October 23, 2007

Query your processes under X with Qps

Author: Sergio Gonzalez Duran

When it comes to managing processes, many people use old reliable commands such as ps, top, kill, and nice. These commands are handy, useful, and found in every Linux distribution. However, sometimes a GUI process manager can be useful, especially when you're trying to teach new Linux system administrators who aren't used to shell interfaces. Qps Visual Process Manager is a GUI ps substitute that lets you sort, manipulate, and manage processes.

Its own man page states that Qps is "big and slow," but I found it simple to use, intuitive, and nice-looking. With it, you can easily show students how processes work and how much information they can obtain by using the correct parameters.

Qps lets you display many fields equivalent to ps options. Nevertheless, one important field is missing -- the ps option ââ¬âZ, which shows the SELinux security context.

I installed Qps on a Fedora Core 5 system. You can download RPM packages for Fedora and SUSE, Debian packages for Debian-based systems, and, of course, source code for installing and compiling in other distros. The packages available today are older than the source code tarball version (1.9.20), so I downloaded the tarball. Its installation was not very intuitive, to say the least.

Qps is based on Qt, so the README_INSTALL file says that you must have Qt library 3.3.x and, of course, the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) already installed. You need to run the following commands:

make install

In order to run qmake, you need the qt-devel package. When qmake didn't work, I turned to the onscreen help (qmake --help) and discovered that I needed to use the ââ¬âmakefile option, which wasn't indicated in the README_INSTALL file. I used it and presto, it worked fine. I then ran make and make install. I had to run make install twice; the first invocation only copied the man pages, and the second one copied the binary.

Qps is an X11-based application. You can invoked it in the shell by typing qps&. A small icon next to the clock in GNOME shows a graph that indicates Qps is running. Clicking on the icon opens or closes the main Qps window.

Qps features a slick interface, with the essential process fields shown in columns. Like any decent grid-based utility, you can move columns to suit your viewing needs and click on the column headers to sort.

The program's Field menu has four options for displaying basic, jobs, memory, and scheduling fields. The Select Custom Fields entry displays a dialog with plenty of ps fields to choose from.

You can view a process in one of two ways: The linear option displays like the normal ps output, while the tree option displays like the pstree command would. You can search or filter for processes in a text box. The upper part of the window features a top-like display showing CPU usage, memory and swap usage, uptime, load averages, and so on.

Right-clicking on process entries displays a contextual menu with options for renice, kill, sending signals, finding parent or child processes, and more. The View Details option pops up another window with three or four tabs, depending on the process chosen, with even more information on that particular process. For example, it may show which files are open, memory maps, display environment variables, and all possible fields for the process. You don't need to customize the main screen; you can simply right-click in a particular process to see all the details.

Qps is a worthwhile GUI interface to a wealth of system information.


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