Let's talk about the elephant in the room - the Linux kernel's inability to gracefully handle low memory pressure

From: Artem S. Tashkinov
Date: Sun Aug 04 2019 - 05:24:25 EST


There's this bug which has been bugging many people for many years
already and which is reproducible in less than a few minutes under the
latest and greatest kernel, 5.2.6. All the kernel parameters are set to

Steps to reproduce:

1) Boot with mem=4G
2) Disable swap to make everything faster (sudo swapoff -a)
3) Launch a web browser, e.g. Chrome/Chromium or/and Firefox
4) Start opening tabs in either of them and watch your free RAM decrease

Once you hit a situation when opening a new tab requires more RAM than
is currently available, the system will stall hard. You will barely be
able to move the mouse pointer. Your disk LED will be flashing
incessantly (I'm not entirely sure why). You will not be able to run new
applications or close currently running ones.

This little crisis may continue for minutes or even longer. I think
that's not how the system should behave in this situation. I believe
something must be done about that to avoid this stall.

I'm almost sure some sysctl parameters could be changed to avoid this
situation but something tells me this could be done for everyone and
made default because some non tech-savvy users will just give up on
Linux if they ever get in a situation like this and they won't be keen
or even be able to Google for solutions.

Best regards,