The Sole Proprietor has been testing a Web Cam. It's about 8 inches by 6 inches by 2 inches in size and has a wide angle lens at one end that you can swap out with a standard lens or either of two telephotos. It has a connector for an Ethernet cable, a serial port and a connector for an external power supply and sits on a small metal base. You plug in the power, plug in an Ethernet cable and send it an IP address from your computer.

How do you set it up? You browse it like an internet site. How do you display the output on an HTML page? You enter the camera address and you're up and running. Or you enter a file name and the address to which the camera has been programmed to send its jpeg files and that's it. It will take pictures at any interval you set and ftp that image to your web site. Just like The Sole Proprietor is doing right now. If you don't think the Sole Proprietor thinks this is slick, you don't know the Sole Proprietor.

The company that makes this thing makes a number of similar devices. They are essentially web servers that you control with your browser. In the case of the web camera, you can tell it to take pictures at specific intervals (once per second, once per 5 seconds, once per day, once per anything you want). You can give it an FTP address and tell it to send pictures to that address. And they are good, clear color pictures (jpegs like the one displayed above).

It does other things. It has a serial port so you can attach a modem and have it dial out at specified intervals to send its picture to your computer. Or have it take a picture when someone passes through an infrared beam, or steps on a scale or opens the garage door or breaks through your window then dial your computer and send the results. You can call it to download the picture. There are possibilites here.

What does it cost? Too damned much. About $1,000 when all is said and done (and paid). The company I work for can afford them if they can find something useful in bouncing pictures around the network (sending images to the Sole Proprietor's personal site doesn't seem to count). BaddGrrl has an office cam displaying her work area. BaddGrrl is an attractive, interesting woman but nobody really needs to watch her work for more than about two minutes (alright, maybe three). Photos of the Sole Proprietor would be a big hit if he sent everyone who would watch a lot of money.

Still, this is fun. The Sole Proprietor has to figure out how to make the pictures refresh automatically and, more important, figure out what sort of pictures are worth sending to the web. Broadway between 11th and 12th streets in Oakland? I doubt it. But who knows? We'll see.


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