MenuMeters 1.1.1, by Raging Menace
Posted: 1-Dec-2004

5 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Raging Menace Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: John Gebhardt Class: PRODUCTIVITY
     
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Overview
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which have similar functionality, none have such an effective blend of capabilities and display convenience. The MenuMeters monitors are true SystemUIServer plugins (also known as Menu Extras). This means they can be rearranged using command-drag, and they remember their locations in the menubar between logins and restarts. The MenuMeters are open source freeware released under the GNU General Public License.

Requirements
MenuMeters requires Mac OS 10.2 (Jaguar) or Mac OS 10.3 (Panther). My usage is based on 10.2.8.

Setup
The application can be downloaded as a .dmg file from VersionTracker, Mac Update or the
developers site. To install MenuMeters, just run the included installer application. If you are a first-time MenuMeters user, then once installation is complete, you can simply open your System Preferences application (in 10.2.8 it is located in the "Other" section at the bottom of the panel) and click on the MenuMeters icon to start using MenuMeters. If you are updating from an older version of MenuMeters, you must logout and log back in to load the new version of MenuMeters. Terminal confident users can 'kill -HUP' the SystemUIServer process, but be aware that this will restart/logout other Menu Extras like iChat.

In Use
MenuMeters uses a combination of numeric and graphical icon to display real-time system conditions on the menu bar. The functions that are monitored are CPU utilization, disk activity, memory usage and network activity. You can choose to display any combination of the monitors through the control panel accessible through System Preferences. Clicking on the menu bar display opens a window with detailed information about that activity and provides direct access to OS native utilities that manage the process.


CPU Meter Preferences

The CPU Meter can display system load both as a total percentage, or broken out as user and system time. It can also graph user and system load and display the load as a "thermometer". The menu for the CPU Meter contains several bits of useful information like processor number, type and speed, uptime, load average, and direct access to Process Viewer and the Console.


Disk Activity Meter Preferences

The Disk Activity Meter displays disk activity to local disks on the system. It is hotplug aware, and will show activity on FireWire and USB disks as they are mounted. The Disk Meter menu shows volume space details for local drives (it does not display mounted network volumes for speed reasons).


Memory Meter Preferences

The Memory Meter can display current memory usage as either a pie chart, thermometer, history graph, or as used/free totals. The Memory Meter menu shows a breakdown of current memory usage and VM statistics. The Memory Meter can optionally display a paging indicator light.


Network Meter Preferences

The Network Meter can display network throughput as arrows, bytes per second, and/or as a graph. Both the arrows and the graph are scaled using a user-selected scaling factor and calculation. Scaling can be done on the basis of actual link speed reported by the network interface or peak traffic and can use one of several scaling calculations. The Net Meter menu shows current interfaces and their status. Interface information is gathered from the SystemConfiguraton framework and thus is Mac OS X network location aware.


My Menu Bar Display with Menu Meters

Typically I keep the Net Meter, Memory Pie Chart, and CPU Thermometer on my Menu Bar. I find the Net Meter to be most useful in keeping me informed of transfer speeds when I am processing uploads or downloads or just viewing web pages. The ability to directly open the Process Viewer and the Console from the CPU display is also very helpful when trying to diagnose sluggish or problematic processing activities. The use interface is quite intuitive and easy to interpret. The Preferences (accessible through the System Preferences) allow the user to adjust the type and color of indicators that are displayed in a variety of ways. Though there is probably some speed affect form having these active graphics on the screen, it is not noticeable even on older machines (266 and 400 MHz).

Summary
MenuMeters are a useful and effective compliment to the Menu Bar in OS X. They provide a variety of information on system hardware and network performance. Since they are true "Menu Extras" (the standard Menu Extras can be found in /System/Library/CoreServices/), they behave like the built in Sound and Display extras which means they are easily rearranged and do not interfere with other, higher priority Menu items. They are easy to install, appear to be quite reliable and provide useful and rapid access to other Utility applications like the Console, Process Viewer and Network Utility. I highly recommend it as a compliment to any Jaguar or Panther user.

Pros

  • Very OS Compliant in appearance and operation.
  • Provide frequently used information
  • Do not consume much screen area
  • Adjustable to the user's viewing preferences


Cons

  • Does not display CPU temperature on some systems and not at all on 10.3.5 (this is really a hardware or OS limitation)


Overall Rating

5 out of 5 Mice