Cains and Kubuntu: The Swap Slog

Posted on Tuesday, February 01, 2011 | | In , , , , , , , , , ,

Once I started trying to actually work with Cairns, I discovered a problem: it runs really, really slowly. I had Amarok open, streaming music, a terminal window, and Rekonq open. No problem there. I opened a couple tabs in Rekonq, checked email, etc. At some point it began to bog down. I added a 'tech' activity and tossed a bunch of monitors onto it and discovered 100% of the swap space was being used. This machine, with 640M of RAM, got installed with a swap of 400M or so. Aren't you supposed to make your swap double your RAM? I had let the installer define the terms and hadn't checked the swap size.

At any rate, once I got everything except Konsole and Rekonq shut down, a process that involved me clicking a control, leaving the room for five minutes to do something else, and coming back to see if it had responded to my click yet, then clicking something else if it had, I searched for help on managing my swap space. A few sites talked about 'swappiness', a value that can be modified to tell Kubuntu how often and how aggressively to use the swap space. This value was set to 60 as a default, meaning it was going to swap space fairly often. I reduced it to 10, just to see what it would do.

Sadness. (on Indigo)
The next morning I opened Amarok, Chrome, which I installed after fearing memory issues with Rekonq, and Dolphin. A few minor blips in the music stream were all the difficulties I had, but, then, I opted not to use that machine to get my work done. I'd gotten fantastically little done the day before. (In the grand scheme of 'computers hate me today', my laptop's install of KDE decided it wasn't going to load the plasma desktop, nope, and presented me with a naked gray grid and no little commas to do all the plasma things I usually like to do. *sigh* That machine so needs an upgrade/repair/reinstall/miracle. In reference to the screenshot, my lower panel was working, but was hidden at the time of the shot.)

The changed swappiness setting has helped, I think. I've still not used Cairns for any real work, but the draw on the swap space has reduced. The music streaming in Amarok still hitches from time to time, especially when the hard drive is running for any reason. I'm tempted to install another window manager so I can use the machine for my work, but I'm reluctant to toss Gnome on there because of all the associated apps that will get installed. Fluxbox might be an option. It seems that the machine runs well enough once its programs are started and running, much like my ailing WinXP install on BotanyBay. I'm hesitant to use this machine as a test box, since it's supposed to be a backup for my laptop should the upgrade go blooey, but I do want a real idea of whether or not Cairns can handle KDE 4. Ironically, the real 'test machine', Adelaide, now residing in BotanyBay's spot on the bedroom desk, exhibited only minor glitches when installing Mepis 8 and runs it very well indeed. Computers, if you guys could figure out which of you is gonna hork OS hairballs and which ones are going to behave, I'd appreciate a report. Thanks ever so.