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Camera obscure March 14, 2008

Posted by reverseengineer in Hardware, Video, Xandros.
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The EeePC’s webcam seems to be a big deal with a lot of folk. It certainly gives the Eeep more pogi points with the general computing populace and adds a bit more value for the money. Now the fact that the EeePC 900 will have a 1.3 megapixel camera as opposed to the 300k one the 701s and below are outfitted with seems like a big selling point for the newer model.

I’ve never been a big fan of the webcam. Oh, sure, in the old days I thought it was the bomb. I even bought a separate, expensive Kodak USB camera back in the day so I could videochat and live the Dick Tracy life I’ve been looking forward to since I was a kid. The hype never lived up to the promise though: a dark, jerky little postage stamp with major lag, if it worked at all. Lots of wishful thinking. Better these days for sure; given the right conditions the vid hardly stutters, but it’s still not quite what I’ve imagined. Dick Tracy’s video wristwatch is still scfi vaporware as far as I can tell.

When the portable Macs started coming out with built-in iSights, I wasn’t too excited. It was a hoot to vid-chat, and if I was living abroad and wanted to see my family back here every day, I guess I’d be more enthusiastic about them. But I’m of the school that prefers to communicate face-to-face if I have to, but not force the issue if the person isn’t really there. Call me anti-social, but even old-fashioned chatting is a chore for me too. All that typing, when as a writer typing is all I do the whole damn day. Same goes for texting. I get so impatient I prefer to just call.

That said, here are my two cents about the EeePC’s 0.3 megapixel webcam. It’s not great, but it’s not too terrible either. About par for the course, the kind of webcam you’d expect to get with a bare and basic lappie like the Eeep – dark and pixellated, but workable. While it does 30 fps with proper lighting, it drops to 7.5 frames per second in a dim room. Then again, what can one reasonably expect from a 300k webcam, anyway?

For all the workable software they included where the cam is anywhere useful (almost nothing), it seems that Asus added it to the mix because they felt they had to; aside from that I guess they felt it added value for next to nothing. In a purely PR, way they were right.

What gets me when using it with Xandros is that it takes some amount of prep just to get it running in the first place – and then the default Skype included with the distro doesn’t even work with the webcam – you’ll have to downgrade to an older beta, and then manually turn on the webcam by performing some patented sudo moves in Console mode (or you could automate the thing if you know the spells) everytime you needed it for Skyping. (Although I haven’t tested the official Linux Skype 2.0 – just out of beta today, incidentally – for Xandros yet.) And let’s not get started on Yahoo Messenger.

When the EeePC 900 comes out with the additional megapixel, I guess most of the objections as far as clarity and resolution become moot and academic; let’s just hope it’s really more useful and usable. Apart from the bigger screen, trackpad and SSD, it’s a nice frill …but still just a frill. I hope they didn’t abandon plans of an even bigger screen just so they could keep the cam in.

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Comments»

1. Hannah Grace - March 16, 2008

thanks 4 da review. i think i can wait for the 900 : )

2. punsai - March 28, 2008

that’s weird. the first time i used the skype that’s already in the eeepc, i was able to use the webcam just fine. i’m pretty sure i didn’t do any prepping of sorts before it ran because i don’t know how to do those things. (???)


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