I got a new clock.

It's a pretty cool clock.
Except that it doesn't light up.
Or have an alarm.
Or run ntpd.
Or have any way to sync the minute-tick with other clocks except by waiting for it to tick,
pulling the battery, waiting for the other clock to tick, and re-inserting.

Actually when I put it that way,
I guess it mostly fails at clockery.
Pretty, though.


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19 Responses:

  1. httf says:

    It will also cause Groundhog's Day flashbacks.

  2. sandy_tr says:

    Nice picture.... and a cool looking clock...

  3. youngwilliam says:

    There simply must be an "open source" alarm clock somewhere out there -- plug the sucker into your computer via USB and you can set it however you want.

    * The front would be a 2" x 5" screen, you can set your own font for the numbers.
    * Want to get extra fun? There's a half-dozen buttons up top and you get to pick what buttons do what.
    * You could also fiddle with the functionality, so you can get a "you currently are hovering in Snooze light, can have the alarm go off different times (if it's going off at all) on different days, can decide what sorts of sounds it uses for alarms, etc..

    • jwz says:

      I think you're describing Chumby. It runs Flash, so you can download new clocky behaviors into it.

      • youngwilliam says:

        Wow! That could most likely cover most of my wishlist notions.

        Mind, it'd be nicer if they made a 'sub-Chumby' which didn't bother with the wireless internet connection affair, for those just looking for a clock.

    • gryazi says:

      There are dozens of "open-source" (oneoneoneuuu) microcontroller projects available, but in reality it'd be far more economical to dedicate a junk laptop (386?*) or PDA to the task. Or your desktop if you keep it on and sleep in the same room.

      Personally I augment my alarm with an X10-controlled lamp that clicks on about an hour before. I have no fancy dimming tricks (although potentially they could be implemented with an incandescent), but it makes a good "dawn simulator" on rainy days or in the dark of winter.

      Now, what moved me to reply is this factoid: science seems to have determined that a sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. This means two things that the clock industry hasn't picked up on yet -- first, a sleeping human is most receptive to waking at the end of a cycle, and second, an interrupted cycle is not restful at all. Thus, as you might have noticed, the standard seven minute snooze button is about as useful as the nonfunctional 'door close' buttons on elevators.**

      So, in reality, you should set your "optimistic" alarm to give you at least 90 minutes before you absolutely-have-to-be-up, so that a 90 minute snooze won't kill you. You also need a 90 minute snooze button, which doesn't exist, or any dual alarm clock that gives you reasonable chances of muting the first alarm without disabling the second.

      It occurs to me that a Griffin Powermate could make a good interface for an alarm clock daemon (except, if they ever made a Bluetooth model, they don't seem to now) -- push to "snooze," twist to slew the alarm time from the day's preset (if you think about it, that one interface would work both before or after snoozing). Collect input for about 5 seconds from the first event, determine the magnitude of the twist, then pipe the result to your favorite speech synthesizer -- "N minutes, 6:48 AM." A harsh twist left would thus reset any modifications to 0, or back the snooze off to an unsatisfying 7 minutes.

      * The efficiency of a 386SX or 486SX laptop is probably pretty close to a homebrewed microcontroller project using an inefficient homebrewed linear supply, especially if you can replace the disk with a CF-to-IDE adapter and shut off the display and backlight.

      ** Per some recent New Yorker writeup, a vast majority of these are disabled, but continue to be built into new panels for both inertia and placebo effect.

      • strspn says:

        You are so right about snooze. My alarm system requires me to answer a two-digit multiplication problem in my work email to keep it from ringing the house phone land lines, which are pretty impressive, and moreso in the living room (I often pass out in there.)

        That forces me to at least look at my work email, which has proved to be more effective at getting me up (albeit with a sense of soul-crushing dread) than, for example, requiring that I achieve some minimum tetris score, which was okay except for the ease with which I can go right back to sleep afterwards.

      • lafinjack says:

        All your timing tricks are irrelevant to freaks like me, who can't actually get to sleep within any predictable timeframe after they lie down, and can't stay asleep when they do.

        • gryazi says:

          The sleep-tracking alarms are potentially awesome.

          I hope I am not being a dick for explaining, but just sayin': When you need to get up at a fixed time [and do not have $150 to blow on a smart watch, and do not know exactly when you are getting to bed] you can "reset" into a new cycle with an early alarm (groggy, smash the off button, roll over), then just time the real wake-up after 90 minutes with the second alarm.

          You still lose the interrupted cycle this way, but by knowing the interruption of the first alarm is starting a new one, you can just count time with the dual-alarm clock instead of using all sorts of sensors. The "real" wake-up by the second alarm comes at the optimal time to get your ass out of bed, while if you went to sleep early, you're rested enough to get up with the first one without needing these tricks.

          • Huh, that reset trick is an interesting idea. My gadget lust steers me towards a sleep-cycle-aware alarm, of course, but it seems like one could kludge up a cycle reset by simply having two alarm clocks (one set to t-90, by the bed; and one set to t-0, across the room or whatever).

            • gryazi says:

              You almost made me think I didn't say that dual alarm clocks are as common as air. ^_^ (I consider this 90 minute rule to be the secret instruction that doesn't come with dual alarms.)

              But seriously, that might work for you; I gave up on annoyance alarms because I'm completely capable of training myself to sleep through them or getting up, turning them off so they won't bother me, and going back to bed until 4PM. Being able to groggily whack snooze or continually increment the "T-0" alarm forward gets me up eventually and keeps me from losing the whole day. Dual tones, so you don't sleepily cancel T-0 as if it was T-90, would certainly be helpful; or just set the "reset" alarm to the annoying buzzer that you'll immediately shut off and the "wake" alarm to gentle radio that'll still get you up because you'll be at the optimal point.

              (P.S.: Any other Firefox 3 users find LJ will now always drop your password and make you solve 3 captchas before you can post? I don't know what's up with that.)

  4. thargol says:

    [citation needed]

    Specifically, who makes it, and where can I buy one? We've been looking for a sensibly priced split flap display to use as a "profit totaliser" for the office, and this looks like it could be turned into just such a thing. And even if not, it's still a cool clock.

    • jwz says:

      Lots of places seem to sell it, but I got it here. They also have some cheaper variants of it with different bases.

    • Heh, yeah -- I built a Bluetooth-controlled nixie display and used it as a sales counter at work for a while, 'twas fun.

      This thing would be more in keeping with the style of my current office, and I bet it wouldn't be impossible to replace that D cell with a microcontroller and stuff, but not being able to display anything higher than :59 in the rightmost two digits would be weird for anything but a clock.

  5. rapier1 says:

    It might not be your style but for your next clock purchase you might like a Nixie Tube clock.

    I like the desktop atomic clock one.

  6. djverablue says:

    neat, but i must say i like the old clock better. if you ever decide to retire the old clock let me know :)

  7. kallisti says:

    I used to have a clock radio with the flip over type numbers like that...and after about 10 years, the little tabs that hold the flip plates in broke on some of them which lead to some surrealistic looking time displays...but eventually, enough broke that it was just useless.


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