Keeping Track of System Load

Any Unix kernel keeps track of how much CPU activity is being carried on by the system. These statistics are used by various administration utilities such as top. A user who enters the uptime command sees the statistics as the "load average" relative to the last minute, the last 5 minutes, and the last 15 minutes. On a uniprocessor system, a value of 0 means that there are no active processes (besides the swapper process 0) to run, while a value of 1 means that the CPU is 100 percent busy with a single process, and values greater than 1

mean that the CPU is shared among several active processes. [6]

Continue reading here: Profiling the Kernel Code

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