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Study spanks Adobe Flash for abuses of power

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We've known for years that graphics based on Adobe Flash and other third-party programming software can be clunky, time-consuming affairs that put our security at risk. Now comes new research suggesting they needlessly consume more power too.

According to a paper published Monday, content that uses asynchronous javascript and XML (AJAX) and animations based on Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight is the single most important attribute in predicting how much power will be consumed when visiting a webpage. That's because these types of graphics continue to draw large amounts of power long after the page has been rendered, according Robert Hansen, the paper's author.

"The number one most abusive technology appeared to be Flash banner ads," Hansen writes. "While other technologies can and did cause power spikes, they caused issues far less often than Flash, making it the least 'green' technology we came across. However, javascript, Java, VBScript, and Silverlight all easily could have caused problems, and they should not be discounted as possible culprits for power consumption."

Hansen stressed that the experiment can't be considered scientific because some of its methodology - which multiplied amperage by voltage - didn't adequately accommodate variances in the amperage over time. Still, by combining the Windows Task Manager with a tool called Kill A Watt, he said the study could be a launching pad for future scientific research by providing strong anecdotal evidence about the types of web browsing that tend to draw the most amperage.

The most useful conclusion: Use of the Firefox extensions NoScript and Adblock Plus is one of the most effective ways to decrease power consumption. When used to visit the 10 most power-hungry websites in Hansen's study, he saved .1 amp and more than 11 watts, the same needed to run a 40 watt compact fluorescent light.

While preliminary, the research suggests a direct relationship between websites that are power hogs and those that are potential security risks. So remember: Disabling Flash, Java, and Silverlight may not only be good for your security. It could also make your browsing greener. ®

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