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Suggestions For Cheap Metrics Eye Candy Software? 201

Posted by timothy
from the compiz-plus-millions-of-stats-widgets dept.
Banquo writes "I have a friend who has a small datacenter (SQL/Mail/IIS/File Repository ... 5 or 10 servers) and he was saying that his boss wants to see some kind of 'visual display of changing metrics' — Net/server/sql stats with moving lines and graphs and pretty colors. Basically they want something to display on a big LCD panel that will give a tiny bit of 'Wow' factor to customer visits. Back in my datacenter days I saw a million packages to do this stuff, but I was always blessed with an IT budget for metrics/monitoring. Can anyone suggest a free/cheap package that will make pretty moving pictures, moving lines, graphs, etc. from server/net stats? There's no worry about actually using this for real data tracking or metrics purposes. He has a pretty robust log/alert/metrics setup, but command line is a little too dry for marketing purposes. I jokingly suggested he just use a looped flash animation but he actually does want stats that are coming from and reflect his environment. Anyone know of any cheap or free data center stats/metrics 'Eye Candy' software out there?" Better yet, can you think of any particularly interesting ways to display that sort of information?
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Suggestions For Cheap Metrics Eye Candy Software?

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  • rrdtool. (Score:5, Informative)

    by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:11PM (#25904941) Homepage
    and maybe one of the projects that use it [oetiker.ch].
  • by Bizzeh (851225)

    could something not be written customised to the data being held there? that way it could be alot easier to make things move and flash, and change colours. (my boss is the same, if it doesnt flash, move and change colours, it doesnt work)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zappepcs (820751)

      It's rather difficult to coordinate several hundred stats at minute resolution and make things move like a speedometer. RRDTool is fantastic, present it the right data and all is good. When there are many pretty widgets to look at, 5 minute resolution is often better than good enough. RRDTool can be used to display aggregated RRD data as well, so you can have simple go/no_go indicators as well as pretty widgets. A bit of PERL and you can do wonderful things with data fed to RRDTool.

    • logs jgraph (Score:4, Interesting)

      by weighn (578357) <weighnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:33PM (#25905723) Homepage
      can't believe it hasn't occured to you?! you have the logs, you mentioned the CLI is dull looking. Set up a cron job to generate graphs using jgraph. Use a html page with a timed refresh coded in ...
  • Screensaver (Score:5, Funny)

    by agendi (684385) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:16PM (#25904981)
    We use the Matrix screen saver. Senior management were very impressed at how hard our datacenter was working.
  • GL Tail (Score:5, Informative)

    by vidiot4 (826262) <vidiot4@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:17PM (#25904983) Homepage
    GL Tail: http://www.fudgie.org/ [fudgie.org] Discussed here: http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07 [slashdot.org] /10/07/1232245
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by solafide (845228)
      Seconded. Don't know if this is the same project, but Sandia Labs' Center for Cyber Defense has something like this; watching it run on their network is quite cool.
  • Look at Munin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jaa101 (627731) <James.Ashton@ashtons.id.au> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:20PM (#25904993)
    Munin [sourceforge.net] is a very useful monitoring tool that can be configured to warn of server issues (full-ish file systems, high load averages, etc.) You can also easily configure a web view that auto-updates at intervals with pretty graphs. You can monitor whatever you want via trivial shell script plugins.
    • by kbahey (102895)

      Here is a second vote for Munin.

      It is really useful for historical info on almost anything, CPU, memory, network, mail, MySQL, Apache, swapping, you name it.

      I've only used it on Linux systems, so don't know much about its Windows features.

      Its default page may not be useful as is for a WOW display. But you may be able to write an HTML page with a meta refresh to pull a few interesting graphs and display them in a custom page.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:20PM (#25904997) Homepage

    ...each running 'tail -f' on a log file.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by klokop (614549)
      .. or one term running multitail [vanheusden.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Orlando (12257)

      You laugh, but we had exactly this installed at my last place and we knew instantly if something was wrong, either by noticing odd patterns in the text or by one stopping completely.

  • Windows 2008 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Matheus (586080)

    Since you mention IIS I presume this is a windows environment. One of the things M$ actually did right with 2008/Vista is their new monitoring suite. It won't neccessarily report on everything you're asking BUT it has plenty of important looking displays to fill the boss' eye-candy needs.

