Is Night Shift really helping you sleep better?

Cami Buckley:

It’s widely believed that the emitted blue light from phones disrupts melatonin secretion and sleep cycles. To reduce this blue light emission and the strain on eyes, Apple introduced an iOS feature called Night Shift in 2016; a feature that adjusts the screen’s colors to warmer hues after sunset. Android phones soon followed with a similar option, and now most smartphones have some sort of night mode function that claims to help users sleep better.

Until recently, claims of better sleep due to Night Shift have been theoretical. However, a new study from BYU published in Sleep Health challenges the premise made by phone manufacturers and found that the Night Shift functionality does not actually improve sleep.

I’ve always wondered whether Night Shift, and similar technologies to dim your screen, actually made any difference. From experience, when I have had sleepless nights and looked at my iPad for a while, it was having the screen up near my face that caused me to struggle to get back to sleep.

I have a feeling that Night Shift is less of a health benefit and more of an excuse for staring at your device late at night. The better solution — having your device away from your bedside, or face down, during the night — may be good for you, but not so much for device and app makers.

Since I changed my sleep pattern and started going to bed earlier, I reckon I’ve not even seen Night Shift kick in that often, so I’m turning it off for now to see if I’m correct. The one or two times when I’ve stayed up late, I’ve definitely noticed the effect of being in front of a screen at those hours!

I’ve been using Vivaldi as my primary desktop browser for quite a while now, and keep finding more reasons to love it.

Version 3.8 was released last week, and among its new features are support for blocking various cookie banners. Finally!

I just wish that I could use Vivaldi on my iPad or iPhone. (They do have an Android version.) Using Safari on those is, at best, okay in comparison.

And I’m now wondering how they’ll celebrate when they reach version number 4? I suspect it’ll be an excuse to dig up screenshots of Internet Explorer 4, and all the crazy stuff Microsoft were throwing around back then — most of which, thankfully, now consigned to history.

Mark Hughes:

We had a lingua franca, including the first 15 years of personal computing, that could be taught in a few hours and immediately used practically, and then it vanished almost utterly in the late ’90s. Two generations are completely illiterate in the language of their ancestors.

I have fond memories of writing BASIC programs on various 8-bit computers during the 80s, but particularly the BBC Master 128 that I owned in the late 80s. Happy days.

Turbo Pascal and Turbo Assembler kept that spirit alive for me for a time in the 90s, and Borland Delphi for Windows tried its best, but the tide was turning. Programming was, by and large, for developers now, not for users. The only affordances were within specific applications such as spreadsheets and databases. HyperCard carried the torch for a while, as did Flash. The former was killed off by its maker, the latter lived but became a dirty word thanks to those who abused it (and I’d include Adobe on that list.) Visual Basic? A brilliant idea, marred by the fact that it had Microsoft as its progenitor.

The original home computers having “turn on, maybe hit one key, you’re in BASIC” interaction was amazing, unparalleled in any other system since, and we need to get back to as close to that as possible.

Recently, I had a look at a 5G coverage map for my local area, and was disappointed — but not surprised — to note that it was still patchy. Meanwhile, 4G coverage is pretty solid.

We’ve been here before, of course. Back when 4G first launched here in the UK, there were reception problems in many places, particularly so outside of urban areas, but even within buildings on some networks.

But it appears that nobody ever learns, because I see and hear advertising for the latest phones that always, without fail, mentions ‘with 5G’. I suspect that most of these handsets will be spending the next few years connecting to 4G most of the time.

Cryptocurrency is one of the worst inventions of the 21st century. I am ashamed to share an industry with this exploitative grift. It has failed to be a useful currency, invented a new class of internet abuse, further enriched the rich, wasted staggering amounts of electricity, hastened climate change, ruined hundreds of otherwise promising projects, provided a climate for hundreds of scams to flourish, created shortages and price hikes for consumer hardware, and injected perverse incentives into technology everywhere. Fuck cryptocurrency.

Drew Devault, Cryptocurrency is an abject disaster

Today, I pulled the trigger and upgraded my iMac to macOS Big Sur 11.3.

