My thoughts on Light vs Dark Mode when using Mac OS Mojave

Dark mode is a feature that basically flip the colour palette of all UI elements on your computer from light colours like sliver or white to dark grey and black.

With dark mode, the most visible change is the overall theme and text. It changed the text colour from black text on white background to light grey on dark background. User interface (UI) elements like windows, popup dialogs, and buttons use dark grey for its background with light grey icons and text. Because of that, the whole UI don’t distract a user from what they are working on. When working on a computer for long period of times, dark mode also doesn’t strain the eyes too much and reduce fatigue.

So I believe there are a substantial amount of creators, be it artists, programmers or writers, who prefer the use of dark mode over the traditional light mode because they have to work at their computer for long period of time and want to be able to focus on the content they are creating.

For me, as a programmer and writer, I also prefer dark mode because of the reasons mentioned above.

But I didn’t start out using that because there was never such an option on the earlier version of Windows. Back then, I always thought whatever Microsoft gave was good enough, starting from Windows 95 to Windows 8. So I read, wrote and coded using dark text on white background for as long as I remembered. It was only until 2015 when I started tinkering with the integrated development environment I used for software development to use dark mode after I found some articles on why it’s better. And it was only one of the few applications that I used that allowed for customisation without fear of breaking the whole operating system. Since then, I have never quite gone back to using light mode or light themes when writing or coding.

However, I continued to use light themes for the whole operating system even after jumping into Apple ecosystem because I didn’t quite want to tinker with the operating system.

Apple finally decided to add Dark Mode support for Mac OS with the release of Mac OS Mojave. We should applaud them for it since they did spend quite a fair amount of resources to implement dark mode properly for Mac OS. As the saying goes, “To do it is easy but to do it right takes effort.”

Well I didn’t hesitate and make the switch upon the release of that OS update.

Here is the Finder application on the Mac. For those who never used a Mac before, Finder is basically the Mac OS version of the File Explorer on Windows.

The first is the light mode. Look at how everything looks so bright, maybe a little cheery and not so dull.

And here is the dark mode version. It looks cool and professional on first sight.

And here is iTunes on the Mac.

In light mode, the whole application does look a little glaring and bright because of the white background. The music albums doesn’t look as enticing. It just give you the feeling that everything is of equal importances.

The whole experience changes in dark mode. The music albums simply pop out. They bring your attention to them and you can forget about the rest of the stuff. This is where I thought dark mode is well implemented.

Finally in the writing application that I predominantly use, iA writer. It supports both light and dark mode.

In light mode, the dark text on white background looks fine. It’s like what majority of us experienced when browsing the web and reading on printed reports. But if your monitor brightness and contrast are set high, then it can be very glaring.

And on dark mode, everything feels different. Definitely less straining on the eyes. With that, I swear I could write for hours and hours. My attention are all brought to the text on the screen and not the blank canvas around it.

It all sounds fine and good. Dark mode is the best if you want to get work done and get into the zone quickly. But here’s the kicker. After using dark mode for several months now, I’ve come to realised I didn’t like dark mode as much as I thought.

Yes, dark mode looks cool and professional but it’s a depressing sight. It gives you the impression that life is boring. Everything is all about work and no play. And on the Mac OS, certain aspect isn’t done as well as you thought.

For example, when you combine dark grey with translucency like the one you see when you open up the Finder, it makes the dark colours look a little washout and doesn’t look as futuristic or cool as you thought it should. Furthermore, the colour mix Apple chose for the various UI elements made everything looks boring too. Other than the usual blue, dark grey, light grey, and the traffic light buttons at the top, there isn’t much else to spice up the overall UI.

Here are some example of dark mode/theme that I thought are well done. They are themes for the Linux operating system.

https://www.addictivetips.com/ubuntu-linux-tips/best-dark-themes-for-linux-in-2018/

Look at the vibrant colour selections. Some of them don’t use dark grey for the background of the various windows. They go with something that’s slightly more bluish. And there isn’t much translucency to be found on these linux versions. There’s nothing wrong with translucency. But if you want to do it, do it only when it’s light mode because translucency kind of represent openness and joy. When you do it for dark mode, it gives conflicting signals like how can you be dark while being open or joyful.

Lastly, the dark mode hasn’t really been helping with my mood lately.