    Accessed most easily through the old-style task manager --> Performance Tab --> "Resource Monitor" button.

    Of course if you're not up to 2008 on your servers (like most of the world) this is useless advice :)

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      but does it aggregate data from "5-10 servers" and display them in a way the boss can easily access, like on a web page?

  • Nisca (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dusanv (256645) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:22PM (#25905013)

    I found Nisca [sourceforge.net] better and easier to extend than rrdtool. I liked the fact it has full history so you can zoom in on the stats at any point in the past. But it is a difficult to set up for the first time and seems half-abandoned now.

    • by gullevek (174152)

      yeah, but the nice thing about rrd, the database will NEVER get bigger than what you have defined. And for Most stats I really don't need the minute values from 6 months ago ...

  • Lies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:23PM (#25905021) Homepage
    Yep.. lies, just like those big ol' blinkenlights computers in Jurassic park, they just built a routine that looked good. Marketing is lies, get over it... just tweak how false you want to be. You are selling a dream of what you could be - deal with it.
    --
    Lost your job? Keep one eye open on craigslist, even just for gigs http://www.bigattichouse.com/oneeyeopen.html [bigattichouse.com]
    • by Sanat (702)

      Reminds me of the movie Office Space when the chick only had 15 pieces of bling but the real go getter guy had 37 or something like that... and so the boss was on her about it. It doesn't really make a difference but it does look like something is happening and that someone cares... whether they do or not is pretty much immaterial.

      Don't know why you were modded down. Probably a marketing guy got mod points by mistake.

  • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:27PM (#25905051)
    If your friends time is worth anything then I highly suggest using WhatsUp Gold [whatsupgold.com] from Ipswitch. Dead simple to setup yet very customizable. Tons of canned reports and graphs. We use Firefox Showcase and ReloadEvery addons to display a 3x3 matrix of graphs to monitor overall system health.
  • cacti (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SoupGuru (723634) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:30PM (#25905061)

    I just grabbed a Cacti virtual appliance from rPath. No installation required really - just load it into VMWare (you can also get isos) and configure it. No chasing down prereqs or dependencies. I'm not affiliated, just impressed with the ease.

    http://www.rpath.com/rbuilder/ [rpath.com]

    • by steveg (55825)

      Cacti is fairly easy to install on either a Linux or a Windows server. It seems to be very configurable -- I'm still figuring out how to do some things.

      The Cacti community has a bunch of scripts and templates that can be imported into your setup. The templates seem to be version specific, so if someone created it in a version other than what you're using, you may not be able to use it.

      Other than that it seems pretty easy to set up.

    • Re:cacti (Score:4, Informative)

      by socsoc (1116769) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:25PM (#25905371)
      I started playing with Cacti recently too. I do use it for data gathering, but it also has the "oooh pretty" factor for when people stop by.
    • Damn, here I've been calling my servers the, er, 'servers' for the last 15 years. I find out from this website that I should have been referring to them as the " Appliance" instead. How many promotions have I lost to those slick suited dorks that I mock on a daily basis :-(

  • How about that software that plays music, and is attuned to the load of each server?

    Or how about using driftnet, pipe the output to a monitor in the lunchroom, complete with login name, so that everyone sees who is looking at amazon.com/porno?

    Yeah I know it's not precisely what you asked for, but you can't say you didn't have the same thought.

    (driftnet: http://ex-parrot.com/~chris/driftnet/ [ex-parrot.com] )
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Wiseazz (267052)

      How about that software that plays music, and is attuned to the load of each server?

      You could tie it in with the lighting and environmental controls - if someone walks in on you and the lights are dim, it's hot as hell, and there's dramatic music in the background they know to leave you alone. Perhaps some torture-chamber sound effects could be included.

    • by cmaxx (7796)

      http://www.usenix.org/events/lisa00/gilfix.html [usenix.org]

      Won best paper award that year istr.

