Some people are instinctive wakers who can rely on rising whenever, wherever they need to. That’s not me. My schedule is always based on Eastern Standard Time, even when I am traveling, so I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to hotel alarm clocks. By far, my favorite travel alarm is OnlineClock: The weight is just right (zero grams, if you’re carring a laptop); the price is perfect (free); and it’s easy to use. The interface is fantastically simple: a big digital clock. Just select a wake-up time from the drop-down list, and raise the volume on your laptop to whatever level won’t cause friction with the neighbors. When the time you’ve set arrives, your laptop sounds off like a conventional alarm clock. Brilliant! I’ve tried wrist watches, cell phones alarms, travel clocks and extra-loud vibrating clocks, but OnlineClock’s interface is simple enough I can handle it even when jetlagged or dopey from too many hours awake, a standard my wristwatch doesn’t always meet. I don’t know how the site determines the correct local time, but it’s been accurate for me both around the U.S. and in Israel.

Caveat: this works well for me because I typically go to sleep with an open laptop logging work-related messages, or playing an audiobook, etc. If you’re unable to keep a laptop or other web-browsing device open, this isn’t for you. Of course, there are other online clocks. Kukuklok has a wide range of tones, if you prefer to wake to a bugle. Avnoy has cool, artistic display, but it’s Flash-dependent and there’s too much information displayed on the screen for the mostly-asleep mode of my brain to handle. In addition, I’m sure there are plenty of resident alarm clocks that run as applications, but that’s one more piece of software I don’t need to keep current or transfer among machines, or care about cross-platform compatibility (company laptop is OS X, my personal machines usually run Ubuntu or other Linux variant).

The simplicity of OnlineClock keeps me coming back.

-- Timothy Lord