Volume 10, Number 11 February 7, 2003

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New campus webcam gives Internet users a view of Bowl

'Bowl Cam', on the second floor of the Physics building, gives viewers a look southward at Saskatchewan Hall and Qu'Appelle Hall.

'Bowl Cam', on the second floor of the Physics building, gives viewers a look southward at Saskatchewan Hall and Qu'Appelle Hall.

By Corinne Szwydky

If you want to see what's happening in the Bowl, a live image is only mouse-clicks away. A recently installed campus webcam is capturing activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the images are available on the University website.

This doesn't mean your co-workers and friends will recognize you strolling across campus, according to Kevin Lowey, Webcam project co-ordinator, Information Technology Services (ITS).

"The images provide a general impression of campus, rather than a series of identifiable subjects," Lowey said.

"This is a result of the camera's current angle and resolution."

From its vantage point on the second floor of the Physics building, the webcam captures live images of people walking - some even cycling - across the snow-covered Bowl, and provides a view of Saskatchewan Hall and Qu'Appelle Hall, two of the student residences. The pop-up webcam reloads a new image every 30 seconds.

Lowey was chosen to lead the project, proposed last December by Ed Pokraka, Director of Information Technology Services. Lowey received project support from central webmasters Earl Fogel (ITS) and Corinne Szwydky (Communications, University Advancement).

"The Webcam project gives ITS an opportunity to highlight another technology," Lowey said.

"It also allows us to promote the U of S, by offering web users a real-time glimpse of campus life.

A prototype camera was installed in the Physics building last month. The project team looked at several factors before choosing the location, including availability of equipment, network connections and secure rooms. They also consulted with the University lawyers regarding privacy issues, and ensured the webcam images did not reveal the identity of individuals.

Earlier this week, the group launched the U of S Bowl Cam website at webcam.usask.ca. The site is accessible via the About the U of S section of the University website (under Tours and Attractions). The site includes an hourly and daily photo archive, based on a program written by Fogel, and will be expanded over time to reference other webcams on campus.

Lowey can access the webcam software remotely, and expects the system will require minimal maintenance. For those interested in other technical details, the indoor camera is a Logitech Quickcam 3000 Pro. It uses Webcam 2002 software that runs on a Compaq 2000 Pentium 166 computer. The hardware was surplus equipment and the software was free.

In the future, the project team may look into better quality equipment and alternate locations. Lowey said the biggest issue to date has been glare. The combination of white snow and bright light decreases the image quality - particularly in the afternoon.

Webcams are a popular feature on University websites around the world. The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) maintains an archive of more than 300 campus webcam images at SCUP is an association dedicated to excellence in planning for higher education.

The central webmasters welcome feedback on the U of S Bowl Cam from the on- and off-campus communities. For more information, contact webmaster@www.usask.ca

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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