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Gazette Archive ShopCam Info

ShopCam Info

Tuesday thru Thursday
From the beginning, I wanted to get good pictures of this project for the Gazette. What I didn't want was interrupting the ebb and flow of building furniture. Stopping to compose each photo would not only break my train of thought, it would also push back the completion date at least a week. Mr. D is a great guy but I wasn't even going to ask.

This led me to the webcam software which instructs the computer to automatically take a picture at set intervals. As an amateur woodworker, Mr. D expressed an interest in following the progress of his job, and the webcam software seemed a good option for automatically grabbing and uploading the images to a webpage. After downloading a couple trial packages, I decided on the $20 Mac shareware program called Oculus. It's fairly feature packed and easy to learn.

Friday, October 20th
After letting a few folks know where to find them, all day long the computer captured the images and FTPed them to the webserver. It also recorded each image to a folder on my hard drive. All I had to do was move the camera around - a process which probably only added ten extra minutes to the day.

The only person who actually received my notice and watched the show was my better half. Feedback from her indicated the process needed much improvement. Many of the pictures were too dark or the camera was too far away to see what was happening. There were many images which were just plain boring and I suspect she didn't get much work done either.

Another problem was the sheer number of images I needed to sort through at the end of the day. There were 93 of them and opening and viewing each one was a real pain. Fortunately, I found a great little utility called Graphic Converter which lets me quickly view and process the whole batch. In fact, this program worked so well, I decided to grab the images at shorter intervals; maybe every minute or thirty seconds. This should help squash the "boring" factor. And then again, maybe not...;)

Saturday, October 21st
I didn't put it online today; just saving the images on the hard drive. The images are still too dark so I guess some more light is called for. One thing I did improve is the quality of the content. By changing the software to take a picture every two minutes, instead of every five minutes, I have a much better selection for the hilite reel without stopping to "take a picture".

I'm not too sure if I'm going to put the ShopCam back online. I figure it's mostly a novelty attraction instead of a learning tool. Until I can get the kind of bandwidth needed for real-time streaming, I don't see it's value. I'm also worried about some folks (SWMBO in particular) spending all day watching me and not handling their own responsibilities.

For the next few days I have to go back onsite to finish a job already in progress. I'm hoping to be back in the shop by Thursday or Friday. If you promise not to spend all day online watching me work, send me an email and I'll send you the link. Stay tuned!

Jim Mattson

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