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.
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.
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?'
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
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.
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.
D is fantastic, but to get all its features you need to put your hands in your
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.