Madhav Kobal's Blog

This blog will be dedicated to Linux, Open Source and Technology news, affairs, how-tos and virtually EVERYTHING in these domains.

Posts Tagged ‘Desktop’

Record Your Desktop with Linux Tools

Posted by madhavkobal on 11/02/2010

You can capture video of all of the amazing things happening on your desktop with one of Linux’s many screencasting applications. These programs are perfect for creating demonstrations for blogs and tutorials, and for illustrating projects with more than just still images.

Many different programs are available, and they all provide a different set of features, options, and output formats. When choosing, consider the degree of control you want to have over your video resolution and whether the video is intended to work on non-Linux operating systems. Common open source output formats, such as FLAC and Ogg Theora, work natively on Linux but require software and plugins on proprietary operating systems. User interfaces also vary greatly; some applications are nothing more than an icon in the system tray while others depend on large interfaces with many options.

I tested three popular screencasting applications to see which is best for everyday use. I evaluated the user interface, the quality and variety of output formats, and the ease of installation and obtaining the required dependencies. I tested the programs on a MacBook Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM, dual-booting into Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron.


Istanbul is a simple desktop recorder that lives in your system tray. Clicking on the icon starts the recording session, and clicking it again ends it. The video is encoded in the Ogg Theora format. You can capture the full screen, a selected window, or a portion of the desktop, with or without sound.


This application doesn’t have a complicated user interface, making it easy to use, but there are some drawbacks. Although you do have some control over the resolution size, you cannot change the output format of the video file. This isn’t much of a problem if you’re going to upload the video to a Flash-based video site, but the Ogg Theora format doesn’t work out of the box of the main proprietary operating systems without an application like the VLC media player. Therefore, you’ll have to convert to a different format if your intended audience requires it.

Istanbul is easy to install, and it is included in most distribution repositories. In Ubuntu, I was able to install it with the Synaptic Package Manager. It requires PyGTK and GStreamer, which are common dependencies.


Wink is geared toward making video tutorials; it compiles a series of screenshots to a Flash format, and allows you to edit the video directly and add text boxes, navigation buttons, and still images. It includes many advanced features, such as the ability to create preloaders (elements that load portions of the video before it starts playing) and control bars for the Flash playback.

WinkThe interface is not as minimal as Istanbul’s, but it is still relatively straightforward. The main drawback of Wink is the video output formats: Flash and Windows .exe programs are good for viewing the video when the file is local or when it is hosted on a personal Web site, but you can’t upload Flash and .exe files to most social networking and video sharing sites. Wink is good for corporate entities who want to share a tutorial with staff, but it is less useful for home users who want to show off their desktop on YouTube.

Most distributions include Wink in their repositories, and you can install it with any package management application. Unfortunately, though, Wink doesn’t work with Ubuntu 8.04 as of the writing of this article without some hacking. I tested it for this review with a previous version of Ubuntu.


With XVidCap, you can capture desktop video and take single-frame screenshots. You can record portions of the screen by dragging a red selection rectangle over the area you wish to capture. The program can handle a wide variety of output formats, including MPEG, AVI, Flash, and QuickTime.


The interface consists of a small toolbar with more options tucked away inside a Preferences panel. XVidCap uses the FFmpeg libraries to capture video or a series of images, and it can also embed audio. Some people claim that XVidCap can dramatically slow down your computer if you try to record a large area. I didn’t have that problem on my machine, but I had 4GB of RAM.

Installation of XVidCap is easy because it comes in the repositories for most distributions. It requires common dependencies, such as libavcodec (the FFmpeg codec libraries for video), and Cairo, Glade Interface Designer, and GTK+ to render the graphical interface.


XVidCap is the most versatile of these three tools for recording your desktop and creating screencasts. Istanbul is a close second, but its lack of support for a variety of different output types is a drawback. Wink is nice, but it’s limited in use to only a few tasks, and it’s not for users who merely want to record their desktops. XVidCap can handle many popular video formats, allowing it to play nice with both Windows and Mac OS X. The red selection box is kind of clunky, and there is no easy way to record only a specific window without it, but XVidCap gets the job done in an efficient manner.

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Desktop search engines for Linux

Posted by madhavkobal on 04/12/2009

The file system management is fine in Linux, but effectively searching the file system for specific files like mp3 (.mp3) , text (.txt), movie (.avi, .divx etc.), pictures (.jpeg, .bmp, .png) or documents (.doc) is one thing that most oflinux users miss from their Windows Desktop.

