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System Stats and Monitoring- by Sam Henwrich
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Summary: Keep an eye on your available system resources for an idea on how much longer your laptop battery can last, how many applications you can risk opening before things get too slow, and whether or not you have enough room on your hard drive for that big free office suite.

All of Object Desktop's system statistics displays come as part of its most versatile module: the Control Center. You've already seen how it can be used to launch and switch tasks and manage an array of virtual desktops. Well the Control Center can also say a lot about your system's vital signs too, for it's chock full of displays and meters.

Drive Space

The most common status display is the drive space monitor, usually a bar graph that gives you a visual hint at what percentage of your drive is in use. Object Desktop's displays give not just the bar graph, but also a reading on how many megabytes (or kilobytes) remain free on each particular drive that you want it to monitor. In addition to just plain hard drive space, Object Desktop also includes a swap file monitor that keeps an eye on your SWAPPER.DAT file - a big chunk of virtual memory that OS/2 uses whenever physical RAM is not sufficient to hold everything it needs. Since the swap file can grow and shrink dynamically, it's handy to know how big it currently is not just for performance tuning (you may want to modify its default size if it's always growing too big), but also to see if you can risk opening another big program.

These read-outs, with the exception of the swap file monitor, are also functional beyond just a display purpose: click on them and Object Desktop will open an Object Navigator view for the drive being monitored.

Memory and CPU

Since there's a difference between available physical memory (how much of your installed RAM is in use) and available virtual memory (the free space on the drive with your SWAPPER.DAT file), it's handy to have an idea of how much of the real physical stuff you've got left. Just because you have 100 megabytes of free virtual memory left does not necessarily mean it's practical to launch another 100 megabytes worth of programs and files. Physical RAM is always needed whenever you're actually working on the program or file, and waiting for a hard drive to deliver megabytes of data as you switch between running programs can be a pain. Therefore, Object Desktop provides a meter that measures available Physical memory that doesn't include virtual memory.

CPU activity is also displayed in a graph very similar to the one you'll find in the WarpCenter or Pulse utilities that come with Warp. Object Desktop's display is configurable for update speed and how much history is displayed at a time. It also shows the current load in text as a percentage. Object Desktop's CPU monitor uses a loop running on an idle thread to guage cpu activity, meaning that DOS and WinOS/2 programs will make it think there is a 100% CPU load all the time.

Network activity

The big and exciting addition to the Control Center's repartee of displays in version 2.0 is the Object NetScan, a realtime display of your TCP/IP stack's use with a graph that visually shows you the bumps and flats of various upload/download activity and a wide set of textual information.

Object NetScan's graph is a four-part display compressed into one. Transmitted data is shown in cyan extending from the midline downwards, while received data is shown in yellow extending from the midline upwards. There's also two LED-style dots that light up whenever data is coming in or going out, although not quite as rapidly and accurately as a real set of external modem lights could.

The text displays will tell you everything from the current number of bytes going in or out to the averages, the peaks and the totals. You can select whatever statistics you want, and on top of that, you can optionally have Object Desktop automatically scroll them periodically to help fit everything into a small space. The only disappointment was that Object Desktop could only display these statistics in a vertically stacked list underneath the graph, which doesn't help if you like to arrange your Control Center palette in a horizontal configuration.

Object NetScan will work for dial-up networking, regardless of what dialer program you use (DIOP, ILink/2, InJoy etc.), plus it includes the ability to configure it for more than one interface. So if you use a LAN, it can monitor TCP/IP traffic through that as well.

To compare with this is NifMon and IPSpeed (.GIF, 3K), two freeware utilities that can also be configured to monitor any TCP/IP interface. NifMon is the simplest and only displays text statistics, but IPSpeed displays a graph as well.

Other Competitors

A highly worthy alternative to Object Desktop for system monitoring, including hard drive space, is PMPatrol, probably the best in its class for the job it does. PMPatrol puts an ultra-thin information strip at the bottom of your screen, showing everything from CPU usage, free physical memory, virtual memory, hard drive space, network activity and more. It also has some highly advanced graphs and displays - more than enough to satisfy even the most ravenous statistics freak. It's not as pretty as Object Desktop; in fact it's very industrial looking, but it beats Object Desktop for sheer breadth of system information covered and space efficiency of its display.

A more lightweight and better looking utility is WarpBar: able to display the same basic statistics that Object Desktop can, but also offering a POP e-mail checker to let you know when you've received new mail.

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Copyright © 1998 - Falcon Networking ISSN 1203-5696
December 16, 1998