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Friday, April 21st, 2006 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms


You’ve probably heard of them; you might even have one of your own, but do you fully understand what a Webcam is or how you use one? If you’re interested in getting the one that’s been sitting on your desk for months out of the box or if you have been thinking about buying one, this tip is just for you!

There are many different uses for Webcams, from serious reasons to silly situations. Some people launch their Webcam up on their monitor and just have it look out the window or even inside their refrigerator (or something goofy like that). There are business Webcams, personal cams, private cams and even traffic Webcams. They are used to catch certain views or to even help report the news. If important information is captured on a cam, it can be very helpful. There are also people who use Webcams for their own personal reasons, such as a podcast.

Some other uses for Webcams are to keep an eye on your house while you’re on vacation, to check in on the babysitter while you’re working, if you want to see what your cat does in your house all day or if you want to share precious moments with family members. If there is anything you would like to keep a close eye on during certain times, a Webcam is the perfect device to use to do just that.

There are various ranges of Webcams, from simple to very difficult, but once you understand the basic Webcam setup, you can spruce it up with different software deals or through other equipment connections.

A Webcam is basically a digital camera that is attached to your computer through a USB port. They come with installation software and once you have it set up, it just captures different frames of whatever you have the camera pointed to. It then takes those frames and transfers them to different locations (usually a different computer, so others can see what it captures).

Webcams work on a system of frame rates. The frame rate indicates the amount of pictures your Webcam’s software can pick up and transfer in one second. When the frame is caught, it is then broadcast over your computer through your Internet connection. The process generally works with JPEG file formats and those images are uploaded to your Web server while using the work of the file transfer protocol (FTP).

If you don’t have a server, several companies offer free locations for you to be able to upload your images, which saves you from having to get and maintain a Web server or Web site. That information is usually included with your Webcam software.

You just basically need to invest in a Webcam (they can range from anywhere between $30 and even up to $1,000. For general use, a $30 to $40 Webcam will suit you just fine) and install the software onto your computer. Once you’re connected to the Internet, you can start sharing images with other people. Your software should take you through all of the steps of the set up and your manual should give additional help as well.

It’s best to have a consistent Internet connection so your frames will always be up to date, but it will still work if you don’t (the image just won’t be updated). If you have high-speed Internet, you can also achieve a high frame rate, which will keep your images very current.

A couple examples of Webcam videos are the Times Square Cam and the eagle cam we featured in a recent newsletter. (Keep in mind that the eagle cam takes a little longer to load).

~ Erin

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