When I was purchasing my home laptop, I chose a Dell. One of the reasons that I liked the Dell store was the way that I could choose a system and then tweak the requirements as needs be.
As I was running through the options, things like processor, memory and disc size, I remember deliberately choosing not to have a webcam at all.
The reasoning was simple. I was planning to use Linux at least part time on this new computer, and add-ons like webcams were, I thought, difficult to use, or poorly supported. If I didn’t bother having them then I wouldn’t need to fiddle to get them working.
Now, spool forward three or four years. My daughter got a book for Christmas which boasts ‘Augmented Reality’, requiring a simple program install and a webcam. So I borrowed a webcam from work (we have it for those occasions when interviewers want to Skype) and took it home.
Obviously the ‘AR’ software only runs on Windows or Mac, so we booted the laptop into Windows, plugged in the webcam and waited while Windows did its thing.
It is worth noting that Windows 7 does an excellent job of detecting the device and installing the drivers, but it took an inordinately long time to do so (more than 5 minutes, less than 10). But once it was done, it worked very well.
When I got to work this morning I decided to try an experiment by plugging the webcam into my desktop machine running Linux (its a Mac, but it dual boots into Linux because, well, I like it like that!).
I plugged it in, then started up ‘Cheese’, the webcam program where you can add weird and wonderful effects to you images. I then selected ‘Preferences’ and was able to switch between the computers built-in webcam and the USB webcam straight away (with no apparent drivers required).
Now I have a horrible feeling I will need to buy a webcam for home…