  • Logstalgia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rocketpants (1095431)
    Logstalgia (http://code.google.com/p/logstalgia/) does a great job for Apache servers, but unfortunately there seems to be no support for IIS formatted log files as yet.
  • Ganglia (Score:3, Informative)

    by digitalhermit (113459) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:40PM (#25905143) Homepage

    We use Ganglia (http://ganglia.info) at work.

    If you prefer command line, try nmon. Originally for AIX, but there's a Linux port. Works well. On a large green-on-black terminal it looks pretty cool :D

  • Quartz Composer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ilyakub (1200029) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:45PM (#25905169)

    If the LCD panel is connected to a Mac, you may want to try using Quartz Composer.

    It's a flow-based programming language included in the developer tools package. You can use it to make just about any kind of animation (music visualizations, image filters, screensavers, etc.), and hook it up to live data.

    I've set it up for my office, but didn't have time to write a very complex program yet, just a flashy 3D RSS feed of Twitter posts mentioning our product.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tehcyder (746570)

      I've set it up for my office, but didn't have time to write a very complex program yet, just a flashy 3D RSS feed of Twitter posts mentioning our product

      What, like "M$ is teh suck", "M$ is teh evil", "Every time someone uses M$ Windoze a kitten dies"...?

      Oh, not that Twitter.

  • Spotlight on Windows (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:49PM (#25905191)

    Jesus, did any of you even RTFS? I'd hate to see software requirements from any of you fools.

      He asked for moving pictures and lines:
    Quest's Spotlight on Windows.

    Screenshot at http://www.quest.com/images/popup.asp?path=/spotlight_on_windows/img/screenshots/5.png&width=1280&height=993

    • by afidel (530433)
      It's going to be REALLY hard to justify Spotlight (or anything from Quest) for a 10 server environment! I love their stuff but it's very pricey, especially for small installs.
  • MRTG (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spasemunki (63473) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @08:56PM (#25905231) Homepage

    MRTG can graph pretty much anything. It's primarily used for bandwidth (I think- given the name), but a former company used it to graph pretty much everything about all its servers: CPU load, motherboard temperature, bandwidth, disk capacity, web server hits, mail system access. It's written in perl and pretty easy to customize, from what I understand; essentially, anything that can dump two numbers into a file can be used to produce a graph, and the look and feel of the graph can be changed in the config.

    • by DrogMan (708650)
      Yup. I've been using MRTG with a handful of home-grown plugins to do all the above.

      Nagios not been mentioned yet? That gives me the overall picture, but MRTG for the individual server stuff.

      I can't work out how many servers the OP has.. Is it 5 or 10? I know exactly how many servers I have in a remote data centre!

  • Get his books, and if you friend's boss will swing for his one-day course, all the better.

    http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/index [edwardtufte.com]
  • Famous last words:

    There's no worry about actually using this for real data tracking or metrics purposes

    I agree with the other comments saying to just fake it with pretty gadgets. It's already a fake from conception, no point spending any effort beyond satisfying the requirement that it impress potential customers.

  • good summary here: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hunky-d (851885) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:23PM (#25905359)
    killer monitoring apps [infoworld.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hunky-d (851885)

      killer monitoring apps [infoworld.com]

      From the article (there's quite a bit more): "Using the PHP Network Weathermap plug-in for Cacti, you can easily create live network maps showing link utilization between network devices, complete with graphs that appear when you hover over a depiction of a network link. In many places where I've implemented Cacti, these maps wind up running 24x7 on 42-inch LCD monitors mounted high on the wall, providing the whole IT staff with at-a-glance updates on network utilization and link status."

  • Short list (Score:5, Informative)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:24PM (#25905363)
    Cacti [cacti.net].
    Ntop [ntop.org].
    Nagios [nagios.org].
    MRTG [oetiker.ch].
  • by turgid (580780) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:29PM (#25905401) Journal

    The best sort of visual indication of status to the PHB is the severed head of another PHB on a spike at the entrance to the data centre.

