Save the Planet; Disable Adobe Flash

by chromatic

Matthew Garrett did some quick calculations to figure out how much electricity the world wastes thanks to Adobe's inefficient Flash player. Now I don't use Adobe's Flash player (partly because I'm no fan of poorly-coded proprietary software, but also partly because Adobe lies about its Linux support), but I've noticed that Flash on the machines of other people seems to make fans run, and Gnash eats up a lot of CPU too.

I realize that there's probably little chance that Adobe cares that releasing their source code under an open license would allow them to support Linux without the little "but 32-bit x86 only" caveat they occasionally slap on their download pages, but would the argument that a more efficient Flash player would stop wasting electricity and save a few pretty trees go any further?

I'm sure a couple of hours with debugging symbols and Powertop and the source code could improve things.


Bryan Ledford
2008-01-23 18:14:00
Has anyone bothered to ask what will be used for those annoying banner ads instead of Flash? Probably Java or Silverlight, both of which have comparable or much higher CPU usage I'm guessing. I only have time to waste commenting, not performing useless tests.
2008-01-23 18:24:22
Funny. There are two Flash banners on your blog page. Maybe you should discuss a salary decrease with your employer and get rid of those as well...
2008-01-23 18:53:08
Just kidding folks, of course. Anything we can do to conserve... Sensationalistic headlines bug me these days.
John Dowdell
2008-01-23 18:57:51
Hi, I like the PDF, thanks for pointing us to it!

Are you sure of your conclusion though? The writer just mentioned that he had the current Adobe Flash Player installed, and didn't appear to control for its use or its bypass.

In particular, this passage seems to imply a counterintuitive observation, that richer media didn't impose any particular increase in load at all:

"With the C4 state enabled, the average power draw of the idle test system was 16 Watts. The average power draw when viewing the MySpace profiles was 17.6 Watts. A large degree of variation was seen in the results - certain profiles contained no embedded media and drew the same quantity of power as the idle system"

(For your Linux installation, have you worked with the standard 32-bit emulation wrappers yet, or are there philosophical reasons to oppose their use?)


John Dowdell
2008-01-23 19:04:32
Sorry, I misread that paragraph. His conclusion seems to be "On ten MySpace sites, I saw that audio and other richer functionality spiked one meter to an average of 10% above sites without audio or other richer media, peaking at 30%." My bad! ;-)

If so, then to gain a conclusion, you'd want to examine each site with and without audio (Flashblock, eg), and then to widen the sample set a little. Beyond that, assertions of "wasting electricity" might be supported by comparison to different ways to offer web audio to the world.

Of course, I hope you wouldn't be making the case here that we should conserve the relatively minor amounts of energy used by computers by banning MySpace, or web audio.... ;-)


2008-01-23 19:09:21

My goodness.

John, this is at least the third time I have tried to make this point to you specifically. The moment you or one of your colleagues successfully install the Flash player on my PPC laptop, I will agree that Adobe supports Linux. That laptop runs Linux. If Adobe supported Flash on Linux, surely Adobe's Flash player would run on that machine.

Your company's Flash player does not run on that machine.

Now, if your company doesn't want to support PPC, that's fine. If your company doesn't want to support 64-bit chips, that's fine too. If your company only wants to support BeOS on MIPS chips, be my guest.

All I ask is that you be clear about what you do and do not support. Whenever you mention Linux, I recommend saying "(32-bit x86 only)".

I do notice that someone modified the text on the download page to be somewhat more clear, and that's a definite improvement.

John Dowdell
2008-01-23 23:26:51
(Sorry to persist on the 64-bit bit, but I'm getting the sense you refuse to use emulation, as others successfully do. True?)
Ed S
2008-01-24 06:44:39
This article RULES.

I started using flashblock plugin for mozilla a month or two ago, and honestly cannot say there's been a time I have missed the banner ads or the other nonsense. To each their own, I suppose, but count me as in the anti-Flash/Adobe crowd.

2008-01-24 09:43:41


PPC versus x86 is not a 64-bit issue. While it may be possible for me to beg, borrow, steal, or write my own plugin wrapper to launch the 32-bit, x86-only Flash player through bochs or some other 32-bit, x86 emulator so that non-x86 platforms have a chance of running Adobe's Flash player, it's much simpler for me to use Gnash or swfdec.

Again, it's Adobe's business decision to support (or in this case, not support) any platform, architecture, alignment, bit-size, endianness, or stepping it wants. However, I think your company's current support plans are shortsighted and contrary to the principles of the open web. As well, almost all of your tech marketing is misleading at best (quite possibly fraudulent).

Certainly I could use emulation, or even Adobe's Flash player directly on 32-bit x86 machines, but your software currently leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. I have done without quite successfully, and Gnash and swfdec fill in the gaps admirably.

2008-01-25 02:34:00
Has anyone bothered to read the first comment..?

320 kW for 8 hours a day = 2560 kWh, which at american retail costs about $0.06/kWh = $153 per workday, total over all the users. It's not even a small pile of money. It's a teeny weeny itsy bitsy yellow polka dot mini pile-ikini of money.

2008-01-28 09:27:11
So, those of you who are bashing this article keep driving your SUVs :P

Seriously, though, I want to efficiently browse the web on my mobile device without websites overly depleting its limited charge. This article has its merits.

Joshua Wait
2008-01-29 10:51:35
Hilarious. And good arguments in the comments section.

If we all really wanted to save power, shouldn't we be using Lynx?

Jerry Peek
2008-01-29 15:57:27
Ed S is right about the flashblock plugin; it's great. It lets you choose whether to run Flash on each piece of content. With so many sites assuming that "everyone has Flash", sometimes you really need a Flash plugin -- bloated, buggy, or whatever.

While I'm at it, here's a link to a Bugzilla report that describes what's being done to let people control Flash natively without a plugin:,

Caitlyn Martin
2008-01-30 13:19:56
I think you are addressing the wrong audience. Get web developers to use something other than Flash and I will gladly stop enabling it in my browsers, both on 32-bit and 64-bit hardware. Until then if there is content I need to see I will do whatever it takes to see it, particularly where my business is concerned.