Time keeps on slippn' (slipping', slippin') into the future.
You don't really think about it when you're a kid. In fact, time is likely the last thing on a kid's mind. There always seems to be lots of it. Mounds of it. Oceans of time (in a bottle).
It's odd that the older we get the more time we spend marking time. We've regimented our waking hours into nice little slices of time: Meetings at 10, 11:30, 1, 2, and 4, lunch with Marlene at noon, pick up the kids and dry cleaning at 5 and 5:30 respectively, dinner with the Miller's at 7, watch that show you like at 9:30, consult the calendar for tomorrow's schedule at 10:30, shower and in bed by 11:30, read till midnight, sleep till 6:30, finish your run by 7:30, morning ritual completed by 8:30, pack kids off to respective schools or daycare by 9, back at work by 9:30 and it begins again.
It's ok that we do this, in fact, it's necessary else we'd get nothing done. But as time marches on we realize that things have changed. The kids have all grown, Marlene has moved to another state and got married, the meetings continue and are still boring, but the faces have all changed. They are now younger, more eager, and still naive. You eat dinner alone from a can. They've cancelled the shows you liked (Curse you Fox! Firefly kicked ass!). You read more, sleep less, yet you are still tired. You can't run as far or as fast as you use to, and you really don't mind 'cuz you don't feel like running anymore anyway. And doing it all over again has lost its appeal at least decade ago.
Geez! Now I'm depressed. (Sigh!)
I'm luckier than most folks, I require about 5 hours of sleep to function. No kidding. In fact, when I was a lot younger I needed only 4 hours on average. To those of you that need at least 8 hours of sleep nightly I know I must seem like a mutant to you, like some kind nocturnal creature/human hybrid, and you're probably right. The only time I sleep longer than 5 hours is if I'm sick, which rarely happens.
A short sleep cycle is only part of my mutant super powers, the another is that I have never (ever) needed to use an alarm clock, I can wake myself 5 to 15 minutes before my wake-up time, and I'll be fully alert and ready to rock and roll. (I know, I'm alien spawn. No true human being can do that.)
So what do I do with all of that extra time?
I write (It's now 4:28AM, I went to bed at 11:30 and I woke a half hour ago), I work on photos, answer email, run, you know, stuff. It's time that I use to do things I enjoy. It's my time, and it's great.
While I don't need an alarm clock I like having one at my bedside if for no other reason than to wake and know what time it is. (Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?)
The iPhone and iPod touch have decent clocks with an alarm feature, but it's not really usable as a bedside clock because the clock display just doesn't show a basic clock. It's got to show you time in other places as well. Nice for traveling, but not so much for early morning time checks. You also have to touch your iPhone to see the time, which then blinds you with its bright display.
What would be nice is if we could configure a clock to display when the iPhone is charging. Make it so the display brightness dims after a moment and the whole brightness thing is adjustable. Show time and date, maybe the weather and an alarm setting (that I don't need, but you might), that's it. Clean. Simply. Usable.
Luckily, there are some good free alarm clock apps available, and since this column is about free stuff at the iTunes Store it's not only appropriate that I talk about several of them, it's timely.
If you are just looking for some basic alarm clock functions with no bells and whistles (other than the alarm, of course) then you won't do better than Alarm Clock Free from iHandySoft Inc.
Set multiple alarms, show the day of the week and whether it's AM or PM. Dim or brighten the display by sliding your finger down or up the the screen.
Once the app is running it will continue even after the phone auto-locks.
You have a nice, if small, selection of alarm tones, and setting it all up is falling-off-a-log easy.
When the alarm sounds you have a snooze button or you can kill the alarm and get up.
Clean, simple, usable, and free. Alarm Clock Free, get this one.
Maybe you want a wee bit more customization in your clock app. You're covered with Weather Clock from Geometry.
This is a nice clock app with a clean interface. Setting the alarm is easy and you get to pick songs from your iPhone library to wake up to. (Make sure it's loud enough to wake you.)
The display automagically dims after 5 seconds, but you can change that and the brightness level in the iPhone's Home Screen Settings.
Weather info is updated every half hour and it's location aware.
Unfortunately Weather Clock does not show the day or date and you only get the digital display. There plenty of room on the display so I don't understand why day and date were omitted.
What I do like about Weather Clock is that the app will return and continue to function even after a sync. I also like that it's free.
If you're looking for day and date on the display you might try goodNite Lite from Agemarks Technologies.
goodNite Lite has a pleasant display with big, easy to read numbers that show the day, date, and time, and that's pretty much it. There's an alarm feature that works well, but test it to make sure it's loud enough for you.
You can change the color of the display to almost anything you want, and there's a feature that will lets you play music while you fall asleep.
Here's an odd feature, on the iPhone, if the app detects a sound the nightlight will turn on. That can be annoying and there's no option to turn that feature off. Weird.
Still the display is pretty and easy to read and the alarm gradually increases in loudness, which is nice.
There's a paid version which offers more alarms and the ability to dim the display.
goodNight Lite has some nice features and it works. What more can you ask from a free app?
By the way, be aware that some free clock apps advertised themselves as "alarm clocks", but to get the alarm feature you have to pay. Silly! These are analogous to bait-n-switch tactics in seedy stores or used car lots. Read the app description carefully and be mindful of any display window that pops up when configuring the app. Two apps that I know of that charge for in-app alarm upgrades is Alarm Clock Plus and Alarm Clock?. I suspect there are others.
Alarm Clock? clearly identifies the alarm upgrade in the app, but it is not mentioned in the app description at the iTunes Store that you have to pay for the alarm.
Alarm Clock Plus briefly mentions that the music-as-alarm feature can be purchased in-app, but I have not found any regular alarm sound in the app. I set the alarm, but nothing sounds.
Definitely not my favorite apps.
You've been warned.
Ok, that's a wrap for this week.
More freebies at the iTunes Store found below with direct links.