D-Cam

Jacqueline Chados (jackie@sri.webmate.com)
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 19:46:17 -0400 (EDT)


Well, my D-Cam came yesterday! Since the company isn't located that far
from me, I was hoping to get it Friday, but they told me they are having
trouble keeping it in stock and they had to have mine shipped from a
regional warehouse.

It is a nice looking unit. I definitely like the focusing wheel better
than the arrangement on the Connectix camera.

I downloaded the free CU-SeeMe off of the net and also downloaded cudoodle
out of curiosity. I plugged everything in, and installed the drivers from
the installation disk. The software that comes with the camera for image
capture and avi file creation looks pretty good. I only spent about an
hour with it. Long enough to see that it works and that it does just about
everything I will want from it. It does a pretty decent job capturing
color images all the way up to 640 X 480.

I was pleasantly surprised by the manual and software. Since the unit
comes from Singapore, I was afraid that the software would be scabbed
together and the manual would be in some unintelligible variant of
English. Fortunately, the software is quite good, and the manual is
just fine. The only bit of confusion is that there was an extra software
disk in the box. It looks like they the added a disk with the latest
software release to the package without bothering to remove the earlier
release. No harm done, but a note in the box would have avoided the
potential for confusion.

The installation disk installs an msvideo software driver and modifies the
system.ini to reflect the addition. After I ran the installation and
played with the dedicated camera software for awhile, I fired up CU-SeeMe.
It worked! I could connect to some of the reflectors that I have IP
addresses for. However, I could not connect to the Cornell reflector and
several other reflectors. I keep getting that gethostbyname() error even
though I followed the directions in the Cornell FAQ and added my IP
address and a made-up name to my hosts file. I verified that the hosts
file is in the DOS path. The hosts file works for other programs. For
example, I added an IP address and alias for a site I frequently telnet
to. I could reach that site by telnetting to the alias, so telnet was able
to access the hosts file. Either I'm missing something obvious, or the FAQ
does not tell the whole story.

IF ANYONE CAN OFFER SOME SUGGESTIONS BEYOND WHAT IS IN THE FAQ ON
HOW TO SOLVE THE GETHOSTBYNAME() ERROR, I WOULD BE VERY APPRECIATIVE.

In any case, the D-CAM worked just fine on my first try with CU-SeeMe. I
had to choose "invert color palette" from the set-up options. I could
access the camera's settings from the File menu. Interestingly, the camera
would slow down while the set-up screens were running, and speed up again
after I made the changes and closed the screens. I configured cu-seeme for
my audio card, but I didn't hear any audio the whole time I was connected
to reflectors. When I connected to my own IP address I could see my own
image and hear my own audio, even while my video was updating at the 2 fps
rate. It was slightly noisy from small breaks, but not bad at all. When I
froze my video, the audio didn't break up at all. So I don't know why I
wasn't hearing any reflector audio.

I am running a 486-DX33 with 20 Mbyte of memory and an ancient (slow and
uni-directional) parallel port. I have Win 3.1 and a 14.4 modem. Running
locally without an active reflector connection, I was seeing 2 frames /
sec (+). Running through a reflector, transmission rates would bounce
around at 1 and 2 fps.

Out of curiosity, I installed the cu-doodle software, launched the D-cam's
native software, and plucked the video image onto the cu-doodle area. To
make cu-doodle work, I had to manually edit the system.ini file to make
the cu-doodle driver the msvideo driver. But, at least I didn't have to
restart windows after editing the system.ini. Restarting cu-seeme was
enough. Also, I had to change the "invert palette" back to normal palette
for cu-doodle.

Running cu-doodle alone without any camera software running, cu-seeme
bounced along at around 5 fps when I was not connected to a reflector.
When I launched the D-cam software, things slowed to 2 fps. Connecting to
a reflector did not change that speed much. I don't know why I would want
or need to run in cudoodle mode unless I wanted the ability to put out
non-camera images along with the camera images. In any case the C-Cam
worked about equally well either by itself, or via cu-doodle.

So all in all, I'm very pleased with this camera. I really don't know if
my frame rates are decent or not for my hardware platform, but I am
pretty sure that the limiting step is my old, slow, parallel port. By the
way, my printer DOES continue to work normally with the D-Cam connected.
And it looks like the camera will be a decent stand-in for a scanner for
digitizing color photos and things like that.

The only thing that took a bit getting used to is that the D-Cam isn't as
sensitive to lower light levels as a typical video cam-corder. I like to
keep my work area lighting on the lower side, but I had to turn on more
light than that to use the D-Cam in the evening. Also, the color images
are noticably better when more light is available. I'm curious how this
compares to the Connectix camera. I do remember that the Connectix people
had their demonstration area lit so brightly that I found it
uncomfortable. The D-Cam doesn't need nearly that much light.

My plan is to play with this set-up until I understand cu-seeme better.
Then I will give the White Pine software a trial run in color.

So, again, can anyone help me figure out:

1. How to fix the gethostbyname() problem. The FAQ simply wasn't any help.

2. Is it normal that I'm not hearing any audio on the reflectors?

Regards,
Jackie