I see you

I see you

By Richard Heller

I see you

Your daughter who lives in California just had a baby girl. You’d like to see the baby, but you just can’t get away. But with a computer, the Internet, and a digital web camera, you can see all the action.

A few years ago, a black & white camera that connected to your computer would have cost you a couple of hundred dollars and required you to install a special interface card in the computer. Today, a camera that offers full color, better resolution, faster frame rates, and may have other features can be purchased for as little as $20. These new breeds of cameras connect to your computer and capture up to 30 frames of video per second, which means that the picture is fairly stable and flicker free. With software, you can capture and edit video right on your computer, or you can connect to the Internet with live video.

The web camera essentially just plugs into the computer through the USB port, though there are some that still connect through the printer port. After the camera is plugged in, you install the video capture software, which allows the camera to feed the video into the computer, where you can save it to a file or produce “streaming” video. Streaming video allows you to feed live pictures into the Internet. Unless you are running a web site that is showing a live feed all the time, you would connect first to a special web site where you would setup your video feed. After your feed was established, the people that you want to see the video can go on-line and connect to the site and see you. You can set restrictions on who has access, from everyone to just the people that you have designated.

The quality of the video that you transmit can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. The first would have to do with the speed and amount of memory in your computer. As the camera captures the video, the computer has to process the data to make it into a picture that you can see. A faster computer means that the computer can process the data quicker, which means higher frame rates and smoother playback.

The second item that determines the quality of the video when viewed on the web is the speed of your Internet connection. Most newer modems have special software built in that handles the video more efficiently than a modem made a few years ago.

The most important item that will affect the video quality is the speed of the Internet itself. If the amount of traffic on the information superhighway is high, the video will be quite jerky. This is because the data is sent as packets, and as the number of people using the web at one time increases, the slower your packets travel, causing the video to stop and start. This jerkiness will be less pronounced with a high-speed connect, but it will still be present.

With a camera at each end, it is possible for you to use your computer as a video phone. You won’t see motion picture quality video, but you will see motion, and it will cost you less than going to the movies.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail technorh@mindspring.com.

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