I don't get people's problem with Dashboard.Take the ease of creating an HTML and CSS interface, and add the ability to access and use all of the unix system commands at the same time.That is a pretty powerful combination, and without the learning curve of Xcode, IB, or Cocoa, which I'm still struggling with.:)
Dashboard has become my laptop's gateway to the surrounding world.I purchased an iRed USB to remote control device, and have built a bunch of fun little widgets for all of my remote controls in the house, so Dashboard 'controls' my stereo, TV, Cable Box, Air Conditioner, and even the Roomba! With my Vonage widget, Dashboard 'dials' any number that I want it to for me. And let's not forget Couch Potato! :)
I've only got three widgets on my dashboard that I didn't build myself (calculator, weather, and Indigo, for controlling my X-10 lighting, something I definitely can't live without').The other 15 or so are all Widgets that I've built for myself.Most of my widgets interface with the command line version of PHP that comes with OS X for all of the heavy lifting.This is done through the widget.system() call to a php script which outputs a file when it's done with it's job, and the use of XMLHTTPRequest to parse the resulting file and display it in a div.
For automating day to day tasks, it can't be beat.For my own use, I've created a mysql widget for syncing any of the MySQL databases on my laptop to/from our web server using the command line mysql and mysqldump commands, another one that uses rsync to sync any folder I drop on it to/from our webserver (not quote done with this one yet, but close).Another widget reads a php script on our webserver every 10 seconds, which gives me current load averages, mysql connections, etc, parses it, and emails me and sends me text messages if there is a problem.
So, yeah, there are lots and lots of widgets I can't live without, they just all happen to be widgets I've built for myself!