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For example, the system monitor add-on for cairo-dock shows 0 degrees and 0 rpm (although it does show the GPU temp on my video card).

...using Ubuntu Unity 12.04

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I found the solution. I installed lm-sensors. I ran sensors-detect, accepted the defaults, until at the end, I told it to update /etc/modules. Then sudo service module-init-tools restart got it all working. The command sensors tests it, and the numbers all now appear in apps like psensors and the system monitor in cairo dock sees CPU temp and fan speed.

$ sensors
coretemp-isa-0000
Adapter: ISA adapter
Core 0:       +48.0°C  (high = +76.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
Core 1:       +43.0°C  (high = +76.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
Core 2:       +43.0°C  (high = +76.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)
Core 3:       +43.0°C  (high = +76.0°C, crit = +100.0°C)

it8718-isa-0290
Adapter: ISA adapter
in0:          +1.01 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in1:          +1.89 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in2:          +3.33 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
+5V:          +2.98 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in4:          +0.10 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in5:          +0.05 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in6:          +0.10 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
in7:          +3.17 V  (min =  +0.00 V, max =  +4.08 V)
Vbat:         +3.01 V  
fan1:        1896 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
fan2:           0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
fan3:           0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
fan4:           0 RPM  (min =    0 RPM)
temp1:        +39.0°C  (low  = +127.0°C, high = +127.0°C)  sensor = thermistor
temp2:        +42.0°C  (low  = +127.0°C, high = +127.0°C)  sensor = thermal diode
temp3:         -2.0°C  (low  = +127.0°C, high = +127.0°C)  sensor = thermistor
intrusion0:  ALARM
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