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OS X Mavericks uses ambient light sensors to prevent system sleep

updated 03:53 pm EDT, Fri November 1, 2013

Mavericks uses light sensors as motion detectors

Apple's newest Mac operating system, OS X Mavericks, uses the light sensor included in many Macs to keep a device from prematurely falling asleep. The functionality was discovered by by a coder looking through Mavericks' code, and the coder thought that one element indicated that the iSight camera is always on and watching the user. Instead, subsequent investigations revealed that the OS taps into the ambient light sensor.

Tests pointed out by The Verge showed that the light sensor to the left of the iSight camera - which monitors conditions in order to adjust screen brightness - can also be used to track changes in light that are caused by user movement. The sensor then resets the system's idle time.

In effect, Apple appears to have built in the capability for a system to know whether its user is sitting in front of it, even if the user is not doing anything. Such capability has the effect of keeping a computer from going to sleep if a user is distracted. It can also, though, apparently keep a device awake just due to changes in ambient lighting.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Now that is a seriously cool little feature. Basically a motion detector for free, without even the creepy side effect of "your computer is always watching you."

  1. Sgt Friday

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-02-11

    Cool feature. is it a feature or a bug now disguised as a feature? Now, if I want my Mac to really sleep (which it now refuses to do, except the screen sleep) how do you turn it off so the little bugger can get some winks in?

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09

    @Sgt Friday:

    Unless they've removed them (I haven't upgraded yet), it's the same as it ever was: Apple menu, fourth item from the bottom: "Sleep".

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Or just press the power button--instant sleep unless software is explicitly blocking it. Closing the lid of a notebook will do the same.

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