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I tried to adjust the time on my alarm clock (microsoft.com)
372 points by niccl 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 352 comments





For some reason, an operating system that I paid money for and installed on my very personal computer that I also bought for my own buckazoids insists that I create an online account to be able to log in locally.

I'm going to repeat that: in order to use my super-duper computer I had to create an account with Microsoft.

How ridiculous is that?

* Yes, I know I could've faked the machine being offline, then clicked through some gray-on-gray links in 3px font and I'd be granted a reprieve. But, please, as much as I like reading about Windows quirks on Raymond's blog, he is not exactly in position to complain about a device needing an online account to operate.


> as much as I like reading about Windows quirks on Raymond's blog, he is not exactly in position to complain about a device needing an online account to operate.

Raymond Chen complains about Microsoft products often. He even has a response to people who say that he is the man in a glass house throwing stones: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20060713-12/?p=30...

And while you can say "he works on Windows too, not another Microsoft product", he doesn't work on or review all the business plans, technical designs, or pull requests for all of Windows either. He does serve on an internal Windows API review board, though.

Disclosure: I work at Microsoft on products including Windows. However, I have only interacted with Raymond Chen in a couple of email threads. Regrettably but perhaps understandably, he was curt in both.


A single article from July 2006, at the peak of the XP era. This was months before the November 8th release of Windows Vista to manufacturing.

AAaaaaa, all the links from articles that far back don't work :(

...And they're not in the web archive either :S


Yeah, they really did a bad job the last time they migrated these devblogs. It's really a shame. Raymond's stuff is popular enough that a lot of it is archived and indexed if you go searching for it, but there were all kinds of other old Microsoft employee blogs that just sort of vanished into the aether, with all the odd bits of knowledge they contained.

And they killed all the comments that also held an incredible wealth of information and anecdata.

Based on his blog I get the impression that he probably totally agrees with you, this post could be one diplomatic way of saying it.

The clock may not have actually ever existed, not that it matters.

I just did a new online install of Windows 10 professional and the offline account option was still there.

Professional might be different. I can personally confirm this issue on Home, version 1903-v2.

I did an install of Windows 10 Home (or whatever it's called) about six months ago and the offline account option was there then (albeit hard to spot, the page is designed to look like it's mandatory but there was a skip option). Unless they've removed it in the past six months it should be there.

Edit: As a cousin post mentions, this option may only be available if the computer is not connected to the internet. Which is annoying as heck.


Nope, installed Windows 10 Pro two weeks ago on a PC connected to the Internet and the skip option was there. Done that on dozens of builds in the past couple years...

I actually thought the post was going to be a metaphor at first. Especially the part about the barely-functional clusterfuck of a UX.

It's not ridiculous. It makes complete sense that in 2019 Microsoft would want its customers to have Microsoft accounts that you log into with to run the operating system on your hardware. Nearly everyone has internet connections, and Microsoft surely seems to think enough of its customers do.

Apple's mobile devices run an operating system that has this same requirement with the same bypass. MacOS also prompts for a password during set up. Android phones prompt for a Google account on set up.


>It's not ridiculous.

Its not ridiculous if you think of an operating system as a tool for generating profit for microsoft.

It is ridiculous if you view an operating system as a tool to serve only the users needs and not suck all of your data up for advertising.


How is this justified except in the "everyone does it" sense?

Please post this in every thread about Apple and Google.

I agree, so we should rag on them.


Android isn't as bad as windows. There is no requirement to sign in to a google account for android. I simply installed f-droid and continued using my phone. There are some improvements that could be made, the calendar app requires a google account which is annoying and arguably the play store should allow installing free apps without an account.

The OP isn't justifying the policy (you can decide whether it's justified), merely explaining one reason why a vendor would want to do it. Then providing examples of other vendors doing it.

The OP is attempting to justify the policy when they say "it's not ridiculous". Obviously, it is ridiculous.

Oh, I can think of many reasons why vendors would want to do it. But that doesn't make it less ridiculous from the perspective of everyone else.

Highway robberies also make complete sense when rationalized from the robbers' perspective, but it doesn't make them any less ridiculous from everyone else'.

"in 2019" is not a valid argument.

I think the issue is mostly that you, in the eyes of Microsoft, did not pay enough. This entire online account thing is just a precursor to transitioning Windows from one-off purchase to a monthly subscription.

No, the offline account button was simply renamed, don't need to be offline, and didn't changed place.

There is only 2 issue:

   The link have the same size than the rest of the text.  

   The text mean nothing to an user.

Latest 1903-v2 "Home" version does not have offline account button without being offline. I had displeasure of configuring it two days ago.

See screenshot here: https://www.extremetech.com/computing/295445-microsoft-reall...


Last time I seen news on this, I was factory resetting a PC and could create an offline account. I need to setup another windows this week's, I will see.

As much as I love Raymond I have completely run out of time for people who buy unnecessary "smart" devices then complain about them. 6 years ago I would understand, but by now we all know this stuff is junk. Yes, all of it.

We recently got a new fridge and my friends and family were all amazed I didn't choose a "smart" fridge. "But you're in tech, why wouldn't you want a high tech fridge?", "Because I'm in tech."

I have an automated cat feeder. The user interface is close to the worst I've ever seen. If I push the wrong button on it, I'm in for digging up the manual, then spending 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get out of the mode I'm in without messing things up, and then wondering for the next day if it is actually dispensing food. (This is miserable if you need to leave to catch a plane and you're worried that the feeder isn't configured right.)

I've given up trying to program my thermostat.

Here's how a cat feeder should work:

1. put cat food in the hopper

2. plug it in

Then, it dispenses food 4 times in the next 24 hours, starting when it gets power. That's it. No clock, no modes, no options, no "lock" mode. For the super-advanced model, add a dial to adjust the amount of food dropped.


But my cat is fed twice a day... There is probably a better way involving home assistant and a smart plug, but I’m a sucker for those TP link Kasa plugs and default to them for every problem.

> But my cat is fed twice a day...

Feed it half as much 4 times a day!


Then it becomes a dog feeder.

So buy the model that says "dispenses twice a day"

No need for two models.

Make it so that it has four food tanks, which it cycles through. This way, so you can provide some variety for the cat.

Have the four food tanks arranged so that two are on the left side, one above the other. Similar for the right side.

The 0 hour feeding comes from the bottom left tank, the 6 hour feeding from top left, the 12 hours from bottom right, and the 18 hour from top right.

Associated with each top tank is a lever or dial with two settings: feed or skip.

The outputs from the top tanks go to a forked chute, with the level controlling which fork is taken. The "feed" fork leads to the bowl for the cat. The "skip" fork leads to the bottom tank on that side.


My fridge is over 80 years old, and in fact I recently completed restoring it, which among other things meant replacing the insulation. According to the power meter it's estimating 280-320kWh/year, which is actually extremely low even compared to modern "high efficiency" units (400-500kWh/year). There's tons of propaganda around about old fridges being inefficient, and that's true to a certain extent --- they focus on comparing late 60s/70s ones which certainly did consume a lot (mainly due to defrost heaters and thin insulation) but conveniently ignore the period before that, in which they consumed far less. When new this one would've probably been in the 400-500kWh/year range, which isn't high either, but I guess replacing the thick 30s cork-based insulation with an equivalent volume of foam made it even better.

