Webcam FAQ




Q:  Do webcams need power?

A: Almost all webcams these days are USB.  They plug into your computer’s USB port and do not require power.

Q:  Do they need special software?

A: Yes and No.  They do need drivers in order for your computer to use them, just like anything else.  A webcam will come with these free drivers on a CD.  Once installed, no special software is required.  If you buy a webcam without a CD or driver disk, the drivers can almost always be found online for free. Newer versions of Windows may have drivers built in.

Q:  What do you mean “Special webcam programs?”

A:  Included with the webcam you buy, you usually get the drivers to install the webcam.  This will let you use the webcam with instant messenger programs like Skype, AOL’s AIM, or Microsoft’s Instant Messenger or Yahoo webcam Chat.

However, if you want to run your webcam all the time like I do, and have it available on a web page for anyone to view, you need webcam software separate from the free stuff that comes with your webcam.

There are lots of free and commercial programs that turn your webcam into a web page server.  Some upload still images at intervals like every minute, and some stream live all the time like mine do.

I use WebcamXP and it is by far the best I have found anywhere.

Q: How can I tell which are which?

A: All webcams have the capability to stream LIVE from instant message programs or chat programs.  They can stream or upload images.  This is a capability of the software, not the webcam.

Q:  Do webcams transmit sound?

A:  Some webcams have built in microphones and others do not.  Usually the packaging with specify “built in Microphone” or similar wording.  If your webcam does not have a microphone, you can still webcam chat with audio using a regular microphone or headset on your computer.  In fact, buying a headset is usually a better way to chat anyway, as the quality is better than most built-in microphones.

Q:  What makes a webcam worth $40 or $90 instead of $9.95

A:  That is a hard question to answer, because I have bought many webcams under $10 before, and several $19.95 webcams that I have been very happy with.  More costly “brand name” webcams will often react more quickly, especially when the light changes, but in my opinion, you should start with a cheap webcam and see if you like it before spending for a brand name that costs over $30.  They are usually not significantly better.

Some cheap webcams are very poor in low light situations like bedrooms, but not all.

Q:  Where can you find webcams for less than $20?

A:  I live in a big city where there are discount computer stores.  The kind of places that sell old models or refurbished returns or discontinued products at great savings.  Not everyone will live in such a great place for cheap computer equipment.  Check your newspaper for ads from SURPLUS or FACTORY WAREHOUSE stores.

Also, EBAY is a fantastic place to find webcams under $10, both new and used.  If you still can’t find any, let me know and I’ll buy some and start selling them online here.

Q:  Can I have two webcams on my computer?  Or more?

A:  Yes and No.  I have 10 webcams on one of my computers, but it doesn’t do much else.  Webcams slow the computer down a lot, and so running more than one slows it down even more.

The main problem with multiple webcams is drivers.  So far, I have not seen any company support multiple webcams from the same manufacturer, so you need to make sure every webcam is a different brand and uses different drivers.  This is not always easy to spot, because several cheap webcams may look different, but in fact, use the same drivers.  You don’t seem to be able to use two or more webcams unless they are really very different.

Q: How do you turn on the lights in your office?

A:  The lights and other items in my room are all plugged into special plugs made by the X10 company.  They have remote control switches that I can turn on and off from a held wireless remote switch, or from the computer using an X10 product called the X10 Firecracker.

We added the power of the Internet to turn these lamps and fans on and off from the web page using a program called The FIRECRACKER FUSE.  It’s currently in Beta, but if you have X10 devices and an X10 firecracker, ask me about being a Beta Tester.

Q: How do I tell people about my webcam?

A: Sadly, the webcam world is split into two worlds.  “Dirty and Clean”

When you use any search engine to find webcam sites, all you can ever find are the “sexy” chat rooms and webcam girls who make money chatting.  It’s really hard to find polite webcam sites that don’t just charge for visual phone sex. 

One of my favourite non-sex web site for webcam users around the world is

Q: Can anybody view my webcam if I don’t know?

A: Maybe.  I have heard there are viruses and spyware and evil programs that can use FLASH and other evil technologies to turn your webcam on when you’re not aware.  They may not be very common, but the possibility is there.

If this is something you’re afraid of, you can always unplug the webcams, or keep a towel over your webcam when you don’t want to be seen.

Q: Do webcams work with Dial Up Internet.

A: Yes.  They work exactly the same, just slower.  You won’t be able to see full fast motion very well, but they will still display pictures.

Q: Can you use webcams for movies?

A:  Yes.  Although most people think of using them to chat with friends (or strangers), every webcam can also be used to record movie files directly to your computer.  Web sites like YOUTUBE are now showcasing people like you talking into their webcams and filming music videos or stories or crazy stunts.  Usually this software to record is included with the webcam, however I find using Microsoft Movie Maker with a webcam also works great.

Many webcams also have a STILL PHOTO button so that you can use it to take still photos, although the resolution of webcams is usually quite low.  Even if your webcam doesn’t have a still image button, you can still use it to take pictures using MovieMaker or the included webcam software.

Q: How do you like being watched?

A: This may be my most frequently asked question.  People can’t understand why a sane person would want to have webcams watching them all day, every day.  I currently live and work in a single room and so I am often here for hours and hours working, or relaxing.  You can watch me and see me pick my nose, or change my clothes.  You can see when I eat, and what I eat.  That just seems weird to people.  To me, it’s normal.  I’ve had a webcam since they were only available in black and white almost 10 years ago.  It allows me to meet all sorts of new friends and people who chat me and ask questions like these,

I know it’s not for everybody, but I know I miss them when they’re off.  Turn on a light and I’ll wave.

Q: What about Apple MAC webcams?

A:  I am not an expert on the Macintosh system, so I can not answer questions regarding webcams on the MAC. 

Q: What if I have a different question? 

A:  I like questions.  Ask me anything, including personal questions if you want.  I always try to answer honestly or I delete and ignore you.


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