6 Ways to Trick Out Your Mac This Holiday Season

As you do your holiday decorating this year, don’t forget to trick out your Mac, too. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier than hauling out heavy decorations or hanging 40 miles of outdoor lights in sub-zero temperatures.

I am always amazed at the creative widgets people devise and create for the holidays, and this year is no exception. Have a look at some of the festive widgets, games, and goodies that commemorate this holiday season.

  • My favorite this year is Snow in the Dashboard. It’s not a particularly useful widget, of course, since it doesn’t do anything but make light snow fall across your dashboard. Since I live in Florida, though, it’s as close to the white stuff as I’m likely to get this December.
  • If you’re looking for computer-based games, there are plenty of fun ones to choose from that will get you in the holiday spirit. I could try a different one every day and still not be done in time for Christmas, but I gave a few of them a whirl and found Christmas Swap and Christmas Crisis are the best bets if you’re looking for a little mindless fun. The former tests your reflexes and keeps your brain sharp, while the latter is just a fun arcade-type game.
  • Children all over the world play the Dreidel Game during Hanukkah. This year, treat your kids to a version that’s played on an iPhone or iPod touch. Same great game and same great fun as when played with a real dreidel, but this one has a 21st-centruy slant. Though the Dreidel Game won’t help you trick out your Mac, it’s still a fun little app that you won’t want to overlook.
  • Want to know just how many shopping days you have left before you’re out of time and have to show up at the company party with a re-gifted fruitcake? Put this Christmas Countdown on your Dashboard as a gentle reminder, or for a quick answer to your kids’ constant question, “How long until Santa comes?”
  • If you really don’t feel like hanging lights all over your house, just string them across your monitor instead. NightLights Screensaver can be customized with mini or novelty lights and even lets you choose whether to let them randomly blink or remain lit . For a really festive screensaver, try 3D Christmas or Christmas Village.
  • Speaking of lights, there’s a really neat Kinara widget that lets users light seven virtual candles in honor of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. Though the widget is free to download, it’s creators request users consider a donation to the ECOLIFE Foundation.

Have you found other cool holiday downloads and apps for your Mac? Tell me about them in the comments.

Lijit Launches Publisher Ad Network

Lijit, a Boulder, Colorado based start-up launched its publisher ad network today, targeting blog publishers and offering contextual advertising against search results that use Lijit’s technologies.

Do You Want Widgets on Your TV?

Intel and Yahoo announced today they are teaming up to try and make television interactive. Yahoo will manage a widget library for Intel’s OEM partners that will include social, informational and personalized add-ons for TV. Columnist Michael Wolf has the story on NewTeeVee.

The announcement is a bit like deja vu, since Yahoo and Intel for the last two years have offered a neat little integration for keeping track of your fantasy football league and watching the game on your big screen. But it’s been a lot longer than two years that people have been trying and failing to make TV interactive. There are some companies, like ActiveVideo Networks, that have been trucking along trying to make it happen for 10 years now.

Even online, content and interaction often seem like oil and water. At one time we thought Internet TV service Joost would be able to stand out because it opened up its API to widget developers. No such luck — turns out having the best content and making it easy to get to are way more important. I like where live-chat efforts from companies like Lycos and Paltalk are going, but they’re not there yet (see NewTeeVee coverage). On a more basic level, even YouTube is adding Pop-Up Video-like annotation features.

It’s possible we’ve evolved past the need for interaction in one place; we all have our laptops and phones out when we watch TV anyways. But I think there’s still some opportunity to do this right. Yahoo and Intel may have pretty good timing with this announcement given that only now are people starting to use their PCs and TVs for consuming content more interchangeably. An iPhone App Store-like product for TVs? Now that wouldn’t be so bad. Extending Google’s Android open platform to set-top boxes? That seems like it will actually happen too. What do you think?

For Widgets, VC Money Easy, Revenues Not So Much

Widgets, Facebook Applications, OpenSocial Web 2.0 gee gaws – you got one of those, well you can get funded. And when I say funded, I mean really funded, even though many of these companies are still struggling to find a business model. This lack of a business model at a time when social media advertising is taking a bit of a nose dive, makes me wonder what the investors are thinking.

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Watch an Ad, Plant a Tree

OK, we’ll bite. ABC is shamelessly exploiting the “green” trend trying to save the planet by launching a new video widget and hooking up with the Arbor Day Foundation. From now until April 30th, for every 10 videos watched through the ABC doohickey, one tree sapling will be planted. The goal is to plant 100,000 trees. The widgets have counters to let you check the progress.

I realize this is a blatant attempt to get me to do ABC’s marketing, but embedding this widget will at the very least get Katie and her militant Earth2Tech crew to stop shouting “You’re killing mother Gaia!” every time I drive into work.

Weekly Widget: MadLibs

MadLibs I remember in Jr. High and High School wasting hours of class time doing madlibs with my classmates. I’m quite positive I learned more reading madlibs than reading Edgar Allen Poe.

Fortunately you now can waste your day away doing madlibs right on your Mac thanks to the MadLibs widget!

It includes 23 different madlib stories to do, many of which are Apple or computer related.

Download the widget, do some madlibs, and post them in the comments.

10 Tips to Widget-up Your Startup Brand

Widgets are taking social media by storm and becoming a valuable online marketing platform for interaction with consumers. Last June, comScore estimated that widgets reach 177 million people every month, or 21 percent of the worldwide online audience.

ComScore’s tracking methods are debated (see also Techcrunch: “The Widget Kings” and GigaOM: “ComScore Widget Metrix, more like a Jellybean Contest”), but clearly widgets offer an opportunity to create a positive brand experience. Take a moment to review comScore’s latest rankings of the most-viewed widgets (released in January):

Now, what can you do to make sure your widget has the best chance of success? I have some pointers… Read More about 10 Tips to Widget-up Your Startup Brand

Apple Store Status Widget

The guys at Pingdom have a released a fun new widget that you can put on your website that automatically gets updated whenever the Apple Store goes down (presumably to add new products).

Now you can easily feed your obsession of knowing if the Apple Store is down or not!

Check out the full details on this as well as snag the code for the widget over on the Pingdom blog.

Google Gadgets Come To Mac, Finally

Google is expected to release a new Google Desktop for Mac, which will allow you to run Google Gadgets (thus far available on Windows OS only) on OS X-based Apple computers. The application needs 10.4 or higher versions of OS X. The gadgets — widgets, in plain speak — will run inside of Apple Dashboard, adding more utility to the Apple widget platform. Here are some of the same Google Gadgets, in case you want to try them out: YouTube ( to search and watch YouTube videos from Dashboard) and Weather Globe. This is where you find many different Google Gadgets.
It is a pretty simple install process. You download the latest build of Google Desktop for Mac. Install the application and once you are done installing, a window opens and offers you many different widgets. You click on the ones you like, and the widget is installed inside your Dashboard. My favorite Google Gadget: Google SMS. Easy way to get local information.

Investors Take a Stroll with Widgets

2007 was supposed to be the Year of the Widget, according to Newsweek, and Jon Swartz of USA Today apparently agrees that the promise has been fulfilled. He says:

[Widgets] are all the rage on the Web. Marketers are thinking of ways to use them to sell ads, and venture capitalists are mulling investments in the hottest widget makers. The stampede reached a roar this month, when market leader MySpace and Facebook expanded their services for targeted ads, including widgets designed by marketers.

But look at the numbers for investments in widget distribution platforms and widget suppliers, and it becomes clear that this not a stampede but more like a Sunday stroll through the widget park.
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