Enthusiasm never stops

Record desktop activity by making regular screenshots on Ubuntu

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If you want to capture your desktop regularly for accounting or other purposes, here is how I implemented this on my Kubuntu desktop machine.

I found the following packages in my Kubuntu repository:

  • scrot – easy batch mode, only console interface
  • deskscribe – just records in some text log files, no image screenshots
  • ksnapshot – dcop problems while trying to make it work in batch mode

The winner is scrot. The simple Bash scripts I developed do the following:

  • Makes a snapshot, suitable for running automatically by crontab (make-snapshot.sh)
  • Tests if there are recent snapshots in a specified folder; an error is issued otherwise (test-snapshot.sh)

Here is what I’ve put in my user’s crontab (“crontab -e”):

* * * * * ~/make-snapshot.sh :0 /no-backup/famzah/snapshots
* * * * * ~/test-snapshot.sh 5 /no-backup/famzah/snapshots

This way a snapshot is made every minute. Every five minutes a check is made if the snapshot utility works properly. In the case of an error, the output from the “test-snapshot.sh” script is sent via email by crontab. This is a standard feature of crontab.

Update: The snapshots are now automatically split into sub-directories according to the current date “%Y-%m-%d/”.

The scripts have a help message, in case any of the parameters are not very clear. You need to install the “scrot” package by the following command:

sudo apt-get install scrot

Tested with Kubuntu Karmic and Lucid.

An exercise left for the reader 🙂 – a crontab script to clean up very old directories with screenshots. Hint: A simple “find … -type d -mtime … | xargs rm …” should do the trick.

Author: Ivan Zahariev

An experienced Linux & IT enthusiast, Engineer by heart, Systems architect & developer.

One thought on “Record desktop activity by making regular screenshots on Ubuntu

  1. Thanks. I came across an application similar to this and couldn’t recall the name, but actually a simple cron job will do.

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