The good news? It didn’t take as long as I thought it would.

The not-so-good news? I’m not sure whose benefit most of the changes are for. On balance so far, I get the impression that the majority are for Apple rather than myself.

Mind you, this isn’t a new thing. The last few macOS upgrades have felt like this, lots of new features added, very few of which are of much use to me. And I’ve had similar feelings when using Windows 10.

With the exception of desktop wallpaper, there is very little ability nowadays to make your computer more aesthetically pleasing. Which is a crying shame when you look at how, well, flat both Windows and macOS have become.

When I tried out Linux Mint last year, I was shocked at just how customisable it is! In comparison, Windows and macOS feel like fossils, albeit very shiny ones.

I don’t think it’s a lack of resources or talent, but rather a lack of will on the part of both Microsoft and Apple. The beans have been counted, it appears, and making computers feel personal is clearly not a profitable endeavour.

And that saddens me greatly.

The computer is only ‘personal’ in the sense that there’s a person who bought said computer. But in reality it’s an Apple/Microsoft/Dell/HP/whoever-sold-it-to-you computer, and you’re to use it as they and their partners intend and be duly grateful.

The State of Digital Advertising

Last year PwC investigated where the money goes in digital advertising, at the behest of the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA).  This wasn’t an easy task, as a single programmatic ad placement can involve 20 different players, each taking a cut.

PwC found that a whopping half (49%) of digital ad spending is syphoned off before it reaches publishers.  They tracked spending to agencies, demand exchanges, supply exchanges, and a slew of ad tech vendors.  But most alarmingly, 15% of digital ad spending, a third of what gets syphoned off, is a complete mystery.  Even through an audit, PwC couldn’t account for where it went.

This 50/50 split of “non-working” and “working” dollars in digital media echoes the famous observation from 19th century retailer, John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

And the 51% that actually reaches publishers has its own host of problems, including bot fraud.  The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) estimates that ad fraud will become the biggest market for organized crime by 2025.

This is totally bonkers, and brings to mind the words of WOPR from the end of the film WarGames: “a strange game … the only winning move is not to play.”

“What if marketers allocated a portion of their media spending directly to publishers… They will run your ads for you — just like in 1995. The marketer could conceivably pay far less overall dollars AND the publisher would definitely get multiples more dollars.”

Augustine Fou

“As we all chased the Holy Grail of digital, self-included, we were relinquishing too much control — blinded by shiny objects, overwhelmed by big data, and ceding power to algorithms.”

Marc Pritchard, CMO of P&G

Hmm, cutting out middlemen… maybe it is time we got back to doing that.

  1. External hard disk that I use for Time Machine backups had stopped backing up, and when I forced it to do a backup was running very slowly. This is why I’m glad that I also backup online to Backblaze! Disk Utility was taking forever to run First Aid on it, which wasn’t promising. In the end, I went for the nuclear option, erased the drive then did a full Time Machine backup.
  2. For some reason, my Microsoft 4000 keyboard was acting up — I couldn’t type anything, and most keyboard shortcuts were failing. I did an SMC reset, and that seems to have fixed things. I’ve no idea what was going on there.
  3. The replacement gas lift cylinder for my office chair arrived today — but the old one absolutely refuses to come out, even with application of WD40.

I’m tired and frustrated, I’m going to listen to music for rest of today and chill the heck out.

The pandemic has been such a force for change and it is up to us to ensure that the change is positive. If all we do is revert to exactly how things were 18 months ago then we’ve really taken a step back, we haven’t learned the lessons that have been right in front of us.

Colin Walker

In the last few days I’ve started getting automated calls to my mobile phone from different numbers, all seemingly on the same network as me. Because I have ‘Silence Unknown Callers’ turned on, my phone doesn’t ring but the call goes to voicemail. When I check my voicemail it’s the same messages every time, a synthetic female voice saying “Stay safe, stay home”.

Doing some searching online revealed that what I’m getting on voicemail is the tail-end of this recorded message. Apparently, this has been doing the rounds in various parts of the world since 2020.

It’s a mild annoyance, but I’m wondering who’s behind it and why my number is being targeted.