but the system doesn't work very well; it's just an iSight plugged into a Mac mini. I'd like to set up a dedicated headless linux box with a bunch of cheap USB cameras instead. Recommendations?
It's a social work space, so people are more likely to come visit if there is already something going on. I'm not trying to create a videoconferencing setup, just a system where people can peek in and see what's up and maybe get curious about whatever that thing is that so-and-so is working on so intently.
The problem with the Mac mini setup is that it depends on a little app which needs to launch at login, and this is really fragile when we have multiple people using the machine and sometimes not logging out before they switch accounts. I am imagining instead a cheap little "nettop"-style
device tucked away in a corner somewhere with three or four USB cameras plugged in, each one pointed at a different work area. Every few seconds it would snap a set of pictures and upload them.
Since this is a non-profit makerspace my budget is of course approximately zero. I am comfortable with Linux but hate the endless driver-upgrade chase, so I want to pick whatever is likely to be the most normal, most supported, least funky sort of camera.
1) What sort of camera should I look for?
2) What is the right sort of software for this project?
3) What sort of super cheap dedicated linux box is likely to give me fewest setup headaches?
4) What sort of super cheap dedicated linux box is likely to sit in its corner and do its job quietly without any maintenance for the next several years?