Enthusiasm never stops


Auto screenshot on Windows

I recently migrated my desktop back to Windows, and while I’m at work I need to have regular screenshots of my monitor, for investigation and other purposes. I easily found a solution to record desktop activity by making regular screenshots on Ubuntu, and I thought that Windows solutions will be even more. It turned out to be the opposite — they were all either paid or not working/lacking features.

Here is how “Auto Screen Capture FV” was born. Two screenshots of the interface follow:

It has the following features:

  • Runs on Windows
  • Free as speech; open-source, developed with Microsoft Visual C# 2010 Express
  • Captures a screenshot automatically without disrupting user activity
  • Saves the snapshot images as compressed JPEG files, in order to save disk space
  • The destination directory where the images are saved is selected by the user
  • Rotates too old image files by deleting them, in order to save disk space
  • All settings are permanently saved in the registry, so next program starts remember what you configured
  • Auto screen capture can be easily temporarily suspended
  • Program can run in background; it minimizes to system tray

Old image files are actually moved to “Recycle bin” by default, in order to be on the safe side — if we have a bug, no files are lost. Auto Screen Capture FV has been tested on Windows 7.

Download links:


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Record desktop activity by making regular screenshots on Ubuntu

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.