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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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iksbob (947407)

      There's a Safari plugin that does just that called ClickToFlash. It handles flash the way browsers handled images in ye olden days - they're replaced with a "flash" box that you click on to let the flash tidbit load and run.

      Disclaimer: I'm not affiliated with the makers of ClickToFlash, though I do use it.

    • I use NoScript. All Flash is blocked by default. I temporarily whitelist sites where I want something to play, and otherwise it doesnt run. I save the battery, skip the annoying ads, and still get to use YouTube. I paid a lot less for this laptop than I would for a MacBook Air to boot.

      Not that they arent nice. But I think this study, while bringing up a definite truth, is an after-the-fact justification/spin for Apple, who blocked Flash for entirely different reasons.

  • by by (1706743) (1706744) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:49PM (#34131346)
    ...but my computer ran out of batteries and I had to find an outlet.
  • 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 Renderer of Evil (604742) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:49PM (#34131816) Homepage

      There are many beneficiaries when flash eventually bites the dust and becomes a pariah like Java Applets. But I'd like to point out the biggest impact isn't the battery life, it's your crotch. Flash forces laptops to run extremely hot and it invariably burns your nads while you rewind Lady Gaga videos for the 20th time in a row.

      The reason why male sack is situated in-between legs is because it needs to remain a certain temperature to function properly. Evolution never anticipated humans putting hot slabs of electronics on their privates for extended periods of time.

      • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:38PM (#34132100)

        Evolution never anticipated anything, full stop.

      • 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)

      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by abigsmurf (919188)
        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 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At least two HTML5 implementations are now indirectly threaded, so it won't stall a core like Flash does when you open 5 heavy tabs.

      Also the problem with Flash is its history of inefficiency for even simple operations. The problem here isn't the ads (that's another problem), the problem is their performance. WebGL is currently doing stuff Flash can't dream of, and that will only improve (unlike Flash).

      Bad JavaScript sucks nearly as hard as bad ActionScript, but at least we have tools to debug and selectivel

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by exomondo (1725132)

        Will Adobe ever add assistance like the these examples? Fuck no they won't, they've had 10 years of complete inaction.

        During more than half of that time they didn't even own Flash.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by abigsmurf (919188)
        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 wh
    • by Altus (1034)

      That depends on how efficent the HTML5 rendering is compared to Flash. Its not likely to be worse at least and I suspect it could be considerably better.

    • not really (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SpiceWare (3438)

      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.

    • Well, then install an ad blocker. :P

    • by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot&andrewrondeau,com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:54PM (#34131842) Homepage

      ... 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ster (556540)

        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.

        "Flash Player (Safari Internet plug-in)" is a separate process as of Safari 4 (on OS X at least).

        -Ster

  • 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.

    • by whiteboy86 (1930018) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @09:12PM (#34131952)
      Ironically, this is not because of the Flash technology itself - as many here might believe, the Flash plug-in binary is incredibly well optimized and does many things so well that would otherwise require GPU-like acceleration. The problem here is that the Adobe editing software allows those non-tech educated "artist" (who create that graphics) to do such a mess with the resources, clogged rendering pipeline and a total misuse of every feature imaginable. They have absolutely no clue what is going on technologically underneath their creations and it shows.
  • Not just the Air (Score:5, Informative)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:52PM (#34131378)

    Flash will suck the life out of a battery charge on my MacBook Pro, too, as well as every non-Apple laptop that I've owned recently, too. Interestingly, I don't have that issue if I watch a "raw" mp4 via the QuickTime plugin.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      But then you have Quicktime installed, which means you have iTunes installed. No thanks. And people think Adobe software is bloated
      • Re:Not just the Air (Score:5, Informative)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:08PM (#34131532)
        Quicktime/iTunes isn't bad when ran on OS X because its pretty much native. Its bloated on Windows because it seems to think that rather than using the things that are already there, you need to install half of OS X to run a program.
      • Re:Not just the Air (Score:4, Informative)

        by aristotle-dude (626586) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:10PM (#34131554)

        But then you have Quicktime installed, which means you have iTunes installed. No thanks. And people think Adobe software is bloated

        Quicktime is integrated into OS X. Neither Quicktime player or iTunes such on OS X. They are not that bad either on windows unless if you have a crap load of stuff installed and running in the background.

        • Re:Not just the Air (Score:5, Informative)

          by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:17PM (#34131598)
          On my laptop's Windows partition (Turion 64 x2, Windows XP pro installed, 2 GB of RAM) iTunes is nearly unusable and no, I don't have a lot of junk installed, the only thing other than essential Windows processes that was running was iTunes and it is close to unusable. VLC runs just fine on there, Foobar 2000 runs just fine on there, heck, Windows Media Player runs just fine on there but iTunes is a bloated piece of crap. The only reason I have it is that when I first bought my iPod touch it was the only way you could sync things to it. When you buy a song it takes longer to "process" the file than it does to download the song. And no, I'm not playing HD videos or anything through it, just syncing and playing some music. There is -no- excuse to why iTunes is such a piece of crap.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mabhatter654 (561290)

            search the boards, there are a few very common mis-configurations of Windows that cause iTunes to have horrible performance. Often it's a registry key that needs fixed or other program conflicting. On my Acer netbook it happens every 6 months or so.

