Saturday, November 01, 2008

How To Be A Creepy Internet Stalker Dude

A while back, I went to my local Microcenter and stumbled across a bin full of cheap ($5.97) USB Webcams.

I have this thing about cheap (upper limit: $19.95) USB Webcams. I have a whole collection of them. They all suck, and I expect them to suck, but I can't stop buying them.

So I bought one, took it home, plugged it into the nearest Linux box I could get my hands on, and the sucker worked!

This is unheard of. The next day I went back and bought five more (I'd include a link for these things but even the manufacturer - Sakar - doesn't seem to know they exist). Since then I've been researching ways to use them and learned a whole lot of Things I Didn't Know About USB Webcams And Linux, even though I've been banging my head against the wall on just this very subject for over three years now.

And so begins a series of blogs on what I've learned.

But what if you don't have a Webcam, USB or otherwise? Why, use someone else's!

This subject has been beaten to death on the security front since the heyday of the X10 cam (remember those wonderful popup ads?), so I don't feel compelled to issue a Hinky Dink Security Advisory on it. But the fact is, people are silly enough to leave Webcams up 24x7 in their living rooms, bedrooms, front windows, etc. ever since they started selling these things.

Consider this scene of domestic bliss (left).

I've been watching this cam for about a year now (they eventually mounted that large screen TV over the fireplace). I have the URL saved as one of my favorites and whenever I get bored I tune in to see what's going on.

I honestly think they forogt they had a Webcam, but it's been moved at least once in the last six or eight months, so somebody knows it's there.

Perhaps their housekeeper (right) moved it. This was the original position of the Webcam.

Am I creeping you out yet? Sometimes I creep myself out with this shit, but when they put the big screen TV on the wall (it took forever) I showed it to my wife (Pinky Dink) and she only gave me a mildly dirty look.

A mildly dirty look, mind you.

In fact we watched the progress of the TV installation together (we're getting one sooner or later and were interested in how complex the operation was - we have since decided not to go with a wall mount).

How do you find these gems? You should know this one by now. It's GOOGLE of course, silly! There are a number of different brands of Webcams that identify themselves by the URL required to access them. The most famous is this simple search:

allinurl: axis-cgi

You will get thousands of hits. And then, suddenly, Google will decide you must be either a virus or a Creepy Internet Stalker Dude and will stop sending results.

Well, that's only one brand. My wireless Webcam uses a different URL, so I decided to search on it. Here it is:

allinurl: aview.htm

You will get about four hundred or so hits from that (IE only - you will need to download the ActiveX component - if you're comfortable with that). Linux users should search on jview.htm, which is the Java version (but beware... it's painfully slow). The jview version will also work with Internet Explorer but don't bother. You will find that both aview and jview are available on the same camera, but you get different search results depending on which URL you use when you Google it.

There you have it. If you stumble upon my friends with the chubby housekeeper and the big screen TV, take it easy on their bandwidth. I'm fond of those people. It takes me back to a time when I was a young and stupid newlywed myself.

Ah, the memories.

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