Digital House Cleaning

System maintenance with Stacer

Article from Issue 242/2021
Author(s):

Stacer simplifies the configuration and maintenance of Linux for newcomers by allowing users to handle most of these tasks conveniently in a graphical interface.

Hardly any other operating system offers as many tools for maintenance and support as Linux. However, not everyone is familiar with all the commands, and some tools offer a large number of parameters, which in turn discourages newcomers and those who want to switch operating systems. Stacer [1] makes managing your installation far easier and more efficient, as the program offers a whole range of useful applications for maintaining and servicing the system.

Installation

Stacer can be found in the software repositories of many distributions. The installation is therefore an easy experience with the appropriate system front ends. If you are using a distribution that does not yet include this tool in its package sources, you can find the source code, plus deb and RPM packages on the project's GitHub page.

If none of the packages suits your system and you are worried about compiling the software manually, there is also an AppImage on the GitHub site that will run on any distribution independently of the package management system. After downloading, you just need to assign the appropriate rights to the AppImage before you start it. You can do this in the terminal using the following command:

$ chmod +x Stacer-1.1.0-x64.AppImage

Then call the software using:

$ ./Stacer-1.1.0-x64.AppImage

Ready, Steady, Go!

After calling Stacer, the program opens a dashboard (Figure 1). You can see at a glance the current CPU, RAM, and storage usage. Stacer also lists some general information about the system. In the lower right third of the window, you can view the network traffic's details.

Figure 1: On launching, Stacer brings up a clearly arranged dashboard.

The software updates the displays virtually in real time. However, the dashboard only provides an overview: For example, it does not break down the CPU load by individual cores, and when graphically displaying the capacity of mass storage devices, it only looks at the current system partition.

In the buttonbar on the left side of the window, clicking on the Settings button (second from the bottom) lets you configure the software.

In the Settings dialog, Alert messages lets you specify whether you want to trigger an alert when certain thresholds are reached. The software monitors the CPU, RAM, and mass storage if required. You can define a percentage load, which will trigger an alert in Stacer if exceeded.

This helps you discover problems, for example, if a computer's processors are constantly working at full capacity without running computationally intensive applications. If you have several mass storage devices installed on the computer, you can additionally select one of the mass storage devices you want to monitor in the Disks field.

In Settings, you can also specify whether to launch Stacer at system start time by sliding the Autostart Stacer toggle from red to green.

To get a quick overview of the system load, click on the Resources button (eighth from the top). Much like in the KDE system monitor, you will receive continuous information about the status of the components in question.

The software not only provides information on the CPU load, memory requirements, and data transfer on the network, but also data on the average total utilization of the processors, the filesystems that exist on the mass storage devices, and the read and write operations on them (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The Resources dialog provides detailed information based on a comprehensive set of parameters.

The software even identifies high-performance workstations with two physical processors and displays the utilization of the individual cores in the graphic as separate curves.

The Startup Apps button (second from the top)lets you check which programs are enabled by Autostart when the computer boots. You can (de)activate autostart for a program using sliders to the right of each entry in the table. The Add Startup App button, bottom right, allows you to add other applications to the list and enable them for automatic startup in a separate dialog.

You can edit existing entries in the autostart list by clicking on the pencil icon. Data input is handled in a separate dialog. If you want to completely remove programs from the list, press the "X" symbol and delete the entry (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The Startup Apps dialog lets you define which applications are automatically activated at system startup.

You can manage system services in a similar way by pressing the Services button (fifth from the top). The dialog that then appears shows you a table with the available services. There are two sliders to the right of each entry. The first one determines whether that service becomes active when the computer boots. The second one defines the current state of the service. You can switch off running services at any time by sliding the toggle button, as well as switch them back on if needed (Figure 4).

Figure 4: System services can be conveniently switched on or off using the toggle.

Stacer also dedicates a separate dialog to the existing processes on the system via the Processes button (sixth from the top). This dialog shows the active processes in the form of a table including RAM usage and CPU load.

Right-click on a process and then press the blue End Process button (bottom right) to deactivate the service. If necessary, you can use the search field to filter the list, which can contain more than 100 processes, depending on the intended use of the system.

Note that killing a process in this list can have a massive impact on the overall system. Only kill services if you are fully aware of the consequences.

Uninstalling

If you want to uninstall packages, you don't have to use the package manager's graphical front end. Clicking on the Uninstaller button (seventh from the top) displays a table with installed packages. This table contains Snap packages, but not Flatpaks.

Select the package you want to remove from the system using the search field if necessary. Then click the checkbox button to the left of the package. At first, this button appears grayed out, but it changes to green when enabled. Once you have selected all the packages you want to uninstall, press the Uninstall Selected button at the bottom of the window.

After authenticating as an authorized user, Stacer deletes the selected applications. This works for distributions with deb or RPM package management, as well as Arch Linux and its derivatives.

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