Light, Color, Work, and Sleep

Graphic with the text "Sleep." on it.

By now it’s fairly well-known: the type of light that now surrounds us dramatically changes the dynamics of our sleep/wake patterns.

It was not long ago we relied on nature and most importantly the sun in everyday life. Each sunrise marked the beginning of a new day with new opportunities, conquering the night and its dangers. Each spring signified the return of the life-giving properties of sun light: plants would thrive, food would be plentiful. The sun has a central role in many pre-historic as well as current religions — from the Egyptian Pharaohs being the sons of the sun God Ra, to, conspiracy theorists will have you believe, Jesus or Moses in Christianity being direct metaphors for the sun. Whatever you believe, it’s clear that the sun has made an impact on humans and still does to this date.

For the most part of our existence, our light has come from inducing heat onto different types of flammable materials, thus creating light: fires, candles, or the thread in light bulbs.

Today we’re surrounded by digital displays and light sources that emit neutral to cold light. LEDs consume a fraction of the electricity compared to a traditional light bulb and since so little of the energy is lost to heat they’re also efficient. The simple no-nonsense build of LEDs means they can be used for 2-3 years straight before they break*.

Los Angeles street lights before and after the switch to LEDs

Image via Gizmodo.

Even though LEDs sold now are made to have a warmer tint than in the beginning, the change is still pretty apparent. Above is an illustration of what L.A. streets will look like after they’ve made the change.

Work & Sleep

Many times our computer and phone screens are omnipresent in our lives. No matter what time of the day, these screens will have an almost blue-tinted glow. It is believed that this is one of the main reasons why our gadgets disrupt sleeping patterns. Think about it, how many times have you stayed up late trying to fix that one elusive bug? Browsed Reddit aimlessly? Watched episode after episode of [insert vaguely funny TV show that did too many seasons here]? All without feeling any significant exhaustion?

Our devices create a constant, self-induced state of jet lag.

To combat the effects of having daylight-tinted lights around us, we can make sure to buy fixtures with a warm light and change the tint of any digital displays we have to have a warmer color. When we do need neutral light we should make sure to use it sparingly and refrain from turning it on after sunset.

F.lux preferences paneFor your computer, try F.lux. It’s an app that determines your current location and automatically changes the screen temperature to a cozy 3400k (supposedly the equivalent of halogen light) around sunset. You can set it up so it transitions slowly over the course of one hour so you can get eased into it.

Since installing it I’ve been feeling a lot less stressed during the evenings. The warm light is also much less straining on my eyes.

Being in Sweden currently, the sunset is actually around 17:00 at this time of year, and just a month or two ago it was as early as 15:30-16:00. For me it’s then more natural to set F.lux to adjust my screen a little later as it’s not a hard sunset and I’m typically awake for quite a while longer. I’m currently using 41.3833° N, 2.1833° E — the latitude and longitude of Barcelona, Spain. This gives me an extra 1-1½ hours of “daylight”.

Monitor color temperature comparison between 6400k and 3400k (rough example)

Above is a rough comparison of what a normal monitor of 6400k looks like compared to 3400k. If you view this on a normal laptop or mobile device it should give you a pretty good understanding of the difference. However, and I feel the need to stress this, the white point being so warm is actually not distracting. It only takes a short while to get adjusted and when you have, you don’t want to go back.

Get F.lux

Go ahead and install F.lux right now, it’s a free download and it just may help you both work and sleep better.

* Footnote: Over three years ago I changed the bulb of my outdoor porch light to a very bright (and at the time fairly expensive) LED bulb with an array of smaller lights. Most of the time it’s left on. To this day it shows no signs of breaking.

