Archive for February, 2008

Episode 054 – Scrapbooking Effect

Sunday, February 24th, 2008


I’ve just uploaded Episode 054 which was a fun one for me. In it, I demonstrate a fairly easy way to get a slotted corner type of scrapbook thingy whatchamacallit.ย  I show a couple of other potentially useful techniques as well for an embossed text effect and a way to clip images to a certain shape using patterns.

Obviously, if the screenshot catches your eye (sorry for you youngsters out there who might not know the wonderful TV epic known as The Facts of Life) – please know that this was done as a sort of dedication to heathenx who I *know* is a huge Natalie fanย  – she’s the one on the right. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I smoothed out the intro a little bit on this one going back with the 26fps framerate and actually using the blur setting on Blender to get a little more natural looking flying text. There is still a little jitteryness in the flash version that I can’t seem to get rid off. It’ll have to wait until we move whole hog to mp4 format in the coming months (maybe). Have a look and let me know how it plays back for you viewers out there.

The new screencasters intro music is by Five Star Fall which I got over at I also used one of their songs in the sped-up intro portion as well. They’ve got some really rocking guitar which I like and have a kind of 80’s retro feel at times as well which I like too.


Episode 053 – Abstract Wallpaper

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

In Episode 053 I demonstrate how to draw an abstract wallpaper. This was a viewer request so I thought I would get it out right away. At first I wanted to wait for this one so that I could do it in the new version of Inkscape, 0.46, that is yet to be released. That could be for sometime and I didn’t want to leave our viewer hanging. It’s a rather quick wallpaper. If you spend some time on it then you can probably duplicate an OS X type wallpaper quite easily.

Richard has been working pretty hard lately on a new Blender intro for our videos. He’s still hammering out some things but for the most part it is finished. I included it with this screencast, however, we’re going to keep refining it until we’re satisfied. We are still trying to figure out what is the best frame rate for our videos. Our videos have been encoded at 25 fps in the past but we’re thinking that we might be able to get that down to 20 fps. That is closer to what we screencast at and it will reduce file size just a tad. Also, playing around with b-frames on our avi’s has yielded some interesting things. Too many b-frames screws up the audio/video sync. Too few and the file size grows substantially.

Also, I updated our flash player and included a new start up image so that I could tell where I updated it. Nothing will be different in terms of watching our streaming videos in flash format but we are starting to ready everything for future mp4/aac streaming. We will probably stream mp4’s with an flv fallback so that we do not close the door on the flash 7 and flash 8 folks. Eventually though, I would like to eliminate flash files. That might be a ways down the road though.

I have run some tests on streaming mp4’s with the latest flash plugin (version 115). The streaming mp4’s look awesome! They are much clearer than the flv’s. The mp4’s will have a bigger file size at first but we’ll get better at encoding those in time. We’ll probably end up doing away with our h.264/mp3 avi’s as well and just move everything to one h.264/aac mp4. That will be offered for download and streaming. Those will be Quicktime and iPod compatible too. Although, watching our screencasts on an iPod doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but whatever.

When Screencasting Goes Terribly Wrong

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Last night felt like the worst night of my entire life. Let me fill you in. Richard and I signed on to record several screencasts on the subject of screencasting in Linux for ShowMeDo. I had already produced my first one without a hitch. My second second screencast was going to cover h264enc and mencoder. What I intended to do was record this second screencast in the same manner as the first one. I was going to record it in a VM on my openSUSE machine and I was going to use Ubuntu as my VM. I won’t go into details of why I chose to do this so it’s not worth talking about.

Anyway, things were going swimmingly last night with my very first take. However, trouble set in when I was almost done with my screencast. Nearly 3 quarters of the way in my VM power exited. Aborted! WTF! I thought. So I started my VM back up again thinking it was just a silly glitch. My VM for this OS was set at 1024×768 but upon rebooting the VM display switched to 800×600. Wonder what caused that. Well, I tried to adjust my resolution back to 1024×768 and then rebooted. This time I came in at 640×480. Do you see a pattern here? VirtualBox was giving me the finger for some reason. Odd since we were the best of friends.