So I’ve decided to switch back to light mode when it comes to using the operating system and my creative tools. I want to feel happy when I’m using my computer. Don’t want it to suck the joy out of my life. It’s depressing enough.

Writing on a touchscreen is just…

Writing is still writing no matter the platform. It’s all about getting the words out, to give them a physical form be it on the screen or on paper. You can write on a piece of paper using a pen. You can write using your smartphone. You can write on your laptop or a desktop computer.

But what I have discovered is that writing on a touchscreen just feel weird and difficult. Some people no doubt won’t have any problems. It’s just not the thing for me.

I got the iPhone X. With its 5.8 inch, nearly edge-to-edge display, it’s way bigger than the iPhone 6s and 7 plus display I used in the past. That means with apps like iA Writer, I can see way more of the text with the keyboard below. The Super Retina HD display meant that text are sharp and clear. Writing on that device had been a joy.

Yet, whenever I tried to write long form, like a short story, my fingers do get really tired from attempting to hit the keys. My fingers are rather fat. Combine that with hyperhidrosis, it means either wrong keys are pressed and I need to hit delete or that the key presses aren’t registered like it should. It slows down my writing by a lot, which is irritating in a way if your thoughts is faster than the words appearing on the screen.

The other issue I have with typing on a touchscreen was the lack of tactile feedback. This is one of the reason why I prefer to write using a keyboard. The sound my finger hitting the keys and the clacky feel when you press the key just feels so good. I know you could enable haptic feedback on the phone such that every key pressed will give you a vibration. But that vibration is missing when you set the phone to silent mode via that switch. Not only that, vibration requires the motors in the phone to work hard and cause faster battery drainage. For the iPhone X, that vibration mode is no more and what you get is simulated keyboard clicks, something that you won’t hear if your phone is on permanent silent mode.

The third issue I have is having to deal with the weight of the device while typing. I know smartphones are small and consider rather light. After all you carry it in your pockets everyday. But it does become heavy when you are holding it in your hands for long period of time as you type. And that particular use case happens quite often if you are writing a long article, an essay or stories. Notes taking is fine actually because those are short burst action and probably won’t be doing it over 1 or 2 hours.

So those three reasons are why I will always prefer to write on a keyboard. And in order to do writings on the go, a portable typing machine is needed. Thus, I decided to reuse the 13inch MacBook Pro (2015) that was in storage. The 15inch MacBook Pro that I’m currently using is just a tad bigger and heavier than what I would like. You know what? Without the keyboard cover, typing on that classic chiclet keyboard is rather delightful. I could type equally fast on it.

And now I’m curious about what’s the primary device that you use to write everyday? And why.

Nintendo Switch follow-up review

A few days ago I got myself a Nintendo Switch, did a basic unboxing and gave my initial thoughts.

Since then, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 on it and with it, I can better determine the pros and cons of the device.

First is the audio. Even though the speakers are capable of producing stereo sounds, at three-quarter of volume setting, they still sound a little weak when it comes to the higher ranges and bass. They aren’t as crisp or punchy as I would like. Maybe it’s because I’m spoilt by the speakers found on the iPhone X and iPad Pro where playing music through those would make you want to move and dance along.

And if you are attempting to play games on the device in a rather noisy environment, chances are you won’t be able to enjoy the audio properly. But the good thing is that it has a 3.5 mm audio port for you to connect an earphone, headphone or maybe even speakers to it as you play. That way, you can use a sound-cancelling earphone or headphones when you in a noisy environment or when you don’t want to announce to the whole world you are gaming in public.

There is one good thing when you attempt to raise the volume higher than 3/4 of the way when an earphone is connected. The device will actually warn you about possible ear injury when it’s too loud. And it actually stop me from attempting to push the volume any higher to compensate for noise generated by the train as it moves.

The other thing I found problematic with the audio was its lack of support for bluetooth audio. I use AirPods with my iPhone whenever I’m outside to listen to music, take on phone calls, etc. There are times when I want to play games on the Switch but I found myself having to put the AirPods back into storage and pull out the 3.5 mm wired earphones from my back before I could start playing. To play Switch I need to switch my audio output device. Nice one. To me, it’s just a hassle. That means I could I only take out the Switch when I’m seated or in a less crowded area. And if I’m on the train, I would have a hard time pulling out the earphone from my bag since it would be pack with people especially during rush hour. It was during moments like this I just wish there’s support for Bluetooth audio. And yes, I’ve been spoilt by Apple’s seamless experience when it comes to their products.

