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Using Ubuntu from a USB stick, I get a lots of pop ups, mostly with Chrome, which say that the application is non-responsive. I just need to wait a little (click wait) and all is good; Chrome is indeed not crashed.

The stick is USB-C so at that level the performance is likely Ok; but in the end,the stick is a single NAND flash chip and that bottleneck is unavoidable.

The machine has sufficient system memory (8GB) so I do not think that is where the problem is.

Is it possible to make the non-responsive detection mechanism less sensitive? Any other tweaks that would be useful?

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GNOME Shell makes the timeout configurable through GSettings as check-alive-timeout within the org.gnome.mutter settings schema. The default is 5000 (i.e. 5 seconds).

Use dconf-editor org.gnome.mutter or gsettings set ... to change the setting.

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    Good answer -- but note, to make the setting change "stick" beyond the current session, the USB media would need persistence to store data. See askubuntu.com/questions/1330368/… . BTW, on a slow flash USB drive, persistent Ubuntu is slow. Use the fastest media available, but expect writing to be lethargic. Mar 1 at 17:53
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Not much that you can do :

  • Ensure that the port and disk are USB3
  • Get a faster USB stick.

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