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In the endless quest for higher productivity, I decided to install a program that I had come across quite a while ago. Initially, it looked like a useless gimmick and not something I'd pay for. Well, I still wouldn't pay for it, but it's no longer a useless gimmick in my books. In fact it's going to be an integral part of any Windows install I do on my computers. What is it? Konfabulator, and now it's free.

First off, I'll give you a little bit of the history behind Konfabulator. The first release of the product occured in 2003 to the Mac platform. Basically Konfabulator allows the user to run small programs, called widgets, on the desktop that allow you to do a wide variety of small, useful things. Imagine a neatly skinned clock, calendar, and system tools on your desktop that you can easily access. Since then, Konfabulator has gained a great deal of publicity and success as well as being made for Windows. Apple integrated a similar idea in the form of their Dashboard feature which is part of the Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" operating system. Konfabulator was recently purchased by Yahoo, and thus made it into a free program. Here's a neat little cartoon telling you the general timeline before being purchased by Yahoo. I jumped on the chance and installed it. This is the result:

You can get the full list of widgets here. I'll just quickly glance over what widgets I have running and what they're used for. Going in clockwise order from the top right:

Weather - This comes with the default Konfabulator installation. You can easily input your location and it gives you either a three or five day forcast for your region including the current temperature and conditions. Very handy.

POP Mail Checker - This is a useful email checker that allows you to sync with multiple email accounts. I've got it synced with both my Gmail accounts. It unfortunately doesn't allow you to go directly to the inbox, but instead just launches the default email client for that account. It allows you to set a regular refresh of your inbox so you know if you need to read your emails or not.

Stock Ticker - Also a stock (har har) part of the Konfabulator install, it allows you to track stocks you may be interested in. Or perhaps you just want to keep a feel for the heartbeat of the markets. Either way, a nifty widget for those out there interested in the business world.

What To Do - It seems like they put in all the good widgets with the normal instally doesn't it? Yep, this one comes with Konfabulator as well. It's a little personal reminder that you can use to set priorities. Good for a bit of organizing for those in need. (Me please!)

Go Fetch! - This is a pretty cool all-in-one widget that allows you to search Google, Google Images, fetch a download, or just launch your internet browser pointed to a certain site. I'm really starting to think I won't need to click on a browser button anymore with this widget here.

CPU, Memory, Wireless, and Battery Status - Cause I'm the computer nerd, I just have to have these little monitors on my desktop. The wireless and battery meters are especially useful however. Anyone with a laptop should consider getting those two specifically.

PowerXP - This is just because I'm really lazy. It integrates shutdown, restart, lock, and standby buttons. Use this if you're lazy. Don't use it if you like to spaz out and click random things on the desktop. You could inadvertently do something you'll regret.

MultiNewsReader - This is without a doubt the most useful part of Konfabulator for me. It uses RSS (Really Simple Syndication) which pulls bits of information from supporting websites. These bits of info may be article titles, intros, or whatever they choose to put there. It has made my regular browsing much easier and quicker. RSS is quickly becoming extremely popular and most larger sites and blogs will have support for it. I've added my various technology sites and economic sites to the list. After you read all the articles from each site, the list collapses to save space. Or you can just tell it to hide if you don't feel like reading the rest of the articles. The great thing is, you see the titles (if not more) and you can judge whether it's worth your time to read or not.

Recycle Bin - No change really. It's just a big ol' icon of the recycle bin that shows how many objects currently reside there. Comes with Konfabulator.

There are others that I don't use currently, but of interest could be the picture frame (you point it to your digital photo album and it cycles through the pictures in a little frame for your viewing pleasure) and a calendar and task notifier.

The widgets are all very useful and it makes the desktop look quite nice as well. However remember that the majority of these widgets are third party made and thus often contain bugs which could hamper their usage. In addition, each widget is a separate entity of Konfabulator and thus could use up quite a bit of system resources, depending on how many you have running. For example, I have 12 widgets running right now and they take up around 80MB of RAM. Of course running less will take up less resources. I'd recommend at least 512MB of RAM to use more than 5 widgets at a time. Any les and it won't really be worth the performance it'll take up.

Overall, I'm very glad I decided to try out Konfabulator. It can do wonders for how you use your computer.
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Blogger Nick wrote at 8/12/2005 12:00 PM

NO MORE PICTURES THAT MOVE! These hotel computers just can't handle that kind of intensity:)    

Blogger Charlie wrote at 8/12/2005 12:19 PM

ROFL! I got your email and I'm glad it's working out semi okay. I read some news articles that BA won't be resuming their flights until at least 8PM your time. So you'll get out a little earlier. :D

If these events say anything for your time in Europe, it should be one hell of a ride!    

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