Wow, that is one of the most inspiring comments I've seen on this site lately.

(I fix "everything" at home, including things that doesn't make sense to fix and I justify it by saying to myself it is a hobby and I'm learning, but fixing an 80 year old fridge is something I haven't even thought of..!)


But does it use cfc free refrigerant?

It originally used R12 (CFC) but unfortunately that had leaked out long ago because of a tiny hole someone made in the evaporator years ago before I bought it (in non-working condition), probably while trying to defrost it. It now uses R152a (HFC), also known as "gas duster".

If it was still sealed, I would've left it alone; R12 is very efficient (among the reasons CFCs were used for decades before ozone depletion was known) and now rare and expensive, and it's known that these sealed systems can work almost indefinitely if they're kept sealed. I know of working examples of other units from this era which still have the original refrigerant.


If it works this issue is irrelevant.

If it doesn't then it's not a problem that he can fix either.


Agreed. My washer and dryer are close to 20 years old. They each have a few buttons, and the 'computers' are mostly mechanical (think egg timer). I'm dreading when they break because anytime I have looked for simple, basic models like I have they no longer seem to exist.

My dryer uses a heat pump similar to refrigeration technology which allows it to dry clothes at a lower energy usage level because it's more efficient than heated air. It's also a condensing dryer so it doesn't spray hot wet lint air out of the side of my house, and has a drain tube I can run straight into my drain pipe next to my washer so I don't have to dump out the water collector every few loads.

While I'm generally a fan of simple appliances in concept, there are several significant changes that have occurred in the last 20 years you might want to just peruse.

As an aside, my dryer has wifi, but I only ever use that feature just to alert me on my phone that the loads are complete. I've never gotten that shitty software to actually start a load successfully. Not even upset about it, I didn't buy it for the wifi.

The internet of things is useless but don't let that hold you back from finding some really efficient modern technology.


Another advantage of a heat pump dryer is that it doesn’t get as hot as a regular one, which means it’s a lot safer for your clothes.

I just bought one and you can even dry wool clothes in it without shrinkage. It’s also dead simple to use.


For wool nothing beats laying it flat under good old sun or wind. The tumbling of a washing machine or tumbler will just make felt out of it.

When I was shopping for a dryer I compared the running costs of heat pump dryers, condenser dryers and a regular waste-the-hot-air dryer. The payback time for energy efficiency was around 2,500 loads for condenser and 4,000 loads for heatpump. That's with New Zealand's fairly high power prices.

Condenser dryers are pretty slow, however, so I'm not sure it's a good solution for average people. They're nice when you don't have good infrastructure in place for a vented model, though.

I bought a combined washer/condenser dryer.

It usually took 3 - 5 hours to wash and dry a load, but it was ideal as a working solo Dad, I could put a load on before work, and it would be dry when I came home. Then I could put a load on before bed and it'd be dry in the morning.

Not sure who the average person is, but if they have a job, I found that very convenient.


Trading convenience for environment isn't a good solution for average people? Then we're fucked.

Thinking that trading convenience for environment is going to work is why we aren't seeing change.

In the European Union the most inefficient devices are simply banned. (In some cases, I don't keep up-to-date with consumer appliances.)

For tumble driers, scroll to the annex of https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A...

"From 1 November 2015:

— for condenser household tumble driers the energy efficiency index (EEI) shall be less than 76,

— for condenser household tumble driers, the weighted condensation efficiency shall be not lower than 70 %."

(And then a definition of what that means.)


Well, then we're fucked... because lots of things that are more convenient in the short term (energy-sucking appliances, plastic packaging, industrial agriculture, fossil fuels, you name it) will contribute to destroying the environment in the (not-so-)long term.

Also most top loading combined models are like this.

Oh of course, I need this to dry my clothes I will not wear for days right now!! How silly to have to wait 2 hours instead of 1 hour

It's more like 2.5 hours versus 40 minutes, and not everyone is a bachelor who only has to wash & dry their own clothes.

I'm convinced my washer is magic. I put the clothes in and press start. It spins them around once or twice, figuring out how heavy they are. Then it tells me how much detergent to add. I do that. It starts washing the clothes. It even has a heat pump mode that slowly (very, very, very slowly -- over an entire day) dries the clothes for the few times I can't hang them. The damn things has lots of buttons, but it knows I have no freaking clue. "Let's go stupid human. Just press the start button. You know you want to!" I like my washer :-) So far in 5 years, absolutely no problem.

It's a front loading Panasonic in case anyone is interested.


That’s the kind of appliance I can get behind.

The washing machine in my house does something similar, if somewhat less smart: put clothes in, tell it what kind of materials they are, it rotates a few times, figures out the weight and distribution then starts and tells you how long the wash will be. Certainly wish it had a heat pump mode.


When my washer from 1988 (I checked) started having issues, I thought, "These are almost entirely mechanical given the age. I ought to be able to ferret things out myself."

I purchased the repair manual and gambled on the parts that I thought were the problem, plus a couple of cheap parts on either side of where I thought the problem might be. I was able to disassemble the washer, swap out what I thought needed swapping out, and I was done. Worked fine.


A nice used Bosch washer is like $100 (and thats in an expensive country). Fixing some things are nice, but some are not worth.

In expensive/rich countries, used quality items in good condition are cheap. People prefer buying new and often get rid of old things that still work.

In poor countries, people don't buy new things as much, often are of lower quality and have less apprehension buying used if it's a good deal.


Speed Queen. Made Ripon, Wisconsin. We have a small farm and I can say they are amazing. I believe they still make washer/dryer combos with mechanical/analog switches if you want them. I haven't looked in 5 years at specs though.

The great thing about older washers and dryers, esp the Whirlpool made models (with many different brand names on them) is that they are simple and easy to work on. They made so many of essentially the same machine that parts are easily available, and there is a YouTube video for fixing anything that can go wrong with them. You should be able to keep them running indefinitely.

My mother and father in law have these, they specifically sought them. They're these old brown Maytag machines. Really nice and easy to use. If I ever replace the ones that came with my house I'll probably look for the same kind.

If you are really worried just drop a few dollars on spares for all the internal parts. Most everything can be found on Amazon. It's hard to imagine drying enough clothes to wear out the heater element more than three times in the average human lifespan.

My dryer heating element broke last week, after 14 months of operation. It's awesome that I was able to buy one on Amazon and get it the next day (Sunday). But it sucks that it only lasted 14 months. I'm hoping my remaining lifespan is greater than 2.3 years, but you never know.

Strange that Americans have two devices washer and dryer, where as most of the rest of the world use a single washing machine, that does both, without having to switch clothes between the two. Perhaps it is the marketing efforts of the manufacturers that is preventing Americans from realizing that the work could be done by a single appliance.

