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Record Your Desktop With recordMyDesktop

Show and Tell

June 5, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when you're teaching someone how to do something on a computer, and recordMyDesktop is a great little Linux application for creating screencasts. YouTube is full of recordMyDesktop screencasts showing all kinds of captures, including Beryl/Compiz in action. I lead a dull life; I'm not into ripping music videos or wobbly 3D bling, but I do like having a tool like this for good Linux show-and-tells. In this series we're going to learn how to create glorious Linux screencasts with sound and video.

Before we take the plunge, a few warnings. Audio and video are potentially beastly on any platform. When they work, they just work and life is good. When they don't, figuring out what the problem is and fixing it can be extra difficult. recordMyDesktop handles video well, but your audio options and quality are dependent on the quality of your sound card. You may have to spend a few dollars on a sound card to get the options you want, though it's possible to get decent results from onboard sound chips. Another issue is the author of recordMyDesktop, John Varouhakis, has obligations that are going to take him away from maintaining recordMyDesktop for at least a year, and there don't seem to be any other developers contributing to the project. A year is a long time in Linux-land.

All right then, that's enough doom and gloom. Your Linux distribution should include recordMyDesktop. For example, in Debian it's in Lenny and Sid (testing and unstable), and Ubuntu has it stashed in the Multiverse repository. You can also find packages and source tarballs at the downloads page. There are three different options: plain old command-line recordMyDesktop, and the two graphical frontends, gtk-recordMyDesktop and qt-recordMyDesktop. I didn't have much success with qt-recordMyDesktop on my Kubuntu Gutsy system, but gtk-recordMyDesktop worked just fine.

One last important nugget is recordMyDesktop supports only ogg theora for video encoding, and ogg vorbis for audio. If you want to convert your screencasts to other formats there are many good Linux tools for this, which we will use in this series.

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