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Record a Desktop Video on SLED


February 20, 2007 3:18 pm



After posting a couple videos from my SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 system, some network admins have asked me to share how I record these. One said that he sees practical use in creating how-to videos for his end users.

So here is how I set up my SLED10 system for capturing my desktop as a video file.

The Short Version

  • Use RecordMyDesktop.
    • (Um…That’s it. You don’t need to read the rest.)

The Detailed Version


  1. Make sure you have the following packages to your SLED10 machine: gcc, make, ogg, libogg-devel, libtheora-devel, libvorbis-devel, alsa-devel, jack-devel.
    • If you find that I omitted any packages, please let me know which I need to add to the list.
  2. Download the latest version of RecordMyDesktop and gtk-RecordMyDesktop from the RecordMyDesktop project site. (These will be source code tarballs that you must build and install onto your machine.)
  3. Put the two source packages in a folder and extract them.
  4. Open a Terminal window and change to the newly-extracted RecordMyDesktop source folder.
  5. As a regular user, use the command “./configure –prefix=/usr” to configure the build environment. If the configure errors out, it’s likely because of a missing package. Add the missing package and its “-devel” accompaniment.)
  6. Now use the “make” command to build the package.
  7. Finally, use the command “sudo make install” to install the software. This will prompt you for the root user’s name.
  8. Repeat the same steps for the gtk-RecordMyDesktop source folder.


  1. Use Alt-F2 to start a Run Application window.
  2. Type “gtk-recordMyDesktop” on the command line and hit enter.
  3. Start recording!




A Few Best Practices Suggestions

  • I recommend creating a special user account for recording videos. It will help you to ensure that you always have an uncluttered desktop with a consistent background for your videos.
  • Use a simple wallpaper or background color so that viewers are not distracted from the subject of your video.
  • Turn of your instant messenger. It really blows a video to have “yt?” pop up.
  • If you have other suggestions for me to include, please post a comment.

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Desktop Effects Updates


February 18, 2007 10:51 am



Compiz has a Community Site
The Compiz community site has existed for a while now, but perhaps I should call people’s attention to it. If you’re a fan of SLED10’s Desktop Effects, you may find this a helpful resource.

A couple notables: the community just approved a new logo for the project, shown at right. They also have a gallery of plugins with really nice screenshots.

What about Beryl?
I frequently include the Beryl project ( which is derived from Compiz) in my demos to show what is possible with the technology. However, I don’t use Beryl for my day-to-day window manager. Two things about Beryl don’t work for me. First, Beryl kind of overdoes it for me–the effects quickly become distracting. I prefer Compiz’s more reserved approach. But the second reason is much more important: it’s unstable. I state this not just by my own experience, but because it has become common knowledge.That’s not to say that Beryl is a bad thing. Beryl strikes me as a place where the developer equivalent of freeform jazz musicians play. There may be a lot of junk and noise, but brilliant innovations periodically come out of it!

A nice mid-point that some may want to consider is the Compiz Extra Packages (from the Compiz downloads page), which bring in a selection of cool plugins, many of which were pioneered within the Beryl community.

One other thing to mention about Beryl. I believe that Compiz wouldn’t have a community site (yet) if Beryl hadn’t forked and lit a fire under the Compiz community. Competition between projects, even friendly competition, is good for innovation in many ways.

News from the Maintainer
David Reveman recently posted some new info on Compiz on a mailing list. Some of the information is lower-level technical planning stuff, but it does show some of the things he and the compiz community are working on.

Some have said that David Reveman has not been open enough with how he manages the compiz project. However, when I read posts that reveal David’s development philosophy, I repeatedly find that I appreciate his approach. He takes an architecture-first approach to compiz. (In fact, its because David so carefully designed compiz that a fork project like Beryl is even possible.) An analogy that occurs to me is how you can feel the lack of planning that some cities have. Ever tried to get across town on Seattle’s arterial streets? Like many cities, Seattle grew up in a slap-dash, unregulated manner, and you can feel it in the way the streets are laid out and how neighborhoods connect together. Planning may not be able to anticipate all future possibilities, but it generally does better than blind evolution.

