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Rants of a geek

linduxed's ramblings

When the tools just don't work

Every once in a while you stumble on that area of software that Linux just doesn’t have covered. You might now be thinking that I’d like to talk about audio and video editing. A fair guess, since you’ll hear people talk about these two as areas where the other platforms have significantly more sophisticated software available. But this isn’t what I’m going to talk about.

You see, I’ve had a look at the video and audio editors out there for Linux, and while it’s generally not as good as what you’d have on OSX or Windows, there are projects that make honest efforts to compete (Rosegarden comes to mind). I think even the cynics can at least call the tools in these areas “rudimentary”.

“Streaming your desktop” in Linux, however, is one area you can’t even fucking call rudimentary. The appropriate description I’ve come up with is “technically working with the help of wizardry”, and I’m thinking about whether that’s too generous.

No audience

I can’t say I’m particularly surprised by this situation, because apart from the occasional recorded screen cast for some brand new package, there isn’t that much of a need, it seems. We don’t have the games to stream, which I would assume is a large part of what drives the revenue of a page like

I assume most of the people who code in Linux aren’t exactly eager to stream and narrate their work, which could have been that “other area” of content that would have driven the development of tools for streaming. I understand that the Linux community might have less scenarios under which one would want to stream one’s desktop, but I’m still surprised by how dire the software situation is.

The tools

From what I’ve gathered, the most “mature” application available for handling the various aspects of streaming (sound, picture, overlays and so on) is WebcamStudio, which didn’t exactly work. At the best of times it was giving me something that looked like the stream I wanted to pass on, but I never managed to actually get any streaming site to accept the data. This completely sidesteps the issue that is the buggy-as-fuck interface, that neither looks good nor works well.

The most stable solution I’ve found, that has actually let me see my desktop on the internet, is the combination of:

  • Letting VLC capture your desktop with a wide array of flags to make sure it comes out right. Figuring out those was a ton of fun.
  • Having a script called “jtvlc” catch the data and send it in through the API.

It’s way better than nothing, but this gives me absolutely no ability to customize the output, except choosing what part of my monitor set-up it should grab.


In a way, I hope I’ve missed something; I hope there’s an obscure package that simply grabs the part of the desktop you want, has a nice interface, and just works. If that magic package exists however, then I haven’t found it.

There are times when I really would have liked to share the view of one of my screens, with some embedded microphone commentary. When the ideas pop up, I’d like to go ahead and just try them out, but in this case, I’m completely hindered. It might be that the process of getting these things to work under the other systems is also a chore, but at least I’ve seen plenty examples of there being an end result. That’s something I’ve yet to see here in Linux.