Sep 27 2011

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webcam mark II

Upgrading the slugs to squeeze killed the webcam. At first I thought that squeeze was missing the necessary gspca drivers, but no, a quick look in /dev revealed an entry for video0 and “lsmod” reported “gspca_zc3xx” loaded correctly. This is a different driver to that which my camera loaded in lenny (spca5xx) but a quick search around the web confirmed that the camera should be happy with the new driver. So clearly the webcam program itself was at fault (confirmed by checking the output when running the program by hand). Time to find an alternative.

A scan of the debian repositories turned up a bunch of possibilities, some of which I had looked at in the past when first installing the camera. I eventually plumped for fswebcam because it was quick and easy to install and configure, it seemed to be actively supported (unlike Gerd Knorr’s old program) and it didn’t need a GUI. More to the point, it works with my old Logitech camera.

The program can be run from the command line with option switches or configured to read its options from a config file. And despite being advertised as a tiny, it has quite a rich feature set. It can even perform simple manipulation of the captured image, such as resizing, averaging multiple frames or overlaying a caption on the image. Nifty.

My current config file is shown below as an example. I may change this because I’m not quite happy with the brightness/contrast mixture and I’m still playing with the options available. Still, a recommended package.

# /etc/fswebcam.conf
# config file for fswebcam utility
# device and input are defaults
device /dev/video0
input 0
# log messages – only use this is debugging setup
# log /var/log/fswebcam.log
# repeat image capture every 30 seconds
loop 30
# set number of frames to skip if the camera sends bad frames on startup.
# Note – this is only necessary when using the camera for video capture
# skip 10
# background the webcam process
# set resolution of image (default is 384 x 288)
resolution 320X240
# set the palette to use in the output format (here JPEG) and the jpeg quality
# (my camera doesn’t like this option so it is commented out)
# palette JPEG
jpeg 95
# set some additional controls
# (use “fswebcam -d v4l2:/dev/video0 –list-controls” to see options)
set brightness=55%
set contrast=40%
# place the banner at the bottom of the image (default)
# and colour it black
banner-colour #000000
# set the font to use in the banner title and timestamp
font /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts/arialbd.ttf
# set the title and timestamp to display in the banner – (timestamp uses strftime format)
title “Webcam on the Slug”
timestamp “%d %B %Y at %H:%M:%S”
# where we save the image
save /home/web/webcam.baldric.net/images/webcam.jpeg
# end

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