Alarm Pi

hobby raspberry_pi, productivity

The Problem

Snoozing is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself! You start the day with a feeling of guilt and being late for everything from the start. To avoid this I’ve been working on improving my toolkit and techniques. I posted this as a list of my current methods and tools.

Whilst these methods worked for me a while I’ve started having an issue with Alexa playing my playlist from Spotify: It always starts with the same song. My idea was to have a different song every morning so this bug in Spotify impeded me from achieving my goal.

The Idea

As the saying goes: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

Even though I have other means of developing tools and software, I wanted to use another Raspberry Pi to replace Alexa morning routine (it still turns on the light though).

The Execution

So I decided to dust off my OG Raspberry Pi 1 Model B and implement my own custom solution for playing a random song every morning to help wake me up.

Here’s how I implemented it from start to finish:

Step 01: Download Raspbian image and prepare SD/MicroSD card

I downloaded Raspbian Buster Lite as I don’t need desktop and other extra software for this project.

I followed the official guide from raspberrypi.org to burn the image. It’s basically just a few commands:

Insert the card and run the following to identify the card:

diskutil list


sudo dd bs=1m if=path_of_your_image.img of=/dev/rdiskn conv=sync

where n is the number of disk which I found from the first step.

If you get “resource is busy” error, then run the following

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskn

Step 02: Carry Out Necessary Configuration Updates

It’s a good practice to change the default passwords so I ran


and updated the password.

Also for remote installations I enabled SSH:

sudo systemctl enable ssh
sudo systemctl start ssh

And I like to give a specific name to all my devices so that I can keep an eye on the machines connected to my network more easily.

To achieve that I ran:

sudo hostname NEW_HOSTNAME

I used raspi-config to connect to WiFi network

sudo raspi-config

and enter the details and rebooted to connect to the network.

In this MVP implementation I don’t even need Internet connectivity (after the initial installations below) as all my MP3 files are on the device already. But in my tests I noticed that when the Pi is disconnected the system time wasn’t updating so scheduled job wasn’t being triggered. This is probably because I’m using a Pi 1. I’m guessing the newer version can work offline as well.

Step 03: Install MP3 Player Software

In this simple project I’m going to install mpg123 and run it via a Python script

Installation is as simple as this:

sudo apt-get install mpg123 -y

Step 04: Develop the script

The following script points to a folder which supposedly have all the local MP3 files, picks one randomly and starts playing.

import os
import random

path ='/path/to/mp3/folder' 
files = os.listdir(path)
index = random.randrange(0, len(files))

os.system(f'/usr/bin/mpg123 {files[index]}')

Step 05: Copy music and script to Raspberry Pi

Save the script above in a USB drive along with the MP3 files. To copy the files from USB drive to Pi microSD card, I inserted my USB and ran the following:

sudo fdisk -l
sudo mkdir /media/usb
sudo mount /dev/sda1 /media/usb


mkdir /home/pi/music
cp /media/usb/*.mp3 /home/pi/music

and copy the script to home folder

cp /media/usb/alarm-pi.py /home/pi

Step 06: Schedule the script

crontab -e

Then add to run at a certain time. The example below runs at 7:30am everyday:

30 7 * * * /usr/bin/python3 /home/pi/alarm-pi.py

If you want to run the script multiple times you can another one (like another one after 10 minutes as a snooze-prevention mechanism!)

Step 07: Test the schedule

Update your schedule temporarily and set it to a few minutes later and start playing the waiting game! Once you hear a random song playing make sure to set it back to your actual alarm time.


I meant to run this in a Docker container and develop the application with dotnet core but turns out playing MP3 with dotnet core in Linux is not easy. Also playing sound from inside a container has its own issues. So for those reasons I chose the easiest possible path to achieve the goal. If I find time I’ll improve this and make it more flexible but for the time being it does the job so I’ll assume MVP is done now.