Saturday, September 8, 2007

PCLinuxOS - Home Desktop Tweaking Continues, this time to the extremes

Caution – These tweaks hold good only for home desktop systems.

I am using PCLinuxOS in a system with Intel(R) Pentium(R) CPU 2.66GHz Processor having 1024KB L2 Cache. It has 512MB RAM with 480 free memory. It has a VIA mainboard - P4M00-8237R. My video card is VIA/S3G UniChrome Pro IGP using 32MB memory for display.

Welcome back to PCLinuxOS extreme tweaking. This blog discusses four tweaks to optimize your home desktop PCLinuxOS systems. These are:

- Desktop, Panel and Widgets.
- Run levels
- System services
- Memory
- Programs

Desktop, Panel and Widgets

The default installation of PCLinuxOS gathers 4 virtual desktops, a clipper tool and most used productivity apps and system apps like synaptic, firefox, show desktop, etc., on the desktop panel.

First, I reduced virtual desktops to just one, and later removed that along with clipper and all the icons. Now the denuded panel has only main menu icon, volume icon and date-time viewer. I have also reduced the panel size.

Look at the picture above. It looks sane and uncluttered.

My desktop does not have any background image and the screensaver has been removed right after installation of the OS. The desktop bears default color theme and icons - no extra icons, backgrounds, screensavers, GUI effects, whatsoever. If you do like those bells & whistles for some time, you will never like them for long, I am sure.


Linux boot process is guided by inittab. You can change it by editing /etc/inittab. I use a home desktop, so I edited the inittab by commenting out unnecessary runlevels such as 1,2,3 and 4. Never comment out or remove 0 and 6. They are necessary for system start up and shutdown. So my system starts directly from rc.5, i.e., runlevel 5, the multiuser graphical desktop with network.

I have also removed all the gettys, they are not for me.

Look at the above image. And comment out the items as I have done.

System Services

Services are both processor and memory-hogging things. You can give a boost the performance by disabling unnecessary services. I have disabled avahi-daemon, cpufreq, crond, harddrake, netfs, partmon, saslauthd and syslog.

If you are playing safe with your system you no more need syslog to output what went wrong. Besides, if you can do regular maintenance manually, you no more need crond. Regular chores (word processing, image editing, web browsing and multimedia playback) on home desktop generally do need any job scheduling. But, if you are not sure of what you are doing don't play with crond and syslog.

Look at the above image and uncheck the unnecessary services.
Alternatively, you can remove services through CLI. Issue chkconfig --list to see a list of running processes. Then switch off the processes that you don't need. Issue chkconfig --level sevice offon.

Here is what get by issueing ps -ax. I have now only barebone number of services active on my desktop.

While I was using Windows XP three years back, I had only 11 services running on my system. I was happy with that much service, because I never wanted my CPU fan hiss. With PCLinuxOS I am able to speed up my system further shedding memory hogger still further, in all ways possible.


Linux has an age-old rule of swap memory. By default most of the distros ask for a swap space which is roughly double your physical memory (RAM). I have been using PCLinuxOS 2007 since its beta release. Quite often I check how much memory and swap my system uses. After minimizing processes, bells & whistles, I never see my memory usage exceed 400 MB. The swap is almost unused. So, I removed the swap partition. Radically, my system has become more responsive. I would suggest if your system has more 512MB of RAM you don't need to have a swap partition (only for home desktop users).

Here is the memory/process graph of my system. Open ksysguard to see yours.


Though I am fan of PCLinuxOS, I respect Slackware , the most, for its puritan approach and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) funda. I always keep disk of Zenwalk (a famous Slackware flavor) with me. Zenwalk is light, fast and... disciplines itself with “one application per task” principle.

I applied that Zenwalk principle to PCLinuxOS. And the result - mind blowing!
If you are happy with Konsole, remove Xterm, Yakuake. If your text editing is OK with nano or pico or kate or vi, remove the rest. Likewise you can shed the multiple apps like browsers, editors, media players, system tools, office applications, p2p clients. What's more, google for a while on some CLI tools and remove their graphical counterparts. Result you will have mean machine with necessary fast & fury.


After applying above customization (you may call it tweak) I have experienced the following improvements.

Boot time: It takes only 30 sec to boot my system.
Memory usage: Right after boot up it uses only 120 MB of memory. I have 360MB free memory to work with.
System responsiveness: I click and I am there. Responsiveness almost doubled.
Shutdown: My system halts like a TV. After clicking the turnoff button, my systems halts in just 6 sec.

Bottomline: I have minimalistic approach while it comes to PC usage. For that, I have tried to tweak any OS to its extreme. But most Linux flavours were messed up in my tweak process. Only PCLinuxOS stood by me. I swear by its stability, speed and usability. Need I say more!

Thanks to PCLinuxOS, Texstar and the Ripper gang!


Anonymous said...

would you please tell me how to automount my windows partitions?

manmath sahu said...

Edit the /etc/fstab file in your PCLinuxOS system.

Look for the mount points of your windows partitions and replace the "noauto" parameter(next to "rw") with "auto".

linux-rant said...

The latest pclinuxos has a graphical tool to find and automount windows partitions. Just browse PCC.

How about this