Chrome memory abuse, and “swap space” rant

I like the Chrome browser, but the memory usage is fscking ridiculous.

I have a slightly older computer at work, if I open 4 or more tabs in Chrome the computer will grind to a halt, and I gotta wait perhaps a few minutes for it to swap everything out then I can close the tabs. 150MB for a tab, that’s just way way way too much.

Personally I strongly dislike “virtual memory” in the sense of swapping to disk. I’d much rather get a (non-fatal) “out of memory” error than have the computer grind to a halt, which is what happens when a virtual memory computer goes a bit over its RAM. I don’t want to click a different window that I haven’t used for a while and have to wait for 3 minutes while the computer loads it from disk again and tries to figure out what to swap out. If we didn’t use swap, programmers (looking at you, Google) would be more careful not to waste memory.

Computers are not all that much more functional than they were in to 1990s, or even the 1980s, for regular office tasks such as wordprocessing and spreadsheets – and those computers although technically slower were actually more responsive in many cases because they did NOT grind to a halt due to swapping.


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1 Response to Chrome memory abuse, and “swap space” rant

  1. sswam says:

    Virtual memory / swapping / delayed loading certainly massively decreases responsiveness compared to older systems (such as Acorn Archimedes, or even old 8-bit Micros) which did not do this. It’s a sorry state of affairs when a modern wordprocessor is less responsive for many operations (when first loading, or swapped out) than an 8-bit 2Mhz machine. Personally I would rather have “out of memory” error any day of the week than swapping to disk and the resultant massively degraded performance. This would encourage programmers not to waste RAM.

    Paging virtual memory is like overconfidence, “Yeah, I can handle this job by myself, no worries!” whereas in fact the computer would take a month of swapping to finish the job and doesn’t even know it. If a job works well with serial access it should be using files in the first place. If a job requires rapid random access on a large chunk of RAM (e.g. for an in-memory hash, or for executable code), in no way is it acceptable to be swapping that RAM in and out from disk during the operation. The computer pretends it has infinite RAM, but this is a lie and not a helpful one.

    Even for jobs that seem to require more memory than is available, swapping whole pages in and out is rarely the most efficient way to utilize the memory. Better if the programmer designs the job to use RAM and files efficiently as needed in the first place.

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