Real Time Story

An interesting project, based on webcams found on Opentopia: A Real Time Story by Julián Pérez.

“A real time story” is a web project that speaks about the privacy of the images obtained from different webcams and how they are displayed to the extensive network that is the internet. This panoptic piece will make the viewer question where lies his gaze (demiurga, voyeur, watcher, etc.) and reflect on the concept of public space at the expense of free space. Also the anonymous viewer is invaded by a watchful eye, turning the space into a control.

November 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Culture | No comment

Cam Password Hacking

ur6l2hmqjixgqabhpwriIn case anybody is in doubt, it is probably worth mentioning that the webcams you find here on Opentopia are not in any way hacked. We don’t have any sinister hacking department that tries to get around people’s password protections in order to get access to cams that they wanted to be private. Everything you see here is in fact publicly available. That doesn’t exclude that somebody might have made a mistake and forgotten to password protect their webcam. It is hard to know. Or the cam owner might have meant the webcam to be seen just by friends or family or customers who came to their website. But, well, nowadays, search engines succeed in finding pretty much all websites that are publicly available, and they’re available for search, no matter what originally was intended.

In brief, don’t publish anything on the Internet that you actually don’t want people to come and look at.

Recently some of our less principled “competitors” have chosen to go a good deal further than we would, into what we easily could call criminal territory. See, in addition to the many publicly available webcams, there’s a much greater number that are password protected, but the passwords are not too hard to guess. Many webcams come with some default usernames and passwords, like “admin” and “password”, and the user might not think of changing them to something more secure. Or, as is the case with many passwords, the user will chose something very easy to guess for their password, like “12345”.

So, an unscrupulous cam aggregator with a bit of technical knowhow could very well set up an automated program that locates webcams on the Internet, cracks their passwords, and then presents them for the public to see.

That’s not much different from cracking the Instagram account of some female celebrities and publishing their private nude photos in a forum for all to see. It is easier, though.

But, again, just to let you know, we don’t do that here. And we don’t think that you should either, even if potentially you have the know-how for doing so.



November 10, 2014 at 11:44 pm | Culture | No comment

Big Brother


That is indeed a little ironic

October 20, 2014 at 1:10 am | Culture | No comment

Foucault Pendulum


This is a Foucault pendulum in Kisgyor, Hungary. And what is a Foucault pendulum, you ask? It is essentially an experiment that demonstrates the rotation of the Earth. It is named after a French physicist, Léon Foucault. The first one was shown to the public in the Panthéon of Paris in 1851. A 28 kg ball was suspended from the top of the dome by a 67 meter wire. If you set the ball swinging back and forth, its inertia will essentially keep swinging back and forth in the same direction, even as the Earth rotates underneath it. You will find these pendulums in many science museums across the world.

August 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Cam Stills | No comment

MMT Observatory


The MMT Observatory in Tucson, Arizona is jointly operated by the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona. It has a 6.5 meter telescope, which is the 14th largest in the world. The MMT is located on the summit of Mt. Hopkins at an altitude of 2616m. There are a few webcams related to the MMT, and some of them appear on Opentopia, or you can see them directly here.

August 7, 2014 at 11:10 pm | Cam Stills | No comment

Live from the pig pen


Animal cams are always fun. This one lets you watch the pigs in a community school in Saltash, Cornwall. Yes, a school that has pigs. According to this article, it used to be a pig named Dolores, which had piglets. I’m not sure if it is still her, as that was a number of years ago.

July 20, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Cam Stills | No comment

Viewing Modes

viewingmodesWhen you’re looking at the detail screen for a webcam on Opentopia, you not only get a bigger picture, but you get a number of choices of how to view it. You’ll see a dropdown menu in the upper right of the picture. Exactly which options there are will depend a bit on what type of camera it is.

Simply pick the mode you want, and the screen will reload. One reason that there are several modes is that all of them don’t work for everybody, or they don’t work all the time. It depends a bit on what kind of browser you’re in (Firefox, Chrome, IE, etc), and what kind of operating system you’re using (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc). You should also know that accessing the Live Feed uses up considerable resources at the other end, so unless there’s a good reason to see the live stream directly, you might might to try the other options that have a smaller footprint. Anyway, these are the options:

Last Saved Still Picture – That’s the last picture we picked up on our regular run through all cams. That might potentially be several hours ago. The picture is cached on Opentopia’s server, so it will work whether the actual webcam currently is overloaded or not. But it is obviously not totally up-to-date.

Current Still Picture – This comes from the actual webcam, a snapshot taken right now.

Refreshing Still Picture – We repeatedly ask the webcam for a picture, every few seconds. More work for the webcam, but still much less than the Live Feed.

