On ubuntu it seems there is an automatic mdadm array check provided in /etc/cron.d/mdadm, automatically installed with mdadm. This invokes a utility /usr/share/mdadm/checkarray and the cron is set to run this on the first Sunday of every month at 12:57am. And it is set to do this check on all arrays at one time.
This is horrible! So with 5 arrays, totalling 25TB, when this sucker fires up it quickly saturates the i/o capacity of cinnamon, slows to a crawl and settles in to run forever.
I’ve commented that out, and added my own /etc/cron.d/dee_mdadm which doesn’t do all the goofy shenanigans to try to ensure the thing runs on a Sunday (WHY?! Because the guy who wrote it doesn’t work on Sunday?). Instead, my version simply runs on the first of the month, at 12:57am, and on each month it starts the consistency check on a different array. I have 5 arrays, so 3 are checked twice a year, and 2 are checked thrice. Checking just one at a time means there is a good chance it will be done before morning, at least for the small arrays.
I don’t really think the whole consistency check idea is doing me much good, but at least this doesn’t unaccountably bring the system to its knees on the first Sunday of every month.