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Wednesday, August 7th, 2019, 9:25 am

I Never Had a Machine With More Than 2GB of RAM. But Phoronix Portrays GNU/Linux as Sucking on Memory Management.

The main problem is bloated software, not Linux

LAST night I saw a somewhat ‘trollish’ bunch of reports. I saw Slashdot [1], linking to Phoronix [2] with a grammatical mistake in the headline (“Yes, Linux Does Bad In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop”).

Let me first clarify that I’m no kernel guru. Far from it. I’m a programmer, but not an OS programmer or kernel developer.

“Is this accurate?”

That’s what I asked people who may know better. They know kernel developers (and development) better than me.

“Is it true or is Phoronix taking the piss?”

I saw comments on it (almost 100 in Phoronix and 400 in Slashdot), but they’re short and vague. How is Linux doing compared to other OSes?

“ZSWAP makes a huge difference (RAM compression),” one person told me. “GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="zswap.enabled=1 zswap.compressor=lz4 zswap.zpool=z3fold"

“Windows 10 & MacOS & Ubuntu have RAM compression on by default,” he added.

“I’m not sure exactly what they have,” he continued, “but I remember reading about it before. RAM compression isn’t new at all. But it is relatively new (few years) to be on by default.”

Linux kernel space is typically ahead of the curve (compared to the competition); Con Kolivas comes to mind when it comes to claims that it’s optimised for servers but not for desktops (the scheduler, not RAM/swap management).

To check compression status on one’s system:

grep -R . /sys/module/zswap/parameters;sudo dmesg|grep zswap; sudo grep -R . /sys/kernel/debug/zswap;f;sudo sh -c 'cd /sys/kernel/debug/zswap;perl -E "say $(cat stored_pages) * 4096 / $(cat pool_total_size)"' # to check if loaded ; used ; ZswapCompressionRatio

How can one argue that GNU/Linux does worse than counterparts? Slashdot promoted this story with about 400 comments and Phoronix even has a grammatical mistake in its headline (Slashdot corrected it, Michael of Phoronix has not.) It’s an eyesore in a sense; both the message and the English. The headline also states that as fact even though it’s to be attributed to just one developer, Artem S Tashkinov. To an outsider (to kernel development) it may smack of clickbait. It’s stigmatising “Linux” as not successful on “desktop” because of “technical” “issues” (not OEM bribes, ISVs etc.), but if it’s based on purely factual bits, then let it be, I’m fine with it.

My gut feeling was, there’s likely more to the story; can Apple and Microsoft handle compression of RAM for instance? If so, how well? I don’t know people running Apple-branded systems and PCs with Windows on just 2 gigabytes of RAM (which is the most I ever had on any of my systems; same with my wife, who is a GNU/Linux user).

Another person, who is proficient at kernel matters, told me: “I have caused Linux to stall in swap hell many times and there are long list of particular causes of it. facebook made oomd to attempt to deal with it in userspace.”

The first person weighed in again: “they should compare to other distros, and to MacOS/Windows. But the complaint is valid, IMO: that Linux (defaults) *should* be ‘smarter’ when OOM; check what is your vm.vfs_cache_pressure. $ cat /proc/sys/vm/vfs_cache_pressure [...] I have mine set to 50, because this article makes sense to. (but I’m not sure what default is nowadays?)”

A third person wrote: “my Orange Pi with 2 GB of RAM running everything mainline is my main desktop, which runs generally fine with a swapfile of also 2 GB…”

That was in the #techrights IRC channel this morning.

The person added, “the bigger question for me is why applications these days are so heavy and slow…”

That last point is what I too have raised many times before. GNU/Linux is handling reasonably well a complete system with 2GB of RAM (or less). Super-bloated applications is where things start getting trickier.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Linux Performs Poorly In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop

    It’s been a gripe for many running Linux on low RAM systems especially is that when the Linux desktop is under memory pressure the performance can be quite brutal with the system barely being responsive. The discussion over that behavior has been reignited this week.

  2. Yes, Linux Does Bad In Low RAM / Memory Pressure Situations On The Desktop

    It’s been a gripe for many running Linux on low RAM systems especially is that when the Linux desktop is under memory pressure the performance can be quite brutal with the system barely being responsive. The discussion over that behavior has been reignited this week.

    Developer Artem S Tashkinov took to the kernel mailing list over the weekend to express his frustration with the kernel’s inability to handle low memory pressure in a graceful manner. If booting a system with just 4GB of RAM available, disabling SWAP to accelerate the impact/behavior, and launching a web browser and opening new web pages / tabs can in a matter of minutes bring the system down to its knees.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019, 8:51 am

Linux.com is Nowadays Too Much Microsoft Propaganda and Openwashing

This is what the site looks like this morning

Linux.com

Welcome to Linux.com!

Microsoft… is “OPEN SOURCE”!

Sadly, this has become far too common in that site under its new (and sole) editor. Whose interests are served now? Linux Foundation sponsors.

Thursday, July 25th, 2019, 9:30 am

Twitter is Dead to Me

Old Twitter

REMEMBER the minimalism of early/earlier Twitter? Here it is in 2009; Notice how in 2014 it’s already bloated; nowadays it takes up gigabytes of RAM — all this to read SMS-sized blurbs and replies to them. I have to restart my browser just to read notifications. I’ve had enough!

Twitter, the Saudi-owned (partly at least) social control media company (i.e. censorship, a filter of communications whose owners determine what people or speech are permissible), is finished. It’s dying anyway.

