RT Cunningham

Linux Mint Tweaks for Speed and Memory Optimization

Linux Mint Tweaks These Linux Mint tweaks will work on other Linux distributions. They may be implemented differently on anything other than Debian/Ubuntu based distributions. I have no way of knowing without doing more research than I’m inclined to do.

When I set my system up for dual booting, I completely forgot about these Linux Mint tweaks, even though I’d used them before. When I finally remembered, I made changes immediately.

Linux Mint Tweaks

In my oh-so-humble opinion, Linux Mint works just fine right out of the box. That is, as long as you have 4 gigabytes of RAM or more. If you don’t, you definitely need to tweak the default settings. Most modern laptop computers come with 4 or more. I’ve seen some in stores with 16.

If you want a more detailed guide about your system, you should visit the Easy Linux Tips Project. There’s one thing the author doesn’t mention (and I really looked for it). Zswap enhances the swap partition/swap file setup by compressing memory.

To reduce swapping and tame the node cache, edit /etc/systctl.conf and add these lines to the end of the file:

vm.swappiness=10
vm.vfs_cache_pressure=50

Ignore the second one if you have less than 4 gigabytes of RAM.

The later kernels have zswap already installed. All you have to do is enable it. Edit /etc/default/grub and change this line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash"

to:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash zswap.enabled=1"

Then run:

sudo update-grub

Linux Mint Tweaks and Swapping

All Linux distributions can use more than one way to swap memory. They can use swap partitions, swap files, or no swapping at all. If you have more than eight gigabytes of memory and you don’t use memory-intensive applications, your system will probably never swap. Unless you’re pressed for space on your drive, you should leave your swap partition alone.

Debian, Ubuntu and Linux Mint all have swappiness set to 60 as the default. That’s designed for servers and it’s strange. We don’t want servers to swap. Ever. You can set it to 10 to reduce swapping. You can even test setting it as low as 1. I’ve tested it set to 0 before and things didn’t seem to work right.

When I installed Linux Mint 18 on my other laptop, it created a swap partition. When I installed it to another partition on this machine, alongside Windows, it created a swap file. Zswap will work with either of them. If you decide to forgo swapping the traditional way, you may want to install zram:

sudo apt install zram-config

Of all the Linux Mint tweaks I know about, this is the one I suggest you avoid if you have less than 8 gigabytes of memory. That’s because the zram module creates an “in memory” swap file, leaving your applications with less real memory to work with.

None of these Linux Mint tweaks will appear to do anything until you reboot your computer. Zswap doesn’t make that much of a difference, the way I use my computer. I do things the old way, the way I learned to do things when web browsers didn’t have tabs. I actually close applications and web browser tabs when I’m not using them. My memory usage tends to hover around 50 percent.

Extra Linux Mint Tweaks

These aren’t really tweaks as much as they are enhancements. Linux Mint comes with desklets and applets that can display things you may need to do or track. I’ve added two applets to my bottom panel. One is to restart Cinnamon, the desktop environment. The other is to display memory usage.

Cinnamon works much better than it did the first time I used it in an earlier Linux Mint version. If something becomes unresponsive, clicking that button will sometimes let me avoid killing processes. Earlier versions of Cinnamon had issues and I switched to the Mate version when that happened.

Having an applet to display memory usage is better than loading and viewing the system monitor, since that’s really the only thing I ever use the system monitor for. I rarely have to kill any running tasks - I really only have problems when I’m installing or removing something that may or may not be designed to run on my system.

Image Attribution: merlwiz79 [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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RT Cunningham
February 19, 2019
Linux