I'm no dryer expert (using an old fashioned clotheslines or a rack), but i gathered from people who use them that separate dryers work much better (larger capacity, better results) than integrated ones.

Those machines are available here in the US. I considered buying one. While not having to switch clothes was appealing, the low capacities and long cycle times felt like it cancelled out that advantage. The lackluster reviews I read from those who had made the switch were probably the biggest reason why I didn't do so myself.

As I understand, our laundry habits are a bit different than much of the world. We tend to wash everything after one use and clotheslines are few and far between.

Also, our energy prices are cheap, so the pay-off curve for the efficiency gain of such a machine is long.

They'll probably get more popular as family sizes continue to shrink, and people continue migrating back to cities.


As per my info, washing machines are available in reasonable enough capacities for most European and Asian families, so I do not think capacity is an argument against them. Also their cycle time is around an hour mark, so I think even that is not much.

I'm not arguing against them.

They exist in the US, so there must be a reason why they aren't as popular. I was outlining my reasons. Preferences are simply preferences.


The bottleneck in our case is not the capacity but the number of colors you need to wash separately.

I don't think I've ever seen one of these in France. Everybody has separate machines or hangs their stuff to dry.

I may be forced into buying a new car soon if I can’t fix mine, and I’m also dreading it. I have an 07 right now, and I’m really worried about finding a car to buy that I can still work on myself. Having learned how to rip a car apart and put it back together, I can’t stomach paying someone else to fix my car for me.

I have been driving Hondas since 2004. Never had any needs to "work on them myself". Once a year I go for the yearly checkup/maintenance and that's it. And I rather love all the "smart" features in my Civic. I was surprised by how well they work.

How much is your time worth?

Many of the simpler maintenance jobs are not much slower to do yourself, if we're operating under the assumption that to get someone else to do it, you have to drive your car to their shop and then wait around or walk back home and come get it back later.

I used to do simple maintenance on my vehicles. Helped my dad work on an 83 GMC Jimmy, and 88 Chevy Blazer, 78 Ford pickup and an 89 Chevy Pickup. Of all of those, the 83 Jimmy was the easiest to work on. Lots of room under the hood. I could literally sit on the front fender to change spark plugs or wires (I was a small teenager, but there was a ton of room to move around in). Now, I drive a 2013 Charger SRT with a 6.4L V8. There is next to no room under the hood. I wouldnt even bother trying. My hands have enough scars already. At least the battery is accessible in the trunk. My brother had an old Saturn, and you had to remove the passenger side front wheel to replace the battery. My wife's Accura is somewhat annoying, too. The battery is accesible directly from under the hood, but the angles you have to maneuver the battery is ridiculous.

What my time is worth has changed over the years, but what I'm willing to put up with has likewise changed. Yet, it's still valuable to know how to do basic things like top off fluids. Dont want to be stranded in the desert or a mountain pass if you dont know how to top off coolant, or seize an engine because your oil level is too low.

I dont do most of my maintenance any more, but I think its worth knowing the basics in a pinch. Adding fluids, jumping a battery, changing a tire, etc.


Buy Bosch appliances at the cheaper end of their price range. They're reliable, effective and simple. The one I bought 4 years ago has 3 buttons and that's it.

That's why I bought a Kenmore HE3. I can buy most parts for $<50 on Amazon (or eBay in the worst case).

AFAIK, a company called Staber builds washers and dryers with nods to repairability.

I'm still surprised how many very intelligent adults don't understand the difference between an enthusiast and a professional -- for basically any profession, not just tech.

This just reminds me of a short post:

Tech enthusiast: All my devices are IoT-ified! I can control everything via Google Home! I love living in the future!

Software engineer: The most recent piece of technology I own is a printer from 2005, and I keep a loaded gun ready to shoot it if it so much as makes an unexpected noise



If my current non-"smart" TV ever dies, I'm pretty much just going to stop watching TV forever.

This is not ... yet ... necessary.

Just don't ever connect it via WiFi, Ethernet, or Bluetooth to any kind of source of Internet connectivity.

Once they get to the point where they require online connectivity to do anything at all (like power on), then it's time to dump them for something simpler -- and more expensive.


> Just don't ever connect it via WiFi

Anecdotally, I have heard reports about smart TVs occasionally auto-connecting to random public, unencrypted networks that are in range so they can release whatever 'payload' they have.

I haven't confirmed, because I've never bought a smart TV.


build a faraday cage for your tv or alternatively a cage that would be just big enough to fit you and your tv

I'm pretty sure DVB-T allows sending binary blobs as additional payload.

Is there any way to know, ahead of time, that the TV I buy will be fully functional if I choose to never connect it to the Internet? That's what I'm worried about: that I'll get a new TV and something essential, say Dolby Vision support, will just not be enabled unless I leave it connected to the Internet, or at least connect it once - enough time for it to download an ad to show me for the rest of eternity.

I haven't owned a TV in years; don't find it particularly limiting (laptop + netflix/prime), and frees up space in my home for other things.

Try buying a modern car that isn't full of unreliable software that keeps phoning home.

> "Because I'm in tech."

Yeah, there's something about being close to software that makes it more frightening, not less.

As Randall would say: https://xkcd.com/2030/


Think how much marketing data lives in your fridge now that they have cameras in them.

Yes! The cheap dumb fridges also have the highest energy efficiency ratings of all the fridges.

Who knew that defrosting three ice-makers twice a day had an energy cost?


> As much as I love Raymond I have completely run out of time for people who buy unnecessary "smart" devices then complain about them. 6 years ago I would understand, but by now we all know this stuff is junk. Yes, all of it.

I disagree. Yes, a lot of this stuff is junk, but it's also getting harder to avoid. Lots of products have had many of their perfectly-fine controls removed and replaced by "app-based control." Even if you can avoid it, sometimes you have to buy a lower-end item to do so, and miss out other features you'd otherwise like.

For instance: it appears all recent Roomba models require Wifi [1] and an app [2] to set cleaning schedules, while older models accomplished exactly the same configuration with a button cluster and 7-segment display [3]. I personally had to hunt around quite a bit to find a discontinued old model to avoid all the connected garbage.

[1] https://homesupport.irobot.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/17734...

[2] https://homesupport.irobot.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/9029/....

[3] https://homesupport.irobot.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/490/~...


It is never made clear that an app is required either. Often devices have an app but you don't need it at all since it was just slapped on as a feature checkbox.

I recently got a pair of Bose QC 35 headphones and out of the box they are non functional until connected to the app. I had to borrow a phone to connect them to the app to set up and then thankfully they started working on my own devices with bt and wired without needing an app.

Headphones should just work out of the box. The only useful function the app provides is firmware updates and a way to map the button to NC level.


Bose QC35 headphones should be 100% functional over BLE without needing an app (I pair them with my iPhone as a normal BLE headset, and they pair with my Mac and Windows Desktop as well, no app installed).

Also, they include a physical audio cable which works all the time... I'm curious what could have caused your headset to not function normally, as I deal with many, many, many QC35s (my company gives one to each hired employee) and have never heard of (or experienced myself!) the app being a pre-req.


