Sunday, August 28, 2005

Connecting with Web Cams

I live more than 1,000 miles away from my parents. That never really posed a problem until I had my son. After that, I was subjected to almost constant guilt trips because my parents couldn't see their first grandson as often as they wanted to. This went on for a while until I finally smartened up. I bought a web cam, enabled voice chat on my Instant Messenger application, and now have daily video chats for my son and parents. Web cams are a great way to stay connected when you are physically separated from your friends and family.

Web cams are not a replacement for digital cameras, of course. Instead, they have their own range of applications that are worth considering. Ask any grandparent out there: Still photos of their grandchildren are nice, but a live video feed from a web cam is far superior for obvious reasons. What grandparent wouldn't delight in seeing how their grand child moves around and goes about his regular daily activities? These are things that a digital camera doesn't give you a proper sense of.

Web cams are so common now that they are relatively inexpensive and very easy to set up. You can get a pretty good web cam with installation software for less than $100. You can also go beyond that price range, of course, if you wanted something that can process more frames per second for a much better and smoother picture. But for all intents and purposes, a $50 web cam works perfectly well for communicating with friends and family.

If you think web cams are difficult to set up, you are definitely have the wrong impression of them. Your brand new web cam will come with a CD-ROM that contains the installation program. You simply load that into your computer's CD/DVD drive, and proceed through the installation wizard. Then, if you want to integrate the web cam with an Instant Messenger program, such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, or AIM, all you have to do is follow the easy instructions that each of those applications contains. I wouldn't describe myself as particularly tech-savvy, and I had my new web cam up and running in less than 30 minutes.

If you enable the voice chat function of your messenger program, you can even deliver audio with your video feed. This means having a web cam and a microphone could realistically save you lots of money on long-distance phone calls. Sure, the connections aren't the greatest all the time, and you would be subject to the hiccups that normally accompany Internet use. But overall, you would be able to have decent chats with your friends and family without paying anything over and above the cost of your monthly Internet service fee. That's yet another fantastic reason to get yourself set up with a web cam right now.

Technology is advancing at incredible rates these days. There's no reason to rely on old-fashioned communication methods anymore. "Calling" grandma and grandpa has gotten a lot more sophisticated!

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