I need to set up a video conference, yet I have no webcam. I'm looking to buy something that works out of the box with Ubuntu 10.04, and as many possible conferencing apps as possible. Can anyone recommend me something I might be able to find at a local store?
You can take a look here.
Many webcams will "just work" in Ubuntu. There is a USB standard that defines USB streaming video called UVC. This stands for Universal Video Class, and it does for webcams what UMS does for USB memory sticks and hard drives. This allows one driver to work with many webcams. When looking to purchase a webcam for use with Ubuntu, you should look for a UVC compatible camera. The Linux-UVC project has a good list of UVC compatible webcams as well as The Quickcam Team for Logitech cameras.
What you can do is test the webcam at the store with a LiveCD or your laptop. If you have a desktop you can test it at home and if it doesn't work you return it. This last thing is what I did when I bought my webcam (Genius iSlim 330 - works out of the box).
Most will just work. Getting a definitive list is somewhat harder because the list varies from kernel (and its UVC version) to kernel.
In my experience, the cheaper, the better. As soon as you start getting into software-controlled things like tracking and flashes, you tend to need drivers that just aren't available. Dirt-cheap webcams seem to all share common hardware.
If in doubt, buy something that isn't in a sealed box so you can return it if it doesn't work.
The Logitech C200 has been reported as a webcam that works out of the box on Lucid,
Most UVC compliant webcams will work in Linux in general, here is a list of UVC Compliant cam hardware from Logitech: http://www.quickcamteam.net/devices/logitech_uvc_device_list.pdf
I have a Logitech C500 that has worked like a charm out of the box. Caveat: it does not work well with Cheese Webcam Booth by default- none of the webcams I have tried work well with Cheese. The C500 yields an acceptable picture after tweaking the preferences in Cheese. It works perfectly with guvcviewer.
Most of them work out of the box. If you use Skype see the list for compatibility