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Time-Machine Tuesday: She’s in the dark most days

This help desk pilot fish works for a service company that handles support for a group of travel agents.

“User calls to report that her terminal screen is blank,” fish reports. “After I run through several procedures for about 45 minutes to no avail, I ask user to look on the back of the monitor for model and serial numbers.

“User tells me that she is unable to see the model or serial numbers. When I ask why, she says her office is dark and she can’t see anything.

“I then learn from her that the electricity is off in the building due to a power failure in the area. She also informs me that she’s calling from her cellphone because her office phone is not working.

“I ask user, ‘How did you expect the terminal to work with no electricity?’ Her reply: ‘I thought it was on a different system.’”

Sharky’s screen lights up when you send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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5 Ways to Avoid Dark, Blurry Halloween Photos – LifeSavvy

Two boys dressed up for Halloween posing around jack-o'-lanterns and fake skulls.

Can you say you’ve celebrated Halloween if you don’t have any pictures to prove it? Taking photos in the inevitable low-light of a Halloween party isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible! Here are some tips to get quality photos—even of the vampires.


Every professional photoshoot, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, involves a bit of prep-work, especially when it comes to lighting. Photographers need to know how strong the light is going to be, if they’ll need extra lights and what kind, and which camera setting they’ll have to use. This saves time on the day of the shoot, so subjects can come in, strike a pose, and get on with the event.

You can approach Halloween the same way. Your family and friends will be dressed up, and you’ll want to snap a few pictures. You don’t want it to feel like a chore, or they’ll run away before you can get a good, sharp photo.

If you prepare for the event, it can save you time and stress. Before the big night, decide where you want to take the pictures, the angle from which you’ll take them, the elements you’ll use, and clear the room of anything (shiny objects, smaller light sources, etc.) that could get in the way and ruin the shots.

You can create a backdrop, decorate the background, or just rearrange a few things to make room for your models. Get as creative as you want!

The one crucial element you have to keep in mind, though, is the lighting.


The lighting setup is a fundamental step in photography, yet, it’s easily overlooked. No matter where you take your photos, you have to make sure there’s a light source shining on your subjects’ faces and outfits. You want the light to bounce off them, so the camera picks it up and turns it into a sharp image.

A young girl dressed as a witch looking into a jack o' lantern.

While the lack of natural light certainly makes it more challenging to get a satisfyingly good shot, you have the advantage of being able to move artificial light sources. For example, if there are lamps around the room, bring them closer, so they cast an even light on your subjects. If you don’t have enough lamps around, borrow some from other rooms.

If you only have one floor lamp, place it directly behind you; if you have two, place one on each side of you. This will prevent dark, unattractive shadows from appearing on your models’ faces—just make sure to keep some distance, so you don’t blind them!

Camera Settings

Whether you have a compact camera or a DSLR, play around with the settings ahead of time, so you have more control over the final result—especially in low light.

If you have a general idea of what auto, semi-auto, and manual modes mean and how they work, it will benefit you immensely when you take pictures in different environments—and it saves time!

Here’s a quick rundown of the main settings you should get acquainted with before Halloween rolls around:

  • ISO: This is a measurement of the sensitivity of your camera’s image sensor. The higher the number, the more light the sensor will capture, which translates to brighter images. However, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. If you crank up the ISO too much, it can result in very grainy photos, uneven colors, and a loss of details. While some cameras can maintain good image quality at high ISO values, try to stick to a maximum of ISO 3200 if you don’t intend to make prints.
  • Aperture: The lens is to the image sensor what the eye is to the brain: the wider it’s opened, the more light travels through it and reaches the processing center. In optics, this opening is called aperture. It indicates how apt a lens is to take photos in low-light environments. You want the brightest aperture your lens can provide, which is denoted by a small number preceded by an f. To do this, set your camera to A mode, and then turn the dial until you get to the smallest possible number. Anything lower than f4 will work just fine.
  • Shutter speed: This is the amount of time the camera shutter stays open. As you might expect, the longer it stays open, the more light it’s exposed to. At night, you have to work with a low shutter speed for the image sensor to capture as much light as possible. However, a longer exposure time increases your chances of having blurry pictures because it detects even minor movements. Therefore, when you photograph people, make sure you keep the shutter speed above 1/60 if they’re standing still; you can go up to 1/250 if they’re moving. To do that, set your camera to S mode, and then turn the dial until it’s low enough to capture a sufficient amount of light in your image.

Again, experiment with these three elements because simply setting them all to their maximum measurement won’t always work. It all depends on the lighting in the room. Keep the aperture as open as possible (i.e., the lowest number) and try out different ISO and shutter speed settings to achieve the result you want.

