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Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?

Posted by Anonymous on Tue 27 Dec 2005 at 15:19

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So in a flurry of package installation to try and get some software to compile, some hardware to work, and some curiosity satisfied, I've somehow crippled the processing power of my computer. Now I know it's not the fastest, but it should be faster. I clearly remember it being fast enough for me to not be bothered until now. Now it seems to take forever to open any program and even worse, after a program is open it's far too slow in responding.

I've intentionally left several (probably all the important) details out and complaining about not having the details won't help solve the problem. The problem is, something was installed and is running that is turning me against my computer. I don't know what happened in the past (no I was not drunk when it happened! ;-) ), but I do know that something has to improve. Please ObiWan - you're my only hope! So...How do I find out what's taking the processing power?

Are there common programs that can be reigned in so that they still perform their functions, but don't chew up so much of the processor?

Are there general methods that I can implement that will help speed up the programs that are running?

Who are the 'usual suspects' when dealing with a crippled computer?

What, in general, and without knowing the details of any specific situation, can I do to get my computer back?

 

 


Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Steve (82.41.xx.xx) on Tue 27 Dec 2005 at 15:24
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I think that rather than focussing upon making the existing programs faster, which in the general case isn't going to work, your best option is to find out what is hogging the system.

For that you have a lot of tools available. To see what is running and taking most CPU time you can use the standard top command, and there are many other related programs you can use to check on things such as disk throughput, network usage, etc.

I'd suggest starting with top, looking at your system logs, and investigating the sysstat package initially.

Your system logfiles might also be worth reading.

Failing that you might be able to see what you installed or upgraded most recently by looking at the output of "ls -ltr /var/cache/apt/archives".

Definitely an interesting question, especially in the abstract manner you've posed it. Of course that makes it hard to give anything other than "You could try ... xxx" answers!

Steve

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (67.163.xx.xx) on Tue 27 Dec 2005 at 17:42
top will help since it'll show which processes are using how much of the cpu. ps aux will show you everything that's running. if you're a gnome guy, try gnome-system-monitor. do you have beagle installed?

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (213.216.xx.xx) on Wed 28 Dec 2005 at 22:26
The tedious business of following logfiles can be made easier with a program called logcheck. Not a more-difficult-than zless colouriser, but a program that tries to pick the interesting parts and will mail them to you. Just read the output along with the cron and batch job (backups, compiles, cleanups, ids...) reports.

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (222.154.xx.xx) on Tue 27 Dec 2005 at 19:56
- use hdparm to ensure your disks are using DMA, etc.
- use filelight to figure out what's using your disk, it's nice, easy and pretty. (yes you can use alternate CLI methods if you'd prefer)
- have you got enough/any swap space (need depends on amount of RAM)?

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by yeti (84.133.xx.xx) on Thu 29 Dec 2005 at 01:40
I had some problem with programs starting extremely slow in Gnome some weeks ago and some prorams even took a rest between quitting and the vanishing of the window.
A while I guessed it could be something related to fonts and some day I found the fc-cache command...
After rebuilding some font indices or sth like that with this command, I am happy with my 500MHz-ish Gnome-on-Sarge-system again.

Another performance killer is java. I tried Blackdown-1.4.x, Sun-Java-1,4.x amd 1.5.x but all of them show the same misbehaviour here: Sometimes java-vms don't terminate and are eating up lotsa CPU%...

Another ugly browser realated performance robbery is caused by too many flash trash, animated gifs, non amoking java and all the other eye hurting bullshit of the web of today. If you need to visit such sites, close the windows, when not reading them instead of letting them lay arround a long time. Or try to find the same contents somwhere in a less eye hurting presentation...

Too less RAM and even SWAP are classical reasons too but if the system worked and not too much new stuff was installed, this shouldn't be your problem. Little helpers like top, pree, ps, ... will tell that quickly...

Probably your system suffers a different disease, but why not start a FAQ about this topic?

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by suspended user k2 (65.92.xx.xx) on Sun 1 Jan 2006 at 07:08
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> ...but why not start a FAQ about t his topic?

That would be very helpful. Something which gives a concrete method to remove packages (orphaned??) without affecting the machine's working would be great.

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (66.69.xx.xx) on Sun 1 Jan 2006 at 23:15
>> Something which gives a concrete method to remove packages (orphaned??)