So I decided to dig in and get to the bottom of things while keeping in mind that all I wanted to do was finish the damn screencast. I spent nearly an hour and a half trying to get my rectified to no avail. Cripes! I could have deleted the VM and re-installed Ubuntu again in the time that it took me dinking around with things. And I didn’t even fix it. So it’s still broken.

Being defeated by VirtualBox I gathered what was left of my pride and decided to screencast this bad boy in openSUSE instead. It was the only option that I had. So I set up a new user so that my highly customized openSUSE desktop looked a little more default and standard looking. Maybe I should have justed used Suse in the first place.

Once I got everything ready I started recording again. This time I got all the way through with my tutorial. I was using recordmydesktop in the terminal. When I stepped back in to my terminal to stop recording and start encoding, recordmydesktop locked up…meaning I just lost my entire screencast. There is nothing more frustrating than that. It has happened to me several times in the past.

Cool heads prevail so I started up recordmydesktop in the terminal and recorded again. This time the same thing happened. Mother fu…! I tried it again. Same thing. Right about then I felt like Bruce Banner right before he turned into the Hulk. I was about ready to go โ€œmailboxingโ€ with my lucky Louisville Slugger, if you know what I mean. What’s frustrating is completing the entire screencast only to be disappointed in the end when the damn thing locks up.

Ok, this time, I rebooted my machine. Perhaps I โ€œglitchedโ€ something. This time I got myself set up again and started recording. Again, I got all the way to the end of my screencast when I tried to stop recordmydesktop and it hung dead in my terminal. Alright, time to switch over to qt-recordmydesktop. I wanted to see what would happen with that, knowing full well that it was still using the same dieing package as the one that I was running in the terminal. This time I ran a few tests. It seemed to be recording just fine. So I started in again. Got all the way to the end of my screencast and qt-rcordmydesktop locked up. That’s when I exploded. Blood every where. Wife and kids not happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

By this time I had already spent 4 hours trying to record this 15 minute screencast. 4 hours! I bet you can imagine how pissed I was to spend all of that time on something and then not see any results. Let me tell ya…no amount of Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s got me anywhere last night. Speaking of God, I felt like I was Job or something…and experiment. Somebody was playing with me. All of this was going through my head. I think at one point I was going to leave screencasting completely. Quit my job and start selling Amway. You know, a new direction in life.

Anyway, recordmydesktop hadn’t beaten me yet. Recording seemed to work in short bursts. So I decided to split up my recording. I would record a couple of minutes and stop it. That seemed to work. Although that even crashed a few times too.

I thought maybe there might have been an update So I opened my browser and headed out to the recordmydesktop website. Sure enough there was an update to all three packages: recordmydesktop, gtk-recordmydesktop, and qt-recordmydesktop. I checked my version on openSUSE and noticed that I was 3 point releases behind. So I looked for a new rpm file. None. That meant that I was going to compile it. I download all 3 source files, compiled them, and installed them. Now I had the latest and greatest.

By now it was really late in the evening. All that I had to do was re-record the ending of my screencast. So I tried to pickup where I left off and it worked. So now I am not sure if my new packages are working or maybe I just got lucky on the last part of my tutorial.

What I have now is 5 individual ogv (the newer recordmydesktops do not encode into the ogg container anymore) files. Today I will try to assemble those into one fluid video. Although, it may look a little odd. I may have little choice in the matter though. I suppose I could record it in a VM on my Windows machine but I really do not feel like recording it again. This screencast will be easy to re-record but I have already done it one billion times and now all I want to see is it going away.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Well, technically my birthday is tomorrow. Close enough.

In celebration I brought in rolls this morning for my fellow coworkers. Look at the size of this bad boy.

