Ever since I have owned a computer – think 1994 and DOS/Windows 3.1 – I have wanted to know what the activity load on my computer’s CPU was. A computer that is cranking hard when you have not asked it to do anything is a computer that is misbehaving, either because something has erroneously run amok, or because a virus or malware (or something else of a suspicious nature) is utilizing your CPU’s cycles. For similar reasons, I have always wanted to know what the Transmit and Receive rates were on my internet connection.
By and large, over the years I have been able to find SOMETHING that accomplished this for each successive generation of computers I have used. For Windows 3.1, I found the wonderfully compact and efficient CPUUSE.EXE (a screen shot appears below), which provided a simple 0-100 number representing the degree of occupancy of the CPU.
Fast forwarding to today and the world of Mac OS X, I don’t think I could operate a Mac without Raging Menace’s fabulous MenuMeters (http://www.ragingmenace.com/software/menumeters), which provides information not just on CPU load and internet rates, but also on disk I/O throughput and RAM usage as well.
In between those first days on Windows 3.1 and today’s Mac OS X, I have always found a graphical load meter of one form or another for every computer and every operating system that I have used.
However, when I started working with vintage Macs, and Mac OS in general, I hit a brick wall in this regard. I could not find anything that that measured and displayed CPU usage satisfactorily. I did come across cpu-view, at http://www.pure-mac.com/diagclassic.html, but it did not seem to work very well, and struck me as unreliable. After much searching, I finally, and with some reluctance, gave up, assuming a good load meter had just never been created for the classic Mac OS.
Then I found the University of Michigan Archive (see my earlier post on this wonderful collection of software for classic Macs). Whilst trolling there one day for BunchTyper (also the topic of an earlier post in this blog), I stumbled upon the innocuously named GLA. I sat up and took notice when I was going through the 00index.txt file for the folder it was in and discovered that “GLA” stood for “Graphical Load Averager”, and that the description text likened it to the X-Windows xload utility. xload provides a nice little window that presents a scrolling bar chart of the averaged CPU occupancy. A Mac equivalent to this was just what I was looking for!
After the cpu-view experience, I wasn’t too hopeful that it might actually work well, but I installed it, started it up and sat back and watched. Wow! I was impressed. It does work, and it works very well. In operation, it presents a small scrolling window which gives a regularly updated view of the average CPU load. Below is a screen shot of my Quadra 840AV desktop with GLA running in the lower right corner. The color of the load bars is adjustable – I selected blue.
The only issue I have found with GLA so far is that if its’ window is covered by another window, when it is uncovered, it “starts from scratch”, such that you cannot see what the average load was during the period of time that its’ window was covered. This is unfortunate, especially when working with a 15″ monitor, since GLA’s window gets covered quite a bit, but it is still a great improvement on not having anything useful at all, and I heartily endorse it.
So, if you too are interested in the activity level of your CPU, surf over to UMich and download this little gem. You can thank me later!