For debian, there are two excellent programs for this: deborphan and debfoster

at the commandline, (oh first you'll need obviously to apt-get install deborphan), just type "deborphan". It will use dpkg to determine which installed packages are orphaned.

debfoster (without arguments) will go through all the packages with the most dependencies and ask you if you want to keep them.

both programs require root privileges

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (84.133.xx.xx) on Tue 3 Jan 2006 at 14:47

orphaner -a and aptitude are my favourites for slimming down the amount of installed packages.

aptitude can flag automatically (by dependencies) installed packages and will deinstall them if they are not needed any more. Very usefull!

orphaner will show all packages which are not installed as dependencies of others. These may be unneeded packages or packages you definitely need or want on your system.

There's another thingie for this job, debfoster, I never have used it but I think it could manage a list where you declare some packages as needed, so they would not be presented as candidates to be removed.

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (194.149.xx.xx) on Mon 20 Feb 2006 at 20:20
must have: noscript.xpi flashblock.xpi anidisable.xpi

voluntary but recommanded: adblock.xpi

[ Parent ]

No silver bullet!
Posted by k8to (64.142.xx.xx) on Sun 1 Jan 2006 at 21:29
You can't just provide a simple series of steps to find out where the performance has gone. This is a problem analysis situation where you just have to investigate and find the problem or problems.

The recommendations of top, filelight, etc. are good, but these are all step 2 type actions. The first action is to accurately determine what kind of a problem you are having. Is it really CPU starvation you are not happy about? Is it visual responsiveness in your gui? Is it program launch time? Recognizing what "seems slow" and verifying that your guess is right is step 1.

For example, at one point in my last six months or so in using Debian, the interface became "slow". I tried some normal cpu-intensive tasks, and they ran about as I would expect, so it wasn't that my computer had started failing or cache had been disabled, or the CPU was being hogged or anything. Then I tried launching some large programs (like the huge pig azureus), and this was the same as it had been previously. Then I started thinking the problem was in the gui layer, and tried quickly swapping from workpace to workspace, and this was very much slower than usual. Armed with the information that the slowdown was in the gui, I looked at my X server, which wasn't swapping.

I experimented with some window movement and creation stuff, and decided that somehow in the move from XFree to XOrg I had lost a great deal of X buffer performance. Bad drivers? AGPgart disabled?

After a lot of poking around I gave up and asked on #debian on freenode.net for suggestions. Someone asked if I had enabled the Composite extension. I hadn't of course, since I don't think it offers me anything useful, and because I didn't want to slow my system down, but it sounded like a fit for my problem. I poked around in the X server log file and found no mention of it. But then I found a X config file item online which explicitly disbles Composite, and added this to /etc/X/xorg.conf, and all my performance came back.

top, dtrace, and all the kernel kwakkery you can name would not have found this problem. Log file analysis would not have found this problem, because it was not reported! A careful reexamination of configuration changes would not have found this problem because absolutely no configuration changes were made in the transition from XFree to XOrg, and because Debian offers no downgrade path for comparative analysis of the different X servers. I never switched the feature on, it was just silently enabled "for" me without any notification. However, looking at the problem, noting what was wrong, and researching it in the right ways did fix it.

[ Parent ]

Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by Anonymous (194.149.xx.xx) on Mon 20 Feb 2006 at 20:29
I have not seen anyone recommanding "sar -A". It's good tool to identify the bottleneck. The backend is noninteractive invoked fromcron. Front end is text terminal/email friendly. By default stores about 2 weeks of statistics.

It's sysstat package where reports are generated daily from cron and statistics are collected from cron.d every 10 minutes or was it once per hour?

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Re: Getting my computer back - or - where's the processing power?
Posted by vinithepooh (195.7.xx.xx) on Mon 27 Mar 2006 at 16:17
I have a similar problem!
I have been running Debian sarge on a Dialogue Flybook with a Transmeta Crusoe processor for months, with no problems.
I cannot remember making any significant changes to the system,
but suddenly my machine has become incredibly slow!
If I run top I cannot see any processes hogging most of the CPU,
but when I run the Gnome-System-Monitor it shows that CPU load is periodically and
frequently reaching 100%.

I wonder whether the originator of this thread found a solution,
or whether anyone else could give me ideas on how to find out the offending
process, as tools like top and ps don't seem to help.

Many thanks.

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