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Uncleoilybag 07-17-2017 01:36 PM

Will a lightweight distro spped up my computer?
 
I'm running Linux Mint on a pretty slow computer - reasonably successfully. (....much happier than when I used Windows)

However, I have noticed that in using some (large) spreadsheets in LibreOffice Calc it is quite slow.

If I switch to a lightweight distro (eg Lubuntu) will I notice the very same spreadsheets in Libreoffice speed up? ...or does it just mean that there will be more memory to do more than one task?

Mike_Walsh 07-17-2017 02:35 PM

Hi, Uncleoilybag.

(There's a name to conjure with..! :hattip:)

Well, now. Depending on your hardware specs, you might be better off going with an ultra-lightweight distro like Puppy. I myself have been running Puppy for around 4 years or so, and was astounded by the difference compared to the 'buntus or Mint.

Pup's 'peculiarity' (if you like) stems from the fact that it doesn't install in quite the same way as a normal OS. The entire OS is contained within a single, read-only 'squash file'. This is the same kinda thing as the 'casper' file used in the Ubuntu & Mint LiveCDs, or employed in a USB install of, say, UNetbootin.

At boot, this file is read and copied into a virtual 'ram-disk' that is created specially for this purpose. (And because it's 'read-only', you get a brand-new, squeaky-clean version of Pup every time that you boot.)

Puppy's speed is only limited by the speed of your RAM. It doesn't spend all its time reading/writing back & forth, to and from your hard drive like a 'traditional' distro does. Pup lives in RAM for the duration of the session. At the end of the session, Puppy writes all session changes back to a special file called a 'save-file'; this is a single file, but with a complete Linux file-system inside it.

At the next boot, Puppy 'reads' not only the squash-file of the operating system, but also the compressed 'save-file'. One is 'layered-over' the other, in such a way as to present the combined whole, as a single homegeneous system, to you, the user.

Top and bottom of the matter? Puppy runs like greased lightning, never has problems with a corrupted system ( if anything goes awry, you shut down without saving, then boot up a fresh, clean Puppy the next time around). And back-ups are as simple as copying your save-file to an alternate location; literally, a copy/paste operation.

It's like magic.....

It boils down to one thing, at the end of the day. Do you want to be led by the hand, and spoon-fed everything? Or do you want to be adventurous, and take control of your computing experience? With Puppy, you can.


Mike. :thumbsup:

snowday 07-17-2017 02:41 PM

If you switch from Mint to Lubuntu, you might notice that the user interface is more responsive, and the overall desktop experience is less sluggish.

However, I doubt that purely computational tasks, such as recalculating a large spreadsheet, would be significantly affected by changing desktop environments.

You can easily test this by installing LXDE desktop environment from the software center, then choosing it from the login screen. In other words, you don't need to completely reinstall the operating system to experiment with lightweight options. You can even switch back and forth between Cinnamon and LXDE, depending on your needs that day. Try it now, and see if it helps your spreadsheet recalculation speed. :)

hydrurga 07-17-2017 03:13 PM

I agree with snowpine that you may not actually see much improvement switching to another distro as the slowness could well be LibreOffice-specific. You should definitely test it though.

It might be useful for us to learn your machine specs (including processor and memory).

Do you have any images/graphics in the spreadsheets with which you're having issues?

With which functions in particular (open, save, recalculate etc.) are you experiencing slowness (and what sorts of time interval are you noticing?).

Mike_Walsh 07-17-2017 04:05 PM

TBH, if the hardware in question is pretty old, then changing DE's or distros is NOT going to make that much of a difference. Hardware has limitations, of course; for example, a relatively modern dual-core Atom ( for instance), running @ 1.2 GHz, will, by virtue of improved architecture and vastly more effective instruction sets, run rings around, say, a Prescott P4 from the NetBurst generation running at over 3 times the speed.

There's a lot of variables in play here. Libre Office is a 'heavy' application at the best of times.....and there's many things can mis-behave themselves. Agreed; specs would make it easier to tailor the advice.


Mike.

jefro 07-17-2017 04:14 PM

I'd look at swap usage during this large file deal. No amount of distro can fix lack of ram. It can help to some degree by reducing some of the overhead. At some point you may need to add in ram.

IsaacKuo 07-17-2017 04:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncleoilybag (Post 5736181)
I'm running Linux Mint on a pretty slow computer - reasonably successfully. (....much happier than when I used Windows)

However, I have noticed that in using some (large) spreadsheets in LibreOffice Calc it is quite slow.

If I switch to a lightweight distro (eg Lubuntu) will I notice the very same spreadsheets in Libreoffice speed up? ...or does it just mean that there will be more memory to do more than one task?

How much memory does your computer have?

If you have a decent amount of RAM, your problem might be solved by tweaking LibreOffice's memory usage settings.

https://www.maketecheasier.com/speed-up-libreoffice/

Depending on what's making LibreOffice Calc so slow on these large spreadsheets, going with something like Puppy could actually hurt performance, because it consumes more RAM for the OS.

That said, if you've got plenty of RAM, running with the OS and/or document files in RAM can indeed boost performance. My own RAMBOOT technique loads the entire OS partition into a noncompressed tmpfs file system in ram, which is even faster than a squashfs system since the CPU doesn't have to do any decompression. But I would only recommend this for your use case if you've got at least 6GB of RAM. I don't know how much RAM your large spreadsheets will optimally work with, but RAMBOOT will eat up over 2GB of RAM loaded up with LibreOffice, web browser, etc.

syg00 07-17-2017 04:18 PM

If you are happy with Mint, no need to change distros, merely install another desktop to try. For an under-powered laptop in this house Mate is happily being used.
As above, any change is unlikely to help with Office - the fact that is is single-threaded doesn't help, and that isn't going to change.

frankbell 07-17-2017 07:50 PM

It would really help to know the CPU and amount of RAM in this machine to provide answers with more specifity.

