Long Time Without Adobe Flash, Now Trying 10.2

I have gone a long time without using Adobe Flash, because I have tried to extend the battery life of my MacBook while I am on campus for the day (see the links at the bottom of this post for my writings on Flash). In the past, Flash is notorious for draining laptop batteries, because its inefficient use of modern CPUs requires more power for more CPU use.

To the end of longer battery life, I have removed or disabled many elements of MacOS X and other software that inhabits the background of my laptop’s local ecosystem so that less processes are running at any given time. Furthermore, I have tried to nuke those apps that devour CPU time like Adobe Flash. Unfortunately, nixing Flash meant that I was cutting myself off from useful and informative video materials that I would like to view during my research. As a result, I have reinstalled Flash, and I have opted for the 10.2 release, which can be downloaded from here.

Apparently, Flash 10.2 uses less CPU time for better video playback results according to 9-to-5mac.com here. If this is true, perhaps Flash has slightly improved to use less CPU time and hence less power and longer battery life. I will test it out in my everyday use and report back what I find in a future post.

My experiences with Flash include from the oldest to the newest:

Early 2008 MacBook, CPU Load, Loud Fans, and Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash Will Really Deplete Your Battery

How to Uninstall Flash for Mac OS X

Experiences Without Flash So Far

Experiences Without Flash So Far

It has been nearly a week since I uninstalled Flash on my MacBook. I haven’t had a chance to time my battery life, but I will do so soon. However, I do feel as if I am getting longer run time on my MacBook with all other things being equal (brightness set to minimum, same apps open, using MacBook throughout the day at school, etc).

The biggest difference with using a Flash-free experience on my MacBook has to do with Internet video and advertising. I don’t mind losing most of the video advertising, but some sites that post videos are less useful to me now. Boingboing.net is a prime example. I didn’t realize how many of their posts had embedded video. YouTube was lost to me until I found this page where I was able to enter their HTML5 beta for Safari and other HTML5 enabled browsers here (HTML5 has support for video without the need for Flash). Another loss was Wal-Mart’s photo center uploading feature. Now, I have to upload photos one at a time rather than selecting photos in bulk. However, I just found their photo exporter for iPhoto here–win!

Adobe Flash Will Really Deplete Your Battery

After reading this post on Wired which reposts a review of the new MacBook Air from Ars Technica, I am going to uninstall Adobe Flash from my MacBook. As has been widely reported, Apple decided to not include Flash with the latest MacBook Air. The reason given was that it was better for consumers to download the most up-to-date version of Flash on their own rather than shipping busted out-of-date software from Adobe. Apple and Steve Jobs are waging a war against Adobe’s interactive bloatware, and this recent move with the updated MacBook Air seemed to be another salvo. However, it now seems that Apple was concerned about the loss of battery life as a result of having Flash installed. According to the tests by Ars:

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.

I would like to see if I get some lost battery time back without Adobe Flash’s rapacious need for CPU cycles. Unfortunately, I believe that many sites that I use rely on Flash for interface elements, so I don’t know if I will be able to keep Flash off of my MacBook. Flash could become the zombie app that you just can’t keep down as it hungrily seeks electrons.

Early 2008 MacBook, CPU Load, Loud Fans, and Adobe Flash

Yufang has since my previous post on this problem continued to have problems with anything related to Adobe Flash on her Early 2008 MacBook. Today, I decided to test out a hypothesis that I had regarding Flash. On many forums, Windows users with Flash don’t report the heavy CPU usage and subsequent fan cooling reported by some Mac users (including Mac users with a MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro). This and Adobe’s lack of transitional support for Creative Suite into Cocoa (until CS5) led me to believe that Flash for Mac OS X was not optimized for the Mac OS X platform. The underlying hardware on both Macs and PCs are essentially the same now, so the differences are now between the OS architecture and the way Flash is built to run on the two different OSes. Considering that both Windows XP SP3 (Yufang owns a copy of this) and Mac OS X Leopard (what I last installed on her machine as a test to solve this problem) use roughly the same amount of CPU power according to process monitors and neither under normal operating circumstances cause the fan activity to spike with increasing CPU utilization, it seems that Flash is the independent variable.

