Since about Fedora 9, the GNU/Linux install on my laptop has been essentially worthless. Things that used to work fine like browsing on the internet while compiling a small piece of software just couldn't happen anymore. For some reason during this process something would start attacking my hard drive. On this particular laptop, touching the hard drive is likely signaling all processes to suspend and never return. Initially it clicks while the hard drive light flashes. As the horrible smashing continues eventually the clicking sound stops and the light goes solid. This is the time when I physically power off the laptop because it will never come back from this state.
Today it occurred to me that maybe the "random hard drive smashing" really was random and had nothing to do with what I was doing at the time. This would explain why no sequence of events seemed to be the trigger right? Definitely.
The problem with figuring out what was going on is that top shows CPU usage and memory usage. It doesn't tell me a damn thing about which process is eating hard drive. So far I haven't found any software that does and this is upsetting. Especially since *anything* that gave me *any information* about what was going on with the hard drive would have made the task easier.
Today I finally tracked it down and, to some of you, the answer will be obvious: cron. There's a bunch of crap that cron does that comes at about the worst possible time imaginable. Rather than try to figure out exactly whet the stupidity it was running did, I just uninstalled everything "cron" related. My cursory examination of what it was doing led me to conclude that none of it was actually useful.
The primary scripts that were causing the problems are 0logwatch and prelink.
0logwatch seems to have the job of "emailing" the local user to tell me what logs already say. I'm sure if I configured this it might be useful, but, as it stands, I don't care.
prelink just seems to eat up a lot of hard drive time and I can't figure out what it could possibly be doing that's useful.
After cron was done with its horror next came yum-updatesd to eat up even more hard drive and sometimes lock me out of yum. I really have no idea what this daemon does because yum seems to run an update every time I use it anyway. That's another service down.
Since culling all of these things my whole system seems to be running pretty acceptably on Fedora 10. My next challenge will be to make my sound stop skipping and "scrapping" every few seconds.