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Finding a Customizable Webcam (and Other Devices)? 36

MankyD asks: "I'm in the market for a webcam. Wireless is preferred, but Internet connectivity is a must. I've found some OK-looking products, but nothing fantastic. The best-looking cam I've found we already have at work and it's not that great. The cam we have at work would be awesome if I could open up the code — customize the built-in web pages and/or write my own Java viewer — but that doesn't look like its going to happen any time soon. Has anyone ever found an IP camera that will allow you to customize it? Whats the best way to go about finding one? What about hackable devices in general — how do you find gadgets that let you tinker with their software?"
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Finding a Customizable Webcam (and Other Devices)?

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  • Axis Cameras (Score:5, Informative)

    by rpbailey1642 ( 766298 ) <robert...b...pratt@@@gmail...com> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:34PM (#15633620)
    I like the Axis [axis.com] cameras. Write a quick script to grab the images and display them in your custom webpage, it's a 10-minute job. Plus, I think the cameras actually run Linux, which I know is a big selling point in some crowds.
  • Linksys (Score:5, Informative)

    by user32.ExitWindowsEx ( 250475 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:34PM (#15633624)
    I'm pretty certain Linksys makes a Linux-based 802.11g / ethernet webcam and posts the firmware source for it.
    • Re:Linksys (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by MrSquirrel ( 976630 )
      "wireless cameras -- helping nerds see boobies since 2001."
    • Re:Linksys (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      While I don't generally recommend avoiding entire brands, Linksys products have annoyed me too much. I've used six or seven different models of various Linksys wired and wireless network products and they've all been an unnecessary hassle to set up and use.
  • Linksys routers (Score:4, Informative)

    by bcat24 ( 914105 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:36PM (#15633631) Homepage Journal
    What about hackable devices in general - how do you find gadgets that let you tinker with their software?
    As far as hardware hackability goes, I've always been impressed with the WRT54G/GS/GL routers. They run an embedded version of Linux (except the WRT54G/GS version 5), so you can do some pretty cool stuff with them by using third-party firmware.
  • by OctaneZ ( 73357 ) <ben-slashdot2@ u m a . l itech.org> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:48PM (#15633675) Journal
    Check out Spook [litech.org] an open source, highly customizable or embeddible streaming server. It is best paired with a firewire camera, but those can be had easily for $100; I love my UniBrain Fire-i [unibrain.com] camera. There is also a Freshmeat page [freshmeat.net] on the project.
  • For the "hackable devices in general" you seek, this controller [makezine.com] looks really cool. This presentation [todbot.com] also gives some cool, potentially less expensive ideas.
  • linuxdevices.com ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by endy_X11 ( 931139 )
    have you checked out linuxdevices.com ? they've got info on a bunch of different linux based devices, including some webcams as I recall.
  • WRTSL54GS (Score:3, Informative)

    by thalakan ( 14668 ) <jspence@lightcGI ... g.com minus poet> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @11:42PM (#15633893) Homepage
    Linksys makes a new WRT series router, the WRTSL54GS, with a USB 2.0 port. By loading a distribution like OpenWRT on it, you can attach a Linux-supported webcam to it and make some CGIs to be served up by one of the available web servers for OpenWRT.

    Asus also makes some OpenWRT compatible routers, the WL-500g series, which also have USB ports, but you can serve up webcam images using the default Asus firmware.
  • Rabbit Semiconductor makes a nifty Camera Application Kit [rabbitsemiconductor.com]. But at $500 you may want to try hacking a commercial unit. The nice thing about this one is that it has pan, tilt, and all the software comes with the kit along with a compiler and other tools needed to customize it. Yes, I'm affiliated with them, no I don't make any money from this shameless plug.

    -Adam
  • digitalxtractions.net is a new company out of Rochester ny, looking to make wireless IP enabled cameras a reality.
  • Can some fellow /.'s recomend a webcam software that can stream to mutiple users (not just on a subnet or internal network) and has good authentication to prevent unauthorised viewing of the streams?
    • Can some fellow /.'s recomend a webcam software that can stream to mutiple users (not just on a subnet or internal network) and has good authentication to prevent unauthorised viewing of the streams?

      Depending on your application you may be interested in flexTPS [berlios.de], a GPL "flexible TelePresence System" intended for streaming telemetry data from various devices, primarily IP-enabled webcams, to web-based clients with various levels of authentication. Although the software is only packaged in RH Linux RPM form, I

    • I've been playing with SplitCam recently - http://www.splitcamera.com/ [splitcamera.com] - and it seems to split the camera pretty well, plus allows the broadcasting of still images and video files.
  • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Friday June 30, 2006 @01:31AM (#15634314) Homepage Journal
    We have a bunch of Canon VB-C10 's at work... full pan/tilt/zoom, and it runs embedded linux. The zoom works really well (you can read license plates in the parking lot from a camera mounted in a 4th floor office). The embedded webserver dishes out java viewers as well as several examples on how to embed still captures and preset captures into your own web pages. Ultimately these beasts will run you well over a grand USD, though.