My mum got a pair and they just worked out of the box. Then a few months later I got a pair and when I turned them on they just kept saying to connect them to the app and refuse to pair to bluetooth. I then knew someone who got a pair after that and also had to connect them to the app.

Once paired to the app the first time it doesn't require it again and you can use them as regular bluetooth headphones. I'm guessing some product manager decided that not enough people were installing the app and had a change made so you were forced to use it at least once.

The physical cable probably did work. Initially I thought it wasn't working until I looked it up and found out you have to push it in harder before it clicks a second time


I think I'd return them. I hope enough of their actual customers do so for that product manager to need to find a new job.

> it appears all recent Roomba models require Wifi

Yeah, I ran into this problem when I bought a second Roomba. Fortunately, I found a retailer who was selling older models (at a discount, too). If that had not been an option, and if I couldn't find any reasonable used units, then I would have just not purchased one at all.


I recently bought a spiffy top-of-the-range washer/drier to replaced my 15-year-old one.

I did my research; knew it was wifi-enabled, but could be used without the app or an internet connection. So that's what I did at first.

Then I tried to configure it to use the manufacturer's app, so that I could check power consumption and consumables remotely. The app refused to let me use it without registering an account with the manufacturer. As part of account setup it demanded my street address, then when I entered it it crashed. (Hint: there's a slash in my street address. Yes, this is my official address as per the Post Office. Yes, Scottish street addresses are odd.) Nevertheless: the app crashed. It handed me a long alphanumeric error code returned by the server ... then thereafter refused to let me abort the registration process or edit the address, instead delivering a variety of new and exciting long alphanumeric server-side error codes every time I tried it.

I was not impressed. (I'm guessing it passed the address through to a SQL or other DBMS that didn't properly escape or filter the raw input ... and got part-way through initializing some records that were part of the account but was unable to recover from the dodgy input data, leaving me in limbo.)

TLDR: my washing machine disapproves of my street address.

(Luckily it works just fine without knowing it. So there's that.)


Man it would be a real shame if someone's address dropped all tables...

I recently bought a washer and dryer, and oddly enough, only one dryer was shallow enough to fit where I needed to put it. Every other one has this weird bulge in back that adds several inches. And the ones that fit did not have any smart features, and in fact didn't have any of the other trendy features like front loading, a missing agitator, etc.

Does your washing machine have an in-built microphone? And maybe a camera to detect something like dirty laundry? Then your washing machine does 2 things, one of them being spying on you.

Nope. (Manufacturer is German, and extremely uptight about GDPR. A redeeming mark in their favour.)

I think we should spare some time for those people and highlight the significant disadvantages of "smart" devices - because otherwise, the only party in that game would be the industry, which has a strong interest in people using those devices - and in the end, we'd end up with all devices becoming "smart".

He said it was a gift.

I went looking for a high-quality scale on Amazon and almost all of them were either junk, smart devices, or both. Ended up buying a smart one that would at least work out of the box, but it's always possible I'll discover some core feature requires an app...

Not all of it. Zigbee lights are one example of a very useful "smart" device. They save so much effort rewiring, basic functionality is interoperable, are generally reliable and fallback to dumb behavior in the worse case.

    > It’s not obvious from the box that you need an 
    > app to set up the clock. The person who bought 
    > the clock did so for the “project the time on the  
    > ceiling” feature, which is a pretty awesome feature
Seems like he didn't buy it for himself.

Who would buy an alarm clock that needs an app to set it? As soon as I saw that I needed to install an app (and create an account!?) just to set my alarm clock, I've have sent it back.

Though I guess I do have an alarm clock that needs an app to set it since my only alarm clock is my phone. But if I bought a standalone alarm clock, I'd want it to be really stand-alone, not dependent on my phone.


Dark patterns on the packaging that obscure the need for a cell phone app. I've seen this kind of thing show up all the time.

> packaging that obscure the need for a cell phone app

There have been a handful of posts on this theme. The idea being that food labels disclose the raw facts about things like high-fructose corn syrup and saturated fats. Likewise IoT packaging should do the same.

https://www.troyhunt.com/what-would-it-look-like-if-we-put-w...

https://www.symantec.com/blogs/expert-perspectives/why-we-ne...


This is a brilliant idea that would give consumers at least some idea of whats happening. I wonder if you could great a crowdsourced database of this in a per product way

Ran into something similar with a resistance band workout system. To access the how to use videos, you must sign up for an account. To sign up for an account, they must verify your phone number via SMS. Why on Earth does a set of resistance bands need your contact information? I sent the whole thing back. Maybe if companies start hurting due to restocking costs, they'll stop.

So why not return it?

He did.

Because setting alarms on normal clocks is really annoying. Or setting the time in the first place.

I assume the clock has wifi to set the time via ntp already, so adding an app was easy, in the eyes of the hardware division, who never think about the complexity of software, or the cost of it.


> Because setting alarms on normal clocks is really annoying. Or setting the time in the first place.

Maybe on digital clocks, but on analog clocks you just spin the knob to the correct time. Not annoying at all.

I have this nice clock on my bedside table: https://www.marathonwatch.com/collections/clocks/products/an... This one is also good: https://www.lemnos.jp/en/archives/1367


Currently I have my phone set to ring 3 alarms on weekdays, and 1 late one at weekends, would be better if it just read my calendar though.

Only having one kinda inaccurate alarm on an analog clock would be annoying, also having to change the time twice a year, and correct for errors.


I find it less annoying than using a phone for alarms, even not counting the fact that it doesn't have a phone as a pre-requisite.

It's a job you do once though. Or very, very rarely.

It's surely not annoying enough to buy an alarm clock you can only set via and app on your phone which also requires you sign up for an online account. That, to me, sounds far more annoying. I'll stick with my £5 digital alarm clock.


I have an alarm clock that sets itself based on some radio broadcast of the current time. You need to set which time zone you're in and there's a single switch to turn DST on or off.

These don't do too well in the Eastern US. WWVB is too far away. They introduced a phase modulation that has a lower SNR required for recovery, but as far as I can tell no chipsets exist that understand this signal, and only one clock exists that can receive it. (And it's an analog wall clock, so good luck with your alarms.)

I use GPS for time transfer. Works great everywhere in the world.


> I use GPS for time transfer. Works great everywhere in the world.

Except on basements. Or on buildings with no view of the sky.


> Because setting alarms on normal clocks is really annoying.

I'm not sure, on the two digital clocks I'm using, changing the time or the alarm takes at most 30 s. On the other it will ring every day at the same time, including on week-ends, but then since it's quick enough to change the alarm it's not a big deal. If I wanted day-of-week dependent alarms, I'd use my smartphone for this.


Raymond received it as a gift.

Never mind that. Who would buy an alarm clock at all? It's 2019. Use your phone. Or your Apple Watch.

One reason is because they really really need to wake up on time and don't want to rely on their phone.

