Configuring and Monitoring Your Linux Desktop

As most of the regular readers of my blog know, I’ve been dipping my toe into the world of Linux for the last six to eight months now. I have to admit, I had a predisposition against the OS for a number of reasons, but as I’ve become more comfortable with it, I can see why so many Quants and BI specialist have gravitated towards it.

I’ve noticed as I’ve ported the Bridge to R over to Linux that most of the hardcore R specialists are using Linux. They’ve needed the large memory address space that 64-bit Linux has offered for years. The other aspect is that the cost of Linux for many versions is pretty much just the cost of your time and bandwidth to download it.

Linux has been 64-bit for quite a while, well before Windows as far as I can tell. Although Windows XP 64-bit was available, it never really gained much in the way of popularity. Vista 64 really carried the banner forward and now Windows 7’s 64-bit creation is extremely popular.

As I’ve started developing WPS code on Linux, I’ve found some great programs that have made my transition a bit easier. UltraEdit for Linux is what I use as my editor to write WPS code and I’ve blogged about that before. One thing I’ve kind of missed was something similar to the Vista Gadget bar where you can have gadgets that monitor CPU usage, disk space and other system functions.

I found something that is quite useful on the Linux side called Conky. Conky allows you to monitor your system, and allows for notifications of incoming emails, disk space usage, Logical CPU usage, etc… If you’re like me, the eye candy is important on a desktop machine and Conky helps with that. Below is a shot of Conky running on Fedora 12.


As you can see from the screen shot, Conky can be configured to provide information on the amount of uptime, RAM usage, Swap file usage and the utilization on number of cores that are being used. You can also configure to display information on your file systems (i.e. disk usage) and networking utilization. I like to listen to Shoutcast while I work so I almost always have down utilization.

You can also see how your drives are being utilized. On my Linux development machine, I monitor my DISK I/O for my WPS Work drive and the drive that houses my permanent WPS datasets. Finally, I have Conky display the top five apps in terms of CPU utilization.

The nice part about Conky is that you can get the application for free. Conky is available on Sourceforge at: There are numerous configuration files as well as examples you can look at to create your own unique Conky sidebar.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest, LLC. and has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and a reseller of WPS in North America.

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2 thoughts on “Configuring and Monitoring Your Linux Desktop”

  1. Not really. Linux is kind of like that homely girl that used to sit next to you all the time in junior high, but slowly, you looked past the lack of beauty because she was interesting. Or as an adult, we would say “has personality.” LOL!

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