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Disk i/o overloading and cpu monitoring

Hi all,

I am running deb/unstable with kde 3.3.1 gui on my acer
travelmate laptop (intel centrino cpu).
In the last few days, my laptop has become almost unusable
due to overloading input/output to the disk, that seems
to be triggered both by desktop applications (e.g.kpackages,
kaffeine, etc) and terminal applications entered  through
the konsole terminal emulation, e.g. apt-get, that freezes
reading the database.

As I have checked out, enough free swap area seems to be
available, so no reason of such i/o is evident.
Furthermore, from the system monitor on the kde panel
displays one gets that almost 100% cpu is busy due to system
activity, while 'top' is detecting a very low cpu
activity - i cannot explain such inconsistent behaviour.

Here are my questions:
 - What can be the origin of such high i/o traffic?
 - Why do the kde panel and 'top' report such different informations?
 - How can i detect the program (system processes behind
   the running desktop  application) that is actually performing i/o ?

Thank you for your help


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