Yahoo! Widgets in 2017

Stupid Alert

Today I had a weird memory: a bouncy ball widget on my old Thinkpad back in 2006/7. I think I heard the funny sound the Yahoo! Widgets drawer made. Whatever. Anyway, it got me thinking. What happened to Yahoo! Widgets?

So way back in ‘03, Yahoo! Widgets was a Mac-Exclusive program called Konfabulator. It was not written by a Yahoo! Team, but by a spunky group of developers by the names: Arlo Rose, Perry Clarke, and Ed Voas. All the little widgets were Javascript applications (more or less) so this pre-dates the ‘Web app as native app’ garbage all over the place today.

In 2004, a Windows version was released, with a few minor difficulties along the lines of certain widgets only being for certain platforms. Finally, in 2005 a more seamless version, Konfabulator 2.0, was released to the world. The program had an explosive success, the developers began working on it full time as a result. Konfabulator had struck gold.

Around that time, Yahoo! was looking for an innovative way to introduce developers to their web API. Yahoo! offered XML quieries for basic information like weather, stocks, news, and searches. Konfabulator was the perfect solution. Already using then-modern web technologies like XML and JavaScript, the widget engine would fit perfectly with Yahoo’s new API.

On July 25th, 2005, Yahoo! officially aquired Konfabulator and it’s fiery developer team, and on May 6th 2006, almost a full year later, the Yahoo! Widget Engine was borne upon the world.

Slowly, though, the original Konfabulator team left. August 2006, Perry Clark left, followed by Arlo Rose, and finally, in August of 2008, Ed Voas.

In 2012, Yahoo! announced that they would no longer support their widget engine, nor would they keep the Widget Gallery propped up.

Since then, the Widget engine has remained largely functional, aside from the Yahoo! Weather Widget no longer functioning when the API was updated in May of 2016, easily one of the most popular of the default Yahoo! Widgets suite.

I loved Yahoo! Widgets (though, now knowing they are webapps has slightly tained my love for them) and I wanted a way to get them on my Mac. Fortunately, the binary was easily found here, getting running was another task and a half.

First launch puts the widget smack dab in the middle of my screen but the beloved widget dock is nowhere to be seen! Nor is the menu bar icon. What the!? A quick glance into the Console app shows crash reports for Yahoo! Widgets. Uh oh :(. Its easy to forget how long ago the last version was released, circa OS X 10.5 Ouch. Since then OS X permissions have evolved quite a bit. The exception type was ‘EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSEGV)’ which is a permissions issue. Sad trombone. I quickly disabled Gatekeepr just in case, but that didn’t do anything either. Hmm. What if I run it as root?

Windows Vista and onward had a similar issue. The widgets require some deeper access to the OS because of the window layering (I believe). In Vista-10, volume control is broken because the widgets cannot call for a volume change without a UIC prompt, but its a webapp so.. you get the picture. Native-ness rules folks.

Anyway, I ran it as root, and it worked!

Now, you yourself can do this. It is really buggy but it works once the widgets are up because I believe that the widgets are separate process. The actual Widget Engine is the buggy part.

I even got my beloved dock noise back!

Watch out for widgets that require API access back to Yahoo, they CAN crash the engine.

Here is the command that I used to run the engine:

sudo /Applications/Yahoo\!\ Widgets.app/Contents/MacOS/Yahoo\!\ Widgets

Now, I really want to get the Yahoo! Weather Widget working again, because after all, its just a webapp..

But thats for another time.

Comments

Harry Whitfield said:

Monday, September 18th, 2017, 10.09pm

Most widgets will still run on Sierra, if you turn off the Yahoo! Widgets dock and avoid use of the built-in debug window. The trick to fixing dock issues is to edit the Widget Engine’s preference list (com.yahoo.widgetengine.plist) to set

DockOpen false

so the engine does not try to open the dock. The Widget Engine icon then appears in the Mac menubar from which you can start widgets and use some of the other menu items. I have also found that the canvas ctx.drawImage(img, x, y, width, height) function call does not work correctly, but very few widgets use it.

I’ve not found it necessary to run the Engine as root, but I will have a play with that.

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