Big changes coming

So I’ve decided to spend a few bucks to fix a few niggling little issues around the house, mostly in the computer department:

  • First off, I’m worried about some recent break-ins and vandalism in the neighborhood.
  • Secondly, and slightly related, when I’m working in my office at the back of the house, it would be nice to know when the FedEx guy is ninja-ing a non-delivery tag at the front door instead of ringing the doorbell and waiting. Or know when the dogs bark whether it’s somebody at the door or just a shadow across the road.
  • The wifi penetration in the house sucks – in some parts of the house, your device will show one bar but nothing will actually get through. And if the microwave is on, forget about getting any signal on the other side of it. I put in a wifi repeater but it’s dog slow, and it uses a different SSID so you have to switch between SSIDs as you move around the house.

So here is what I’m in the process of doing to fix all those things:

  • I bought a security camera – an Airsight PTZ Pro outdoor camera with pan/tilt/zoom. If I wanted to, I could hook up a microphone and speaker so I could yell at the FedEx delivery guy to wait for 5 seconds as I run down. I’ve been playing with it and it is pretty amazing, although I’ve found one big flaw (more on that later)
  • I am running network cable from my office down into the basement, and from the basement up into the far corner of the basement, the dining room, and out to the front porch. The cable is currently pulled, but it’s not terminated and tested yet.
  • I’ve got a 8 port Gigabit Ethernet switch tacked to the wall where the first network cable drop comes down.
  • In the far corner of the basement, I’ve got a second router ready to install. I’m going to put this on the same SSID as the main one upstairs, and the same password, but on a different channel, turn off DHCP, and run the outgoing cable from my main router into the “WLAN” port of this one. I believe this will make the switchover from one to the other transparent so you don’t have to remember to switch SSIDs as you walk around the house, and it should perform a lot better than using the repeater. As an added bonus, it also supports 5GHz.
  • In the dining room, where Vicki spends 90% of her time when she’s using her computer, especially when she’d doing Second Life for work, there will be a wired network drop. Wifi is all well and good, especially 5GHz, but nothing beats wired.
  • The camera allows power over ethernet (or PoE as they call it in the brochure). So since I had to run power out to it anyway, I figured I’d give it the advantages of a wired connection, and run it all through the same wire.
  • The camera has the option to upload pictures and recordings to an FTP server. I figured that’s not much good to you if the thieves break in and steal your computer as well, so I’ve ordered a tiny little Raspberry Pi (aka Rπ). I already have a hard disk taken from a laptop that’s not doing anything, so I figure I can set up a tiny little FTP server and hide it somewhere where thieves won’t find it even if they’re ransacking the house. A closet, an obscure corner of the basement, even hidden inside the walls somewhere. These things are amazingly tiny. And I’m considering also using the Rπ to run ZoneMinder as an alternative to the built-in functionality because of the already foreshadowed flaw in the camera.

Ok, so what is this big flaw you’ve been talking about, I hear you ask? Well, it’s simple. The camera has the option to, when it detects motion, email you 5 pictures and start recording video to an ftp server. It also has the ability to pan and tilt and zoom. Those are two awesome features, right there. So what’s the problem? Well, when you set it panning, it interprets *that* as actionable movement and starts sending you emails. Not a good thing if you want it to continuously pan back and forwards. There is another option in the camera that lets you set up a bunch of fixed locations and have it cycle between those locations at intervals. I haven’t yet tested it to see if it’s smart enough to ignore movement while it’s moving between locations.

Oh, in other techie stuff, I finally got around to upgrading my Gallery site to Gallery3. In spite of the promises, the “Gallery 2 Importer” isn’t able to properly translate the URLs that Gallery 2 used to Gallery 3, so links to the Gallery are probably all broken. I did put in a mod_rewrite rule to take care of some of them, but not direct links to image files. Also, I seem to have lost all my raw pictures and movies.

I’m also currently looking into installing “ownCloud” as a way to get more space than I have with Dropbox without paying for it. I want enough space that I can throw my entire Documents folder on it instead of having to think “do I need this on all my machines, or is it ok if it’s just here” for every file. Since one of the two people renting space on my colo box never pays his rent except when I send him an email asking him if he’s still using it, I think I know where I can lay my hands on 100Gb of disk space on a server in a rack really cheap.