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Flash Can Rob 2 Hours From MacBook Air's Battery Life 509

Posted by timothy
from the less-frantic-scrambling dept.
The lack of Flash in the new MacBook Air may annoy some users, but it has a big upside, too. According to Wired's report (citing Ars Technica) passed on by an anonymous reader, "Having Flash installed can cut battery runtime considerably — as much as 33 percent in our testing. With a handful of websites loaded in Safari, Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary, and the best time I recorded with Flash installed was just 4 hours. After deleting Flash, however, the MacBook Air ran for 6:02 — with the exact same set of websites reloaded in Safari, and with static ads replacing the CPU-sucking Flash versions."
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Flash Can Rob 2 Hours From MacBook Air's Battery Life

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  • by microbee (682094) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:49PM (#34131344)

    Block all flashes by default but allow user to enable one specifically. Problem solved.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:49PM (#34131348) Homepage

    It couldn't be Apple, who has been impartial to Flash, and welcoming of it on their platform... ...oh, wait.

  • by MarcoAtWork (28889) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:50PM (#34131358)

    ... web ads can rob 2 hours from a macbook air's life, the main reason why the battery lasts longer in the no-flash case is because the ads aren't loaded, once all ads move to HTML5 I don't think there'll be that much of a difference.

  • In other news... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JReykdal (637757) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:50PM (#34131360)
    Using the computer might drain your battery!
  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:51PM (#34131366)

    Wow, that's... news.

  • Re:No ABP in OSX? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:51PM (#34131368)
    Because Safari works far better than FF on OS X?
  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:54PM (#34131404)

    It's great that someone is finally recognizing this sort of stuff. Think of the millions of kwh wasted all over the world every day running flash on laptops and desktops...not to mention the security issues involved with the 'active' content that the flash player brings to the system. All of this comes from an unlovely company that does not seem to shoulder any responsibility for the software that it looses upon the user community. Okay Adobe, mod this troll, but you can't stop everyone from eventually seeing the light.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:58PM (#34131452)
    But then you have Quicktime installed, which means you have iTunes installed. No thanks. And people think Adobe software is bloated
  • Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:59PM (#34131466)

    If you're going to report one uptime as being "6:02", don't just report the other as being "4 hours". Tell us if it was 4:01 or 4:00 or whatever.

    When your difference is on the order of 120 minutes, 1 or 2 minutes difference either way is indeed notable.

    And if this test was done over wireless, I wonder how much the browser cache played a role. No need to refetch content, right? Did he even make sure all pages served him the same ads?

    This is Mythbusters-levels of bad science.

  • by Zouden (232738) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:03PM (#34131504)

    Reinstall Flash and install adblock. Then the story changes to "Ads Can Rob 2 Hours From MacBook Air's Battery Life". But not many ad-supported websites would run with that title, would they?

    This is a complete non-story. It's no surprise that replacing animated content with a static image improves battery life. I would prefer more websites used static content for their ads rather than Flash content. Then maybe I wouldn't block them so much. With AdBlock, having Flash installed makes no difference to how long my battery lasts - but it does make a difference to what I can do on the web.

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:06PM (#34131520)
    You mean running animations in the background on multiple pages eats CPU cycles??? Oh noes! Geez, I wonder how Jobs' little darling, HTML5, will manage to do animations without using any CPU power?

    I swear every day it's another retarded "report" about something equally as retarded.
  • Re:news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhcompy (1877290) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:28PM (#34131670)
    How about you blame the ad companies for using Flash rather than blame Adobe for making an interactive product meant to enhance web content(which you admit it does)? Or blame the browser companies for not giving the options and/or making it more obvious that dynamic content is being used? Smith and Wesson makes guns. Are they at fault when some gangbanger kills another with a S&W?
  • by Alimony Pakhdan (1855364) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:36PM (#34131728)
    Flash was fine back in the days when users kept only one or two browser windows open but now that everyone has tens or hundreds of tabs/windows open at any one time the CPU cost for Flash is too much to pay. Partly this is a problem with the way browsers work where every tab/window executes all plugins whether or not the tab/window has focus, but partly this is a design problem because even though the day of one or two windows/tabs are long gone, web designers still populate every page with as much bouncy, blinky annoying bullshit as possible as if they and only they had any right to my CPU.
  • Re:news? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:39PM (#34131742) Homepage
    I agree. Flash on Linux has never been a particularly pleasant experience either. If only the browser could tell the Flash engine to shut the fuck up if the tab isn't visible, things would be much better. Not fixed, mind you, but better.
  • by wygit (696674) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:40PM (#34131752)

    You think saying the people who have the software installed that is necessary to view half the video on the web have no brains might be flamebait?

    Gee, really?

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/html5_video_market_penetration.php [readwriteweb.com]

    and you've been saying it since a long time ago?

    So you just don't believe in online video at all, then.