  • webminstats (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcbridematt (544099) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:31PM (#25905409) Homepage Journal
    Webminstats [sourceforge.net] is probably the easiest tool I've ever used to monitor a system over the network. Should be fairly easy to add some eye-candy to it.
  • Nagios+R2D2 (Score:3, Funny)

    by kermit1221 (75994) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:37PM (#25905435)

    I know nothing about Nagios. But whatever you do, it should be displayed via R2 Unit [youtube.com]

  • by jeko (179919) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:44PM (#25905471)

    It was too funny. Some other chief sales drone insisted they wanted pretty dancing graphs like a stereo equalizer, so the cheap-salary french fry maker/network engineer in charge of it turned on every SNMP query possible at the core, dug up the command to give SNMP queries the highest possible priority, and then set their SNMP monitoring tool to query everything about a dozen times a second.

    CPU Utilization, which was already at a heavy 70%, pegged. The whole network shuddered to a screaming halt. Trouble tickets flooded in, customers and everyone else screaming bloody murder...

    Naturally, Fate saw to it this issue hit my desk. "Why," I asked, rubbing my temples and already fearing the answer, "did you do this?"

    "They wanted it to look cool."

    I raised me voice loud enough for the room to hear. "I'm sorry, we had some static, I didn't catch that. Could you repeat that?" Everyone fell silent as I hit the "speaker" and then "mute" buttons on my phone.

    "I wanted it to look cool, you know, like 'the Matrix?'"

    Everyone got a merrily constipated look on their face. One of my buddies across the room asked "We on mute?"

    "Of course."

    The room full of CCIEs laughed for a good three minutes. For weeks afterward, "I wanted it to look cool, like the Matrix" was a catch phrase.

    • wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:08PM (#25905571)

      you're a dick. given that this guy is low salary he probably doesn't have a lot of experience. you could have shown him the error of his ways, instead you publicly embarrass him in front of the whole company. glad I don't work with you.

      • Re:wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dubl-u (51156) * <2523987012&pota,to> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:38PM (#25905753)

        you're a dick. given that this guy is low salary he probably doesn't have a lot of experience. you could have shown him the error of his ways, instead you publicly embarrass him in front of the whole company. glad I don't work with you.

        On the one hand, you're right. Embarrassing the idiot was clearly a dick move.

        On the other hand, this is a very useful bit of dickishness. The idiot didn't just make a mistake; he made a mistake with major consequences to a lot of people, and he made a mess that his betters had to clean up.

        In my experience, about 98% of the time, there are only two ways we learn. One is through pain. The network breaker, among many flaws, had insufficient caution, but I'm sure the pain of humiliation here taught him some. (That's one of the skills he'll need if he ever wants to be a highly paid admin.) The other way is through observing the pain of others. By making a semi-public example of the yutz, a room-full of network engineers (and I'm sure, a lot of their friends) got a great example of how not to behave. You can bet that at least some minor fuckups were avoided thanks to this.

        Sysadmins are often dicks to fools for a reason: it helps a lot in their work. I didn't like hating everybody all the time, so now I'm a recovering sysadmin [faqs.org]. Bitch all you want, but however unforgiving sysadmins are, the machines they run are far less so.

        • Re:wow (Score:4, Insightful)

          by beaviz (314065) * on Thursday November 27, 2008 @02:31AM (#25906665) Homepage Journal

          This touched a nerve. I've been sysadmin'ing for a long time now (well, not THAT long. 10 years or so), and I've seen my share of abusive system administrators, it annoyes me every single time.

          In my experience, about 98% of the time, there are only two ways we learn. One is through pain. The network breaker, among many flaws, had insufficient caution, but I'm sure the pain of humiliation here taught him some. (That's one of the skills he'll need if he ever wants to be a highly paid admin.) The other way is through observing the pain of others. By making a semi-public example of the yutz, a room-full of network engineers (and I'm sure, a lot of their friends) got a great example of how not to behave. You can bet that at least some minor fuckups were avoided thanks to this.

          People don't learn anything useful from pain, they only learn behaviorism - and then they learn that their senior system administrators is some elitist assholes. Okay, the latter is somewhat useful to know.

          Sysadmins are often dicks to fools for a reason: it helps a lot in their work. I didn't like hating everybody all the time, so now I'm a recovering sysadmin [faqs.org]. Bitch all you want, but however unforgiving sysadmins are, the machines they run are far less so.

          Many system administrators are exactly as unforgiving as the machinery they run - and it don't have to be that way. System administrators must provide (as everybody in IT) vertical support for the entire organization, not the other way around. Many system administrators don't realize this. Instead they only accept one truth. Their own.

