Since install, HD access never stops

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Since install, HD access never stops

Postby nwmntr on Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:46 am

Tonight marks the 4th eve I've been schooling myself on LM15 Mate 32-bit, and I've a few issues that are annoying me.

I'm running a Pentium 4 @ 2.66, Windows XP Professional w/ a measley 512M of RAM.

Before installing to my HD, I created a USB booter hoping to just play with Mint Live but, for whatever reason(s), I couldn't get that option to work. So, I went ahead and tried installing from the USB and it worked what seemed almost effortlessly. Partitions were created automatically and I was introduced to the Welcome Page and went from there. And, upon restarting the computer, the dual boot menu came up and I easily can click on either XP or Mint. Everything seems to work AOK, but...

1. Whenever I boot into Mint, and forever how long I'm using it, the hard drive access light on the case is always lit - it never ceases. That is not the case, nor ever has been, running XP.

2. Sometimes during the Mint session, loading whatever I click on can take an annoying amount of time coming up - even clicking on "Menu" sometimes can cause a frustrating delay.

3. I cannot remember how many times now Firefox has frozen up on me in Mint - tonight I had 5 or 6 busy tabs opened and it completely froze up on me; finally, I had to unplug the computer, it was so solidly jammed. (FF sometimes jams in XP, but only when I've 15+ busy tabs/windows opened, and it's never froze up so much that I've had to unplug the computer.)

4. In XP, under Control Panel/Add Remove Programs, Linux Mint is shown as a 23GB install! Glancing at the partitions, root takes up 18+Gs and home is using 3+Gs - is that even close to being right? The USB stick shows the same capacities.

5. As I said previously, I let Linux install itself without any disruption from me, so the installation is the default one.

6. One other thing not working is Flash movies not playing correctly; whenever I'm on a page which hosts a Flash player, whether I click it to begin or it begins automatically, the sounds is OK but the visual is totally streaked in lines of greens and reds, etc - it looks like I need to turn the rabbit ears a whole bunch to get a better picture :D. I have not installed Flash, but FF's default shows "Shockwave Flash" as an extension - is that the same as the Flash player? Or, do I have to install the Flash player into Mint? Or, do I have some other graphical issue going on not being able to view Flash vids correctly?

I realize the old computer has only 512 of RAM, but I was thinking that Mint would run quicker than XP; should it, or does that little amount of RAM have a lot to do with the annoying issues I'm experiencing? And would having LM15 loaded on the computer as the only OS make any performance diff at all?

Here's the deal: so far, I love the whole concept of Linux and LM15 looks to me to be an excellent choice instead of Windows. I plan on building a computer in the next month or 2 and I'd ideally like to have LM15 as the only OS. The only hesitation I'm having is caused by the annoying issues I mentioned above.

Please school me. 8)

And, thank you.
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby passerby on Sat Oct 12, 2013 2:55 am

I think a lot of this is indeed due to the low amount of RAM you have available.
When you're using a decent amount of your RAM, it will start paging it to disk. That would explain the slowdown and the constant HDD activity.

Apart from "install more RAM", a couple of suggestions:
1. Decrease your swappiness. This will allow you to increase your ram usage before paging to disk.
To do this, open a terminal and type in "sudo pluma /etc/sysctl.conf", then enter your password when prompted.
At the very end of the file, create a new line and add "vm.swappiness=10". Upon restart, your system will page less often.
2. Tweak firefox a little to increase its performance: http://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/338
Most of the tweaks are for speed, but the config.trim_on_minimize tweak will help reduce RAM usage.
3. If disk IO is still too much, you can set temp files to write to RAM instead.
Since you don't have much to spare I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but if the above reduces your RAM usage enough it may be worth considering.
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Postby Lingula on Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:15 am

Is it just that the HDD light is lit or is it actually accessing? Listening carefully or installing and running iotop may be helpful to differentiate.
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby AlbertP on Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:08 am

If your computer has only 512MB of RAM, it is indeed a very good idea to decrease the swappiness. This should improve the responsibility of the system with a low amount of RAM quite a lot.
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby nwmntr on Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:14 am

Thanks for the helpful responses.

passerby & AlbertP:

I've employed your suggestions about decreasing swapiness per passerby's instructions, and I've also made the changes to FF's about:config which passerby also instructed. I'm going to use LM15 a bit more before reporting back on my sumation of the results from those two moves. Thank you both.

Lingula:

That's a good question: I simply assumed since the light is on, the HDD is being accessed (btw: it's still on all the time I'm running LM15, unlike when I'm running XP).

But, to tell you the truth, I can't tell by noise when the HDD is turning, except for every once in a while when it does make noticable noise. One thing, though: the little spinner thingy of LM15 that displays on screen when you are accessing the HDD? It's not on all the time, so my concern still sits unaltered.

