Postcards from the Fridge

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ah ha!

A whole bunch has happened since I blogged last....

For the most part, I figured out why nautilus startup time is so slow AND so variable.

Nautilus is basically yields the CPU again and again as it starts up. Even if nautilus is one of the first components launched, other components (ie, the panel, applets and more) will interrupt it, and prevent it from drawing the first icon on the screen. Sometimes nautilus has the CPU for most of the time, and the startup times are very good. However sometimes it will yield the CPU, and it will be seconds before it starts running again.

First Blind Alley

As you can see is some of my last posts, I knew that nautilus was yielding the CPU. However, I thought it was doing this because it was waiting for threads/components that weren't yet running. (In particular the gnome-vfs-daemon).

I initially thought that nautilus also relied on gnome-volume-manager since gnome-volume-manager's execution was often interleaved with nautilus's startup. However, I found one run where this didn't happen, and nautilus started up just fine.. Therefore it can't be a dependency. (I also discovered gnome-volume-manager was being launched by one of the gnome startup scripts)

I modified the trash applet to preload the vfs-daemon before nautilus started up. I modified gnome-session to call this hacked applet, wait 2 seconds, and then finally start nautilus. This guaranteed that gnome-vfs-daemon was started before nautilus started. This worked, sort-of, as nautilus start-up times were much more reproducible (as long as the panel wasn't running). It is an imperfect solution, because that sleep is really unacceptable, but it could tell me if dependencies were the problem.

The interesting thing to note is that nautilus blocked several times from when executing main to the icon-painting. Nautilus did some handshaking with various threads, and this caused things to block.

With this fix in place, I went for broke and turned on the panel. The reproducible startup times that I had, were then completely shot to hell. All of the blocking of the main nautilus process provided opportunities for the panel & applet to run. Once they started, nautilus might not execute again for a couple of seconds.

So, on a whim, I decide to run the gnome-panel with a nice value of 19. This worked pretty well. Most of the nautilus startup times were on the order of 0.5 seconds. However, every so often, the times would jump. This was because other non-panel processes (such as gnome-volume-manager) started running when nautilus blocked.

What is Next?

I'm currently trying to figure out if I can reduce he amount of blocking that nautilus is doing.
First, I have to figure out exactly what it is waiting on.


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