I spy with my little iSight

by Jason Deraleau

Related link: http://www.apple.com/isight

Unless you're a Yahoo! chatter or involved in some of the shadier corners of the web, you've probably not had the chance to use a webcam. While plenty of webcams are available on the market as well as plenty of cam software, the technology never seemed to really take off. People have found the technology too difficult for what it's worth. First there's choosing the right cam, which can be hard with the large variety. Then, you have to take the cam home and struggle with installing the various drivers, applications, and other goodies that come with the cam.

Then, you have to find someone to talk to. Someone who also has a cam _and_ the same cam software you do. Sure most Windows machines ship with Netmeeting these days, but Netmeeting is hardly an easy application to use for the novice. It's difficult to get connected to other users with most cam software.

It's no secret that until recently, there wasn't much webcam support for the Mac. Sure the cams come in FireWire and USB, both standards present on the Mac, but there's been a definite lack of drivers. Previously, I was using the macam driver for my Logitech QuickCam. The other two webcams I own (a Creative Webcam2Go and some generic one) wouldn't work at all. Unfortunate, because their resolutions are higher.

For webcam software, we had Yahoo! Messenger for communication... and that's really about it. Sure you could use something like EvoCam to take pictures of yourself and post them somewhere, but it's not the same as having a real one on one conversation. Speaking of conversation, all the "talking" had to occur through IMs. Yahoo! Messenger can't do voice/video chat. Some of the pieces of the puzzle were there, but you had to cram them together awkwardly and hope it came out properly.

Enter the iSight. I bought an iSight this past Friday night and I can't stress enough the greatness of this product. The image quality is crystal clear, due to the help of an auto-focusing lense that has a wider viewing angle than most other webcams. The new version of iChat has video and voice conferencing built in, and it's as easy to use as sending a text message. It's no wonder Steve Jobs is stressing that this is video conferencing for "the rest of us." I don't know who the other people are, but they should join the rest of us too. This is the easiest method of video conferencing I've seen yet. Mount the iSight on your Mac, plug it into your FireWire port and start chatting. There are no drivers to install. No hassle of finding a piece of software to communicate. All of your buddies that have a Mac and the new iChat beta can have voice and video chats with you with the click of a button.

However, like most things, there are some drawbacks. Right now, the person you're trying to talk to needs to have iChat. The AOL AIM clients don't yet support the same voice/video conferencing standards that iChat does. There's something for you: standards. iChatAV uses: SIP, RTP, and Quicktime to deliver voice using QCELP and video via the H.263 codec. Now if we could get MSN and Yahoo! and all of the other networks to use these same protocols, we'd all be able to video chat regardless of our software and hardware soon.

I think that's a hollow hope, however. There is a good chance that AOL will adopt these standards, but I don't foresee Yahoo! or MSN doing it. These days, IM providers are extremely protective of their protocols. It's a shame they can't work together and create a single IM standard that would work with all networks instead of each inventing their own wheel. And realistically, what's the harm done? SMTP is a standardized protocol for email. There are tons and tons of email clients out there, each with different features and users. If there were a standard IM protocol, I can see the same thing happening. People would gravitate toward the client that they prefer. The fact that a whole crop of apps have been developed for people who use multiple IM services is a true testament to the confusion of the instant messaging landscape.

Can't we all just get along?

What do you think of the iSight and iChatAV?


2003-07-03 14:15:41
Check out SquidCam at http://www.squidsoft.com/squidcam/. It's a commercial product (i.e. not freeware), but they have a windows client as well as an OS X client, and it supports group video and audio chat, which iChat doesn't. Plus, it works great with an iSight. iChat's overall quality and interface is better and much cleaner in a way, but the multiperson video chat and crossplatform features are appealing.

Darian J. DeFalco

2003-07-04 00:40:09
What about Jabber?
Why not deploy Jabber servers in connection with the standard protocols (SIP, RTP, etc.) that Apple uses to implement iSight video conferenceing features with iChat cross platform? Who needs global IM monopolists such as Microsoft and AOL when there's Jabber?
2003-07-04 02:46:09
What about Jabber?
what about it?
2003-07-04 08:14:13
IM services need more foresight
Where would the mobile telecoms market be if your Nokia phone could only call other Nokia phones ? Or only phones on the same network as you ? The very fact that the phone manufacturers and networks agreed a common standard has been one of the driving forces behind the fantastic growth of mobile telecoms.

I think IM chat could be as big - if and only if they current providers get together and agree a standard and agree to inter-operate.

2003-07-05 06:15:55
Check out iVisit also
iVisit is like Squidcam except it's freeware and has both mac and PC versions. go to www.ivisit.com to get the app.
2003-07-06 16:40:29
Will it work on G3's
What I want to know is, if this thing doesn't work at all on G3's as has since been discovered, WHY is it still advertised with the following specifications..

Requires iChat AV Software (not included), Mac OS X v.10.2.5 or later, >>>>> 600MHz G3 processor or higher <<<<<, Broadband Internet connection.

2003-07-07 05:54:45
Will it work on G3's
DV cameras (i.e., a DV camcorder) aren't supported with iChat on a G3, but I have heard from several folks who can use an iSight just fine on a faster G3.
2003-07-11 14:26:06
Check out iVisit also
2004-01-18 19:13:31
iSight Driver & iChat on Below Apple Threshold Machines
Hello Everyone:

So, for a few days I could not get the iSight to work again on my 400MHz B&W G3. I was baffled for days. Anyway, here is a simple solution I came up with.

With the machine "Cold". Make sure the iSight is disconnected.

Push the Power Button and wait about 10-15 seconds until you hear the OS begin to load. Once you hear it beginning to load, connect the iSight to the FireWire port on your machine.

The Green light on your camera should come on, and then go off.

Once your machine is UP, simply launch iChat.

When you RESTART your box, you should not have to disconnect your camera, but if you SHUTDOWN the machine, you will have to disconnect & reconnect the iSight to get it to work on machines below Apples 700MHz threshold.

My Machine Specs:
400MHz Blue & White G3
RAM 448mb
OS 10.3.2

2004-02-08 11:35:03
What about Jabber?
With Jabber security, iSight would be a tremendous tool for collaboration