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Date:      Mon, 20 Nov 2006 11:19:52 -0500
From:      Bill Moran <>
To:        Dieter <>
Subject:   Re: TCP parameters and interpreting tcpdump output
Message-ID:  <>
In-Reply-To: <>
References:  <> <>

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In response to Dieter <>:

> > > The machine has 2 GB.  I wonder if the process is getting its fair share?
> > > I have been observing other problems where disk activity to one disk
> > > will make an unrelated process reading data from a different disk *very*
> > > unresponsive.
> > 
> > Sounds like a hardware problem to me.  If you've got a crappy SATA
> > controller that's going to block every now and again, you're going to
> > have trouble with this.
> Is the Nvidia "Nforce4 Ultra" chipset considered a crappy SATA controller?
> There are 4 Seagate SATA drives, 1 Seagate PATA drive (all 7200.8 .9 or .10),
> and 1 LG CD/DVD PATA drive.  The PATA drives are idle during these tests.

*shrug*  I don't know their product lines to comment.

I'm only speculating.  "Crappy" could mean that the FreeBSD driver for those
devices is problematic ... or it could mean you've got a marginal cable
causing communication errors -- in brief, anything that could cause the
drive to block as you describe, even if it's not specifically the hardware.

> Doing dd between the disks and /dev/null it can do 40 MB/sec sustained at
> the slow end and 65-70 MB/s at the fast end of the drives, limited by the
> drives, and do this with all four SATA drives at once.  It can do this
> reading or writing if the disks' cache is turned on.  With the disks' cache
> turned off, the sustained write speed drops to about 1/10.
> But... if I do something like copy a large file from one disk to another,
> and then do something that needs to read from a third disk, the new process
> may hang for a very very long time.  If I suspend (^Z) the copy process for
> a moment, the new process gets its data.  I suspect that the kernel is
> letting the copy process kick everything else out of memory.  To some extent
> that makes sense.  It is caching the most recently accessed data.  What I
> haven't figured out is why the new process is allowed to hang for so long.

I'm surprised that you're seeing that much of a "hang".  Even if the disks
are busy, the system should slow down all disk processes equally, so no
one process "blocks", but they're all a little slower.

It doesn't sound like that's what's happening.

> I had thought of putting in a circular buffer, but figured that it should
> be unnecessary since the normal Unix write-behind should buffer the
> writes from the disk I/O for me.  I'll give it a try, maybe it will help.

First, use the /dev/null test to verify whether or not the disks really
are the problem.  You don't want to waste a lot of time on something
that may be unrelated.

Bill Moran
Collaborative Fusion Inc.

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