Paul Makepeace ;-)

September 2, 2005

A very large mailbox

Posted in: Tech

In some cobwebbed recess of cyberspace there is a machine running, and I happen to have god privileges on it. Dusting off a route into the box, I logged in and found what seemed to be rather a lot of system mail; about 90MB or so. Opening it, and watching the progress counter glacially increment, I quickly realised it was much much bigger than 90MB. I'd missed a digit, it was nearly a gigabyte. That's nearly half of what gmail offers, all in a single folder. It's not often you find that kind of thing lying around...

Rather than just kill the mail program I left it, out of curiosity to see what would happen. It consumed essentially almost all the resources this poor, although hardly badly specified, machine had. Having scanned the whole mailbox it then tried to sort it, presumably by date. And tried, and tried.

18657 root      18   0  862m 394m  100 R  0.7 78.4   3:37.04 mutt

All 512MB of RAM and nearly all the 500MB of swap were used and it was essentially stuck attempting to sort over a million messages. I've been generous; I'd been to the gym and back and it was still busy.

Looking at it by hand: it'd been checking a website and failing, every minute, for a little under two years. Moral: set up mail aliases to attended mailboxes ...and at least occasionally log in and say hi :)

Posted by Paul Makepeace at September 2, 2005 18:10 | TrackBack
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