very bad, and very weird, scrolling text performance xorg 1.5.3 intel 2.5.1 GM965

Eric Anholt eric at
Sun Dec 14 14:19:52 PST 2008

On Sun, 2008-12-14 at 13:02 -0800, Jeffrey W. Baker wrote:
> I just "up"graded to more recent bits, namely xorg 1.5.3 and intel
> driver 2.5.1 on GM965 rev 0c, and linux 2.6.28-rc8, all from Ubuntu 9.04
> development packages.  I noticed that scrolling text performance in
> xterm, gnome-terminal, and xfce4-terminal is incredibly bad.  Slideshow
> bad.  You can see for yourself in this video:
> I ran some tests with the output of find /, which produces 339208 lines
> of output on my system.  With output to /dev/null, this takes 1.0
> seconds.  With output to an 80x24 xfce4-terminal, this takes 2m33s.
> Output to 80x48 xfce4-terminal required 9m24s, so the speed is worse
> than linear in terms of pixels in the window.  Xterm took about the same
> time (although xterm barely manages to paints anything during the test),
> as did gnome-terminal.  Using compiz or metacity made no difference.
> Now for the weird part.
> In the presence of another terminal echoing blank lines in a loop,
> output to 80x24 xfce4-terminal requires only 9s, a reduction of 94% from
> the case of a single 80x24 terminal acting alone.  An 80x48 terminal
> needs the same 9s, or sixty times less than one 80x48 terminal by
> itself.  An 80x66 terminal needed 53s to accomplish the task in the
> presence of the echo window.
> This strange trick only works for pairs of xfce4-terminal windows.
> gnome-terminal and xterm are slow regardless, and other apps like
> glxgears can't be used to speed up xfce4-terminal.
> It seems to me -- and this is just a hunch -- that the generally
> unsatisfactory performance might be resulting not from just slowness,
> but from some kind of delay or scheduling problem that can be worked
> around or avoided by having the fast drawing second terminal on the
> screen.  And I would also stress that it's not just scrolling windows
> that are slow: raising and lowering windows, watching videos, and using
> Firefox are all pretty miserable experiences right now.
> My xorg log is attached.  My xorg.conf is all defaults.  Any help in
> solving this mystery (or ignoring the mystery and just giving me the
> secret config directive for higher performance) appreciated.

Is your CPU pegged during the slow performance period?  If so, you need
to run sysprof to see what the problem is.

(Yes, oprofile generally isn't good enough to get decent callgraphs.)

Eric Anholt
eric at                         eric.anholt at

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