Home Security On A Budget (Part 2)

6/7/2012 11:26:42 AM

The Cameras?

As I've mentioned above, webcams are at rock bottom prices at the moment, and if you really do want to cut costs, then there are 1.3MP webcams available on eBay for under $4.8 including postage. I can't vouch for their quality, but I would imagine they would do an okay job.

Description: the PCLine 300K

the PCLine 300K

With security, though, you really need a camera that can get a good look at someone. It's no good catching someone in the act, if all you can see is a pixelated blur. For this reason. I've decided for this feature to buy one very cheap camera off eBay, one from a high-street megastore, and use one higher-quality camera I have lying around.

The cheap eBay camera I chose was the PCLine 300K for the the grand price of $4.368 including postage. It arrived swiftly and all looked to be in good working order. It's capable of recording video at 640x480. My second camera is a Creative LiveCam from PC World for the slightly higher price of $23.984, although it was reduced from $31.984. Although the Creative can take still pictures at 1.3MP, it can only record video at 640x480, the same as my $4.368   camera.

My third camera is a Microsoft LifeCam Studio, which I think was a $80 camera when bought a year or so ago. The LifeCam is able to record HD video - something the other cameras cannot. However, on connection it appeared my Eee Box could not cope at all with that higher resolution, so it had to be set to VGA anyway. Obviously, if you want an HD webcam setup, you will need a more powerful PC.


Description:  D-Link DCS-6620G Wireless Webcam

D-Link DCS-6620G Wireless Webcam

If you really want a network that works without wires, then this is possible. Companies such as D-Link have a large range of wireless webcams. They cost about $96, though, so they're not in the confines of a budget camera network. However, if that does appeal to you (and you have a lot of money), then refer to the 'What If You Have Loadsa Money?' boxout.

The Network?

Wiring up your network of cameras is simplicity itself, as long as you're not afraid to drill holes through walls, and tack wires to skirting boards.

There's no complicated networking involved, because we're not using network cables and Ethernet ports, but rather just long USB cables. As long as your USB cables reach to your base computer, then you're laughing.

Positioning your cameras is important, though, because you need to be able to see the majority of the room from the angle you place the camera. Also, you need to consider that you will be using motion detection software to monitor your camera, so your camera needs to be in sight of doors and windows within the room. This, though, is something that you can experiment with at your leisure. One way of doing this is once you're set up, pretend to be a burglar and sneak about your house. Then go back to your computer and see if the software has picked you up and recorded your image. If it hasn't, then you may need to rethink your camera placings.

The Software?

So what software should you use? Well, there are many free software programs on the internet, and I am going to look at some of the better ones available. I'll start with Vitamin D.

Vitamin D

Description: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is fantastic, but to get all its features you need to put your hands in your pocket

Vitamin D is a fantastic program. It's easy to use, easy to configure and creates sharp fantastic results. There is, however, a snag, which is that the free software only allows one camera to be connected. To have up to four you have to pay money. For two cameras it will cost you $49, and for unlimited cameras it will cost you $199, which is not cheap at all. This is a shame, because the software is superb, and if you only require one camera anyway, then this is the program to use.

It allows you to define the area you want it to monitor and then Vitamin D's motion detection will do the rest. The motion detection on offer here is very advanced, and in my tests very reliable and accurate. Vitamin D does have email alerts when security is breached, but web-hosting and scripts are only on the paid-for version.

As I said, if all you need is one camera for security, then this is the program to choose, as it had the best results. Adding more cameras is expensive, but once you use this program, you may decide it's worth splashing out money on. It really is that good.

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