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I'm looking for a simple tool on Ubtunu that can report average network throughput/load. Something very simple: something like "uptime" - just to tell me number bytes/MB read in last 5mins, 10mins, and one hour.

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There's a nice tool called "nload" that I use on NetBSD. You'll probably have to install it as I suspect it's not included with most (if not all) flavours of Unix and distributions of Linux. roland-riegel.de/nload –  Randolf Richardson Aug 8 '11 at 8:07
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3 Answers

I always use NTM to monitor inbound and outbound network traffic on Ubuntu, you can find here a tutorial explaining how to install it on Ubuntu.

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1.) Not exactly what you're looking for, is ifconfig:

ifconfig ppp0

ppp0      Link encap:...
          ...
          RX bytes:73844122 (73.8 MB)  TX bytes:20949231 (20.9 MB)

This is what went over that connection since up.

2.:) Xubuntu has a Network-Monitor for the panel. There you can specify a time interval, but not retrospectiv - first you have to set it up, and then you can watch it live. Either it is available for Ubuntu as well, or a similar thing.

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For instant network statistics you can use ifstat. In this example I am monitoring the wlan0 interface every second. The -S flag keeps the updates on the same line:

$ ifstat -S -i wlan0 1
      wlan0       
 KB/s in  KB/s out
   19.34      3.98

To install just type sudo apt-get install ifstat

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Exactly. The OP is looking for a rate, that is a count over some time interval. The uptime is an absolute time. These are different things. The kernel doesn't keep track of rates, so you need an external program to do it, such as ifstat. tcpstat, or others. –  Keith Jul 31 '11 at 2:30
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