With this in mind, I ran Boot Camp in Mac OS X 10.5, and installed Windows XP SP2, setup the wireless connection, upgraded to SP3, installed 73 critical updates, installed AVG Anti-Virus, installed Firefox, and installed Adobe Flash. Before trying out web Flash problems, I thought I would try it with one of her Big Fish Games, which immediately drives up CPU use and activates fan activity on Mac OS X. On Windows XP SP3, the same Flash game–one version compiled as a Universal Binary for Mac OS X and the other compiled for the Windows platform–runs more efficiently on Windows than it does on Mac OS X. I define efficiency as requiring less CPU activity to perform the same amount of work. On Mac OS X, that game requires more CPU cycles and more operations to run the same game that requires less CPU cycles and less operations on Windows.

My suspicion is that Adobe didn’t optimize Flash for Mac OS X. Flash has always been a pain on Mac, even in the old days, but it would seem like a company like Adobe that launched itself on the Mac platform would have done more to make their software work well on Mac. It seems like all that money Adobe makes on their overpriced software could have trickled down to end user software that didn’t waste CPU power and drain batteries unnecessarily.

A more thorough analysis of this would be necessary to pin this on Adobe unequivocally. Windows XP handles threading differently on a Core 2 Duo processor than does Mac OS X, which could cause a problem for certain software, particularly non-optimized software, on each OS. I don’t know to what extent that Vista or Windows 7 would change the results. I didn’t try Windows 7, because I didn’t want to use my unopened copy yet. Yufang has Windows XP, which has a smaller code base than Windows 7, so I figured it shouldn’t have as much overhead as Windows 7 would despite the supposed architectural improvements to the newer OS.

The bottom line is that I’m saying that the ball is in Adobe’s court. As it now stands, I wholeheartedly agree with Steve Jobs that Flash is a big mess on the Mac platform. When Jobs went on the record saying that recently, he wasn’t saying anything new. All of us Mac users have known that for a long time, and it’s been a problem that we’ve been waiting for Adobe to address for a very long time. Though, I’m glad that Apple has the clout to potentially swing things to HTML5 and H264, at least for online video.  It’s up to Adobe if they want to make an insanely great product that can compete with a (more–patent issues aside) open alternative.

In the meantime, Yufang will use Boot Camp to switch between Windows and Mac so that she can use her software without it overheating her computer and creating fan activity that detracts from her ability to use her MacBook altogether.

Loud Fans and Adobe Flash on Early 2008 MacBook

Yufang has an Early 2008 white Macbook, which we upgraded to Snow Leopard last year. Since adding 64bit software to her daily processing, she’s had to deal with a lot of loud fan revving and droning while using Safari and Adobe Flash Player. Tonight, I finally thought of a solution that, so far, seems to have done the trick. Up to this point, I have tried everything short of a nuke-and-pave reinstall of MacOS X, including: installing all Apple updates, continually updating Flash, repairing disk permissions, and resetting the SMC. Tonight, I was watching what was going on in Activity Monitor, and I thought about the fact that Safari runs in 64bit mode by default and Adobe Flash is still 32bit software on MacOS X. I wondered what would happen if I launched Safari in 32bit mode and tried loading up some Flash videos. Eureka! Now, Flash isn’t identified as running in Activity Monitor, and I assume is running within the Safari process (or via some kind of process reporting magic). Whatever the case, it seems that if you are experiencing this same problem on a MacBook (probably due to its lack of a real GPU), you can resolve this problem by running Safari 4 in 32bit mode: Select the Safari icon in the Applications folder > File > Get Info > Check “Open in 32bit Mode” > Close window > Relaunch Safari. Good luck, and please comment if you have other ideas or if this doesn’t fix your problem.