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Re: [K12OSN] Client Ram

Daniel Bodanske wrote:
So Firefox stores pixmaps uncompressed in the X server cache.
Unbelievable. Is it Firefox or Gecko? Does Seamonkey suffer the same
limitation. Could you move to Epiphany? Wow.

This is not unusual. everybody seems to be implying that firefox is being evil by doing this.

The Xserver caches pixmaps and fonts. No big deal. It's part of the design of the X Window System. The problem is, with tabs, the browser can actually be viewing more than one page at a time, which means there can be alot more pixmaps sent from the browser to the Xserver. The Xserver just happily caches them.

A flaw in this design is the fact that when the thin client gets low on memory, the Xserver has no mechanism to deal with it. It can't throw away pixmaps from the cache, because it has no way of telling the client application that it no longer has the image cached, so there's no way for firefox to re-send the pixmap when the user comes back to that page.

So, sadly, the Xserver runs out of memory, and bad things happen.

I've brought this up to the X.org developers and everybody agrees that it's a big problem, but unfortunately, there's not an easy fix.

It's not just firefox that is involved here. Any graphical application will send images and fonts to the Xserver, and expect those things to still be in the Xserver later on. I suppose Firefox could be modified to never expect those things to be cached, which means it would have to send the images and fonts each time you switch from one tab to another, or scroll the page up and down. Imagine the screams you'd be hearing as the performance goes down the tubes, and the network traffic goes through the roof.

We tried fixing this a few years ago in LTSP by placing a limit on how much ram the Xserver could allocate. This managed to keep the Xserver from crashing, but then the client application would crash because it didn't expect the Xserver to fail to allocate the memory for it. If the client is the browser, the browser would crash, which is easily recoverable. But, what if the client application is something more important, like the window manager?

It's a tough problem, and I wish I had the magic fix for it.

Jim McQuillan
jam Ltsp org

I began to get scared a few years ago when so many new desktop
applications started to get written for Linux. So many of them
wouldn't work over the network. I got worried that LTSP might become
non-viable some day when all the standard apps needed local resources.
Once Freedesktop.org was started and picked up momentum with Jim as
one of the founding members, I calmed down, but I guess I shouldn't
have. Firefox seems to follow it's own rules all the time, anyway.


On 5/25/07, Dan Young <dyoung mesd k12 or us> wrote:
On 5/24/07, Rob Owens <rowens ptd net> wrote:
> So maybe the question should be:  Is there a browser that it better
> suited to LTSP than Firfox is?

Well, part of it comes down to tuning. Eric put together a Firefox
extension that sets several options to more friendly levels. In


The defaults are variable depending on the total memory of the
computer. Of course, in an LTSP environment, it's all shared, so a 4G
host can't expect to have all that for one browser instance.

As I understand it, the defaults have been dialed back somewhat for
Firefox 2. Eric's Firefox extension dials back these values too.

Dan Young <dyoung mesd k12 or us>
Multnomah ESD - Technology Services

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