Plasma 5: Akonadi and slow start
1i5t5.duncan at cox.net
Mon Aug 1 04:06:49 BST 2016
Yaroslav Pronin posted on Sun, 31 Jul 2016 10:41:54 +0300 as excerpted:
> Hello. For a long time (Plasma 5, Fedora and ArchLinux) I have noticed
> that if use akonadi, the startup time is markedly increased (black
> screen 1-1.5 minute after login). I read a lot about this problem, but
> working solution I haven't found. Is there a way to use akonadi without
> effect a slow start?
Well, uninstalling from my machine anything using akonadi, so I could in
turn remove it, is the solution I ultimately chose, here.
However, I'd suggest the problem isn't akonadi itself, but how it uses
storage (see below). As such, attacking the problem at a level lower
than akonadi itself is likely to ease the problem and shorten startup
time significantly. The following suggestions are based on what I found
helped for a different (non-kde) app that was taking quite a long time to
startup, that I wanted to keep for $REASONS. There's a very strong
likelihood they'll help you with akonadi as well.
First of all, the delay from fragmented IO that I believe is the root of
the problem will be much more noticeable on conventional spinning rust
drives than on SSDs. So I'm assuming you're still on spinning rust as
the problem would almost certainly be elsewhere (the CPU cycles required,
thus, the logic of the app itself, which you can't do much about unless
you're a programmer) if you're seeing that sort of delay on SSDs. So...
#1 suggestion, if you're not on an SSD, consider upgrading to one, as the
seek times I believe to be the problem are effectively zero on SSDs,
giving you the choice to simply eliminate the problem with hardware, tho
of course that costs money.
And if you are already on an SSD, look elsewhere as the rest of these
suggestions aren't likely to help much.
As mentioned, I believe the issue is fragmented IO, as either a few large
and highly fragmented files, or a whole bunch of smaller files that
individually aren't fragmented as they're small, but that happen to be
scattered all over your storage device, but either way, that akonadi
reads into memory as it starts. Because these files or file fragments
are physically separated on the disk, the hardware likely spends more
time moving back and forth between fragments than it does actually
reading them, so any way you can find to reduce the time spent moving
between fragments will directly reduce the startup time. Other than the
above throw money at it and get an SSD suggestion, the rest of the
suggestions are various somewhat technical methods you can use to reduce
fragmentation of those files, either individually for large files, or as
a group of smaller files, with one exception, which basically just moves
the problem to a time other than startup, giving everything else time to
come up first, before starting akonadi. With that introduction...
#2, consider your disk partitioning. If everything related is in a
(relatively) small part of the disk, because it's all on a single
partition that's only part of the disk instead of using the whole disk as
a single partition, then it won't be possible for the fragments to be at
opposite ends of the disk, even if they're at opposite ends of the
partition, because the partition will be a far smaller portion of the
disk. As such, the seeks should be faster as the head won't have as far
to move to get to the next file or file fragment. Additionally, files
that end up highly fragmented on one partition due to usage pattern,
won't be able to fragment the free-space on a different partition,
thereby causing new files there to be fragmented as well, even if they'd
stay in one piece otherwise.
FWIW, I have the main system (what the distro installs) on one
partition, /home on another, media files on another, and the distro's
update tree and cache on yet another, so everything's on its own
partition by how it's used. I'll leave it at that as there's lots of
partitioning guides out there.
#3, consider your choice of filesystem. Linux has a plethora of
filesystem choices available, and some work better for some usages than
others. Also, some have defrag tools available while others don't (see
the defrag suggestion below).
As an example, btrfs, which I use on my SSDs, is a copy-on-write (COW),
based filesystem. COW based filesystems don't overwrite files in the same
place, instead copying unmodified portions of a file block to a new
location when some part of it is modified. This helps quite a bit with
file and filesystem integrity, since writes are atomic such that if a
crash happens during a write, you should either get the new version or
the old version, not an unpredictable mix that's partly new and partly
old, but at the cost of much more extreme fragmentation for any files of
significant size that have more or less random rewrites. Database files,
likely including akonadi's database, and virtual machine images are
examples of files that tend to fit this rewrite pattern and be fairly
large, and thus be quite problematic on btrfs, altho there are
workarounds possible. But the point here is that if you're using btrfs
on spinning rust and haven't applied the anti-fragmentation workarounds
to your akonadi files, they're likely to be extremely fragmented, thus
slowing down access for anything attempting to read those files. Putting
your database and VM image files on a non-btrfs filesystem can help (here
again, partitioning can help, since you can then use different
filesystems on each of the partitions), or simply applying the
workarounds that help btrfs manage this type of heavy-in-place-rewrite-
pattern file somewhat better than it would by default.
