If you're using an inherited Webcam, you may get lucky and it will work as soon as you connect it. Here is the short way:
- Install Camorama
- Install both v4l and v4l2 (Video for Linux)
- Connect Webcam
- Start Camorama
- Wave to yourself
Figure 1 shows a problem with integrated Webcams: you have to adjust your whole screen to frame your image. I was sitting tall, too.
On a modern Linux distribution, udev and HAL should detect the Webcam, create /dev/video0 with the correct permissions, owner root and group video, and load the correct kernel module. If you are not in the "video" group, add yourself, then logout and log back in. Run the id command with no options to make sure. Run lsmod to verify that the correct kernel module loaded.