USB Cameras, Sensr.net, and Fwink
Sensr.net is designed to work with IP cameras, but it’s also possible to set up a USB or built-in camera on the site. These don’t generally have FTP capabilities though, so you need some software, such as Fwink, to upload images from your webcam. (Check out Cowboy Frank’s Webcam Software page for a good list of options.) For those of you not familiar with Fwink, here is a quote from their website:
“Fwink is a free and open source webcam application for Windows. It takes still images from your camera at timed intervals and puts them on your web site with FTP.”
This is not the Photoshop of the webcam software world. It doesn’t have many bells and whistles. It does, however, upload images from your webcam using FTP, and it’s free. The whole thing can be downloaded and installed in under a minute, has a very simple user interface, and limited memory usage.
Setting up Fwink
The first time you run it, Fwink will show you the Settings window, open, conveniently, to the “File Transfer” tab:
Now, go to the “Add a camera” page of Sensr.net, which will give you all the information you need. Enter the server, username and password given to you, then choose how often you want Fwink to take a picture. 1/sec is recommended when using Sensr.net, but Fwink has trouble keeping up with this pace and may not work. If this is the case, you may want to lower the rate until you see your images being uploaded. Make sure to check the box labeled “Passive mode,” as Sensr.net only supports passive FTP.
Fwink will automatically detect your default webcam and use that, but you can easily change both the webcam you’re using and quality of the images you’re uploading in the “Video Capture” tab of the Settings window:
Fwink offers a few more features, such as the possibility to overlay an picture or text to your images, but you’re better off ignoring these when using Sensr.net, as they’ll just make it more difficult to see exactly what’s going on.
Fwink will start doing its job once you’ve closed the Settings, and the basic window will pop up, which shows you the feed from your webcam and the status (ready/uploading/uploaded) of your images:
Check that Fwink is uploading your images, then wait to see if they appear on Sensr.net. They should show up on the right side of the “Add a Camera” page, which will look like this until Sensr.net recieves an image from your camera:
Once your image is uploaded, it will appear in this box. This may take a little time. If after several minutes the box remains gray, check to see that you entered the correct FTP information. Otherwise, you’re done.
You can close the main window (don’t use the Exit button, as it will quit Fwink) and Fwink will happily run in the background, uploading your images and using minimal memory (generally, 10-11 Mb) until you shut it off. You can open this window again by clicking on the Fwink icon in the notification area, at the bottom right of your screen.
Why use Fwink?
Well, it saves you the trouble of purchasing and setting up and expensive IP camera, especially when the expense simply isn’t warranted. And it’s free.
You can install it on your laptop and use the built-in webcam for a variety of uses; for example, if you’re on a business trip and want to monitor your hotel room, or just to keep an eye on your office while you’re out getting a bagel.
Or, if you’re one of those people who keeps a little server running in the back room–or if you just never turn off your computer–you can simply attach a little wired webcam to your machine and point it at a hallway, without spending the extra money for an IP camera.
Whatever your use for it, Fwink is free, open source, and it gets the job done.