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I'm seeing unexplained network behavior, such as sporadic inability to reach beyond the subnet, passwords rejected for no apparent reason, and SSH attempts constantly yielding that irksome man-in-the-middle attack warning necessitating accepting new keys often (deleting entries in the ~/.ssh/known_hosts file to start over again when trying to reach this problematic Fedora 20 workstation). But at other times, everything's fine.

I find no evidence of network intrusion or really anything else wrong with the OS, except this...

Nov 13 22:29:17 hostname /usr/sbin/irqbalance: irq 118 affinity_hint subset empty

The above message appears literally every 10 seconds or less in the /var/log/messages file. No idea what it is or means. Can this be at the heart of what's troubling this installation?

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The logged messages generally shouldn't cause your problem. It's irqbalance complaining and Net Wisdom say to disable affinity hints:

irqbalance ... --hintpolicy=ignore

(usually in startup script OPTIONS or in the default config) which may or may not be a good direction since it disables some advanced features of irqbalance; it definitely going to make the logged message disappear.

Your problems will not go away with high probability, though.

[update] but maybe it can help according to this redhat bug.

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