Yesterday, I was playing with software that eats memory. Lots of memory. It’s the 3D analysis software Volocity. I loaded a pretty big image (basically several M per Z, and then several hundreds Zs), and made the mistake of trying to rotate it along multiple axes and then letting it go at the result.
In the old days, when Linux was a shiny new and hip OS, the OOM would come in and kill your app – if you’re lucky. It may first kill OO.o with that very important spreadsheet that you were working on. Otherwise decent, in a way. Nowadays, your system usually trashes beyond any reasonable repair and a reboot is the only option. If you’re patient enough, there’s a ~30% chance that the app actually kills within 5 minutes (out of ~10 times that it happened to me over the past ~2 yrs – since then I’ve given up and just reboot, a reboot takes less than 5 minutes anyway).
<Advertisement>Meet the Mac</Advertisement>. It pops up a warning saying that my system is low on memory (and later on it complained about diskspace also). The operation in the software, which is getting kind of sluggish up to this point (swapping?), eventually aborted with a nice error dialog. It actually told me that I was out of memory. In addition, the OS gave me suggestions on applications to close so I could retry the operation. No data was lost at any time during the +/- 10 times that I re-tried this. For a geek, there is no way to describe the feeling when you see this. In short: when will GNOME have this? [*]
In the end, I had to quit Photoshop and free up to 5GB HD space so it could complete the operation. Of course, at that time I had moved to the graphical workstation that we have since it would do that in a few seconds.
[*] glib actually has provisions for this, such as
, but I doubt that any OSdesktop (through HAL?) interaction exists to tell me that I’m OOM and suggest apps to close when it happens. So to say, if it exists, they’ve done a good job hiding it, because I’ve never seen it.