Friday, 15 May 2015

Red Reading Light

As a child, I discovered that covering my torch with a piece of thin red paper would make it less likely that my parents would notice I was staying up late to read in bed. Later, at boarding school, I found the same trick enabled me to share a dormitory without being assaulted for disturbing my roommates' sleep. These days I only share a room with my wife, but I still like to read at night. Of course, technology has moved on since I were a lad, and back-lit Kindles and ebooks on smartphones now exist, but I've found these to be a threefold disappointment: not only are they quite capable of disturbing a nearly-sleeping partner, even on their lowest brightness or 'night mode', but they ruin one's night vision, and, according to the WHO, their blue/white light can make it harder to fall asleep. The only torch I own these days is a one-million-candlepower monster I use for finding lost cats; not really something I can take to bed, even if I ignore the fire hazard inherent in covering its glare.

My solution was to make an Android app; after firing up Eclipse, discovering that there was now a dedicated IDE in the form of Android Studio, installing that instead, and laughing at the way I could create a working app by pressing only the tab key, I put together a very simple little thing that displays a red light on the screen of your device. Swipe along one axis to change brightness; swipe along the other to change hue. I added the option to change hue after testing it on an old device I had lying around and finding that even on maximum brightness its primitive screen was too dim to read by when a pure red - introducing a little more white to the mix solved the problem. Currently the app will keep the screen on forever; I might at some point go back and introduce a timer to turn it off after a pre-set period of time for those who tend to fall asleep while reading.

If that sounds like something you'd want, you can pick it up on the Play store for £0.68 (or a similar amount in your local currency). I realise that charging real money (however small an amount) for something that simple is something of a breach of internet etiquette, but it doesn't have any ads or weird data-mining permissions or any of the things that usually come with free products.