The ~200 Line Linux Kernel Patch That Does Wonders
Published on November 16, 2010
Written by Michael Larabel
In recent weeks and months there has been quite a bit of work towards improving the responsiveness of the Linux desktop with some very significant milestones building up recently and new patches continuing to come. This work is greatly improving the experience of the Linux desktop
when the computer is withstanding a great deal of CPU load and memory strain. Fortunately, the exciting improvements are far from over. There is a new patch that has not yet been merged but has undergone a few revisions over the past several weeks and it is quite small -- just over 200 lines of code -- but it does wonders for the Linux desktop.
The patch being talked about is designed to automatically create task groups per TTY in an effort to improve the desktop interactivity under system strain. Mike Galbraith wrote the patch, which is currently in its third version in recent weeks, after Linus Torvalds inspired this idea. In its third form (patch), this patch only adds 224 lines of code to the kernel's scheduler while stripping away nine lines of code, thus only 233 lines of code are in play.
Tests done by Mike show the maximum latency dropping by over ten times and the average latency of the desktop by about 60 times. Linus Torvalds has already heavily praised (in an email) this miracle patch.
Yeah. And I have to say that I'm (very happily) surprised by just how small that patch really ends up being, and how it's not intrusive or ugly either.
I'm also very happy with just what it does to interactive performance. Admittedly, my "testcase" is really trivial (reading email in a web-browser, scrolling around a bit, while doing a "make -j64" on the kernel at the same time), but it's a test-case that is very relevant for me. And it is a _huge_ improvement.
It's an improvement for things like smooth scrolling around, but what I found more interesting was how it seems to really make web pages load a lot faster. Maybe it shouldn't have been surprising, but I always associated that with network performance. But there's clearly enough of a CPU load when loading a new web page that if you have a load average of 50+ at the same time, you _will_ be starved for CPU in the loading process, and probably won't get all the http requests out quickly enough.
So I think this is firmly one of those "real improvement" patches. Good job. Group scheduling goes from "useful for some specific server loads" to "that's a killer feature".
The patch is more geared to solving the issue of heavy multithreaded background tasks interfering with interactive tasks by automatically grouping tasks on the same tty.
i'd guess that if grouping was to help on openmoko it would need someone to work out optimal groups. maybe all user apps in one group so that they don't interfere with core phone processes. maybe the grouping in systemd would help.