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GKrellM: System Monitors for Your Desktop

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 25 Oct 2005

Applies to:

  • SUSE Linux Professional 9.3

For many users, it's nice to be able to see, real-time, what is happening on their system. There are ways to display memory usage, cpu usage, network traffic, available and used disk space, and a whole lot of other similar system statistics. This makes it easier to troubleshoot and notice problems as they come up. It also gives your co-workers the impression that you really know what you're doing. To be display these monitors, you will need a package installed called gkrellm.

First, let's make sure you have it installed. Open up YAST and search for the package called gkrellm. When the results come up in the right pane, tick the checkbox next to everything that appears. Then, click ACCEPT:

Note for users of SUSE Linux, SUSE Linux Professional, or openSUSE: If you search for this package and it does not show up, you may want to enter some additional installation sources into YAST. A list of installation sources is available here, and an article on how to use them can be found here. Be advised: These installation sources will not work for Novell Linux Desktop or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

So, now we need to run the program. I was not able to locate it in the K Menu, so we'll use the good old ALT+F2 trick. Press these keys together, and a little window comes up. In this window, type gkrellm and click RUN:

The gkrellm window appears on the desktop, with a little hint box in front of it. After careful consideration of the information contained therein, click OK:

You can see that the main gkrellm window has several kinds of monitors. The top ones display your hostname, date, and time. Below these, you see an animated CPU activity graph, another for the running processes, one for the disk activity, and one for the network traffic. There are also a handful of others below these:

So, we will do as it suggested and hover the mouse over the gkrellm window. Then, we will press F1. As if by magic, the GKrellM Configuration window appears. Click the triangle next to BUILTINS in the left pane. This will reveal all of the built-in monitors that you can configure:

The settings of these monitors are highly prone to personal preference. Also, they are quite easy to understand. Therefore, I won't go into the settings here, too much. There is an INFO tab for each of the monitors, which will explain how they work. Just go through and experiment with the settings, and read the INFO tabs.

Notice that in the PLUGINS section, you have a whole list of additional monitors and such that you can enable:

Below the plugins, select the THEMES section. In the right pane will appear a huge list of themes you can choose from to apply to your gkrellm window:

When you're all done, you will have a nice, slick-looking set of monitors that will be useful for your own needs:

Now for some less-obvious stuff that will make your life a little easier when using gkrellm.

First, as you may notice, it's a little hard to move the window around. At least for me, I have to click and drag on the topmost pixel of the gkrellm window. Easier than this is to press the ALT key, click on the gkrellm window, and drag it around to wherever you want it.

Next, I wanted it to run underneath all other open windows, and to not show up in the task bar. Let's instruct gkrellm to behave this way. Hover the mouse over the gkrellm window and press F1. The configuration window appears. Click the GENERAL option in the pane at the left. Then, from the tabs on the right, click on PROPERTIES:

If you want this window to be below everything else, tick the "Set below other windows of the same type" checkbox. If you don't want a task bar button to show, tick the "Do not include on a taskbar" checkbox. Feel free to experiment with the checkboxes in this window to suit your liking. When you're finished, click OK:

One last thing I want is to be able to automatically run gkrellm when I log into KDE. To do this, we write a little script:

gkrellm &

Save this script as in your /home/USER/.kde/Autostart/ folder, where you put your username in place of "USER". So, the path of this script is /home/USER/.kde/Autostart/ Next, we need to make it executable. Open up a terminal and type in the following command, substituting 'scott' for your username:

[1808][smorris@linux:~]$ chmod +x /home/scott/.kde/Autostart/

Now, shut down all programs and log out of KDE. When you log back in, gkrellm should start up.

gkrellm is a great application for monitoring many parts of your system. If you are in need of a slick system monitor, this is one I recommend. Check it out and see what you think.

For more information about gkrellm, please visit

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