[Aptitude-devel] Bug#369231: aptitude far too big a memory hog

Manuel A. Fernandez Montecelo manuel.montezelo at gmail.com
Sat Nov 7 21:09:23 UTC 2015

Control: severity -1 wishlist
Control: tags -1 + moreinfo

Hi Tim,

2006-05-28 15:00 Tim Connors:
>Package: aptitude
>Version: 0.4.1-1
>Severity: important
>I read that apt-get is to be deprecated in favour of aptitude, but
>unfortunately, if that is to happen, aptitude *must* be made much more
>memory lean.
>Debian is meant to be able to installed on a small machine with 32MB of
>RAM, yet just performing an aptitude upgrade on a machine with 256MB
>of ram was taking an inordinate amount of time just to read the
>database.  The reason being is that it wants to use:
> 7800 root      18   0  184m 103m  97m D  3.3 41.3   0:26.73 aptitude
>during in particular the "Building tag database" phase (although it
>was hogging memory what I would call "excessively" before then too.
>That is seriously unusable.  If I want to add a single package to the
>system using aptitude, I can expect to wait half an hour for it to
>install on a machine that is only a few years old -- 256MB is *not* a
>small amount of RAM.
>Compare that to the same phase (asking me whether I want to continue)
>in apt-get:
> 9239 root      17   0  171m  17m  15m S  0.0  6.8   0:02.91 apt-get
>Same virtual ram, but it's not actually doing anything with what's
>mapped, so it doesn't get read in.  Much more acceptable, no?
>The number of packages I have installed (it is a desktop system)
>appears to be 1580, and /var/lib/dpkg/info disk usage is 47MB (running
>unstable).  Anything else of relevance?

(reply to this and other messages in the bug in the same line)

Today, with stable + unstable + experimental *and* multi-arch enabled,
starting aptitude with the curses mode uses a similar amount of memory
as the one reported 9 years ago, 182 MB.  In command line mode, simple
commands use similar amounts at the peak.

~10 processes, including Xorg, a few chromium processes, konqueror and
iceweasel (the latter with more than 1.5 GB itself alone) outrank
aptitude as memory hogs by far.

In principle, most of that memory used (specially peak usage reading and
parsing the data) is something that the apt library needs to do anyway,
we have limited influence on that, and using lots of repositories at the
same time doesn't help.  There have been optimisations during the years,
like moving the descriptions to other files (for the Debian repositories
at least), but there is a limit to what can be done when the stable
release already has ~40k or more binary packages, and aptitude cannot do
much if many repositories are added -- even if some bits are the same
across versions, long fields like dependencies, checksums or
descriptions are almost guaranteed to be different.

Additionally, aptitude in curses mode, needs to have all of this
information in memory for example to use in the default view, or else
read package information multiple times and free it as soon as the user
is not seeing some bits -- which maybe it's a good tradeoff to consider,
but in old machines is not going to make users very happy either (the
machines reported were already not-the-latest by the time that it was

It is curious that all of these report happened within a few months of
each other in 2006, and no "secondings" since.  Maybe there was a spike
at the time, coupled with the fact that there were machines with very
few RAM still in use by then, that make this specially noticeable at
that time.

Nowadays, desktop machines with browsers and other applications, servers
with JVM and others, and even small development boards (trailing behind
a bit, but costing very small amounts of money), ship with much higher
amounts than 256 GB, and less than that is not useful for many purposes
(other than extremely minimalistic servers or router-like).

Improving the performance itself has quite a lot of value, for example
improving start-up times to take fractions of a second.  But I think
that things like not using debtags when in command line mode will mostly
benefit start-up times, not memory usage issues.

So, having all of this into account, it doesn't seem to me that the bug
can be classified as "important" by now, and seeing some of the bigger
problems that aptitude accumulated during years of decay, this doesn't
look either high priority or trivial enough to merit spending the time
needed to address this in the near future (at which point, memory usage
will probably be even less relevant).

So I am leaving this open for now for further consideration, but I don't
think that this is going to be addressed soon.

Manuel A. Fernandez Montecelo <manuel.montezelo at gmail.com>

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