The setup, configuration, and running of a webcam on Linux can be a reasonably simple process or a rather complicated procedure. There are a number of steps to take to assist with a smooth installation, and each webcam and computer setup will have its own quirks and potential issues. Put into the most simplistic form, there are three primary steps for running a webcam on Linux. First, determine if the webcam is detected upon connection and its exact name as recognized by the computer. Second, install the drivers that are required to run the webcam. Third, install and configure any additional software needed or desired for webcam functionality. If the webcam is USB video class (UVC) compliant, the process may be this easy.
First and foremost, it is imperative to ensure that root privileges are granted before attempting to establish a webcam on Linux. To find out the name of an attached USB camera, use "lsusb" to list all recognized USB devices. Next comes the often complicated task of finding, compiling, and installing the drivers. Drivers are typically available within the kernel, as a loadable or compilable module, or as a packaged binary driver.
To determine whether the needed driver is already enabled in the kernel, use "dmesg" to list what has been loaded upon booting. If the driver is not listed here but the module name is known, the "find" command can be utilized to search for a loadable module. Should the driver not be in the kernel and the name be unknown, it is possible to get a list of all available modules by running "ls -R /lib/module/'uname -r'/kernel", where "uname" is replaced by the computer's kernel version.
Once the module name is determined, running the "lsmod" command will list all loaded modules. With luck, the driver module will be loaded, but if not, use "modprobe" to attempt manual loading. In some cases, none of the above is successful, and a kernel patch or a recompiled kernel is needed to run the webcam on Linux. The camera manufacturer's website may have additional information and documentation to assist with driver installation.
Depending on the computer setup, camera, and software version, it may be necessary to enable the video devices node in order to access the webcam on Linux. Use the "MAKEDEV" script if the video device node does not already exist. Search the devices either via a file manager or check what loads at boot up to verify if it is already there or if it needs to be created.
Now that the driver is installed and the video device node is established, it is time to install and configure any software required or desired. A number of programs exist to facilitate running a webcam on Linux. There are various framegrabber or image-capture programs available that can be installed and operated from the command line. Graphical user interface (GUI) programs can also be employed that allow for additional functionality, such as video conferencing.