First off, I know that the memory usage as displayed in the System Monitor on Ubuntu isn't definitive. I read all the stuff like this. But consider this:

  • I have installed Ubuntu 16.04 dualboot on a MacBook Pro as primary OS
  • The MBP has 8GiB memory (7,7GiB to be precise)
  • Every other day, my laptop chokes up to the point that nothing response and I can only move my cursor with an insane delay of minutes per inch (in other words; complete freeze)

Ever since this happened I keep the System Monitor open, and every time the system freezes is because the memory usage get's up to 99.99%.

I've tried to use commands such as these sync && echo 3 | sudo tee /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches and extensions for Chrome to better manage processes and memory usage. Most of the time I have 5 windows running:

  • Chrome browser
  • Sublime Text editor
  • Nylas mail client
  • Spotify
  • Terminal window

As I said, I keep a close eye on the memory usage and reboot from time to time when I notice the memory is > 90%, but it happens often that a process (mostly Chrome) has to pull some weight unexpectedly and if that happens, I can sigh, force-quit my machine, and start it again.

Over the course of the day the memory usage seems to grow and grow, and the only way to clear it again is to reboot. On boot, memory usage is usually 40~45% (+- 3,5GiB). At this time I have 4 tabs in chrome, a terminal window, Nylas in the background and spotify, and memory is at 5.5GiB. I already feel the tension for when it's about to choke up again.

The Ubuntu install is pretty clean and fresh; installed it out of the box and didn't do any crazy stuff with it internally; just using it as a regular user.

Now I don't know if this is due the fact that it runs on a MBP and it isn't optimized for it, or that I could tweak the OS to run better on it (i.e. I don't seem to have any swap available), but I think it would be an idea to limit memory usage to say 95% the same way the battery doesn't charge over 90%; to keep from hitting the 100%.

But I'm no power user. I'm also not afraid to dive in the system and tweak stuff (that's why I wanted to use Ubuntu anyway), but at this point I'm not sure where to look for a solution, if there is one anyway. I've read about launching certain processes (like the browser) in containers and limiting those to a certain amount of memory, but I've also read that that is a 'plain stupid idea' because 'it doesn't work that way'.

So, what do I do? I've read these three questions, but no satisfying answer yet.

My current process list for reference:

Current process list for reference

Edit: At Duncans advise, here is the list of start up processes. As far as I can tell there is nothing too weird about it.

initctl list

indicator-application start/running, process 1923
unicast-local-avahi stop/waiting
update-notifier-crash stop/waiting
upstart-udev-bridge start/running, process 1678
update-notifier-hp-firmware stop/waiting
xsession-init stop/waiting
dbus start/running, process 1687
no-pinentry-gnome3 stop/waiting
update-notifier-cds stop/waiting
gnome-keyring-ssh stop/waiting
gnome-session (Unity) start/running, process 1848
ssh-agent stop/waiting
unity7 start/running, process 1881
upstart-dbus-session-bridge start/running, process 1761
gpg-agent start/running
indicator-messages start/running, process 1884
logrotate stop/waiting
indicator-bluetooth start/running, process 1888
unity-panel-service start/running, process 1851
hud start/running, process 1839
im-config start/running
unity-gtk-module stop/waiting
session-migration stop/waiting
upstart-dbus-system-bridge start/running, process 1764
at-spi2-registryd stop/waiting
indicator-power start/running, process 1889
update-notifier-release stop/waiting
indicator-datetime start/running, process 1894
indicator-keyboard start/running, process 1895
unity-settings-daemon start/running, process 1841
indicator-sound start/running, process 1898
upstart-file-bridge start/running, process 1768
bamfdaemon start/running, process 1753
gnome-keyring stop/waiting
window-stack-bridge start/running, process 1699
indicator-printers start/running, process 1901
re-exec stop/waiting
upstart-event-bridge stop/waiting
unity-panel-service-lockscreen stop/waiting
indicator-session start/running, process 1902

In the start-up apps only flux, GNOME software, Nylas, SSH Key Agent and StackStorage run.

  • Hmm, thanks Duncan, these are pointers worth looking into. I will check them, but as I said it's a fairly new and fresh install, so I don't expect to find much. – Alex Timmer Feb 14 '17 at 8:45
  • I just rebooted to check, and this time it started at 2,5GiB before anything. – Alex Timmer Feb 14 '17 at 8:55

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