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Old 05-12-2018, 12:34 AM   #1
upnort
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Slow laptop


I have a Lenovo T400 with 4 GB RAM running 14.2 64-bit. For a few months now the system is sluggish. I seem unable to identify any causes. Today I replaced the 5400 rpm 160 GB HD with a Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB. While hdparm and dd tests show about a threefold disk speed improvement, otherwise the system remains sluggish. For example, launching Firefox or a VirtualBox machine shows no noticeable speed improvements.

The T400 has seen better days but I am curious what might have caused the overall slowdown. One guess is the Meltdown/Spectre patched kernels, but I have not tried reverting to older kernels to confirm anything.

Looking for ideas.

Thanks again.

Update: I tested 4.4.88 (pre meltdown/spectre). No noticeable difference. Same sluggishness.

Last edited by upnort; 05-12-2018 at 02:18 PM.
 
Old 05-12-2018, 07:43 AM   #2
goldennuggets
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***Shot in the dark***

Try increasing the swap partition, maybe double it? If it's not at least 8GB, give that a go.
 
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Old 05-12-2018, 10:18 PM   #3
frankbell
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When the computer starts to drag, you might consider using top or htop to identify the programs that are using the most CPU cycles.
 
Old 05-12-2018, 10:28 PM   #4
Gerard Lally
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upnort View Post
I have a Lenovo T400 with 4 GB RAM running 14.2 64-bit. For a few months now the system is sluggish. I seem unable to identify any causes. Today I replaced the 5400 rpm 160 GB HD with a Samsung 850 EVO 250 GB. While hdparm and dd tests show about a threefold disk speed improvement, otherwise the system remains sluggish. For example, launching Firefox or a VirtualBox machine shows no noticeable speed improvements.

The T400 has seen better days but I am curious what might have caused the overall slowdown. One guess is the Meltdown/Spectre patched kernels, but I have not tried reverting to older kernels to confirm anything.
Dust causing heat retention? New heatsink paste needed?
 
Old 05-12-2018, 10:37 PM   #5
syg00
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I have similar - have had for years. I swappped out the disk and noticed no appreciable difference (faster/newer disk not SSD). I put it down to age of components in the m/board itself or maybe cables/connections.
I pull it apart twice a year to clean it - and did the thermal paste as well a year or so ago. Done good service, but a nice new gen8 repplacement is waiting for Fedora ...
(that keybounce is another reason why it's being tossed)
 
Old 05-13-2018, 12:08 AM   #6
Richard Cranium
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Look at your log files. ~/.xsession-errors as well as the ones in /var/log.

Is your memory swapping out?
 
Old 05-13-2018, 10:59 AM   #7
enorbet
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Unless you have some faulty app config or use Firefox with many tabs open for a long time or LOTS of apps running at once I'd be quite surprised if you were "swapping out". I have a Lenovo T-61 with 4GB Ram that is pretty snappy even running KDE with full KWin compositing and at one time, when I never bothered to hibernate, it had only 250MB swap space. This is with a Seagate 7200 rpm mechanical drive so faster than yours was but slower than yours should be now even disregarding somewhat better CPU in yours and somewhat similar performance GPU.

Here's a screenie of some typical running data https://imgur.com/gBWUbjD

So I'd check for power management throttling and ask you what driver you're using for GPU. IIRC the 4.15.x kernel has new and greatly improved ATi/AMD GPU support. What WM/DE are you using? My Thinkpad runs a lot hotter than I'd like despite my best efforts short of truly radical measures but that doesn't seem to slow it down much or I would break out some serious tools and hack deep. Still it is a concern so what temps do you get?
 
Old 05-13-2018, 03:54 PM   #8
upnort
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Thank you for the replies. I dug a bit deeper today and have narrowed the problem.

I won't ignore overheating as a variable but unlikely. I run conky on the desktop. Currently the CPU temp is 45-50C with one idle VM running. I use color coding in conky to warn me when exceeding 65C. Conky shows the fan running.

There is no swapping, even when running the VM.

I ran some stopwatch benchmarks. Boot times, launch the desktop, launch Firefox. Anywhere from 2 to 3 times improvement with the SSD. Curiously, benchmarks with the VM do not improve in a similar manner.

I am using VirtualBox 5.1.34. (I don't have time to learn KVM so please don't recommend. )

The VM is Ubuntu MATE 16.04.4 64-bit and encrypted. (I use a guest OS compatible with work requirements but the host system is Slackware. ) Encryption is needed because the VM is used for remote access to work systems. I temporarily removed the encryption, compacted the VM, and repeated the speed tests on the VM.

Without encryption I see nominal improvements. Encryption plays a minor role but not enough to be bothersome.

Next I manually locked the desktop. I do not use a screen saver in the VM. I did not previously mention, but the desktop locking is one of the observations points that launched this thread.

I have to use locking for security. The configured timeout is 5 minutes. The password prompt dialog takes about 21 seconds to appear and about 30 seconds to restore the desktop. I never see this problem using an identical VM on my desktop computer, which has a 4-core i5-6400. Granted the desktop CPU is way more powerful than the T400 Core Duo, but the times are curious.

Digging deeper I copied a CentOS 7 VM from the desktop to the laptop and repeated the steps. CentOS 7 is another work related OS. Same MATE desktop and being work related the desktop is configured similarly. The desktop lock dialog times are normal.

The sluggishness with the T400 seems to be a little bit the VirtualBox encryption but mostly the Ubuntu MATE VM. Confusing to me is the VM works fine on my desktop but does not like something on the T400. I understand some differences in performance speeds but something is awry with this VM on the laptop.

Edit: Digging deeper, looks like this is not Slackware related. The SSD does help in several ways but the VM problems persisted. I ended up creating a 32-bit VM, which ran better. Additionally, there are three vboxadd*.service files enabled when installing the VirtualBox GA in an Ubuntu VM. Disabling the vboxadd-x11 and vboxadd-service services seem to cause no ill effect and the VM responds better without them. That said, the T400 has seen better days. Thanks much for the replies and help.

Last edited by upnort; 05-14-2018 at 02:00 AM.
 
Old 05-14-2018, 10:05 PM   #9
Richard Cranium
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When you get a free afternoon, take a look at https://slackbuilds.org/repository/1.../virt-manager/ and https://slackbuilds.org/repository/1...aries/libvirt/

Or not. virt-manager makes it very easy to create a new virtual machine. (Well, after you compile and install all the dependencies; that can well be a deal-breaker.)
 
Old 05-17-2018, 11:21 AM   #10
Darth Vader
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@unport

Believe or not, the BIOS settings and the Linux kernel's clocksource can affect the responsiveness of the Linux desktop.

I for one, I noticed that my playground box, a desktop driven a Phenom x4 9650 was noticeably slower in desktop behavior than, well... a mini-PC with hardware similar with an laptop and driven by dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 and with 2.5" drives. Basically, your T400 in a shiny mini-desktop box, nothing more.

Particularly, I noticed upgrading the kernel source is two times slower in the quad-core driven desktop box.

In other hand, this desktop box was long time ago switched to HPET clocksource, as TSC was unstable on it. After going back to drawing table and several experiments, I arrived to conclusion that "Spread Spectrum" features on that particular box resulted in the TSC instability. Also, the ACPI 2.0 features given the best results.

So, after switching to the native TSC and tuning the BIOS options, I managed to obtain both a stable TSC clocksource and more responsive box, as one would expect.

Particularly, that goddamned clocksource and the additional BIOS settings looks like affecting the random access time of hard drives, resulting in the general sluggishness of disk operations.

Long story short, my recipe was: ACPI 2.0 features in BIOS, no "Spread Spectrum" and TSC clocksource withing Linux.

Last edited by Darth Vader; 05-17-2018 at 11:28 AM.
 
Old 05-19-2018, 04:40 PM   #11
MAKiNA
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just update the icons cache
 
Old 08-05-2018, 01:06 PM   #12
jostber
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Check with htop what is hugging your system resources:

https://hisham.hm/htop/
 
Old 08-05-2018, 01:32 PM   #13
upnort
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Thank you for all the ideas. In the end I abandonded VirtualBox on the T400 and converted the VM to physical.

Not directly related to the disk issues, but I connect to the web with a WISP. Somehow my router got changed to the same 5 GHZ channel as the WISP CPE. Changing the router to a different channel restored expected connectivity (about 90+ Mbps). I mention this because often two or more issues arise and one tends to mask the causes of the other. Yet even after correcting that SNAFU, the disk issues remained and only with VirtualBox. I updated from 5.1.38 to 5.2.12 and that made no difference on the T400.

Moving the VM to physical resolved all issues. The partition is encrypted with LUKS so no problems with security.

Not really solved as I still don't know why VirtualBox runs so slow on the T400, but I'll tag this thread solved anyway since I found an alternate solution.

Last edited by upnort; 08-05-2018 at 01:35 PM.
 
Old 08-05-2018, 09:34 PM   #14
Gordie
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Maybe sick mem stick? Try memtest
 
Old 08-06-2018, 01:22 AM   #15
upnort
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Quote:
Maybe sick mem stick? Try memtest
Pass complete, no errors, press Esc to exit.
 
  


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