Ronit Ray

I had an interview this week. Of course, the pandemic still looming over our heads meant that this was to be virtual rather than in-person. Videocalls are really not part of my workflow; I’m more of a text-oriented person. Even work-related discussion is usually limited to voice chat. The integrated webcam on my laptop was already pretty crummy, and five years of having tape on it probably didn’t do the quality any favours. Not to mention the microphone, which sounds like the inside of a locomotive from the 19th century for some reason. I should probably look into that.

What I’m trying to say, is that I needed to set up a video call and my laptop didn’t have the hardware for it. The pandemic has made prices for webcams surge by 30-100%, and I don’t have the means or the inclination to participate in this inflated market. Sure, phones can handle calling pretty well, but it’s still a tiny screen and the ergonomics of the whole thing are iffy. It would be better if I could somehow use my phone’s rear camera and microphone as input to my PC.

Surprise surprise, this is possible and really easy to set up. Droidcam is a free (as in beer AND freedom) utility that does exactly this. It’s available on Linux and Windows, and works with Android and iOS devices. The operation is pretty much plug and play, and you can use it over wireless LAN or USB. It takes a little tinkering to set up custom resolutions and/or audio input on Linux, but it’s very minor, and the result is great quality video and somewhat acceptable audio. For some reason even premium laptops in 2021 ship with terrible webcams, so even your midrange phone likely still boasts a significantly better rear camera.

The video interview went through without any major hitches. Droidcam is a game changer- it opens up a lot of avenues, and for the first time I’m actually looking forward to bringing video conversations into my life.