That has decadence written all over it. I wonder if I could eat two. Hmm… Anyway, I dedicate the song “Decadence” by the Pet Shop Boys to myself in honor of this fatty cinnamon roll. ๐Ÿ™‚ Probably will need a nap after I eat it. ๐Ÿ˜

R.E.M. and Open Source

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I thought that this was pretty interesting being an R.E.M. fan and an open source advocate.

Here’s the link to the article.

Episode 052 – Re-Encode

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Thanks to several of you great readers and viewers out there for letting me know that the Episode 052 avi file stuttered and stammered when played in VLC.

Tonight I re-did my processing. This time I converted the original ogg files to h264 avi’s without b-frames and did all my joining and editing that way, only converting to a b-frame version at the end. This accomplished two key things:

1. The filesize of the final avi file dropped from around 78MB to about 35MB. Nice!

2. The avi file seems to play smoothly now in VLC. Although I did notice a slight jumpiness during the initial 15 second screencasters splash at the beginning, the rest of it seemed to play much better in VLC. I’ve also got to get a better copy of that intro because I still think the sound is clipped heavily in spots.

So I can definitively say that the order in which you do the conversions and processing definitely makes a huge difference.

Please take another download of the newly uploaded avi file for Episode 052, try it out in VLC and report back in the comments here. Hopefully this fixes the problem.

And many thanks to our wonderful viewers. We’ve been getting lots of comments lately and we love the discussion. And as you can see, you can also help us improve things. Now if only you could get heathenx to stop blaming me for everything. ๐Ÿ˜‰

ps. You may notice my voice level to be a little low. I don’t think I boosted it enough in Audacity to bring it in line with the intro volume this time out. But hey, maybe I’ll get the next one completely right. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Monday, February 11th, 2008

Hey! Do you guys like screencasts? Was your answer, โ€œHell yes!” Then head on over to and check out a wealth of screencasts on various topics. Now you have another excuse to watch videos at work. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Episode 052 – A Simple Keypad

Sunday, February 10th, 2008


Evidently hell has frozen over. I finally managed to post another screencast. Episode 052 shows one simple method of creating a simple keypad. It’s one of my shorter screencasts at a little over 9 minutes with intro, music and everything.

Again I had some encoding problems that mostly had to do with the 15 second screencaster intro that I had been using. My trusty cohort heathenx pointed me to a proper copy and that made things much better. The process isn’t that bad, the problem mostly is that I don’t do it often enough to be comfortable with all the steps! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another smallish hurdle was figuring out the new posting procedure. Turns out it isn’t all that tough, but it is different than the last time I did a screencast (that tells you how long it’s been) so that took a little extra effort.

Also, I’m not sure how you viewers like the new site, but testing out my new episode, I found the streaming version buffering to be much faster than I’m used to, and the playback much much smoother. Maybe it’s the new hosting??

A Day in the Life of heathenx

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Isn’t she beautiful? I named her Susan. Delicious.

Episode 051 – Old School Monitor

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

In Episode 051 I demonstrate how to draw an old console type monitor in Inkscape. The screencast was running long so I chose not to illustrate any dials or buttons. Looks a little odd, I know. The important thing at least for me was to draw the bezel around the the monitor screen. This was my very first attempt at such a thing. I’m sure the lighting is not any where near accurate but to the casual eye it should look alright. I wonder if there is a better, faster way to draw the bezel.

Also, I didn’t realize it until I was finished but this monitor almost fits in with the Tango guidelines for icons. Whooda thunk?

Get comfortable for this video. This is my longest screencast yet at about 28 minutes long. Also, I have been noticing that the video quality of my openSUSE screencasts has been getting worse. It doesn’t seem to be what it was. I think my older screencasts had sharper resolution. I’ll have to look into this…hmm…

This screencast is dedicated to Patrick…you know who you are. ๐Ÿ™‚