Alberto's weekly email: Kindle, dark mode and more! 🚀

Hi All,

What I am reading 📚

Last week I started a new experiment: reading on a Kindle.

Those who know me know that I swear by actual physical books. There’s something about them —the smell, the weight, the ability to write on the margins, to fold the corners of the pages to put markers— that feels completely natural. And yet, I decided to give the Kindle a try for a couple of reasons:

  1. Portability. The Kindle is super light and can hold a ton of books. The latest version of the Kindle Paperwhite is fully waterproof so reading at the beach is a good option 🏖.

  2. Digital highlights. Even though it doesn’t feel as natural as just writing with your pen on paper, you can take notes and highlight interesting bits on the Kindle. The killer feature seems to be the ability to export them and use them in other contexts. I’ll be experimenting with this feature and how to incorporate it into my filesystem 🗄.

If you regularly read on a Kindle, I’d love to hear your experience. Please reach out either by replying to this email or messaging me on Twitter.

Now, speaking of actual reading I am still digesting Il Deserto dei Tartari. The style is very descriptive and the author has a particular ability to describe the never-ending passage of time 🕰: Sembrava ieri, eppure il tempo si era consumato lo stesso, con il suo immobile ritmo, identico per tutti gli uomini, né piú lento per chi é felice né piú veloce per gli sventurati (It looked like yesterday, yet the time had consumed the same, with its still rhythm, identical for all men, neither slower for those who are happy nor faster than for the unfortunate).

Nerd Corner 🤓

The latest release of macOS — Catalina— comes with a setting to automatically switch your desktop theme between light and dark mode. Although I instantly turned it on as I usually prefer a darker background while programming, this got me thinking. Does this “dark mode” actually help with eye strain 👀? Are there any hidden side-effects?

It turns out that the answer is not straightforward. It is well known that staring at a computer screen for long periods of time causes eye strain.

But the benefits of using a dark-on-white or white-on-dark theme for reading vary with environmental conditions. If you are in a well-lit room it is preferable to use a black-on-white theme. This is not only the best in terms of readability but also your irises won’t need to open much to absorb all the light. Now, if you are in a dark room, especially at night, a white-on-dark theme will be better for your eyes and your circadian rhythm: you will be exposed to less blue-light so your body will keep producing melatonin, the “sleep hormone”😴.

So it seems that the best approach is to let your laptop automatically switch between light and dark mode when the conditions change. In macOS Catalina, you can do this natively by just going to your System Preferences. In older macOS releases you can install the NightOwl 🦉 extension which will do the trick. If you’re a Windows user, you can do the same by creating a recurring task and if you are a Linux user AutomaThemely seems to work as well!

Also interesting 🤯

  • Financial Samurai has a curious piece about Capitalism and China.

  • This article about the unit economics of some of the biggest tech “Unicorns” puts a few things in perspective. Perhaps the era of “hyper-growth” companies will end soon.

  • Researchers at MIT managed to train a neural network to track people in dark rooms and even across walls by using radio waves instead of cameras. This might have some very peculiar implications for IoT devices and other indoor tracking scenarios.

Before you go 🚀

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Have an awesome week!