Flash-free (the G4 version)

After successfully going flash-free on my MacBook Pro (my main machine), I was eager to see the effects of Flash removal on my faithful little sidekick, the 12″ PowerBook G4. If, as I witnessed with the MacBook Pro, the main benefits of removing Flash are a much lighter impact on the CPU and a longer battery life, the experience on the PowerBook G4 should be equally (or even more) satisfactory.

Another factor that urged me to remove Flash from the PowerBook G4 as well was this recent article by John Gruber: Masquerading as Mobile Safari to Get Websites to Serve HTML5 Video to Safari on Mac OS X, especially this bit:

  1. Without Flash installed, my Mac uses less ambient CPU power. The machine runs cooler, faster, and the battery lasts longer.
  2. Video that plays back via the HTML5 video tag instead of Flash Player is smoother and uses less power. My MacBook Pro’s fan almost always kicks in when I play 720p video via Flash. It almost never kicks in when I play 720p video without Flash.

If you still own and use a PowerPC G4 Mac, even machines with decent CPU clocks and graphic cards (like, say, a PowerBook G4 at 1.67GHz with a 128 MB graphics card), you surely have noticed that Flash video playback is not exactly a smooth and pleasant experience. Videos are jittery, frames get dropped to keep up with the audio track, etc. On my 12″ PowerBook G4 with a 1 GHz CPU and a 32 MB graphics card, playing YouTube or Vimeo videos (well, any Flash video as a matter of fact) is basically impossible. When trying to play one, even if Safari is the only application open with just the tab of the website hosting the video, playback makes the CPU usage skyrocket, the fan kicks in immediately, and everything slows down rendering the PowerBook unusable.

After removing Flash from the PowerBook, the positive effects mentioned by Gruber were noticeable right away. Also, with the Mobile Safari for iPad user agent trick, I was able to watch some YouTube and Vimeo HTML5 videos without much hassles. With non-HD, lightweight videos, the PowerBook G4 was able to play them almost without hiccups, and with an overall smoothness simply unattainable on this Mac with the Flash counterpart. And even when the playback wasn’t smooth (because of the size/quality of the video), CPU usage was high but not through the roof, and the PowerBook kept a usable degree of responsiveness. At times the fan still kicked in, but at minimum speed, and certainly not immediately after hitting the Play button.

In the end, removing Flash from the PowerBook G4 felt like relieving it of a burden. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I really suggest you do the same on your G4 Mac — it has proven to be a good diet so far. 

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About Riccardo Mori

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!