Unreliable internet? A Dashboard widget to tell you when you’re Really Online

Update: I’ve updated the widget to version 1.1 and given it its own page.

If you live in a nicely developed town or city in North America, Europe, South Asia, India, I hazard a guess that you don’t know what unreliable internet access is like. If you live and work in Africa or somewhere nice and rural, then you probably know all too well about the frustrations of access coming and going depending on the whim of mobile masts, weather, satellites, congestion, power etc.

The trouble is, if you’re sharing the internet through WiFi, you often have a working local connection but no usable internet connection. Faffing about trying to reload a site, or start an FTP upload when the internet’s not working is a waste of time, and you don’t want to go digging around to find the Network Diagnostics window or the Network Utility every time. So I whipped up a little Dashboard widget that shines green if the internet’s on and red if it’s off. Actually it’s quite big, so you can easily spot it.

Disclaimer: This is just for Mac OS X computers. Windows users stop here.

ReallyOnline Mac OS X dashboard widget and open it. It should open in your dashboard. Click Keep. Then just pop into the dashboard to see at a glance if the internet’s working.

Excellent! The Internet's Working!

But that’s not really quite as convenient as it could be. Click on the text that says Internet and a setting will be changed in the background that lets you drag the widget out of the dashboard and run it on your desktop, floating merrily above everything else. I like to put it in a corner of my screen. The trick is, after clicking the word Internet start dragging the widget, then press the Dashboard key and keep dragging the widget.

Double-click the word 'internet' to show the Network Diagnostics app

Even better, double-click the middle of the widget and it’ll open your full Network Diagnostics with the traffic lights so you can see where you’ve lost connectivity. The benefit of the widget though is that if you use Spaces as I do, the widget stays on every space, but the Network Diagnostics window is trapped on only one. Also the widget’s a little more visible.

Feedback welcome. This is my first Dashboard widget, I believe.

Known issues

  • Sometimes it’s a little too pessimistic and goes red when Network Diagnostics is green and the internet seems to work. But it’s not too bad, and normally a red light indicates at least a transient outage which Network Diagnostics might not pick up right away.

2 thoughts on “Unreliable internet? A Dashboard widget to tell you when you’re Really Online

  1. A very very helpful widget, thank you. Why don’t you submit it to apple.com’s collection of dashboard widgets on their website? Note: An option to turn on/off the voice that notifies you when the internet status changes would be nice.

  2. Thanks. I’ll add a button for the voice to the next version and let you know when I’ve got that done. I tend to drop it back in the dashboard whenever I’m not wanting to hear from it. It doesn’t speak if in dashboard but only when pulled out. And yes, I’ve meant to get round to submitting to the Apple collection but wanted to finish the rough edges first! Well done for being the first person to comment.

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