BOOT CAMP 136
SETTING UP A WEB CAM, PART 2
If you like the idea of being able to see and speak to
friends or relatives thousands of miles away for the cost of a local call, or
free (depending how your telephone/Internet billing works), then hopefully you
read and digested last week’s Boot Camp, which introduced the concept of the
Internet videophone, cheap web cams and the latest free software, which has made
the whole business relatively painless.
We ended last week by downloading NetMeeting 3.01 from the
Microsoft web site. That’s something that’s worth doing, even if you haven’t got
a web cam. NetMeeting is a sophisticated Internet communications tool, capable
of sending and receiving two-way audio, email, real-time text (chat), whiteboard
(drawings and sketches) and exchanging files with other net users. However, it’s
the videophone bit we’re most interested in and one of the first jobs is to
configure NetMeeting with an Internet Locator Server.
An ILS is basically a web site that ‘hosts’ NetMeeting calls,
the idea is that you and the person you want to connect to both log onto the ILS
site at the same time and establish a private two-way link. There are scores of
ILS sites some devoted to special interest subjects, others are defined by
nationality or language, however most are for general chit-chat. None of this is
particularly important if you only want to make contact with one specific
person, however what does matter is how busy the site is as this will in part
determine how easy it is to get connected, and how well the link operates, so
for basic video phone usage quiet and little used sites are obviously better
than popular ones.
By default NetMeeting is configured to go to the Microsoft
ILS sites but these are being phased out and have become very unreliable lately,
so start by using your Internet browser to go to one of the ILS search sites
listed under Contacts. You are looking for an ILS that is reasonably local, or
at least in the same country as you or the person you are hoping to link up
with. Preferably it should operate in your native language, note any warnings
about how busy the ILS gets and shortlist sites that are devoted to a subject
that you or your contact are interested in. Jot down a couple of likely-looking
site addresses, you’ll see that they’re not like ordinary web site addresses and
usually looks something like: ils.computebuffs.co.uk. Now you’re ready to set-up NetMeeting.
When you open NetMeeting for the first time it starts a
set-up Wizard that asks you to enter your details (name, email address etc). The
next page requests the address of your chosen ILS, key it in and click Next.
Don’t worry, if this one doesn’t work out you can easily change it later on.
Continue by filling in the details of your modem or connection; check the web
cam name is correct and run through the audio settings.
NetMeeting should now open and offer to go on-line; at this
stage it’s a good idea to decline and select Work Off-Line. Click on the
triangular ‘Start Video’ icon below the screen and the ‘TV’ screen should
activate, so you can set up your camera and lighting. Adjust your
dress/expression/makeup as necessary because what you see is what will appear on
the other person’s screen. If necessary go back to the camera’s set-up utility
to tweak brightness, contrast and colour etc. If you want to be able to see
yourself when you are in a call go to the View menu and click on My Video (New
Window) and a second floating screen appears which you can position to the side
of the screen.
When you’re happy with everything go to Options on the Tools
menu and select the Video tab and put a check against the top two items
‘Automatically send video…’ and Automatically receive video...’ No it’s time to
go on-line and log onto an ILS, to make sure everything is working. Click on the
Address Book (Find Someone) icon and your dial-up connection dialogue box will
appear, click Connect and after a few moments the Find Someone window should
show a list of all the people who are logged on to the server, including you. If
nothing happens, you can’t get onto the site, or you get error messages log off
and change to another ILS by going to Options on the Tools menu, the ILS address
is listed under Directory Settings are on the General tab.
Essentially that’s all there is to it, your Internet
videophone is now ready to use. If you are feeling bold you can talk with any of
the people logged on to the site by clicking on their name and the Call button,
their PC will ‘ring’ and they will then decide whether or not they want to talk
to you. (If you don’t like the idea of them seeing you right away go back to
Options on the Tools menu and deselect the ‘Automatically Send video…’ item).
However, remember you are effectively ‘cold-calling’ a stranger, so be careful,
and don’t forget that your email address is displayed. Better still, log off and
email a friend or relative, telling them how to set up their web cam, the
all-important ILS address, and the time you will be logged on.
Don’t expect too much first time out, you will probably have
to fine tune some settings and the jerky picture, time delay and occasional
‘echo’s’ on the line take a little getting used to but stick with it, it can be
a lot of fun, seeing friends and distant relatives or maybe even grandchildren
you’ve never seen before.
Next week – TOP TIPS – Part 1
When in a NetMeeting call you can communicate by typing text
into a message window, which appears almost instantly on the recipient’s
A small video camera that plugs into your PC (most budget
models use the universal serial bus – USB – port)
Facility in NetMeeting that opens a blank page that you can
write or sketch on and is immediately seen on your contact’s screen
Following on from out recent Boot Camp on Internet privacy,
several people have written in asking how to delete Internet addresses that
appear to be permanently recorded in the Address window in Internet Explorer 5.
These come from three different places. The first is your list of Favourites,
which you can add to or edit from the drop-down menu. The second group is from
the History file that logs every address you enter and is used with
AutoComplete, to save you having to type in long addresses, if you want to
re-visit a web site. The History file can be cleared from Internet Options on
the Tools menu.
The last group of addresses are hidden away inside the
Windows 98 Registry; so only try this if you are an advanced Windows user. First
make a backup of the Registry – see Boot Camps 214 & 215,
Open the Registry Editor by typing ‘regedit’ in Run on the
Start menu and work through the following keys:
You can delete or modify any of the URLs shown by right
clicking on the address icon. The ‘urls’ are numbered and if you delete one the
following ones will no longer appear in Internet Explorer’s Address window. The
solution is to renumber the urls after the one you deleted so they remain in
sequence, by right-clicking on the icon and choosing ‘rename’.