    If it was for me, I would simply attach a $150 USB Logitech Quickcam Orbit (there are Linux drivers for rudimentary PTZ) to a $250 USB-over-IP dongle, and have it run to a configured server. This would only give you USB1.0 framerates, though, so you might consider running a long USB2.0 extension cord (if you're within, say 10m) or a USB2.0-over-CAT5 extender (though these might be hard to come by too).

    Anyway, have fun... I'm still pining for my wifi-controlled webcam robot with manipulator arm.
    • So far, all [digi.com] of the USB-over-Ethernet [keyspan.com] devices [silexamerica.com] I've found [lantronix.com] support only bulk and interrupt transfers, not isochronous transfers. That means no USB audio devices, and no cameras. (Some of them mention "digital camera" support, by which they mean "mount the card as mass storage or use PTP", not live viewfinder mode.) Several vendors specifically point out "in this firmware release", leading me to suspect that they plan to add isochronous support in the future. Except these products have been out for years and no
  • I have a bit of experience [komar.org] with the D-Link DCS6620G's. 10X optical PTZ with decent image quality ... and 802.11 wireless makes 'em a breeze. But ditto submittters request that it would be nice to get *real* access to the embedded Linux/Web Server that runs these puppies so we can fiddle some more with 'em. My understanding is the AXIS webcams do allow that ... but they are pretty pricey.

    Also, the D-Link's (as do many webcams) have a built-in web server ... but also allow FTP'ing of jpeg snapshots. For any

  • Just read about this yesterday, looks pretty cool.

    Check out the description here on camcorderinfo:

    http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Linksys-Does- the-Spying-for-You.htm [camcorderinfo.com]

  • ...are Linux-based, have built-in image analysis, and should deserve a closer look [mobotix.com] in your scenario. HTH!
  • Apple's MacBooks come with iSight, and Sony Vaio SZ series also comes with little built-in cameras.
  • Avoid Hawking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @05:34AM (#15634958) Journal
    Just bought the basic 802.11-enabled Hawking model...

    In an unusual turn for them, the networking part of it actually works great... Setting it up goes exactly as they describe it in the manual, and (unlike every other Hawking product I've used), it doesn't shit the bed and require a manual reset after even a momentary loss of connectivity.

    The image quality and convenience of getting snaps from it - Ugh. Without some work, you have no choice but to use either a browser and their built-in Java app, or their very custom (and all but useless) software.

    With a bit of work (read: You need NetCat and something like dd that can extract byte ranges from the raw crap it send to nc), you can convince it to send you snapshots, but you get very low quality images (as in, under 20k for a 640x480 still).

    And for something in the $100 range, you might think it would include at least basic autofocus or even a cheap 18"-to-infinity lens - Nope. Turn the stupid little ring on the lens, and pray your subject doesn't move outside a certain magic box.
  • My 24h webcam [magerquark.com] is an AXIS [axis.com] model, too. I am very satisfied.

    They also do have wireless models.
  • by dolphinling ( 720774 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:36AM (#15635429) Homepage Journal

    I'm in the market for a webcam. Wireless is preferred, but Internet connectivity is a must.

    Now, see, I have the opposite problem. I'm looking for a webcam that can't connect to the internet. Can anyone help me with that?

  • article on msdn (Score:2, Informative)

    by Duwke ( 586308 )

    This is, by now means, a linux solution (flame away), but there is a great article on MSDN [microsoft.com] about a webcam project. Includes motion detection, wired/wireless, and a few other hacks.

    Enjoy!

  • Panasonic BL-C10A [amazon.com] (Amazon note: they like to tinker with the price of this camera; I bought mine when they were $165)

    I've got four of these setup at home to monitor the dogs while we're out of the house. They're not wireless (I have them mounted in fixed locations so I just ran Cat5e through the attic to the cameras) but I believe Panasonic makes a wireless version. Things I like about these cameras:

    • Best image quality I found at the price - nothing spectacular, but you'll pay several times more for
  • How about that CVS camera... I don't know if theres anything Webcam specific out there, but it'll only cost you about $25 and theres a decent sized community behind it.
  • I've not found too many hackable webcams. In this instance I'd suggest foregoing hackability for realiability and being able to access the camera's output easily with linux or open source tools. I found the DCS-900 series (particularly the DCS-G900, which is 802.11G) works very well with open-source tools like motion.

    I've played with hawking, panasonic, and D-link. I found hawking useless. The panasonic cameras have a GREAT API that works via http requests and is well documented; however I found the cameras
  • Disclaimer, I work for IQinVision, but we have a line of IP cameras that allow complete customization at the HTML level and also have a completely documented HTTP and C++ interface. http//www.iqeye.com

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