ? And if you write a gadget is it trivial to turn it into a gadget and vice versa ?

  3. Tony says:

    Google is pretty much the standard now for gadgets. I’ve not tried writing one myself but have heard they’re pretty easy ( http://code.google.com/apis/gadgets/index.html ): sounds much like the Apple ones. In fact, seems you can convert Google gadgets to Apple widgets ( http://www.widgetop.com/downloads.html#AGoogleGadgetTemplate ). AFAIK the Google gadgets conform to the OpenSocial standard as well ( http://code.google.com/apis/opensocial/ ) so any OpenSocial interface (which I’m hoping myExperiment will eventually incorporate) can have Google gadgets added into it.

  4. PlanetaJob says:

    Ой, благодарю

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