Sunday, August 3, 2014

How To Record an Album on Linux

Hi! Thinking of recording an album? Want to avoid paying hundreds of dollars on software? You actually can get great, professional sound without spending any money on software, and open source makes it all possible. In this article, I'll list some great free software every Linux-based musician should know, and give a quit description for each.

Do note, you'll still want to make sure you have a good, or at least passable, microphone on hand. But thankfully, if you do have money to spend on recording, you can safely spend it all on hardware, with the knowledge that open source software has your back.

All of these programs work great on Ubuntu, and are included in the default Ubuntu repositories.

1. Ardour

Ardour is the program I use to record and mix all my songs now. It's powerful, but if you've never used a Digital Audio Workspace it can be super intimidating. There are plenty of good tutorials for Ardour online, so if you get lost in the interface, there is help.

One of my favorite things about Ardour is that it lets you use audio effects in real time. That way, you can set your final sound, with compression, tremolo, or whatever you want, even before you start recording for real. And if you want to re-do a part later, you don't have to remember all your plugin settings.

The drawbacks are its learning curve, and the audio engine JACK. If you want to get serious about audio production on Linux, you'll run into JACK sooner or later. In my personal opinion, JACK is terrible. It can be a pain to deal with, because it shuts off all audio for every non-JACK program, and it's hard to get sound back to normal without rebooting or using some command line know-how. That said, Ardour's featureset makes dealing with JACK so incredibly worth the trouble.

2. Audacity

Audacity is a must-have, for sure. For my final mixing and mastering, I like to use Audacity because it's relatively simple, and very intuitive. I highly recommend it for anyone just starting audio recording. It lacks real time processing, and buses, but it's definitely capable of recording great sounding songs.

You can definitely use Audacity instead of Ardour for recording and mixing if you think Ardour is too extreme for you. I'll even use Audacity when I don't want to deal with JACK. Also, Audacity's normalize function is super useful for making your tracks sound at home together, and every track I record goes through Audacity at some point during production.


Linux Multimedia Studio, or LMMS, is another super useful program to have on hand, especially if you're into electronic music, synthesizers, or want a simple way to put together a drum beat.

For the longest time, LMMS was the only way I could make a basic drum beat. It's worth noting that because LMMS is all about electronic music, it sounds very electronic. So, drums generated in LMMS tend to sound super processed. That's great for electronic music, but if you're into any other genre of music, I recommend steering clear.

LMMS is also often a one-stop-shop, and is super versatile. Here's an example of a song I put together entirely in LMMS:

4. OpenShot

Shifting the focus from audio production for a second, have you thought of making a music video? I'd recommend using OpenShot for editing that, even though it's super buggy you can get great results if you're patient.

For any musician, a good (or at least half decent) video editor can be very useful to have around, even if you just use it to throw vlogs together every once in a while.

5. Hydrogen

This is a new program I've just started using, and I'm super impressed. Hydrogen is a drum beat editor, and the amount of realism you can get is incredible. If you can't play drums, or simply don't want to go through the trouble of putting a mic on everything, Hydrogen is your best friend.

Hydrogen also uses JACK, which is regrettable, but again, the features make it well worth the trouble. If you want a stellar sounding, minimally processed beat, I can't recommend Hydrogen enough. It's definitely earned its spot in my music production lineup.


Okay, let's say your album's recorded. You're going to want cover art, and GIMP is the way to go. If you've ever used Photoshop or a similar image editor, you should be right at home with GIMP. Spend as much time as you can working on artwork- it's your first impression on listeners, more likely than not.

If you're going to be doing any sort of creative work on Linux, GIMP is a really good tool to have. Making YouTube Videos? You can use GIMP to put thumbnails together. Writing a book? You can use GIMP to make your book's cover. Want to code a website? GIMP can do background images, buttons, headers, basically whatever you want. No matter what you make, you should really put the time into learning how to make cool stuff in GIMP. In addition to adding a touch of professionalism to your work, GIMP can be loads of fun to play around with.


