I set up a Web cam running Debian Squeeze in around 10 minutes. The Web Cam itself was an 'el cheapo' model made by Microsoft.
Its a LifeCam VX-1000 color Web Cam with 640x480 resolution for video and still images. It has a built-in microphone and a USB type A connector. More importantly, its supported in Debian Linux.
I plugged the camera in and ran 'lsusb'.
Bus 003 Device 004: ID 045e:00f7 Microsoft Corp. LifeCam VX-1000
The device was recognized immediately. Great. I'm running Debian 2.6.32 kernal, I guess the device driver is already in the kernel.
I installed an app to see the Web Cam in action. I pulled down Camorama. Its a simple application with limited abilities, but it will do fine for testing.
aptitude install camorama
Two minutes later, it was installed. I fired up the program and had Web Cam images onscreen. Camorama can capture stills or display images as they happen. It has no streaming capabilities.
I installed Cheese from the Debian repository:
aptitude install cheese
On completion, I fired it up and could capture still images or record video. Its slightly more versatile than Camorama.
I also got the Web Cam to display images in mplayer. I did:
mplayer -fps 30 tv://
I googled but results were thin on the ground for what I wanted. I read briefly you can use Mencoder to save the stream to disk or similar. I guess I will have to dive into the MPlayer / Mencoder documents to find what I need.
I will look into that over the next couple of weeks, and post on results.
Anyhow, its a positive start. It works.