Saturday, August 05, 2006

Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 - personal impressions

[See Update. As of 8/9/06 this is NOT ready for use.]

Microsoft's latest hardware product is now available at Best Buy. I don't know if you get it anywhere else, Amazon still has it on wait list. I've taken it out of the box and run through some basic paces. Historically these products have been popular in unseemly markets, so I feel obliged to say that I bought it to transmit hand sketches and whiteboard work from my office to a remote office.

I tried this years ago with a Logitech USB 1 webcam and the results were almost good enough. I coul d see then that USB 2 and twice the resolution would suffice, though I thought in-device MP4 compression would be required for high frame video. Happily I don't care about frame rate -- 1 frame per second would do. I care about edge discrimination, contrast, noise and resolution.

First of all, I can recommend this review: Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 - Review. Excellent job. Good comment on the wide-angle lens choice -- it's a waste for face-to-face viewing in typical settings. Additional impressions:
1. This is almost pre-release. You can't download the installer software yet, and the included disk is version 1.0. That's pretty raw. Parts of the software don't work. The button that's supposed to post to the Windows Live Blog does nothing - no error message, no action, con configuration files. Actually, this is pre-release.

2. The install of the basic webcam software takes a long time. The executable file only holds 40MB, but the CD has about 150MB in the lifecam folder (compressed). My guess is that this software was designed for Vista and it installs a lot of baggage, including some Vista video libraries, when run on XP.

3. Microsoft should have included a lens cap. It would have cost a dime.

4. The hi-res video is not supported by Microsoft's chat software. It's probably only useful right now for local video storage.

5. Don't try this with a slow machine. The software moves like molasses (another hint that it's Vista style software) on my XP box. True it's a few years old, but this is the first thing that's made it seem slow. (Note: I don't do games.)

6. It doesn't work on a Mac. Not recognized.

7. If the lens is focused you can read size 14 point letters on a sheet of paper held about 1-2 feet from the lens. That's impressive. It would be interesting to compare it to Apple's iSight.

8. The lens/software combination is better in low light and better at adapting to light levels than I'd expected.
More later ...

Update 8/7: Beware shareware webcam products. After installing, testing, and deleting two of them, I discovered a worm infection.

Update 8/9/06: It installed well on my home machine. On my pure, clean, office laptop however, it produced the XP Blue Screen of Death (STOP error) on launch. I don't remember ever seeing the XP BSOD. I think it's produced by an 'inner ring' memory error, something that only device drivers can do. There's something odd about the device driver approach for LifeCam, I'm suspicious that it's a Vista approach that Microsoft has hacked to sell this device into the XP base.

This is what one sees in white on blue text:
A problem has been detected and windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer ...

STOP: VX6000xp.sys
Happens every time on launch of LifeCam (is it doing some kind of dynamic device driver hack?). When you get these errors, btw, you get to file a special bug report with Microsoft on system restart.

I restored the system to health per Microsoft troubleshooting recommendations:
System restore: restored to the point set by the LifeCam install.
sfc /scanonce: ran sfc.exe to verify core XP files were intact. See xp resource kit, system file tools
I'll try again in September when Microsoft says they'll put the installer files online.

Update 7/22/2008: This never worked satisfactorily in XP, though I did finally find some device drivers that sort of worked with Office Communicator 2003. I suspect Microsoft abandoned XP support for this device. A crummy Microsoft experience all around.


Anonymous said...

I just bought this camera and found that the installation routine seems to go into an infinite loop.

The install seems to finish then starts again any time you try to use the camera.

Eventually get a message along the lines or, either you are out of disk space or an error has occurred. I am not out of disk, so I guess the installation is not working.

Think it might be linked to messenger being open. Closed Live Messenger and it seemed to get a bit further.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I have the same blue screen of death problem on my lifecam, running on XP professional. I noticed you blogged this a while ago and was wondering if you have solved the problem since the update has been released. If so, please can you tell me how you fixed it.
Many thanks

JGF said...

Microsoft has released a 1.01 version of the installer which can be downloaded from their web site. I had to put this project aside due to many other obligations, so the LifeCam still sits unused. Frustrating! If you find the 1.01 version works, could you add a commment here?

Anonymous said...

I just tested the camera, and it won't install at all. Downloaded LifeCam 1.21 from the web, installed it, and well, my machine won't recognize my camera at all. It's running an infinte loop with the hardware wizard, claiming that it can't find any drivers for the camera...

Unknown said...

FYI: It blue screens on my Windows Vista 32bit installation as well. I've checked back at the Microsoft site multiple times for an updated driver (currently 1.3 is available)I've updated my motherboard's bios as well ... still no luck.

Anonymous said...

Trying to use VX-6000 webcam with latest driver and Windows Vista Ultimate. Running Intel P4 3.0 with 2 GB of ram and ATI 256mb graphics card. Granted not the fastest rig, but definitely within posted requirements of products. I can not ame more than a few mouse clicks in Webcam application with out momentary freezes or the blue screen.

Anonymous said...

this is very frustrating. for the past few days i have been trying to get to this webcam to work and my laptop wont recognize it. i have tried everything [minus buying a new cam lol] ne1 have neother suggestions other then buying a new one?