Next is the display.

Although you won’t be able to see individual pixels when you play games due to the 237 pixels per inch 6.2inch display, it’s just not that bright. So when you play games in a bright environment, you may have to increase the brightness. In turn, it will drain the battery faster and reduce your overall play time. But I didn’t go that route so I have to find a corner that’s darker to play my games or squint my eyes.

But I definitely like the screen size. It’s the sweet spot. Come to think of it, the iPhone XS Max also features a 6.2 inch display that’s nearly edge to edge. But sadly, the notch just is too distracting especially if you are gaming on it. Besides, the iPhone doesn’t have games like Diablo 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or even Doom on it. So that’s where the comparison ends.

The other issue was the lack of P3 colour gamut. Considering that we are now into 2018 and since then there has been various consumer-grade devices featuring P3 colour-gamut capable display starting with the iMac back in 2015, I don’t see why Nintendo didn’t put that in. It could have help to make Mario and friends look way more vibrant and colourful.

Lastly, it’s the bezel. It’s rather big by 2017 standard. Maybe Nintendo could find a way to reduce the bezel by another 10% or 20% and make use of those free space. When that happens, it would be more enjoyable.

The other thing I want to mention is the battery life. Even though it’s advertised that it can allow up to 6 hour of game time, when I was playing diablo 3, I find the device down to 15% of battery after about 4 hours. And that was spread across the whole day since I only play games while I’m on the train or when I get home. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’m playing games like Doom (2016) on it.

But so far, I didn’t face the problem of running out battery when I’m on the go. Even then, I don’t really need to fear because I got myself a 20,000 mAh Power Bank that is more than capable of charging up a Nintendo Switch over USB-C. Based on the specification of the power bank, I can charge the device up to three times.

Now, despite all the so call flaws I mentioned, I still love the device because it is the only one so far that allow me to use conventional buttons to play serious games on the go. I just never quite like using touchscreen to play games because of the lack of tactile feedback. I want to know and feel that I have pressed a button. And it’s really satisfying when the game you play is all about button smashing. A touchscreen display can never give you that.

And if Sony Or Microsoft can develop and release their own version of the Switch with Xbox One X processing power that runs on battery in the same form factor, it could be really interesting. Imagine playing Horizon Zero Dawn on a handheld device without any graphical sacrifice.

Initial Review – Creative SoundBlaster Roar Pro

Introduction

Today I got myself the Creative Soundblaster Roar Pro after much consideration. I wanted a small speaker system that sound really good, support both bluetooth and wired connection so that I can use it with my PC and my Apple devices.

It’s selling at SG$349 in retail but that was not what I paid as it was on promotion and I got it for SG$199, which I thought was a steal.

Unboxing

On first look, the black on white box looks great.

But upon opening up the box, the first thing I felt was, “Oh, this thing look cheap.” The accessories weren’t packed as neatly as I would like. It is definitely not that ecologically friendly with the heavy use of plastic to pack the cables and the manuals. Then there is the eye sore of the product manuals. Red on white but the product box is black and the product is black. Where is that consistency?

I guess I’m spoilt by Apple since the internals of their boxes are always so well designed and done. Even their manuals, which I know most people don’t read, are at least consistent with the overall theme. Apple do make you feel like you are opening up a great product and that is important to the overall user experience.

The box came with a charging adapter, a USB cable for you to connect the speaker to a computer, a AUX cable to connect to another Roar Pro or audio device. The charging adapter also come with two different kind of plugs that you can swap depending on your power socket. In Singapore, we will use the three-pin plug.

And here is the actual product.

Other than the rows of buttons and switches at the back, the overall speaker is pretty clean and well-built. The black matches well with my desktop setup of mostly black and grey. On the top where the main function buttons are, I would prefer the use of touch buttons instead of physical button. Nonetheless, they don’t detract much from the overall design.

Performance and Experience

I’m no audiophile but I know enough about the various sound range and the type of sound I enjoy listening to. I can tell if there’s crackling caused by the driver’s inability to transform the input signal to sound, if certain sound is muffled, not crisp and clear or if there is an overlap.

