The Traffic Gadget is Back!

By Donavon | In Developer | Posted January 23, 2008 5 comments


OK, it’s formally called the Live Search Maps gadget, but that’s a mouthful so most people simply call it the "traffic gadget". The traffic gadget was taken off the market for a few months for "security reasons" (not unlike like the Tylenol scare back in the 80’s). In any case, it’s back!

Microsoft came to my company and asked us to develop a Windows Vista Sidebar gadget to display local area traffic. It was very popular with people living in one of the supported areas. Then (as previously reported by Kip) a problem was uncovered that had to do with the way that the Virtual Earth API JavaScript was loaded into the gadget. It was loaded over a non-secure (non-SSL) connection. This made it susceptible to MitM (Man-in-the-Middle) attacks. An evil person (such as a terrorist or a mime) could inject code that would run on your machine under the same rights as the local logged in user. The offender could then easily delete files, steal personal information etc. Even though the situation was highly unlikely, it needed to be addressed (which should show you how concerned Microsoft is with security).

The new gadget not only loads the VEAPI via an SSL connection, but manually loads the markets.js file and parses the heck our of it (using a regular expression) looking for malware or any other unscrupulous items.

What else has changed? Visually, I’ve updated the icons but that’s about it. Basically, the new version is a lot like Vista SP1: not much in the way of UX improvements, but a whole lot of improvements going on all "under the hood".

Although not specifically attributed to the new gadget, there have been more cities added since the gadget was introduced about a year ago. The new cities include: Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, San Antonio and Toronto. When more new cities are added, they will automatically appear in the gadget (i.e. no update required).

Will there be any features added down the road? I can’t say. Seriously, I’m under NDA and can’t say :). But if you have any suggestions, please let me know and I’ll pass them along to the powers that be.

In the mean time, please enjoy the new safe and secure traffic, um, Live Search Maps gadget! It can be download here now.

Posted January 23rd, 2008 at 6:55 am
Category: Developer
Tags: Gadgets
  • tophtucker

    Good to hear. I liked it, although I didn’t use it very often.

    Suggestions? Well, I sort of think that every major Microsoft app deserves a gadget. Some missing notable gadgets (although there may be 3rd party alternatives): (Hot)mail & calendar. OneCare might be nice. Recent Office Live Workspaces, perhaps? How about an official Xbox Live or Zune gadget?

  • quikboy

    Pretty much what tophtucker said.

    Make gadgets/widgets for as many of the WindowsLive/MSN stuff there is. Or across other Microsoft products and services.

    Make them look visually pleasing, AND multi-platform. Multi-platform as in not just the Sidebar, but also, Live Spaces, SideShow, and maybe even onto IE add-ons, WLM, Writer, etc.

    That would be great. Though I think Microsoft should have more skills to make them on their own, considering they are the largest software company in the world.

  • tophtucker

    “Though I think Microsoft should have more skills to make them on their own, considering they are the largest software company in the world.”

    You’d think so, eh? I absolutely feel like they should be promoting their own platform a little more. Every MS product team should have this item on their to-do list: evaluate whether a gadget would make sense, and if it would, do it. It’s not all that hard… is it? And the more support it has internally, the more attractive it will be for other developers. But first they need to reach that critical mass, and I don’t think they’ve done that yet.

  • BasP

    This would be incredibly useful… if I lived in the US. Since that is not the case, I have exactly zero use for this gadget.

    I realise that that’s not your fault, and that you’re limited by whatever data the traffic service provides you, but, hey, maybe the Virtual Earth guys can take a hint from this and get international Microsoft offices into gear to provide worldwide traffic data.

  • donavon

    @tophtucker: I agree that there should be MSFT branded gadgets for more apps, not only as a developer/vendor, but as a user of Microsoft products. A Zune gadget is a great example. I pitched the idea of a Zune gadget right after it’s initial release but nothing became of it. And yes, where is the Microsoft branded calendar gadget? Hey Microsoft: call me! ;)

    @quikboy: I understand what you are saying, but I think that each group is more focused on their actual product to worry about the additional resources needed to write a quality gadget. I think it makes sense (both from a quality end product perspective and financially) to outsource the development to specialized gadget development houses.

    @BasP: I know that the VE people are aware that they need more international support for traffic but thanks for reiterating the point. It’s comments like yours that hopefully will get Microsoft to listen and take action.