I've still got an issue going on with Flash playing, too: no matter which web pages I access, if they employ Flash (like some at forums.linuxmint do) all I get is colorful streaks for a picture and none of the controls on the player itself work. The sound, though, plays. I've downloaded the Flash Player from Adobe via the Software Manager, but that doesn't make any difference. The only time a video has played correctly while I'm using LM15 is the short explaining Add-ons when you click Get Add-ons in FF itself.

I'm off now to investigate more the shortcomings I'm experiencing in the video area.

Thanks for the help, folks - it's truly appreciated.
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby nwmntr on Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:31 am

Well, now. Thanks to clicking on the User Control Panel and actually reading the IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS waiting for me there, I've now been made aware of the wonderful world of "inxi" and all its revealing power. It's nice in these hyperbolicly-extreme days to find something tagged IMPORTANT that actually turns out to be IMPORTANT. Thank you, forum runners!

Running "inxi -Fxz" and after "Info:" is the following:

Processes: 137 Uptime: 56 min Memory: 258.2/488.2MB Runlevel: 2 Gcc sys: 4.7.3 Client: Shell inxi: 1.8.4

When it reports "Memory: 258.2/488.2MB", does that indicate I'm currently using 258 of the available 488?
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby AlbertP on Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:16 pm

Yes.

About flash, that could be a graphics issue. inxi also has an option for that, inxi -Gx. And graphics is also shown if you run -Fx to get the full output.
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby nwmntr on Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:25 pm

AlbertP wrote:Yes.

About flash, that could be a graphics issue. inxi also has an option for that, inxi -Gx. And graphics is also shown if you run -Fx to get the full output.

Thanks for that, AlbertP.

Here's what inxi reveals when I run -Gx:

Graphics: Card: Intel 82845G/GL[Brookdale-G]/GE Chipset Integrated Graphics Device bus-ID: 00:02.0
X.Org: 1.13.3 drivers: intel (unloaded: fbdev,vesa) Resolution: 1024x768@60.0hz
GLX Renderer: Mesa DRI Intel 845G x86/MMX/SSE2 GLX Version: 1.3 Mesa 9.1.1 Direct Rendering: Yes


Is " X.Org: 1.13.3 drivers: intel (unloaded: fbdev,vesa)" telling me anything that may be affecting my issue?
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby AlbertP on Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:55 pm

You wouldn't want the fbdev and vesa drivers to be used, so please ignore that unloaded message. They are just fallbacks for computers that don't have any better driver.

Intel's graphics driver is in use, that's right. But your card is an old one from the 800 series, also known as "Intel Extreme Graphics" (introduced about 10 years ago). The drivers for those old cards are not well-maintained and quite often have bugs.
It might be, that disabling hardware acceleration in Firefox makes it more stable (less freezes).

But these graphical problems won't be causing your harddisk to go crazy.

In such an old computer, though, I would expect a busy harddisk to be clearly audible. You should hear a crunching sound if the disk is indeed that busy - and if you don't hear a thing, it's probably just the light. If the HDD LED is not working correctly, it can be a motherboard problem, or a bad or loosely attached cable. Software / operating system, should have no influence on the behaviour of the LED.
I have also seen computers in which the wires for the green power LED and the red/orange HDD LED were swapped by accident, causing the HDD LED to be on all the time.
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Re: Since install, HD access never stops

Postby nwmntr on Sun Oct 13, 2013 10:38 pm

Thanks again for replying, AlbertP.

The graphics and HDD light issues are still puzzling, for the simple reason that both work fine as they should when I'm running XP.

I disabled hardware acceleration as you suggested, restarted FF, and then went to Youtube to see if it made any difference - and it did...kind of and one-time temporarily. The usual shadowed/lined shades of green/lavender half screen/half screen all black were gone and replaced with the standard entire blank, black screen w/ the start arrow; so I clicked on that and the vid began just like it should. But then, to further test, I clicked on another vid, it seemed to load, but then the same video I initially clicked on began again. I tried other vids but received the same malfunctioning result - it would only play, over and over, the initially-clicked vid.

I then had some business to attend to, so I shut the computer down thinking I'd see how Flash operated when I returned. And guess what? As soon as I got back to Youtube, I was greeted with the same shadowed/lined shades of green/lavender making up the left half of the screen and the entire black of the right half of the screen making up the full player picture just as always before. So, I've tried playing around with FF's plug-in and LM15's installation of Flash, but nothing seems to help (btw: hardware acceleration remains disabled).

I'm reading over in this thread (forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=147206/) that maybe using an earlier version of Flash might work better with my dated software/hardware config. But, however my dated my system may be, Flash plays absolutely fine when I'm running under XP.

BTW: I believe your guys' suggestions about decreasing swapiness has made a big diff in performance and FF itself seems to be running cleaner with the suggestions passerby made. So, again, I thank you both.
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