I always prefer a good mid-range and bass. To test, I played a few songs like Monody by The Fat Rat, Fountain and Hunting for Pearls from the album BLUE by iamamiwhoami, and Whatever it takes by Imagine Dragons. The Roar Pro with its 2.5 inch mid/bass driver located at the center and pointing up definitely delivers on that front. The mid range is crisp and the bass has enough dynamic range that it doesn’t sound muffled or too low. I suspect the two passive drivers on the side has been well-tuned to help with the bass reproduction.

The high range on the other hand seems rather ok but then I don’t listen to music that has a lot of that because how they hurt my ears and give me a headache. My predominant genre is electronic and pop. And they definitely have higher ratio of bass and mid-range compared to maybe classical music or symphony.

The pairing process with iPhone or Mac is pretty easy but not as easy as AirPods. You will have to power on the device, press and hold the bluetooth button for 3 seconds and see the LED light beside it flash. After that, go into the iPhone’s bluetooth setting or Mac OS’s bluetooth preferences and click connect.

It doesn’t take long for the connection to be established. Once it’s done, you can start playing music off it.

Conclusion

I have not start exploring playing games with it and when I do, I will update again. There are a few things that I have yet try. One of them is the use of the other functionality like playing music straight from an SD card. Another would be connecting it to another Roar Pro to via the AUX IN port for MegaStereo.

Yet, I really enjoy the sound coming out from this speaker and I couldn’t tell the difference from a SONOS Play 3 based on trial play in store. For the price of SG$199, I think it’s really good though the packaging could be better.

Friday Tech News Roundup #29

Below are 10 tech news that I found interesting and are related to topics I care about.

Microsoft advances several of its hosted artificial intelligence algorithms – Microsoft Cognitive Services is home to the company’s hosted artificial intelligence algorithms. Today, the company announced advances to several Cognitive Services tools including Microsoft Custom Vision Service, the Face API and Bing Entity Search. Techcrunch

UK and Australian governments now use Have I Been Pwned – Troy Hunt is turning Have I Been Pwned into an essential pwning monitoring service. The service monitors security breaches and password leaks so that you and your users remain secure. And now, the U.K. and Australian governments are monitoring their own domain names using the service. Techcrunch

Uber is the next big tech company getting into the healthcare business – Healthcare is big business, and tech companies don’t want to miss out just because they’re busy building smartphones, apps, and self-driving cars. Mashable

Skiers and snowboarders, the Apple Watch has a treat for you – Skiers and snowboarders, the Apple Watch is your new best friend. Mashable

Microsoft joins forces with Intel to beat Spectre – In a fresh move to further shore up security, Microsoft is providing Intel’s Spectre fix for PCs with Skylake processors running Windows 10 – with further patches to be delivered for older generation CPUs in the future. Techradar

Don’t get your hopes up about seeing Nvidia’s next-gen graphics cards this month – Previous speculation has pointed to Nvidia being set to launch its next-gen graphics cards later this month, but a new rumor is claiming that this won’t happen – and indeed we may not see a hard launch (i.e. products actually becoming available) until July, or possibly even later. Techradar

Alibaba Cloud Launches ‘Bare Metal,’ HPC Instances in Europe – Alibaba, the e-commerce giant from China, is taking a run at AWS in the global public cloud computing market with new offerings aimed at the surging demand for AI and HPC solutions among European enterprises. HPCWire

GitHub falls victim to largest DDoS attack ever recorded – GitHub was hit yesterday by what is reported to be the biggest distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack ever. According to GitHub Engineering, the site was shut down by the attack from 17:21 to 17:26 UTC on February 28. Afterwards, the website maintained intermittent functionality between 17:26 and 17:30 before fully recovering. Techspot

Mobile upgrade cycles will stretch to 33 months by next year – Market saturation and disinterest due to slowed innovation are just a few of the many hurdles plaguing the smartphone industry. As The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted, slumping sales can also be attributed to the fact that older devices are remaining popular for longer than anticipated. Techspot

Microsoft’s Xbox spring update adds 1440p support and new Mixer features – Microsoft today detailed its upcoming Xbox spring update, which is available now for those who are part of the Xbox Insider’s “alpha ring” group. The most notable addition in the update is support for 1440p video output, which is a popular resolution choice for PC gamers who prefer to keep high frame rates instead of prioritizing 4K visuals. With 1440p support on Xbox One S and X, those with compatible monitors should be to make the most out of 2560 x 1440, or “QHD,” displays. The Verge