If you can take some test shots the night before, it will save you time on Halloween.

Use a Tripod

Low shutter speeds require a steady hand and/or still subjects to capture sharp images; however, that’s not always possible. This is when a tripod comes in handy. Not only does it help you take multiple shots with the same framing (even if you’re in some of them), but you can also lower the shutter speed even further if the subject and/or scene allow for it.

It’s certainly convenient—if not essential—to have a tripod in low-light situations. If you don’t have one, find a surface from the right angle on which to place your camera and voilà!

Don’t Be Scared of the Flash

Flash can make or break a photo, which is why many prefer to avoid it. It can wash things out and, sometimes, even cause a loss of details in the image. However, it can really help in dark environments if there aren’t any other sources around to light up the subject of your work. The best way to prevent everything from turning white—and blinding everyone—is to diffuse the flash.

You can do this in a variety of ways, even if all you have is the on-camera flash. One easy trick you can use to diffuse the flash and give your photos a softer, more even look is to use a plastic bag over it. Simply grab a plastic bag, inflate it, tie a knot, and place it on top of your camera where the flash is. This prevents the harsh light from landing directly on your subjects’ faces and disperses it around the room, instead.

If you take the time to get to know your camera settings and do a trial shoot before Halloween, it can save you lots of disappointment on the big night. Ideally, you want to be able to snap your photos with confidence, so you can be proud later when you show them to everyone. The more you practice, the easier it will be to get the job done.

And if you’ve run out of ideas about what to be for Halloween, here are some must-haves that will get you ready for that last-minute party!

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How to Force Dark Mode on Every Website in Google Chrome

Chrome forcing dark mode on Google's home page.

Chrome 78 has a new trick up its sleeve. It can forcibly enable dark mode on every website you visit, putting an end to those blinding white backgrounds on your nice dark desktop.

This is a Brute-Force Solution

Google Chrome already has a built-in dark mode. Websites can automatically switch to dark mode if you’re using it, assuming the site supports this. But most websites don’t have automatic dark mode—or any dark mode.

Rather than waiting for millions of websites to jump on the dark mode bandwagon, Chrome’s new “Force Dark Mode for Web Contents” option will turn all those bright websites dark. It’s a little like using “Smart Invert” on an iPhone—light colors will turn bright, but it’ll leave images alone.

This is a brute-force solution, and it won’t be as pretty as waiting for websites to enable their own shiny new dark themes. But it’ll turn the web dark everywhere. Previously, you could download and install browser extensions that automatically turned light websites dark. Now, it’s built into Chrome.

Google Chrome forcing dark mode on How-To Geek's homepage.

Enabling this option won’t turn on dark mode on Chrome—for that, you’ll need to enable your operating system-wide dark mode option. For example, on Windows 10, head to Settings > Personalization > Colors and select “Dark” under Choose Your Default App Mode. On macOS, activate dark mode from System Preferences > General.

RELATED: How to Enable Google Chrome’s Dark Mode on Windows 10

How to Force Dark Mode on All Websites

Want to try it out? This option is available as a hidden flag in Chrome 78. Like all flags, it’s an experimental option that may change or be removed at any time. It one day may graduate to a proper option on Chrome’s Settings screen, or it may vanish completely.

To find it, type “chrome://flags” into Chrome’s Omnibox and press Enter.

Search for “Dark Mode” in the search box at the top of the Experiments page that appears.

Finding the "Force Dark Mode for Web Contents" flag.

Click the box to the right of “Force Dark Mode for Web Contents” and select “Enabled” for the default setting.

Enabling forced dark mode for website in Chrome's experiments.

Click “Relaunch” to relaunch Chrome. Chrome will close and relaunch all your open web pages. Be sure to save any content on those pages—for example, things you’ve typed in text boxes—before relaunching the browser.

Relaunching Chrome after enabling a flag.

Browse and see how it works. If you don’t like it, head back to Chrome’s Experiments screen, change this option back to “Default,” and relaunch the browser. Chrome will stop messing with website colors after you disable this option.

You can also try other Force Dark Mode options. The different modes will products different results on web pages. Some of them will even invert light images, turning those images dark. This will make images look different, of course, but it may be convenient if you want a consistently dark desktop.

Don’t feel compelled to use dark mode if you don’t like it. Dark mode is trendy, but it may not actually be better for you. Despite that, we love dark mode anyway.

