Speed up Linux (Part 2) - Banish unnecessary processes with the bum

6/2/2012 3:09:06 PM

Banish unnecessary processes with the bum

Just as with Windows, and probably the Mac as well, having a process running in the background that isn’t required is going to take up some precious memory and other system resources, so why bother having it? Processes like the Bluetooth daemon, or the scanner monitor are completely useless if you have neither of these attached to the system or ever plan to.

One of the best utilities to check what processes are running, and consequently shut them down if you need to is the Boot-Up Manager (from this point on, referred to as ‘the Bum’ – yes, I know). A handy application that can run on any Debian-based system, it scans the scripts located in /ect/init.d and automates the configuration and permissions relating to those scripts in order to deactivate them. In other words, it simplifies the task of shutting down unwanted process.

Description: Changing the concurrency may or may not work

Changing the concurrency may or may not work

To get a hold of the Burn (hehehe), simply type the following into a terminal window to slap te Burn onto your PC (sorry):

sudo apt-get install burn

Once the Burn is on your PC (sorry, I know it’s very childish), execute it by typing in:

sudo burn

The Burn will scan your processes, and eventually display the results in an easy-to-read UI. Have a look through the processes and be honest, if you don’t need something, then right click it and select ‘Deactivate & apply now’, from the pop-up menu.

Description: It’s not quite as scary as it looks, honest

It’s not quite as scary as it looks, honest

Obviously you don’t want to go around shutting down any old service, as you’ll most likely end up either killing your Linux installation, or stopping something vital from working. So if you’re not sure what a process does, take some time to research it and find out what can happen if you deactivate it.

For our test machine, we deactivated the Bluetooth and scanner services, which may have only saved a few megabytes (if that), but it’s memory we’d rather have available for our needs, as opposed to the OS reserving it for something we don’t have any use for. When you’ve finished going through the services, click on ‘Apply’, in the bottom left of the screen, and answer ‘Yes’ to the ‘Start or stop services now?’ question. Now, click ‘Quit’ to exit the Bum.

Description: Get a firm grip on the Bum…

Get a firm grip on the Bum…

Move the temp directory to memory

Normally, we would issue a restart before continuing, but before you do that, and since you’re still in the terminal, let’s move the/tmp (the temporary directory) to memory. The advantage of this is purely down to the fact that the RAM in your machine is many times faster than the hard drive, so anything that lies within the/tmp directory will be accessed almost instantly.

To make this change you’re going to have to alter one of the system files, it’s nothing to worry too much about, but care is definitely recommended. First, if you’re not in the terminal, then open one up. Next, type in the following and press Enter:

sudo gedit /etc/fstab

You’ll end up with an odd-looking file, called the File Systems Table, which controls the hard drive mount points on your system on boot-up. Put the cursor on a new line at the very end of the file, and enter the following:

tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noexec,nosuid 0 0

Save the file and exit from fstab. What you’ve just done is basically to tell Linux to mount the /tmp folder into memory, as opposed to having it normally accessed via the hard drive. This trick is handy for netbooks with ample RAM but very little hard drive space, such as an SSD, for instance. When you’ve checked, and double-checked that everything is entered correctly, shut down Linux and reboot your PC.

Preload your apps

Getting a quick boot time is one thing, but it’s fairly useless if the system takes an age to load up the applications. That being the case, we have a fine little program called Preload, which is an adaptive read-ahead daemon that will constantly run in the background and intelligently observe what applications are used most often, then cache them up so they load faster over time.

Although we just spent a little time removing unwanted background applications, Preload can be excused, as it will put some of the unused RAM in your system to good use. To install Preload, drop into a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install preload

Once installed, Preload will start doing its thing without any help needed from you, the user. However, we can have a little play around with its configuration by typing in:

sudo gedit /etc/preload.conf

In this file you’ll see a number of options that can be fiddled with, along with explanations as to what they do. The default set are probably good enough for most systems, and unless you have something specific in mind, then you should leave well alone. Should you wish, though, to have a fiddle, then take a look at the memtotal, memfree and memcached values, using this formula:

(total RAM x memtotal) + (RAM available x memfree) + (cached memory x memcache)

You can fine tune the extra RAM in your system to better accommodate any applications you think will benefit from Preload. If you want to check on what files Preload is caching, you can have a look at this file by typing in:

sudo less /var/lib/preload/preload.state

Given time, it has been proved that Preload can improve the load times of the likes of Firefox, LibreOffice Writer and Evolution by up to 55%. As to how long that will take depends greatly on how much you use your Linux system.

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