Weeks ago it banned, with neither warning nor notice (let alone an explanation), the account that supports Julian Assange. It was terminated despite being professional and polite. It was associated with some very high-profile people, including Julian Assange’s family. Weeks later the account was reinstated (after huge backlash), but other accounts associated with this one remain banned. Everything they’ve ever published got deleted for — possibly at least — being ‘inconvenient’ to the site’s owners, i.e. shareholders who subsidise this company’s losses.

In order to reduce these losses or turn up some temporary profits (for the first time ever!) a year ago Twitter cut off third-party applications. It killed APIs in an effort to impose its surveillance malware (‘app’) on all users and each page was greeted with a pop-up pushing this malicious ‘app’.

Moments ago the site started imposing its utterly disgusting mobile UI on all visitors, even those who do not use a mobile device. This, to me, was the final straw.

I will still have stuff copied onto Twitter (through Diaspora), I will occasionally check replies (perhaps once a day), but for all practical purposes my presence in Twitter will remain mostly a phantom. Later this week I will have posted my 666,666th tweet (special number), but before I get to it I sort of ‘quit’ Twitter. Knowing that many people have no account other than in Twitter I will keep sending copies of my dents/diaspora posts/Pleroma posts/toots into it.

Twitter as a company deserves to collapse. Like Facebook, it has artificially inflated the number of users; it lies to advertisers and gives a false impression/perception of scale. I predict that Twitter won’t last more than a decade (from now). It had lost billions before it began ‘squeezing the goose’ and now the goose is in its deathbed. RIP, Twitter. I won’t miss you when you’re gone.

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 11:25 pm

The Linux Foundation Killed Linux.com After Two Decades of News Service

Linux.com

Remember NewsForge? Or Geeknet? Yes, once upon a time Linux.com was a site for geeks; under the Linux Foundation’s ownership it gradually became a site for large corporations, where they could buy puff pieces and interviews (agreed upon in advance, as covered in Techrights). But among those puff pieces and ads one could at least find some journalism.

I’m sad to see, 2 months down the line, that Linux.com is practically dead. Nothing new is being added to it. It’s now a fossil. Eternally? The Foundation has said not a single word about it. So much for openness and transparency, eh?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 11:13 pm

Tux Machines 15th Year Party

Tux Machines birthday

PLANNED for next Friday is a little local party to celebrate the Tux Machines birthday, which is a special one because it’s fifteenth. It’s hard to believe the site started its 16th year earlier this month.

The party will mostly involve some local/personal friends of ours, but if you live near Manchester and wish to join, send me an E-mail.

Monday, May 27th, 2019, 7:06 am

Want to be Efficient? Disable Notifications. Read and Reply in Large Batches.

Resisting temptations is a lot easier when they never show up

Got mail

Productivity is — and has long been — a habit or hobby of mine; my blog has a whole section dedicated to it (since 2004). Some people wrongly accuse me of being a “bot” even though everything I post I always post manually (I use 3 computers in tandem, but that’s about workspace, not automation). The culprit which needs to be eliminated is obtrusive “push” as opposed to “pull”; push is when someone tells you what to pay attention to, whereas pull is when you’re totally in control of your workflow and you habitually ‘pull’ updates when time is available or the mind is blank (end of some mental backlog).

15 years ago I wrote down some “Efficiency Tips” and years later I wrote some blog posts about how I manage mail, filtering etc. I have hardly written anything on the subject since then. Over the past decade (or more) a new creeping threat to people’s sanity has emerged; it was further popularised by social (control) media and then spread to other platforms that imitate it (with the notion of notifications, not just in a designated area/page but also persistent somewhere on the screen, urging to be clicked). For people who crave constant attention there’s an element of addiction right there. I too was vulnerable to it.

I read E-mail about once a day (and for those who might send urgent messages I made it clear, reducing the expectation of a fast response; they can pick up the phone in case of urgency). To avoid temptation to open messages in the queue do not download E-mail and keep the E-mail client shut.

But E-mail is to many people “yesterday’s technology”… now there’s a small number of companies — often foreign ones that mine data — controlling people’s communications.

Suppress notifications and read them (and reply) once a day, sometimes even less often depending on the nature of replies and importance of their promptness (some platforms ‘move’ faster than others).

Notification bars can also be hidden, if not in site settings then by moving windows out of view (outside the screen). It’s not always simple to achieve and it depends on the site. It’s almost always possible… somehow.

Reading one notification at a time (not clustering related ones) is just about the worst one can do and the most distracting thing. There’s no way to keep one’s train of thought, concentration suffers, and multitasking results in mental clutter. I’ve seen people who have fallen into the trap of renting (‘owning’) a survrveillance device (they call it ‘phone’) and it constantly bugs them with updates that they attend to. Not good. They don’t even focus on their workout at the gym; so what’s the point even going there?

Monday, May 27th, 2019, 6:49 am

Busy-ness as a Form of Happiness

Business? No. Just keeping busy, not necessarily making money but keeping oneself occupied.

Got mail

Boredom or inactivity will not bring about happiness. Just ask retired or very rich people who do not work; they can sink into depression quite easily as they lack a sense of accomplishment (even making one’s meal can be a sort of accomplishment). They’re not distracted from ordinary issues and they drift into a world of “entertainment”, sometimes other people’s lives (strangers or fictional characters). They’re overthinking things and having regrets because they’re busy recalling the past instead of focusing on the present.

Feeling down? Keep busy and it might go away, as new thoughts and feelings obscure the prior ones.

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