2017-02-07 Load

I’m usually quite happy with our old MacBook Pro. We bought it many years ago and it has served us well. I don’t know when it started to downhill. After some upgrade or other, I guess? Starting up takes forever. It’s not anything in particular that takes forever. It’s just that everything is slow.

Everything is slow. Just now, maybe half an hour ago, the laptop was sleeping on the table and I wanted to get started with some web development. I opened it up and noticed that Firefox was not loading the pages I had open. I just got the spinning rainbow. Killed Firefox, started Emacs, started Safari, and then I noticed that it wasn’t just Firefox that wasn’t actually doing anything. Everything is slow.

Eventually I managed to open a terminal and run top. Here’s what it says. I’ve been watching it all this time and apparently the CPU is idle around 80% of the time and yet the load was higher than 7. No wonder it’s slow. But how is that possible?

Processes: 261 total, 2 running, 18 stuck, 241 sleeping, 1128 threads  21:35:37
Load Avg: 1.39, 2.19, 7.34  CPU usage: 10.9% user, 12.50% sys, 77.40% idle
SharedLibs: 121M resident, 33M data, 47M linkedit.
MemRegions: 49527 total, 790M resident, 68M private, 408M shared.
PhysMem: 4130M used (1380M wired), 220M unused.
VM: 2289G vsize, 623M framework vsize, 790349(0) swapins, 981169(0) swapouts.
Networks: packets: 4506731/4815M in, 3142372/731M out.
Disks: 17051508/261G read, 2698121/80G written.

I tried to quit it all again. Then I was looking at sudo top, ordered by mem, noticed a firefox, sent it a TERM signal, noticed some more like Keybase and two Keybase help processes still running, killed those, too. This still feels like a totally lousy approach. How can I get the old startup speed back?


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Well, right now I’m using Chrome and the system is reasonably fast. Is it Firefox? Is it the extensions I have installed? Is it because I just rebooted the laptop?

– Alex Schroeder 2017-02-07 21:20 UTC

There are a number of processes after reboot that clean-up caches of various things, perhaps those grinding concurrently are what’s running the load up?

– Kris Browne 2017-02-09 19:49 UTC

PhysMem: 4130M used (1380M wired), 220M unused. There is a lot of the memory being used…

Funny thing is, I had persistent-Firefox-although-terminated problems on Windows 7, too, but it’s a thing of the past. Could this be a firefox problem cross-platform if you use an older version?

– Rorschachhamster 2017-02-09 21:45 UTC

@Kris: Possibly. Sadly I can’t open a terminal window and run top while it grinding at the beginning. I’d need to see something in the logs but I’m not sure what to look for, or how to monitor that.

@Rorschachhamster: I think I’m always upgrading my browsers when new versions come out, so I don’t think that’s it. But then again, fixing the problem on Windows doesn’t mean it’s necessarily gone on the Mac.

Haven’t been running Firefox in a while and the system feels better. Installed uBlock Origin and uBlock Origin Extra. Some of my favorite extensions are still missing (recovery of text areas, Privacy Badger), but I’ll get there, eventually.

– Alex Schroeder 2017-02-10 06:58 UTC

Turn off auto-login temporarily, and SSH in from another device to run top (or htop if you build/brew it)? That’s how I found the above mentioned processes.

– Kris Browne 2017-02-10 20:04 UTC

Ah, good point!

– AlexSchroeder 2017-02-11 10:43 UTC

I also ordered top by vsize and killed Dropbox because it was first or second and using 470MB.

– AlexSchroeder 2017-02-11 10:45 UTC

I’ve been using the laptop for a bit now with Chrome instead of Firefox and it has never been sluggish and fast enough when starting up. Not sure yet how it will fare once we switched users back and forth a few times but for the moment I’m happy and I didn’t even have to watch processes using a remote.

– Alex Schroeder 2017-02-12 12:48 UTC

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