MoonDock 1.2.3, by Gary Martin
Posted: 8-Nov-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Gary Martin Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: Diane Love Class: EDUCATIONAL
     
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Overview
"Cold-hearted orb that rules the night, Removes the colours from our sight," started the Moody Blues at the beginning of their album, Days of Future Passed. If your Apple desktop background seems a little too moody blue, perhaps a beautiful up-to-the minute image of the Moon in its current phase would help. The freeware Moondock application aims to do just that.

Moondock is offered as a "lightweight application designed for displaying up-to-date images of the Moon phase" in the dock or on the desktop of your OS X system, and is intended for amateur astronomers, people who are interested in the Moon, and people who just want something cool for their desktop.

Setup
Moondock can be downloaded from
http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ or from Versiontracker. This download provides a disk image file from which you can drag the MoonDock application to your applications folder. When you run Moondock, you can elect to keep it in your dock using the usual methods.

Once you have installed Moondock, you can use its preferences to control the transparency, size, drop shadow and floating level of the desktop moon, the appearance for Northern or Southern hemisphere, local versus universal time and the behavior of the information window.

In Use
It can be hard to keep track of the Moon if you live somewhere that's frequently cloudy; knowing the Moon phase may also seem to have little practical value. However, if you are interested in observing or photographing a particular phase of the Moon, such as a crescent or full Moon, then Moondock helps you build an awareness of the Moon's phase so that you can be ready to look for a clear sky on the appropriate day. I keep my OS X system running for days or weeks without shutting down. I can start up Moondock and leave it running. The Moon image in the dock then shows the current phase of the Moon all the time (same goes for the desktop image if it's not covered). Even if you don't leave your computer on all of the time, you can easily make Moondock a startup item. If I can see the Moon image every day, then I can predict when there is going to be a new Moon or a full Moon. If I had to rely on seeing it in the sky, then it might be days or weeks between sightings.

Especially with a transparent setting, the detailed desktop Moon is ethereally well suited to the standard OS X abstract blue desktop background. From either the dock or the desktop image, you can call up the Moondock information window. An added bonus here is the names of major lunar features which appear when you hover over the lunar image in the window.


The desktop Moon and the Moondock information window

While Moondock meets its stated objectives well, it has some limitations. My main disappointment is that Moondock provides no information about lunar eclipses, and does not simulate eclipses when they are in progress. For example, in the picture below, I superimposed the Moondock image given on Oct 27th, 2004, on top of a photograph I took of the actual moon on that date. As you can see, the Moondock image shows a full moon with no indication of the eclipse.


What Moondock said and what the Moon did during the Lunar Eclipse on October 27 2004

Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth gets between the Sun and the Moon. The Moon gradually moves into the Earth's shadow; we see this as a dark area growing over the full Moon. Finally when the Moon is totally in the shadow it shows as a copper or red disk. Lunar eclipses are not as rare as solar eclipses but still there may be just one a year or one every two or three years. The next total one is going to be in 2007. I am interested in eclipses and have photographed a total solar eclipse and seen several lunar eclipses. It would be good to have dates for lunar eclipses in Moondock and better still if Moondock's Moon image could simulate a lunar eclipse. I acknowledge that this could be a tall order for freeware.

In addition to the up-to-the-minute Moon image, Moondock can also display the Moon's appearance and information for dates in the past or in the future. Most users will be unable to go back to see the Moon phase on the date they were born since the dates allowed are restricted to the range of 2001 to 2015.


When using Moondock to place a Moon image on your desktop, it is not a desktop background, but it is in its own window. You can specify it to be floating above all windows, floating below all windows or in its own ordered layer like any other window. I tend to keep it below all windows. I was hoping to use Exposé (F11) to make all the windows fly off the display so that I could see the moon window, but unfortunately the Moondock window also disappeared. It would be nice to have an option to make the Moondock window ignore Exposé.

Summary
Moondock is offered as a lightweight application designed for displaying up-to-date images of the Moon phase in the dock or on the desktop of your OS X system. It is intended for amateur astronomers, people who are interested in the Moon, and people who just want something cool for their desktop. The detailed desktop Moon is ethereally well suited to the standard OS X abstract blue desktop background. Moondock has its limitations, but it functions well, is a cool OS X add-on, and is free. Moondock is recommended for anyone who loves to look at the Moon and for collectors of enigmatic circular desktop objects.

Pros

  • Size and transparency controls for desktop moon
  • Shows moon phase in the dock as well as on your desktop
  • Can display some lunar place names


Cons

  • Date range restricted from 2001 to 2015
  • No eclipse data
  • No option to ignore Exposé


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice