Surface Book Battery Life

published 25 Jan 2016

I recently switched from a MacBook Air 11” (2013) to the new Surface Book (base specs). My reasoning was to extend my battery life while on the move, as the air was only netting me around 6 hours on Windows. The air did of course fare better on OS X (7-8 hours) but I would find myself in Remote Desktop all day long as I generally use windows exclusively these days for development.

The hardware is quite nice overall. I have some issues with quality control, but I’ll save that for another more general post. I’m making this entry specifically to touch on battery life, as I have put in a fair amount of time and research in to getting my setup perfect and thought it would be a waste not to summarise and share it. There seems to be a bit of false information out there on how good/bad the Surface Book battery life is - especially due to early reviews using different hardware from the final specs. Time to try and help clear things up.

I get between 9 and 14 hours on battery, depending on what I’m doing. If I was to leave the PC idle (wifi connected, 50% brightness) I can get 18 hours. I use connected standby and the Surface Book consumes around 0.9-1% per hour sleeping. These numbers are well within my expectations. That said, in order to achieve such battery life, you do need to be aware of a few basic points:

Connected Standby Low Power States

Update: As of the release of the February 17th Firmware updates, Hyper-V is no longer required for Connected Standby!

As of January 2016, in order to make connected standby actually enter low power states, you have to install the optional Hyper-V components. The reasoning behind this is yet unknown, but it’s the difference between 2800mW/h and 680mW/h usage when sleeping. Note that having wifi on or off does not seem to affect drain rate significantly.

In order to check that your system is correctly entering Connected Standby low power states, you can use the powercfg command.

  • First make sure your battery is already at 96% or less - the SB hides battery drain from 100 to 97% from the system, which will cause completely inaccurate results if included.
  • Make your system sleep for at least 30 minutes (less than 10 won’t display at all, less than 30 will be inaccurate).
  • Open an administrative command prompt (Win+X then A) and type powercfg /sleepstudy.
  • Open the generated html page in your browser of choice and compare to the following example:

For those wondering what it looks like when CS isn’t working correctly, here’s an example.

Inhibit Turbo Boost while on battery

I recommend disabling turbo boost while on battery by setting the maximum processor state to 99% in your power profile. While this will reduce the performance of some burst tasks, it will also limit the degree that run-away processes using high CPU for their lifetime can affect battery life, which can be a huge gain.

In order to change the processor state, you will need to alter your registry as it is hidden by default. Here’s a reg file that will do it for you (open it in a text editor if you’d rather make the change manually).

Hit the windows key and type “power plan” then open the “Edit Power Plan” settings panel. Click “Change advanced power settings” and alter your maximum processor state while on battery to 99%.

As a note, it is possible that for some workflows this will not be beneficial. Turbo Boost is implemented to be quite efficient, so you may want to consider not adjusting these settings if you are getting already getting ample battery life without overriding the defaults.

CPU Babysitting

Windows 10 has some issues which can result in high CPU usage. Make sure you keep a watch on CPU usage to make sure you don’t get any background tasks saturating your CPU. Here are some examples I have experienced which can result in high background usage:

  • Search indexing. If you have a lot of small files that change regularly in your user folder (node.js projects, cygwin installs, large git repositories), consider exluding them from indexing.
  • System and Compressed Memory. If this is high, you likely have a driver or software conflict. I experienced this after a bit too much experimentation with SB drivers; a fresh install of windows has since fixed it.
  • Service Host: Remote Procedure Call. I’ve found that some windows store apps can trigger a high CPU state that you can only recover from by closing the problematic apps. Let’s hope Microsoft addresses this one.

If you’re worried about background processes, power saver can help alleviate the load, but it is limited to certain services such as Windows Update. No harm in leaving it permanently on, though.

I use Rainmeter to watch over my CPU, as it gives me a quick glance of the processes using the most CPU time.

Display Brightness

Keep display brightness at 50% or less. Anything higher increases battery usage quite exponentially. I’d recommend turning off adaptive brightness and just adjusting yourself as you see fit.

Raw Energy Consumption

On top of this, I highly recommend an app like BatteryBar Pro (the free ‘basic’ version is fine) to watch your actual energy consumption. You don’t need to constantly be watching, but at least spend a few sessions understanding which of your tasks are using more power than others.

Undervolting?

Advanced users may want to consider undervolting using Intel XTU, but I’m not going to go over that here as it requires special care with connected standby else your system will crash. I do run at -82mV and can attest that it reduces heat output significantly, but doesn’t really affect battery life in a meaningful way.

Conclusion

The Surface Book has a 68Wh battery, so if you want 10 hours you need to aim for 6800mW consumption or less. When doing menial tasks like web browsing, I usually hover around 4-5000mW; dev work is closer to 6-7000mW; burst CPU activity can hit as high as 20-30W.

While you can achieve high battery life with the SB, the out-of-box experience is absolutely horrible. Microsoft do still have some work to do:

  • Connected Standby should just work, even without Hyper-V enabled.
  • Connected Standby should be using far less power. The specs state devices must drain less than 5% per 16 hours, and they are yet to get anywhere close to that. Who knows if they can?
  • The Surface Book consumes power while completely off when connected to the keyboard dock. This is completely unacceptable. I’m not sure if it can be fixed with firmware updates, but let’s hope so.

Can I recommend this thing? I’m honestly not sure yet. I have a few other issues I haven’t mentioned here such as paint being scratched off the hinge, fan noise and speaker issues which I’m happy to live with but deserve consideration before making a purchase (these seem like quite common issues, looking around). I’ll write those up another time if I find time :).

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2016

published 11 Jan 2016

Welcome back everyone! I’ve had a bit of a break over the last two weeks. I should say “break”, because I’ve still been spending a minimum of 3-4 hours a day just keeping up with the day-to-day running of osu!. Going to take a moment to reflect on 2015 and figure out my intentions for 2016. Bear with me, as I am not one to plan ahead, so anything I say here is raw and volatile (as in I reserve the right to change my mind).

What did we get done in 2015?

  • Moved over 75% users to the new GL/.NETv4 branch. There’s still a few yet to make the plunge for one reason or another, but we still have some improvements that are yet to go live in the performance and compatibility department over the coming months which should move this number closer to 100%.
  • Released the osu! “nono” keyboard and many other new merch items on the store. You will honestly never understand how much goes on behind the scenes to make the web store run and how much I’ve put into getting it going smoothly. That said, things are setup really nicely now and we have many new products coming this year for those waiting for the perfect item. We are looking at improving distribution to EU countries which currently get hit by some weird customs/taxing practices enforced by the governments over there.
  • The osu! tournament system got a lot of work. As a result, all the official tournaments ran smoother than ever. We introduced the first money prize pool for OWC 2015, along with the profile banner system. We’re constantly working to make tournaments as enjoyable as possible for both participants and viewers.
  • We began releasing osu! exclusive tracks courtesy of nekodex and cYsmix. Going forward you will likely see a lot more of this, too!
  • We announced the new osu! website. While it’s still not complete after a year of development, it is getting closer to being a stable and usable replacement for the old site.

I’ve probably missed a lot out from this list, but these were the things which stood out to me.

What are we doing in 2016?

Development & Contributions

Let me start by saying that I’m never satisfied with my own progress. I expected to get a lot more done in 2015. This can mostly be attributed to overheads in my own workflow which move my time away from writing code, including accounting, management of others, email/support communications, community management and infrastructure requirement changes (due to things like DDoS attacks).

I spent more money than before on hiring staff to try and get more development time into the game to make up for the deficit caused by me handling other issues, but even with low expectations this failed to meet my minimum expectations. I’ve learnt a lot in the process and will be aiming to change direction in 2016. My motto has always been to throw solutions until they work, which sometimes includes failing along the way.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m forced to manage people. When employing people on a part or full-time basis, unless they are extremely self-motivated driven people, you are forced to micro-manage. This is not something I want to do and thus I won’t be doing it anymore. I want people who are contributing to osu! to be doing it because they want to; because they are driven to do so.

What does this mean for 2016? The direction is to open-source everything and allow absolutely anyone an opportunity to contribute. I get a lot of emails from people asking for employment, and while I’d love to allow them the chance, the overheads that come with this are just not sustainable.

So, I want to get all existing developers working on a contractual basis fulfilling feature requests and bug fixes on per-issue (or per-hour where necessary to ensure their survival) basis, paying out roughly what you’d expect as a full-time contractor to make this a sustainable system.

Yes, I may be blocking some people who require job security from contributing, but it also weeds out those who don’t have the confidence, skill or motivation to contribute in a meaningful and consistent manner. In return, I promise that those who do meet the requirements and contribute on a regular basis will be amply rewarded.

Anti-cheat & Bans & Appeals

Some of you more active in certain parts of the community may have noticed over the recent months that we’ve been more agile in handling cheater reports. I’m constantly evaluating how we are combatting cheating and altering the strategy as required. We’ve lost some battles in 2015 and cheating efforts continue to grow in size but we have weeded out some long-term cheaters that were polluting the system.

I haven’t been too vocal about what I think of cheating/hacking because I believe that keeping these efforts private allow us to have the edge on users trying to abuse the system, but this year I am going to try making our efforts more public than ever, hopefully allowing others to contribute to the endless fight to keep osu! an enjoyable environment for legitimate users.

I’ve always been under the belief that cheaters are fine to exist as long as other users are not disrupted. Now before you attack me for this view, hear me out - If we were out to catch every last cheater, you’d see the following happen:

  • There would be a lot less time dedicated to actual development and improvement of the game itself.
  • We would be forced to introduce more intrusive measures to ensure we had full control of the situation.
  • It would push cheaters to resort to new methods, like hardware devices, which would be undetectable to us.

Until now this approach has worked relatively well, although at time we have been too slow to respond to an obvious cheater. Going forward I want to ensure our response time to cheat reports is as close to zero as possible, to give cheaters the smallest publicity/exposure possible (after all, this is usually what they want). I have some ideas for new methods in this regards, but we’ll also be reaching out to the community for help - I’ve seen a lot of people that have already been able to help us catch people that we had no idea were cheating.

We still have some large areas to fix (such as spinner hacks), which I hope to attend to this year using replay analysis amongst other techniques, assuming no one beats me :).

As for ban/restriction appeals: the current system is completely unsustainable. We have 4-5 people working every day on handling appeals and even then we cannot keep up. On top of this, there are many cases where we make mistakes. People that cheat also excel at lying and making up stories, so it’s very hard to decide where to draw the line.

There’s also the recurring case of people getting denied appeals, then just using further hacks to bypass multi-account detection and come back up to 120 times on new accounts where they (usually) proceed to cheat again. It’s nigh-impossible to solve this with the current system. Ban appeals favour compulsive liars and make it hard for the actual honest users to return to the game.

Going forward, we need to automate this process. We need cheaters to be put in a state they are able to continue playing without disturbing the average user who does not want to be around cheaters. They need to be happy with the state of their account so they aren’t tempted to constantly make new accounts and pollute the system.

Having said all this, you’d think I have a solution all thought-out. I don’t. This is by far the hardest thing to manage in osu! - and I’d go as far as saying it’s the same issue plaguing every online game out there. No one has found a solution for this. Honestly there may be no perfect solution, but this is the problem which keeps me up at night. I still believe we can implement a system which adds incentive to not cheat which doesn’t need manual oversight from a team of paid staff.

I’m open to input as always.

At the end of the day, though…

A lot of people think I run osu! as a business. I do, but only to the extent that I pay taxes and keep accounts. That’s about as far as I take it - osu! to me is and has always been a project of mine. It started out as a hobby and has become something much larger. Just because osu! now has over 1 million unique users (playing each month), please don’t hold me to run it as if it was LoL, WoW or anything similar. Those companies make games to make money. I make games to provide entertainment. Please don’t assume I follow the same ideals or have the same goals as such companies.

Making money from osu! is a reality. We make enough to employ people to handle the osu! store, support tickets, develop features and run tournaments. We make enough to fund tournaments without additional sponsors, fund new merchandise development and help out users if support is required (for instance, I offer servers to people making services which are related to osu!). While I’d love to be transparent with the way we use money, I honestly have not done this because I don’t want to shift the focus. I don’t want to involve you all with the burdens of accounting. I want to keep osu! the same as it has always been: focused on the game, the players and the community.

Trust that I am trying my best to not waste your money. I invest every last bit back into osu!, pay myself just enough to survive and constantly review and adjust how we spend the money you support osu! with. I am extremely happy that I can run a service of this scale with no advertising, no crappy in-app purchases or DLC, all while keeping an uptime and update release cycle that exceeds all the major games out there.

In 2016 I hope to invest more money back to contributors via open-source. Once we have our ecosystem set up to accept contributions from anyone, this will remove the previous overheads which stopped me from paying out for smaller (possibly once-off) contributions and also remove overheads of contracts and employment while still allowing recurring contributors to make a living from helping out with osu!.

2016 will be the year the osu! client goes open source. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

2016 will also be the year of many many more osu! original track releases. We’re still working on the specifics of this but I’m super-excited and can’t wait to announce the artists we have on-board for releases this year. I want to make the music side of osu! sustainable, and give users more choice in the songs they can use to map (ie. we obtain the legal rights to map music for mapping, so you don’t have to).

Sorry if this post is a bit of a rant, but I wanted to share everything currently on my mind. I hope you can agree with the direction I’m taking things, but if not please be as vocal as you want!

Oh, and osu!next will happen this year. While 2015 was a realistic goal at first, I hope you can that in running and improving a service, deadlines sometimes get pushed only - not because we want to, but because we have to. More on osu!next in the coming blog posts, I’m sure.

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20151219

published 19 Dec 2015

And so we approach the end of another year. We got quite a bit done this year, but as always seems to happen some “deadlines” have slipped past us. For those that still have a glimpse of hope, sorry but the osu!next design implementation will not be complete this year. Some people have been mentioning it recently like it’ll be a huge drop (basically like a new product) but let me stress that as with everything I do, it’ll be a gradual update of what we currently have, and you will be able to follow along on the Cutting Edge release stream.

