Telling the Phase of the Moon – Review 9

Times exist when you might want to know what the moon looks like. This urge can present itself at importune moments – during a bright, sunny day; when the moon has already set; when your internet connection has been lost. To get around this issue, I turned to software (well, why not?).


Månfas Icon


Moonphase is a useful little tool for displaying the current phase of the moon.

There is one version each of the program for Swedish and French-speakers. The English version is further split into a Northern hemisphere program and a Southern hemisphere program. As far as my non-rigorous testing could determine, they are functionally identical.

The main window of Moonphase SH, showing the phase of the moon, a calendar (for selecting future or past dates), and an interactive map.

The main window of Moonphase SH, showing the phase of the moon, a calendar (for selecting future or past dates), and an interactive map.

The program is chock-full of features. In the top left is the current phase of the moon, with its accuracy listed in the lower left (usually ±1 day). Below that are dates for major moon phases in the current month – New Moon, First Quarter (Waxing), Full Moon, and Last Quarter (Waning). Just to the right of these phases, taking up much of the lower-central part of the user interface, are controls for choosing a location on the Earth.

As the phase of the moon is dependent on where it is measured, take care to enter the latitude and longitude correctly. You can use the pair of scrollable degree lists, or click at the precise location on the map in order to set the location. Full instructions are available by clicking on the button labeled HELP (on/off).

Image of the Swedish version of the program.

Image of the Swedish version of the program.

Above the map is a calendar for choosing year, month, and day. A small button to the right allows switching Sunday from the beginning of the week to the end. Below the button panel on the right are important moon facts (against a dark background) and sun facts (against a light background).

These include:

  • moonrise
  • moonset
  • moon phase
  • moon distance
  • sunrise
  • and sunset.

My only complaint is that Moonphase does not show up in the taskbar while running. All in all, though, it is a brilliant program.

Price $0 (Free)
Compatible OS‘s Windows XP,Vista,7,8
Licensing Generic Freeware License

Magnifying the Screen – Review 3

Ever want to magnify just part of your computer screen? There are a number of tools out there that can help with this task, not least of which are those included with the operating system.


Zoom is the program of choice for Mac OS X users. It can be enabled or disabled by pressing Alt-Command-8.

A screenshot highlighting the middle segment of the 'Seeing'-related Universal Access options.

Location of Zoom preferences in the Universal Access part of System Preferences.

When enabled, just press (and optionally hold) Alt-Command-= to zoom in, or Alt-Command– to zoom out.

Zoom comes standard on all Mac systems.


KMag is a program included by default with the KDE Software Compilation, which in turn is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, BSD, and others.

Demonstration of KMag's screenshot, 'zoom out' and recursive zoom features.

Demonstration of KMag’s screenshot, ‘zoom out’ and recursive zoom features. The blurred effect was added to the screenshot in a separate program.

KMag, like many of these programs, has a static window which shows a specific section of the screen. Unlike the other environments, though, KDE includes an additional ‘desktop effect’ which is much easier to control.

The program also lets you rotate the magnification, add post-processing filters, or even zoom out.


GNOME-Mag is the default magnifier of the GNOME desktop environment.

Windows Magnifier

Magnifier is the default magnification tool of the Windows desktop.

Magnifier lens showing some of the Ease of Access Center, as described in the caption.

Demonstration of Magnifier’s separate lens, inverted colours, and 150% magnification.

It can be started from the Ease of Access Center, which can be found in the Control Panel. Pressing Windows-U will launch this Center directly.

The main magnifier window - effectively a floating toolbar. Behind the window is Windows 7's Ease of Access Center.

Screenshot of the magnifier in its default state – 100% magnification.

Features include a separate dockable lens, inverted colours, and autostart on login – all optional. However, there are no keyboard shortcuts for zooming.

OS Default Magnifier Program
Windows XP,Vista,7,8 Magnifier
Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8 Zoom
GNOME Desktops GNOME-Mag
KDE Desktops KMag & Magnification Effect
Price $0 (Free)
Compatible OS‘s Whatever you’re currently running.
Licensing Same license as the rest of the shell – Microsoft License, Apple License, or GPL

Darkening the Computer Screen – Review 2

After reading a review from Lifehacker describing Kino, I decided to take a look at this tool.


Kino Program Icon

Kino can darken your computer screen over a broad range of values, from a completely transparent filter all the way to opaque black. A small selection tool lets the user highlight an area that should not be darkened.

Example use of Kino, with Taskbar fully visible and 50% opacity.

Example use of Kino, with Taskbar fully visible and 50% opacity.

The Page-Up and Page-Down keys increase and decrease the opacity of Kino’s filter, respectively. Clicking on the red + sign, then clicking-dragging over the obscured display allows for at most one untouched rectangle of screen. At its maximum opacity, all but the (optional) selection and/or Taskbar are completely black. This feature is incredibly handy for focusing on one task or item at a time.

Using the crosshair tool to delineate a small segment of the screen. Opacity is set to 100%.

Using the crosshair tool to delineate a small segment of the screen. Opacity is set to 100%.

Similar tools do exist to perform this within web browsers (I recommend interested readers look at Stefan V.D.’s popular Turn Off the Lights extension).

The program’s name (Kino is German for cinema) and curtain-themed icon suggest that it was made for video viewing. Kino’s versatility, though, makes it more than capable of extending the range of monitor/backlight brightness settings as well. Even multi-monitor setups are supported.

When considered along with the ease of setup and removal, this versatility is definitely reason enough for me to use Kino regularly.

Price $0 (Free)
Compatible OS‘s Windows XP,Vista,7,8
Licensing GNU General Public License version 2