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Issue 4.6



Issue: 4.6 (July/August 2006)
Author: Toby Rush
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 3,697
Starting Page Number: 9
Article Number: 4604
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Though the stars haven't moved much since I went stargazing as a kid, amateur astronomy certainly has. As a child I used to go out with my copy of H.A. Rey's The Stars: A New Way to See Them and a flashlight. Now amateur astronomers can bring a laptop and one of several excellent sky tracking programs available, some for free (though Rey's classic manual is still, in my opinion, required reading).

Stephen Hutson's DarkAdapted isn't a sky tracking program, but it's still a must-have for stargazing: the utility dims your screen so the screen's glow doesn't drown out the dark skies above you... or force your eyes to continually dilate and contract switching between screen and sky.

DarkAdapted's window is simple: you can dim your screen using the RGB sliders or, easier yet, by selecting one of the presets. (A word of warning: if you are in a well-lit room, trying the Dark Red or Dark Green presets will render the screen almost completely unreadable: to see the screen again, turn off the lights or just press Command-Q to quit the program.)

The utility is simple and focused in its purpose, so there isn't much in the way of bells and whistles. The ones that are present are very practical: In the preferences window, you can set a combination of modifier keys for toggling between the dimmed screen and full brightness. You can set the program to automatically return to full brightness upon quitting the program (a setting which is turned on by default) and go back to the dimmed screen setting when launching the program again.

The main window, which by default shows all options available, can be changed to a smaller window showing only the presets menu. This smaller window can be easily tucked into a corner of the screen to free up real estate for other applications.

The only really unnecessary feature is the Usage window, which simply shows you how many times you've launched the program, and how much time you've spent using it. This may be a subtle nudge to donate to the program's continued development: the program is freeware, not shareware, but a donation link is provided on the website.

One of the subtle touches that really makes the program shine (no pun intended!) is the smooth transition between a dimmed screen setting and full brightness (or, really, between any two presets): rather than immediately changing to the different gamma setting, DarkAdapted quickly fades to the setting, making the transition much, much easier on the eye.

DarkAdapted is extremely easy to use and indispensable for any night or low-light computer usage.

End of article.