My alarm clock is now a folder, too


I have a history of turning features that most consider standalone apps into dedicated folders. Being unable to use NFC tags to automatically set timers and alarms, I started thinking about others ways of doing it. As with every venture to shave a few seconds off a task that is already rather quick, this one also took hours of testing, tinkering, and trying new apps. Even so, it was all worth it in the end…I hope. 

I use the alarm and timer on my phone for quite a few things aside from just waking up. Cooking is an obvious use for it, but another is keeping track of the laundry schedule in the building. You can put your name in for 2 hour periods at a time, with the washer and dryer requiring roughly 50 minutes each to complete. This means I need an alarm to remind me to go down there to begin with, one to remind me when it's time to move stuff to the dryer, and one to remind me to go grab it when it's all done.

To automate this laundry alarm as much as possible, I ended up using Tasker with an app called Alarm Clock Plus as the stock alarm clock on my S II isn't controllable from other apps. There are apps that have deeper integration with Tasker, like Gentle Alarm, but between nagging me to the point of wanting to punch something because I was using the free version (I always buy the premium version for apps I end up using, but for the love of Thor, give me the ability to try it first!) and having a backwards and ugly interface I ended up uninstalling that one. I created a Tasker task that sets the alarm for 5 minutes before the hour, then waits 4 seconds, then sets it for 5 minutes before the next hour, and then the same wait/set once more.

I did this for all the time slots available for the laundry schedule, which is faster to do than you'd think due to the ability to clone a task in Tasker. That means that for every two hour period from 08:00 to 20:00 I have tasks that set three alarms, e.g. for 08:00 it would set alarms for 07:55, 08:55 and 09:55. Start laundry, switch to dryer, and pick stuff up in other words. The 4 second delays between the alarms setting is simply to stop it from trying to input all at once, which would mean only one or two would actually be picked up. 

Finally, I added icons to my homescreen for each of the tasks. Tasker allows you to do this, and the icons work as app icons so they can be put in folders and treated like other icons. I then renamed and changed icons to signify what they do. Now, if I click an icon of a washer that says 20:00, it won't open any apps – simply set the three alarms needed. With all the icons in a folder, having multiple isn't an issue. 

Next up was the timer functionality, which proved more tricky. Tasker doesn't seem to have a function for controlling timer apps, although it does have the ability to act as a timer itself by simply using the delays I mentioned above and then a notification after that. I wanted one that actually counts down though, but wasn't able to find one that I cound control from Tasker. I realized I had to stop thinking "Tasker" for everything and instead went in search of one that could initiate timers directly using normal homescreen shortcuts, and I found one: Timer by Intuitit. It allows you to create pre-defined timers and link to them much the same way you link to tasks in Tasker. I added a couple of typical kitchen timer times I tend to use for now and added them to the same folder as the laundry ones. I also added a Tasker context that triggers whenever the Timer app is running and simply keeps the screen on and makes sure the alarm sound is all the way up. 

As for an actual wake up alarm, I decided to just keep those in the Alarm Clock Plus app and not link to them from an icon, because, well, I can't. Alarm Clock Plus allows me to set rather specific alarms with fade-in settings and such, but I can't control those features with Tasker – only the time. Since wake up alarms can easily be programmed using specific weekdays and such anyways, I decided to just add the shortcut to the app itself for now. If I find that I'm bored and need to automate it even more, I could rock dual alarm clocks with Gentle Alarm as the one to use for wake up alarms, but honestly, that's not needed. The alarms that bug me the most are the timers and the laundry alarms, because I either forget to set the two latter ones (for laundry) or there's so much fumbling to get a timer set that I lose track of how long something's been cooking by the time I get stuff set. 

These are just the clock related "features" I could come up with on the spot. I'm sure I'll add more as the need arises, and the more things I have semi-automated this way, the less pointless the venture was to begin with. 

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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