How to never lose form content in your browser

Lazarus Form Recovery Example Screenshot Google

We’ve all been there. You’re typing up a long comment on that blog you like or maybe you’re entering shipping details so you can get that über-geeky but yet somewhat fashionable and undoubtedly funny t-shirt already. Your browser decides it’s time to bash it’s head against a wall for a while and subsequently die. When you revive that S.O.B. (Son Of a Browser), your [comment/shipping details/whatever else] are long gone. You curse the day software maker X decided not to auto-save your content, and as the rage flows through your veins like a stream of hot lava down a meteor crater in the Hadean time period you may be inclined to do one of the following:

  1. Accept your fate and begin typing up your content once again. Likely in a more brief fashion than before, and most probably also by trying to physically hurt your keyboard (note: computer peripherals are stationary objects, unable to feel emotion).
  2. Throw your pen/coffee mug/mouse/computer into the wall and call it a day. Maybe pick up carpentry. You start by creating small wooden shelves for your plants and in time you may move on to making plain looking coffee tables (that don’t work).

What if your computer peripherals could live? What if coffee tables are not your true calling? What if you just wanted the darned thing to remember what you were typing?

Lazarus Form Recovery Logo/SymbolLazarus Form Recovery

Lazarus is one of those hidden gems that everyone needs but few have heard of. It’s a must-have for any one of the browsers it supports – as soon as you install it you can forget about it. Next time your browser freaks out and eats your content, you’ll be ready. It sits quietly in the background and saves what you type securely. To retrieve anything, just go to the page you were on last and click the icon above the field to recover your data.

Install Lazarus for Chrome

Install Lazarus for Firefox

It literally takes 10 seconds to install, so do it now!

Also:

Lazarus
an abbreviation of Eleazar, whom God helps. (1.) The brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany. He was raised from the dead after he had lain four days in the tomb (John 11:1-44). This miracle so excited the wrath of the Jews that they sought to put both Jesus and Lazarus to death.
Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary

Get Notified about Keyword Mentions in Skype Group Chats

Here’s a little trick that might come in handy for those that use Skype as a group messaging tool: set up the chat to only notify you about specific keyword mentions and mark other messages as read immediately.

This guide is for Skype 6.1+ on Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (untested on other platforms but might work).

How to change Notification Settings in Skype

  1. skype-group-chat-notification-settings-sidebarOpen Skype and find the group chat you want to change Notifications for in the sidebar.
  2. Right-click on the conversation and choose “Notification Settings…”.
  3. A dialogue lets you set your Notification Settings.
    • Notify me: default, get notified about every new message.
    • Do not notify me: turn off notifications altogether – you’ll see new messages only if you go directly to the group chat.
    • Notify me only if these words are mentioned: allows you to specify specific keywords for which you want to be notified about, separated by spaces.
    • Mark unread messages as read immediately will clear the badge count on the app icon.

    skype-group-chat-notification-settings-dialogue

Props Joen Asmussen for the post idea.

My favorite Photoshop Shortcuts

Recently I had the opportunity to give a new Photoshop user some pointers on how to use the program. One thing that I think is very important to get used to early on is to use keyboard shortcuts for as many actions as possible. The amount of time it saves over time is astounding.

Here are my most used Photoshop shortcuts, with notes.

CMD + 1
Zooms to 100%! Genius! Tip: CMD + 0 zooms to “Fit Screen”.

CMD + S
Do this a lot.

CMD + Shift + S
Save As.. useful for saving a copy, or if you need a non-optimized version of the file for use elsewhere.

CMD + Shift + Alt + S
“Save for Web & Devices”. Your best friend when you go on to create purpose-filled pixel fighters optimized for the web. Just make sure you further compress those .png’s with another application afterwards, to keep file sizes at an absolute minimum.

Spacebar
Holding the spacebar is a quick way to temporarily use the Hand tool (H). This allows you to drag around a section of your image without losing the tool you were working with – release the spacebar and you’re back.

F
Circle Screen Mode. This allows you to quickly switch between Standard Screen mode (with the tabs showing), Full Screen Mode With Menu Bar, and Full Screen Mode. I prefer the full screen mode with the menu bar, since it handles zoom the best and best leverages the limited pixels on my laptop screen.

Tab
Toggles the entire Photoshop interface. Very useful for small screens, this way you can get more screen space instantly when working on something bigger.

Control + Tab
Circle open Photoshop documents. (Instead of using the tab bar, which can be hard.)

CMD + Alt + Z / CMD + Shift + Z
Face it. Even with your mad Photoshop skills, you’re going to want to correct things from time to time. This bad boy will step back/forward in History for you, and effectively kills and buries CMD + Z.

