Chrome OS Battery Notifications

Collecting Data

Every thirty seconds, powerd reads power-supply-related information from /sys/class/power_supply and emits a PowerSupplyPoll D-Bus signal containing a PowerSupplyProperties protocol buffer. (The information is also updated when line power is connected or disconnected or when the system wakes from suspend.) Chrome observes these signals and uses them to update the battery level and remaining-time estimate in the system tray.

The “time-to-empty” estimate that powerd sends to Chrome is actually the estimated time until powerd will shut down the system automatically, which happens (by default) three minutes before the battery will be completely empty. This time interval is specified via powerd‘s low_battery_shutdown_time_s preference. See powerd’s PowerSupply class and the Power Supplies document for more details.

Notifying the User

Chrome also displays notifications to the user when the battery reaches certain levels; see ash::TrayPower.

With no external power source connected:

  • 15 minutes remaining until automatic shutdown: low-power notification
  • 5 minutes remaining until automatic shutdown: critically-low-power notification

With a low-power USB charger connected (for systems that can charge over USB):

  • 10% remaining: low-power notification
  • 5% remaining: critically-low-power notification

Previously-shown notifications are automatically dismissed when the battery rises above a threshold (30 minutes or 15%, respectively).

If a low-power USB charger is connected, a notification is also displayed to warn the user that the system may be consuming more power than the charger can supply.

Remaining Time Estimates

To compute time-to-empty and time-to-full estimates, powerd maintains running averages of the current, as measured on battery and line power, and uses them to extrapolate the remaining time until the battery charge reaches 0 (when discharging) or its full charge (when charging). These values are displayed in the system tray and additionally used to display notifications or to shut the system down automatically when the battery discharges to a critically-low level. Several powerd preference files can be used to configure powerd's estimates:

  • max_current_samples: number of samples that are averaged
  • battery_stabilized_after_startup_ms: delay after powerd startup before collecting the first sample
  • battery_stabilized_after_line_power_connected_ms: delay after connecting line power
  • battery_stabilized_after_line_power_disconnected_ms: delay after disconnecting line power
  • battery_stabilized_after_resume_ms: delay after resuming from sleep

powerd previously used an exponential moving average, but the resulting code was difficult to reason about or write tests for, and the estimates were even noisier (as a result of decreasing the weighting of older samples).

Battery time estimates currently fluctuate wildly (sometimes by an hour or more between updates) when the power load is also changing dramatically. This behavior can be reduced by increasing the values in the above prefs, but doing so makes the estimates slower to adjust when the load has actually changed.