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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Sun, 01 Jul 2012

Debian Wheezy with GNOME 3: Day 3 -- Troublesome browser-related CPU loads, plus GNOME Classic

I'm on my second day of intense use of my Debian Wheezy (aka Testing) system, which I upgraded from Squeeze (aka Stable) on Friday.

While I'm getting the hang of GNOME Shell, with its "hot corner" mousing technique, creation of virtual desktops as needed, plus the overall newness of transitioning from GNOME 2.30 to 3.4.2, today I decided to work in the GNOME Classic desktop as opposed to the full GNOME Shell.

Aside from not needing 3D compositing, GNOME Classic works a whole lot like the "old' GNOME 2.3x desktop. There are Applications and Places menus at the top left side of the screen, virtual desktops at the bottom right, notifications at the top right.

The menus are filled out appropriately with my applications, ctrl-alt-left/right arrow toggles between them, and I'm getting notifications from the upper right panel (as opposed from center bottom in the full GNOME Shell).

I imported my Google Chrome bookmarks into Chromium, which is new enough at version 18.0.1025.151 for me to use (unlike the 6.x in Squeeze).

Yesterday after a very long session (made even longer due to my suspending the night previous), both the Chrome and Iceweasel/Firefox browsers were using a lot of CPU -- pegging both cores on my AMD Athlon chip to 100 percent more often than not.

I'm not sure what was going on there, but a reboot helped then, and so far today everything is running well with Chromium as my main browser.

One of the things I did after the install was remove the "old" kernels from Debian Squeeze, squeeze-backports and Liquorix that I had in the system. I should have kept them at least until I figured out whether this CPU-hogging was going to persist. I could always grab a Backports kernel if I really need it, but I'm confident that a) this isn't kernel-related and b) either I'll resolve it, or Debian will via a subsequent update.

Other things I did yesterday were to install the gnome-extension package (I already installed gnome-tweak-tool) and bookmark the official GNOME Extensions web site, which you can use to install further extensions and manage them as well. I also found this helpful page on GNOME Shell extensions from CentOS developer Jim Perrin. One of the things I learned there was that to activate a GNOME Shell extension, you need to log out and log back in.

Another problem I'm having is with the Google account integration. The system is having trouble connecting to Google. Now in Classic mode, I'm not automatically connected to Google Talk via Empathy.

I'm going to stay in GNOME Classic all day today, and I'll report back on performance as the day continues.

Two hours later: Everything is running great. Chromium takes CPU when it needs it and gives it up when it doesn't. That's how it's supposed to work.

Could the 'leap second' be at fault? A Debian developer says the "leap second" made apps that include Firefox consume all the CPU on the system. That sounds like as good an explanation as any for my troubles yesterday.