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Gmemusage: A Distinctive Memory Monitor

By Larry Ayers


Linux may not have many office-suites available, but it sure does have a wide variety of system, process, and memory monitors! I use ProcMeter quite a bit, mainly for the incoming and outgoing TCPIP packet display, but recently I happened upon an unusual memory monitor which displays the relative proportions of memory in use by running processes. Gmemusage is a small X application written by Raju Mathur. He has been attempting to emulate a monitor (also called gmemusage) which is used on Silicon Graphics workstations.


Here is a screenshot, which will save me several paragraphs of description:

Gmemusage window

As with many other such monitors, the information shown is essentially the same as what is shown in the memory fields produced by  ps -aux, which derives its information from pseudo-files in the /proc directory. These files, such as meminfo and loadavg, are generated dynamically by the kernel. You can read them directly, by running a command such as  cat /proc/meminfo.

Although a plethora of information is presented by the output of  ps -aux or  top, more detail is shown than is needed for a quick overview and comparison, and tabular data doesn't easily lend itself to comparative analysis. You won't see precise differences between memory usage while contemplating a gmemusage display, but the proportions are shown in a graphical and easily interpreted format. In most cases the relative proportions are more useful than the decimally exact detail shown by  ps or  top.

Raju Mathur has plans to enhance gmemusage. One possibility (mentioned in his TODO file) is to add a pop-up window which would give additional information about a process when its name in the main display is selected with the mouse.

I like this small utility, partly because it diverges from the usual dynamic bar-chart display found in many memory monitors, and also because it is small and specialized. You don't have to spend time configuring it either; it works well "out of the box". If you would like to try it, the source archive is available at the gmemusage home WWW site. Last modified: Sat 31 Jan 1998

Copyright © 1998, Larry Ayers
Published in Issue 25 of Linux Gazette, February 1998