Webcams on Linux

Since Joanne’s parents live in Thailand, they’re not able to see their new granddaughter very often. They use skype to communicate regularly, so we thought we’d grab a cheap little webcam so that they could see Ruby while they were talking as well. I picked up the cheapest webcam they had at the local Best Buy: a Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX for $35. Just for fun, I thought I’d try it out on my Ubuntu Feisty machine, not really expecting much. To my surprise, I plugged it into the USB port, fired up Ekiga [1], and within 10 seconds was having a video chat with my brother (well, the video chat was one way, since he doesn’t have a webcam or a microphone, but I’m told that he could see and hear me).

By contrast, to get it to work on Joanne’s Windows machine (so she could use it with Skype), it wanted to immediately download updated ‘drivers’ (probably including a bunch of useless utility software — over 100MB!) and of course, install them. It installed without problem, but all-in-all, it took about 10 times as long as it did to get it working on Linux.

When I first started using Linux, I would have never dreamed that hardware support would have gotten this good by now. In fact, on the way home from picking up the webcam, I joked to Joanne that getting it to work on Linux was going to be my weekend project. Ha!

[1] By the way, this is the first time I’ve used Ekiga. It’s quite nice, and the new GUI work looks great.

3 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted May 25, 2007 at 8:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Yes, the support for those has improved, especially thanks to that one French professor :)

    There are however still a lot of cameras unsupported, you were still lucky if you didn’t check beforehand. Especially couple of The sweetest webcams on the market are unsupported, those being the only a few genuinely HD models on the market.

    It’s kind of sad that almost everything “HD” lacks (Ekiga for instance supports only post stamp sized video, lack of certain drivers, etc) behind on Linux, it would have been a great selling point to be superior on that area. Hopefully some day however…

  2. Anonymous
    Posted May 25, 2007 at 11:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

    yep, I’ve to say I had the exact inverse experience. Also with a Quickcam Communicate, but at that time the driver had a bug and I had to fix the sources myself. But anyway, this is great to see how fast it evolves, I remember when I had to struggle to get a graphical display (understand plain X), and it wasn’t that long ago.

  3. Jonner
    Posted May 26, 2007 at 1:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Actually, I did a little bit of research beforehand, but I couldn’t find a lot of really definitive information on exactly which models worked well (and you never know that the model they’re selling now has the same chipset, etc. anyway, even if it has the same model number). The reason I blogged about it was partly so that other people that came along looking for a webcam might have some better information about what works on linux.

    But my main point was mainly the one that anonymous #2 made — not too long ago I was editing X config by hand and struggling to get even basic usb stuff working, so the fact that I can just plug random stuff in and even some of it works feels pretty good. And the point of this post was mostly to help