Last year in January I randomly declared 2006 the year of Video Chat. Skype so totally nailed audio chat that I just assumed video was next. Here we are, over 18 months later and as far as I'm concerned it's still not working well.
As far as I can tell, the problem is three things:
- add-on (crap)-warelets
Probably in that order.
I went to Office Despot and picked up a Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 for the wife's machine since I had an NX-6000 before.
Side note: If you seriously hunt around Office Depot you can find some sweet deals. The cam was marked $59.99, but rung up as $39.99 and also had a $10 rebate. Half price baby baby!
The software that comes with these cameras is
egregiously bad pretty rough. When I picked up my NX-6000, the LifeCam software was 1.0 or 1.1 and worked fine. It was simple. I ask little of my video camera.
There's a Windows Service called MSCAMSVC (Waaa? A Windows Service installed for a Web Camera? That is an odd architectural choice, IMHO. Some kind of strange singleton decision made there, it would seem.) and when the camera is accessed another process called "lifetray.exe" pops up. Unfortunately it also often pops up with this C++ Assertion on Line 864 of NX6000CameraImpl.cpp. When I try to uninstall it I'm told it's from an "Unknown Publisher." Hm. That's odd.
Cutesy Webcam Applets
Now the software is on LifeCam 1.3 and I upgraded. (No, not my Vista 64 machine, a random 32-bit laptop.) The software has all sorts of questionable options like overlaid pictures of swimming fish. Webcam Program Managers - Is that really something that the public wants? I just want it to appear in the list of cameras when I launch Skype or Live Messenger. That's all.
Where's the Drivers Only installation option? Is there someway I can get this camera to work without installing the cartoon characters and Out of Process COM Servers?
(I wonder if I'll be able to look at line 864 when I work for Microsoft?)
Often I get all black, or all white or all gray video being captured from this camera. I don't know if the program is Skype or the camera or drivers or a little bit of all of them.
I haven't any experience with any Logitech Cameras after the original QuickCam, but I may have to talk this NX-6000 back to the store and get a Logitech. Any recommendations?
At any rate, I plugged and unplugged and plugged and unplugged and eventually got it to work (see picture above).
For the life of me, I can't get Windows Live Call (I think that's the name for a video/audio/chat session in Messenger. It's unclear how that's different from "send a webcam.") to work over any reasonable firewall. However, I can get Skype to work pretty well, but the resolution and frame-rate is blocky at best. (Again, see the full screen chat above.)
Skype is the closest I've seen on Windows to getting Video Chat right. However, both Live Messenger and Skype seem to be limited to 640x480 at low framerate, possible due to the codecs but more likely do to the NAT and/or relaying of traffic at low bit rates.
If someone gets this right on Windows, it'll be very cool. Then I can build ScottAnywhere.
Just for fun, go Google for "Full Screen Video Chat made easy." I just did in desperation. ;)