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Old 02-18-2011, 12:24 PM
Martin Klaiber
 
Default dpkg fails on low-memory-hardware

Hello everybody, this is my first post to this list.

Some time ago I wanted to upgrade an old laptop (Toshiba T4900CT,
from 1994) from Debian Etch to Debian Lenny. Unfortunately dpkg
(resp. apt-get or aptitude) was running out of memory. The maximum
amount of RAM for this laptop is limited to 40 MB.

I use this laptop for daily work for many years now. The limited
memory is no problem for this purpose. All programs I need, run fine
with this amount of RAM (jed, latex, tin, mutt, fbi, fbgs, links).

The only problem seems to be dpkg or associated programs, like
aptitude oder apt-get. Strangely enough, the laptop has 256 MB of
swap-space which dpkg (aptitude, apt-get) seem to ignore. Other
programs use swap, so it should be no general problem.

I know this laptop is old hardware and modern hardware is cheap. But
I got used to this machine so much and I would really love to keep it
alive. Plus I would like to continue using Debian. I tried NetBSD on
it. It works fine but I prefer Debian.

So could someone tell me please, how I could use dpkg with max. 40 MB
of RAM or how I could tell dpkg to use swap-space?

TIA, Martin


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Old 02-18-2011, 04:26 PM
Raphael Hertzog
 
Default dpkg fails on low-memory-hardware

Hi,

On Fri, 18 Feb 2011, Martin Klaiber wrote:
> Hello everybody, this is my first post to this list.
>
> Some time ago I wanted to upgrade an old laptop (Toshiba T4900CT,
> from 1994) from Debian Etch to Debian Lenny. Unfortunately dpkg
> (resp. apt-get or aptitude) was running out of memory. The maximum
> amount of RAM for this laptop is limited to 40 MB.

dpkg uses an amount of RAM proportional to the number of packages
installed, but apt-get/aptitude use an amount of RAM proportional to the
number of available packages.

And the number of available packages has grown as usual. So it's not
unexpected if apt-get uses all the memory.

Are you sure dpkg alone does not work?

> The only problem seems to be dpkg or associated programs, like
> aptitude oder apt-get. Strangely enough, the laptop has 256 MB of
> swap-space which dpkg (aptitude, apt-get) seem to ignore. Other
> programs use swap, so it should be no general problem.

How do you know that they are not using swap ?

I don't know of any reason why dpkg/apt-get would not use swap.

Cheers,
--
Raphaël Hertzog ◈ Debian Developer

Follow my Debian News ▶ http://RaphaelHertzog.com (English)
▶ http://RaphaelHertzog.fr (Français)


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Old 02-19-2011, 12:13 PM
Martin Klaiber
 
Default dpkg fails on low-memory-hardware

Raphael Hertzog <hertzog@debian.org> wrote:

> How do you know that they are not using swap ?

When I tried to upgrade (btw the currently installed Debian is Sarge
not Etch, sorry), I could see in top how memory consumption of apt-get
or aptitude and dpkg increased but swap wasn't used.

> I don't know of any reason why dpkg/apt-get would not use swap.

ACK. Today I did another test. I reduced the amount of RAM to 8 MB and
installed some programs with aptitude and apt-get. The laptop became
terribly slow and was heavily swapping but everything was running fine.

So, I will try to upgrade to Lenny in the next days and will tell you,
if it worked or not. Perhaps it was only a temporary problem with swap.

Thanks for your help,
Martin


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Old 02-19-2011, 08:54 PM
Goswin von Brederlow
 
Default dpkg fails on low-memory-hardware

Martin Klaiber <martinkl@zedat.fu-berlin.de> writes:

> Raphael Hertzog <hertzog@debian.org> wrote:
>
>> How do you know that they are not using swap ?
>
> When I tried to upgrade (btw the currently installed Debian is Sarge
> not Etch, sorry), I could see in top how memory consumption of apt-get
> or aptitude and dpkg increased but swap wasn't used.
>
>> I don't know of any reason why dpkg/apt-get would not use swap.
>
> ACK. Today I did another test. I reduced the amount of RAM to 8 MB and
> installed some programs with aptitude and apt-get. The laptop became
> terribly slow and was heavily swapping but everything was running fine.
>
> So, I will try to upgrade to Lenny in the next days and will tell you,
> if it worked or not. Perhaps it was only a temporary problem with swap.
>
> Thanks for your help,
> Martin

I've used apt/dpkg with 64MB ram just fine. But something as trivial
looking as installing locales already exceeds the 64MB with just
dpkg. You will need lots of swap for apt/aptitude.

I recommend creating a local partial mirror with reprepro or debmirror
with just the packages you need. As others have pointed out apt/aptitude
consume ram proportional to the amount of available packages so reducing
that saves ram. Also makes it run faster and if it prevents (some)
swapping it will be magnitudes faster.

MfG
Goswin


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Old 02-19-2011, 09:30 PM
Christian Leber
 
Default dpkg fails on low-memory-hardware

On Fri, Feb 18, 2011 at 02:24:19PM +0100, Martin Klaiber wrote:

Hi Martin

> So could someone tell me please, how I could use dpkg with max. 40 MB
> of RAM or how I could tell dpkg to use swap-space?

It should at least work given enough swap, dpkg has no idea about swapping
(or to be more exact paging) the kernel does this.
Also you did not provide the error message.

I see different possibilities:
-put the disk in a box with enough RAM and upgrade there
-export the filesystem by NFS, mount it somewhere else (with enough RAM),
chroot to it and do the upgrade there (should work)
-build a reduced package lists yourself, as it was already suggested


Regards
Christian

P.S. Crappy hardware is just too expensive in time, better ditch it.

--
Christian Leber <christian@leber.de> or <leber@uni-hd.de>


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