My android phone used to spontaneously reboot once a month or so and since it was encrypted, it wouldn't finish booting until I entered my unlock code, so the alarm would not go off. I haven't had that problem in a year or more plus now I think even an encrypted device will boot up enough to make the alarm work (though I'm not certain).

Also, about once a month or so, I either forget to plug my phone in or don't get the cord plugged in all the way and I wake up to a dead phone.

A standalone alarm clock (battery operated or with battery backup) is much more reliable.

Though nowadays when I need to get up on time (like to catch an early flight), I set an alarm on a second device, either my wife's phone or a tablet but if I didn't have that option, I'd use an alarm block as backup.


I was really surprised that modern smartphones are not able to ring an alarm while they are turned off.

My daily driver, Sony Ericsson ELM, rings an alarm each morning I need it, for the last ~9 years. Even when it's off, even if the battery is dead (once had a problem with a charger, couldn't even boot the phone, but it rang each morning for a week).

My iPhone? If it dies, it dies. Not even talking about Android.


Yeah, old Nokias could do that too. I assume they came with an RTC chip with a programmable alarm, instead of using the main CPU for everything, like most smartphones.

Old Nokias still do that! I'll be sad when mine dies.

Yes, that surprised me too. But do you have any idea how your phone's alarm can ring when the battery is dead? Does it have a second battery?

Most phones turn off before the battery is truly 100% dead.

IIRC, some of these old phones do have a second "coin cell" battery, which keeps the clock running even when the main battery is removed (the SIM card is usually below the battery, so you have to remove it to exchange the SIM card).

My pebble watch does this. When it goes "flat" it reverts to time and alarm only mode which lasts for about 24 hours.

Interestingly Apple Pay works when iPhone dies

> A standalone alarm clock (battery operated or with battery backup) is much more reliable.

Read the box or documentation carefully before buying, though, because sometimes the functionality is greatly reduced when running on the backup battery. Mine, for example, stops displaying the time when on backup, and I think alarms will not go off. The backup is just to save you having to set the time and alarms when power comes back.

For those times I really need to wake up on time, even if power has gone out in the night and is still out in the morning, I use an old fashioned Westclox Baby Ben wind-up clock that I've had for 40 years [1].

[1] https://clockhistory.com/0/westclox/series/series-14-1/style...


The last time I slept in a room with a wind-up clock, I moved it out of the room, the ticking was annoying. Though even if I had a wind-up clock, I doubt I'd remember to wind it up every night - I barely remember to plug in my phone.

Back when I was doing hourly shift-work and I absolutely had to be to work on-time, I used a battery operated travel alarm clock like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Casio-PQ15-1K-Travel-Alarm-Thermomete...

The AAA battery lasted a long time (like a year or more).


Or that time the stock clock didn't have permission to wake up the phone from a sleep state... ironic.

But after you overslept and unlocked your phone it actually sounded the alarm, regardless how much time has passed.


> One reason is because they really really need to wake up on time and don't want to rely on their phone.

Also, a standalone alarm clock won't automatically switch to daylight saving time... on the year daylight saving time was finally discontinued. Happened to many people a few weeks ago (at least the daylight saving time switch, like the federal/state/municipal elections, is always on a Sunday).


Note 3? I'll bet it was a Note 3.

I use a $5 simple alarm clock. I don't take my phone into my bedroom. It's improved the quality of my sleep as I don't look at the phone in bed before I go to sleep, and I get up quicker since I don't look at my phone in bed before getting up.

I keep my phone in the bedroom, but not near the bed. Reduces the chances of snoozing it and going back to sleep (not that it was common, but even twice in five years was annoying enough).

Because neither a phone or watch alarm can wake me gently with light[1].

[1] https://www.lumie.com/products/bodyclock-starter-30-refurbis...


What is the value add for a wifi-enabled alarm clock? Truly, what do you get from supposedly being able to program it from your phone? You have to download yet another proprietary app, go through a tedious syncing process to connect with the device, learn another GUI (unusable in this case), and cross your fingers, hoping that it works.

Is clicking a couple physical buttons on an actual device such a strain?

If you're frequently setting multiple alarms, as many people do on their phones for various reasons, does it benefit you to use this rather than just using your phone?


For a non braindead implementation? You can run NTP and never adjust anything.

If only we had some kind of National Institute of Standards and Technology that broadcast the time and daylight savings flags in a machine readable format.

If only it were possible to receive such a broadcast without needing wifi.

It is:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_clock

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWVB

I've had several that set automatically after plugging in, without the need for wifi.


It is possible to find real WWVB clocks, but note that most of the cheap "auto set" ones just have a lithium battery to remember whatever time was set at the factory.

It'd be cool if WiFi routers could broadcast the time unencrypted, for use by passive receivers, but that would get annoying if one near you is set wrong. Perhaps there could be a trusted source of signed timestamps, and a receiver just takes the maximum.


Better is just use GPS. You can passively listen without being tracked and you get the time and location. GPS is getting cheap enough ($10/1000 qty) to be a good option for this sort of thing.

Doesn’t work super well when your clock needs an unobstructed view of the sky. How many clocks in your house have that?

It's not like it needs a solid fix though. It just needs a single satellite signal to get through, which is way more reasonable.

I have a higher end GPS module. Building I'm in is corrugated steel sided with a metal roof. After being on for an hour the coordinates show... my desk. Far as I can tell.

GPS transmit power is 44db with a 13 db antenna gain. I think. And -140 db sensitivity (typical) So close to 200db of link margin. And the transmitter isn't in clutter either.


Don't mobile networks broadcast the time already?

Yeah, I was continuing the GP's sarcastic comment about WWVB etc.


So do non-GPS plain old longwave and shortwave radio clocks - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_clock

GPS clocks works inside a bedroom without a clear view of the sky?

My GPS receiver works just fine inside, even with the window blinders closed. I suppose it might not in a windowless room.

GPS clocks respect local timezone and DST rules?

I have several in my house. NTP amd WWVB are two different things.

How would you setup access to NTP? Hardwire the alarm to your router? Wifi access? If wifi, how do you setup the wifi? Adhoc wifi with a proprietary app?

Still leads to the same problem.

Also, as @rjsw mentions, accessing NTP doesn't help with setting alarms. Just setting the clock time - assuming your timezone is set correctly by the device.


You still need to be able to choose what time the alarm should go off, NTP won't help with that.

There was a trick I used to do to beat my lateness. Used to make set my alarm clock run fast, I guess that's not possible anymore

And because we live in the year 2019, I bet the alarm clock app tracks you in the background too.

... and was definitely not written by anyone who put any thought into whether the code spins in a tight loop and kills your battery.

If someone wants to make a "smart" alarm clock, I'd really like to see one that actually has a ten-digit keyboard with dedicated function buttons, instead of trying to cram all time and alarm functions onto three buttons and a switch.

It can't possibly be expensive. Pocket calculators cost $5.


I have the most awesome alarm clock. It has an LED display, a radio, and it plugs into the wall for power. It has a knob for tuning the radio and a small slide switch for adjusting its band. It has assorted other affordances on its outside that I will skip over.