#4, defrag. As mentioned, some filesystems have a defrag tool of their
own which you can use, but it's possible to defrag any filesystem
manually using the method below.
For filesystems that don't, backing up the files on that filesystem
elsewhere, blowing the filesystem away and recreating it with a fresh
mkfs, then copying everything back, should effectively defrag the entire
filesystem along with everything on it.
This is actually how I discovered how much of the slow startup time was
due to fragmentation on the app I was having problems with, before I
switched to SSDs for everything but my media partition. I was using
reiserfs at the time, and while it does have a defragger, it's a separate
package on my distro and wasn't installed. But my backups consist of
partitions of similar size to the working copies, which I'll blow away
and recreate from time to time when things seem to be relatively stable,
then copy everything over from the working copy partition to the backup.
Of course I then boot to the backup to be sure everything's in order,
because as any good admin has learned, sometimes the hard way, a backup
that hasn't been tested can't yet be considered a backup as you don't
know that it can be used successfully yet.
And occasionally, once I'm booted to the backup and know everything's
safely there, I'll take the opportunity (while booted to the backup) to
wipe away the normal working copy, cleanly recreating that filesystem and
copying everything back from the backup I'm booted to. Then of course I
reboot back to my normal working partitions again, testing them in the
It was one of the times that I did this, that I realized this app that
normally took several minutes to startup, was now starting much faster.
At first I thought the copy back had gone haywire and I was missing some
of my data files, but I double-checked and everything was there.
The difference was simply that as I had accumulated more and more data
for that app over time, it had gotten fragmented, and the backup, test-by-
booting-to-backup, blow away the working copy with a fresh mkfs, and
restore from backup, process, had effectively defragged everything since
each file was copied over serially, one at a time.
From then on, I didn't let the problem get so bad. Every time things
started getting too slow, I'd take the opportunity when test-booted to a
backup to blow away and recreate the working copy on a fresh filesystem,
so the files this app used weren't so fragmented and it would load
faster, once again.
Of course eventually I switched to SSD, and while I still have the same
backup and occasional refresh of the working copy system in place, I no
longer have to worry about the load time of that app, since SSDs have
zero seek times. =:^)
#5, delay the akonadi load until everything else is up.
If the call to start akonadi is via dbus as it might be, you may have to
get creative with this, but I've used this trick several times to delay
something temporarily, until everything else I want loaded is done.
Find the executable, here, the akonadi executable, and whatever starts
it, and replace the direct call to the executable with a call to a
script, that has an appropriate delay, before in turn calling the real
A script such as the following normally works, adjusting the time and
path to the executable as necessary.
# delay this number of seconds
Make it executable of course.
Then either move the akonadi executable to realakonadi and replace it
with the script, or (if the call uses standard path lookup) put the
akonadi script in a location earlier in the path so it's found first (but
because it calls the real executable by full path, it won't just loop-
call itself), or if you know all the places that call the old executable
(say because you used grep to find them), change them to point to the
Now when you start plasma, the akonadi start will call the script
instead, which will sleep for however many seconds first before starting
the real executable, thus giving everything else time to finish loading
before akonadi starts hogging all the disk bandwidth trying to load
As I said, save for the first "throw money at it" suggestion, all these
are somewhat technical, but they should help. If you aren't technically
oriented enough to use them and you don't have money for the first one,
well... you can always do what I did and switch to non-akonadi-based apps
and get rid of akonadi itself. =:^) OTOH, the fact that I have that
defrag results story in the first place means that I too know what it's
like to have an app I'm not willing to give up that's slow enough I gotta
work around it, so I understand if that's the case, but it just wasn't
akonadi, for me -- akonadi I found replacement apps for and blew it away,
and my system's the faster for it since! =:^)
Duncan - List replies preferred. No HTML msgs.
"Every nonfree program has a lord, a master --
and if you use the program, he is your master." Richard Stallman
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