Protect Those Peepers

Eye strain can be a big problem for those who spend all day staring at a thousand small light bulbs in a computer monitor. With f.lux, a monitor’s brightness and color temperature can be automatically adjusted based on the time of day and type of lighting in the room. The user just needs to tell the program what kind of lighting is present and where in the world they live, and f.lux does the rest. So the next time the user is sorting through emails first thing in the morning or finishing a project late at night, their eyes can have a rest and they can focus on being productive. The program can be downloaded for free for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iPhone and iPad.

See-Through Smartphone?

This one will have to go on the wish list, as it’s not yet commercially available: Taiwanese company Polytron Technologies recently announced  the world’s first fully transparent smartphone.

The prototype device, shown at left courtesy of Mobile Geeks, doesn’t run any software, as it was developed mainly to attract interest in the technology and showcase the hardware. But with the exception of the phone’s SIM card, SD card, microphone and battery, the device is completely transparent. The company expects to have a working prototype available in late 2013. Exactly how this technology will help anyone is unclear, but it sure is cool looking.

A Multi-Taskers' Dream

For users with more than one system at their desk, managing multiple keyboards and mice can take up space and slow down workflow. But with Synergy, a single keyboard and mouse can be shared across multiple systems on different platforms. A user with three systems -- running Windows, Mac OS X and a Linux distribution, for instance -- could use a single mouse and keyboard to control all three.

By simply moving the mouse cursor to the edge of one screen, the cursor would continue onto another monitor, shifting control to that system – all that’s needed is a shared network connection. Synergy is open source and can be downloaded for free.

Doing Double Duty: Your Egg Timer

It’s not an app, but an actual, physical egg timer. Used in combination with the pomodoro technique, a low-tech device such as an egg timer may be one of the greatest productivity tools around. Named after the Italian word for tomato (the inventor owned a tomato-shaped timer), the pomodoro technique is a simple process for organizing workflow and reducing mental stagnation.

Here’s how it works:

1. Make a list of tasks to be completed.

2. Set the timer to 25 minutes.

3. Work on a task until time is up.

4. Take a three- to five-minute break.

5. Repeat.

*A 15- to 30-minute break should be taken after four work cycles.

The technique’s beauty is in its simplicity. It may not work for everyone, but for some, the technique can increase focus and productivity. Want to give it a whirl? Several egg timers can be found on Amazon.com for less than $10. (And if you wanted to try it the new-school way, you could probably set a timer on your fancy smartphone.)

Everything

Everything is a lightweight application for Windows that substitutes for the operating system’s existing search functionality. Windows search has historically been a hit-or-miss endeavor, but Everything simplifies and speeds up the search process, returning near-instant and highly effective results.

On a fast system, millions of files can be indexed by the program in less than one minute, and then searching can begin. The program is named for what the user sees when searching begins, as all the system’s files are initially visible in the search results. As the user begins typing their search terms, results are filtered out and, if successful, what’s left is the file being searched for. With an effective search engine, the tedium of organizing files can become a thing of the past. Everything is free and works with Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and 7.

Colin Wood Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com and on Google+.