The Smartphone App Review

Electric Dawn has just been reviewed by The Smartphone App Review, and I think it’s fair to say that it can be considered a glowing account of the app. It’s certainly a proud moment for me, after so many years since the first iteration of the app appearing on the market.

…a superb alarm clock app that creates a nice ambient atmosphere, waking you up slowly and gently.

And with a resultant score of 90%.

Overall, this is a great alarm app, and comes highly recommended.

You can read the review in full over at The Smartphone App Review.

There are also a few free copies of Alarm Clock – Electric Dawn being given away, look for the promo codes in the review.

I made Electric Dawn Free – a sunrise alarm clock with nature sounds – to help me get going in the mornings

Hi folks,

I’m not much of a morning person so a few years ago I started work on a sunrise alarm app Electric Dawn . These days it’s a pretty mature and stable app. I’m still using it every morning – waking up to the pleasant sounds of birdsong or waves gently crashing on the beach. I found it helped reduce the grogginess I used to get from being jolted awake by the default alarm clock. I do still need to put the phone on the other side of the room to force me out of bed (to turn it off) in the morning – but that’s probably just my problem!

I wondered if anyone has tried Electric Dawn and had any feedback on how they use it, and any thoughts in general?

Thanks! Give me a shout if you have any questions or thoughts! 🙂

You can drop me an email too: .

Five Years

It is just over five years ago that Whimsical Otter launched its first Android app onto the market. Back then I was building and continually improving apps primarily for my own use, then sharing them on the market for others to enjoy. But as the market grew I decided to shift to running the business as a going concern and the focus shifted to the finances. This worked out okay for a while but as the Android market shifted from primarily pay-for-apps towards free-apps supported by in-app-purchases and advertising (in contrast to the apple market where pay-for-apps are perhaps more the norm), this new model no longer worked for Whimsical Otter.

So, in a shift back to the original values, a version of Electric Dawn is now available for free and the focus is back on sharing apps that I want to create and use.

Already in the short time that Electric Dawn Free has been available, people have been finding it really useful. The continuous improvement and development of Electric Dawn owes much to the emails, reviews, and feedback from all the users who have taken the time to get in touch. Five years of evolution whilst retaining the core principles of being robust and straightforward to use.



5 Star User Reviews for Electric Dawn Free Alarm Clock


Electric Dawn the full version is currently installed on over 1000 devices worldwide after 5 years on the market. Electric Dawn Free has reached over 200 users within only a couple of months. That’s a lot of people enjoying a better wake up every day, myself included. This is a really positive impact and something to be proud of indeed!

Here’s to the next chapter for Whimsical Otter and Android app development.

Get it on Google Play

Download Electric Dawn Free Alarm Clock






Today I am very happy to announce that Whimsical Otter is an official sponsor of the Sutton Juniors Football Club LEGACY.

I originally grew up and went to school in the surrounding Keighley/Skipton area of Yorkshire before moving to Newcastle. Recently I have been following updates on the campaign from an old friend which explained the rationale and motivation behind it.

The club originally formed in 1998 as an under 7 team but rapidly grew over the years to now include development squads at under 5 and under 6; and teams from under 7 right up to adult teams.  In 2012 a girls team was started at under 11 with the aim to add further age groups. They participate in a number of leagues and competitions in the surrounding area and have had success in winning the under 12 and under 13 leagues. The club also succeeded in becoming a FA Charter Standard Club in 2010 demonstrating a continued professional attitude towards the sport and the club’s members in providing a safe and well-organised environment.

I can understand how important and positive this campaign is to the local community. When the club owns their own grounds it will also allow them to access further funding to enable the club to grow further and better support the local community.

You can find out more about the LEGACY campaign and the club at . There’s also a radio interview that gives a great overview into what the club are trying to achieve and why.

You can also contribute directly with their fundraising.

Wishing Sutton Juniors FC every success!


Dungeon Keeper Mobile – Playing Not Paying-to-win

Albeit a little late to the party, I recently discovered that Dungeon Keeper is now on Android/iOS mobile devices. Having played the original game in my youth I was very excited to see it available for my Android tablet.

At first the gameplay was excellent, rapidly digging and building new rooms, summoning minions and raiding fellow Keeper’s dungeons in quick succession. Then the green gems ran out and the game ground to a screeching halt!

The rooms and traps take time to build. This time starts at a few seconds or minutes for the earlier rooms and levels, but rapidly grows to hours and even days as the game progresses. This building (and summoning of minions) can be “rushed” by spending green gems. Something that the game teaches and encourages through the tutorials, but they aren’t rapidly replenished through gameplay. Instead they are to be bought using real-world currency at what seems to be an exchange rate that is drastically lacking in value for money. Therefore, the long build times, as you become invested in the game, are designed to deliberately frustrate the player to the point of either giving up, or giving in to buying green gems.

After taking some time to think things through I determined some key points. First and foremost, this is not a remake of the original Dungeon Keeper game. That is an important point. The gameplay you may well remember from your younger days does not apply here. Although the themes are very much the same. I believe it is possible to play this game for free, and to gain enjoyment from it, in spite of the long time delays, but it requires and teaches three important skills: patience, time management, and effective delegation.

I therefore started the game again (using a different google account as you can’t restart the game on the same account!?) and applied the following rules to my gameplay:

  1. Do NOT buy green gems.
  2. Do NOT spend green gems on ANYTHING apart from IMPS.

Imps are the best way to increase productivity in building and upgrading, but after the first two are bought they become very expensive and added to this they can only be bought with green gems.

Imp Purchase Screen

There ain’t no such thing as a free imp (TANSTAAFL). You need to buy gems to get the “free” imp and once you go down that route, you’re paying to win.

