tablet pc robotOkay folks, here's another how-to right from my inbox. A few people have emailed me and asked "How can I get my computer at home to post pictures automatically throughout the day like you have on your "moblog" http://pt.textamerica.com (A Moblog is usually a website which displays photos you send photos from your camera phone, but you can use the same site to automatically send and post photos on the web). Keep in mind, there are many many ways to do this on many many platforms with many other applications, but I am going to show just one example that I happen to use on my PCs which is really easy to do.



Ingredients:

  • PC: (For this example, XP Home/Pro)
  • WebCam: Just about any WebCam will do, I bought a few $40 ones at Frys.
  • TinCam: A cool PC Application with a lot of options.
  • TextAmerica account: This is where we'll post the photos.
  • Always-on net connection: If your computer is always connected to the web in someway this will be a lot easier, but if needed, it can dial up and send the images off too.

Before we get started, why would you want to do this? Well, here's why I do it ??? I have a lot of PCs around the house, and when I am away from home, I like to look in on what the many robots are doing as well as the house cat and dog, or as I refer to them, the meat pets. Maybe you travel a lot, perhaps you simply want to see if you left the garage door open, who knows, but it seems like a view in to one's home or office is something many people want to do, but usually it's a bit too complicated.

The first thing to do is install your web camera according the manufacturer's instructions, you know the drill.

Next, let's go set up a TextAmerica account at http://www.textamerica.com . What is TextAmerica? It's a free service which allows you to post pictures from your mobile phone, or just anything else which can send email.

textamerica.com

TextAmerica has pay-for options if you really get in to it, but for the most part a free account seems to suit most folks well, even with a tiny ad here or there. For our automatic computer posting site, we're going to have our PC send an image via email to the TextAmerica account. As you set up the account, you may or may not want to have this public, you can set it up as a private "moblog" and not tell anyone, but what fun is that?

Basically, the way it works is as follows: you send any email with a picture attached to your TextAmerica account, the email address is the login/password so it looks like this login.password@tamw.com. When we set up TinCam, the WebCam application, we will enter this info in. If you want you can send a test message to your moblog now, simply send an email and attach a photo, then visit your site to make sure it all worked. This is also a quick and easy way to post pictures on the web as well.

Next up, download and install TinCam from http://www.tincam.com TinCam comes with a free 30 day trial and if you like doing this, it'll cost $19 to pay for the application. I've tried a lot of WebCam apps for the PC and TinCan has been one of the best applications in terms of stability, speed and compatibility with a wide variety of PCs and webcams, there are many WebCam applications out there and many even support sending emails with images, so if you have a favorite- use that one, it really doesn't matter as long as it can post to your moblog. Make sire to follow the TinCam wizard and/or installation instructions to get your cam up and running.

The most important part of setting TinCam for our Moblog is the email information.

  1. Start TinCam and click Setup > Click Auto Capture to expand the options, then click email in the left pane. Here you will enter the email plus password and the tamw.com email address that we'll be sending the photos to. Other options include your SMTP server (the outgoing mail server) which you know about if you need it.

    tincam email set up
  2. Click Auto capture on the left again, and click the Schedule" radio button to select it. For our example we're going to send an image at 8am every day. If you'd like you can also set it to be motion sensitive, in other words, if something moves it'll take the picture and send it to the site. Handy for catching the person stealing paper clips from your cubicle. Click "Send and email" and also decide if you want to play a sound, I found this is handy, sometimes I'm home and when I hear the click I know a picture was taken, hopefully I had clothes on.

    schedule options
  3. Click schedule on the left, click add and add the time and frequency you want the photos uploaded.

    schedule options expanded
  4. That's it, click OK, Click Capture > Auto capture, you can leave the app open, or minimize it to the tray. You can also select to preview what the camera sees as well by right clicking the preview windows and selecting preview, and if you want to test Click Capture > Capture now.

    preview window

Congrats, you're likely going to tweak the settings and try different things, happy moblogging. Here's mine in action, start your own and drop me a note!

Oh, one more thing...This type of "moblog" just isn't for PCs, Macs, Linux machines etc..If you have a Sony Aibo, you can use the built in application which sends a photo email to also send a photo to the Moblog, I have 2 of my Aibos doing that now as well as Tablet PC mounted to a Roomba and it's been working out great.

moblog robots

Questions, Comments? Suggestion for the next How-to? phillip@flashenabled.com

Phillip M. Torrone is Director of Product Development for Fallon Worldwide (www.fallon.com) and runs the uber-geeky site http://www.flashenabled.com where he writes about the future, gadgets, art, roblogs, physics, and marathon running.

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