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I've noticed that when running at 100%, things like GNOME become less responsive until I kill background tasks that are expected to take a long time, like compilation or downloading email. Why doesn't the linux kernel give programs requiring real time responsiveness higher priority?

I'm running kernel version 4.0 on a fresh install of Fedora, by the way.

  • Why are interactive programs more important than "background tasks"? What if those background tasks include live server activities -- then what should be prioritized? It's up to the user to make those decisions and configure (and use) the system appropriately. Your question should really be, "How can I get the system to prioritize the tasks I want prioritized?" – goldilocks Jul 7 '15 at 11:22
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I believe it actually does prioritize interactive-programs -- but perhaps not enough. Programs looses priority the longer they run, and non-interactive programs looses it quicker than interactive ones.

You really shouldn't operate at close to 100% CPU-usage, if you do, perhaps you should review some things...

There are two things that impact the priority given to a program -- intial nice-value and the schedueler used. nice lets you down-prioritize some programs (e.g. a heavy compiling job). root may also give programs higer priority with nice. The scheduler decides both how much a program can "hog" the CPU, and when it can preempt other processes. Here a process can be given "real-time" priority, meaning it run before anything else.

The problem is that you don't know what's hogging your system. Perhaps GNOME is slow because it must wait for some sub-process that must wait on a disk... perhaps your graphic-card doesn't cooperate, so GNOME must use software-rendering of graphics... Because just giving GNOME a better nice-value and/or a different scheduling-policy, may make your system even slower, since what GNOME is waiting for (e.g. disk-access) now may be preempted by GNOME and thus run even slower than before.

Once you've found-out where the problem is, you may try giving X and/or GNOME a bit better nice and/or scheduling... but don't go full-hog -- for example there are important system daemons that runs with nice-values of just -5 or -10 (negative-values = higher/better priority), that probably shouldn't be preempted by you suddenly giving GNOME a nice-value of -18.

  • It might be easier to start whatever low priority background tasks cause the problem (e.g. compilers will use as much as they can) with a high nice value, giving everything else higher priority. – goldilocks Jul 7 '15 at 11:27
  • Lose is spelled l-o-s-e – Rob Jul 7 '15 at 11:39

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