Help My Mac Tell Me When to Blow My Nose ...
March 24, 2007 3:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a Mac OS X application that lets me quickly, without a clunky UI or 500 steps, tell the Mac to pop up an alert at specific times of day, with the ability of recurrence.

I've tried some apps and ruled them out: Alarm Clock Pro has a background daemon that has a nasty memory leak that the programmers just won't fix, and its UI isn't really good (it's a crossplatform app); iCal and Entourage are very bloated for this sole purpose, and I dislike iCal's UI for entering tasks; remind combined with growlnotify was unreliable, despite a lot of effort to debug; and Quicksilver's timed events isn't really what I'm looking for, either. Just give me something that lets me tell my Mac to pop up a window every Thursday at 7:30 pm, or every day at 10:30 pm, or just tonight at 5:00 pm, or so on that says text of my choosing. Preferably freeware and a universal binary (an application that runs natively on the Intel Macs), but I won't be more picky than I've been already! :)

You can assume my level of competency on the Mac is not too bad. I've goofed with Unix and command-line stuff, and I feel moderately comfortable with higher-level techie stuff, although by no means am I an expert.
posted by WCityMike to Computers & Internet (27 answers total)
Best answer: Try 'man cron' at the command line. You can use the cron daemon to run a script that'd prompt you whenever you like.
posted by mikeh at 3:16 PM on March 24, 2007

I think what you want is 'at' and not 'cron'. Try 'man at' at the command line, activate atrun as it says, and you should be good to go.
posted by hariya at 3:22 PM on March 24, 2007

posted by adamrice at 3:23 PM on March 24, 2007

oops, missed the recurrence part. Maybe what you want is 'cron' for the recurring notices, and 'at' for the occassional ones.
posted by hariya at 3:24 PM on March 24, 2007

I am pretty sure that Aurora, which is the best alarm clock freeware out there (UI rocks, great functionality, etc), can be set to open documents and applications at a given time. Download or read up here.
posted by sneakin at 3:26 PM on March 24, 2007

Sneakin is right about Aurora, it's a great app and one that you should look at. By default it runs iTunes on events, but you can set it to run any app/open any file. The UI is simple.
posted by tylermoody at 3:42 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: I'm investigating Aurora right now, but how does one entirely divorce the iTunes aspect from the alert? It seems to want to play something no matter what.
posted by WCityMike at 4:00 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Flextime does not seem to be time-oriented, it appears to be timer-oriented, e.g., duration-based, not clock-based.
posted by WCityMike at 4:02 PM on March 24, 2007

I use Google Calendar's Notifier, but it does need a netowrk connection.
posted by advicepig at 4:29 PM on March 24, 2007

I use Pester, but it doesn't look like it does recurring.
posted by gwint at 4:36 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Just to recap:
  • Aurora: is there a way to do a simple text dialogue from it, with no iTunes?
  • Flextime: Not what I'm looking for, I believe, as it appears to be timer-based. And pricy!
  • At: No recurrence.
  • Growlnotify & Chron: Possible, but appears to be an unpleasant UI.
  • Pester: A nice app, I agree, but it indeed doesn't do recurring.
  • Google Calendar: Promising possibility. Network connection being required is a negative.

posted by WCityMike at 4:46 PM on March 24, 2007

WCityMike, What you want to do in Aurora is go to the "Action" tab. From there you can drag in an application or document to open.
posted by sneakin at 4:53 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Sneakin: Right, I saw that, but won't it also start a playlist at that time? And, actually, I'm just looking for something to say a per-item programmable line of text. Like "'The Office' starts now" or "Call Joe at 123-456-7890" or stuff like that.
posted by WCityMike at 4:57 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Cron seems to hate growlnotify, from some minor Googling — unless it's a solved problem by now. I know some minor goofing around with my system with cron and growlnotify seems to produce no results.
posted by WCityMike at 5:05 PM on March 24, 2007

Hm....Okay. You can email the dev and see if that functionality exists. You can also try I Use This which is a treasure trove of free/share/donationware for OS X.

