Linux System Monitors Are Not Good for Your Health

I’m not normally a very introspective person. I don’t know if that’s a flaw or not, but I do know that it’s true. I also know that I have a few flaws, especially when it comes to technology. I have ADD when it comes to certain things, namely the look and feel of my desktop OS or my phone or my website or what have you. I kid you not, I once changed a WordPress theme on a live website six times in three months. My friends Vince and Ricky who do The 3 Cast with me every other week can tell you that I’ve changed the name of our podcast more times than is healthy.

Today I found out something else about myself, and I thought I’d share it with other new Linux users. I found out that system monitors like htop or widgets like you can get on XFCE or KDE are bad for your health.

I found a widget that goes on the KDE desktop that shows CPU utilization, memory usage and so on. It was always in my face, telling me that my CPU was doing “things.” What those things were are unknown, as the monitor doesn’t tell you that. The problem I encountered was that I was too curious and too anal-retentive about monitoring my system usage because it was in my face all the time. If my CPU went above its average 10% usage, I’d need to know RIGHT THE HELL NOW what was going on. This is not healthy behavior.

First off, who cares? As long as my computer is running smoothly, the background processes shouldn’t bother me one bit. Having a system monitor widget in my face made me care, which caused unusual amounts of stress about the state of my computer. Second, because I cared so much about each little process that was taking up my resources, I became too picky about what I let run in the background. This curtailed my work efficiency and my leisure. I love Plex, but it takes up resources, so of course, it had to go.

Dumbass.

All computer programs that are running use resources, some more than others, and some for certain periods of time. I know that, but because I was monitoring things so closely, I cared too much. I obsessively wanted my CPU to be around 10% usage all the time. What I forgot was that that only happens when I WASN’T USING ANYTHING ON MY COMPUTER!

So my lesson was two-fold. First, of course, a computer’s resources are unused when you’re not doing something. Second, system monitors are great, but they need to hide away from your face until you need them. Htop is a wonderful tool for diagnosing problems and finding apps that are running constantly and inefficiently. But using it, and those monitors like it, shouldn’t keep you from running things that take up those resources. They should only be used when something goes wrong. Otherwise, you’ll be like me for a while and constantly worry about that one app that is using half of your CPU and a gig of memory when that’s exactly what should be happening.

Do you over monitor your computer? Let me know in the comment section below!