Banish your daemons for a faster Linux PC

How to manage your machine's background processes

Background processes

Services aren't the only anonymous tasks running on your system. Just type ps aux to see a list of running processes, or use the System Monitor tool for your desktop.

You'll see the usual suspects running as daemons with root ownership, and the number of processes running might surprise you. There are tasks that have started as your desktop launches, many of which will be a part of the desktop itself. Our standard Ubuntu installation running Gnome showed 36 such processes running, whereas OpenSUSE with the same desktop had 33.

Many of these processes handle things like the Gnome desktop, audio and the Nautilus file manager, but many others should be optional. For example, why would the GPhoto volume monitor need to run if you don't use GPhoto? A quick check on Mandriva reveals 38 similar processes, and while most are in a sleep state, they're still consuming memory. That might not be so important for the average user with 2GB of RAM, but if you try to install Ubuntu or OpenSUSE on an older machine, it could make all the difference.

One option is to kill those processes using either the System Monitor or the kill command. But Gnome has an excellent Session Manager, and this can be used to specify which processes you want to launch when you log in. If you break something, you can always re-enable the task and try again. Another option might be to replace the process with something more efficient or even more functional. Ubuntu's default search tool, Tracker, is slow at building an index, and its search results aren't always the best.

Beagle, on the other hand, is a drop-in replacement for Tracker. It performs a better job, and takes more memory, but it's also more useful (which is probably why it's used by OpenSUSE 11). And that's the whole point of exorcising your daemons – to get rid of the stuff that you don't use so there's more space on your system for the stuff you do.

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First published in Linux Format, Issue 114

Now read 11 ways to create a successful Linux distro

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