0-9
Pressing any number between 0-9 will change the opacity of the selected layer, where 0 = 100%. Example: pressing 5 will set the opacity to 50%. Example 2: pressing 3 and then 5 quickly will set the opacity to 35%.

Shift + 0-9
Does the same as above, but instead sets the Fill opacity – handy if you work with layer blending options a lot.

Z
Zoom. Zoom in/out by either clicking+holding and then dragging (right to zoom in, left to zoom out), or by clicking repeatedly – and holding Alt to zoom out. I recommend only using the click and drag function to get to somewhat the right zoom level, and then making sure you’re at an even % zoom for best pixel editing power.

V
Move Tool. Move dat layah. Tip: while using the Move Tool, try holding CMD and clicking an element on the canvas. This will, with some luck, select that element in the Layers palette.

M / Shift + M
Rectangular / Oval marquee tool (selection). Select non-vector elements. Do crazy stuff.

G / Shift + G
Gradient / Paint Bucket (fill) Tool. Quick ways to draw gradients and fill selections (and more) for non-vector elements.

C / Shift + C
Crop / Slice / Slice Select tool. I don’t use Crop much at all, but Slices are a gift from heaven. Don’t crop your entire .psd to get single images ready for the web – use slices instead!

T
Mr. Double T as in Text Tool. Make that mockup come alive with some old-school latin vibes.

U / Shift + U
Rectangle / Rounded Rectangle / Ellipse / Polygon / Line / Custom Shape Tool. I generally prefer to use vector shapes for large interface elements – it’s just faster and more versatile. Especially when things like rounded corners are not usually done using rendered graphics anymore.

P / Shift + P
Pen Tool / Freeform Pen Tool. I really only use this to modify existing vector elements (see U). Tip: with a path selected and using the Pen Tool, hold Shift to temporarily turn it into the Convert Point Tool, allowing you to delete bezier curves, as well as transforming them.

A / Shift + A
Path Selection / Direct Selection Tool. Your best friend when dealing with vector elements in Photoshop. Just like in Illustrator, these allow you to select and manipulate a full path, parts of it, or individual curves. Tip: while using the Direct Selection Tool, hold Shift to select multiple points to manipulate.

D
Sets foreground/background color to default (black/white).

X
Swaps the foreground/background colors.

CMD + I
Inverts the current layer. Very useful if you need some contrast to be able to match up overlapping layers. Inverting again will of course bring the layer back to it’s normal colors without harm. Tip: for more precise matching of those “onion layers”, lower the opacity of the inverted layer when aligning.

CMD + T
Free Transform! Takes the layer’s contents (or the selected paths in a vector element) and puts them in free transform mode.

CMD + A
Select All. Selects the entire canvas. Tip: CMD + D deselects the canvas again.

CMD + N
New document. Very, very useful shortcut. Since Photoshop defaults to the size of any content in the clipboard, this is a great way to quickly check for pixel level imperfections and making sure elements align.

CMD + Shift + Alt + N
New layer (without dialog). Huzzah! Welcome newborn.

CMD + J
New layer via copy (duplicating). Beats drag and drop!

CMD + G
Group selected layers. Very handy way to quickly organize things. A tidy house makes for peace of mind (and a better shot at finding what you’re looking for 3 years from now).

CMD + E
Merge layers. Merges the selected layer with whatever is under it, unless it requires rasterizing.

CMD + H
Temporarily hide all guides and slices on the canvas. “Only show ’em when you need ’em.”

CMD + R
Show/hide rulers. This is the quickest way I know to double check that measurements are in the format I need (pixels, millimeters, centimeters, etc). Right click the ruler to bring up a small menu. Also useful for a basic sense of where you are, and creating guides. Tip: to create a guide, start dragging from either ruler. You can toggle between horizontal/vertical guides by holding Alt.

CMD + F
If you’re using Filters, this applies the last used filter again. Can be handy if you’re making minimal changes using a blurring filter or similar. Or to just mess up a picture completely. That’s always fun, too.

Did I miss any? What’s your most used shortcut?