The best features are the following: It has a battery-backed time-keeping chip which means it has never needed to have the time reset due to any loss of power to its main power supply. It has a piezo alarm that will sound if the main power is out and the alarm is on and triggered.

It also has a slide switch labeled "DST -on DST -off" so in theory I would never have to +/- the time EVER once it was on the right time zone.

I found it in a outlet-style store when I was looking for a WWV clock and this clock answers all my clock needs without needing WiFi, Bluetooth, any other antenna (for AM/FM radio it might be using the power cord, but I don't need that). It doesn't need to be told a password and I don't need to set up an account.

I think it was marked down to $10 when I bought it.


> I have the most awesome alarm clock.

It's cruel to describe such a thing without providing a link or at least a brand name/model number.


> piezo alarm

Yeah, that's why I don't own one. Since I'm not ready to invest in one with a bell/gong, at least my smartphone has a proper speaker. Piezos are good for smoke alarms and such, but waking up to one is awful.


To be fair that piezo alarm seems to be the fallback for an power outage only. I think it's acceptable to be waken by a piezo instead of having no alarm at all.

Fair enough!

I have one from around 2005 that sounds basically the same, except with an additional feature that shows its age: It can play a music CD as an alarm.

Also bought at a physical store, though I don't remember how much it cost. I think I last used it around 2011, though I do still have it. Wonder if it still works...


But you can connect to it via NFC to change what kind of tune the piezo buzzer makes on an alarm, right?

/s


You purchase the tunes in a store /s

I saw an alarm clock like that in a hotel once -- it had a cheap 10 digit keyboard and poorly debounced keys, setting the time was harder than using the backward/forward button style, because typing "12:00" ended up as "11:11" more often than not, it took many tries and a firm press to get the time set correctly.

How about a dst toggle switch too so you can just flip the hour with a binary switch.

My bedside table clock has that.

I've got one that does WWVA/WWVB (useless, as they don't reach Montreal), a DST on/off slider, and a sequence of buttons to set the time, both with +/- buttons and a numpad. It cost me $20, I think.

I'm not sure about the particular model from the article, but I could see wanting to use Pandora or Spotify as your alarm instead of a predefined sound. It could also get more features further down the road.

So then it becomes a question of which is easier:

1. Set up a Siri Shortcut "when alarm goes off, play Spotify". Haven't done it, but having been knee-deep in Shortcuts this weekend, I'm confident that it is possible, and (on latest iOS) not difficult even for a Shortcuts n00b. (For Android, I know Tasker can do this.)

2. Fiddle with buggy and not-maintained-as-soon-as-it-shipped application to set alarm clock. Application must run on a computer that, coincidentally, can serve as a full-function WiFi-enabled alarm clock and can set its own damned time.


A wifi enabled alarm clock doesn't have to have a crappy app or even an app at all.

Also, alarm clocks tell the time with a quick glance. I like to know what time it is in the middle of the night, just by looking at a clock.

You might simply like the look of the alarm clock more than your phone, but still want to be able to use some of those smart features.


The OP wasn’t defending this specific model. Just having an alarm device in genera. So #2 isn’t the only alternative. Even something like an Alexa device is an alternative. where app is optional.

The stock Android alarm clock app has Spotify support built into it. I honest can't see a use for this in the slightest.

More probably you will be waking up to the ads.

> What is the value add for a wifi-enabled alarm clock?

My dumb alarm clock is the last and only thing I possess that requires I set the time manually. And it drifts. Even my wristwatch autosynchronizes every night to the time server signal sent over RF from Denver. I've seriously considered modding the alarm clock to autosync that way as well.

My alarm clock is a sunrise alarm clock with a 100W bulb. Can't quite replace with a cell phone. But maybe with smart bulbs. Hmm, I might have to rethink this whole thing.


And the best part is - there is no excuse for an AC-powered device with a clock to drift at all, ever.

Who needs radio sync signals, NTP servers, or a freaking GPS module (lol) when we have this great hardwired 60 Hz frequency reference which is measured and adjusted for long-term stability...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_frequency#Long-term_st...

> Today, AC-power network operators regulate the daily average frequency so that clocks stay within a few seconds of correct time. In practice the nominal frequency is raised or lowered by a specific percentage to maintain synchronization. Over the course of a day, the average frequency is maintained at the nominal value within a few hundred parts per million.[19] In the synchronous grid of Continental Europe, the deviation between network phase time and UTC (based on International Atomic Time) is calculated at 08:00 each day in a control center in Switzerland. The target frequency is then adjusted by up to ±0.01 Hz (±0.02%) from 50 Hz as needed, to ensure a long-term frequency average of exactly 50 Hz × 60 s/min × 60 min/h × 24 h/d = 4320000 cycles per day.[20] In North America, whenever the error exceeds 10 seconds for the east, 3 seconds for Texas, or 2 seconds for the west, a correction of ±0.02 Hz (0.033%) is applied. Time error corrections start and end either on the hour or on the half-hour.[21][22] Efforts to remove the TEC in North America are described at electric clock.


Power outages occur, and you probably want the time to be correct when the power comes back on.

The reason these clocks are so bad is that they use bad RTC units to save a couple dollars. A bad RTC can be had for pennies. A good one (like a DS3231) is $4! Thus, we are all stuck with bad clocks; AC powered or otherwise.

GPS/NTP/WWVB exist to get the time right initially. A clock will be wrong if you set it to the wrong time, even if you have a perfect frequency reference.


This reminds me of one of my favorite historical audio clips. A few minutes before the 1965 Blackout in NYC the power frequency dipped as low as 51Hz (US is 60Hz). Playback equipment with motors setting speed based on the power frequency sllllooowwwweeeeddd down.

https://www.musicradio77.com/images/ing11-9-65blackout.mp3


> I've seriously considered modding the alarm clock to autosync that way as well.

That might be a fun project, but I'd worry a bit about the future of RF time sync. The program was almost shut down this year but was funded after a small fight. I wouldn't be surprised if the funding doesn't come through the next round.


I built a clock from a vfd display and an esp8266 WiFi module just for fun. Since the esp8266 does not have a rtc module and no battery backup it gets it's time from ntp at boot and then every couple hours.

I've done something similar with an esp8266 + 14segment alphanumeric display[1].

That being said, NTP only returns GMT. You still have to hardcode your timezone and whether DST is active or not, right?

[1] https://github.com/adamm/esp8266-clockradio


yes, just as I hardcoded my wifi credentials. DST can be hardcoded as the range of date that DST has been active historically at your location to automate that, baring discussions of abolishing DST or such.

https://github.com/heeen/vfd-clock

looking back at the code, doesn't seem like I handled DST though. I would probably use something like wifimanager now to allow dynamically configuring wifi and other things

http://heeen.de/proj/vfd-clock.mp4


If it’s Wi-Fi enabled, why can’t it just set itself?

The article states that it set itself at the first daylight savings change, but apparently the wifi chip broke so now it can't set itself at all anymore

WiFi does not actually give out a reliable time signal, at all.

You're thinking of GPS.


