An unexpected visitor stopped by the office today; Don Rainwater of Cincinati. He was in town with his wife for a few days and decided to pay us a visit. He likes to track down other Rainwaters when he travels. As it turns out we’re fourth cousins once removed (Susan determined the actual relationship using her genealogy software). Don’s sister, Betty does genealogy research on the Rainwater family and has known Susan through email for some time. Don brought his Polaroid and snapped a couple of pictures of Susan and I while we chatted in the conference room. I didn’t have my camera, but it did occur to me at the last minute that the Linux box running 2.3.99 that I’ve been testing the CPiA USB camera on was in the corner of the conference room happily snapping away every 15 seconds. Normally they aren’t saved, but I managed to grab one and save it.
Not the best photo one could hope for but better than nothing.
The CPiA driver has turned out to be quite stable. I’m going to have to find the time to move the webcam into a more intersting location sometime soon.
I’ve decided the best location is probably the game room, where we can be seen playing Robotron 2084 or some other vintage arcade game from the 80’s (back when they still knew how to make good arcade games instead those games they have now that are mostly just cartoons of people kicking each other in the head).
After 72 hours the USB webcam is still running. No signs of memory leaks or other problems. Looks like the 2.3.99 kernel is begining to be pretty stable. Back around 2.3.62, the USB/CPiA combination would blow up after about 24 hours.
We had a close call with someone trying to crack our machines last night. We get seemingly constant port scans and crack attempts these days anyway. In this case someone had cracked a machine at our upstream ISP with an IP that was specifically allowed to get through our outer security layers. Fortunately they weren’t very good. They spent a couple of hours trying buffer overflow exploits on ftpd on several of our servers and then gave up. Made for a few minutes of excitement this morning though.
The DPRG RoboRama 00.a was held Saturday and, for a change, I made it out there to watch. It was the first time in a while I’ve made it to a contest. I took a few photos for those who missed it. If you’re in the Dallas area and would like to come to the next contest or a regular meeting, check the calendar for time and locations.
I got a chance to download and compile the Linux 2.3.99-Pre5 kernel yesterday. If you’ve followed my news page for long, you’ll remember I’ve been playing with the Linux USB support for my CPiA-based Zoomcam camera. It’s been several revs since I last had things running and it took a few compiles as well an email or two exchanged with the CPiA driver authors to get things working again. The USB CPiA driver has been merged with the existing Parallel Port CPiA driver. This means smaller, more efficient code than two completely seperate drivers but the downside is that the CPiA driver is no longer in the USB driver tree and you have to compile the CPiA components as modules and then use modprobe to install them after the system boots. Anyway, while vidcat produces better quality images, I’m trying out the webcam utility from XawTV. At the moment it’s just a boring shot of the conference room here at NCC updated a couple of times minute. If it doesn’t blow up after a day or two maybe I’ll point it something more interesting.
Things slowed down enough today that I got to play with the webcam. It’s working much better with the Linux 2.3.26 kernel. It still has a problem with some of the pixels blacking out in areas of the image where there’s no motion but I hacked in a quick fix to get it working. There’s apparently a real fix for the problem but the patch hasn’t made it into a kernel release yet.
I’ve set things up for testing purposes with the camera pointed out a window on the east side of our office looking towards the south-east. The street in view is Alpha Road just east of the Galleria. The image is updated every 5 seconds. This is only a temporary URL and it will probably vanish without warning sometime in the next couple of days. But, in the meantime, have a look and see what you think of the first Linux/USB/CPiA webcam in North America.
A new week with some interesting things ahead. The new linux kernel should have stable enough CPiA/USB support to finally try it out for webcam use. We may have some new server hardware to play with too.
The season premier of the X-Files was on last night. Turns out to be a three parter, so we still have to wait another week to finish the story. Overall though, it was fairly predictable.
I ran across an fun little Internet radio station. Fat Free Radio plays a wide variety of punk including classic bands like the Buzzcocks and more recent stuff like Jughead’s Revenge and Blink 182 (well, actually, I guess the Buzzcocks could be called recent again since Pete Shelley seems to have gotten the band back together). They’re using icecast, by the way.
The 2.3.24 Linux kernel was released yesterday and we definitely have a CPiA breakthrough. No kernel Oops!, no crashes, vidcat will grab multiple frames, we’ve got 320×240 images in color. There are still some bugs but overall it works!. For those who want to see the proof, here’s one of the good images I captured with it:
[[image:good.jpg:Good CPiA image:center:0]]
The biggest remaining bug is if you start capturing images continuously, the images start losing information.
[[image:bad.jpg:Bad CPiA image:center:0]]
It almost looks like the camera is trying to do some sort of motion compression where it’s only delivering pixel data that has changed since the last image. That would explain why most of the background went away but, on the other hand, notice the perl book on the table? It didn’t move at all and it still shows up. Hmmm… maybe it’s just a weird bug in the CPiA driver? If I get time I’ll try to take a look at the code and see what I can figure out.