F.lux makes your computer’s screen a sight for sore eyes

flux-icon-smI wish I’d found out about F.lux sooner. After using this little app for just a week now, it’s already transformed the way I work with my Mac during long-haul overnight sessions with looming deadlines.

Being an architecture student, I’m well-versed in the All Nighter. This phenomenon means staring at an LCD screen for hours on end, a concept that would send any optometrist into a fit. But it’s a necessary evil, something we need to do in order to get through a mountain of work.

F.lux makes this ordeal bearable.

I was compelled to download the utility after reading about it on the Sweet Setup. What F.lux does is simple, but incredibly effective. It’s based off intense research, and whilst its method is yet to be scientifically proven, I’ve personally found that it has made my staring at the screen late into the night far easier than before.

F.lux basically adjusts your computer’s display in accordance with the ambient lighting conditions. You’ve just got to enter your location, and it will do the rest. As the sun begins to set, your screen will gradually begin to tint to an orange-reddish hue. This means that as you get deeper into the night, you won’t have to stare into the obnoxious blue glow of the standard computer screen. Of course, this isn’t conducive to any graphic-related work where colour accuracy is of importance. But F.lux has a series of options allowing customisation, so you can, for instance, disable it for an hour, or for a specific app (like Illustrator or Photoshop). From the app’s description:

“f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you’re in, all the time. […] Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. f.lux will do the rest, automatically.”

F.lux goes on to claim that it can even help you sleep better. According to the developer: “We know that night-time exposure to blue light keeps people up late. We believe that f.lux adjusts colors in a way that greatly reduces the stimulating effects of blue light at night.”

Whilst I haven’t noticed changes in my sleeping pattern (all nighters for days here), I have found that using my Mac at night is now a lot easier.

F.lux is available to download for Windows, OS X and Linux for free. You can even get it for Android, and jailbroken iOS. Your eyes will thank you.

Apple’s October Event Wishlist

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Apple sent out press invites for their next event – the much-anticipated iPad one, a follow-up to last month’s unveiling of the iPhone 5S and 5C. To be honest, this is the one I’ve been looking forward to the most.

I don’t currently own an iOS device, and I feel I’ve been holding out for too long now. With iOS 7, and the general stability of the platform, plus my rekindled love for reading blogs and growing interest in e-books, an iPad is definitely on the cards for me.

iPad 5 rumours suggest a redesigned form factor – one in line with the iPad mini and iPhone: thin side bezels, filleted edges. I love the iPad mini design, but its lack of a Retina screen (which rumours suggest will be added in the expected update at this event) and smaller screen size diminish it as a choice for my first iOS device. I want something that is a little more “all-purpose” – great for casual gaming, reading blogs, books and magazines, and watching the occasional film or series. Perhaps even a spot of writing when I’m away from my laptop. The “normal” iPad’s screen size is thus a perfect fit for those needs.

So without further ado, in classic Pixelated Thinking tradition I shall speculate on what I want to see revealed at the keynote on October 22:

Certain:

  • iPad 5 with new design, A7X processor, probably M7 motion co-processor, and maybe even Touch ID (though not great certainty on that)
  • iPad mini 2 with Retina display, performance improvements
  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks launch date, pricing revealed (it’s gone Gold Master, so release is inevitable soon)
  • Mac Pro launch date

Possible:

  • iWork updates: new versions for both iOS and, what I’m really hoping for: iWork updated for Mac. Seriously, Apple: this thing needs a feature bump.
  • The iPod classic finally gets axed: sad, but we must face reality. As a classic owner myself, this will be a depressing moment, but hey: the future is touch. And the future is always better, right?

Hey, I Can Wish, Right?

  • New versions of iLife, with new iLife apps, centred around things like blogging, social media etc. For both Mac and iOS. (Maybe they bring back iWeb as blog-centric tool, similar to Windows Live Writer? I know one blogger who’d get that app in an instant ;))
  • An updated iTunes for Mac: iTunes got a major UI overhaul last year. I love it, but feel that a dark theme is needed, along with a few new features and UI tweaks. This might actually happen, as it’s been about a year since iTunes 11 was revealed.

Well, that’s my list. I’ll definitely be watching the keynote live streams on my favourite tech blogs, and be sure to get my thoughts on whatever transpires shortly after.

 

The Wallpapers of Mac OS X

The Mac has long been famous for its deep focus on human interface design. When Apple introduced the Aqua interface, they made sure to juxtapose it with the “clownish” GUI of Microsoft’s Windows XP. Design is paramount to these guys, and so it comes as little surprise that everything – right down to the default wallpaper – is meticulously sourced or crafted to create the ambience of the overall experience.

The default wallpaper for each edition of OS X becomes the marketing standpoint for that generation of Mac computers. Apple markets their Macs with the default OS X image prominently displayed on product boxes, promotional material and on their website. So users become acquainted with their new Mac (and  thus the OS) through the wallpaper at first glance. And besides, Mac’s wallpapers have always been beautiful, and in my opinion, far better than most default offerings found in the Windows world.

Being an Apple aficionado, I decided to investigate the wallpapers of OS X, and see how they correlate to the experience of each iteration of the OS.

OS X: The Aqua Years

The early releases of OS X had a user interface called “Aqua.” Steve Jobs is famous for remarking that the interface looked so good, you wanted to lick it. While I won’t go that far in superlatives, I will mention that it was a very good-looking and well-designed interface. And it was in this era that Apple shipped the blue-hued wallpapers with ambiguous swirls and abstract shapes.

These wallpapers emphasised the fluidity of Aqua’s concept: a glossy, dominantly blue interface.

Here’s a look at the wallpapers of OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” – 10.4 “Tiger.”

The Leopards: A galactic shift

With OS X 10.5 “Leopard”, Apple shifted their wallpapers to a more “galactic” tone. Leopard featured the pink-tinged “Aurora” wallpaper, which was greatly softened by its power successor, Snow Leopard.

While Aqua still prevailed, it was slowly being tuned down.

The Lions: At the end of the universe

With the Lion and Mountain Lion operating systems (10.7 and 10.8), OS X made a leap into the galaxy: these two iterations had the images of the M31 Andromeda galaxy (Lion) and the NGC 3190 galaxy (Mountain Lion) setting the tone of the OS. More importantly: Aqua was now dead. In its place were UI elements taken from the wildly successful iOS platform (inertial scrolling, skeumorphic elements…). Here, the wallpaper’s celestial theme now alluded to OS X’s new direction, focussing on powering-up the system while taking all that worked on iOS and integrating it into the older desktop code (a task of galactic proportions in its own right – making relevant a system constantly threatened by the young upstart that is iOS).

And now, the future: 10.9 onwards

10.9 Mavericks
10.9 Mavericks

With Mavericks (10.9), Apple’s done some radical changes to OS X. Most importantly: the naming scheme shifts from big cats to famous landmarks in California, the birthplace and development home of the Macintosh operating system. It comes as no surprise, then, that the lead image of the first in this new series of OS X, called Mavericks, has a beautiful green-blue wave – the famous swells of the Mavericks surfing spot that is a paradise for surfers the world over.

One can thus assume that subsequent iterations, each carrying a landmark from California, will be heralded by an image directly related to that name. Gone are the ambiguous, abstract images of the Aqua years. Apple’s rooting their flagship OS, and in so doing, setting the tone of a whole new era for the Mac.