With that out of the way, I have a few updates.

  • OWC winners (1st 2nd and 3rd) will actually be getting a limited edition mug on top of the aforementioned prizes! It completely slipped my mind that we had already completed the design, and were waiting on production run to complete. Will reveal it on here as soon as we receive them!
  • The osu!store has officially shut for this year. Thanks to everyone for your support. We truly hope your purchases have improved you quality of life in some small way. We do have a lot in store for 2016, with many new products in planning or production currently, so if you’ve been after something we don’t yet offer keep an eye on the store or my blog!
  • I put some work into the background saving system (which handles writing beatmap and score databases as well as all the configuration files to disk). Where previously saves would only happen when osu! was made inactive for a certain amount of time, now they will happen a lot more often, while still avoiding any performance degradation during gameplay. As a result, it should now be a whole lot harder for a single crash to result in data loss.
  • Due to a few remaining issues with keyboard sounds, the new sound scheme I said will be pushed to cutting edge probably won’t happen until next week. In its current state it would likely piss the majority of users off, so that’s probably for the best.

This may be my last blog for the year (no promises) as I will be spending Christmas with family and friends, so if you don’t hear from me again, have an amazing Christmas & New Year. Make sure to take occasional breaks from osu! and spend some time with your real-life acquaintances - they will definitely appreciate it!

Let’s make 2016 the best year osu! has seen yet.

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20151215

published 15 Dec 2015

I’m going to be mirroring a few recent updates I made on twitter, but there some more exciting new content too!

  • OWC 2015 was a blast. Amazing tournament to watch. Thanks to everyone who participated and everyone who watched on! We announced the physical prize that in my eyes is even cooler than the money prize: a unique pin badge set that is exclusively produced for 2015-2016 official tournaments!

  • So congratulations to USA taking away around $2,500 in prize money, China with $1,600 and Poland with $800. Prizes will be distributed early next year once we have the logistics in place.

  • Thanks to the 1,266 people who supported the tournament through a profile banner purchase. You managed to cover half of the prize pool, which is a huge help!

  • We’ve had a few issues getting tablets through the docks, but it looks like they should be back on the store tomorrow. Keep in mind we won’t be able to ship too many before Christmas, and the osu!store will be taking a brief break over the holidays.

  • osu! mugs are on their way early next year! We have a few other new products coming mid-to-late January, so keep your eyes open.

  • I rewrote BSS storage logic once again to improve reliability. It seems that the C# AWS SDK just wouldn’t live up to its name, so I’ve switched to using a command-line alternative. Been keeping a close eye on the server and it hasn’t fallen over once, so this is looking promising. We also have a patch incoming to the stable release tomorrow which helps with slow internet connections failing BSS uploads.

  • Currently have someone working on revamping the osu! interface sounds to make it feel much more awesome. I’ve always felt that for a rhythm game, osu! really doesn’t pay enough attention to sound effects. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, but consider it an example of the level of detail we plan on applying to the whole game as we move forward.

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20151212

published 12 Dec 2015

Looks like I’ll be falling back to a weekly entry once again!

  • Received the final sample of the yet-to-be-announced OWC prize! Make sure to follow along with tomorrow’s stream of the grand finals if you want to see what we have coming! Very excited to reveal it :).
  • Been working through some import issues to get the latest batch of osu!tablets on the store. Amazing how much trouble a few incorrect numbers can make on documents. Hopefully they’ll be back up on Monday, but do keep in mind the osu!store will be taking a break over Christmas again this year.
  • I put aside some time this week to improve the osu!store admin tools to be able to modify orders and addresses. Saves these issues falling back to me to complete at a lower level.
  • Still receiving your feedback about remaining performance issues. We’ve still got plenty to try out, so keep the logs coming on slack! As expected, Optimus architecture systems still seem to be an issue (low performance on dedicated GPU).
  • A new history architecture went live for the osu! editor, thanks to TheVileOne. This fixes the memory consumption issues of the old system and should make restoring undo states (and placing new notes on very long beatmaps) a much smoother experience.
  • Spent some time (as I do each month) reviewing server security. Strengthened server firewall rules and centralised logic for distributing these rules to each server.
  • Moved our cloud-based development environment to Singapore (used to be in the US) to allow for lower latency access from the main locations our devs work from. This reduces latency from 110-280ms to 60-110ms. Makes for a much smoother experience when not using local deployments (sometimes we need to test on more active live data).

I realise I haven’t streamed yet this week. Will try to fit some in tomorrow before the OWC finals! Better be there for those ;).

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