          • by dubl-u (51156) *

            I've seen my share of abusive system administrators, it annoyes me every single time.

            Would you say this guy was abusive? If so, how?

            People don't learn anything useful from pain,

            I disagree.

            Long ago, when I was a wee student, I accidentally formatted a drive. A boot drive for a workstation. A drive with a lot of people's files on it. What with one thing and another, it took me 28 hours to put things right again from backups. 28 hours in a row.

            I definitely learned both from that pain, and from the entirely deserved ribbing I took from all concerned. I certainly learned caution. That was the very last time I lost other people's data throu

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by beaviz (314065) *

              I've seen my share of abusive system administrators, it annoyes me every single time.

              Would you say this guy was abusive? If so, how?

              Yes. He was abusive when he deliberately humiliated a coworker for no apparent reason other than having a laugh with the other smugs.

              People don't learn anything useful from pain,

              I disagree.

              Long ago, when I was a wee student, I accidentally formatted a drive. A boot drive for a workstation. A drive with a lot of people's files on it. What with one thing and another, it took me 2

              • by dubl-u (51156) *

                Yes. He was abusive when he deliberately humiliated a coworker for no apparent reason other than having a laugh with the other smugs.

                How do you know the coworker could hear? According to the text, the person who took the call was on mute.

                I imagine it got back to him eventually, but that's only my imagination.

                Would you have learned MORE if some senior dickhead made you restore from backup. Naked. In the rain. While he laughed with his friends?
                The situation you describe sounds to me like you learned from your mistakes, I believe that is different from learning from pain, but maybe I'm just nitpicking :)

                There was also mocking involved in my case, although not to that level. I agree it can be taken too far, but on a number of occasions where I've been insufficiently clueful to be properly embarrassed, friends have been kind enough to help me out.

                • by NorQue (1000887)

                  How do you know the coworker could hear? According to the text, the person who took the call was on mute.

                  You misunderstood. "Everyone fell silent as I hit the "speaker" and then "mute" buttons on my phone." The speaker was on, the mic was on mute. Otherwise the whole room wouldn't have understood and "The room full of CCIEs laughed for a good three minutes". I'm with the GP, if it would've happened that way it would've been abusive, humiliating and totally unnecessary.

                  Well, fortunately the OP has already p [slashdot.org]

        • If someone "above" ordered him to do this - they are to be held responsible.

          If he was so "french fry cheap", why was he allowed access to such an important part of the system and allowed to make such dramatic changes?

          Why wasn't there someone to supervise him and review his plans before implementing them?

          To be honest, I don't see him that guilty; after all, he was just following orders (see the documentary on human behaviour based on an experiment by Milgram).

          • by dubl-u (51156) *

            If someone "above" ordered him to do this - they are to be held responsible.

            If he was so "french fry cheap", why was he allowed access to such an important part of the system and allowed to make such dramatic changes?

            Why wasn't there someone to supervise him and review his plans before implementing them?

            You make a common error. You talk as if blame or responsibility is something that only one person could have.

            Yes, the person who ordered him to do this, and the person who gave him access beyond his skills also screwed up.

            However, he could well have told both of them that he knew what he was doing. And regardless, he was the one who took the actions. He is at least equally responsible, and probably more so.

            To be honest, I don't see him that guilty; after all, he was just following orders (see the documentary on human behaviour based on an experiment by Milgram).

            If your main conclusion from the Milgram experiments [wikipedia.org] is that people who "just follow orders" aren't r

            • by gr8dude (832945)

              You're right, in my message I sounds as if the guy is totally off the hook; my intention was to make contrast with the original poster's "this guy really screwed up" tone.

              I am not qualified to judge what went wrong there, we don't know how they're running their company. Where I work, we have a document which clearly states who gets orders from whom and who is responsible when a problem occurs in various areas.

              The reason I am biased towards blaming it on the "folks above" is because they didn't anticipate su

      • Relax, he was on mute and never named. I'm only recounting the story here -- polished and dramatized a bit -- as a caution to the poster. Not only was there no public humiliation involved for the freshly minted MCSE, I also helped save his job, as well as giving him the Cliff Notes version of a CCNA course. I made sure his boss got a recap that emphasized the error of looking for bouncy little graphs, not the ineptness of forcing a box to respond to a few hundred SNMP queries a second.

