Easy web-based alarm

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.

04/23/09 -- Timothy Lord