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kev49

Flashing a webcam

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How easy is it to flash a webcam? I presume it is too technical for most, and if so who can you contact to get this done?

Kevin.

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Apologies from bringing this back from its grave and forgive my asking but, what does the term "Flash a Webcam" mean, and what does it do??

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Older versions of the Philips Toucam Pro webcam are not supported in the most recent version of Windows (vista, 7, 8}. To make them work you need to trick the computer into thinking the camera is a SPC900NC. To do this you need to upgrade the firmware of the webcam {flashing the firmware) with the latest version which makes the computer think it is a SPC900NC for which there are more upto date drivers.

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Part of the webcam control system is a piece of on-board software that interprets the messages sent from the computer and converts the messages to a form that the CCD or CMOS chip can understand, so if the computer asks for continual video at 25fps the onboard webcam software generates the timing signals to read the detector at the required speed, and adjusts the gain of the preamplifier so that the image is bright enough, amongst other things.

This on-board software is resident in a semiconductor device called non-volatile "flash" memory and the onboard software is loaded into the webcam flash memory at manufacture.

It is not dependent on power to maintain it, the program can never be lost.

At some stage maybe the webcam manufacturer will develop the onboard software to be a bit more clever or more reliable, or an amateur software writer will find that by changing part of the onboard software then more control can be achieved over the way the camera operates that would be useful to an astronomer. Often the only difference between a low price webcam and a high price webcam from the same manufacturer is the onboard software resident in the flash memory.

In order to load the new onboard software into the webcam the old software has to be deleted, known as "clearing the flash" and the new software uploaded to the camera over the USB connection and "burnt" or "flashed" into the onboard flash memory and this is done with the aid of a piece of special software that is loaded on the host computer

This is not without it's risks however as flash memory, depending on it's level of sophistication and cost, can only be cleared and written to a certain number of times, and the flash device has to be cleared and written using a very narrow range of voltage, current and duration parameters, it is not unusual to read of people re-flashing their camera, or any other device using flash memory such as mount hand controllers, and turning them into a cabbage as the flash memory device can be damaged by the use of inappropriate and unmatched flashing software.

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