Software I enjoy: f.lux / Redshift / Easy Eyes

Your laptop is keeping you awake - here's what you can do about it

2014-02-02

If you are anything like me, you stay up rather late on your computer doing various random tasks like updating servers, writing scripts, browsing reddit (yes you do, don’t even try to lie). Or, you’re on your smartphone all night texting people, snapchatting people, and browsing reddit (seriously.)
Then, next thing you know, it’s 3am and you’re not even tired.
What gives?

A good chunk of why you’re up so late could be because of that computer display sitting in front of you or your phone display sitting right next to you. And it doesn’t even have anything to do with what you’re doing on the device.

You see, when you’re on your phone or on your computer, the display you’re looking at gives off a very neutral color spectrum to give you the best color representation possible. This is great if you’re trying to look at pictures of lolcats in the middle of the day.

However, at night, your eyes respond very poorly to the vividness of the colors you’re seeing. In particular, the blue light on your screen causes your body to think that you’re looking at sunlight, which triggers the response of keeping you awake for longer.

The folks over at f.lux have done a whole pile of research on the subject (seriously. Click this link to look at what they have to say about it. They even cite a whole bunch of papers, too) and have come up with a solution: a software that will adjust your display based on the time of day.

It’s simple. You input your latitude and longitude (or zip code, for the actual f.lux program), and f.lux will adjust your display based on what time it is in your location; during the day you get the full spectrum of colors at your disposal just as you’re supposed to see, and at night f.lux will automatically ‘warm up’ your display, replacing the harsh blue tints with more subtle red and orange ones. This is much easier on the eyes at night and, according to f.lux, will allow you to fall asleep more easily.
And if you find yourself needing to do some photo editing or in general find yourself in a situation where you want to see all colors as represented, you can easily toggle f.lux on and off (although, be warned, you’re likely going to be blinded if you flip it off suddenly)

It takes some getting used to, but as of right now I rely on this tool to give me a better chance of going to bed at a decent hour; I did some experimentation myself and discovered that by installing this software and letting it do it’s thing (and without consciously changing any other factor) I get tired (and, usually, go to bed) an average of 1.5 hours sooner than I would without. It’s great for my purposes, but not everyone will like it, so I would encourage you to try it for yourself if you think that it’s something that could benefit you.

There’s a version of f.lux for Windows, Linux, Mac, and iOS. I wound up installing Redshift on Arch Linux and it works just as well.
Unfortunately there’s no ‘official’ product by f.lux for Android (although they’ve said that they’re working on it), but there’s an app called Easy Eyes that does the same thing. The free version will allow you to trigger the effect on and off manually, but the paid version (less than a cup of coffee) will cycle based on your location just like the other softwares would.

Like f.lux and similar software? Hate it? Discuss in the comments.


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