Articles – How to setup Home Webcam

How to Set up a WebcamWith prices of low end digital camera dropping (while quality of shots are fine for web usage) so much, more people are getting them. Other than happy snapping up whatever you see, since you won’t need to get it to a photo center to see the print out, what else can you do with it? Most of the time, you can use the camera for video conferencing which is talk to someone on the other side of the country or the other side of the globe via the Internet AND see him while you talk to him.

Another popular activity is setting up a webcam right at your home. It can also be used as a cheap alternative to monitor your office or factory, it is also a cheaper alternative in some ways, considering the cost of broadband Internet access etc. Of course there are professional ones that can link the surveillance system or a cheaper alternative is e-Pic. There’s also other systems for example, that can connect to a SMS gateway, a call center etc but that’s besides the point.

Here, I’ll show you how to use a cheap camera that is priced below 0 Singapore dollars, that can be used as a webcam.

What is a webcam?

But first, of course, what is a webcam in the first place? A webcam is a camera that you set to take a shot of anything that the camera is targeted at your home/ office etc at an interval you specify and then uploads that image to the Internet. So you can have a page with maybe 10 pictures taken every 5 minutes interval.

What’s it for?

I personally use a webcam in my room just for the fun of it, showing the world what am I doing when while I am in my room or sometimes I do place the camera to take a shot out my room’s window. Imagine you have a friend or relative that is abroad studying or living there and with this, they can see what is happening to their best friend/ spouse or grandson every 5 minutes (provided that person is around)!

What you need?

Well, you need a camera, I’ll be focusing on a cheap one that is below 0 while the quality is good enough for web publishing. A software, I’ll be using Spycam, a PC and an Internet connection.

The “Wares”

We’ll touch on the items one by one, here goes. The camera I am using is the Acer 300 digital camera.


The Acer (now called Benq) Digi cam I use now.

This camera is powered by a 2 AA batteries and can take shots at resolution of up to 640 x 480. The image is clear and it has the function of the flashlight that is built in when used as a digital camera. It is light and easy to pocket for traveling or just those crazy shots! The camera itself comes with a stand and it’s useful for using it as a webcam or for video conferencing. It also comes with a USB cable for connecting the camera to the PC.

More information on this camera can be found @ http://www.benq.com.sg/products/dsc/300.htm It is retailing at around 0 SGD at point of writing and is available at Sim Lim Square.

Note: I used the Creative Webcam 3 but it’s images captured weren’t as good but that was a few years ago…now they have since release a few other fun cameras like the PC CAM 600 which seems good…seems as I have not got my hands on one before. The fun thing about the webcam 3 is that it has a built in motion sensor within it’s lens and a program that comes with the webcam that enables you to record or snap a picture the minute motion in front the camera is detected! haha, that was how I discovered it was my mum all along, shifting my things here and there while helping me to tidy up my room…anyway…


My good old Webcam 3 from Creative

Comparing the capture:

By Webcam 3

By Acer Digital Camera 300

Software

Spycam is a software written by Bill Oatman, all it basically does is control the web camera that you have to snap a pic at an interval preset by you and connectes to your FTP server, uploads it to a ftp server of your choice with your userID and password predefined and then disconnects on its own.

Internet Connection

A dial up Internet connection (like Singnet or Starhub) can be used with Spycam. In my case, I am using a broadband connection, SCV Maxonline.

Let’s Go!

That’s it you have everything? Let’s do it!

First of all you need to install Spycam, it installs like any other software, so I’ll not touch much on it. We’ll go straight to the configuration page.

You will have to tell Spycam the interval it should snap a pic, your FTP server address, userID and password. Plus some other minor settings.

Here are the settings page, you can access this dialogue by right clicking the Spycam icon in your taskbar and choosing “Settings Page” (see screenshot below)

After configuring the Settings Page, try out the Preview on your computer screen first by choosing Control Page from the menu.

There’s my hand! ha! The image should be refreshing on it’s own. OK, this works…next, the Caption Page:

I have left out the top caption as I find it useless, you can add your own words. The bottom caption is set to%#x – %X which means display day of week, followed by month, then day and end with time. Clicking on the Backgroud sections’ color will open the color template you see on the right of the above screenshot. I have chosen black as it contrast with white and looks the best no matter what image is captured. A sample is as follows, note the bottom caption:

Connections Page

the connections settings page lets you specify the connection you are using for Spycam. For me, I have chosen Assume Active as my connection is always on. If you’re using a modem, choose Dialup and the Select Dialup Networking Configuration option will become valid to you. Note that you need to have already created an Internet connection in Dial Up Networking of Windows.

History

the history page lets you specify how many files you want to be kept before that are overwritten. Filenamed will be using the File Name Mask you specify here too. Meaning, here, the first image will be name SpyCam.jpg, 2nd file will be name SpyCam01.jpg, 3rd file will be name SpyCam02.jpg and so on…

Schedule

The Schedule page lets you schedule the capture. I have specify a capture every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Lastly…

After everything above has been configured properly, all you need to do is go back to the Control Page, tick on Active. The Next Update field will be filled in automatically and that is the time SpyCam will be capturing another image and uploading it again.

It does not work!

Doesn’t work? What happen? Read this article all over again, SpyCam also provides a Test Mode (see above screenshot again), tick it and click Update Now, see what message appears in the Status field. Most of the time, the error appears as the folder on your server that you specify in the SpyCam Setting page (in the above example, it’s named /webcam) does not exist in the first place!

That’s it, you have done it! Now, remember to off the camera or point it somewhere else if you decide to do something private like change and god knows what!

See my cam

My cam can be viewed @ http://www.etegration.com/funz/webcam

– Contributed by etegration
26 June 2002
Updated – 29 Dec 2002

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