That's all the software you really need to make a great album on Linux, complete with album artwork, one or more music videos, and any sound you want. I'd recommend spending some time messing around with each before you go into full production mode. And don't forget, there are loads of other free programs available to help you out, these are only my favorites.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Yahoo Mail Review

Yahoo Mail is often harshly criticized, especially by its former users. As one such former user, I'm definitely not exempt from that generalization. However, due to Google+ extending its reach to the fair lands of Gmail, I've decided to seek a replacement email service. The first service that sprung to mind, and the one I'm trying out now, is Yahoo.

Since I used it last, Yahoo mail underwent another redesign. And it's not so bad, actually. A lot of the interface looks like it was inspired by Gmail, which doesn't really bother me because it makes moving to Yahoo from Gmail that much easier.

The ads are pretty prominent, and take up valuable screen space, which is a downside. While you can close the the graphical ads, they do return when you reload the page, making it nearly pointless. It's best to just accept the ad and then subsequently ignore it.

Yahoo Mail's mobile app is impressive, it feels natural while conforming to the desktop interface's look and feel. Again, the interface is very similar to the Gmail alternative, however, the ability to select a theme is a great added feature.

On both mobile and desktop, text is easy to read on any background. This is something Gmail has struggled with, as the sidebars can often be rendered unreadable by using the wrong background.

My biggest concerns with Yahoo Mail are not in the interface, however, but in the backend.  Only time will tell if Yahoo's spam filters will preform adequately, and I also know that a few websites stop you from signing up with a Yahoo account due to its past failings. That's part of why I'm definitely keeping Gmail around.

But as far as first impressions go, it isn't that bad, definitely not as bad as it was, or as bad as it could be.

As you know, I am very, very, opinionated when it comes to visual design. Yahoo seems to line up with my opinions pretty well in that respect- modern, but not soulless like some websites. I'm looking at you, Microsoft.

While I'm not exactly blown away by Yahoo Mail,  the fact that it doesn't have Google+ attached to it is reassuring my decision to try it out. It's basically Gmail without Google. I think I can enjoy this. I'd rather be a Yahoo user than a Google user at this point.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why NaNoWriMo is Worth My Time

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It's a huge writing event, with 300,000 participants at the moment, all trying to finish fifty thousand words in a month.

Last year, I attempted and failed NaNoWriMo, but this time I'm doing my best to finish. It's been going well so far, I'm at 37,280 words as of the time of this writing, and November's half way done.

Just today, I remade my cover image, so I could actually have a nice looking one. The cover I was using was last updated in 2011, because I'm using the same title and cast as a novel I gave up on a while ago. The plot is totally different, so I may need to change the name just so I don't confuse the two.

I'm putting a lot of effort into NaNoWriMo. I need at least 1,667 words per day, and I'm currently ahead, way ahead. So, why am I putting the effort into it? Why do I care? And why do I think it's worth my time to drop everything and write a novel?

The first question is easy. I'm putting the effort into it because it's a challenge. It's a challenge that I want to overcome, and I think that I benefit from every ounce of effort I put into NaNoWriMo. It makes me a better writer.

Now, why I care. I care because writing is art, and art matters. It doesn't have any value of its own, it only has as much value as we give it. But we've given art, collectively, a lot of value. You can argue why for days on end, but the important thing is, producing art is a worthwhile pursuit because it's hard work that produces something of value. Intangible, but valuable.

I also care about NaNoWriMo because it's hugely reliant on freedom of speech, and also the self-publishing revolution. Thanks to freedom of speech, artists are free to express ideas, and NaNoWriMo fosters so many ideas, some of which may never be expressed otherwise. And it's only possible because people have the ability to sit in front of a computer and write relatively painlessly. Writing is hard, it will always be hard, but the medium written on is incredibly easy to use.

