I came across this article on Ars Technica a while ago while looking for ways to improve Flash performance on my two Ubuntu machines. I wanted to see if there was a way to get YouTube clips to play properly. Both my 1 GHz Pentium III and the 1.6 GHz Atom have trouble with Flash videos and especially it seems with Flash’s full screen mode.
Ars tested how much CPU load YouTube caused on some pretty interesting machines.
|MacBook Air 1.6 GHz||OSX||70%|
|Mac Pro Quad 2.66 GHz||OSX||40%|
|Mac Pro Quad 2.66 GHz||Vista||6%|
I knew Flash was slow under MacOS 9, but I never would have guessed it to be more than 6 times slower under OSX. A small web video that pushes a monster of a dual Xeon machine to 40% cpu load is ridiculous.
It’s very unfortunate that Ars opted not to publish numbers for their YouTube test under Linux. They do however mention worse numbers for a different test. Worse compared to Mac that is. This explains why my netbook is struggling with large Flash movies under Ubuntu when I had no trouble with this under XP.
So what’s up with Flash on non-windows operating systems? Are fundamental architectural differences keeping Flash from performing decently or is Adobe simply way behind in optimizing their player for other platforms?
Improving YouTube playback on Linux
Flash Player 10 offers a significant perfomance boost over version 9, so I recommend upgrading to it if you haven’t already. I also noticed that, on slower machines, turning off hardware acceleration (right-click a flash movie, uncheck the box on the display tab) can help boost performance.
For YouTube and Firefox there’s a greasemonkey script that circomvents Flash altogether and uses VLC to play the videos. This makes them play completely smoothly in full screen mode, but the controls (stop, play, skip, etc) don’t seem to work.