There are many reasons to buy a digital Web camera, most of which are perverted – as with much of modern technology. In the Mexican Civil War of the 1920s, Hollywood film-makers gave the Zaptistas movie-making equipment to film the revolution.
Imagine their surprise when they found that, rather than televising the revolution, they were funding the Mexican porn industry.
Anyway, apart from exposing yourself on a CUSeeMe video chat-room, there are legitimate uses for a Web camera. For those with a permanent Internet connection, setting up a window on your world is easy. Plug in a HomeConnect camera, and fire up the SiteCam trial software. There’s an AppleScript to help set up a site. Once this is mastered, new unscripted pages can be made. However, until the software is paid for, it has SiteCam plastered all over the images – and you only get 30 minutes before it times-out.
Different software is needed if HomeConnect is to be used for video conferencing. CUSeeMe is the oldest – and probably most advanced – while iView is a newer application – though it works well. Both have demos available.
The software offers either private conferences with a friend, or the more public video chat-rooms. If you’re of a sensitive nature, or find the sight of grossly overweight men polishing their family jewels anything other than funny, avoid these rooms.
In my rigorous testing of the HomeConnect, I didn’t want to upset the chat-room people by pointing the camera at myself. Instead, I pointed the camera at Macworld’s reporter, Louise Banbury – and logged on to CUSeeMe.
In seconds, pants were dropping like spring blossoms, and proposals of marriage started to flood in. I think the whole office found this more than a little disturbing, but obviously thousands of people do love it (and Louise).
The picture quality was considerably better than other Web-cams I’ve seen. The picture was bright and sharp, and the 640-x-480 resolution is plenty good enough. The simple USB interface is infinitely better than the older serial-Web cams, allowing for faster refreshes.
Driver software for the HomeConnect doesn’t come with the camera. Instead, a beta version must be downloaded from the Web site. This is a minor hassle, but the software appeared stable. Third-party software is needed, but there are both shareware and commercial applications available. It’s a fun gadget and a helpful tool, but most users are just going to use it for a laugh. We certainly had fun with it here.