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Re: what to believe
As far as accuracy goes, the short answer is Go Launcher wins. Stock task manager shows you what is running in the foreground. OS is managing the managing the background items. 3rd party managers show you more accurately what is going on by listing both the fore & background processes on your phone. Ultimately, they are all for show b/c the OS is designed to manage them all, for better or worse. Though you need to remember what you see listed does not mean it's active at the moment. Most is open in memory but idle in activity. For the most part, pay no attention to the # of things you see listed in your Go Launcher manager. Just by being listed there, doesn't mean much aside from it being available at moments notice to the OS if it is called upon. It won't override the OS if you kill it often, it just restarts.
If seeing all that listed is an issue for you. A large part of why rooting is always being mentioned as a solution is b/c it's the only way that gives you any semblance of ability to control what is going on. You can't alter the OS from doing it's thing but you can stop cantankerous things like bloat apps from adding to the bulk of what the OS is managing behind the scenes. Although, ICS will lessen this aspect once it's on everyones phones.