What's New in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther

Disclaimer: although I am an Apple Certified Trainer by day, this guide is not endorsed by or affiliated with Apple in any way, nor is it indicative of future Apple Training courses. It is based entirely on my own personal experience and research. Any inaccuracies are my fault. Comments and corrections welcome at f8dy@diveintomark.org.

Process Management: the new Activity Monitor

In /Applications/Utilities/ is a new utility called Activity Monitor, which combines the functionality of the old CPU Monitor and Process Viewer utilities and displays some additional infomation that was previously only available in the command-line utility top.

[Activity Monitor process list] The process list now displays application icons (where applicable), as well as real and virtual memory usage for each process.

[Activity Monitor hierarchical process list] You can also display processes hierarchically, in a collapseable outline. Each process is displayed under the process which spawned it.

[Activity Monitor process list] Below the process list are five tabs: CPU, System Memory, Disk Activity, Disk Usage, and Network. The CPU tab is what the old CPU Monitor used to display: a rolling history of CPU usage, and current CPU usage statistics.

[Activity Monitor System Memory tab] The System Memory tab shows the current allocation of your physical real memory, as well as the size of your swap files and how many times the system has had to page something out to disk. Too many page outs means your system is thrashing, and you probably need to buy more memory.

[Activity Monitor Disk Activity tab] The Disk Activity tab shows reads and writes to local drives, current throughput, cumulative totals, and a rolling history graph.

[Activity Monitor Disk Usage tab] The Disk Usage tab shows free and used space on each local disk.

[Activity Monitor Network tab] The Network tab shows current network throughput, cumulative network traffic, and a rolling graph of network activity.

Double-clicking on a process, or selecting "Inspect" from the Process menu or from the toolbar, opens a window that displays more details about the process.

[Activity Monitor process memory detail] The Memory tab within the Inspect window displays real memory, virtual memory, shared memory, private memory, and virtual private memory usage.

[Activity Monitor process statistics] The Statistics tab within the Inspect window displays how many threads the process has created, how many mach ports it uses, the total CPU time it's sucked up since starting, context switches, page faults, how many times the process has paged in stored memory, messages to the mach kernel, and the number of UNIX system calls it has made.

[Activity Monitor open files] The Open Files tab of within the Inspect window displays the full paths of all the files this process currently has open.

[Activity Monitor process sample] From the "Sample" button in the Inspect window, or from the Process menu in the main menu, you can take a sample of a process. This is a way for developers to find out where an unresponsive program is spending its time. The output is not terribly useful unless you have the source code to the application you're sampling, but it can be very useful to developers. (Thanks to Jens and Quinn for explaining this feature to me.)

[Activity Monitor dock icon settings] There are several options for the dock icon of the Activity Monitor application. It can display current CPU usage (one bar per processor), or a rolling history of CPU, memory, disk, or network activity (similar to the graphs in the tabs below the process list).

Next: disk management »