malingering-app-finder: a proposal [was: Re: Is it just me, or is LTSP a mess?]

Daniel Kahn Gillmor dkg at
Mon Sep 15 01:44:08 BST 2008

On Thu 2008-09-11 07:50:22 -0400, Oliver Grawert wrote:

> the big probelm i have is that the actual problem will never be fixed
> because running the pkill will not expose any hanging apps anymore at
> all, i'd happily add this script to a release *after* i recieved enough
> feedback from testers so even though we dont fix the problem immediately
> we at least identify the apps, i refuse to do so *unless* we have them
> identified for the above reasons ... 
> so pretty please, everyone who sees hanging apps, file bugs for them,
> feel free to subscribe me to the bugs (do not assign them to me please)
> so i can assign them to teh right people and poke them about fixes ...
> if i see *any* movement i'll happily include the script ... but please
> understand that i wont simply hide breakage and lose the opportinity to
> fix them forever through simply adding a hack.

Ogra, i appreciate your committment to fixing problems at their root
causes.  This is precisely the attitude we need to make sure that the
free software ecosystem doesn't become a messy pile of confusion.

But I wonder if a script couldn't be used to serve both purposes at
once.  One possiblility would be for a script which i'll call
"malingering-app-finder" to run at the end of a user's session.  

malingering-app-finder could:

 * take a snapshot of the user's current processes (particularly
   things that should have terminated already)

 * log this information in aggregatable form into a local system
   database (sqlite?)

 * terminate those processes (help out the local sysadmin in the short

 * provide a really easy way for the sysadmin to (automatically?)
   report these aggregated problems to the distribution or to the
   upstream apps (help the distro out for the long term).

I'm afraid i don't have an LTSP or edubuntu deployment (or the extra
time necessary) to implement this, but if other people think this
would be a good idea, someone should start hashing out a requirement
specification for it some place.  Or does something similar already

I know i'd run malingering-app-finder (if it existed) even on my
single-user workstation, mainly because i was horrified to realize
just how much garbage gnome keeps running after a session finishes.
This affects not only multi-user machines (e.g. LTSP), but also
systems with session-limited pam_mount configurations (e.g. each
user's login mounts the same remote filesystem, but with different
permissions, or users with encrypted home directories which really
need to be unmounted at end of session) and other reasonable

Having a well-designed, broadly useful tool with a clearly stated
purpose would help admins identify and resolve their near-term
problems.  And it would provide additional weight to convince upstream
to fix their broken apps, particularly if there's a well-known place
that describes *why* these problems need to be addressed (and
potentially highlights the worst offenders).

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