Tuesday morning did not start well for me. I woke up at 10:30, two hours after I was supposed to be at work.

I looked at my alarm clock and the display was blank. It’s the same clock I’ve been using since I was seven years old so I can’t be all that upset about it forcing the issue of retirement. I quickly sent a message to my team-leader saying I’d be in by lunch and I’d take a half-day off to make up for the lost time.

I had to address the alarm clock problem to save myself from a repeat performance on Wednesday morning. Remembering a round-up of alarm clock software on one of the Mac blogs I follow, I thought that I may not need to buy another clock. Why not just use the Mac I already have?

I quickly settled on Alarm Clock 2, with the initial attraction being the reasonable price: $0. Alarms can be one-time events or repeating. When defining a repeating alarm, seven buttons allow you to select the days the alarm will be triggered. Neat! So I can have an alarm for the weekdays, and a different later alarm for the weekend.

The alarms themselves can be a default tone, which sounds very much like an electronic travel alarm clock. Alarms can also come in the form of music from your iTunes library. Choose a song, or choose shuffle to have a different song every time.

I’ve never been partial to musical alarms because they can sometimes be quiet and other times they’ll be very loud, depending on the song. Alarm Clock 2 fixes this problem. Enable ‘Easy Wake’ for the alarm and the music will start quietly and gradually increase in volume. You can configure the initial and final volumes, as well as the time required to make the transition.

I typically put my Mac to sleep before bed rather than turning it off, but Alarm Clock 2 can wake the machine before the alarm so this is not an issue. What if there’s a power failure? The software cannot turn the machine on. The Mac itself solves this problem because it can be configured to power on at the same time every day or just week days or weekends. As long as the power isn’t out when the alarm is triggered, I’m good to go.

Or so I thought. I’ve configured the Mac to sent its audio through the line-out connection to my receiver and external speakers. This sounds far better than the Mac’s own speakers. The problem is the receiver cannot be configured to power on after a power failure. Perhaps I need to suggest to the Alarm Clock 2 author that it be able to use the internal speakers even if the Mac is not configured this way. Who knows if this is even possible.

After getting home on Tuesday, I discovered my long-serving alarm clock was not dead. It seems to work just fine now. Your guess is as good as mine about what happened. The up-side is that until I get the receiver situation sorted out, my alarm clock is set to go off fifteen minutes after my Mac cues a random song to wake me. Assuming no power problems overnight, I can turn it off before the alarm sounds.

The first day was a nice surprise. I awoke to the lovely Lisa Loeb singing that she missed me. Yesterday was Rush’s La Villa Strangiato. Today it was The Camera Eye. The Mac knows me. Then again, I don’t use iTunes so the only tracks in the library are all of Rush’s studio albums, Lisa Loeb’s The Purple Tape, and the free songs iTunes has offered in the last month or so. Stacking the deck? Damn straight.

Oh, I forgot one thing. One of the reasons I particularly enjoy the Mac are the little usability features. They’re nothing you’d gush about, but all together, they really make the user experience better. In this case, the pause button on the Mac’s remote control can either snooze or stop the alarm, depending how Alarm Clock 2 is configured. Sweet.

So far, I’ve found my waking far more pleasant and effective with music. Perhaps I haven’t yet become accustomed to the change, but I suspect the reason is my brain seems to devote more resources to listening to music than just a plain tone. More active resources means more wakefulness. I automatically try to remember the song title and what album it’s from. I’ll remember the riffs and instrumentation and follow along with the words when the singing starts. Even if I trigger the snooze, I find myself far less likely to fall back to sleep.

I think this is going to work out well.

Update (March 16, 2013)

The Alarm Clock 2 homepage at http://www.robbiehanson.com/alarmclock/ has been been unreachable for weeks now. It appears that Alarm Clock 2 is a thing of the past.