Almost threw my laptop out the window last night.

Started attempting to write my monthly status report. Want to Cc it to the 'all department' mailing list, so start typing the address, wait for auto-completion (it changes frequently so I don't remember what it is this week). Gr, Evolution's address book and calendar seem to stop working every time I drop off the VPN and don't start working again when I rejoin. Probably related to https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=708175 in some way (a similar bug, if not a symptom of the same bug).

OK, restart evolution-addressbook-factory. Hm, it needs to download a new version of the addressbook. Oh, and for some reason the incremental update doesn't work (that one probably my fault) and it downloads a completely new copy. And then copies its 121MiB of data from the downloaded file into a sqlite database.

Now, Linux's performance under any kind of I/O load is really sucky, but this was even suckier than normal. During this period it took me three minutes just to focus on the xchat window and type a simple response to a question. Normally it's only a minute or two — and I'm not sure how much of that to blame on gnome-shell. Yes, I do have /proc/sys/vm/dirty_ratio set to 1, not the default 20.

I run 'iotop', and half the time it seems to be telling me there is no I/O. That's blatantly nonsense. Eventually I find that abrt is running — taking a core dump of Evolution, which has crashed. So it's writing the 4½GiB core dump to disk. Yes, four and a half fucking gigabytes. I have no idea what it's using it all for. I do periodically run it under Valgrind, and have experimented with some GObject trackers too, but there is no smoking gun; it just grows and grows and grows (as does Thunderbird, I'm told).

I ran gnome-abrt and started trying to file the report. But by the time it'd finished trying to process it, the fucking thing had been deleted! It seems that Yet Another Gnome Shell crash (qv) had caused the evolution dump to be removed while it was still being processed:

Nov 18 00:02:00 shinybook.infradead.org abrt-hook-ccpp[19897]: Saved core dump of pid 13172 (/usr/bin/gnome-shell) to /var/tmp/abrt/ccpp-2013-11-18-00:01:17-13172 (384856064 bytes)
Nov 18 00:02:00 shinybook.infradead.org abrt-hook-ccpp[19897]: /var/tmp/abrt is 1642394496 bytes (more than 1279MiB), deleting 'ccpp-2013-11-17-22:54:19-2299'

Thankfully, I had also loaded gdb on the coredump manually, and still had it open so I was able to keep a copy.

But even after all this crap had finished, the machine still hadn't recovered from the I/O load, so I gave up and went to bed. Twenty minutes later I came downstairs for Bonjela and Calpol and prodded it, and it still didn't come back. The backlight came on, but it just sat there at a black (but backlit) screen the whole time I finding and measuring out a syringe of medicine. Perhaps that was partly the normal shell crash on waking from idle, but probably not.

I no longer give Linux machines to my family to use. I still try to support the ones I have given out in the past, but it is increasingly painful — just as painful as it is trying to use Linux myself on the desktop.

This sure as hell isn't the year of the Linux desktop. It might just be the year of the MacOS desktop, for me.
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