Considering the usefulness of computer lights

Are computer hardware activity indicators (in the form of flashing LEDs) an antiquated level of abstraction? Notifying the user ought to be left up to the software layer, i.e. the OS.  It is the best position to relay relevant information as directed by the level of user knowledge and interest.

Modern Apple computers got rid of nearly all the external LEDs.  But they didn’t go far enough for all users, as I have oft missed the flashy hardware-is-busy indicators.  Especially when the system is loaded-down and unresponsive; wtf’s going on? Hard disk activity lights are fairly good for this; oh, it’s caching to disk-hell.  MacBook’s have none and that swirling beach ball [of death] definitely doesn’t cut it.

IBM/Lenovo machines, namely the ThinkPad line, excel at these, possibly to the point of excess.  On my X200, there are sleep, A/C, power-on, battery, hard drive, caps lock, num lock, WAN, bluetooth, wireless, SD card, and ethernet LEDs.  They can be a bit distracting.  But my main quip is that even with all the lights, there’s much to be desired in terms of system-to-user info transfer.  As a computer hardware aficionado, I need to know what my system is doing.

many green lights

many green lights

Something in the system tray would serve just as well as all these LEDs; I don’t always want to see them.  Process Explorer, for Windows, is the best I know of.  It lives in the sys-tray and is an indicator light, of sorts, for processor/system load.  That little app’s feed back in tandem with the hardware lights provides a quick overview of my machine.  process_explorer
(For Linux, top and system-monitor serve nicely.)

If the little chart isn’t peaking and the hard drive light is flashing a bunch, the bottleneck is in the I/O layer, and vice versa.  While this is a rather simple generalization, it usually serves well enough to answer the wtf’s.

All things considered I rather have em than not. Also, the blinky lights provide some nostalgic value, like being on the bridge in the enterprise. Nostalgia sorta explains why that ridiculous *bong* Mac start up sound still lives on.

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