03-13-2017 03:28 PM
With my recent posting of "Warning Ring Video Doorbell Fees" and the onslaught of opinions afterwards, I'm not sure that I should share with you my Home Surveillance system for fear that your opinions would dominate mine, but please note what I am writing about, is not an opinionate piece but rather it is "what I did last summer" for my home. If there are questions of why did I do what I did, my answer would be "it was for the best at that time."
A year ago, my apartment manager had scheduled themselves to enter my apartment to remove my insect Screens in prep for the annual washing of the windows. Since I wasn't going to be home, I needed a cheap and effective way to monitor what they were doing in my home.
I had considered purchasing Arlo at that time, but two things held me back from that purchase.
1. no local recording
2. no idea if that turning off motion detection recording means that surveilance is completely off.
So instead I bought five TP-Link NC250 from BestBuy and installed them around my apartment. They connect via Wi-fi so all you need is an outlet You can set them up to motion detect and send you an e-mail with a snapshot of who or what activated the motion, and/or you can record and stream the video to a local PC. The cameras are also viewable from an iPhone App remotely to see what is going on within your home.
To turn them on and off easily, I also purchased the iHome iSp5 Wi-fi SmartPlug from BestBuy. The smartoutlets can be integrated with Apples' Homekit thus allowing Siri Commands like "Turn on Cameras" or "Turn off Cameras".
For the first month or so, I was using my Mac to record all activites but it soon became apparently that this was more of a chore than automatic since I had to start up the program just before I leave the house and everytime I did this my thoughts turned toward an Arlo purchase.
To fully automate this I decided to pick up the Zotac Pi332 PC from Bestbuy. The Stock of this pc comes and goes at BestBuy and at this moment there is no link to it. However the PI332 is the size of a deck of cards and fits behind the books on my bookshelf comfortably. It even can connect via WiFi AC but to capture 5 streaming video cameras I am using a gigabit cable. For storage since the PC only has 32GB and 12GB is used for the system so I added a micro 64GB sd card.
It took awhile to configure the free iSpy program but once I got it up and running, it stays in the notification area running in the background. In addition you can configure the TP-Link cameras to motion caption only; no motion, no video stream.
Now when I head out of the house, all I do is say "Hey Siri, turn on Cameras" and the outlets to the cameras would turn on, thus turning on the cameras. The Zotac PC is always on, recording to the SD card when the cameras streams. When I get home I say "Hey Siri, turn off cameras" and the outlets would go off.
The only problem with this whole setup is the Zotac Atom PC barely keeps up with 5 recording streams and this is at 480p rather than 720p. Now the problem may be the WiFi, so perhaps with gigabit cabling to each camera we may get the full 720p recording. Also automatic upgrade has been deactivated in Windows 10 plus a whole lot of software bloat had to be removed before the mini PC could be used as a micro server.
I am using Microsoft Remote Desktop to check up the status of the system from time to time. The SD card is mapped out like a NAS device so all I need to do is mapped the SD card drive to my Mac to view any recorded events.
Local recording storage + Cameras off completely (no power) means a lot to me as I usually walk around the house in my very old wrinkly sagging birthday suit.
p.s. for those that have read my Ring Video post and was astute enough to note that I live in an apartment with this post; yes I have a ring video on my apartment door, mainly for the mailman who actually delivers mail door to door. This mailman would deliver all my BestBuy goodies and during the summer I would sit out on my balcony and I would worry that I miss my deliveries. With Ring, I can sip on my Ice Tea, listen to music on my headphones and still be notified that the mailman is at the door. Orders from **competitor** would also be delivered by the mailman. For deliveries from UPS or Fed-ex from **competitor**, I can buzz them through the lobby doors and with the Ring, I can tell them just to leave the parcel at my door. Ring keeps an eye on my delivery.
Once again Thanks for reading and the only reason that I'm posting this here is that I did buy all this stuff from BestBuy.
BTW All my lights switches and light outlets are lutron caseta (also bought from BestBuy and it is a blast in my home as I use Siri on my Apple watch to turn on and off my lights. Unfortunately I am using the cheapest Security alarm I could find; the SkylinkNet Security and it does not integrate with Siri.
04-20-2017 03:33 PM
The one problem that I have with my TP-Link NC250 camers, with 5 cameras active, is that my wifi N is barely keeping up with 480P recording on all 5 cameras; I do not know if this is a limitation of the Wifi or the low power PC that is doing the recording However the camera itself can handle 720p recording according to TP-Link claims so perhaps all I need is an ethernet connection.
I had an epiphany today that I could purchase a bunch of powerline ethernet adapters so I can connect all my cameras via ethernet to increase the streaming rate to 720p.
Suddenly everything just came to a head because when I checked Best Buy for powerline adapters, they were on sale and today was the last day of the sale thus I had a rush of online orders as well as reservations since there were not enough powerline adapters at the local bestbuy; I needed 5.
My questions are
1. whether I can use one powerline as the master with 5 devices connected at the other end at different locations with 5 individual slaves.
2. is the 2000Mbs model really able to get at least gigabit speeds let alone their claim of 2GB.
3. can I use these to connect to my WD Cloud instead of my 50 feet cat 6 cable that I'm using now.
