Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My New Favorite App That Almost Wasn't

This scenario seems to happen to me about three times a week: I go down stairs and put some frozen item in the toaster. I set the count down timer on the microwave to 15 minutes, take note of the time and return back to my office upstairs. About an hour and 20 minutes later it hits me that I'm hungry, and I've almost certainly filled the downstairs with the smoke of a newly generated bit of charcoal.

Of course, what I should be doing is setting the timer on my phone. But, for some reason, there's just enough cognitive friction into opening up the default clock app, switching to the timer, and setting my countdown time, that leaves me thinking Oh, *this time* I can just pay attention to the clock.

My first thought was to totally and gloriously over engineer a solution: post a variety of NFC tags that contain instructions for a count down timer next to the toaster. Have a 5 minute, 10 minute and 15 minute tag, for example.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an app that would let me store just this data in an NFC tag. NFC Task Launcher comes close, and even contains various timer options. But none does what I want: touch tag, have countdown timer commence counting down.

I could rig up my own Tasker solution, but I didn't seen a trivial way of doing this. I'm confident that I could make some slick timer thing that announces the remaining time, but I don't have the time to code it now.

Next up, I figured surely someone has developed a trivial widget that allows me to preset a count down timer, and just click the icon to start it. I can imagine a whole screen on my android dedicated to various countdown timers. I'd flip to that page, and hit start on the 15 minute one, and Shira would never again have to return to a house that smells like scorched veggie burger. Like my mythical NFC timer, this application I couldn't find either.

Finally, I did find Countdown Widget Timer. This app puts a clean 2x1 widget on any screen, and acts as a self contained timer. No silly ads or other cruft. I've placed two timers on my home screen (who knows, maybe I'll have an especially complex lunch) and they can run independently. I do need to set them, but there's a history associated with the timers, so switching between common values (5 minute and 15 minutes, for example) is relatively painless.

I was sold. I had my slick little solution. I even bragged to Shira, one evening, that my troubles had been solved. I put something in the toaster and confidently proceeded upstairs. 45 minutes *after* my timer went off, I realized something wasn't right, and rushed downstairs to find yet another meal ruined.

What happened? How had Countdown Widget Timer failed me so completely? I ran a test and realized the problem: when the timer was finished, it let out a few bursts of vibration, and a modest "Beep!" As alarms go, it was essentially invisible.

Luckily, all is not lost. When you click on the widget you're taken to a screen where you set and start a new timer. If, on this screen, you click on the Menu soft key, you see a new "Settings" menu item. Clicking it took me to a nifty little settings menu. It was here where I was able to click the Insistent check box, and click Alarm Ringtone to select a more obnoxious alarm.

Now when the timer goes off, it makes just enough of a racket that I'll actually take action.

Mmmm....I'm hungry...

No comments:

Post a Comment