Seems like I haven’t made many posts lately. Lilliam and I have several projects going that have been consuming much of my time. Lilliam has a fairly significant remodeling project and I have been tired just watching it.
I have mentioned some of my security projects in past post. One of those security projects, is my video surveillance camera project. I had it completed and all working, but I wasn’t quite satisfied with it. I decided to design a different system using a MacMini. That is what I am going to discuss today.
When I built my previous system, I started off with a Dahua standalone NVR (network video recorder) and four Dahua 2100 ip cameras. I ordered all of the system components directly from the China distributor and had them delivered direct to David at a savings over buying the components in the US and shipping here. I could not find what I wanted in David.
The Dahua NVR used an embedded Linux system and worked fine for what it was designed to do. However, I wanted a little more flexibility and like most similar systems, they prefer interfacing with Microsoft based Operating Systems.
Since I moved away from Microsoft to Apple several years ago, the interface with the NVR was more cumbersome. I also wanted more flexibility than the embedded linux system offered, so I decided to replace the NVR portion of my system with an Apple Mac Mini.
To make the move, I had to order a POE ( power over Ethernet) switch and chose a TRENDnet 8 port switch. This switch provides all power to the cameras. That function was previously done by the Dahua NVR.
Next I had to decide what software to run on the MacMini. My Internet search produced three possible candidates. They were Xeoma (runs on most operating systems), EvoCam (a Mac OSX system), and SecuritySpy (a MAC OSX system).
The one that had the most YouTube videos and one I hoped might work was Xeoma. It’s demos were slick on YouTube. It is a software product from Russia, but I didn’t let that prevent me from considering it.
Xeoma didn’t provide as easy a way of testing all cameras as the other two systems. It only allowed testing with a single camera prior to buying. When I activated the software and connected it to my camera, for some reason, that is not understood by me or the Xeoma support team, my camera locked and shut down. It took me a week of trading emails with the Dahua camera support staff in Hong Kong to get it unlocked. I had to borrow a Microsoft laptop to unlock the camera.
After I got the camera unlocked and the software running, the quality of my video stream was poor and not to the level I had seen in YouTube videos. I deleted the software from my MacMini and removed it from consideration. It may work for others, but not worth any more of my time.
That left me with SecuritySpy from Bensoftware and EvoCam from Evological. I downloaded SecuritySpy and ran into one question with my cameras. I wrote Bensoftware and received an immediate computerized response giving me a trouble ticket and was told that I would get a response as soon as possible.
Bensoftware is in England and the time difference caused the response to come the following day. The answer was complete and actually referenced a section of the documentation that had the answer. Had I read better, I would have answered my own question.
Configuration of the cameras was easy and the software supports every camera I had considered during my camera research, far more than EvoCam. The documentation was clearly written and very thorough. It was easy to set up Internet connectivity and recording. While in the recording mode, it did put a nag block in the middle of the video, but that is understandable, since I was on a free trial.
It was obvious that it would do all that I need to do and has many features intended for more serious systems.
While I was on my 30 day trial, I downloaded EvoCam and installed on my system. The documentation is sufficient, but not as well done or complete as that for SecuritySpy. It did have all the features I needed and it was easy enough to get my cameras running. I received good technical support in setting up the system from Ecological. To me it’s best feature was its cost. It cost $30 for any number of cameras.
SecuritySpy is priced based on the number of cameras. For the number I have and the potential additional cameras I may add, EvoCam had a big cost advantage. It had a 15 day evaluation period and did not put a nag block on my recorded videos from the cameras.
Toward the end of my trial, I decided that EvoCam would do what I wanted and I bought the software and registered it. All was working fine and I was a happy camper.
Sometime that night, after registering, contact was lost with my cameras. At a specific time the recording stopped and I had a fixed frame on all videos. It was as if the software had recognized that my trial period had expired and even though I had entered the registration number it shut down.
I wrote the company and received some suggestions, but none helped. I have a second MacMini, so I decided to try the software on it and the cameras worked again in trial mode. I moved back to my original system and started trying to diagnose the problem.
I went as far as deleting it from the system and downloading another copy. Nothing seemed to help and I finally wrote the developer and asked if he had any more suggestions and if not, I was going to remove the software. I got a response that he had refunded my money.
I immediately purchased SecuritySpy and it is now running as my sole video surveillance software.
I have since realized that it has one benefit that the others didn’t have. It provides you with a DDNS system that eliminates the need to purchase DDNS support like No-IP. That will save $19 a year over paying for the managed account with No-IP. I know you can use No-IP for free, but that requires you to manually intervene once a month and that is an annoyance, I can do without.
What having the DDNS system means is this. When my system connects to the Internet, my internet service provider (Cable Onda) dynamically gives it an ip address. That address can change for any number of reasons. I could pay Cable Onda for a static ip address, but that is not all that cheap.
The reason this is a problem, is because I want to be able to see my cameras no matter where I am. If my alarm system sends me an email, or text message, I want to be able to see why I was notified. To do that, I need to know the ip address currently assigned to my system.
DDNS services solve that problem. You leave a background program running on your system and it periodically asks detects the address being provided by Cable Onda. It then provides the ip address to the DDNS service, which in turn gives me the address of my system. SecuritySpy provides that function.
I am now fully able to watch my house when I am away. I can also watch my cameras from iPad, iPhone or any Internet connected PC. If I am in bed and Koki barks, I can check to see if there is a reason without having to get up. The cameras have infrared capability and I can see great detail even in total darkness. Like the Dahua NVR system, all processing has a UPS providing power and will continue to run even if house power is lost.
That closes this project and this post and I am sure is more than you wanted to know.