RELATED: Dark Mode Isn’t Better For You, But We Love It Anyway

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How Dark Mode Really Affects Us

There are a lot of concerns about how the technology we use affects us physically and emotionally. Too much time at a computer can lead to eye strain, back problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Using smartphones, tablets, and other blue-light emitting screens can disrupt our sleep cycles. Even time spent on social media can lead to feelings of negative self-worth. Then there’s Dark Mode…

Over the last few years, everyone’s been talking about Dark Mode. It’s said to boost productivity and focus while reducing eye strain. It’s also supposed to be better for your battery life.

But is that the whole story?

Research into the matter suggests that Dark Mode might not be so healthy for us after all. Today, I want to take a look at what the data suggests and how you can use this information to determine how and when Dark Mode should be used.

Dark Mode is everywhere: Twitter has it; Slack does, too; Mac users can get it; Sketch has a Dark Mode; Atom comes with it out of the box; and Chrome allows its users to choose what kind of dark mode they use.

Like I said, it’s in a lot of places where we work. The question is, though, is it a good idea to use it?

Here’s what we know:


1. Polarity Affects Legibility

Polarity, in web design, refers to the contrast between the typography and the background it sits on. Positive polarity is when black text appears on a white background and negative polarity is when white text appears on a black background.

A number of studies in recent years prove that positive polarity is best for legibility.

Study #1: In 2013, researchers set out to determine how polarity affected the act of proofreading. What they found was that positive polarity provided an easier reading experience, especially with smaller font sizes (they tested fonts between 8 and 14 pts). They attribute this enhanced legibility to the brighter luminance of the white background.

Study #2: In 2014, researchers wanted to test whether or not it really was luminance that affected legibility. To determine this, they studied subjects’ pupil sizes as they read positive polarity and negative polarity texts. Those who read positive polarity text had smaller pupils. And because smaller pupils sharpen one’s ability to perceive finer details, the study proved that positive polarity leads to a better, more accurate reading experience.

Study #3: In 2016, further research was done into the matter. This time, their focus was on glance-like conditions (like while driving a car or, say, glancing at a line of code you just wrote). The results of the study showed that negative polarity in a dark ambient environment made it the most difficult to read. Only the positive polarity environments (in both dark and brightly illuminated areas) were ideal.

Bottom Line

Black text on a white background provides the optimal reading experience. If for some reason you prefer the Dark Mode interface, only use it when you don’t have much reading to do and accuracy isn’t an absolutely must.


2. Some Medical Professionals Don’t Believe It Has Any Effect

It’s not just researchers that have taken an interest in the validity of Dark Mode’s health benefits. Medical professionals are getting in on the conversation, too.

Ophthalmologist Dr. Euna Koo spoke to CNN Business about this subject and said:

I do not think dark mode affects eye health in any way given the data that is out there in the literature. The duration of use is likely much more important than the mode or the intensity of the brightness of the device when it comes to the effect of this dark mode on eye fatigue and potentially eye health.

Ophthalmology Director of Modernizing Medicine, Dr. Michael B. Rivers, echoed that sentiment in a recent Forbes article:

While bright light in the evening is known to disrupt circadian rhythms, there’s no real evidence that white font on a dark screen is easier to read than the reverse.

Wired rounded up the opinions of a couple professors of human-computer interaction from UCL. This is what Anna Cox had to say about the relationship between Dark Mode and productivity:

Unfortunately, externally driven distractions don’t just disappear by changing their colour, and internally driven distractions aren’t inhibited by looking at something dark.

So, if doctors and professors are coming forward to debunk the myth that Dark Mode helps with visibility and concentration, we should probably listen to them.


3. It Might Be Affecting Your Mood

This one I don’t have as solid proof for, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more studies done on this in the coming years. Here’s what I do know:

The deprivation of light can change how our brains work and can lead to greater levels of depression. For those of you who’ve lived in a place like Seattle before, you know what I’m talking about.

Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD) is a condition that causes people to feel tired, unmotivated, and depressed…all because of a lack of exposure to light. This is especially problematic in parts of the world where the days are short and the sun only comes out a couple months of the year.

I can attest to this. It took just one year of living in Seattle before I had to see my doctor about the extreme fatigue and depression I was experiencing. She and a couple other medical professionals I talked to all said the same thing: “Oh, that’s normal. We’re all depressed here. Get a SAD lamp.” (Basically, because there is no sunshine to naturally wake your body up or to help rejuvenate you throughout the day, your circadian rhythms get all messed up. And a SAD lamp emulates that boost of light you’re missing throughout the day.)

Considering what we know about blue light and its disruptive effects on melatonin and sleep, I can’t help but wonder if these same blue light-emitting screens can help us stay awake and focused during the day. If that’s the case, Dark Mode — at least when used in excess — might actually be hurting our productivity and alertness.



