Until Chrome OS provides a system-level dark mode setting, these changes let you approximate dark mode on your Chromebook.
People choose dark mode for different reasons. At night, or in a room with little light, many people prefer the reduced glare that a darker screen delivers. Some people select dark mode because light-on-dark helps them see their screen more clearly than a dark-on-light design. Other people simply like dark mode.
Most major operating system makers let people activate dark mode. Microsoft offers Dark Mode for Windows, Apple provides dark modes for macOS and iOS, and Google includes dark mode for Android. Follow the links in the previous sentence to TechRepublic articles that will help you configure and use dark mode on each of those platforms.
Currently, Chrome OS doesn’t offer dark mode. There have been chrome://flag options and various hints that dark mode may eventually be an option on Chrome OS.
The following four adjustments let you approximate dark mode on a Chromebook. However, even with all of these enabled, you’ll still encounter some glaringly bright sites: Several system-controlled pages, such as Chrome Settings and the Chrome Web Store, are unable to be adjusted by any third-party theme or extension.
SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (TechRepublic Premium)
1. Change the Chrome OS wallpaper
Chrome OS includes a Wallpaper Picker app, which you access by right-clicking anywhere on an empty Chromebook screen. This brings up a menu, from which you choose the last option, Set Wallpaper. Next, select Solid Colors from the list to the left, then scroll to the bottom of the displayed colors to choose Black. Click on it to select it and change the background to solid black (Figure A, right side).
2. Change the browser theme
The Chrome team also offers a Just Black browser theme that makes many of Chrome’s controls, tabs, and colors black. Go to chrome://settings/appearance in your Chromebook’s browser, then click on or tap Browser Themes, which will open the Chrome web store. In the section titled Published By Chrome click on the View All button, click on the Just Black theme, then choose Add To Chrome. Your Chrome theme will now be dark (Figure B).
3. Adjust site settings
Increasingly, many websites offer selectable display settings. For example, Twitter and DuckDuckGo both offer selectable dark mode displays. To switch to Dark Mode on Twitter.com (Figure C), sign in to Twitter and select the three-dot button (the More option), choose Settings And Privacy, then Accessibility | Display And Languages | Display. For Background, select either Dim or Lights Out. Similarly, on DuckDuckGo select the three-horizontal line menu (in the upper-right) and choose Themes, then select Dark, then Save And Exit.
Gmail also offers a Dark Theme. Go to Gmail.com, sign in, then select the sprocket (in the upper-right) to access settings. To the right of the Theme, choose View All. Scroll down, then place your cursor over the theme represented by a solid black color, which should display the theme as Dark. Click or tap on it, then select Save. Note that even with this dark theme selected, the system still displays the initial Gmail loading screen in full-color on a bright white background.
4. Install the Dark Reader extension
The free and open source Dark Reader extension may make the single most significant shift toward a dark screen experience than any of the steps above. The extension does an excellent job of making nearly all sites and pages dark, including some sites that offer only a partially dark mode (Figure D). For example, even if you select the dark Gmail theme above, the initial Gmail loading screen remains white. With Dark Reader installed and active, the Gmail loading screen remains dark.
DarkReader.org provides details and links to the extension for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge. On a Chromebook, access the extension in the Chrome web store, then choose Add To Chrome, and select Add Extension. Once installed, Dark Reader help page displays, with detailed instructions on how to exclude selected sites or customize settings. I recommend you disable Dark Reader on sites that offer a well-designed dark theme (e.g., Twitter).
What are your Chrome OS dark mode tips?
While I use all four of the above techniques on my Chromebook, I’m sure there are additional adjustments, extensions, or tweaks to approximate dark mode in Chrome OS. Do you use any of the above to make your Chromebook display darker? Why? What other settings or tools do you use to make Chrome OS darker? Let me know, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).
Apple TV+ Free Trial Subscription to Be Extended Till July for Eligible Customers: Report
Apple TV+ free trial subscription will reportedly be extended once again for existing free trial users. All Apple TV+ users whose one-year free trial was going to expire sometime before June, will now instead be able to enjoy free access till July 2021, a new report suggests. The one-year Apple TV+ free trials were offered with new purchases of the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. All free trials of users who initially subscribed to the service when it launched, were set to expire on November 1, 2020. This deadline was extended to February 2021 last year, and now Apple has further extended it till July.