AwesomeMachine 07-17-2017 08:00 PM

LibreOffice consumes ram for undo operations. I think the default is 100 levels. That can get to be quite a lot if you're making changes. But you can set the levels of undo to as few as you want.

Uncleoilybag 07-20-2017 02:55 PM

The LibrOffice Calc file I have is only slow to open - once it's opened the program works quite efficiently.
It is big.. 1.4MB with lots of sheets and macros'
I already have LibreOffice tweaked to peak efficiency.

My "slow" laptop is an ACER V5-122P CPU AMD dual core 1GHz with 4GB RAM - running Linux Mint 18.1 MATE and the file can take on average 3mins 45secs to open druring which time I lose the will to live

My "normal" laptop is an ACER Aspire 5732Z CPU Intel Pentium 2.1GHz with 4GB RAM - running Linux Mint 18.2 Xfce and the file takes about 20sec to open.

Basically my slow laptop CPU just isn't up to scratch - I know - I just wondered whether I should consider using something like Lubuntu on the slow computer. If I run Lubunto as a live CD- would that give my an idea if it would make any difference on the slow computer?

Thanks for all your excellent suggestions so far

Uncleoilybag 07-20-2017 03:36 PM

I think I have now discovered the answer to my original question.

Thankyou to Snowpine for his suggestion - From the software manager I downloaded LXDE desktop, then rebooted and selected to use LXDE rather than Mate.

Amazing ! - the very same large Calc file took on average 30sec to load on my "slow" laptop. A clear winner.

Thank you to all.

IsaacKuo 07-20-2017 04:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncleoilybag (Post 5737750)
The LibrOffice Calc file I have is only slow to open - once it's opened the program works quite efficiently.
It is big.. 1.4MB with lots of sheets and macros'
I already have LibreOffice tweaked to peak efficiency.

My "slow" laptop is an ACER V5-122P CPU AMD dual core 1GHz with 4GB RAM - running Linux Mint 18.1 MATE and the file can take on average 3mins 45secs to open druring which time I lose the will to live

My "normal" laptop is an ACER Aspire 5732Z CPU Intel Pentium 2.1GHz with 4GB RAM - running Linux Mint 18.2 Xfce and the file takes about 20sec to open.

Basically my slow laptop CPU just isn't up to scratch - I know - I just wondered whether I should consider using something like Lubuntu on the slow computer. If I run Lubunto as a live CD- would that give my an idea if it would make any difference on the slow computer?

Thanks for all your excellent suggestions so far

Is this time to open including the time to open LibreOffice Calc itself, or is this just after Calc has been loaded, opening up just the file? I'll assume the latter - LibreOffice Calc has already been loaded, and this is just opening the file.

This level of performance difference is surprising. The RAM should be pretty close, and in any case 4GB is enough that it shouldn't be getting anywhere near the limits.

The CPU on the "normal" laptop is a lot faster, sure, but according to this only a bit more than twice as fast (+135% faster)

http://cpu.userbenchmark.com/Compare...U/m2938vsm8678

I mean, that's a big difference, but it would be the difference between 20 seconds and 50 seconds, not 20 seconds and 200 seconds.

My guess is that it's the hard drive performance that's really killing performance. I don't know what the process is, but it seems like it's processing a lot of small files. If the location of those small files were put in a tmpfs ramdisk, then you could massively boost performance. To give you some idea, on one of my computers NetBeans opens up in about 4 seconds using RAMBOOT (entirely in RAM, uncompressed); with an SSD it opens up in over 10 seconds.

It seems the default location for temporary files in /tmp. You can boost performance on /tmp by mount a tmpfs file system there. Note that this will wipe out the contents of /tmp every boot, because it's in RAM. That's okay, /tmp is specifically not guaranteed to carry over from boot to boot.

First, modify /etc/fstab by adding this entry:

Code:

none /tmp    tmpfs defaults 0 0
Then, you can mount it with:

Code:

sudo mount /tmp
It will give a warning that the mount point is not empty, but will mount it anyway. But...on second though, assuming you're logged in a GUI or something else complex, maybe better to just reboot the computer. Yanking away whatever's in /tmp may not work well with whatever you're running currently. Whenever I'm doing this stuff, it's usually in a minimal console only (non-GUI) setup.

As for why one laptop would have such poor hard drive performance compared to the other? I didn't figure out what sort of hard drives were in your models, based on a cursory google search. But if one has a 4200rpm drive while the other has a 5400rpm drive, or something like that, performance could indeed be very different.

IsaacKuo 07-20-2017 04:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncleoilybag (Post 5737765)
I think I have now discovered the answer to my original question.

Thankyou to Snowpine for his suggestion - From the software manager I downloaded LXDE desktop, then rebooted and selected to use LXDE rather than Mate.

Amazing ! - the very same large Calc file took on average 30sec to load on my "slow" laptop. A clear winner.

Thank you to all.

Wow, okay I did not expect that! I have never used MATE, but I was under the impression that it really wasn't all that much heavier than XFCE4 or old GNOME2. Still...4GB of RAM is a lot...even heavyweights like KDE and GNOME3 would only eat up a fraction of that.

syg00 07-20-2017 05:31 PM

Likewise. However the issue is unlikely to be a simple RAM one.
This has piqued my interest. As I mentioned we also have a "slow" laptop with Mint - I'll see if I can prise it from the lady of the house for some testing.


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