The inbuilt search interface in most of the linux distros is not so user-friendly and effective, so we here present some of the better alternative Desktop search engines for linux:

Beagle is one of the most useful and exhaustive desktop search replacement we could find for linux.
The list of supported files types is very large ranging from images, audio, video, documents, DEB and RPM packages, Email from Evolution and Thunderbird , IM logs and even RSS feeds.
You can even add a new file type by editing the file at : /etc/beagle/external-filters.xml

Beagle can be invoked and run either from Command line or Web interface, while Command line is more powerful as you can specify exact phrases, words or even logical operators (AND, OR) or even use metadata of audio and image files.

Beagle achieves efficiency by building non-redundant index of files, which is comparatively smaller than other engines.
For a 45 Gb partition, index was around 700 Mb.
Google Desktop Search

Google Desktop search for linux also supports many file types like Openoffice and MSoffice files, PDF, Html and others.
But downsides are:

1. It does not index zipped archives.
2. You cannot add new file types at all.
The noteworthy feature is you can point ot the exact directory where you are looking for a particular life. Otherwise, it is just useful for average office use and is useless for a power user like me.

Supported file types: HTML, plain text, PDF, Microsoft Office (doc, xls, ppt), Microsoft Office 2007 (docx, xlsx, pptx), Writer, Calc, Draw, and Impress, RTF, AbiWord (abw, abw.gz, zabw), CHM, Visio, SVG.

DocFetcher is coded in Java, so naturally it is fast in indexing and easy on CPU resources.
It also supports regular expressions, phrase search and logical operators (AND, OR, NOT). Like GDS (Google Desktop search) it also does not search zipped archives.

One interesting query feature found is: Boosting terms, using which you can assign custom weights to words, thus increasing or decreasing the level of matching of words.

Tracker is a part of Gnome project.
It introduces the concept of file tags, which is in my view overcomplicates the file system management.

The list of file types supported is quite large, still there is no Bookmarks, EMails or Contact search support.
The biggest downside is that indexer is the slowest among all those we compared.

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GNOME Hotkeys

Posted by madhavkobal on 16/09/2009

GNOME is a desktop environment and an international project that includes creating software development frameworks, selecting application software for the desktop, and working on the programs which manage application launching, file handling, and window and task management. GNOME is part of the GNU Project and can be used with various Unix-like operating systems – most notably those built on top of the Linux kernel and the GNU userland.

General Shortcut Keys
Alt + F1 Opens the Applicantions Menu .
Alt + F2 Displays the Run Application dialog.
Print Screen Takes a screenshot.
Alt + Print Screen Takes a screenshot of the window that has focus.
Ctrl + Alt + right arrow Switches to the workspace to the right of the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + left arrow Switches to the workspace to the left of the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + up arrow Switches to the workspace above the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + down arrow Switches to the workspace below the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + d Minimizes all windows, and gives focus to the desktop.
F1 Starts the online help browser, and displays appropriate online Help.
Window Shortcut Keys
Alt + Tab Switches between windows. When you use these shortcut keys, a list of windows that you can select is displayed. Release the keys to select a window.
Alt + Esc Switches between windows in reverse order. Release the keys to select a window.
F10 Opens the first menu on the left side of the menubar.
Alt + spacebar Opens the Window Menu .
Arrow keys Moves the focus between items in a menu.
Return Chooses a menu item.
Esc Closes an open menu.
Ctrl + Alt + right arrow Switches to the workspace to the right of the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + left arrow Switches to the workspace to the left of the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + up arrow Switches to the workspace above the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + down arrow Switches to the workspace below the current workspace.
Ctrl + Alt + d Minimizes all windows, and gives focus to the desktop.
Panel Shortcut Keys
Ctrl + Alt + Tab Switches the focus between the panels and the desktop. When you use these shortcut keys, a list of items that you can select is displayed. Release the keys to select an item.
Ctrl + Alt + Esc Switches the focus between the panels and the desktop. Release the keys to select an item.
Ctrl + F10 Opens the popup menu for the selected panel.
Tab Switches the focus between objects on a panel.
Return Chooses the selected panel object or menu item.
Shift + F10 Opens the popup menu for the selected panel object.
Arrow keys Moves the focus between items in a menu. Moves the focus between interface items in an applet also.
Esc Closes an open menu.
F10 Opens the Applications menu from the Menu Bar , if the Menu Bar is in a panel.
Application Shortcut Keys
Ctrl + N New
Ctrl + X Cut
Ctrl + C Copy
Ctrl + V Paste
Ctrl + Z Undo
Ctrl + S Save
Ctrl + Q Quit

Original Author : Ian MacGregor

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openSUSE-LXDE live CD now ready!

