Netbook Linux Screencaster Smackdown

If you’re using Linux you may have already read TuxArena’s excellent rundown of three highly regarded screencasting apps.

But what if you’re using a netbook like an Eee PC? Has anyone tested these apps and other alternatives on such a machine with a slower processor and limited RAM? I sure hope not, because that’s what I’m about to do here.

Tests were carried out on two machines, an Eee PC 900 & 901, both running the latest release of Easy Peasy. The subject of the screencast is a quick fix for volume issues in Easy Peasy/Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

Watch how fast contenders drop out of the race…

First up is Xvidcap, which can be found in one of the official Ubuntu repositories and crashed on my Eee PC 901 every time I pressed the ‘record’ button.

Next I tried Istanbul on my Eee PC 900. 18 hours after I recorded a 90-second screencast it was still encoding the video — and with no saved file to be found I gave up and moved on.

A story on Lifehacker hipped me to recordMyDesktop, an app that actually worked — kinda. Here’s the interface:

gtk-recordMyDesktopNote that the interface window is maximized because of Maximus, the part of Ubuntu Netbook Remix that makes sure every open window fills your small screen (whether you want it to be or not). Anyway, here’s what a sample screencast looks like:

The video quality is maybe a bit lacking because I had to convert the output file from an Ogg Video to something YouTube would accept. If you’re interested you can download and view the original file here.

The audio is another story altogether — it’s choppy to the point of being unintelligible in several spots, which can only be due to the meagre netbook hardware used to capture it in the first place.

Funny thing though… There are a couple of screencasting apps that, through the magic of Java, run directly through your web browser — the latest Firefox release in this case. I tried two of them, ScreenCastle and ScreenToaster. Both sites will not only record your screencast but host it on the web as well.

Like other bloggers I had much better results with ScreenCastle than ScreenToaster — in my case the video I “toasted” on my Eee PC 901 had no sound.

Here’s the recording interface at Web InterfaceNote that you don’t need to sign up for an account to make a screencast. The downside of this is that your recording will have an incredibly long and unmemorable URL that you’ll have to bookmark if you want to remember where it is. And if you botch a recording you won’t be able to delete it.

Here’s the result:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The frame rate of the video is obviously slower but still entirely usable. More importantly the sound is much more accurate. It would’ve been nice not to have that annoying ‘click’ at the start of the recording, but I’m otherwise quite happy with the results.

You wouldn’t think that a browser-based Java app would yield a better screencast than native and dedicated software, but for low-powered netbooks it looks like this is the way to go.


About Andrew

Mobile phones, Linux and copyright reform. Those go together, right?
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