Compiz KDE package

What about KDE?
I get asked this question a lot. One of our KDE developers in Prague took the time to explain to me, carefully and patiently, that Compiz does not have all the features of the Kwin window manager, so Compiz therefore amounts to a bastardization of the virtues of KDE.

Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that a compiz-kde package is appearing in the SLED10 SP1 beta builds. :)

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NOA: Vista? Kuma Lotta, Kuma Lotta, Kuma Lotta, Vista!


February 16, 2007 4:40 pm



When will ZENworks manage Vista? An interview with Director of product management Martin Buckley ZENworks Product Management is now online.

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Show Me that Updated Gnome Main Menu


February 14, 2007 2:30 pm



How often do we Linux advocates and enthusiasts hear the complaint that Linux lacks the polish and refinement that users expect from their desktop? For most end users, it doesn’t matter how good the underlying software is. If the interface sucks, then the software itself sucks. While it may pain some avid Linux adherents to say it, this is part of the reason why desktop Linux has yet to catch on with a broader set of users: Linux has struggled for years to come out of the woods and be perceived as visually appealing and pleasant to use.

Those who read this blog probably know that Interaction Design matters a lot to me. It has been one of the things I have advocated extensively in my work with desktop Linux. To be sure, part of why I still like working for Novell* is that the desktop team at Novell continues to produce not only great technical advancements, but also continuous improvements in the look and feel of the desktop. The new Main Menu for Gnome that debuted with SLED10 showed how studying user interaction with the desktop can result in a strikingly improved interface. (I don’t kid myself here–there are many who have vocalized their preference for Gnome’s traditional Applications-Places-System menu. But, many do like it.)

I’m pleased to share that the desktop design team at Novell is working on further improvements to the original Main Menu. The video below comes from the upcoming SLED10 Service Pack 1 as it looks in the current internal beta 3. (The unreleased status means that this is not necessarily the final product, and things may change from what you see today.

Video Preview

Video information:

  • The video is a 12.1 MB Ogg Theora file.
  • I recommend using something like Totem for viewing. (Helix/RealPlayer did not play the video very smoothly.)
  • I narrated the video using a small PC headset rather than a professional microphone, and I did no post-production editing. So, it’s kind of rough.
  • If the video link is broken, please leave a comment. then I will put it on a different host.

*Yes, I say “still” that is an admission that I have been challenged with a certain, recently-cemented partnership

Related Posts:

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How to Revert to Standard Gnome Menus


February 14, 2007 8:26 am



So you don’t like the SLED10’s Main Menu–you prefer the traditional Applications-Places-System menu in Gnome. A few people have commented to me that they hope that SLED doesn’t force them to use the new menu. Rest assured, SLED10 provides you choice on that.

I made a quick video to show that, no, you do not have to use default Main Menu in SLED10. With a couple quick clicks you can change it back to the way you like.

Revert to the Old Menus

Video information:

  • The video is a 2 MB Ogg Theora file.
  • Windows and Mac users consult this page.
  • On Linux, I recommend using something like Totem for viewing. (Helix/RealPlayer did not play the video very smoothly.)
  • There is no audio on this file.

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…they’re brewing up some polish…


February 13, 2007 9:49 am



I’m inspecting easly internal betas of the first service pack for SLED10, and it’s looking very cool. Before getting into some of its features, I want to give a little preview what apparently will be an overall theme for the service pack: stupendous amounts of polish.
People regularly tell me that they think SLED10 is by far the most polished looking Linux desktop available. Many of these comments come from people who primarily use some distribution other than SLED. So, if you are one of those people who loves to see how glossy desktop Linux is becoming, allow me to share with you a look at some of the finely detailed minutia in Service Pack 1’s visual appeal.

The July 2006 SLED10

Here’s the Computer button in the original SLED10:

I’m old.

With a single button replacing the standard three menus of the GNOME desktop, it sported some nice visual elements, such as the slight shading effects. A clean font and anti-aliasing make the text look very smooth, and the Tango-themed icons add to the friendliness of the overall appeal.

