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>From the description you gave (the "ps ax" thing) you want something
like "process monitoring tool". The most widely used one is monit [1],
in Ruby world another tool called God [2] is quite popular.

> This is wisdom. Strace is your tool.
strace shows what syscalls are called by a process, it will not tell
when the process dies. Despite the fact that ptrace/strace have
platform-specific implementations, they might be very useful for a
developer. I recommend to read article [3] on this topic.