Web cam idiot here with lots of questions

I have a Mac (Mini G4). My long-distance sister has a PC (Dell laptop, I believe). I would like to buy myself and her family web cams for Christmas, so that we can keep in touch.

Do Macs and PCs require different kinds of web cams?
Is there some kind of cost to video chat?
Do they require tons of free memory to operate?
A fast processor?
Some kind of video processing software?
A specific type of chat software?

I really just don’t know how this whole concept works, and don’t know if this will turn out to be a really complicated, problem-loaded undertaking, since we’re on different platforms.

Any enlightenment on my ignorance will be truly appreciated.

Both the Mac and the Dell should be able to use just about any camera with a USB connection, which is almost all of them these days. I’ve used Logitech, Rocketfish, and Intel webcams all successfully on both PCs and a Mac Powerbook G4. Check the hardware requirements for any camera you’re looking at, and make sure there is a Mac driver available.

Looking at the specs of the Mini G4, it’s not a real powerhouse, but I think it would support a camera without too much trouble, especially if you run at a little lower frame rate, and maybe be careful about what else you’re running when trying to chat.

As far as the software, use Skype. It’s free, a snap to set up for both the Mac and PC, and supports both video + audio and audio only chat.

We just got a Microsoft Lifecam to have some face time with my parents, whom cannot “see” their grandchildren as often as they like.

Setup was simple, pop in the CD, follow the instructions, etc.

Establish a Skype account on both ends, and wala…video phone calls with the parental units. It’s actually really cool and is also free other than the cost of the camera. The resolution and facial tracking is also much, much better than it was even a few years ago.

One of my worries is the Mac > PC / PC > Mac connectivity. I’ve discovered that Mac may have to use one type of video chat software (e.g. iChat) while PC may have to use another (e.g. AIM) with a service like Skype, and that some cameras don’t work so well with Skype, etc. I’d love to get schooled on all of this first so that I don’t create a headache for my already-busy sister. FoieGras, I can only hope it will be that easy! :slight_smile: Why can’t everybody just have a Mac? :wink:

I think that Apple has done everything it can to mimic or otherwise support Windows programs. Therefore, you shouldn’t have an issue. The camera I mentioned is USB connected to a PC and it was REAL easy to set up with the included software. I can’t envision that there isn’t a similar situation for Macs.