Also, have you researched widgets? There are probably Apple dashboard widgets that do this and probably Yahoo widgets as well. Although some people don't like installing the whole Apple widget deal. Start with Apple widgets.
posted by sneakin at 5:08 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Check that. It appears they may have fixed it. We shall see ... with Cronnix, cron + growlnotify is not the most awful of possibilities. Nevertheless, still amazed there's nothing this simple out there?
posted by WCityMike at 5:11 PM on March 24, 2007

This widget claims to be an easy way to add a reminder to iCal. I am not sure what you consider bloated about iCal. For me, it's the adding events. So, if I had your dilemma, this would be the right thing.
posted by sneakin at 5:19 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Sneakin, appreciate the attempt, but it's more a "in 10 minutes" thing -- although it apparently does accept times, it doesn't accept recurrences, either.
posted by WCityMike at 5:22 PM on March 24, 2007

I use iMOnTime, which is simple and works well for me. I can set recurring reminders or just a quick "beep in 50 minutes to remind me to check the laundry" thing. The icon is in the menu bar for easy access to the iMOnTime menu to add reminders.
posted by litlnemo at 5:25 PM on March 24, 2007

I give up. I feel like such a failure.

posted by sneakin at 5:44 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry. :) At this point, it's looking like cron (via Cronnix's GUI) plus growlnotify is going to be my best bet. But I'm still amazed no one's done something so simple. :)
posted by WCityMike at 5:52 PM on March 24, 2007

WCityMike, did you try iMOnTime? Because it seems to be what you are looking for and I am using it for exactly the same types of things you asked about. I have weekly and monthly reminders that pop up with custom text, etc.
posted by litlnemo at 5:57 PM on March 24, 2007

Response by poster: I did. The user interface seems unpleasantly complicated (for me, I'll admit, and perhaps I'm just being too damn picky); it has to run via Rosetta on my Intel Mac, too. I think Cronnix + growlnotify is gonna be the trigger; this way I don't even have to have an app open.
posted by WCityMike at 6:18 PM on March 24, 2007

Ah. I have an Intel Mac too, but it doesn't bother me that it's Rosetta; it just works so I don't think about it. And it automatically loads (but doesn't show in the Dock) so it's pretty trouble-free. I'm surprised the interface seems complicated, but that's an individual taste thing, I guess. :)
posted by litlnemo at 9:47 PM on March 24, 2007

Can you be more specific? Is this one or two things you need reminders for, or will you be adding new reminders on a regular basis?

Because I'd just stick with iCal—it's the most integrated with the OS, and does exactly what you're asking for. Unless you need to make new reminders all the time, it shouldn't be that hard to deal with the event creation interface for a few minutes, and then you never need to see it again.
posted by designbot at 8:03 AM on March 26, 2007

I do like Reminder Widget that Sneakin' linked to, but alas, no reoccurance on it. Yahoo Widgets might have something, but really, what's wrong with iCal? You don't even have to have it open for the alarm to go off, no? And iCal has reoccurance, and you can set it up to remind you in a variety of ways at whatever time interval you want. I suppose there could be an AppleScript that would trigger iCal to show you the alarm and not open iCal ('run script').
posted by rmm at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2007

Response by poster: Designbot, I don't like iCal's entry UI, and if I'm going to be using this constantly, I have to like the entry UI. Rmm, I don't like the Reminder Widget.

Thanks, everyone. Cron (via Cronnix, or crontab on the command line), in concert with growlnotify, has been doing me just me just fine, and no reliability issues. It appears that growlnotify had some reliability problems when interacting with cron in the past, but that's been solved; doing so may have actually helped with its remind reliability problems, so someday I may try hacking that back together again, too.

Thanks everyone for their help.
posted by WCityMike at 9:17 AM on March 27, 2007

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