June 12, 2006

See distros. See distros run. Run, distros, run.

Author: Tina Gasperson

OSvids.com, a new site launched last week, is a twist on the traditional Linux screenshot gallery. It provides video views of dozens of distributions, giving potential Linux users a glimpse of open source desktops in action.

Jonathan Buys started Osvids.com as an "offshoot" of his technology blog. He's been testing Linux distributions since 2000, beginning with Mandrake. "I've seen Linux advance by leaps and bounds over the years," he says. "I've lost count of how many distros I've tested. I figured that since I was loading the distros anyway, I might as well share my experiences on my site."

OSvids.com was born when Chris Haney from osdir.com, who was building a library of Linux screenshots for that site, liked Buys' growing collection of videos and offered him a link and access to some of Haney's own Linux videos. Buys decided to create a dedicated site.

Originally, Buys says, the videos were encoded in QuickTime H.264, but "thanks to the feedback form [on the site] I quickly learned that this was far from optimal." Flash video seemed a good choice, except the software he was using to encode the video produced Flash that didn't work in Linux. "I received emails asking for Ogg-Theora videos, so I converted all the original QuickTime videos." Now, he installs the distribution of choice in Parallels Workstation on Windows and captures the virtual machine in proprietary Camtasia. "I've been looking for an open source replacement, but I have not found anything that provides the same level of functionality," Buys says. After the Camtasia capture, he exports the video first as Flash and then as a .mov file. "[I] convert the .mov to Ogg-Theora with ffmpeg2theora, then upload all the files to the server." Buys says he could produce as many as three of the demonstration videos each day, but on average he posts one new video each day.

Buys has been outspoken in recent days about video screen capture in Linux. Of Ubuntu Dapper he wrote, "This is the first time that I've seriously considered ditching my Windows partition completely and running strictly Linux ... that is, of course, before I tried to create a screencast of the amazing 3-D graphical effects of Xgl and Compiz." He thought that finding open source video capture software wouldn't be a problem. "Oh how wrong I was," he says.

Buys has made it his goal to accommodate Windows and Linux users and to provide Osvids.com as a service. "Right now I'm preparing a separate page for Linux users (myself included) and a script that will redirect [visitors] based on operating system. I make a point of replying to each and every email I get -- helps build community."


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