You can write, for free, on your computer, right now. That's something that's new. Yes, electricity costs money, but not nearly as much as millions of sheets of paper[citation needed]. Every decent OS comes with a word processor of some kind preinstalled, and there are plenty of free software writing programs that are awesome.

If you're reading this, you could be writing a novel right now.

Now, finally, why NaNoWriMo is worth my time. It's worth my time because, as I mentioned, it makes me a better writer. I can use the practice. I also think it's worth my time because, if I finish, I have a final draft of a 50,000 word novel. That's something that I've never had, and I'd love to be able to show people a novel that's mine. I've fallen in love with this story, and I want to see it finished.

It's worth my time because I not only get the experience of writing 50,000 words in a month, but I also get a rough draft of a potentially good novel almost overnight. It's a huge amount of words to write in one month.

Of course, my novel will likely need a lot of editing to be anywhere near complete. That's a given, though. Rough drafts always need work, especially when they're rushed. So, don't be expecting to see The Shadowed Hand in print any time soon. But still, a rough draft is a huge, some might say even the most important, milestone in the writing process.

I'm positive that my participating in NaNoWriMo is worth it, even if it means I can't write blog posts or make YouTube videos as often as I'd like. It's a nice break from the typical schedule.

Friday, October 18, 2013

WikiHow's Redesign: Amazingly Not Horrible!

By now, you know the drill. A website's design team announces they're going to overhaul the site. They promise it'll be awesome. Not to long after the announcement, you're stuck with a horrible design that makes you want to cry in a corner for a few hours. Guess what? WikiHow, the best how-to website I've ever seen, is undergoing a redesign. Here's the cool part- it's actually a design for the better.

Sure, it's a hugely subjective issue, but I love the new WikiHow site. It leaves me wondering how Google and Microsoft could do such a bad job where WikiHow succeeded.

As I'm writing this, the new website design is up and running. It's been on and off for a while, but now it's here to stay. I like it.

For comparison, here's my user page on WikiHow, before and after:

(Click to see it larger)
Personally, I think the old design was fine. I wouldn't have suggested a redesign, and I wouldn't have supported one if I heard it suggested. However, the end result is amazing. I'll enjoy the new design this time, but that doesn't mean every website should scare me like this.

At first, I was prepared to hate the new WikiHow. But thankfully, I don't have to. Every little change is well thought out, and the color scheme is much improved. It looks fresh and cheery, which is a good design to go for.

The biggest change is the new top bar, which stays visible as you scroll down.

I'm not sure what the point is there.

My opinion on the WikiHow redesign is that it's modern minimalist design done right. It looks good, and it doesn't destroy the functionality of the website. It's not often that a good redesign is pulled off like this, usually you wind up with a Windows 8 or a Google+ on your hands. Although I'm sure opinions will differ, and I welcome debate, I also applaud the new design. WikiHow is becoming more of a website for people than a website for geeks, which is a good thing.

If you'd like to see the new design for yourself, go ahead:

What do you think of the redesign? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thoughts on Ubuntu 13.10 Daily Builds

It's October, and you know what that means... I'm going to get extremely excited over the next release of Ubuntu, scheduled for general availability this month.

So, I'd better install the daily build (you can get it yourself here).

Note: This panel bug has indeed been fixed in newer builds.

Right off the bat, installer glitch. The top panel shouldn't be that big, I'm assuming. Hopefully that gets fixed. But, it's pretty typical to see bugs in the daily builds. Even if this is supposed to be Beta stage.

It's installing right now. We'll just have to see how bugfree the installed system is.

The Ubuntu One setup page on the Installer, which is the last page before the slideshow, is unnecessary in my opinion, but I do have to admit it's a good idea to make Ubuntu One more obvious to users. It's a pretty neat feature of Ubuntu.

Still, Ubuntu One isn't my preference. So, as far as I'm concerned, I'm ignoring it. Besides, I want to review Ubuntu, pure and untouched Ubuntu. Ubuntu One adds a personal touch I don't want influencing my opinion.

