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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
I can vouch for that, having done some work on appliance energy efficiency assessments, including studying actual performance (interior temperature, controlled environment, power consumption), a few decades back. Still in the "modern" era of efficiency-aware appliances, though not current experience.
The 1970s were a low point, with bad seals, insulation, and heavy-duty case heaters for defrost cycle.
One of the objectively most efficient units we studied was a 1950s Crosley Shelvador, one of the early self-defrosting concepts. Rather than operate on a timer, as modern refrigerators do, this one actually counted door-openings, a more useful measure, as frost accumulates as warm, humid air displaces dry, cooled air, and condenses on interior surfaces. More openings => more frost.
It also had sufficient insulation and tight-fitting, long-lasting door-seals.
The unit was also a beauty.
The programme, in which most refrigerators were scrapped (coolant captured, metals recycled), saw this on set aside, though it eventually met with an untimely accident.
1. Though if you're going to take a self-described Space Alien Cat on its word, you might care to re-assess your life decisions.
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..!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
> 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  and an app  to set cleaning schedules, while older models accomplished exactly the same configuration with a button cluster and 7-segment display . I personally had to hunt around quite a bit to find a discontinued old model to avoid all the connected garbage.
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
> 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.)
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.
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".
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
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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).
> 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 .
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:
> 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).
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
> 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. 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. 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. 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.
> 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.
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.
I've complained about this before , 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.
I make wordclocks as a side project. 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?
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That saying hasn't been true for a long time, if one is speaking generally. I have a house full of clocks, and only one will tell the correct time twice a day if it is in "stopped clock" mode. The rest of them don't tell time at all in that mode.
 "Even a stopped/broken clock is right twice a day."
"Remember that nifty alarm clock you gave me last year? I finally got around to trying to set it up and....wow, what a piece of shit. I'm an engineer and I couldn't even get it working. After wasting an hour trying to set it up, I just threw it in the closet. Whatever engineer designed that thing probably doesn't even use it. It was a fun idea, but probably more useful for throwing at burglars. Thanks again haha"
Any of my friends/family would be laughing along with me, and giving me shit for not being able to setup "something as simple as an alarm clock".
If someone gave me something like this for a gift, I'd immediately sell it on Amazon, or possibly throw it in a Goodwill pile. If I'm feeling especially charitable, I'd go out to my local Good Recycler, who will probably want me to pay for the PCBs/backup batteries, etc. to be handled correctly, but it would be worth it.
Under no circumstances would I—after realizing that it required an app to function—continue with setup.
_That's_ what's baffling to me about this post. Why didn't he do the same? What the hell did he expect? All I want to know is "_what_ benefit did you think would come from using this that led you to continue with setup despite all of the obvious negatives?"
Either that expected benefit is _huge_—in which case, why not mention it?—or he didn't anticipate any downsides—in which, I don't know, maybe pay more attention in the world.
In any case, this post was essentially devoid of any meaningful information.
I have two radio controlled clocks. One checks each night at 2 o'clock with the radio time, and then sees it is probably 0.1 second ahead. Apparently this analogue clock can only adjust time forward, so each night it has to do a 12 hour cycle (minus 0.1 second). This means 50% extra battery use. Plus it's annoying when you're up at that time. All is quiet and then you hear this strange squeeking sound.
The other clock is digital, so adjusting time is easier, except that it forgets to do this when changing to and from summertime. The only solution is to unplug the power cable. Why this clock doesn't know this is a mystery. It only has to check once a week. I don't know how this radio signal works, but can't they send info about winter- or summertime along with the time?
The reality is, at least in the Eastern US, that you probably don't successfully receive the signal often enough to ever get the DST bit. When I lived in Chicago, I used WWVB clocks and they worked fine, when I moved to New York, I never got them to sync. I also have a bunch of chips for receiving the signal and they have never worked. You have to use the new phase modulated signal, and nobody sells chips for receiving these. (Naturally the older AM receivers are a cheap single-chip solution. So would a receiver for the phase-modulated data, but nobody feels like making one, so you are stuck.)
I can guarantee no sane engineer would have designed that. That was almost certainly designed by some marketer who didn't know the first thing about alarm clocks. The engineering team was probably outsourced, saw the requirements, facepalmed, and implemented them exactly as described. The project manager made sure the project was on-time by removing any workarounds for creating the account. And the clock team had a great dinner out to celebrate another successful product.
That's what I was thinking. This guy is one of the most reputable software developers in the world, bearing the weight of the Windows Shell on his shoulders, with a career that spans decades... and he bought... an alarm clock with wifi? Was he drunk that day?
I'd be fine with a clock with a wi-fi chip, provided that it have a hardware firewall that blocks everything but Network Time Protocol, and include a USB port for business such as updating firmware, updating zoneinfo, or changing IP addresses.
