Camera Hacker


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Using the OLPC XO as a Remote Web Cam

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article titled, "Setting Up a Remote Web Cam" on this web site. I used the remote web cam to see my wife and our new baby when I'm away from home. Recently, we had another baby and I wanted to set-up a remote web cam again. Except this time, I wanted to use the OLPC XO laptop that I got for my first born. The web cam is built into the OLPC XO laptop, so that I don't have to tether a web cam onto a notebook computer as I did before.

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Web Cam with Pippy

I found that it's really easy to use the OLPC XO as a web cam with the built-in Pippy Python interpreter. In fact, I had written a Pippy Python script to turn the OLPC XO into a Real-Time Digital Photo Frame. In this article, we will be using this Pippy Python script to perform web cam duties. You can get a copy of the script and learn how to use it at this web page: Real-Time Digital Photo (GPL).

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Setting Up Remote Login on OLPC XO

On the OLPC XO, you run as "olpc", a system administration user. You have full rights to do whatever you like on your OLPC XO. The OLPC XO comes installed with SSH, however, no password associated to "olpc" means you can't remote log in. There are a lot of ways to set-up remote login. In this article, I will show you how to set-up RSA-based authentication.

Remote UNIX Host

This section assumes you will be using an remote UNIX host to grab the web cam images from OLPC XO. First think you'll need to do is to generate a public key. You'll have to do it in the ".ssh" directory of your home directory. The following two commands will help you generate the key.

  cd "${HOME}/.ssh"
  ssh-keygen -t rsa

Depending on the speed of your computer, it can take some time to generate the key. You can type in a passphrase, or use an empty one, when it asks. The output looks something like the following:

  Generating public/private rsa key pair.
  Enter file in which to save the key (/home/[user]/.ssh/id_rsa):
  Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
  Enter same passphrase again:
  Your identification has been saved in /home/[user]/.ssh/id_rsa.
  Your public key has been saved in /home/[user]/.ssh/
  The key fingerprint is:
  [Line intentionally removed]

Now, you'll have to copy the content of and place it in "${HOME}/.ssh/authorized_keys" on your OLPC XO. After you've done that, you can ssh into your OLPC XO from your remote UNIX host.

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