  • not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpiceWare (3438) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:43PM (#34131776)

    once all ads move to HTML5 I don't think there'll be that much of a difference

    unlike Flash, the browser makers can actually address HTML5 performance issues.

  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:49PM (#34131818)

    Those who have it are the majority, those who don't are the minority. I'm sorry Big Steve was so butthurt that he couldn't get an agreement working with Adobe for his iToys and Flash. The fact is that if you want to reach the most people possible with rich web content, Flash is the current solution. HTML5 is iffy and buggy, and JavaScript is slow and old.

    Jobs and Apple want to decry Flash and say "It's a hog, it's inferior!" but they have yet to propose one acceptable substitute. "Turn it off and browse with static images only, 90s-style!" is not the answer I'm looking for.

  • ... web ads can rob 2 hours from a macbook air's life, the main reason why the battery lasts longer in the no-flash case is because the ads aren't loaded, once all ads move to HTML5 I don't think there'll be that much of a difference.

    Doubtful. The real problem is that Apple can't tweak the Flash runtime to be more CPU efficient. In contrast, they can do whatever they want to their Javascript and HTML engines.

    This is also why I love Chrome. It buckets Flash into a separate process, so when Ads start hogging the CPU, I kill the Flash process.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:32PM (#34132080)

    H.264 decoding is done in hardware on nearly all platforms, the exception being Flash when it is run on anything except Windows. This is why you get that result. They claim that Flash can use hardware decoding on other platforms but I have yet to see it actually work.

  • Re:No ABP in OSX? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by capnkr (1153623) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:36PM (#34132088)
    So - FFox and Flashblock [mozilla.org] for the win...

    I use both on my AO751h (+ABP), and a 9 cell battery gets me ~10 hours of use, streaming video or whatever. And no damned "Punch the Monkey" ads. Don't see why the same wouldn't work on/for Macs...
  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:38PM (#34132100)

    Evolution never anticipated anything, full stop.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:48PM (#34132166)

    I can get days worth of battery life on my laptop if I don't do anything on it.

    Seriously, all of these long battery life claims are idiotic. If you get that much life from yours, it only indicates that you bought more computer than you actually needed and that it's sitting idle most of the time.

  • Re:No ABP in OSX? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:58PM (#34132236)

    Yes it does. Firefox seriously sucks on Mac OS X, no matter what you OSS fanboys want to believe.

  • by dudpixel (1429789) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @10:11PM (#34132314)

    there is nothing about flash (the format) that is all that bad. sure the implementation could be a LOT better, including the plugin, but I think for what it is and considering how long it has been around, its not all bad. Until now, there hasn't been an equivalent on the web, at least not with the same market share. Up until recently, if you wrote a website using flash, you could deliver a rich multimedia experience to a very wide audience. What other choices did you have? not all websites are just about information and plain text.

    I think flash is now reaching end of life, sure, but I also think it has served a purpose, while we wait for web standards to catch up and fully support rich content online.

    One day the web will be an extension of what our desktops can already do...but that day is still a way off...and no HTML5 isn't going to fix this overnight.

  • by MichaelKristopeit162 (1934888) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @10:26PM (#34132404)
    seriously, your claims are idiotic.

    there is no correlation between battery life and computer necessity relative to time.

  • Re:news? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @10:39PM (#34132468)
    Adobe makes a shitty product, and corporations use that shitty product to make the web worse. Yes, I do blame those corporations, and I don't buy their products; I am free to also blame Adobe for selling feces for companies to throw. If gun companies built their weapons so poorly they commonly exploded during target practice, you can bet I'd sure as fuck blame them.

    No, I didn't say Flash enhances web content; you'd have to define "enhance" as meaning to add noticeable things few people want; Flash enhances the web like herpes enhances vaginas. Flash could disappear from the face of the planet, and there wouldn't be a single negative from it. Hulu should change formats, and in that case they'd finally get off their ass and do it. How sad is it for Adobe that Silverlight (on OS X, no less) is way better and more reliable than Flash? If Flash wasn't designed and built for shit, I wouldn't mind it at all. The only reason why I mind it isn't the ads -- it's that it's pure utter crap that is so terribly made that it actually manages to make the web a worse place purely for technological failings (i.e., not due to content) and its effect on my computers.
  • by Celarnor (835542) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @10:57PM (#34132546)
    A day of classes at a university where there curiously often aren't electrical outlets in CS classrooms.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @11:52PM (#34132778)

    Playing H.264 video via QuickTime on Mac OS X is less CPU intensive than Flash because Apple specifically optimizes their OS and hardware around QuickTime. Not surprisingly, they don't do the same for Flash.

    It wasn't until a recent OS update that Mac OS X even offered APIs to allow other software access to hardware H.264 acceleration - but since Flash doesn't only support OS X 10.6.4, instead opting to support Mac OS X from Tiger on up, those APIs are entirely useless. And until Apple bothers supporting their users who haven't upgraded to the latest and most locked-down, will remain useless.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:19AM (#34133092) Journal

    Augh! Enough!