Also, it might have been a gift from a well-meaning friend or family member.
Agreed. My phone already has an alarm clock app that sounds an alarm through the phone speaker. If someone tries to sell me a separate alarm clock hardware device that requires a smartphone app to accomplish basic functionality that is already available on the phone itself, I am liable to become very hostile and recount unflattering anecdotes about the salesperson's mother.
It's a GDMF clock. We already have well-established user interface paradigms for clock-setting that require only two binary input buttons, in devices that cost less than $0.05 to manufacture.
The use case for a network-connected clock is to never have to set the time manually, or update it for daylight savings. That is a feature you add to a clock that is already completely functional without a network. You can add a wifi password with just two buttons and a 16-segment LCD, if you are patient enough.
"You can add a wifi password with just two buttons"
Reminds me that I bought a printer with wifi, which I didn't really want, but it didn't come with a cable, so then I found out you had to enter passwords by hitting an up or down button to scroll through all possible characters.
Eventually I found a USB cable that worked with it.
It's a head shaker. My guess would be that people sincerely and carefully design one particular consumer-facing item put so much effort into that design that they expect other consumer-facing items to also be worthwhile. I wonder if the people who actually design this crap would buy it?
Having borne witness to the multitude of compromises and suboptimal design decisions that are required to bring a product to market with a bare-bones team at two hardware manufacturers now, I assume that everything described on the box will be shoddy, glitchy, and not work at all as described.
I am neither as brilliant, nor my career at Microsoft nearly as long as Raymond's, but I am in no position to cast that first stone. My list of "should've known better" stretches temporally long, and quite wide in it's breadth of categories of bad purchases. Yes, some of them were alcohol-fueled. Sadly, most of them were not, thereby removing any excuse.
I'm a little older than Raymond (I think), and I am probably just now reaching the point where I consistently think to myself, "nooo, you know full well how this is going to end." when faced with a bad potential purchase.
Shopping for a radio recently I passed up loads of crap that I believe would have met the same fate as his clock. Internet enabled shit that will probably die once an LED goes out.
I ended up getting a nice, solidly built radio with a wood cabinet that has a volunteer knob, an AM/FM knob, and a tuner knob. No app required.
The one quality of life feature it does have is a little light that lights up when you've hit a signal on the tuner. This is nice because the exact position required for a station can drift. I assume this is due to atmospheric effects and other interference.
The Casio A168WA-1 has an alarm, a stopwatch, an optional hourly beep, 12 and 24-hour clocks and a light so you can tell the time even when the sun is down. It costs less than $20 on Amazon.
It may not be good enough for a tech billionaire but it doesn’t ask any questions. I may not have an executive position at Microsoft or an alarm clock that mines my data but I’ve got two dollars and a Casio.
Not that Microsoft wants you to know that. They make the offline account button/link smaller and harder to spot regularly. I've thought several times that they finally removed it only to spot it hiding in a corner in a grey link one shade darker than the background.
They could be treating it internally as unsupported workflow too. Or at least untested workflow. Kind of like that issue where your CPU would be loaded 100% when you open start menu if you have cortana disabled.
I actually went back to an old school casio watch recently because my Fitbit refused to connect to my phone. It had the incorrect time on it and you cannot set the time on the watch itself (Must be via the phone app).
I get that a fitness tracker is kinda worthless without syncing the data up. But I was happy just seeing my daily steps and being able to tell the time and I couldn't even do the latter.
If his alarm clock is a "HeimVision" (which it sounds like it could be from the description) holding the brightness for a long time will allow adjustment of the time. Unfortunately the WiFi light will never stop blinking.
Wow just looked up this product and… there is no need for WiFi.
Hell, I just bought an in-wall sunset/sunrise timer to control some grow lights for my plants in the winter. Works great, literally a simple board and backup battery in a wall switch.
If you want your room to brighten for wake, I don't know, invest in some actual home automation? I've got a dimmer on my master cans and it is _trivial_ to do this sort of thing, except with much larger benefits overall and a much more robust/supported ecosystem. Sigh…
"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 mean, isn't that exactly what the time adjustement signal is for? I have several watches which have this technology and they are precise like crazy - I don't understand why you'd need wifi for something so simple.
I have a feeling I know exactly what clock he's talking about. Costco sold a La Crosse wifi projection alarm clock where you can only set the time with the app, and the app has a hamburger-menu-icon-but-actually-a-handle gesture to delete whatever device you're having an issue with. Strangely, I'm having the same issue he did, where the wifi stops working and it loses the plot. I took it apart to see if the antenna broke, but it's got an ESP8266 module so that's not it.
I think it's useful to view connectedness in "smart" devices in the same way we view ads: They are as much a consumer feature as ads are about "informing users about business opportunities" - in truth, both are part of the payment for the service or good.
