Q. The kids sent us something called a webcam so they can see us over the Internet. I don't want to plug it in - can people really see you through the Internet?
A. Yes and No. You can set it up to show pictures over the Internet, but it doesn't just happen without your approval.
A webcam is basically a small digital camera that plugs into your PC usually via a USB or Firewire port. It takes pictures just like a digital camera does and the accompanying webcam software will take a picture at regular intervals (that you can adjust) and saves the pictures.
Then these pictures can be sent to a Web server where they are displayed on the Internet.
Webcams have business uses - like showing the status of a manufacturing process from across the country - and personal uses like setting the webcam to monitor a baby's room or the backyard so you can see that things are OK from any Internet connection.
They can also be fun. Some lazy but smart college students set up a webcam by their dorm's pop machine so they could see the status of their favorite beverage so as not to make a trip down the hall if the machine was out of Coke.
Some nightclubs use webcams so potential guests can check out the crowd before venturing out. Ski resorts may have a webcam to show the snow conditions on a slope.
There are thousands of people who have set up webcams that you can visit. Look at a site like camscape.com or webcamsearch.com to see thousands of webcam views from all over the world.
Be very careful though. Webcams are frequently used in the pornography industry so be careful what you click on.
Now to finally address your concern. Unless you set up the webcam so that it takes pictures at a regular interval and then set up with a web hosting server to display your pictures, you don't have to worry about people "seeing" you through the webcam.
In other words, you have to go through an extensive process to have your webcam display pictures on the Internet. It just doesn't happen when you plug it in.
Most webcam hosting services will allow you to password protect any pictures so that only people you allow can view any images from the webcam. So if your family that lives out-of-town wants to "see" you while you chat, it can be set up that way - for a fee - and only they will be able to see you.
Answered by Tech Expert Dan Hanson
If you have computer or Internet questions,
e-mail our Tech Guru at tech@ClevelandSeniors.Com
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