The coolness factor of Linux

published Nov 29, 2006, last modified Dec 28, 2021

Can your Windows Vista PC do the cool things in the video below? How many bucks do you have to shell out to get something close to this on Windows? Can it do these wonderful things out of the box?

The answer’s no. I took the time to produce a small showcase of what modern Linux is capable of. This is, honestly, my typical (non-work) computing session, in 90 seconds. The cool Linux things you’re about to see will leave you drooling:

And here's the link to the better-quality version (DivX codec needed to view).

What's on the video

This video showcases a demo of my typical computing session (really!). The video makes my computer looks fast; it's not (see below). It's actually "fast-forwarded" because the computer can't capture 10 frames per second. However, even with all apps open simultaneously, it's perfectly usable.

The sidebar on the video illustrates what's being showcased at each moment:

  • Window management and effects are provided by Beryl.
  • The Matrix effect is simply the GLMatrix screensaver that comes with Linux xscreensaver, colorkeyed in real time onto the screen with xwinwrap.
  • The applications are:
  • Amarok: the best music player ever
  • KDissert: a fabulous dissertation writer and mind mapper
  • Akregator: I've never had to go to a single Web site to read news again
  • The universal sidebar in KDE
  • Konqueror, in Web browser mode
  • Kopete: my favorite multi-system chat application
  • KTorrent: how else did you think I get all the music on my library?
  • MPlayer: it's playing snips from an episode of Prison Break
  • KSysGuard: it lets me keep an eye on's health at all times
  • xvidcap: it makes a cameo appearance during the first seconds of the video

The artwork on the top of the cube was created with Inkscape.

And the music is a short edit I made of The world is mine (F*** me I'm famous remix) by David Guetta, available in the album RTL 2 I love house, disc 1. I used Ardour to produce this edit.

The making of The coolness factor of Linux

All in all, this video took about 4 hours to make, including the time to install and set the required software up. Here's the step-by-step lowdown:

  1. Used xvidcap to record the video at 10 frames per second into an MPEG file.
  2. Used Kino to find out a suitable end frame for the video. That way I can encode only from the start to a certain frame.
  3. Used mencoder to scale and encode the MPEG movie into a DivX AVI file. This is the command line: mencoder -ovc lavc -lavcopts vcodec=mpeg4:vbitrate=1000:mbd=2:v4mv:autoaspect test-0000.mpeg -o youtube.avi -frames 950 -vf scale=320:240
  4. Used Ardour to create a mini-mix of The world is mine, for the audio track.
  5. Used mencoder to encode the audio and copy the DivX file into the final DivX video. This is the command line: mencoder youtube.avi -audiofile track.mp3 -oac mp3lame -ovc copy -o final.avi
  6. Uploaded the final video to YouTube.
  7. Uploaded the final video to my Web site.
  8. Wrote this post.

All done with Free Software. Free as in beer, Free as in freedom. Most remarkably, all software was installed using packages specifically done for Fedora Core... this proves useful applications are available to install by point-and-click. And I hate compiling from source.

Some software used here is patent-encumbered. This doesn't apply to my country, though.

The hardware powering this video

Nothing special, really. If anything, it's very old. It couldn't even capture 10 frames per second in real-time! Thus, the video is kind of "fast". Here are the specs:

  • a GeForce 2 MX. Beryl runs slowly because of it. It also runs slowly because I told it to run only at 10 FPS.
  • 768 MB of RAM. The system swapped heavily because of all the loaded applications.
  • a lowly 3-year-old Athlon XP 1.5 GHz