FogCam!, the World’s Longest-Running Webcam, Is Shutting Down

ARL0886/iStock via Getty Images
ARL0886/iStock via Getty Images

Nowadays, you can livestream anything from yo-yo contests to bats, penguins, puffins, and killer whales. But 25 years ago, when the internet was still relatively uncharted territory, mundanity ruled the world wide web. It was during that time that Jeff Schwartz (a.k.a. Webdog) and Dan Wong (a.k.a. Danno), two students earning their master’s degrees in instructional technologies at San Francisco State University, decided to set up FogCam!, a live stream that documented a typical day on campus.

Today, that webcam—which was inspired by the University of Cambridge’s Trojan Coffee Pot cam—is the oldest continuously operating webcam in the world. But all that is about to change. As The New York Times reports, FogCam! will be shutting down for good at the end of August.

Since 1994, FogCam! has been tracking student life at San Francisco State University by being placed in various spots around campus and capturing images every 20 seconds. Though its design is relatively rudimentary—it's just a Mac computer and a camera Schwartz and Wong purchased from the campus bookstore—it didn't take long for FogCam! to find a unique way to serve a real purpose for students: It could help them find open parking spots or see which lines were shortest at coffee shop Café Rosso. But 25 years later, the camera's creators feel like FogCam! has served its purpose.

“We felt it was time to let it go,” Schwartz told SF Gate. “The bottom line is that we no longer have a really good view or place to put the camera. The university tolerates us, but they don’t really endorse us and so we have to find secure locations on our own.” Schwartz said that over the years school administrators have threatened to shut the camera down ... but FogCam! prevailed. Now, Schwartz and Wong are ready to retire it on their own terms.

The end of FogCam! marks the end of an era, an innovative period when you could livestream any old thing without thinking about it from a business or marketing standpoint. “It was a throwback to the time when anyone could publish anything,” Schwartz told The New York Times. “A lot of people were experimenting. It wasn’t very exciting. But it didn’t matter.”

As for finding an open spot in the university parking lot: as of September, students are on their own.

10 Simple Tricks for Charging Your Smartphone Faster

Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images
Makidotvn, iStock via Getty Images

Smartphones always seem to reach low power at the least convenient moments possible. If you've ever urged your device to charge faster in the minutes before a phone interview or when you're about to board a plane, you can relate. While the easiest way to avoid this scenario is to plug in your device before the battery dips into the danger zone, if you've already reached this point, there are simple ways to speed up the charging process.

Some hacks for charging a phone faster involve steps you can take in anticipation of the next time you're surviving on minimum energy. Certain gadgets, like special chargers and battery packs, will power-up your device more efficiently than others. For moments when your phone is dying and all you have is your regular charging cable, adjusting your phone's settings to minimize the power it consumes also works in a pinch.

You can find some specific ways to charge your phone quickly below: 

  1. Plug it into a wall outlet instead of a USB port.
  1. Use a portable battery pack.
  1. Buy a special "fast" phone charger.
  1. Switch to low power mode.
  1. Switch to airplane mode.
  1. Let your phone drain completely on its own once a month to the extend the battery life.
  1. Close any background apps.
  1. Stop automatic app updates.
  1. Don't check your phone while it's charging
  1. Keep your phone out of the heat.

For more tricks for making your phone usage more efficient, check out these tips for typing faster.

Does Pushing the Button at a Crosswalk Actually Do Anything?

Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
Pressing this crosswalk button may or may not do something.
David Tran/iStock via Getty Images

Since crosswalk signals rarely seem to give you the green light (or more accurately, the white, human-shaped light) right after you press the button, you may find yourself wondering if those buttons actually work. The potentially exasperating answer is this: It depends.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that crosswalk buttons aren’t designed to have an immediate effect; they’re just supposed to tell the system that a person is waiting to cross. As CityLab explained, some systems won’t ever give pedestrians the crossing signal unless someone has pressed the button, while others are programmed to shorten the wait time for walkers when the button has been pressed. No matter what, the system still has to cycle through its other phases to give cars enough time to pass through the intersection, so you’ll probably still have to stand there for a moment.

During busy traffic times or under other extenuating circumstances, however, cities can switch the system to what’s known as “recall mode,” when pedestrian crossings are part of the cycle already and pressing the button quite literally changes nothing. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if a particular button is in recall mode, short of calling your city officials and asking an expert to come inspect it.

But if you feel like a button isn’t doing anything, there’s a pretty good chance it’s been permanently deactivated. As congestion has increased and the systems to manage it have become more advanced over the years, cities have moved away from using crosswalk buttons at all. In 2018, for example, CNN reported that only around 100 of New York City’s 1000 buttons were still functioning. Since actually removing the buttons from crosswalks would be a costly endeavor, cities have opted to leave them intact, just waiting to be pummeled by impatient pedestrians who don’t know any better.

What about 'close door' buttons on elevators, you ask? That depends, too.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at