posted on Sat, May 29 '21 under tag: freedom

In an online session today a participant had a chime every hour that said the time “It is 4”, “It is 5”, etc. I wanted it on my computer.

First thing I did is search for an existing application that did this. I found some talking alarm clock apps. But some of them were outdated and some of the websites had gone down too. So I decided to do it by hacking a cron job together with a TTS software.

ArchLinux has several Text-to-Speech apps. I chose espeak-ng for no reason.

Systemd timers can do what cron used to do.

So, I created the timer first and then the service.

$ cat ~/.config/systemd/user/hourly-chime.timer
Description=Run chime hourly



The timer unit is straightforward. If Persistent=true was added, then if we switch on the computer in the morning, the timer would run once even if it is the middle of the hour.

$ cat ~/.config/systemd/user/hourly-chime.service
Description=Chime the hour

ExecStart=sh -c 'espeak-ng -v grandma "It is `date +%%l`"'
# Alternatively
# ExecStart=sh -c "espeak-ng -v grandma \"It is $$(date +%%l)\""

The service unit is complicated by escaping. echo $(date +%l) will print the current hour inside shell. But, in ExecStart the $ needs to be escaped and so should the % because systemd will do its own expansions on it. Even then, for the command substitution to work we should call this inside a sh -c ""

To check if the command works, we can do systemctl --user start hourly-chime.service and when we are satisfied we can systemctl --user enable --now hourly-chime.timer

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