      • by Tharsman (1364603)

        But then you have Quicktime installed, which means you have iTunes installed. No thanks. And people think Adobe software is bloated

        QuickTime can be installed in a windows machine without installing iTunes. iTunes requires QuickTime but not the other way around.

  • by drolli (522659) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:53PM (#34131384) Journal

    Not blocking it selectively with noscript, flashblock etc. sucks the Battery.

  • news? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bhcompy (1877290) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:53PM (#34131392)
    Why is this news? Flash is actively drawn and persistent. It's also known that it is CPU intensive. It's like running a DVD or a videogame. It takes extra CPU cycles and possibly extra components(does Flash utilize a GPU/FPU?) to accomplish these types of things. In a word, duh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Un pobre guey (593801)
      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 blueg3 (192743)

      The FPU hasn't been separate from the CPU for ages now.

      Running a DVD, though, takes something like an order of magnitude less CPU than an equivalent Flash video. Likewise with the simple 2D Flash games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Everyone knows that flash is CPU intensive. This is news because someone tested it and figured out you can save 33 frigging percent of your battery by disabling it. I would have never guessed that the power savings would be that high, and I'm sure many other's wouldn't have either.
  • 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 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 colenski (552404) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:56PM (#34131422) Homepage
    ...viewing TFA caused a Flash popover ad to appear over the article text. Just sayin'.
  • That's why I'm gonna go install ClickToFlash [clicktoflash.com] so I don't have it running when I don't want it to.

  • Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573)

    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.

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Yeah, I certainly don't want to defend Flash, but wouldn't animated GIFs have much the same effect?

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:04PM (#34131508) Homepage Journal

    "I've be trying to stop Flash for years!" - The Shade

  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ibwolf (126465)

      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.

    • No NOT WoW (Score:3, Interesting)

      These are FLASH ads, the kind of animation early computers operating at mhz were capable of. For god sakes, we are talking banners that flash 2 small images. How can this require 100% CPU power on what is by alrights a super-super-computer.

      Most of the time my computer busy running even such hogs as java and opera with tab icons 1 pixel in width barely reaches 4% cpu. But flash can bring the same machine to its knees.

      It is the same with PDF. I can play a game that renders an entire world with super high te

  • Rick Romero here with Breaking News:
    Water is wet, Flash eats CPU power and bears do in fact shit in the woods.

  • Kill Manually (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crf00 (1048098) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:16PM (#34131592) Homepage

    Every time I have used Flash on my Ubuntu, mostly for playing videos, I must manually use the `top` and `kill` command or Chrome's task manager to manually kill the npviewer.bin process. Flash always eats more than 50% of my CPU even long after I have closed all web pages using Flash, only killing it will bring my CPU back to idle and shuts off the noisy laptop fan. There is huge difference in power consumption between an idle CPU and running CPU, that's why for laptop it is best to keep the CPU idle most of the time to save power.

    Now having to kill the Flash process manually is not user friendly at all. I'd imagine that average joes can't do anything on it and have no idea that Flash is the one that causing their laptop fan spinning, heating up, and soaking battery powers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Un pobre guey (593801)
      Yes! Flash on Linux sucks beyond belief! Beyond measure! Beyond any reasonable criterion of practicality! Sucks, sucks, SUCKS!

      Surely at least one Adobe geek is reading this. Please tell someone at Adobe, please! I know your development cycles are about 40 years long, but please, at least get it on the change request list! Please!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MacGyver2210 (1053110)

      That's similar to FF's new 'IPC Plugin Container' thing. It launches a second process to run Flash, Silverlight, and other web-media. It's poorly implemented, so it was a relief that you can disable it entirely in about:config. I haven't seen any performance or battery issues on my PC since.

  • Its what all the kids are doing.

    I don't even have it installed on my laptop, i don't miss it a bit.

  • I've written a program that constantly finds different permutations of Steve Jobs experiencing self-awareness. However, while running the program, my Macbook Air's battery life drops by nearly 50%. So I suppose I should write an article titled "Steve Jobs cuts Macbook Air battery by half." or some such drivel.

    Or I could just turn off the program when I don't need it. But then I couldn't make inflammatory headlines, and that wouldn't be nearly as fun.
  • by antdude (79039) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @08:57PM (#34131866) Homepage Journal

    V10.1.102.64 to fix security bugs and not the battery life and CPU issue. ;)

  • 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.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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