9to5Mac reports that the delay for this extension could be due to postponement of shooting Apple TV+ originals due to the pandemic. Customers who availed this free trial when the service launched, will now enjoy additional nine months of free access to Apple TV+. This new additional six month of extension is reportedly done by Apple to introduce new series in its content catalogue and increase the value proposition, before it begins to ask for a fee.
As mentioned, this is the second extension announced by Apple of the free trial that was slated to end last year in November. The report says that all eligible customers will be notified of this extension via email in the next couple of weeks. Existing paying subscribers will reportedly be compensated with store credit refunds to offset the cost of subscription.
Apple TV+ upcoming titles include Cherry starring Tom Holland, season two of popular series like For All Mankind, The Morning Show, and even See. All of these should release some time this year, after inevitable production delays last year due to pandemic restrictions.
Even now, Apple TV+ is offered for free for one year when you purchase an Apple device and redeem the offer within 90 days. Monthly subscription of Apple TV+ in India is Rs. 99 per month. It is also bundled with an Apple One subscription.
Is HomePod mini the best smart speaker under Rs. 10,000? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
The 8 best microphones to help you sound better in your next video meeting
There’s plenty of technology available to help improve the quality of our virtual calls. A top-of-the-line microphone is a great start.
In recent weeks, there’s been a surge in video conferencing as many teams operate remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. Needless to say, it only takes a few Zoom calls to realize that a standard laptop microphone simply cannot deliver high-quality audio. While some companies have provided employees with a stipend to upgrade their home office setups, many were not as lucky.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of tech to improve the quality of these virtual conferences and an aftermarket microphone is a smart way to immediately give your audio a healthy boost. Ranging from high-end broadcast-style microphones to lightning port audio accessories for recordings on the go, there’s certainly no shortage of models to choose from. Without further ado, here are some of the best microphones for the home studio.
When it comes to top-notch microphones, Blue is one of the heavyweights in the market. The Blue Yeti USB microphone is one of the manufacturer’s more versatile devices. This model comes with four different pattern modes from optimal sound quality in a host of situations. For example, those who are recording music or simply tuning in for a conference call may prefer the cardioid mode to capture the audio produced immediately in front of the unit. To more aptly record conversations between two people in the same room, the bi-directional mode captures audio from the front- and back-side of the microphone. Anyone in the market for a high-end microphone for the home studio should give this well-rounded, multipurpose mic a long look.
The Elgato Wave:3 is a versatile microphone for remote workers, gamers, and musicians alike. The microphone has a steel external grill that protects the internal components and uses a cardioid polar pattern to capture audio. The back of the device features a USB Type-C port and a headphone output. The front-facing dial adjusts headphone volume, input, and more. The stand features a u-mount for easy adjustments, and the padded base keeps the unit firmly in place. A mute feature allows you to cut the audio as needed, and Elgato offers a pop filter (sold separately) to further minimize audio disturbances.
The HyperX SoloCast USB microphone is a great option for frequent Zoom conference attendees; especially those who enjoy gaming and streaming after the workday. To prevent audio mishaps, the model features a dedicated mute button as well as an LED indicator to ensure the mic is muted or unmuted as intended. For added functionality, the model is also compatible with PS4 and popular streaming platforms.
With a steel body, matte chrome finish, and zinc die-cast elements, the HEiL Sound PR-40 certainly looks the part of a first-rate microphone. Also, the internal technology backs up the image. The cardioid pickup pattern is ideal for broadcast-style audio capturing sound directly in front and to the immediate sides of the microphone. A built-in Sorbothane shock mount reduces the risk of interference and this design includes a pair of mesh screens to improve sound quality. For additional peace of mind, this particular model comes with a limited three-year warranty.
While a more rudimentary microphone with minimal audio accouterments might fly for some, others might want to go all-in on a full home studio microphone setup. This FIFINE model includes a quality mic as well as many standard accessories for under $100. The home studio kit comes with an adjustable scissor arm for added versatility and precision placement. The included double pop filter is designed to reduce airflow immediately toward the instrument minimizing audio “pops” during recording. The package also comes with a microphone tripod stand for those so inclined.
