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I am one of the n users of a shared unix machine. For reasons unknown, the machine is not "responsive" enough. For example, it is slow on interactive commands, it takes few noticeable moments for any action (e.g. mouse movement, editor (e.g. gvim) keystrokes) to be visible. The problem is, the people supposedly responsible for addressing the issue do not agree that the machine is not responsive. They do some few simple things and say, "It works fine!"

I want to collect some "data" to quantify responsiveness. What can I do?

I can run shell commands (like top) periodically with cron and collect statistics, but I am clueless regarding what is a good statistic to go after.

EDIT: The machine is remote, I access the machine using VNC.

P.S.: I asked this question earlier in stackoverflow, repeating it here to get attention of system administrators.

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2 Answers

You should start by running the command

vmstat 60

which will give you useful statistics over one minute intervals. Look at the first three columns which show processes waiting, and the pi and po column which shows memory pages being pages in or out (which can cause unresponsiveness).

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I want to collect some "data" to quantify responsiveness. What can I do?

Measuring application performance is a very complex task. Relying on system stats (cpu, memory, load) can be very misleading - these primarily give information about how the performance could be improved.

A very important factor which you've not addressed in your question is whether you are sitting at the console of the machine, or connected over some network (and if so what protocols you are using). The former is a lreatively unusual case - so perhaps you should be looking at available bandwidth, packet loss and such like on the network.

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