Remember how I said Fedora lacks individuality? Well, Ubuntu has quite a healthy dose, in my opinion. If you love orange, awesome. There's no escaping it. Ever.

Okay, the installer finished, no problem.

The login screen is mostly unchanged, as is the default wallpaper. Seriously, I'm waiting for a good step forward, Ubuntu. You have tons of good designers. Surely you can come up with a decent wallpaper image once every six months.

Just like every release of Ubuntu to use Unity, tons of unnecessary launcher icons. Not unusual, although definitely unhelpful. And where are my workspaces? First thing I always do after installing Ubuntu is to add workspaces back.

Anyways, new stuff. Smart scopes immediately comes to mind.

It's got a few issues, and I'm likely to disable it on an actual Ubuntu installation if I ever end up using Saucy for more than just test purposes.

The only other big change I can see is the addition of a keyboard layout switching applet. Talk about useless (especially if you happen to use a laptop, which is what Ubuntu assumes everyone uses).

Okay, this is where I should be excited about the new release. But, I'm not excited. Yes, Ubuntu's adding features, but they're adding features I either don't want or don't need. The actual part of the system I use hasn't changed.

I don't like the direction Ubuntu's going here. If they think Saucy brings them closer to their goals, bummer. I'm not impressed.

None of this would be an issue if Unity were more customizable, though. With Ubuntu now, you're forced to either use it the way they set it up, or shut up and install GNOME.

The release candidate is scheduled for release tomorrow, with the final release set for a week after the RC.

Already, Ubuntu 13.10 looks like it's good release quality. A good follow up to 13.04, but if you already have 13.04, you have no reason to upgrade in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Privacy Concerns with Google's New Hangouts

Ah, the new Hangouts. Google's latest and greatest way for you to talk with people over the Internet. Basically, it takes the old Google Chat and removes "unnecessary" features that we all love, and previously used on a daily basis.

You know, things like /me, all the old emoticons, and the "Invisible" and "Busy" statuses.

Admittedly, /me and emoticons are no big deal. I don't need those, not by a long shot. But, I think that the removal of every status except "Available" is a big deal. A very, very, big deal. Like, I may very well get mad at Google and stop using Hangouts kinda big deal.

Think about it- with G+ now, you're either online or you aren't. There's no way to make sure everyone knows you're busy and that they shouldn't bother you. There's no way to talk privately without broadcasting to the whole world that you're online and there to talk.

Also, you don't automatically get set as "away" anymore.

Personally, I used "Busy" quite a lot. I would set myself to busy whenever I'm doing something on my computer that would make me unable to chat, so people could see that I'm there, and contact me if it's important. If I don't want to talk to anyone, but still have my email open, I'll go invisible. Simple, right?

But now, there's no way to be on Gmail or G+ without either broadcasting your self to everyone as "online and willing to talk" (which you might not be), or disabling hangouts completely which won't allow you to talk to people privately.

This raises a bit of a privacy concern. Do you really want everyone to know about it whenever you're on your computer? Or do you just want a few people to know, on a per-case basis?

Suppose you, like myself, use Google Chat for private meetings between a few people, and you don't want to be bothered by anyone else, or for that matter, make it obvious that you're even there to be bothered. You'd have to use "Busy" to flag your inability to talk, or "Invisible" to completely.

One thing I used to do was go invisible, pretending to be offline, and then talk with the people I wanted to talk with. Nobody else would know, and everything was serene. But under the new system, that doesn't work anymore. I either talk with nobody, or everybody. And that's hectic when everybody is assuming I'm giving them my complete attention when sometimes I just can't because everyone wants my attention. That's when I'd use Invisible to keep things from going crazy.

So, if you're on chat at all, everyone can see it. Why would Google do this? Because of one simple assumption- if you're on the Internet, you're there to have fun, not to work. But in my case, that just isn't true. Most of the time I'm online I'm doing something important.