The Shure MV5 is a solid compact microphone packaged in a vintage master of the airwaves build. Three separate preset modes (instrument, flat, and vocals) provide optimal sound quality based on the task at hand. The microphone itself easily detaches from the aluminum mount for a more low-profile tabletop fit. As is the case with other MOTIV products, this microphone also comes with the ShurePlus MOTIV app enabling users to more precisely fine-tune their recording quality and share these files.
Not everyone in the market for a high-quality USB microphone is looking for a personal home studio. This JUNIVO model acts as an excellent no-frills microphone with plenty of thoughtful design touches. The adjustable gooseneck mic body provides excellent maneuverability and the included noise-cancellation technology keeps audio crisp and clear. A central LED-equipped mute button along the base allows you to quickly cut the mic without searching from the digital button in the Zoom room. This is the perfect feature for those with pets roaming the home office.
At just four inches in diameter, the model is also appreciatively compact and ideal for desktops with limited space.
There are many situations where we need to record an audio clip on our portable devices. In fact, some professions depend on leveraging a cell phone as a modern dictaphone. Unfortunately, the low-quality onboard microphones on these devices can make transcription difficult and render live musical performances painfully inaudible. The MV88 is an exceptional microphone option for devices with Lightning ports and an adjustable joint along the mount allows users to focus the microphone closer to the sheets of sound. The aforementioned ShurePlus MOTIVE Audio apps grants users greater control over these audio files including trimming, sharing, and fine-tuning clips.
Studying Chaos with One of the World’s Fastest Cameras
There are things in life that can be predicted reasonably well. The tides rise and fall. The moon waxes and wanes. A billiard ball bounces around a table according to orderly geometry.
And then there are things that defy easy prediction: The hurricane that changes direction without warning. The splashing of water in a fountain. The graceful disorder of branches growing from a tree.
These phenomena and others like them can be described as chaotic systems, and are notable for exhibiting behaviour that is predictable at first but grows increasingly random with time.
Because of the large role that chaotic systems play in the world around us, scientists and mathematicians have long sought to better understand them. Now, Caltech’s Lihong Wang, the Bren Professor in the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering, has developed a new tool that might help in this quest.
In the latest issue of Science Advances, Wang describes how he has used an ultrafast camera of his own design that recorded video at one billion frames per second to observe the movement of laser light in a chamber specially designed to induce chaotic reflections.
“Some cavities are non-chaotic, so the path the light takes is predictable,” Wang says. But in the current work, he and his colleagues have used that ultrafast camera as a tool to study a chaotic cavity, “in which the light takes a different path every time we repeat the experiment.”
The camera makes use of a technology called compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), which Wang has demonstrated in other research to be capable of speeds as fast as 70 trillion frames per second. The speed at which a CUP camera takes video makes it capable of seeing light—the fastest thing in the universe—as it travels.
But CUP cameras have another feature that makes them uniquely suited for studying chaotic systems. Unlike a traditional camera that shoots one frame of video at a time, a CUP camera essentially shoots all of its frames at once. This allows the camera to capture the entirety of a laser beam’s chaotic path through the chamber all in one go.
That matters because, in a chaotic system, the behaviour is different every time. If the camera only captured part of the action, the behaviour that was not recorded could never be studied, because it would never occur in exactly the same way again. It would be like trying to photograph a bird, but with a camera that can only capture one body part at a time; furthermore, every time the bird landed near you, it would be a different species. Although you could try to assemble all your photos into one composite bird image, that cobbled-together bird would have the beak of a crow, the neck of a stork, the wings of a duck, the tail of a hawk, and the legs of a chicken. Not exactly useful.
Wang says that the ability of his CUP camera to capture the chaotic movement of light may breathe new life into the study of optical chaos, which has applications in physics, communications, and cryptography.
“It was a really hot field some time ago, but it’s died down, maybe because we didn’t have the tools we needed,” he says. “The experimentalists lost interest because they couldn’t do the experiments, and the theoreticians lost interest because they couldn’t validate their theories experimentally. This was a fun demonstration to show people in that field that they finally have an experimental tool.”
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