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Subjectproc/sys/fs file-nr?

The last few days I had a problem with an image viewer, and thought I'd investigate
a little. The program makes thumbnails, and after a while, complains about
'too many files open'. I found a reference to the proc/sys/fs/file-max and
wanted to check file-nr first. /usr/src/linux/Documentation states:

"The three values in file-nr denote the number of allocated file handles, the
number of used file handles, and the maximum number of file handles."

I'm confused now. Each time I open a new directory with images, the second number
_decreases_! It _increases_ when I close the viewer program. Is this normal?

Finally, the viewer (gThumb) gives up at:

1961 50 8192

with the 'too many...' error. Shouldn't the number increase till 8192? This is
the number in file-max? (Kernel 2.4.18)

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