First Post / DIY Webcam Monitor

After writing this and now reading it over, I realized how personal this first post is — I promise the rest will be much different and more technical.

I’m giving Medium a shot. Why? A few reasons: my life has been pretty hectic recently, and I need some way to organize my thoughts. And I’ve learned a number of cool things over the past half a year that I figured I’d share — most of them Rails/code/startup related, some just fun hacks (like the content of this post).

I’m Tom, current Co-Founder of Negotiatus, former full-time student at Johns Hopkins. My life has gone weird over the past year or so; while my freshman year of college followed a pretty normal path aside from the code-related side projects I was working on, I started a company, Negotiatus, in my sophomore year and have pretty much dedicated my existence to that since then. I’m currently living in NY doing my best to grow the company alongside some guys who are now my best friends, and throwing almost every second of my life into ensuring it succeeds (my last commit was a minute before I started writing this post, which was well past midnight).

So let’s get down to business.

I’m starting light — after I set this up today, it occurred to me that it would make for a pretty great (quite simple) opening post. My problem? I have an awesome dog, a husky puppy named Ruby, that, while being very well-trained, has a tendency to howl and cry when she gets upset. She gets more than enough exercise throughout the day and hasn’t had an issue since I’ve moved into this NYC apartment, but I still get paranoid about these things.

My options were to either buy a webcam/monitor, or figure something out. I managed to find something that worked perfectly, entirely for free. All you need is an unused laptop/computer.

What we’re going to do is configure Skype to act as a webcam monitor.

Step 1: make sure your computer’s display/energy preferences are set that it never goes entirely to sleep.

Step 2: download Skype, and create a new account (you’ll need to use your old one to call it).

Step 3: jump into Skype’s preferences, navigate to the “Calls” tab, and enable “Answer automatically.”

Skype’s preferences, relevant to this post.

Step 4: point your computer at whatever the hell you want to monitor, and go to work. If you want to check in on your dog, just call that account — it will instantly pick up and you can see what’s going on for free. Pretty simple, but I never would have known about it if I hadn’t stumbled across the feature.

And that’s it. Next post will probably deal with some nitty gritty stuff with Rails/AWS/whatever, so stay tuned.