Basically, Google chat is becoming more of a consumer's toy than a workman's tool for communication. And maybe that's fine. Maybe that's a niche that needs to be filled. But it's also leaving a void for everyone who depended on the old system.

Personally, I think the best chat system would be where there's no way to know if someone's online or offline. You just have to find out by asking. You know, more like email, but in a real-time updating form.

Anyways, Hangouts. Either you love it or you hate it. For me, it's mostly hate. But hopefully, Google will start working on making it decent sometime soon.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fedora 20 Alpha Review

It's Fedora 20 Alpha!
It is my fine pleasure to review today Fedora 20 Alpha, which is the first testing release that is suitable for the general public. You can download it yourself here, if you feel so inclined to give it a try for yourself.

As usual, this is a testing release, so of course there are bugs. It's not ready for everyone, and you have to overlook a lot of technical issues. While it isn't final release calibre yet, it is pretty stable, and you shouldn't have too many problems with it. As usual, Fedora Alpha beats Windows "stable" in the stability department.

The biggest change for Fedora 20 is GNOME 3.10, which was released recently. Major features include interface changes, the removal of the minimize button, and new apps.

Notable is the redesign of the upper-right-corner status menu.

Also, Ctrl+Alt+L no longer locks your screen. That's a major bummer for me, as Ctrl+Alt+L is nearly reflex for me, personally. The new shortcut to take its place is the arguably easier to reach Meta+L, which I suppose will have to do.

Nautilus has also undergone a redesign yet again. But, this time, I actually like it.

With GNOME 3.10 more than ever, GNOME is starting to really have its own sense of style.

Oh, and did I mention built in screen recording using Ctrl+Shift+Alt+R? It's pretty nice. There's a video length limit, which is very irritating, but it is a good feature to have. In the below video, I use it to show off the new close button animation.

There's a bug in GNOME 3.10 right now that messes up window closing while the screen recorder is running, which is a little sad. Also, because the recorder gives up features for the sake of simplicity, I can't use it for my Minecraft YouTube videos.

Because GNOME 3.10 is a stable release, it's mostly bug-free, which makes Fedora 20 Alpha very stable, especially if you stick with the default GNOME packages.

The wallpaper, which is the only really "Fedora" part of the user interface, is very, very, good. I know it hardly matters, but it's a very good background for anything on your computer. It contrasts well with the light-coloured GNOME apps, an the uniform blue is easy on the eyes. It's very well designed in my opinion.

Speaking of wallpaper, you now have two options. Your desktop background, and your lock screen background. Both can be set individually.

You can also now take screenshots of the lock screen, which I didn't notice until just recently.

I set my lock screen background to the Fedora default because I like it better than GNOME's default lock screen.

I still think there needs to be a Fedora logo on the Interface somewhere. I really do. I want to use Fedora proudly, I don't want to be a GNOME user who happens to use GNOME on Fedora. For me, it's the opposite. I use Fedora, I just happen to have GNOME, too.

Fedora 20 doesn't improve much on Fedora 19, aside from the vastly better GNOME release.

My prediction for Fedora 20 is simple. It's going to be yet another incremental imrpovement. An improvement, but not enough to get really excited about. No shiny new Fedora-exclusive features, not even a custom icon theme.

That said, Fedora 20 is looking like an awesome release. It's useable, looks awesome, feels awesome, and doesn't disappoint. It's a great base system with a great user interface running on top of it. While it won't impress new users, it does make Fedora a better distribution.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fedora 19 Review: Where's the Fedora spirit gone?

Fedora 19 is the latest release of one of my favourite Linux distributions. Featuring GNOME 3.8, Linux 3.10, and yum 3.4, Fedora's most recent release leaves little to be desired on the software side. My only complaint is in the "feel" of the desktop.

Released last July, Fedora 19's been around a while, but because of driver issues with my far-from-typical motherboard, I haven't succeeded in installing it until now. But, it was worth the wait, and thanks to virtual machines, I've confirmed that my driver woes have been fixed in the latest "Rawhide" builds of the upcoming Fedora 20.

