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tmpfs under i386 PAE kernel swamps pgdaemon?

As my usual i386 build hosts have failed in some way (won't power up),
I've arranged to netboot my primary amd64 build host with a netbsd-9/i386
install.  I'm using a GENERIC_PAE kernel (includes GENERIC and enables
options PAE) so I can use all 12GB the machine has.  Mainly, I have a
"/tmp" on tmpfs and put the pkgsrc ${WRKOBJDIR} there.

When running native amd64, if tmpfs /tmp starts getting too full, I get
"no space left on device" errors, like a physical disk.

When running a PAE i386 kernel, the machine just grinds to a halt.  I
can usually interrupt the build and run 'top' a couple of times before
it wedges completely.  When I do, I see the 'pgdaemon' thread of the
"[system]" process using 99%+ of the CPU.

One data point is that on amd64, I can extract "www/firefox" to tmpfs
"/tmp" and build it without issue while on i386 PAE, the extraction
phase hangs the machine as described above, so I had to move that one
to physical disk.

When the machine is hung, I can usually recover by dropping to DDB at
the console and rebooting (if the displayport monitor was turned off,
there will be no signal when turned back on, so I have to do that step
blind).  Sometimes, however, I have to force a power cycle and clean up
(raidframeparity, fsck) when it reboots.

Depending on the time of day (or night), I see lots of 'cron' processes
stuck in "tstile" and/or shell instances in "wait".

(Also, I have to disable i915drmkms to boot a PAE kernel or it halts with
a kernel error...)

Hmm. PAE has 2^40 addressing.  Is that physical or virtual?  Perhaps
I'm running out of virtual space before reaching the physical limits?

|/"\ John D. Baker, KN5UKS               NetBSD     Darwin/MacOS X
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