Posted by madhavkobal on 02/09/2009

“Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment”, is an extremely fast, performing and energy saving desktop environment. It is maintained by an international community of developers and comes with a beautiful interface, multi-language support, standard keyboard short cuts and additional features like tabbed file browsing. LXDE uses less CPU and less RAM. It is especially designed for cloud computers with low hardware specifications like netbooks, mobile devices (e.g. MIDs) or older computers. LXDE can be installed with distributions like Ubuntu or Debian. It provides a fast desktop experience connecting easily with applications in the cloud. LXDE supports a wealth of programs, that can be installed with Linux systems locally. The source code of LXDE is licensed partly under the terms of the General Public License and partly under the LGPL.


It needs less CPU and performs extremely well with reasonable memory.
It runs well even on older computers produced in 1999.
Energy saving
It requires less energy to perform tasks to other systems on the market.
Simply Beautiful
It includes an internationalized and polished user interface powered by GTK+ 2.
Easy to use
It provides a choice to use the simple eeepc like Launcher user interface or a MS Windows like application panel.
It is easy to customize the look and feel of LXDE.
Additional Features
It offers additional features like tabbed file browsing or menu run dialogs known from operating systems like Mac OS. Icons of new applications show up after install on desktop.
Desktop independent
Every component can be used independently from other components of LXDE offering the flexibility to use LXDE parts with different Unix like systems.

Download OpenSUSE iso from :

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SUSE Linux Desktop Moves Ahead

Posted by madhavkobal on 20/08/2009

What’s New?

SLED 11 leverages all the updates found in openSUSE 11.1 to bring a fully up-to-date distribution to the enterprise. In addition, SLED 11 includes a number of Novell developed features, such as the AppArmor application security tool, specifically targeted at enterprise users. It also includes proprietary applications like Adobe Acrobat Reader, not typically included with an open source distribution.

Single-click install is another new-to-SLED 11 feature that makes installing application programs a breeze. We tested this out with the just-released MonoDevelop 2.0. There are actually three options on the download page, and you’ll need to pick the openSUSE 11.1 button for SLED 11. Version 2.4 of the core Mono components were also released this week. The download page has instructions for using the zypper command line tool to add the mono repository and perform the upgrade with three instructions.

The default file system has changed from ReiserFS to ext3 with SLED11. There are some basic differences between the two, including maximum individual file size. For ext3 that number is 2 TB and shouldn’t be an issue for the typical desktop user. ReiserFS supports file sizes up to 1024 TB or 1 EB (Exabyte) and would make sense in a server-based environment.


The entire process takes less than 30 minutes start to finish. After the first boot we ran into a minor problem with broadcom wireless networking in that we couldn’t see any networks. This required a driver downloaded from the Broadcom site. Once that’s obtained you simply double click on the file, and installation happens automatically.

This is a known issue, and Novell support identified it right off. SLED 11 uses Novell’s update service to provide automated security and program updates. This requires an activation code that you get from Novell. You will be prompted during the installation process for this code although you can choose to skip that step and configure the service later. You’ll also need an active Internet connection to complete the registration process.

Another feature carried over from the previous version has to do with Windows networking interoperability. By default SLED has the firewall turned on and all interfaces assigned to the “external” zone. This is the highest level of protection and essentially blocks the ability to browse a Windows network. There are several ways to fix this issue depending on your approach to security. You could just turn off the firewall, but this isn’t a recommended best practice. The easiest way is to set your network interface to the internal zone. This probably works fine for a wired connection but not the best idea for a laptop you use to connect to public WiFi. The third option is to set a few firewall rules to open up the proper ports for Windows networking, but this one requires some understanding of port numbers and the firewall configuration tool.

SLED 11 has a definite high intensity focus on security, and it includes both SELinux and AppArmor. With that in mind it’s important to note that basic SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) capabilities have been added but not enabled in the base distribution. While the capabilities have been added, Novell is not offering direct support for this configuration at this time.

Novell’s AppArmor product ships as an integral part of SLED 11. From the SLED 11 release notes: “The AppArmor intrusion prevention framework builds a firewall around your applications by limiting the access to files, directories, and POSIX capabilities to the minimum required for normal operation. AppArmor protection can be enabled via the AppArmor control panel, located in YaST under Novell AppArmor.” Note that you should use only SELinux or AppArmor; don’t use both at the same time.

