After I got Linux up and running on my laptop, I found it accessing the harddisk every few seconds, even when there was no user logged in to the system. The harddisk could never enter its power saving mode. Reducing harddisk activity can greatly increase the battery runtime, so this is why I collected the following recipes.
I tested all this with RedHat 4.1, the locations of some configuration settings may be different for your distribution. (If so, please let me know.)
/etc/crontab file if it starts a process
every minute. You will often find
at command, you can spool commands that must be
invoked some time in the future. Some Linux systems use a
atd daemon to take care of this, others
(e. g. RedHat) let the
crond daemon run
atrun once every
This is not really necessairy on most systems, since
commands rarely depend upon being invoked on exact time. So
if you find a line like this in your
# Run any at jobs every minute * * * * * root [ -x /usr/sbin/atrun ] && /usr/sbin/atrun
Then you can safely change this to:
# Run any at jobs every hour 00 * * * * root [ -x /usr/sbin/atrun ] && /usr/sbin/atrun
man 5 crontab for details. Some folks can even
work fine without the
crond daemon, so if you know
what you are doing, you might want
to consider disabling it completely.
Linux deals with a lot of open file buffers at any given moment, so the system must make sure that file changes are saved to the harddisk as soon possible. Otherwise, those changes will be lost after a system crash.
bdflush daemon takes care of this. (These
are two names for the same program, so you can use either
name to start the daemon). The default settings will make
this daemon call
flush every 5 seconds and
With my Fujitsu disk this caused non-stop access. (It seems that this harddisk flushes its ram cache even when nothing has changed. But this depends on your harddisk's firmware: Other people told me that their harddisk does enter its power saving mode even without the following modification.)
Since Linux does not crash very often anymore, I have changed both values to 3600 seconds (= one hour). This caused no problems at all and the constant disk access has stopped. (But if my system crashes now, there will be more broken files, of course.)
RedHat 4.1: In
/etc/inittab, change the update call to:
ud::once:/sbin/update -s 3600 -f 3600
update is called in
update is called in
man update for details.
syslogd daemon is responsible for the various Linux
system log files that are found in the
/var/log/ directory. By default
sync the log file each time after logging a system message.
You can turn that off by preceding the filename with a dash
/etc/syslog.conf. Here's an example as found in
# Log anything (except mail) of level info or higher. # Don't log private authentication messages! *.info;mail.none;authpriv.none -/var/log/messages
This again means that if the system crashes, the message that reported the problem may not have been stored to disk. Dilemma...
During the bootup, the initial processes and daemons will be
started using the
init command. This command (yet again)
sync before each process it creates.
You can change this by removing the
sync() call in the
source code and recompiling the command.
To avoid problems with lost file buffers, you should add a
sync in your system's
/etc/rc.d/init.d/halt script, right before the script
unmounts the file systems.
The Linux swap partition is used to increase the physical ram space
with virtual memory. This again is a possible reason for harddisk
access. If your laptop already has a lot of ram or if
the applications that you use are quite simple
vi), you might want to consider turning it off.
This of course depends on what you plan to do. 4 to 8 megs are not enough, you must use a swap partition then. With 8 to 16 megs, text console applications will work fine and if you can avoid using a lot of multitasking features, you can safely disable swap. The X-Windows enviroment requires a lot of ram and you should not use it without a swap partition unless you really have a lot more than 16 megs.
(Sidenote: My laptop with 16 megs and disabled swap partition can run
emacs session, four
bash shells and compile a
kernel without running out of memory. That's enough for me.)
If you already have installed a swap partition, you can disable
it by preceding the
command that is called in
a hash mark. If you don't want to make it a permanent move, let
the system ask during boot if you want to use the swap
/etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit (RedHat 4.1) or
/sbin/init.d/boot (Suse 4.4.1):
echo "Should the system use swap?" echo " 0: No." echo " 1: Yes." /bin/echo "Your choice: \c" read SWAPCHOICE case "$SWAPCHOICE" in 0) # Do nothing. echo "(Swap partitions disabled)" ;; *) # Start up swapping. echo "Activating swap partitions" swapon -a esac
Then you can use the swap partition while on ac power and drop it while on battery.
I am using my laptop to develop and test cgi scipts for websites, that is why I am running a local webserver on it. The standard configuration is a bit too much if all you want to do is just test a script or check a page from time to time.
httpd.conf, just change the values of
will be enough for a local test site.
If you wish to turn off the webserver's logging, you must
httpd daemon. Read the documentation for
Grant Taylor recompiled apache's logging and found
that this ``didn't make it stop churning the disk. So I used
another, IMHO better, solution: I configured apache to run
from inetd instead of standalone.'' Read
man inetd for
Configuring XFree86 for laptops is a story of its own. And yet again, I have to refer you to the Linux Laptop page where you will find a lot of help on this.
X's console blanking only turns the screen black, but does
not turn it off. As mentioned in the
sidenote about console blanking,
you can use
xset's dpms option to change this.
However, this feature depends on your laptop's
graphics chipset and bios.
Grant Taylor uses the following setup to send his laptop to
sleep with the help of
apmd and the screensaver:
# Run xscreensaver with APM program xscreensaver -timeout 5 \ -xrm xscreensaver.programs:apm_standby \ -xrm xscreensaver.colorPrograms:apm_standby &
apm_standby is a suid perl script that allows only
certain people to run
emacs is not an editor, but a way of life. Here's
a tip from Florent Chabaud: ``If you use
you have noticed that the editor makes some automatic saves.
This is of course useful and should not be disabled, but
the default parameters can be adjusted to a laptop use.
I have put in the file
the two following lines:
(setq auto-save-interval 2500) (setq auto-save-timeout nil)
This disables auto-saving based on time, and makes the auto-saving be done every 2500 keyboard actions. Of course if you are typing a text this last parameter should be reduced, but for programming it is sufficient. Since every action (up, down, left, backspace, paste, etc...) is counted, 2500 actions are reached very rapidly.''
If your Linux system still seems to access the harddisk too
often, you can find out what is going on inside by using
ps ax command. This will show all running processes
and their full name, sometimes it also reveals the command
line arguments of each process.
Now read the
man page of each process to find out what
it does and how to change its behaviour. With this
method, you will most likely find the process that is
responsible. You may also find
Please send me an email if you found something new.