So starting the game with 550 green gems, you can rapidly increase this to 700+ through the first stages of dungeon building and upgrading, plus 10 per day from raiding other dungeons. Revenge matches (that you can win) gain green gems for each star too. Just remember to fight the urge to spend them “rushing” jobs.

Dungeon Overview

Effective delegation means you’e not playing this in one sitting; you’re in it for the long game. During a continuous playtime, you can have your imps working on shorter jobs (5mins to 20mins) whilst you raid some other dungeons. When you know you’ll be away from the game for a while, then set them to work on the longer duration upgrades and room building.

When you’ve finished a raid do NOT hit the resupply button. Return to the dungeon and summon more minions there. As you upgrade your dungeon heart you can summon more in parallel. Also, try and make use of skeletons and trolls more than the other units. They are cheaper in gold and also take less time to be summoned between raids. In those earlier stages you can raid a dungeon with 4 skeletons and 2 trolls (trolls are better at tackling the workshop and resident defending troll).

Sometimes you just need gold. Make sure you always have some in the bank from your own mine before raiding. Then skip through the possible dungeons until you find one that you can easily reach the treasury with a few skeletons. Take the gold then end the raid early. Return to your dungeon, summon a few more skeletons, and repeat. It’s a lot easier and quicker building up your gold (and stone) supply this way than waiting for your own mine to produce it.

Update: 2015-01-02 18:15

Well I made it to 800 gems so went about getting that third imp.

Buying an Imp

I was dreading to think how many green gems the fourth imp will cost, and how long that will take to build up through gameplay. A bargain at only 1200 gems or (at 500 gems for £2.99 that’s about £7.18 for the fourth imp for those who are paying-to-win).

The fourth imp price

Still a relatively simple dungeon layout at this point.

Dungeon Overview - The Third Imp

How long to raise 1200 gems through gameplay alone? Time will tell.

Color Picker for Android

Color Picker with HSV sliders and mini-palette for Lightbox on Android.

Color Picker on a Tablet with HSV sliders and mini-palette for Lightbox on Android.

The Lightbox app allows users to alter the colour displayed on the lightbox screen. Previous colour-pickers used in Lightbox were sufficient for general use but lacked the fine control needed for some applications. The new colour picker provides three large controls for tweaking the hue, saturation and value aspects of a given colour. This means that for colours close to white it is now possible to finely tune the hue and saturation independently. There are also a few standard colours in the mini-palette to quickly jump to full white, red, yellow, green, blue or magenta. The original colour and the new colour swatches are also displayed allowing the user to reset to the original colour as a starting point. On larger displays, the controls will expand to make full use of the screen space (in portrait or landscape) for even finer control for the user.

The mini-palette uses the AspectGrid from StackOverflow to provide a nice grid layout. The Hue, Saturation and Value sliders are derived from the SurfaceView with the canvas painted using the LinearGradient for background and a simple stroke line for the slider marker.

This provides a simple, but effective solution. There are also many alternatives if you are looking for solutions, with some particularly flexible and stylish implementations such as HoloColorPicker.

AndroidTapp Review of Electric Dawn

Recently Electric Dawn was reviewed over on AndroidTapp in a well written, thorough and constructive review. There are some great points raised, and below I’ve expanded on some of these. It’s always good to hear from people who are using these apps to understand what works for them and what could be improved to make the app work better for them. It’s through this process that has seen Electric Dawn evolve over the years to it’s present state, and what will see it continue to improve over the coming years.

The point about limited nature sounds included is quite right. The sounds themselves are high-quality recordings over longer durations (each is around 2 minutes long) to prevent looping too often and provide a more realistic ambience. In the early days of Android devices app size was critical so the number of sounds was kept small to keep the size of the app down. Now though, with more memory available, we can look at adding more sounds to the app! 🙂 Any suggestions for what sounds people would like included are always welcome.

With regards to the feature set of other gentle wake alarms compared to Electric Dawn, we decided that keeping the app as simple and robust as possible whilst still providing flexibility was the strongest feature we could have. That’s why the improvements over the years have been carefully thought through and implemented gradually without compromising simplicity. We’re always happy to receive suggestions from users for improvements that would make the app great for them, but we will always keep the goal of a simple and robust app in mind.

So if you have any thoughts, feedback, or if you just want to say hello then get in touch and leave a reply 🙂

Daylight Lamp

Earlier this summer I stumbled on an article explaining how windowless work-spaces can cause sleep deprivation. This is based on the research and journal paper by Boubekri et al.

I spend my days working in an underground laboratory (albeit not in a hollowed out volcano) with fluorescent lighting and zero natural light. I had also noticed that my sleep was no longer as replenishing as it was when I worked at a desk in front of a south facing window.

So, as an experimental solution I purchased a lamp and daylight bulb and now illuminate my desk with this all day. I have found that gradually I am sleeping better and feeling much more rested when I wake. Correlation, though not necessarily causation – it’s certainly better having the daylight hues lighting the desk.

The lamp and daylight bulb are both available from John Lewis. Although the matching bulb is actually found in the craft department rather than the lighting department?!

John Lewis Elliot Task Lamp

John Lewis Elliot Task Lamp

Purelite Natural Daylight Bulb ES 15 Watt

Purelite Natural Daylight Bulb ES 15 Watt

This should also help during those long, dark, northern winters!

Electric Dawn – Alarm Clock Sunrise

The Electric Dawn sunrise also works in landscape if the device is in that orientation already. Here it is running on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. A soothing way to gently nudge you from slumber; far superior to the average alarm clock. 🙂

Android app on Google Play