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How to Fall in Love with Your iSight, Again
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Do It with Strangers

Feeling a little restless? Bored with your Buddies? Seeking new exciting strangers to iChat with? Then check out one of several iChat meeting places, including iChatfinder.com, MyiSight.com, or Seeser.org. These sites are databases of iChatAV users that you can browse through and search for potential partners by age, sex, location, and more, as well as read profiles and see who is currently online. Some brave souls even post their pictures so you can get a preview before committing to a video stream. The vast majority of these folks are guys seeking girls, so if you are female, at least virtually, be forewarned that you will probably be swarmed with lovelorn geeks. And for those seeking same-sex Buddies, there's iChatgay.com.

Group Techs

There may come a time in your digital life when you desire to include multiple people in a chat, an iChatAV orgy so to speak, but to your dismay, iChat only lets you connect with one video partner at a time. How prudish! Currently, your only course of action is to go with a third-party solution, such as iVisit. Besides the lure of group videoconferencing, iVisit also offers compatibility with Windows users and an OS 9 version, and will work on dialup connections. iVisit Lite is free (after required registration), so it may be the ticket if you need to connect with members of different OSes, but if you're hoping for the ease of use or the quality of iChatAV, you'll be disappointed. The good news is Apple has been listening to us whiny geeks; the next version of iChat can accommodate audio conferences with up to ten participants, and video conferencing for four! Ooo la la, go get' em Tiger!

Kinky Stuff

Everyone has their own fetishes, and when it comes to the iSight, mine is video feedback. Feedback is what occurs when a video camera is pointed to its display and starts picking up its own live image. Visual loops begin to occur, and soon generate an assortment of swirling, spinning, and colorful shapes.

Gimme some feedback! Gimme some feedback!

And what is the attraction of all this psychedelia? It's pure selfish pleasure; to bask in the geeky glow of constantly changing shapes and colors, and to explore the mind-bending characteristics of Infinity. In other words, to freak yourself out.

If you've never tried feedback, give it a go! Don't worry, your iSight won't go blind. Point your camera at a live feed and work yourself up to the fireworks. Try experimenting a little; turn your monitor brightness down, set the contrast higher than normal. Zoom the camera in and out and rotate it slightly. Try sticking your fingers into the mix. Go wild!

Feedback generation is usually best if you lock the iSight's focus using an app such as iStopmotion, iVeZeen, or GCam. If your focus isn't locked, and you hear your camera doing the focus shuffle (adjusting its focus back and forth quickly), than perhaps it is best to point it away from the screen to avoid over-taxing the mechanism. Be sure to turn down your computer's sound so that you don't get audio feedback, which is far less interesting then the video variety.

Video feedback can also be used to create fractal patterns, which result from the repetition of a simple transformation. This is actually pretty cool and scientific in its own funky way; at least, that's what you can tell anyone who catches you feedbacking yourself. For those of you who fall hopelessly into the blissful abyss of video feedback, and seek to be Master of Your Chaotic Domain, there are all kinds of web resources on this, including The Ultimate Video Feedback Page.

More Tips from iSight-Smitten Geeks

Developer Aaron Fothergill from Strange Flavour says:

"I use my iSight to take snapshots of things when I'm sending emails. We've also found that the quality over iChatAV is just about enough to be able to point the iSight at a screen to show stuff when doing tech support without Apple Remote Desktop."

Jon Maddox, web developer, uses his iSight as a webcam.

"Evological’s EvoCam can stream your iSight using its own web server or by uploading individual images to your web site via FTP. It’s easy to set up: open EvoCam and click on ‘Enable built-in web server’ and your iSight is now streaming to the world. Send your friends to http://yourIpAddress:8080/webcam.html and they can spy on you while you play -- err ... work.

Now, the real fun is making your webcam available from your web site. Therein lies the problem. Your webcam is streaming from your home computer, but your web site is hosted by a company in another city. Using a combination of HTML, an iFrame, and a little creativity, you can have your iSight streaming directly from your web site. The trick is the iFrame, a frame that can be used the middle of your page content. Set the src property of the iFrame to the address that you connected to earlier. By doing that, you're telling the iFrame to use whatever content is at that address inside of the iFrame. Voila: now your iSight at home is now streaming from your hosted web site. Setting up dynamic DNS for your dynamic home IP address makes everything seamless and keeps your webcam from going offline just because your IP has changed.

Use a little creativity to dress it up like I've done."

Breaking Up Is Not So Hard to Do

I've tried my best to save your iSight relationship, but if there're too many failed expectations and tech-baggage, sometimes you just have to admit irreconcilable differences and use the professional services of eBay. On the bright side of breakups, there's a lot of geeks in the sea, and chances are someone will love your former flame for what she is, and give her the kind of relationship she deserves. Plus, you never know who you'll bump into while cruising the listings.

But we hope you'll never take such drastic steps. You both have a lot to offer each other, and you've invested so much time and energy into the relationship already, that I do hope you will try to work things out. Focus on the good points and the strengths, rather than your perceived limitations of each other, and you'll be well on the way to rekindling your iSight passion.

At least until the iSight II is released.


O'Reilly & Associates published The Best of the Joy of Tech in November 2003.

Nitrozac and Snaggy (a.k.a. Liza Schmalcel and Bruce Evans) are the authors of The Best of the Joy of Tech, and the creators of GeekCulture.com: home of The Joy of Tech comic, thriving online community, and purveryor of fine propeller beanies.


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