        As far as the speakerp

  • The Matrix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AvitarX (172628) <me.brandywinehundred@org> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @09:58PM (#25905535) Journal
    When I want to look impressive at work I go into "The Matrix",

    Top, and watch tail logfile really impress people.

    This will make it look like you/your techs are amazing, and doing things that noone can conceive of. Pie charts and graphs make the job look easy, and noone wants to pay for easy.

    My 2 cents.
    • I've found that doing my job well really impresses people.

      But I still use your technique. When you have a screen full of busy terminal emulators, one of them can be running irssi or lynx (viewing Slashdot or an ebook) and it just gets lost in the noise. Always, always make sure you look like you're working.

    • by Gazzonyx (982402)
      Try htop, on top of being even more impressive looking, it has real functionality; it's basically top with ncurses interface. It's the first package I put on every box I use.
  • by Plug (14127) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:12PM (#25905593) Homepage
    Friends of mine at Waikato University have produced "BSOD" [wand.net.nz], a network visualizer which shows packets flowing between your subnet and the Internet. It's great on a big TV.
  • You are explicitly searching for something cute and flashy to show customers, so this is kind of off-topic.

    But if someone ever needs to visualize data so that other people can derive a lot of information in short time, i just can recommend reading Stephen Fews "Information Dashboard Design" [amazon.com].
    He covers the most common mistakes (i.e. using gauges, pie-charts, lots of color, wrong kind of interactivity, etc) and shows some of the worst dashboards from BI-Tools that are actually used in advertising the product.

  • Look at some SCADA/HMI apps. Get some for chemical/refinery operations, with tanks, valves, pipes and tubes. Lots of tubes. Enough to make Ted Stevens feel at home.
  • Use Processing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by greg_barton (5551) <greg_barton@NOSpaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:06PM (#25905877) Homepage Journal

    Try coding it up in Processing [processing.org]

    You could visualize events as swarming butterflies! [vimeo.com]

    • by ivar (31153)

      Try coding it up in Processing [processing.org]

      You could visualize events as swarming butterflies! [vimeo.com]

      I was about to suggest Processing as well, but I found this post at the bottom of the comments and thought I'd add weight to it.
      It's unclear what data is already available, but assuming you already have raw data, something like processing would be the biggest bang for the buck in terms of converting input into beautiful imagery. (If you don't have data, most of the other threads will give you relevant tips.) Processing's even got some dead tree books devoted to it now too.

  • by thoglette (74419) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:23PM (#25905961)

    A List Apart has discussed this at length.

    http://www.alistapart.com/articles/accessibledatavisualization/ [alistapart.com]

    Generating overlapping squiggly lines is a small variation on the spark charts (you're just placing 1px high objects)

    Personally I'm using Tiny webserver and a dozen lines of Perl (yes, I'm old) to provide similar functionality.

    For display, play with your IE/Opera/Ffox window toolbar settings to get rid of everything bar the screen and job's done.

    In my case, the fun part is getting the data out of Wireshark (http://www.wireshark.org/) automatically :-)

  • The early version (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @12:20AM (#25906205) Homepage

    Way too many years ago, in 1971, I did something like this for a UNIVAC 1108 mainframe. We had a big CRT hanging from the ceiling of a glass-walled computer room, showing some basic information like current job status, memory utilization bar chart, backlog, and console messages. Every four seconds, the display changed to a new screen.

    People would actually come up to the glass wall to watch. For the first time, there was some indication of what the mainframe was doing. The mainframe's console was a teletype, and the operator could make some status inquiries, but at 110 baud, you couldn't get mucn insight into what was going on. (That operating system viewed the operator as a peripheral; most of what appeared on the console consisted of orders for the operator to mount tapes, change paper in printers, and such.)

    Today you need more entertainment value. If you want something really cool, you might try outsourcing the job to a Flash developer. Provide some way for Flash to get the needed data, and do all the eye candy in Flash.