Fedora is the de facto standard RPM-based distribution, and is roughly comparable to Debian in its role on the RPM side of the Linux family tree, as the basis- either directly or indirectly- for nearly every RPM distro out there.

However, where Debian is ultra-stable, Fedora puts more of a focus on the cutting edge, newest features. With releases every six months, you can expect the software to be pretty up-to-date, unlike on Debian, where you use older, though more dependable, software.

One problem with Fedora 19, which has been a problem since version 15, is the degree of distance I feel from the Fedora Project when using it. I feel like I'm using GNOME, it doesn't feel like I'm using Fedora. It's like more emphasis is put on the GNOME part than the Fedora part, which doesn't feel right.

Fedora 14 (not the default wallpaper, by the way)
In Fedora 14, and every release prior, you got a Fedora (or in early iterations, Red Hat) logo ever-presently in the top-left corner. This logo was the applications menu, and it couldn't be ignored. It was a reminder of what distribution you were using.

A reminder that I think was worth having.

Now, all you've got to rely on to know which distro you're using is the default wallpaper- which, by the way, changes a lot, not to mention the fact that nobody keeps the default anymore. Well, except for me. I'm keeping the default. It's a way I can honour the Fedora project on my computer, in a small way.

Now, Fedora and Debian feel almost identical to the end user. Any distro with GNOME 3 is almost identical to any other distro with GNOME 3. There's not much room for individuality.

That's my one problem with Fedora 19. It's not a software bug, it's not a program that doesn't work. It's a simple design flaw in GNOME 3. Distributions feel impersonal.

It's like GNOME is trying to be a platform, a monolithic empire, regardless of base system. And maybe that's not a problem. But it's not the way I think Linux should be.

So, good release. Best GNOME 3 release ever, with an amazing base system. But not the best Fedora release ever. That was Fedora 14. The last Fedora release to really feel like Fedora. Now it's GNOME + Linux + RPM, installed  via Anaconda.

Post Scriptum:

If you'd like to give Fedora 14 a spin, there's always this directory in the Fedora archives, which has everything you need- an archive of the repository, and installer images for x86_64 and i386.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Software idea: Computer Vault

Here's an idea I recently had. What if every computer shipped with a digital vault to safely store sensitive files?

The idea is a folder on the hard drive that is encrypted and directly managed by special software to keep it safe. Each user would have one such vault created automatically for them, perhaps stored in /usr/vault, and no user (not even root) would be able to get into the vault without a password. This password wouldn't necessarily be the same as the user's login password.

Also, root access would be required to create additional vaults. That way, not just anyone can come up to your computer and start safely storing files.

Another idea would be to have a log stored inside your vault that automatically keeps record of every successful login attempt. This log couldn't be deleted by any user.

All software used to manage all the vaults as a whole would be outside of the vaults, but inside each vault would be the tools required to self-destruct a vault, change the password, assign encryption settings, et cetera. Perhaps even a shell script that runs on opening the vault, updating file contents (like time sensitive graphs that need syncing with other files).

Advantages of this vault would include:

  • Safe way to store important files on computers with no (or very weak) passwords.
  • Safe way to save files on someone else's computer for use later, but only works if you have their consent. Safe for the person storing the files and safe for the computer owner.
  • Easily backed up archive of all important files in one place.
  • Any user can access any other user's vault, if they have the password. This keeps the vaults safe, but decentralizes them.
  • Vault can be used to hide proprietary executables from users, as long as the user never has to directly access said executable.
  • Makes a good password manager.
  • Can contain any files, not just plain text. 
  • Vaults could be optionally stored in the home folder (under ~/vault), which could add safety by keeping other user accounts out of your vault. Additional per-user vault paths could be added.
    • Vaults for human users could be in /usr/vault while vaults for bot users could be in, say, /usr/lib/vault.
    • Not knowing where the vaults are stored could add a level of security.
  • Vaults could be used in web applications to safely upload files to user-specific databases.
Of course, there are disadvantages, too:

