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identifying stalled/dead processes

When, for example, kde locks up it is usually easy enough to find which 
process caused it.  If I just opened a new konqueror window, I open a console 
with ctl-alt-F2 and logon and use ps -e or ps ax to find the highest process 
number that seems to be konqueror and kill that.  

But sometimes I don't know what caused a freeze-up and then I am left trying 
every kdeinit process in turn, starting with the highest number.  If the 
first twenty or so do not find the problem, I have usually dismantled enough 
random bits of the kde session for it to be useless. So I go back to the 
original console from which it was started (with ctl-alt-F1) and kill the 
whole startx process with ctl-c.

That all works after a fashion, but I'm sure that is the dumbest possible way.  
How should I identify the rogue process more accurately and kill just the 
one, without random mayhem and data loss.  From 40 minutes on google all I 
could find was many different people explaining how to use the kill command.  
None seemed to address the question of finding out what to kill. 



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