  • I have used Corda for this very thing.

    http://www.corda.com/?gclid=CMzq_aDFlJcCFQNbxwodfEbudg [corda.com]

    The place I used to work used Corda with Coldfusion. It worked really well and gave really good support. You define chart layouts with an XML-based language (there was an IDE for this task.) You then feed it serialized data. The charts look nice, have drilldown capability, and the company provided us with excellent support. The few times we had to call them they were responsive and fixed any bugs we found. I'd

  • "Better yet, can you think of any particularly interesting ways to display that sort of information? "

    There's a word [wordpress.com] for what you're trying to do.

  • Oh, that thing! (Score:3, Informative)

    by holophrastic (221104) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @02:11AM (#25906605)

    About, oh two years ago, there was a slashdot article about someone who had built something PERFECT! It was open source, and I spoke with the gentleman, who's willing to alter it for you if you haven't the time. It was basically something written for linux, I think it was written in perl with its graphics thing.

    It basically had two columns, one on either side of the screen, each being a list of somethings. URLs, recent humans, whatever. And every time a web-page was served, it spit out a little round circle, the size was proportional to the time to generate the page, or the amount of data sent, or whatever. And then certain events, like a user login, or a purchase, appeared as text faded in, and then flew upwards.

    The system was designed to work with any data source, not just web stats.

    I remember little more. There was a little video showing it in action.

  • xmms (Score:3, Funny)

    by Al Al Cool J (234559) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @03:14AM (#25906831)

    True story. We had some clients coming to town for a visit and I was asked to put some fancy monitoring system in the server room. So I hooked a notebook to an external monitor, copied some mp3s onto it, and ran xmms with a bunch of spectral analyser add-ons. It looked very high-tech, and everyone was impressed. Of course I didn't tell them that it was "monitoring" Avril Lavigne music 24/7.

  • visualising traffic on your internet connection [wand.net.nz]. I wanted to do this at one place but boss said no :(

  • Did the same thing for a customer once. He wanted me to use Fusioncharts [fusioncharts.com]. It actually was one of the rare times where a customer prerequisite wasn't totally hairbrained. To the contrary, I'd actually use them again if I had to do something like that. There is a lot of clientside logic in them to cover for correct interpretation of a very easy and powerfull XML spec for the data. Very nice and flexible, you'll get results fast.
    If you haven't noticed by now: This is a recommendation, even though they are not

  • I've used Cacti [cacti.net]. It's based on RRDTool. It's pretty and also useful.
  • Do you really want to put a client's eye into your server room's inner workings? It's a bit unnerving to have management doing that, but clients? No thanks.

    If this is going to be for marketing, whatever you display needs to be 'sanitized' of any potential and perceived potential error. Disk failure? Link failure? System crash? Yeah, you don't want that stuff flying around a screen in the lobby when a big client comes in.

    • by CmdrGravy (645153)

      You don't want that stuff happening full stop.

      A lot of garages now have glass walls so you can sit in the waiting area sipping your coffee and watching the mechanics work on your vehicle. I'll bet the mechanics weren't exactly happy with this situation but if you are transparently doing your work properly it's a far more effective way of impressing customers than not showing them exactly what you are doing in case it goes wrong.

  • by cheros (223479) on Thursday November 27, 2008 @07:51AM (#25907771)

    If you think about it, quite a few systems have screens you only need when something's gone wrong.

    If you have a screensaver on a tech display that picked up the vital statistics from somewhere you would have the display, but also the use of the screen when something blows up with autmotic resumption when you stop working on the system. In principle should the screensaver simply be the remote display (so you could choose what to display where, or even build a collection of stats for one screen). The main disadvantage is, of course that this won't "save" much screen :-), and you may need a permanent copy somewhere that won't vanish when you touch the keyboard..

    A good decade ago I had a 30 user PowerLAN setup (yes, ARCnet :-), and the server screen was a simple, ASCII based set of graphics showing server load, network load and disk capacity in log based bars (more sensible than straight linear representations), and other relevant data in numbers. I still think that was one of the most sensible server displays ever but it did a good job of burning in the CRT when we forgot the powersave :-)

  • Check out the Moaning Goat Meter at http://linuxmafia.com/mgm/index.html [linuxmafia.com].

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