An Adaptive Process Analysis Tool
C Python
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ProcAn: An Adaptive Process Analysis tool for FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Linux.

(For a detailed description see its project page on

Build instructions:
There are no external dependencies for FreeBSD and OpenBSD save the standard C libraries.
Linux requires libproc and a version of header files needed to build are included in this
source distribution.
To build on Linux: make
To build on FreeBSD and OpenBSD: gmake (after installing GNU Make)

Usage instructions:
Procan ships with an example configuration file and will complain if a configuration
file is not present.  This example file can be used by copying it to: procan.conf

Running procan with no options will print out some very brief usage information,
but here I'll provide more detail.
Currently there are three primary modes: interactive mode (-i), daemon mode 
(-d), and pipe mode (-p).

*Interactive Mode:
While running procan in interactive mode it will not detach from the shell, 
but instead will show a curses-style information display. By pushing q procan will 
shutdown its threads and quit.  While using procan in interactive mode all 
backends (more on that in a minute) will still be active the only difference is 
procan will not detatch from the shell and will not respond to SIGTERM, but it will 
respond to SIGHUP (Re-read the configuration file) and SIGUSR1 (Reset statistics).

*Daemon Mode:
Daemon mode will cause procan to detach from the shell and continue running in 
the background.  Running procan in the background without using any of the 
supported backends is rather pointless as you will not be notified of interesting
processes in any way.  You can shutdown procan by issuing a SIGTERM on the 
process.  SIGHUP will cause it to re-read its configuration file.  SIGUSR1 resets
the statistics.

*Pipe Mode:
Pipe Mode does not detatch from the shell, it is meant to have its output piped
to another program.  The format looks like this: [rss,procan,24927,+1,2,0]
The first parameter is what has changed most recently, the second is the process name,
the third is the pid, the fourth is the score modifier, the fifth is the overall score,
and the sixth is the interest level.  There are two preliminary plugins in the ./plugins
directory of the source tree to demonstrate the pipe mode but it should be noted that
they don't work very well yet.   To run the gnuplot plugin you will need the python
gnuplot libraries and you could run it like this:  procan -p | ./plugins/

*The configuration file
procan requires a configuration file, there is a sample config file provided 
with the program that you should rename from procan.conf.sample -> procan.conf.  
The following is the directory order that procan will search looking for a config 
file:  /etc/, /usr/etc/, /usr/local/etc/, /usr/local/etc/procan/, ./  If it can 
not find the config file it will quit.  You should open this and read through it 
setting the options that you need, it's very simple and each configuration option 
has a description and example.

procan supports three backends: mail, script, syslog and can use any combination
of these three, including all three if that is what you want.  Backends work in both 
interactive and daemon mode.
+mail backend:  The mail backend will send a digest of the top 5 most 
interesting processes to the user provided in the configuration file, it will use the 
MTA also provided in the configuration file. Which defaults to /usr/sbin/sendmail
In the event of a process being in the Warned or Alarm state an email will be sent to
the administrator
+script backend: The script backend will trigger a user-defined script action 
based on an Alarm and/or Warn event whose tolerance can be configured in the 
configuration file.  The numbers correspond to how interesting a process is in a 
one-hour period. For instance, heavy firefox usage will frequently trigger a 
WARN event and will some times trigger an ALARM event on the default settings.
You can define your own scripts in the configuration file.  procan will pass 4 
arguments to this script: 1) The PID of the process 2) The name of the process 3)
The "Score" of the process (More on this in a minute) 4) The number of times in
one hour that it was interesting
+syslog backend: The syslog backend works the same way the mail backend works bu
t will send the top 5 most interesting processes to syslog via LOG_NOTICE, note 
that syslog strips newlines from log messages.  Syslog will also be notified of
processes that are flagged in the WARN or ALARM state.

Other Information and FAQs:

"What is the 'Score' and how does it differ from how 'interesting' a process is?
The Score of a process is used as a long term benchmark by which you can measure
 a process.  For instance, many times you'll see scores with negative numbers.  
Whenever a process allocates memory or starts using more processor time, it's 
score goes up.  When it is freeing memory its score will go down. When it is no 
longer using very much processor time any points it was given while it was using 
processor time will be repealed.  You can use this to look at a process in the 
long term based on when a process was started.  If you start using procan and 
then several hours later you see that firefox has a score of -12 then you'll 
know that since procan was started firefox has freed more resources than it has 
used.  Likewise if you see a process with a very high score then that process 
is constantly consuming more resources and this might be indicative of a memory 
leak or a race condition.

"I'm running (Gnome/KDE/Other Applications that make heavy use of resources) and
it is triggering a lot of warnings and alarms, what gives?"
After running a lot of tests on my main window manager (Window Maker) I got used
to not seeing a lot of interesting processes
except the ones I was using frequently (emacs, gcc, gaim, firefox, etc) but if 
you are using Gnome/KDE you will see their programs and daemons show up a lot.  
Why is this? you ask.  It's simple.  These window managers have very strange 
resource usage patterns, which is evident by how often they show up in procan.  
Gnome is the absolute worst, especially older versions. It is constantly allocating 
memory for no apparent reason, and at very random times seldom in response to any user event.  
KDE is a little different and slightly more effecient but it tends to allocate 
memory in very large chunks (seemingly preparing for the user).  If you do not 
want these processes to be tracked by procan you can put them in the ignore list
in the configuration file and they will be ignored.  I strongly recommend you do 
this with some Gnome and KDE background processes, and also such things as 
xscreensaver and any very graphical games.

"On Linux I see that procan is almost never idle, always running at at least 1% 
to 5%, why?"
On Linux procan uses libproc which is based on procfs.  Procfs is a horrible way
to do fast reading of the process table.  Linux has no way (that I'm aware of) 
to get process information from the kernel, if you'll look in the sysctl headers 
you will see that there once was or there is a plan to add them but they just 
aren't there.  In my opinion this is rather silly.  I think that procfs has some 
valid uses but in most cases it seems it is more the product of laziness than 
any attempt at effeciency.  FreeBSD and OpenBSD both have sysctl interfaces to
the process tree.

"I've found a bug or something that I think is a bug, what should I do?"
Please email me, and include any important information, like a backtrace or some
description of the behavior that caused the bug. I really appreciate any and all 
bug reports and I am willing to work very hard to make this an extremely 
versatile tool.