What’s the difference between a timer and an alarm? With one set for one hour and the other for 8am (assuming it’s 7am), the same results occurs.

From a code perspective, an alarm is simple. 2-4 lines to prescribe a desired wakeup time and identify what external time measure to use. The output is singular- when the clock strikes 8. A timer requires a similar setup but results in many outputs when each second counts from when the timer is set.

We could say that an alarm is more conservative. Efficient. The timer is wasteful and clunky for such a lengthy task. Why then use the timer at all?

If we desire efficiency, setting an alarm for 4 minutes from 1:30-1:34 for a batch of cookies would be the obvious choice.

This is too simple. What if you have to pickup groceries in 75 minutes and the time is 3:57? The difficulty in the arithmetic leads to the embracing of inefficiency to set a timer. Or– it’s just more convenient.

But convenience is just a short-term issue. Long-term what we’re looking at from a software perspective is constant screen updates, constant background computation, and the load of being able to time each minute up to 48 hours from setting your timer.

This is a genuine reason the LightPhone opted for an alarm and not a timer. It’s a hassle to generate 1,000 times as much coding fodder, and it detracts enough from other systems and operations to make a difference…

…but we, as the user, don’t often see this bug.

Fatal conveniences. Darin Olien hosts a podcast where he reveals ways we have bought into convenience-culture. Darin, like a true non-conformist speaks directly to the “things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us think we have to.”

His segment focusses on nutrition and wellness. My blurb was about software.

Convenience is all around us, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we save time, our money, attention, and energy are all saved.

The problem is when inequitable or inadvertent effects follow.

When we drink from plastic water bottles that exacerbate climate change and cause sky-high pollution of downstream fishing waters needed for a region’s survival.

When we take pills to cure a headache and choose a symptom and its salve as the default over a lifestyle of freedom from both.

These are the effects, personal and global, of the conveniences we fail to question. And like our software bug, they are insignificant and far-reaching all at once.

What did you notice today? ///

Author: Ben Fridge

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