    Flash isn't perfect, I'll grant that. But if Flash didn't solve a very real set of problems, it wouldn't be installed on 98% of all computers made!

    Go back just 1 year. Want to watch a video, online, what tool do you use? Want to make an interactive, graphically rich application to deliver via the Internet, what tool do you use?

    See what I'm saying? Sure, flash has its warts. But it does neatly solve a problem that even HTML 5 doesn't do all that well at, yet. And the cost is a bit of CPU time, which has traditionally been considered cheap....

    How many conversations have been ended with: "No need to rewrite your PHP application in C - Hardware is cheap!"? It's the same conversation with Flash! It's highly abstract, platform independent, looks nice, and performs better than any other product available (still!) given these requirements.

    I'm not saying that it couldn't be done better, but even with HTML 5, there still isn't a tool with a better overall combination of features and availability. (Hint: my small company's online training videos are all delivered with flash and FlowPlayer because it actually works - HTML 5 is not even close to universally available, yet)

  • Re:No ABP in OSX? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:34AM (#34133132)

    Troll does not mean "opinion you find disagreeable."
    FF really does suck on the mac.

  • by jschottm (317343) on Friday November 05, 2010 @01:56AM (#34133206)

    There are many beneficiaries when flash eventually bites the dust and becomes a pariah like Java Applets.

    The problem isn't just Flash, the problem is complicated and interactive ads, which is what advertisers push for (because they work). It doesn't matter which technology is being used, be it HTML5 or Flash, it's still going to suck up CPU time.

  • Re:No ABP in OSX? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr_lizard13 (882373) on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:44AM (#34133898)
    I was a happy Firefox user for years, before finally switching to Safari when FF became more than unresponsive.

    The problem, according to the many help forums, was I had "too many extensions" installed, and that I should "create a new profile".

    I resented being punished for using the extensions system that Mozilla so heavily promoted, so I switched.

    And now I've got AdBlock back, and use ClickToFlash, 2 extensions which installed right from the web page with no restart required. Now I'm a happy Safari user.
  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Friday November 05, 2010 @05:54AM (#34133914)
    Look at the incredibly crude HTML5 games that are sucking up 50%+ of a CPU core. You really think things will be better if advertisers switch over from flash?
  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Friday November 05, 2010 @06:02AM (#34133930)
    Badly coded WebGL will cause graphics chipsets to suck up more power than Flash will. Animation with no frame limiters, spheres with insane numbers of polygons.

    It's hard to detect when Javascript is stalling the browser and/or maxing out CPU, if it could be easily implemented, all the major browsers would already do it. The current 'this script is screwing with your PC' halts are unreliable at best, only catching a small percentage of javascript based lock ups. One of the most common lockups for me is when javascript gets stuck in a loop adding HTML elements to a page, especially given that Firefox is one of the worst browsers (in my experience) when it comes to handling insanely large HTML pages.
  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ibwolf (126465) on Friday November 05, 2010 @06:38AM (#34134048)

    You mean running animations in the background on multiple pages eats CPU cycles??? Oh noes! Geez, I wonder how Jobs' little darling, HTML5, will manage to do animations without using any CPU power?

    Just off the top of my head, I would imagine that browsers will be smart enough not to run HTML5 animations on pages that aren't visible to the user. That should help, right there.

    I'd also imagine that with engineers at multiple companies fighting to make their browser the best, further refinements would be discovered and implemented. Adobe has had very little incentive to improve Flash since they are in a dominant position.

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:05AM (#34134138)
    iTunes does not have to use the centralised registry - every application can create its own independent registry hive containing just its data within the users Application Data folder. Hell, iTunes could even use pLists if it damn well chose.

    So no, the architecture of Windows is not to blame at all here for iTunes, its all Apple all the way.
  • by delinear (991444) on Friday November 05, 2010 @07:30AM (#34134212)
    Anyone who has ever worked as a contractor, when you get "hot desked" around a lot and never know if you're going to be stuck in a meeting room for the day with 9 other developers sharing 4 plugs, instantly understands the benefit of a ridiculously long charge time.
  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oreaq (817314) on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:13AM (#34134396)
    Decoding h264 on the dedicated hardwar uses far less power than decoding it in software on the CPU. Orders of magnitude less power.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2010 @08:45AM (#34134556)

    "just don't hold it like that!" lol

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a dozen times, I must be an Apple customer!

  • by Peeteriz (821290) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:02AM (#34135382)

    As the article says - the cause of the problem is advertising.

    If the user wants to watch flash videos in youtube, it drains the battery just as much as watching downloaded videos on the video playe of his choice.

    But if the user doesn't want the "content", then the system shouldn't spend valuable, scarce resources (such as battery life) on them - the solution is not disabling flash, the solution is to ship computers with AdBlock preinstalled and preconfigured. The computer vendors can and should do that, to improve the value of their product to consumers.

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