WiFi lets you get to the internet, from which time can be transferred accurately. You probably have a geoIP record too, which lets the clock determine the time zone.

I've complained about this before [1], but I once bought a $70 (USD) Microsoft Arc Mouse that required you to both register an MS account and download an app just to be able to turn off the obnoxious synthetic clicking sound that was enabled by default.

I made a second trip to the store that day just to return the the thing.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11390494



I make wordclocks as a side project[0]. Mine connect to the internet via wifi to update the time. The user only needs to set the time zone offset since there is no location lookup.

The clock has no app and doesn’t require an account. At start up, is has a softAP that you connect to with your phone so that you can give it your wifi credentials via a simple self hosted web server/form.

Why use internet for time? Simple, I couldn’t find a stable RTC on a small, inexpensive, off the self microcontroller board. But I could find one with wifi. My early prototypes used an Arduino UNO. That has awful RTC stability since is doesn’t use a crystal but rather an R/C oscillator for timing.

I don’t think my customers want an extra app if there really is no reason. Why not use a built in web server?

[0] http://www.finewordclocks.com


I just bought a new refrigerator and it comes with an app. I installed the app out of curiosity, the first thing the app demands is that I allow it to track the location of my phone at all times.

The app's been deleted.


Return the fridge. If you don't return it, you're telling the company you're okay with this.

The account deal is becoming pervasive and annoying. This is a common interaction I have at a local pet store:

"That'll be $15. What's your phone number?" "No."

... strange look for a moment, finally followed by just taking my $15 and not knowing who I am or being able to easily track me.


i started giving them 303 867-5309. tons of accounts at every store (replace w/ ur area code).

I much prefer telling the store "no". That way, they they'll at least get the occasional reminder that there are customers who hate this sort of thing.

The funny thing is that in many stores that have "loyalty programs", when I tell them I'm not signed up and am not interested in signing up, they'll just use a different loyalty card number instead (I assume it's the clerk's, but I'm not sure).


You can't assume they will do that everywhere. I was in CVS, and it seems like rather than discounts for "loyalty" they have jacked up their prices if you don't have the card. They said they would look me up by my phone number, but when they didn't find me, that was it, no discount. I said fine and left the overpriced batteries behind.

I don't know why grocery stores don't seem to care, whether it's corporate policy, or employee culture.


> You can't assume they will do that everywhere.

I don't. Personally, I don't care if they do this or not -- it's entirely irrelevant to me. I was just noting it out of amusement.

In general, I tend to avoid stores that have a loyalty program, because (as you note) their "loyalty card" prices tend to be the same as the normal prices at stores that don't.


I was using 123 456-7890 as my Vons' loyalty # for a while.

"Thank you mister... Tester #2? You have $98,427 in savings this year".


I actually abused this once. A local general store required a phone number to “reactivate” my discount/bonus card and I went to free sms service to register it. My next visit was paid by a collective bonus of everyone who did the same. I think that every time someone registers a number+card, all bonuses from this number go to “new” card.

Never worked again.


A fun and cringeworthy post. Thanks. But why withhold the make and model of alarm clock?

1. Maybe others could chime in or assist.

2. Brands that sell fragile and frustrating garbage like this should be exposed.


Raymond has always had a policy of not naming-and-shaming companies in his blog, for better or worse.

Edit: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/?p=40523

>Things that increase the likelihood that your comment will be edited or deleted: ... More generally, comments that identify a specific company, program, or person.


[flagged]


His blog is possibly the most complete source of stupid things microsoft put in its APIs. Come on, it's about not turning a million followers against a smaller target.

Good thing most companies don’t do any stupid things compared to Microsoft! Or else this would have no relevance.

Probably he didn't want to drag another (specific) brand through the mud on the official Microsoft dev blog. Deserved or not, it would be unprofessional.

Skimming this rant left me with the assumption that it was about "the Microsoft alarm clock" and including some more specifics would have fixed that quickly.

3. Increase my confidence that the article is actually real.

I have no way of verifying anything in this article so as far as I'm concerned it's fake. I need a picture or at least a make and model so I know the alarm clock in question actually exists.


And maybe Raymond Chen is completely fine with 'choward' of Hacker News not believing him.

Yeah... he's Raymond goddamn Chen. He's not even aware of our existence. :)

I thought the name sounded familiar, but looking on Wikipedia, there are two Ray(mond) Chens (one is a Federal judge) and neither of them seems to be this guy.

Doesn't ring a bell. Am I supposed to know who he is?

He's the author of The Old New Thing... he was heavily involved in the development of Windows and he's generally highly regarded in software development circles. He's been around for a long time.

Why would someone create a fake post explaining a frustrating situation and intentionally not share the make and model?

I actually find it more valuable that it's written this way. Rather than pointing out one brand of product as the problem, it encourages readers to keenly review a product's "features" before purchasing.

Even if it is fake, it's a simple post explaining a completely feasible, frustrating situation.


Google "wifi projection alarm clock" and one product shows up, with universally poor reviews that for the most part have trouble with the Wi-Fi not connecting, Wi-Fi stops working after 6 weeks, etc.

You have the world's largest database of consumer products at your fingertips, it's easy to verify his claims.


Thanks. Well spotted. It was annoying me that I couldn't find the extant product.

https://www.lacrossetechnology.com/c82929-connected-projecti...

A lot of devices have a hard requirement for 2.4ghz and 802.11n and the need for awareness of this is not trivial.

I have been reduced to keeping track of each mac address on my network and it seems like all the IOT devices use the same group of generic Chinese chipsets.


really? is itreally beyond belief that bullshit doodads exist?

> The Wi-Fi connectivity is nice when it’s working (like it was during the springtime) since it means never having to adjust the time after a power outage or time zone change.

I bought one of those "atomic clocks" 20 years ago that pick up the time from some government radio station. It's always dead on correct, and adjusts automatically for DST. There is no user interface, put a battery in and hang it on the wall. Best clock I ever bought.


The NIST radio stations that serve those radios have been under threat of defunding recently. So far, so good.

https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-politics/time-may-be-running-...


Ours picks time up from across the border with no way to adjust that

> For some reason, my alarm clock requires that I install an app on my phone.

It is weird that a person working in IT pretends not to know why the clock reqiures an app. Of course to vacuum personal information, geolocation and hardware identifiers of all devices nearby.


Going slightly OT here, but I wonder: Is Raymond doing the old new thing for free or does he get some MS company time for it.

On one hand, he clearly does hardcore technical stuff on the job so he can't have much time. The blog meanders between hard core windows programming and human interest stuff. All that says hobby project.

But it runs on microsoft infrastructure, he must put in a lot of time to write the posts and curate the discussions. The marketing value for microsoft must be non-trivial. So that says company provided resources.


If any of us want to write a blog post, we can, and it gets the same support. His is better than most of ours. :)

OK I'm going to be the contrarian here.

Now I agree, having to make an account to use your device absolutely sucks, why on earth would you need that?

And it sounds as though the user experience of connecting to the clock also sucks.

