The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Frustrating Evening of Webcams

My daughter wanted to take a photo of her gingerbread house and attach to a school report.

Normally I would use my cell phone camera. But it was full, and I could not find a mini-USB cable to offload. And I am too cheap to pay for a data plan.

But, hey, there are 3 PCs at my house with (almost-never-used) webcams.
Let's try to use them.

Actually, only 2 types of PCs, since 2 of them are OLPC XOs, almost identical.

We quickly took a photo with the OLPC XO. But I made the mistake of closing the clamshell while walking back to a printer. Photo lost.

Sophie took more photos, and walked back to me un-closed-down. But, 1 hour of poking around on Sugar, and I could not figure out (a) how to save the photos, either to a Linux file or to a flash drive, or (b) print.

Probably I need to upgrade the OLPC XOs' software. But, in case it needs saying, the OLPC XO's Sugar user interface is one of the worst in the world. The OLPC XOs were part of my "year of stupid and useless computer purchases", along with my Toshiba M400 tablet PC, and my AT&T Tilt cell phone. he computers sucked; the cell phone was okay, more useful than the computers, but the screen broke, wasn't covered by insurance or warranty, and I don't want to spend the money to replace it.

OK, how about my wife's HP Pavillion tx1420us? We print from that all the time. We even use the WebCam.

However, the only capture tool I could find was HP Quickplay. This gives every sign of being a lousy vendor provided minimalist multimedia player, to which somebody had the bright idea "Hey! We need to have a way that the customer can test their webcam, without having to pay for any useful software. How about adding video and still capture from the WebCam to Quicplay? After all, it's just media."

I hate software provided by manufacturers like HP, Dell, Toshiba, IBM. I think that I would rather have a totallyt vanilla Microsoft Windows system. The vendor provided software is nearly always junk, like this QuickPlay, yet you are never sure of you should delete it, because it seems to be used, or recommended, by some of the tech support.

Anyway: QuickPlay captured the photos. But, where the hell did it store them? How do I print them? No way that I can tell from inside QuickPlay. Why do these media players have to have completely non-standard user interfaces? Where is the "file" pull-down?

Eventually I use Vista's search. I find the webcam files, in a non-standard place. And I print.

Did I mention that my daughter long since gave up on me,
and went to bed?


I often worry that I have handicapped my daughter by getting her an OLPC XO. It is such a useless box, and the user interface is so non-standard that she doesn't know how to use the Windows PCs at school.