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I noticed that my laptop "burns through the battery" much faster when I use SO, as opposed to other browser-based applications. The battery lasts approximately as long as it does when I do development work using an IDE and a compiler, or roughly roughly one-half the time that it lasts when I'm browsing or using a text editor (4 hours vs. 8 hours). Same goes when I browse the full version of the site from my iPod, except the battery does not last that long.

I think that the aggressive WYSIWYG and spell checking contribute to the drain of the battery at least partially. Automatic requests of the current reputation may be responsible too. I am sure that there are other things of which I am not aware in the site scripts that provide a better user experience in exchange for some CPU cycles. I love these features, but I would gladly trade some or all of them in exchange for, say, an extra hour or two of my laptop's battery life.

It would be nice if I could control "power settings" on the SO sites, similar to the way they are controlled in the operating systems. The application could then replace some of the features with battery-friendly ones: say, instead of auto-refreshing WYSIWYG or checking spelling every time that I type, it could give me a button to refresh the preview or to check spelling. Of course switching the settings to "outlet power" should bring back the enhanced user experience.

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Have you tried switching to the mobile edition (using the link in the footer)? –  Martijn Pieters Nov 16 '12 at 15:05
    
@MartijnPieters Yes, I did. It does help the battery, but that's too drastic a drop in the user experience. –  dasblinkenlight Nov 16 '12 at 15:07
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Have you actually looked at, say, task manager to compare your browser's CPU load when on SO vs other sites? –  Servy Nov 16 '12 at 15:11
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@Servy It does not look too different, but there's a little bit of "heisenbergery" going on: the CPU use stays down when I'm watching the meter, and goes up when I am actively using the site, say, to answer a question. My laptop is Macbook Air, so the activity meter shows me only the "instance in time" measurement; I do not get a nice graph of the CPU usage the way I do on my Windows desktop. I suppose I could profile the browser for timing, but so far I have not tried doing it. –  dasblinkenlight Nov 16 '12 at 15:23
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Aren't there CPU meters for OS X that stay on top of the screen (or that horrid dock)? –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 16 '12 at 16:28
    
Spell-checking is (AFAIK) not an SO feature, but your browser's. And for what it's worth, you could use the browser to disable all scripting on SO. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 16 '12 at 16:29
    
@NullUserExceptionอ_อ With less than two years of mostly hobby-level use, I am a relatively new (and definitely a light-weight) user of Mac OS X. I do not know of many tools that are out there; I can take a look. However, I doubt that this is a Mac-specific or even a laptop-specific issue; I suspect that SO developers are in a much better position to profile the scripts, identify the most CPU-hungry ones, and see what, if anything, they could do about conditionally disabling them. –  dasblinkenlight Nov 16 '12 at 16:33
    
Have you used Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/any HTML 5.0 interactive website lately? Any site that exhibits any kind of functionality other than rendering the page (animations, in page updates, etc) is going to exhibit this kind of behavior. –  casperOne Nov 16 '12 at 21:53
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@casperOne No, I have not used any of these sites. I'm sure they would "eat" my battery too, but that does not mean SO couldn't do better. –  dasblinkenlight Nov 16 '12 at 22:03
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I guess developing a "battery saving mode" would be an incredible pain in the arse on the dev end, but I can't help but think it might make sense... especially today, in the age of ultra-mobile tablets and hybrid machines. –  Pëkka Nov 21 '12 at 17:41
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