I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was testing a Facetime videolink to my mother. It's not my first attempt. I'd tried Google Video Chat two years ago, but after months of struggle I gave up; it had, and still has, dismal usability. iChat was even worse. In all cases I've been using the excellent Logitech QuickCAm Vision Pro for Mac. (Still the best webcam ever sold, though I fear it's going away without a true replacement.)
After a few weeks of testing I can report that Facetime is a big usability improvement over Google Video Chat. I configured my mother's machine to auto-answer my calls; I can call from my phone or desktop and her machine will pick up. Facetime doesn't need to be running, OS X 10.6.x will launch it.
There's only one problem.
After I close the call at my end Facetime continues to run on her machine. It doesn't auto-exit (and, at this time, she can't see well enough to reliably quit the app) . This means her webcam stays powered on . Under some conditions, perhaps mostly time, the embedded OS that manages in-camera focus and exposure control crashes. The Webcam still works, but it focuses to infinity and the light levels are very low. If you pull the USB cable, wait a few seconds, then plug it in again, the camera will reset.
I'm considering a few workarounds. Firstly, it would be great if Apple officially supported auto-answer, so FT could then auto-exit on close. Alternatively I could
- Run a cron job to restart her machine once a night - thereby quitting FT and turning off her camera (see update - there's an easier fix - just set this in "Energy Saver"
- Run AppleScript to quit Facetime.app nightly. Unfortunately FT is not scriptable , but this article suggests options: How To Create a Security Cam with FaceTime for Mac and AppleScript | Mac|Life
- Resign myself to getting remote control of her computer working again (Windows has a big advantage here, RDP is light years ahead of Apple's VNC technology).
I'm leaning to the nightly restart as the simplest fix, but I should also try remote control -- again!
 As her macular degeneration has progressed we've been focusing on her iPad use.
 Apple needs to kill AppleScript, but I fear there'd be not replacement.
 The webcam then stays in active mode, so it appears like it's always sharing an image.
When a Google search doesn't return much, it's often because the function one is seeking is now a part of the OS.
OS X Energy Saver allows one to schedule a restart. I'll schedule my mothers machine to reboot at 2am daily, that should clear out any dangling FT sessions.
Incidentally, there's a longstanding, perhaps ancient, UI flaw with OS X Energy Save scheduling. Look at this:
It looks like the first option is available for selection, but the second (schedule restart) is unselectable -- it's "grayed out".
Look carefully (it took me a while). The select box (drop down) on the first row is also grayed out. This is standard behavior. The reason the 2nd row is so confusing is that it starts with a drop down -- there's no preceding text to display in normal font. Despite appearances this row is available for selection. Just click the check box.
I deleted a prefs file and did a number of Google searches before I realized what was going on. I found others who made the same mistake ...