After getting my new “old” monitor I am now running my ThinkPad with the lid closed off its docking station, much to the dismay of my grandad who cannot “see” me now. I then went to get the cheapest webcam that I could find which would be Linux-compatible (and stress-free).
The Jazooli had reviews on Amazon with people successfully running it on Ubuntu with apparently no big dramas, plus it was only £1.99 (+£1.99 P&P 🙂 ), so I went for it. It features not just the camera itself, but a built-in microphone (great since the inbuilt mic of my laptop is on the screen bezel and, as mentioned, the lid is closed..) and 6 LEDs whose brightness you can control through a little knob – for those occasions where you are working in semi-darkness and can’t be bothered to turn a light on if someone calls you on Skype!
It arrived relatively quickly (although I feel that things off eBay with free delivery tend to arrive sooner than the ones from Amazon, even the ones specifically fulfilled by them!), and I immediately set it up on top of my monitor (it has a hook in its base which secures the camera in place, quite a clever design, and it can also be used with a laptop screen!). Plugged it and fired up Cheese to test it – perfect, although its claims of 16 MP are grossly exaggerated – this is a VGA (300k-pixels) sensor, and it can only do VGA at 15 fps anyway, which caused some issues with Cheese. Lowering it to 320×240 seemed to do the trick.
I started having trouble when I fired up Skype and started a video call to test it – Skype was pulling the default configuration and assuming the maximum resolution of the camera, which obviously wasn’t going to happen, and as expected the video feed froze and crashed.
After editing the Skype configuration for my Skype name (under ~/Skype/yourskypename/config.xml ) and adding the following tags to the file,
<Video> <CaptureHeight>240</CaptureHeight> <CaptureWidth>320</CaptureWidth> <Device>/dev/video1</Device> <Fps>25</Fps> </Video>
I fired up Skype again and hoped for the best. Nope, it was still happily pushing the video feed at full resolution and obviously crashing. Moreover, with Google Hangouts I had exactly the same issue, which led me to think that maybe this was something transversal to all of these programs (but Cheese). After doing a bit of research and installing some Video4Linux configuration/testing software, I did what normally solves 99% of the problems I have when running a 64-bit Linux system – symlink libraries, in this case v4l1compat.so, which existed under /usr/lib/libv4l but not under /usr/lib64/libv4l.
And that seemed to do the trick – both Skype and Hangouts now work perfectly with no frozen video. And to top it off, this camera behaves much better than the ThinkPad’s integrated one, both in terms of white balance (I no longer look like I have liver disease, the other camera made me look so yellow!) and low-light performance (the camera would just shut itself off if the light level was below a certain threshold!).
It gave me some trouble in the end, but nothing major (and probably related from running a 64-bit version of Fedora… 😛 ). For 2 quid it is a good buy indeed – obviously not HD, but my family is not complaining… 🙂