If you're looking to spend some cash, you can get a "network camera" that has Webcam software and a Web server built right in. A camera like this doesn't need a PC -- all it needs is an Internet connection. If you have an Ethernet network in your house, you can find a camera that will fit into your network seamlessly.
One problem with using a camera hooked to a computer via a USB cable is the limited cable length. What if the room you want to capture is at the other end of the house, or outside? In that case, you need to purchase a camera with external connections. You have a few options:
- You can place a standard camera anywhere in the house and run a video cable with RCA jacks on it from the camera to the computer. There are all sorts of places on the Web that sell small pinhole video cameras, either on their own or embedded in things like clocks and smoke detectors. You can find small security cameras for less than $100. (Click here to use the HowStuffWorks search engine to search for security cameras.)
- You can avoid the cable by using a radio link (X10: XRay Vision is one example of this type of product), an Ethernet connection or a WiFi setup. If you already have a home network, connecting an external Webcam to your computer probably won't require any additional networking.
Monitoring your home and sharing images via the Web are only a couple of the things you can do with your Webcam. There are any number of ways to make use of a camera that's connected to your computer. You can get software that will let you make video phone calls with a friend who also has a Webcam. You can hold a video-conferencing session with business associates on the other side of the world. You can conduct a video interview and broadcast it live on your blog. Some Webcam software will even deliver images directly to your Web-enabled PDA or smartphone. Other products let you connect your camcorder to your Webcam setup so you can let everybody watch your vacation footage via the Internet. The possibilities are endless.
To learn more about Webcams and related topics, check out the links on the next page.