Animation of last snapshots – Here we cycle through the last six pictures we have cached, each one three or so hours apart. That’s a cool way of seeing how the site changes during the day. It doesn’t use any bandwidth to do this, so one can happily leave that one running.

Refreshing Stills (Flash) – We again get fresh pictures from the webcam, but this time managed by a Flash applet. For some people that occasionally works better than other ways of getting it.

Live Active-X Viewer – This only shows if you’re in Internet Explorer on Windows. IE can not access the MJPEG live video format directly, so you might need to do it this way.

Live Java Viewer – The Java viewer applet is another way of accessing the feed, particularly on platforms that can’t handle the actual live feed. Or this might for some reason work better for you.

Live Feed – This is the actual streaming video feed from the webcam. Typically it is in MJPEG format. MJPEG is a very inefficient format, essentially sending one JPEG file after the other, as quickly as it can. That’s a reason why a webcam easily can become overloaded and stop working. Most of them can’t really handle more than a dozen people looking at the live feed at the same time.

So, lot’s of choices! We hope this makes it a little easier to choose the right one. And, again, please be respectful of the webcam owners and use the live modes sparingly.

July 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm | Site News | No comment

Meet Chip-Chan


This is one of the popular cams on Opentopia, Chip-Chan’s Apartment, and one that often gives rise to a lot of concerned discussion. It is looking into the apartment of Chip-Chan, a woman in her thirties who lives in South Korea. She spends most of her time in view of the cameras, sleeping or eating or on the computer. She sometimes does strange things like walking around in disguise or hanging up signs.

First of all, don’t worry, we’re not snooping on her against her will. She put up the cameras herself, and invites people to visit them, and the messages she hangs up are for the viewers. Not that it all makes a lot of sense, because she’s kind of crazy. It would probably be reasonable to say that she has a mental disorder. She believes that the police installed a chip in her ankle, which forces her to have a weird sleep schedule and do other strange things.

Chip-Chan is quite famous across the internets. People write blogs and wikis about her. She even writes several blogs herself. Here is one. She’s asking for help. Unfortunately it seems that nobody’s found a good way of helping her. And she’s asking that if one can’t help her, at least spread her story. Not that it helps very much, as it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

July 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Cam Stills | No comment

A little bit of history

randomcamsYou might be wondering how the Opentopia webcam site came to be, so here are a few highlights of the story.

Back in 2005 various tech blogs were discussing the fact that somebody had discovered how to find open webcams in search engines. For example, Google allows you to make a search on particular patterns of an URL. And IP webcams use URLs that normally have a recognizable format, although it often is different for different vendors and different models. But, as an example, searching for “inurl:axis-cgi/jpg” in Google will provide a listing of thousands of webcams of the Axis brand. So, people were trying that, and thought it was cool, and a little shocking that you could do this, not knowing if the webcams were meant to be public or not.

I  thought, yeah, that’s cool, but it is a little tedious to have to click on URLs one at a time to see what they might be showing. I decided to automate it a little bit, to create a program that did the search in Google, that remembered the results, and that went and captured a snapshot of each cam for a gallery. I worked non-stop all weekend on creating that program and had it working sometime Sunday January 9th. I put in up on a page of my Opentopia site, which so far had been meant for collections of public information, so I thought it might be the best match. I wrote a blog post about my success. At this point I just thought of it as a cool one-time thing to do, just because one can.

Since people were talking about it already, I couldn’t help but mention it to a few other people, who then passed it on. Like on the BoingBoing blog.

I also left a small comment on Slashdot, again mentioning what I did, in a thread with thousands of messages.

Lots of people started showing up on my page to look at it. I mean lots. By Wednesday 50,000 people per day were visiting. My server was not at all set up to handle that, and my page was badly optimized for many users, so it crashed. I fixed some things and after a few tries, it held up.

Since it obviously was popular and fun to look at, I gradually added more features, to crowd source the editing of the camera information, to add comments, etc. Traffic dropped to more sensible levels, but people have continued coming since then.

Other sites have copied the concept over the years, usually less well, but it was the lucky stroke of my weekend project that made Opentopia both the very first and the most popular in the genre.

– Flemming Funch

July 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm | History | No comment


manateeThere are quite a few animal cams on Opentopia. Pet shops, bird nests, zoos. Like, how about these manatees. There are several, but the most famous one is named Snooty. You can also see the staff in scuba gear, maintaining the tank. This is at the Parker Manatee Aquarium in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Snooty is so famous that he has his own Wikipedia entry. He’s 65 years old, the oldest manatee in captivity, and one of the first recorded manatee births. Snooty is one of the few manatees that interacts with humans and he apparently still remember the voices of past trainers and the tricks they taught him.

July 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Cam Stills | No comment

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