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How to Set Up a Web Cam

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Been thinking about setting up a web cam? It's probably easier than you think. Let Elizabeth Parker, author of The Little Web Cam Book, show you exactly what you need and how to do it.
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While surfing the web, you've probably come across a few Web cams and thought about setting up one of your own. By all means, go for it! Rigging up your own Web cam is easier than you think. Back in the bad old days, you had to be a programmer to set up a Web cam. Boy, have things changed! Now all you need is an Internet connection, an inexpensive camera, and some cam software.

Here's how it works: First, you hook up a digital cam, like Logitech's QuickCam Pro, to your computer. Then you download, install, and set up a program that tells your computer to automatically take pictures, store them in a folder on your computer, and upload the pictures to your Web server.

Let's quickly run through the steps. (Don't worry if you don't feel comfortable with computers. The Little Web Cam Book covers everything you need to know and also shows you how to do cool stuff like videoconferencing and making your own movies.)

STEP 1: COME UP WITH AN IDEA

First, you must think of some cool thing to cam. Keep in mind that since most cams come with only a 12-foot extension cord, your subject should be within range of your computer. For ideas and inspiration, turn to chapter 8 of The Little Web Cam Book for tips on recording outdoor scenes, pets, or your home or office.

STEP 2: BUY A WEB CAM AND SOFTWARE

If you're a fledgling computer user, I recommend Logitech's QuickCam products (www.quickcam.com/). The company offers a variety of cams that are easy to set up and use, including the $79.95 QuickCam VC (see Figure 1) and the $149.95 QuickCam Pro (color). If you have a video camera, you can buy a video card or a serial or parallel port adapter and hook the camera up to your computer.

As for Web cam software, there are lots of user-friendly products out there that you can download and try out (though most display an advertising logo on your pictures until you register and pay for the software). After testing several programs, I highly recommend ISpy for Windows ($49, www.ispy.nl/) and SiteCam for Macintosh ($129, www.rearden.com/). If you're on a budget, Windows users with a QuickCam can try the $25 Webcam32 (www.kolban.com/), and Macintosh users with System 7.0 or 7.5 can download the freeware StripCam (www.stripcam.org/).


Note: Chapters 1 and 2 of The Little Web Cam Book cover what you need to get started, the different types of cams and hardware, how to hook up your cam to your computer, and basic imaging and video concepts.
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