No idea of how this would work out, but if I can get Arlo quality of 720p, I'll be stoked,
04-21-2017 01:36 AM
For some strange reason my method of payment did not go through on my online order. The two powerline adapters that I picked up from the local best buy is not enough to adapt all of my camera to ethernet, thus I clicked on the cancel button on the online orders. Although the email told me that they will re-try in a few days, but I figure that I really didn't want to go through all the effort and with this bump in the road, I thought it is a sign that I shouldn't waste my time.
I even bought 10 foot ethernet cables, extra power outlets from ikea with cable wraps, all which I will be returning tomorrow. As well as returning the two powerline that I did manage to buy; not going to wast my time in testing them..
The last time I had this glitch was when I tried to buy a laser printer at exactly midnight. The printer was changing from on sale to off sale. I noticed today that the order status was "out of stock" after I ordered and I don't know if that would cause the glitch.
No idea what went wrong.... too bad...
04-21-2017 08:07 AM
Sometimes your credit card company will lock your card after a Best Buy purchase.
This has happened to me before. I purchase a lot online and use my credit card exclusively.
Apparently, Best Buy is a very popular place for people to shop with stolen credit cards, so it is a red flag sometimes according to CIBC's algorithms.
04-21-2017 11:19 AM
@SonicBoom:That is exactly what I found out today with my credit card. After taking 45 minutes to get transfered to their security department, got hunged up by them once, I found out that I triggered their CC security by buying all over the place yesterday; 5 Best Buy online orders plus a bunch of random stores to complete my cabling for the cameras.
Although I appreciate their tight security, but I needed to know how this isn't going to happen again in the future? So I insisted that somehow they should keep a record of my spending habits.... which is almost Best Buy exclusively with *cough* *cough* occasionally the Amazingly-zon when Best-buy doesn't have it; not too many electronic stores around anymore. Anyways they cleared off all my Best Buy FLAGS..... so now I can binge buy from them again.
Back to the normal blogging of my Security Cameras for those who are reading this post.
Luckily today.... Best Buy has a new sale on the Netgear Powerline AV2 1200Mbps adapter saving $30 from $120 but rather than going through the online fiasco like yesterday, I managed to reserve 3 powerline adapters from one store and the other 2 from the other. In addition the NetGear powerline has a socket pass through which will allow me to plug in my camera on top.
So I'm going to give this powerline ethernet a try after-all even though I really don't want to spend all this time spiffing up my security cameras. I really don't mind the 480p but it would be nice to get 720p and unfortunately the cost of this would be about $500. Perhaps in the end I would find out that the small PC cannot handle 5 simultaneous feeds at 720p, or I have been reading that the max speed of a powerline despite the claim of 1200Mbs is really about 100Mbs depending on how far your power outlets may be.
The cost of using TP-link cameras plus a tiny PC plus the time and effort has already exceeded the cost of buying an Arlo. Adding in the powerlines, this not only adds to the cost but also adds to the complexity as I have to readjust the spy cam recorder to now record in 720p. The last time I found the setup parameters took me about a week because there isn't any Tp-link 250 entry. This isn't something I want to do over again since everything is set up. Last time I had motivations to get it to work, this time I only have curiosity and you know where curiousity might take you.
I still love the Arlo security cameras for their simplicity but I hate the fact that you cannot turn them off. I've heard that you can turn off the motion detection for recording, but you cannot simply turn them completely off when you are at home. It may look like they are turned off but I heard you can access them remotely no matter what. The other problem with Arlo is no local recording, thus if you have that moment when you are walking around in your birthday suit and forgot about the cameras.... yeah that goes into the cloud forever even if you delete it immediately Arlos has backups of you :-P
There is a bright side to the TP-link cameras and that is your mobile app. TP-Link cameras doesn't really need a PC to record you, you can even use your mobile phone to remote view all your cameras and even hit record on your phone. Without a PC to record, you can even set up your TP-link to take a snapshot and to send you an email when it detects motion.
Originally I was just using the "TP-Link program" on the PC to record, but I found that once your camera goes off, the program stops recording and doesn't restart until you start it again. Spycam is a free linux type program for the pc that once configured, will remain in recording mode no matter what. Although Spycam also has a motion detection recording, I am using the TP-link camera to do the motion detection recording; it doesn't stream until motion is detected and you get the first 2 or 3 seconds of recording before the motion actually occurs. For example, when I enter the front door, you can see and hear the door being unlock (which doesn't trigger the motion detection yet) and then my entry which does trigger the motion detection and recording automatically includes the 3 seconds previous; it is like having a pre-cog camera of knowing when to record and not after you have walked by.
The thing that sold me on the TP-link cameras was the the dual ability of Wifi b/g/n or ethernet wired connectivity which meant that what I'm about to do, adding a powerline for wired ethernet, is now becoming a reality.
My Best-Buy resevations are ready... post up later...
04-22-2017 12:11 PM
So I spent the morning returning everything; all unopened.
I fell asleep last night, on the couch playing games and when I woke up this morning and looked over to my bags of powerline goodies, all of sudden they look more like work to me than fun; I use to be in IT :-P
Each outlet would have three plugs; the iHome Smartplug, the powerline ethernet and finally the cameera power adapter. There would be two cords running up the wall, the power cord and the ethernet cable. Already all my wall outlets are jammed pack with plugs throughout the apartment.
What is it for? All this complexity just to raise the quality of a security camera that is used occasionally. The quality of 480p is already good enough to probably ID the thief anyways.
There is no pleasure in all this work.
Thus everything was returned, saving me over $600 worth of adapters.
Thanks for reading.