Bubble Cam - FAQ

Bubble Cam Frequently Asked Questions:

How did you come up with the idea?

 The Bubble Cam was Andie's idea.  She has always enjoyed bubbles as a kid and as an adult.  It seems we've always had bubble toys around.  Halloween 2000 Andie purchased a high-volume bubble machine to blow bubbles when the kids came to the door.  She started out by letting it run continuously but the machine would run out of bubble juice in less than 30 minutes.  Mike rigged up a remote control to turn the bubbles on and off from the front porch.  The visiting kids loved it.  Andie said "its a shame people can't turn on the bubble machine from the internet."  That was the the idea that set Mike into "tinker mode."

How did you do it?

Click here for that answer.

How does the bubble machine know to turn off at night?

When you click the "Bubbles" button, a CGI script runs on the server to trigger the bubble machine.  Before it runs, it calculates sunrise and sunset for the current date given our latitude and longitude.  It compares these times to the time on the server's clock to determine if its day or night.

Why is the picture so small?

The picture is intentionally small to make sure you can catch all the action.  The bigger the picture, the faster your modem connection needs to be in order for the video to be fast enough to catch the action.  If it takes 1 second to send a small frame of video over a 28.8 modem,  it might take 5 seconds to send a larger frame over the same speed connection.  The picture size attempts to balance picture detail with video speed.

Why is the picture blurry?

The camera is behind a glass plate to protect it from weather and bubbles.  Unfortunately, bubbles frequently hit the glass or burst near the glass.  Over time, the glass gets a thin bubble film which blurs the picture.  Periodically, we'll go outside and clean the glass.

Why didn't I see bubbles?

Several things might effect your ability to see bubbles.

We're using a Java script to have your browser pull the images.  If you're not using a browser with Java capabilities, it might not work.  Microsoft stopped including Java on Windows XP workstations so you'll have to go to http://java.com to download it yourself.  The bubbles might actually be working but your browser might not be able to update the video.

Another problem is wind.  It sometimes gets windy in the afternoons and the bubbles blow quickly off-camera.  Go to your favorite weather website and check the forecast for Delray Beach, FL to see if its windy.  If the current conditions mention its windy or raining you'll probably have a hard time seeing any bubbles.

Occasionally we have technical difficulties.   We usually catch it pretty quickly and get things going.  On rare occasions, we could forget to put bubble solution in the bubble machine.  Either way, try the "bubbles" button at least one more times waiting at least 60 second each try.  If you still don't see bubbles, user or bubblecam survey form to tell us what went wrong.

Why do the video frames update so slowly or not at all?

There could be several reasons for this.

Things can get slow during peak times of the day.  The bubble cam has become very popular and we've often got more than one viewer at the same time.  If five people with 56K modems are connected, they can require up to 280K of bandwidth from our server's connection.  Our server has a dedicated 256K outbound connection.  If we're really busy, this might slow things down as multiple users consume available bandwidth.

We're not actually streaming the video.  Instead, your browser is running a Java script that requests frames as fast as they come in.  Your PC requests a frame, we receive the request and send the frame.  Your PC gets the frame and immediately requests a new frame.  This continues while you view the page.  If the request/send/receive/request process happens quickly enough, it looks like video.  Between your PC and our server there might be anywhere from two to twenty internet "Routers."  Routers are computers that manage and direct all the internet traffic.  If the communications between your PC and our server has to hop around 20 routers then your video is going to be slow.  If you really want to know how far away you are from our server, try the following from your Windows 98, 2000, or ME PC system.

Open an MS Dos prompt and type

TRACERT www.andieandmike.org

After you hit Enter, it should scroll a bunch of stuff on the screen.  A friend in the UK did a traceroute to us.  When he did, he got the following results.

tracert andieandmike.org

Tracing route to andieandmike.org [] over a maximum of 30 hops:

  1    <1 ms    <1 ms    <1 ms
  2    18 ms    15 ms   303 ms
  3    11 ms    14 ms    11 ms
  4    16 ms    18 ms    28 ms
  5    20 ms    18 ms    18 ms  tele1-azt-pos.telewest.net []
  6    16 ms    23 ms    20 ms
  7    31 ms    19 ms    77 ms
  8    89 ms   143 ms    86 ms  bcs2-so-0-0-0.newyork.savvis.net []
  9    93 ms   108 ms   112 ms  bcs2-so-4-0-0.washington.savvis.net []
 10   146 ms   101 ms   146 ms  dcr2-so-7-1-0.atlanta.savvis.net []
 11   112 ms   107 ms   106 ms  dcr1-as0-0.atlanta.savvis.net []
 12   124 ms   215 ms   127 ms  acr1-so-7-0-0.miami.savvis.net []
 13   117 ms   127 ms   148 ms  dpr1-so-0-0-0.mit.savvis.net []
 14   118 ms   116 ms   118 ms  bpr2-as0-0.mit.savvis.net []
 15   120 ms   127 ms   120 ms  internap.miamimit.savvis.net []
 16   123 ms   130 ms   120 ms  border5.pc1.bbnet1.mia003.pnap.net []
 17   115 ms   158 ms   127 ms  compofficesol-2.border6.mia003.pnap.net []
 18   157 ms   130 ms   123 ms  cosrb500.cofs.com []
 19   235 ms   132 ms   138 ms  dsl-6-127.cofs.net []

Trace complete.

How many visitors do you get?

Heaps!   Since we've been listed as the AllCam Editor's choice and made it in the EarthCam top ten, we've been getting over 200 visitors a day most of which operate the bubble machine at least once.  Even better, many visitors are going on to look at other pages and features on our web site after viewing the bubble cam.  We've had visitors from all over the world including England, Ireland, Germany France, the Netherlands, Australia, Mexico, Sweden, Portugal, Belgium, Iceland, Denmark, Greece, and Israel.  Want more visitor statistics?  Click HERE to view Bubblecam statistics collected and tabulated by our server.

How do you know where your visitors are from?

Our server keeps an audit trail of of the IP address of users who activate the bubble machine.  The server then does a "whois" lookup to find the upper level domain name that IP address belongs to.  This is all recorded for statistics.  We don't collect ANY personal information you don't knowingly and voluntarily give us.  Read our Privacy Policy to find out what kind of information we track and how we use it.

Why are you doing this?

Our web site started out as a hobby.  Its still a hobby - just a bigger one.  We first started the web site as a way to let our family keep tabs on us when we moved to Florida.  Its just grown from there.  We're not a business but just an ordinary Florida couple enjoying the sunshine.  We've personally funded all aspects of the web site including internet connection, hardware, software etc.  We have recently begun selling small ads to help defer the costs and at least come close to breaking even.  Back to the question... We're doing it because its a lot of fun.  Many of you have sent us email from all over the world.  We're really having a good time with it.

What do you do for a living?

Andie a licensed massage therapist.  She also has a degree in International Baking and Pastry and another degree in Food and Beverage Management.  In the past she's been a cake decorator and a baker.

Mike is currently a software developer for a software company which specializes in healthcare related software.  In the past he's been a software consultant, a PC hardware technician, and a network administrator for a large hospital network.

What is it like living with the Bubble Cam?

It used to be more of a hassle but lately Mike has made several changes to make it a little easier to maintain.  We used to have to fill the bubble machines twice a day.  Mike added a second machine and the server alternates between the two machines.  This allows us to go twice as long before having to refill the machines.  He has also fitted a 7 gallon bucket with a hose and spigot to ease the task of filling the bubbles.  Lately we've been using over a half gallon per day of bubble solution.    No matter what, we love it.  We're having a lot of fun with it and really enjoy all the viewers and email.


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