When good software goes bad: the sad saga of camstudio

By all accounts Camstudio has been one of the most recommended screen movie applications for Windows since… well, a really long time. But things have gotten complicated. Details follow.

Unfortunately, like too many free software offerings, the enthusiasm for using Camstudio has not been matched by a willingness to financially contribute towards its continued development. As a result the owner (who says he is not a developer) made a deal to raise money by allowing a 3rd party to include certain software “extras” in the product installer. Those extras, predictably, get identified by many virus and malware scanners as malicious. And they just might be. So here we have a neat little software program beloved by many now turned into a conveyance for what may be some very nasty payloads, with a project owner caught between the proverbial rock and hard place — mostly due to a lack of support from users.

The above description of the problem is my interpretation of posts to the software’s support forum starting last February. The current installer has actually been used in a tutorial on how to avoid installing adware/malware. Here’s another thread discussing the situation.

Checking the project’s home on Sourceforge today, I found comments that indicate nothing has really changed. This is unfortunate for both the software’s owner and those who might benefit from its capabilities. This issue seems to exist for downloads from both the camstudio.org and Sourceforge project sites.

The bottom line here is that no technology professional worth their salt is going to advise anyone to ignore any warnings they get from their system’s virus or malware scanner. Even if that software remains silent though, users need to read each installation dialog carefully and reject requests to install anything other than the actual product (see the above-cited tutorial for guidance on how to do that).

Searching further, I did find at least two projects over on Github that fork earlier versions of the source and may therefore be safer to try:

Camstudio.Net
camstudio-mousedown-highlight

Apart from those two, there is also Screencast-O-Matic, a web-based screen capture service that works with Windows and the ShareX desktop utility (I’m still working out how to actually get useful results from the latter).

Of course we’ve got plenty of choices on Linux, including the Gnome Shell’s built-in utility (invoked with Ctrl+Alt+Shift+R, see ScreenCasting).

P.S. Just wanted to note this thread from last winter that suggests a pattern of bundling adware with downloads from Sourceforge, which is very troubling and IMHO puts the Sourceforge brand at extreme risk. I have no way of independently verifying the statements made in the thread, but this statement from the GIMP project seems to confirm that there is indeed a problem with Sourceforge downloads:

GIMP Windows Installers move from Sourceforge to ftp.gimp.org
2013-11-05

In the past few months, we have received some complaints about the site where the GIMP installers for the Microsoft Windows platforms are hosted.

SourceForge, once a useful and trustworthy place to develop and host FLOSS applications, has faced a problem with the ads they allow on their sites – the green “Download here” buttons that appear on many, many adds leading to all kinds of unwanted utilities have been spotted there as well.

The tipping point was the introduction of their own SourceForge Installer software, which bundles third-party offers with Free Software packages. We do not want to support this kind of behavior, and have thus decided to abandon SourceForge.

From now on, Jernej Simončič, who provides the installer packages, uploads them to our FTP directly, and from there they will be distributed automatically to our mirrors. Please check Downloads page for updated information. http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net will remain active for the time being and direct users to the new download locations.

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About phil

My name is Phil Lembo. In my day job I’m an enterprise IT architect for a leading distribution and services company. The rest of my time I try to maintain a semi-normal family life in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. E-mail me at philipATlembobrothersDOTcom. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not those of my employers, past, present or future (except where I quote others, who will need to accept responsibility for their own rants).