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Is there software that allows the webcam to be used as a camera?
I'm using Ubuntu 12.04 desktop.
As your goal is to take pictures of your desk, I'd suggest to install cheese
Open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+t) and type:
sudo apt-get install cheese
Then start it with just cheese from the same terminal or from the Dash:
Another nice alternative to cheese: GTK UCV Video Viewer
Install it using sudo apt-get install guvcview
sudo apt-get install guvcview
May I assume you wish to be able to take a still photo with your webcam? If so, I recommend cheese. It is available in the Ubuntu repositories:
After you start it, there is an option to take a photo, photos in a burst or videos.