“Thank you. I'm dealing with the same brain fog, probably due to long Covid and my ADHD is not helping either. This issue of not being able to express my thoughts properly is something I struggle with for sure. I wonder if a large part of my issue is from Covid, even though it makes me wonder how I'm still ok with Android devices and this old HP Spectre.”
I guess the COVID could have made your body more sensitive but it could well be something else too, and it’s not unusual for those like us who have these reactions to screens to be ok with some but not with others - my LG G7 phone is ok for me as are a few other android phones but I still haven’t found a single android tablet or iPad that doesn't cause me any discomfort and I’ve tried, and am still messing around with, a whole bunch!
“I haven't tried any overlay software for the brightness. I have tried the screen calibration assistant in "expert mode" by going to System Preferences, Displays, and holding down the Option key when clicking the + button. So I was able to tweak the white point, gamma etc from there and it did improve things a little, but it (obviously) didn't do anything for the text rendering.”
The idea behind the overlay software like "Eye Saver" or "Iris" is that you can use it to reduce the perceived brightness while keeping the backlight fixed at max brightness and thereby either eliminate PWM (on devices that have PWM but not at max) or reduce its impact (on devices that have PWM at max too) coz at max the “off” period of the PWM cycle is much less than the “on” period resulting in less impact on those sensitive to PWM flicker. And the "reduce white point" accessibility setting on iPads and iPhones(?) in effect lets you do the same thing, I think - I havent tried it on an iPad that has PWM myself.
“I'm happy the Surface works for you. I never tried them before. I have worked on Thinkpads, Legion and Dell Inspiron without issues (of course it's been more than 2 years now, and devices change, operating systems change, and people change). But what I appreciate is that you can at least change a few things in Windows and Linux (like that ditherig solution you found, or the hinting / anti-aliasing options through Gnome Tweaks in Ubuntu).”
Right, I played a bit with the font settings using Gnome Tweaks but I didn’t notice a difference in my symptoms though. That might be coz I was already affected which then makes it difficult to notice changes. This makes testing/experimenting rather difficult coz you have wait for your body to reset.
“Indeed this is so tricky and puzzling, because I now have a 3000 Euro laptop I can no longer use. Thank you for your wishes, I hope so too.”
Methinks if you can get a Windows device to use comfortably for now you might still be able to find a way to make the Macbook Pro useable. And it's best to get a device you can return coz even if you think you've done the math before you buy it you might find it doesn't work, in my experience.