As such, it's in the interest of the vendor to smuggle "smartness" into as many products as possible, whether or not there is consumer demand for it - or even if there is explicit desire not to have it.
I bought a cheap Sharp microwave because I'd been accustomed to the way Sharps work since childhood, but I was disappointed they seem to have messed with the interface for no good reason. It's not quite as weird as one atrocious GE I remember, but they still fixed what wasn't broke. The numbers are entered from the left for some reason.
I am always surprised that most American alarm clocks run in mains power. In the 3rd world alarm clocks run on battery power, that saves a lot of complexity of having to deal with preserving the time in case of power disruptions, and they are fully functional even through power disruptions.
My Nest thermostats have become more trouble than they are worth. The learning feature constantly overwrites temperatures I have manually set in the schedule with garbage. Somehow it has learned temperatures I never set. It's infuriating. Time to shut off the smart features.
I'm guessing he upgraded his Router to something with more modern encryption and the new chip doesn't support it. This is a huge problem with IoT shit, getting trapped with obsolete protocols because updating all of your old devices is impossible.
Or you have to run an old network specifically for the IoT garbage and firewall it off heavily from the Internet, after doing god knows how much research into each device to figure out what cloud services they use.
Some years ago, I recall there was a bug in iOS which caused alarms not to update correctly when DST started (or ended), resulting in lots of oversleeping as alarms failed to alarm when expected.
Personally, I have a problem with my cheapish Android phone where it will suddenly and for no apparent reason decide it's been moved to UTC, and move the time ahead to UTC. It forgets about this delusion when I restart it. So far this has only happened in the middle of the day (and all it's done is mess up the period it's supposed to be silent during, when I'm at work, thus the downside so far has been a couple annoying dinging noises at my desk).
Also, I have a fancy alarm clock which alarms by gradually lighting up the room, instead of by blaring loud noises. I find this a more agreeable way to wake up in the mornings. I also like having a dim, but legible time display on my nightstand to glance at when I wake up in the night, rather than having to press a button on my phone, which is then way too bright to look at in my dark bedroom.
Finally, apart from software bugs, single-purpose alarm clocks are quite cheap and reliable. Although it is not in my bedroom anymore, I still have an alarm clock that was my bedside alarm clock when I was in elementary school. It's thirty years old by now, yet it still works perfectly. The alarm function still works (although it's quieter than it once was). The display still is flawless (although it's dimmer than it once was). It's a simple, reliable device. My phone...isn't.
Separation of concerns. Phones operate as a sort of monolith which is dangerous because if your phone fails, it takes down all of your services. Phones are also designed to be replaced fairly often which can mean redoing your alarms and so forth.
It's one of those things you really don't realize until your phone suddenly dies on you and you have to scramble to get a replacement.
I like my smart clocks (Google Home devices). They needed a phone to set up, but then stay synced. I don't adjust the time. I didn't even realize DST changed until after the gym. Alarms worked correctly. Reminders I set the day before worked correctly.
This is what I want life to be like. Changing clocks is a bullshit problem. It's not worth thought.
Two downvotes and no replies. Set your system time several years in the past and see what happens to secure sites.
I encountered this issue several times as a PC repair technician. We would turn a computer on after summer break and find its CMOS battery had died and the system date had reset. The computer was unable to browse sites secured with SSL certificates. The start time of those certificates were in the future relative to the system time, so the system thought they were invalid.
> I'd have thought phones had swallowed up alarm clocks along with maps, calculators, walkmen, etc by now.
Nah. If we define "walkmen" as meaning "dedicated portable music players", then people are still using all those things. I see everything in your list being used regularly (except for paper maps -- although I used one of those last week). Not nearly as much as before smartphones, but still.
I see a lot of people here denigrating devices that need mobile apps to function. While it may be frustrating for some, be aware of the accessibility implications of this approach. Most devices are simple enough that the only way to access them is via buttons and a screen. If you can't see the screen or have problems pressing the buttons, you're screwed and need to get a device made especially for you. This has been the case with blind people for years, and such devices usually cost about 4x the normal ones. Mobile apps, if done properly, allow such people to use the devices. Sure, an app as an alternative interface is usually a better idea, but the point still stands.
The "if done properly" is carrying a lot of weight there, though. Keeping on top of accessibility that way is a challenge in apps that are their companies' entire business, to say nothing of apps that are companions to a "real" product.
even if not done properly, a semi-accessible solution is better than a totally inaccessible one. A friend of mine has a hi-fi set that, obviously, doesn't have a built-in screen reader and the menus are complicated enough that she can't use it on its own. However, a crashy, semi-accessible app lets her use it somehow. I don't think anyone at the company cares about accessibility. Sure, it would be better if someone did, but that's still better than a (touch)?screen and menus with three levels of nesting that wrap around and remember your position.