Should you choose to implement this feature you should take heed to the following statement: “The AppArmor profiles included with SUSE Linux have been developed with our best efforts to reproduce how most users use their software. The profiles provided work unmodified for many users, but some users find our profiles too restrictive for their environments.”

Bottom Line

This release of the SLED product brings features from the latest distributions to a fully-supported enterprise offering. If you were a previous SLED user it had to be hard to watch the innovation happening with openSUSE and not have the same features available for use. The increased emphasis on security should help get the product more notice from the decision makers that count.

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Record desktop activities with recordMyDesktop

Posted by madhavkobal on 20/08/2009

recordMyDesktop is a command-line tool which allows to record your entire Linux desktop and save it as a Theora Ogg video. It has GTK and Qt frontends too, and in Ubuntu gtk-recordmydesktop is available in the repositories. To install recordmydesktop in Ubuntu, just type in the GNOME Terminal:

sudo apt-get install recordmydesktop

And if you want the GTK frontend, use:

sudo apt-get install gtk-recordmydesktop

The simplest way to record your desktop is to run the command recordmydesktop without any parameters inside a terminal, then do whatever you wanted to do, and when you feel the screencast is over, type Ctrl+C in the terminal where you started recordmydesktop to stop it. It will start the procedure of encoding the video to Ogg Theora, which can take a while. The default output file will be out.ogv, located in the same directory from where you started recordmydesktop:

You can also choose the name of the output file:

recordmydesktop -o my_screencast.ogv

Or make it encode the video on-the-fly, so you won’t have to wait after hitting Ctrl+C:

recordmydesktop –on-the-fly-encoding my_screencast.ogv

You can specify a region to record only:

recordmydesktop -x x_position -y y_position -width width -height height

Some other useful switches for recordmydesktop are:

-v-quality – video quality, from 0 to 63, default is maximum
-s-quality – sound quality, from -1 to 10, default is 6
-v-bitrate – video bitrate, from 45000 to 200000, default is 45000
-device – sound device
-channels – number of audio channels

gtk-recordmydesktop – GTK frontend

However there was a problem recording visual effects in Kubuntu, the resulted screencast having many artefacts.

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Top 3 Linux Burning Apps

Posted by madhavkobal on 20/08/2009

1. K3b
Not many can argue against this one. K3b is the most popular burning application for Linux, and although it uses KDE3 libraries, many GNOME users prefer it too over native GTK burners.

K3b 1.0.5 running in Debian Lenny

The version I’m going to talk about is 1.0.5 for KDE3, but K3b 2.0 for KDE4 is in the works, and the second alpha was made available for testing purposes earlier this year. You can read my review of K3b 2.0 Alpha 1 here.

K3b can burn anything, from audio CDs to DVDs or ISO images. It allows you to save the projects, it includes a powerful file explorer and an easy to use interface. You can also use K3b to create CD/DVD ISO images, it supports projects, multisession mode and ripping video DVDs.

2. Brasero
Brasero is the default GNOME burning application. As usual, it features a simple interface which integrates very well in GNOME, with five large buttons for fast access to the most common actions:

– Audio project, to create an audio CD
– Data project, to create a data CD or DVD
– Video project, to create a video DVD or SVCD
– Disc copy, to copy a CD or DVD
– Burn image, to burn CD/DVD ISO images

Brasero 2.26.1 in Ubuntu 9.04 – start-up window

The nice thing I found about Brasero is that it also includes a simple but useful cover editor for your CDs or DVDs.

Brasero cover editor

3. GnomeBaker
I think GnomeBaker is a little underrated by some. It has a simple interface, which kind of resembles the one of K3b, with the file explorer in the middle of the main window. GnomeBaker can burn CDs, DVDs, audio CDs, CD/DVD ISO images, it supports multisession mode, dragging and dropping files and projects. A very good alternative to Brasero for GNOME users.

GnomeBaker 0.6.4 in Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope

Several others are also worth mentioning. We have MyBashBurn, which is a wonderful text user interface frontend to cdrtools and growisofs for burning CDs/DVDs, it supports multisession and burning ISO images too.

There is also Nero Linux, which is great, but unfortunately closed-source, from the same project which does Nero for Windows. A trial version is available for download here. In Ubuntu, just download the (currently) nerolinux- file and use sudo dpkg -i nerolinux- to install it.

Nero Linux 3

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