Here’s the same button, after being clicked:

Push me, I’m old.

When you click the button, the button outline appears, and the Main Menu pops up (here we see just the blue border of the whole menu) and casts a slight shadow on the button.

So all in all, nice visuals. Can they be improved upon?

Service Pack One for SLED10

Here how the computer button looks in the current beta of SLED10 Service Pack 1:


The icons look to have been brightened up just a bit. The upper edge of the panel (that’s the bar on which the Computer button is located) is a touch more pronounced from a slightly thicker shadow that sports a smoothly blended fading effect.

Here I have flown the mouse pointer over the Computer button:


When the mouse pointer flies over the Computer button, it takes on a pleasing shade of blue so that you can see exactly where you need to click. (Previously, the button boundaries showed up only after you had clicked it, and it became a metallic tan color.) This new way functions a lot better for a user who might not at first have understood that there is a button there. Now, when a user flies the pointer over the button, it says, “Hey, you can interact with me.”


The changes I show here are certainly small and subtle, and at first blush, such over-attention to detail may seem frivolous. but from what I have seen so far, they are pervasive across the desktop in Service Pack 1. When you use it, the extra gloss is everywhere, and makes the whole product feel like it is a very advanced system.

There’s more to it than just, gloss though. If you consider the investment, care, and discipline that has to go into such attention to detail, there will likely be a correlation in technical features that really shine, too. (How many cool innovations has the Macintosh driven over the years? It seems to me that during the periods that Apple seemed to have lost its way with regard to design, their technology started to fall behind the curve, too.) I would argue that you may not be able to implement great design unless you are also thinking a lot about the technology that supports it. Shoddy products that look so slick at first quickly lose their appeal when you actually interact a little more familiar with the platform.

That of course means that I need to show some of the interface improvements that are backed by features. So watch this space–I’ll try to cover some of that as we lead up to the eventual release of the service pack.

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NOA: ZENworks and Windows Vista


February 12, 2007 12:50 pm



On February 13, we have Martin Buckley back in the recording studio to answer some questions about Novell ZENworks, like when it will manage Windows Vista and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10.If you want to submit a question for the interview, please post it on this upcoming interview notice.

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Los Angeles, Socal Linux Expo


February 9, 2007 9:16 am



SCALE5 BannerTonight I will be arriving in Los Angeles to attend and present at, SCaLE5, also known as Socal Linux Expo. This is one of the great community-based Linux shows that I get to attend. While Linux vendors are there in force, the show is mostly free of the vendor bloat and overmarketing of the big LinuxWorld events. At SCALE, you can hang out and talk tech with people all day long in a refreshingly casual atmosphere.

My friend and Novell Open Audio cohost Erin Quill will be there to help me present a session on virtualization and virtual machine management. This is good, as apparently Erin has become known as “the smart one” on Novell Open Audio. (But at least people still tell me that I’m the one with a great face for radio.)

Also in attendance will be my good friend and Ubuntu community manager, Jono Bacon. I’m not sure what we should do to him this year, so please make suggestions. (Last year I learned that apparently IN-N-OUT does not kill the man. He’s like a damn cockroach!)

Google’s Chris DiBona will be there as well, and I look forward to seeing him again.

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Interview on Radio Show


February 9, 2007 9:04 am



MyTechnologyLawyer.comYesterday, I did a short interview for the Radio Show. The radio show broadcasts online, as well as on a Silicon Valley radio station. Check out the 02/08/07 show in their Past Shows archive.

Thanks go to the most excellent guys who organize Socal Linux Expo for inviting me onto the show to advocate desktop Linux.

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Hop, Jump, Skip to Michigan…


January 29, 2007 11:06 am



NUI LogoThis week I’ll be in Grand Rapids, Michigan to present at the Western Michigan Novell Users Group’s annual shin-dig in Grand Rapids.

The conference organizer, Mary Matthews says that I’ll be showing off some Linux desktop stuff.

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