  • Could be cracked via brute force attack if the vault password is weak.
  • Log of successful logins wouldn't be able to keep track of unsuccessful logins because it depends on the login to be successful to record any data at all.
  • Could be used to store files without the knowledge or consent of the computer owner, as long as you have (or can guess) the root password. A system for deleting vaults would be necessary.
    • If the vault password is required to delete the vault, the root user couldn't remove malware based on the vault.
    • If the root user can delete the vault, hacking root would allow you to destroy a ton of sensitive files.
  • Malware that uses the vault could be hard (or impossible) to remove due to its encrypted sanctuary. A virus could, theoretically, put all its malicious code in a vault, assuming the root account has been jeopardized. The malware could then log into the vault to run the malicious code, without the user knowing what the malware could or couldn't do.
  • If you forget the password, you lose the vault. There's no way around this.
  • If someone hacks into your vault somehow, they could change the password and keep you out.
  • If vaults are modular and can be moved from one computer to another freely as a single file, hackers could distribute a vault that, when opened, ran malicious code. Perhaps rm -R ~/ or something similar.
    • Or, a hacker could move your vault from one location to another, effectively neutralizing it. root access required, though.
  • A hacker could download a modular vault file onto a flash drive and take it home to crack it later, instead of having to stay on the target's computer the entire time.
So, I don't know if a vault is a good idea, but I do know it's interesting. If some of those problems can be fixed, it may be worth developing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Record Minecraft videos on Linux

Recording Minecraft videos isn't easy, no matter what operating system you use. However, due to lack of demand, there's not much information out there on how to record Minecraft videos on Linux.

It can be done, though. Thanks to free applications, you can get great quality Minecraft videos without much work. You just need to know what programs to use.

For a screen recorder, I recommend Kazam. It's a very nice recorder, it doesn't lower your frame rate much (if at all), and allows recording of both game audio and mic audio.

The interface is very well designed, and simple to figure out. Just select the options you want, and hit the "Capture" button.

Kazam is included in the Ubuntu repositories, but Debian users will have to either compile it manually or use alternate repositories. I'm not sure about other distros, but it doesn't look like Fedora has it.

The default capture framerate of Kazam is 15 FPS, so you'll want to change your settings to raise it to about 25 FPS or higher. Minecraft doesn't look good at 15 FPS, so there's no reason to limit the framerate. Also in the settings, make sure your desired audio inputs are correct.

Another good Kazam feature you can enable from the settings is autosave, so you don't lose anything.

After you've recorded your video with Kazam, you'll want to edit the video. For this, I recommend OpenShot. Although it's got bugs, OpenShot is still a very good video editor.

It supports multiple tracks, the creation of titles (using Inkscape or Blender), and includes a lot of nice effects and transitions. It also has an autosave option, which is quite helpful when the program inevitably crashes.

When exporting for blender, use the YouTube HD profile. It's 720p MP4, which is very good. If your video resolution is high enough, you could export under 1080p MP4 if you want. It takes longer to upload, but 1080p is better video.

After you've exported your video, I recommend watching it all the way through to make sure it's satisfactory before uploading to YouTube. You know, just in case.

If you want a custom thumbnail, you can put that together in GIMP, the best image editor ever. Also, if you're on Ubuntu, the package ubuntustudio-font-meta adds a lot of very nice fonts.

I recommend making your thumnail image the same size as your video's resolution. I usually take a screenshot from the video and add text on top of it.

To install all the programs mentioned in this post, on Ubuntu, run this command:

sudo apt-get install kazam openshot inkscape blender gimp ubuntu-restricted-extras ubuntustudio-font-meta

Good luck making Minecraft videos! It's a fun endeavor, and you can certainly learn a lot about video making doing it.