How it's done
As of January 2015 I am running two webcams. Here is some info on the current setup.
Camera 1 is my original webcam shot, looking out of my attic across Belfast Lough to the east-south-east.
The old Creative USB camera that was used between March 2003 and November 2014 has now been decommissioned and its replacement, a Stardot Netcam SC (below), arrived in January 2015.
My Stardot Netcam SC (Camera 1)
Here is a sample shot from camera 1:
Camera 1 sample image with caption
Camera 1 has now been provided with a much more detailed overlay. My own software, running on another computer, collects and analyses temperature data, calculates sunrise/sunset times, compiles the overlay caption and sends it to the camera over its ethernet connection. The camera does the final upload once per minute via ftp. My software also archives images from both camera 1 and camera 2 once every ten minutes, creating new archive folders as required.
Camera 2 is an Axis P1343 network camera with a Tamron zoom lens. Despite being a relatively cheap used purchase from a well-known online auction site, it incorporates features such as zoom, remote focus and remotely controlled IR filter. The camera has a relatively low SVGA (800x600) resolution, but is capable of producing some nice shots nevertheless. Here is a picture of the camera 2 installation:
Camera 2 (Axis P1343) installation in external enclosure
As for camera 1, my own software running on another computer continually captures temperature data and updates the caption on the final image (see below) which is uploaded once per minute by the camera itself. My own software also archives images from both camera 1 and camera 2 once every ten minutes and creates archive folders automatically as required.
Camera 2 sample image with caption
Some historical information on my original webcam setup
**Note: All of the information below is now historical and relates to equipment and software which has now been decommissioned and replaced with the two network cameras described above**
First of all the image capture. This consists of a Creative Webcam Pro USB, mounted high up in my attic looking outside through a small hole cut in the ventilation panel (see below):
In front of the camera a small piece of clear plastic is fixed to the ventilation panel to protect the camera from wind & rain (and also to prevent birds trying to get in).
Many experts don't like USB webcams and it is often recommended to pay extra for a 'proper' webcam like the Axis range, however I think the performance of my USB cam compares well to that of more expensive cams on other sites. And I only paid GBP40 for it rather than GBP200+...
The webcam is physically located quite far from my server. To overcome the limited 'official' maximum length of a USB cable, I used three active USB extensions (5 metres each):
Active USB extension
The USB cable enters the server here (apologies for the "rats' nest"):
Back of server :-)
Finally, the software which makes it all work is Conquercam:
This is an inexpensive software package which will capture the webcam image and upload it at user-defined intervals. My image is uploaded once every ten minutes. Conquercam works with most USB webcams and other image capture devices. It has worked quite well for me and the author is very helpful in sorting out any problems.
So what about my webcam archive and the outside temperature display? These work using my own hardware/software to capture analog temperature data from a LM35CZ temperature sensor located in an almost optimum position outside my garage. The temperature reading is taken once every ten minutes and uploaded as a text file for Conquercam to stamp on to my webcam images. My program automatically generates my webcam page from the webcam image and temperature reading. Finally, once every ten minutes the program copies the current webcam image to the appropriate archive folder, creating new folders as required.
So the whole process is entirely automated, requiring (in theory) little attention from me :-)