Being a Busy Bee

New Job

It's been a week or so since I last posted. I've been hoping to post more often and get a couple of more websites online. I'm hoping to turn website development and blogging into my full-time job and get some YouTube channels up and running. The last week has been extremely busy for myself and my wife as well. The coop we live in had a new property management company installed a couple years ago and one of the improvements they suggested to the board of directors was to have a security camera system installed. The property manager then contracted a local company here in Ottawa to install the cameras and set up the software on the office computer. As a member, my contribution to the coop is to take care of the technology side of things and fix any computer or printer problems that may arise. I was the person who purchased and installed the new office computer when the old one crapped out. I was fine with another company installing the camera system and didn't get involved with the process of determining what system we would require or the installation of it. Since it involved running a considerable amount of network cable, I thought it best to leave that to the company that specializes in that type of work.

Our New Security Camera System

Black Security Camera
Security Camera

Once the system was installed, it became apparent very quickly that support of the system was going to be very expensive since a tech had to make a service call whenever a camera went offline of the software had problems. I offered to take care of the system as it wasn't going to take me days to get onsite and it's a relatively simple network camera configuration. When the company that installed it became aware that someone onsite would be taking over the support of the system, they became rather rude about it. I called several times for the system information including usernames and passwords and it took some time before anyone would return my call and give me any information. Regarding passwords, I was told that I would need to install the smartphone app and then scan the QR code on the NVR and I would then be given administrator access. Unfortunately, administrator access didn't give me access to the cameras or the NVR to make changes, so I couldn't make changes to the hardware or even get the basic information I wanted to be able to setup additional cameras if needed. What I requested from the security company was Superuser access, but they refused to provide that.

Working with Garbage

So, for some time, I made due with the administrator access I had and tried fine tuning the system as best I could through the garbage software that interfaced with the hardware. We had some incidents that involved the police and when they requested video from the system, we found that the resolution the cameras were set at was essentially garbage and unless the perpetrator was standing a few feet from one of the cameras in good daylight, we couldn't make out any features. I tried to increase the resolution and the frame rates from the 12 fps they were set to, but the system would bog down so bad that I had to unplug the cameras from the NVR to get enough system resources back to reverse the changes. I tweaked the system to perform at the highest resolution and frame rates I was able to achieve without crashing it. I couldn't access the cameras directly, so I had to make the changes through the EZView desktop application in Windows. Essentially, the system was useless, and our administration staff spent well over $2000 for the system.

Time for a Change

So last month, I was asked by the board of directors if it was possible to install a new system that would be able to take video and pictures we could provide to police when needed. I volunteered to take on the task, not taking into consideration that I had no access to the current cameras installed or what systems were available to purchase. The board also wanted to have more cameras installed on the property and unfortunately, the distances involved meant that we must utilize repeaters or go wireless. If we go went with repeaters, we would have to use someone's electrical outlet to power the devices and such would pose a problem. In any case, I decided to work the issues out in stages with the first one getting the cameras we now have working well enough that we could get images when needed that had enough resolution to make proper identification. The second consideration was going with a new NVR or using a dedicated computer as a camera server. I opted for the latter and was going to go with a Linux box and use the Zoneminder software for accessing the cameras and performing all the compression and storage work. The problem I ran into with using an Ubuntu server, was the issue that if someone else must take over the system, they need to be well versed in Linux and more so with a Linux server as it is command line only. So, it made the most sense to go with a Windows system and find software that would work better than what we now had.

Shopping for Computer Gear

So off to CanadaComputers I went and purchased a refurbished Windows 10 Home computer that had 12 GB of RAM and both a wireless and wired network adapter. I picked up an additional ethernet card and a DLink 8 port POE managed switch. For extra storage, I opted for a Western Digital 4 TB MyBook external drive. These new drives with USB 3 connectivity should be more than fast enough to handle compressed video files being transferred from the computer. Currently, we are only able to keep video for about a week before it's overwritten due to insufficient hard drive space. Even though the camera resolution with the current system isn't very high, the video files for some reason are extremely large and I suspect that the video is being written directly to disk because the processor isn't able to compress the files fast enough. So, we have learned that you really need to do your research before you purchase a video system for your home or business. I wasn't involved in the process, so I had no input on the matter. The person who did the installation also set up a Super User account and then didn't leave us the password, so when it came time to get the IP addresses of the cameras, I had to remove each camera and reset it to default. To make matters worse, he installed all the cameras using tamper resistant hardware, so I had to purchase special tools to remove and open the cameras.

The End is Near

I finally got all the cameras reset and new IP addresses assigned and downloaded and installed the Blue Iris software to use for viewing and recording the camera footage. There were some resource issues at the onset, but once all the cameras were configured and the settings were matched in the Blue Iris software, those issues were resolved. Interestingly, the old NVR couldn't record at more than 720p at a maximum frame rate of 12 fps, and even at that, we were filling up the 1 TB drive in as little as 8 days. The new system has been up and running for over 10 days now and have yet to hit the 1 TB storage mark. We now have a little over 4 TB of storage space and the cameras are set at 1080p with a frame rate of 20 fps on 3 cameras and one camera is set to 30 fps. I will be setting all the cameras at the 30 fps rate to ensure we have decent video when we need it. I still must set up the remote access on the new system, but that's the job for this weekend in addition to working on some of my websites. I spent the last couple of weeks sick with some flu I caught and I'm still trying to get back to 100% as this thing seems to want to hang on forever. For a few days I didn't even bother getting out of bed. I also came down with a bout of diverticulitis and that has kept me from being too active and I now have to be very careful with my diet. It looks like it's going to be the Lose Your Belly Diet for awhile now.

Let me know in the comments if you have anything to say on this or any other post.

Cheers,

GMan

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