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The Spacepod Cam

The purpose of the spacepod cam was to send live photos from the road to the internet during our journey to r2k. The spacepod cam also ran during the car show itself. An archive of spacepod cam photos will eventually be available here.

The hardware
  • 3 USB Connectix Quickcam LC's
  • 7 port usb hub
  • DC adapter for hub
  • 2 iBooks with Airport cards
  • 2 DC inverters for iBooks
  • Alien yard gnome
  • Various hardware for mounting cams
  • Motorola Startac dual band wireless phone w/ data cable & car power adapter
  • Keyspan USB adapter for Palm (connected Startac data cable to USB port on iBook)
  • Three socket DC "power strip"
  • USB extension cable (to help budvase cam reach the hub in the back seat)
The software
  • Sitecam web cam software
  • iDo script scheduler
  • Anarchie (FTP) v3.6.2
How it all worked

Two cams were mounted in the alien garden gnome and looked out the rear window. The third cam was mounted in the front bud vase and looked either out the front or back into the car. the lawn gnome The three cams were driven by Christa's blueberry iBook ("Excellent") which rode in the back seat. They were connected to Excellent via the USB hub which was powered from one socket on the 3-socket DC "power strip" (our two wireless phones occupied the other 2 sockets.... no high-powered items, such as the iBooks, could be used with the 3-socked adapter). The iBook was powered via a DC inverter plugged directly into the rear power outlet.

Excellent was running Sitecam (this actually takes the photos at scheduled intervals) and iDo script scheduler. Sitecam was scheduled to take photos once every five minutes from all three cams in rapid succession. The photos were numbered sequentially and stored in folders on Excellent. squishy in the footwell lisa's tangerine iBook ("Squishy") was set up as an Airport Software Base Station. This meant that Squishy's hard drive could be shared to Excellent over Appletalk. Every 30 minutes, the iDo Script Scheduler would run a simple AppleScript (recorded with the Script Editor) which copied 30 minutes' worth of cam photos from Excellent to Squishy.

The StarTac (phone) was connected to Squishy using its data cable and the Keyspan USB adapter plugged into the USB port (see Resources below for specifics). Although I had an Applescript which would ftp the photos up to my server (including dialing in and disconnecting), I decided that the script was not robust enough; if the connection failed, it did not recover well (or at all) and with my primitive Applescript skills I was not able to program around this problem. So I manually connected and ftp'd the files every 30 minutes.

I also did periodic manual adjustments to the cam software to improve picture quality, but by the end of the trip we'd mostly stopped doing this. It probably wasn't entirely necessary; Sitecam will automatically attempt to compensate for changing light conditions. on the road in nashville! On the web server I had a Perl script which ran every 5 minutes to copy the most recently taken photo to the file which actually displayed on our web page. Visitors to the web site would actually see what was happening 30 minutes in the past. This script also created an archive of all the photos, numbered sequentially.

We had a terrific suggestion from Big Al while we were on the road; he asked us to display our current location in the cam photo. So I created a little green index card with the name of the closest city and the little bendy alien sitting on our dash served as a convenient holder for these cards. Low tech and very effective :)


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