My Dvorak journey, part 4

A little over a month ago I challenged myself:

I currently have an average of 73 words per minute on Typeracer.com. Can I get to an average above 90 in 1 months time using a Dvorak keyboard? Source

It’s now been over a month, closing in on one and a half actually, and I’m happy to report… that I’m not there just yet. However, it’s got to a point where at least the thought of having to type something doesn’t make my fingers crumble. I don’t think too much about it anymore, to be honest.

The last month or so I’ve traveled some, which definitely didn’t help my speed typing recovery. If there’s one tip I have for people considering making the switch, it’s this: stay by your desk. Wether it be at home or in an office, make sure to stick with it and don’t give yourself any breaks. You simply haven’t earned them just yet!

So here we are. I’ve now been using DVORAK for 42 consecutive days, and I can’t type on a QWERTY keyboard anymore. I thought I would be able to alternate but this has not worked out at all. Now I just skip the umlauts when I write in Swedish, which makes me feel like a world trotter writing home in the 90’s.

This post took roughly 15 minutes to write. (Yay!)

My highest Typeracer score today (out of 3 races) was 44 WPM. Just a little over a month ago this was 12 WPM.

My Dvorak journey, part 3

The days fly by… I wish I could say the same about my typing. I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into when I first started this crusade towards typing glory.

The main improvement in my typing so far is that the most common words I type that are on the home row (such as “the”, “that”, “these”) I now type with perfect accuracy, and fast. Also, some common words that have all the letters on the home row except one (like “some”, “have”, “month”) I’m getting much faster at. I can tell that I’m improving but it’s going way slower than I’d like it to.

I found a spreadsheet that details average words typed per minute during the conversion period, and how it changes over time. According to this, it’ll take about 6 months before I’ll reach an average typing rate again. Not very uplifting considering I was shooting for 1-2 months going in.

This post took 30 min to write. My highest score on Typeracer today was 12 WPM.

My Dvorak journey, part 2

One day in, this whole Dvorak thing is becoming a bit absurd. It’s crippling me more than I ever thought it would. I’m now approaching every block of text I have to write trying to determine how I can bring what I need to say across in as few words as possible, which is not a bad thing in itself but at the core my communication skills are at an all time low. Chatting is virtually impossible.

I keep finding things that I didn’t anticipate would be cumbersome going in. Let me list a few.

  • Writing HTML (such as this list), CSS, really any programming language is freaking annoying.
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Open a new tab? Copying, cutting, pasting stuff? Saving? We do them so fast it’s really hard to re-learn where the letters you’re so used to pressing are now located. The upside is that now I know (all too well, I might add) that CMD+Y opens the browser history in Chrome!
  • Passwords. I have a few personal passwords and the master password for 1Password that I actually need to manually type. These are high secure passwords with upper/lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Typing them a few times every hour gets on your nerves fast.

You start to appreciate and use search suggestions and auto-complete. In fact I never realized how powerful these features were up until now.

I love A

There are glimpses of a brighter future to come though. I now giggle when I get to type words like “the”, “that”, “as”, and “lol”. And my favorite character from now on will always be “A” because true friends stick around.

According to Typeracer, today I’m typing at 12 WPM.

This post took me roughly 45 minutes to type with some editing.

My Dvorak journey, part 1

I work for a company called Automattic, which is very much pro-alternate keyboard use. Dvorak in particular is commonly accepted as the way to go. Perhaps the biggest Dvorak evangelist I’ve ever met is Matt, who incidentally is also the founder of Automattic.

After reading the Dvorak zine and hearing only good things about making the switch (relieves your muscles, speeds up typing, is more ergonomic) I’ve decided to switch. I tried once before, but this time I’m going to go full out and compare results.

Something I struggled with last time around was having to constantly try and remember where the keys are, and looking at an on-screen keyboard to know what I was typing proved to be painful. So this time I’ve actually relocated all the keys on my external keyboard. Looking at the keys was how I learned qwerty back in the days, and since I now never look at the keys I figure it should work and not be too big of a detour.

I currently have an average of 73 words per minute on Typeracer.com. Can I get to an average above 90 in 1 months time using a Dvorak keyboard?