Webcams, a lot of work... this [2004-11-09]

creative nx ultraI recently bought a webcam. It was a cheap Philips ToUCam, a real entry level model. This turned out to be a complete waste of money - you could only capture images using the boundled software. The software was extremely limited and of no use at all.
Today I bought a Creative NX Ultra. This is, I guess, a middle range model in the webcam domain. The camera itself is ok, image quality is acceptable and so on. My main problem is with the software. I couldn't even imagine it would be so difficult to perform the most basic webcam tasks: (i) schedule image captures and (ii) transfer the images to a web server.

The second thing that could be improved is the USB cord. I wish it was detachable (from the camera) so I could replace it with a longer one. USB extensions are not so fun to mess with.

Image capture scheduling is a real pain. You can (rather, have to) schedule them using the supplied software but the scheduling is awkward and not easy to get working. The scheduling does not show up as a normal scheduled task in Windows. What I would like to see instead is a command line tool that captures images according to supplied arguments. Then one could schedule the capture task the same way all tasks are scheduled in Windows. Something like this:

twaincam.exe -capture -quality high -folder C:\images -name foo.jpg

I know of TWAINCommander but I won't pay $199 for this.

The Creative developers included in the software a way to transfer images using ftp. ftp? Is anyone using that, still? I cannot even try that since most security-aware departments block incoming ftp. Bad as the ftp solution is, there is no way to name the image file so even if the transfer was working it would be of no use...

So, script writing again... I think I've got the capture thing working at last, so the webcam software now dumps images named like Img-20041109-11898198918.jpg into a specified folder. From that point on a script can rename and transfer the image.

:: capture.bat, rename webcam images + transfer to server
@echo off
:: webcam will dump images here
set from=C:\capture
:: path to our server
set dest=K:\some\where\on\a\server
:: name of image
set name="capture.jpg"

:: Rename the most recent file in directory to another name
:: go to destination directory
pushd %from%
:: find the newest file, should be my latest captured image
for /f %%i in ('dir /a:-d/b/o:d "*" ') do set file=%%i
:: must use "move", as "ren" cannot handle collisions
move /y "%file%" %name%
:: return to original directory

:: Copy image to server
:: c  ignore errors
:: q  quiet
:: y  supress promting to overwrite
:: i  dest is dir
xcopy %from%\%name% %dest% /q /c /y /i

This script is easy to schedule using XP's builtin scheduler. All I need now is to find a way to transfer the file using some better protocol than smb/xcopy.

And here is the webcam. I know, it pointing nowhere useful at the moment.

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