There was a time when I was chest high into deep geek doings. I wrote arcane command line scripts that did fun things like parse lists of names for certain parameters and pipe them to another list that might be used for mailing or whatever. But I was only an acolyte deep geek. There were guys who understood the terrain far better than I did. These wizards scoffed at DOS. Their magic discipline of choice was UNIX using Korn, Bourne, or C shell command line interpreters.
These guys could write a bit of code and have a room full of UNIX servers doing the digital version of the merengue. They were true magicians and they worked their magic on what I consider to be the most robust computing environment yet. Each deep geek had his own cache of scripts that did everything from text formatting to playing tic tac toe. The bigger your cache, the deeper you geek status.
I'd bet most iPhone owners don't realize (or care) that the same OS that can handle millions of bank or airline transactions an hour is the same OS that lets their iPhone play Angry Birds. UNIX is the core of iOS. True, it's been striped to its most needed unmentionables, but it's still UNIX at heart. It's testament to how versatile the OS is.
One of the things deep geeks did from the command line was monitor system activity. They had scripts that could show which process or sub-process was doing what and when. Today such details are lost on most folks, but it does help sometimes to know how that computer in your pocket is doing. If you could find a way to call up a command line, looking at all of the cryptic numbers dance and flicker on your screen is enjoyable for only so long. If you have to know what your phone is thinking about you'll want to know it in plain english. Of course, there are free apps for that.
SysStats Lite [3.9MB, all iOS devices, iOS 5.1 or later, Developer: Kazuyuki Imada]
I've used this one close to forever. The interface has changed over the years, but it remains one the best system monitoring apps available.
SysStats Lite puts hardware info all on one screen
You have two screens of info. The first shows hardware activity, memory usage, CPU stats, battery level. It's all laid out logically and is very easy to read and not difficult to understand, and it's the screen you'll check most.
The second screen shows the processes that are currently running or are waiting in queue to run whenever you need them. Processes are not apps, but the code being executed by apps and the OS to make the whole system run.
and process info on another
Think of it this way: lets say you want to scratch your nose. We can call that task the NoseScratch app. Processes are the activities required to accomplish the task. Raising your hand to your nose, putting your fingernail on the spot that itches, scraping the the skin just so until the itching stops are all processes which can be broken down into smaller processes.
SysStats Lite shows you all the major processes and lets you close the ones that can be stopped without affecting the whole system. This is useful if you're trying to figure out why your battery is being drained so quickly.
The "Lite" in SysStats Lite means that it's the free version. A buck will get you SysStats Monitor which adds enhanced features including a view of historical data. The lite version should be adequate for most so grab it.
System Status Lite [2.7 MB, all iOS devices, iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: Jiri Techet]
If you'd prefer a more user friendly interface and don't need a lot of info System Status Lite may be what you're looking for.
System Status Lite shows status and nothing else
Instead of putting system data on two screens System Status Lite puts it all on one scrollable screen. At a glance you can check battery level and CPU usage and other pertinent hardware stats. This app does not, however, offer process info. you'll have to buy the full version for that. Also, this app is ad supported.
Still, most folks just want to check to see how their device is generally running, and this app will work fine for that.
System Utility [13.1 MB, all iOS devices, iOS 5.0 or later, Developer: Zakia Mahzabin]
This app displays the most information of the three. Not only does it present the most important data in easy to read tiles on one screen, tap a tile and the tile expands to show details. Double-tap the expanded screen to return to the "home" screen. It's pretty nice.
All general stats at a glance in System Utility
But that's not all. When you fire up the app it tells you when to perform certain maintenance tasks. For instance, there's an alert to tell you when you should perform the battery discharge/charge cycle. Doing so once a month extends the life of your battery.
There are also helpful hints displayed at the bottom of the home screen. They tell you how to optimize memory, save battery charge and other tricks and tips to keep your device up and running smoothly.
And tap a tile to get details
Even with all the included goodness this app leaves me wanting. When you're looking at CPU usage and Processes, for example, you can't turn off a process or tap it to find out more about it. Or when checking the Network screen you can't shut down WiFi from that screen to save battery charge as the app suggests. You have to leave the app and do it through the System app.
Even so, the info System Utility provides is useful and easy enough for almost anyone to understand.
That's a wrap for this week.
Those of you with wee one will want to grab this week's Free App of the Week, Toca Tailor. It's a digital paper doll that you 4 year old or older can dress up. Enjoy!