EDIT: The software discussed in this post is still in need of a lot of development, so it is not guaranteed to work for everyone.
SECOND EDIT: I have found deb files available for download of this software. See the section about installing Easycam below for further details about downloading and installing.
So I’m getting ready for a very big trip and will be spending a lot of time away from home. I’ll be a LONG ways away for a pretty long time. My girlfriend will be staying at home to keep an eye on the place and I wanted be able to communicate with her via webcam while I’m gone. So I decided to purchase two Logitech Communicate MP webcams from Tigerdirect, each costing about $45 (and they’re damn nice too).
Very few webcams are natively compatible with Linux and require you to install special drivers (sometimes you even have to compile the drivers from source-code… yuck). Compiling the drivers is something very few users are up to doing to get a simple webcam working. But I found a pretty useful application that makes this process a snap. It’s very aptly named Easycam.
Easycam is a little app that will detect the type of webcam you have attached to your PC and automatically install the driver needed to make it work with your applications with just a couple clicks. However, installing the application takes a few steps. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through.
NOTE: Some of the following instructions are outdated and have been crossed out. It is recommended that you try to download the deb files and install them individually and not attempt to add the third-party repository to your Software Sources as originally instructed. Visit this link to download the deb files. If you are running Ubuntu, you will need the all the deb files except for the qt package. If you are running Kubuntu, you will need all of the deb files except for the gtk package. Download them all an double-click on them in this order:
- The easycam2-gtk.deb or easycam2-qt.deb package (depending on your OS)
- Finally the easycam2-core.deb package.
Once the three packages are installed, proceed past the crossed out section below and follow the rest of the instructions as usual.
I’m basically going to be repeating the instructions found at the Ubuntu Community Documentation for Easycam, with small notes of my own here and there.
Step One: Adding Easycam Software Sources
Click System>Administration>Software Sources. You’ll get this window when it’s loaded up:
Click on the tab that says Third-Party Software at the top.
Click on the +Add… button at the bottom. You’ll get a pop up box asking you enter an “APT Line”. Paste in the following text:
deb http://blognux.free.fr/ubuntu hardy main
Then click the Add Source button. This will add the above source to the Third Party Software listing and take you back to the above screen. Now click the +Add… button one more time and paste in this APT line:
deb-src http://blognux.free.fr/ubuntu hardy main
And then click Add Source. You’ll see both sources added now. Click the Close button in the bottom-right now, and then click the “Reload” button:
Step Two: Installing Easycam
Click System>Administration>Synaptic Package Manager. Once it’s up, do a search for “easycam”:
Click on the checkbox next to easycam-gtk and click “Mark for Installation”. (If you’re running Kubuntu, check off the easycam-qt for installation instead). Then click the apply button at the top (not shown in screenshot above). Now Easycam is installed and ready to be run.
Step Three: Running Easycam
To run Easycam, you have to open a terminal window by clicking Applications>Accessories>Terminal. This will open a window with a command prompt. You just need to paste in the following text if you’re running Ubuntu:
gksudo 'python /usr/share/EasyCam2/core.py --gtk'
If you’re running Kubuntu, paste this text in instead:
kdesudo 'python /usr/share/EasyCam2/core.py --qt'
After you enter your password, this window will appear:
The model of your webcam should appear in the little box. If it doesn’t… this might not work, but for most of you out there it should appear. Click Foward.
Now click Start The Installation. This will install the drivers you need. You see a bunch of funky stuff going on in the terminal window. You can ignore that. Eventually, the screen will look like this when it’s finished:
The guy who wrote this software is French. I know the progress bar looks kind of screwed up, but if it looks like the above, it’s finished. Click Foward.
If you click the Execute menu at the top and then click Webcam, it will launch the little “photo booth” program called Cheese. This program can be used to take little pictures from your camera or videos. It’s similar to Mac OS’s Photobooth software. Here’s a candid shot of me trying it out:
Now you probably want to do something more with your webcam that just take pictures of yourself, right? I would hope so! Well if I were you, I’d check out Skype if you haven’t already. Skype is a Voice Over IP/Instant Messenger program that you can use to make phone calls from your computer, as well as start audio/video conversations with others who are also using Skype. I recommend it simply because a lot of people use it and it’s free to signup, and Skype-to-Skype calls are also free. There is also a Windows and Mac OS X version available so your non-Ubuntu friends can join the party. You do have to buy minutes if you plan on making land-line/cell phone calls (I pay about $30 a year for unlimited United States phone calls), so it’s not a bad deal. You can download an Ubuntu version of this software by clicking here.
There is one other similar program called Ekiga that you might want to check out. It is similar to Skype and is open-source. Though I’ve never used it before so I can’t say much more about it.
The last type of webcam program I was hoping to find for Ubuntu would be something that can record video based on motion detection (set your cam up to be a security camera). I have seen and tried Windows software that can do this with extra features like alert you via email (and perhaps SMS text messaging) and allow you to view your camera by remote. The closest thing to this that I’ve heard of is a program called geekast, which you can use with a seperate program called peercast to broadcast your webcam on an IP address if you want. But the program is severely underdeveloped (the home page for it was down at the time of this writing). So it looks like the best webcam oriented program you can use right now is Skype, and it’s mighty fine if you ask me (but there is still room for improvement).