Sparkling gems and new releases from the world of Free and Open Source Software


Article from Issue 255/2022

This month Graham looks at Plasma System Monitor, projectM audio visualizer, yt-dlg downloader GUI, and more.

Task manager

Plasma System Monitor

We look at lots of CPU, memory, storage, network, and process monitors in these pages. Popular as "first project" for developers messing about with a new programming language or framework, there's a lot to gain from trying a new approach rather than relying on the old ways of using top or htop. However, we've neglected other, more well-established system monitors that have improved. The best of these, KDE's Plasma System Monitor, was released more than a year ago to replace KDE's old system monitor and widgets and to take advantage of the new Kirigami UI framework.

The Kirigami UI framework's effects and the design team's excellent work are actually the first things you notice: Plasma System Monitor looks wonderful. Everything is drawn with vectors and is perfectly spaced and proportioned while also being responsive, regardless of how you size the window or what proportion of the screen the application takes up. It will even work well on a smartphone. When first launched, the default overview page includes three rotary charts for memory, storage, and CPU usage; scaling the window size adjusts these automatically in real time with their contents dynamically updating as their sizes change. Each graphical element crams as much detail into the available space as it can without being overwhelming. The Applications list is thoroughly informative: For example, it shows every application running, along with its CPU and RAM overhead, and shows both its incoming and outgoing network use and its read and write storage throughput.

Several other pages in the default configuration show more typical task manager information, including a page that lists all the running processes, with the same details as in the application view, alongside views to show parent and child processes, those owned by certain users, and the ability to send any signal to any listed process. There's also a beautifully rendered histograms page for CPU, memory, and network use. Beyond the default settings, Plasma System Monitor is fully editable, allowing you to add and remove pages, create horizontal and vertical containers, and add any number of monitoring sensors to create your own dashboard. There's a huge list of sensors ranging from individual CPU and GPU cores to storage, operating system statistics, memory, and network details. All of this can be rendered using a variety of display styles, including pie charts and histograms, along with tables, grids, lines, and even simple text, and encapsulated within a desktop widget you can add to the desktop or panel.

This is reminiscent of that other great KDE monitoring tool, KSysGuard, which is still being maintained. KSysGuard is similarly modular and can even monitor remote servers, but it's also harder to use and starting to look its age. Plasma System Monitor is agile by comparison. It can often feel more like an IDE for a modern web and phone framework (such as Home Assistant's dashboard editor) than a task manager, which is precisely why Plasma System Monitor is so good.

Project Website

1. Multiple pages: You can't change the first few pages, but you can add as many new pages as needed. 2. Task monitor: Merge and view sensors (meaning something to monitor) in different ways. 3.  Edit mode: Group sensors together and align them vertically or horizontally. 4. Display styles: View sensor data in a histogram, a pie chart, as text, as lines, etc. 5. Aggregate data: Join and merge various sensors. 6. Widget: A panel and desktop widget offers all the same features. 7. Data overload: Process and application lists include CPU, memory, network speeds, and storage usage.

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