BUT, if this is done correctly (eg wave nfc phone near your clock, and the appropriate app fires up and connects automtically etc), then I see this is a good future. In this clock example, you wouldn't need to 'advance the hour' for DST - the phone would just set the correct time automatically with a swipe.

My phone becomes a universal remote. No longer those crappy LCD screens (or just LED lights), and weird buttons on every applicance that I have to learn to use. Not to mention they are expensive parts of the device, and take a lot of development effort.

Also those screens and buttons are always the first to break, and are totally unrepairable except by ordering a spare from the manufacturer (if they still make them). Unlike say a broken valve in a washing machine that can often be repaired or replaced with a commodity equivalent.

So, I'm going to say that using phones as a standard appliance interface is potentially a huge UI improvement, cost-saver, and reliability/repairability improvement - if it's done well. Or of course a dystopian nightmare if done badly.


> I'm going to say that using phones as a standard appliance interface is potentially a huge UI improvement

I couldn't disagree more. Phones UIs tend to be pretty terrible (the good ones just rise to "not terrible"), and I certainly don't want the various devices I use to have one. That's why I will not buy devices that require it.


compared to applicance controls?

The limited hardware almost guarantees a poor experience, and of course no consistency whatsoever across appliances.

Sure, 3 buttons is ok just to set the time perhaps, but quickly becomes unusable with more complex requirements - and then you get crappy lcd screens, and custom menu systems, etc. even bad apps are usually better.


I get what you're implying, and I think it's a valid approach (connected). But so is the converse (unconnected).

The connected can be controlled by apps or heck, APIs, perhaps offers full flexibility etc. However, what guarantees the controlling app is going to keep being updated? What if there's a wi-fi vulnerability in a few years? What if there are calls to company servers that go offline? What if you phone is off and you want to quickly set the time?

The unconnected can be controlled by a physical unchanging interface. It offers few extra features, its buttons will wear and break, etc. But it probably will function just fine in 10 years time, is probably extremely easy -- and less time consuming in total to set. I disagree the experience will be poor or inconsistent -- those products usually obey a common language of household appliances that works well enough. Physical buttons are usually very responsive and easy to use. There is not much to go wrong.

The ultimate measures here are probably net productivity (time wasted on clock and setting time), cognitive load, and robustness. If you have specific timing requirements maybe the networked clock is for you, but for most people I'd say the good old digital clock is probably still easily best.

Maybe in the future the digital infrastructure will be standardized and simplified enough that more appliances will become connected, but the real value of 'iot-enabling' is still quite low for most objects.

Remember, newer or more flexible isn't necessarily better (even for very complex systems: see UNIX philosophy).


It's a clock. You only need three buttons. Heck, my watch gets away with one. If you need more buttons, add more buttons - the clock won't get new features, so just add whatever buttons you need for the features it has.

It's not "just a clock" if it has wifi. If he just wantted a 3-button dumb clock that's what he should buy.

I'm generalising to more complex appliances, but no, just adding buttons doesn't do it (quite apart from more points of failure), even for a clock - how would you set multiple alarms, say one for you, one for your partner, with different times each day of the week. do you have 2 buttons for each day, or what? Of course, in reality you end up with modes, and menus , and a crappy custom UI.

Multiply this by every gadget in the house, and a full UI remote (be it phone, tablet or specialised wireless touch-screen remote) becomes an attractive option.


> compared to applicance controls?

Well, it depends on the appliance. Some really are terrible. But on the whole, I think appliance controls tend to be more usable than smartphone interfaces.


Maybe if there were some standard protocol for a device to offer controls to nearby phones. (Perhaps HTML-based, but it would be nice to have a more semantic, scriptable layer, perhaps in addition.)

As it is, every device has its own bespoke iOS app and Android app. The apps’ user interfaces usually suck, but you could say the same about the buttons. More importantly, at least on the iOS side, apps need continual maintenance to avoid breakage on new devices or OS versions, ranging from quick updates for new screen sizes to the dreaded 32-to-64-bit transition. But that maintenance is likely to stop being provided as soon as the manufacturer is focused on their next thing, turning the device into a ticking time bomb of future unusability. With an unrepairable device, at least you only run into the problem if something breaks!


Yes this is exctly what I'd like to see, an appliance protocol of some kind. People can then write their own apps if they want. Maybe just REST endpoints -I've seen web servers of sorts crammed into avr chips, so it should be feasible with all but the most limited devices.

App rot is a problem no doubt but do apps break quicker than the crappy hardware UI? I'm not so sure. probablty on iOS that's true.


I don't remember ever having to replace an appliance due to broken buttons or screens. Phones, on the other hand...

The only kind of hardware buttons I seem to be able to regularly break are the microswitches in mice. They used to last forever, and I think I still have an optical mouse from early 2000s that has perfectly working switches (but tracking & malfunction speed aren't comparable to any modern mouse). The switches in modern mice tend to develop problems in a year or two.


Yes, they do.

I have a Casio clock on my nightstand, it must be from before 2000, if not from before 1995. The display segments are failing, but apart from that: No button broke yet, calendar is still working, so is the alarm.


REST is a poor choice. Use any popular binary RPC protocol over Bluetooth/USB and don't add unnecessary complexity.

This would be OK, but only if the devices allow you to completely disable the network-facing controls.

You mean the (approximately) three "weird" buttons to adjust date and time?

No, no and again no. The future were I need a smartphone to set my clock is not a good one for me, however you put it.


the clock could come with cheap (and replaceble) IR remote for your button fetish - no need for that on the clock itself - buttons are nearly always the first point of failure IMHO, closely followed by screens.

Also you need to learn to use whatever limited UI /menus they've managed to cram into such limiting UI hardware, rather than the whole richness and usability of an app.

Not so bad for an alarm clock perhaps - until it has multiple daily//weekly alarms with custom sounds, custom snooze schedule, custom lighting profile, etc, etc - ah but a reason it doesn't have any of this stuff is because it would be too difficult to cram into a 3-button UI.

Anyway, a limited hardware UI is also much more problematic for many other appliances. Better just to do away with it completely (saving cost, improving reliability) and use a phone or cheap tablet which are ubiquitous these dayss, or even a new market for cheap dedicated universal smart remotes.

PS downvoting me (twice!) because you don't agree wiith my point is fairly childish I think, and should be reserved for insulting , nonsensical and troll posts, etc. IMHO.


I'm confused. Are you suggesting that you know that I downvoted your comment? Twice? How should I achieve that you recon?

> BUT, if this is done correctly (eg wave nfc phone near your clock

Then, not only do you need a smartphone to operate an alarm clock, you also need it to have NFC.


"Also those screens and buttons are always the first to break, and are totally unrepairable"

How is a phone better? When your app "breaks" from code rot and you can't upgrade it, or run it on your new device, you're in the same boat.


Knowing how these devices are produced, what do you think are the chances of having one done well vs. done badly?

In theory you make a good point, but in the real world we just aren't that lucky.


Instead of NFC, one can use Bluetooth that is present in most phones.

A good future is abolishing the time switches.

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