As more of the tools we use to do business with offer up a Dark Mode option, should we take it?

Based on what the research and professionals are saying, I don’t think so. It seems like Dark Mode is more of an aesthetic choice than one you’d make because it’s going to improve how effective you are at work.

And, hey, if you prefer the sleek and subdued look of Dark Mode and find that it doesn’t have any adverse effects on you, have at it. That said, if you’re wondering why you can’t stay focused or awake at your computer, a better option might be to stick with the traditional white screen and adhere to smarter work practices: take frequent breaks from the screen, get outside, and work during your most productive hours.


Featured image via Unsplash.

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The 6 Best Solar-Powered Path Lights Because Walking in the Dark Sucks – Review Geek

Two path lights along a brick walkway.

It’s that time of year—the days are shorter, the nights are longer, and you can’t find your way from the driveway to your front door. Maybe it’s time to install some solar-powered patio lights.

What to Look for in Solar-Powered Lights

Shopping for patio lights is more complicated than you’d expect. These little solar-powered lamps come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. And since you can’t see them in action before you buy, it’s hard to know which offer the best bang for your buck.

Here are a few things to think about before you buy solar-powered lights:

  • Form Factor: Do you need traditional path lights or something you’re less likely to trip over? Do you need something more specialized, like a spot or patio light?
  • Brightness: Unless you just want them for decoration, path lights are useless if they’re too dim. For the sake of real-world usability and common sense, we’ve made sure all the lights in this article are actually bright enough to light your path.
  • Price: Path lights can get really expensive. Try to find a price you’re comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to go a little over budget (the more expensive lights tend to last for a few years).

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best solar-powered path lights.

Best Overall: GIGALUMI Solar Pathway Lights

Six GIGALUMI solar-powered path lights.

GIGALUMI’s six-pack of pathway lights is a solid option for any home. They look great for their price (that bronze finish goes a long way), and they have warm LEDs and real glass lenses. Their run time is about 10 hours, so they should last through those long, cold winter nights.

Best Overall

Best Budget: Maggiftt Solar-Powered LED Lights

12 Maggiftt solar powered path lights.

Path lights are a lot more expensive than you’d expect. If you want to light up your yard without breaking the bank, we suggest Maggiftt’s 11-Pack of Solar-Powered LED Lights. Reasonably bright with an eight-hour run time, these aren’t the most durable lights on the planet. But, hey, it’s 11-pieces for not a lot of dollars—you can’t lose!

Best Budget

Best Premium: TomCare Flickering Flame Solar Torch Lights

Four TomCare Solar-Powered Flickering Flame Torch Lights.

Wow, is that a real torch? No, it’s just a set of TomCare Flickering Flame Solar Torch Lights! These decorative path lights come in a four-pack. They’re made of durable metal and contain warm, flickering LEDs.

With a 10-hour run time, these path lights are perfect for fancy walkways or late-night barbecues. You can even fasten them to bamboo poles and make tiki torches, should you be so inclined.

Best Premium

Best In-Ground Lights: GIGALUMI Solar Ground Lights

Eight GIGALUMI solar-powered ground lights.

GIGALUMI’s eight-pack of Solar Ground Lights is a solid alternative to traditional path lights. These lights sit flush with the ground so they won’t trip you, your kids, or your pets. They also won’t be in your way when you mow the lawn. They have an eight-hour run time, so they’re perfect for lighting paths, accenting plants, or decorating your patio.

Best In-Ground Lights

Best Spotlights: LITOM Solar Landscape Spotlights

Two LITOM Solar Landscape Spotlights.

If you’re looking for a solar-powered light that points at your house, pool, garage, plants, or address plaque, check out this two-pack of LITOM’s Solar Landscape Spotlights. They have two brightness modes: Low and High. They’ll run for 12 hours in Low mode, and six in High. These lights also come with wall mounts if you want to hang them on your deck or porch.

Of course, you could just get some dedicated deck lights. Good thing we picked some of those, too!

Best Spotlights

Best Deck Lights: URPOWER Wireless Three-Mode Lights

Four URPOWER Wireless Three-Mode Solar Lights.

If you’re looking for a wireless alternative to deck lights, then this four-pack of URPOWER’s Three-Mode Deck Lights might be your best option. These solar-powered lights are as bright as regular outdoor lights, have a six-hour battery life, and require no installation (well, you have to hang them with a nail or some Velcro).

Like other solar-powered lights, these automatically turn on when it’s dark, but they also have two motion sensor modes. The first mode works with the always-on mode and simply boosts the brightness when someone walks by the light. The other motion sensor mode turns the light on when someone walks by, like a typical motion sensor light.

Best Deck Lights

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