Monday, November 26, 2018

Option C: ethernet over power lines

Original post 11/26/2018:
Been awhile since I tried one of these (and was very disappointed back then) but given the fun keeping cams down at the creek has been I thought I'd try it again. I bought one of the TP-Link AV1300 / AC1350 Gigabit Powerline Wi-Fi Adapter Kit | HomePlug AV2 Technology w/Beamforming | Plug, Pair, and Play (TL-WPA8630 KIT V2) because it had 3 ports plus WiFi AP built in. I should mention this is in a heavily wooded area outside my fenced in area. The cams are also close to the creek and I've had a couple cams near the creek stolen and wires cut. I was getting OK reliability  with a serious outdoor AP. A Unifi Outdoor+ with Ubiquiti Airmax Omni AMO-2G10 10Dbi 2.4 GHz Rocket Kit which could cover an acre without all the trees. I also tried putting an Unifi Outdoor+ down in the trees but since it was mounted in a tree the connection was flaky plus I was not happy with the idea vandals could get to a cable wired directly into my network and could fry some hardware. With the power line option they might destroy equipment outside the fence but not inside. So far it is working great which is kind of surprising on a couple levels. First from my previous disappointing experience. Then there is the whole AC noise issue that made me move from X10 to Z-wave a few years back. And I did not make it easy. The connections goes from the switch, to the inside adapter, to a 75 foot extension cord with neon power indicators in it (it was in place already), to and outside plug, through a Z-wave power switch, down a line about 55 feet to a breaker box, down another line to and outdoor outlet about 60 feet from the breaker and then lastly another 50 foot extension cord to a waterproof box where the receiver and POE injectors are. Despite that AP being in a box on the ground the WiFi seems to work pretty good too. This comes in real handy for adjusting the cams out there where getting between the tablet and the AP can be enough to lose a large percent of frames if not the connection.

Note I had bought a couple CelerCable CAT7 Slim Flat Ethernet Patch Cable with Snagless RJ45 Connectors, 50 Feet - Black with the thought they might be harder to see laying flat against the trucks of the trees but be warned these cables got hot running 12 volt POE through them. Using the Huacam HCP05 Passive PoE Injector/Splitters of course. The resistance in the cable was so bad the Amcrest IP4M-1026 would drop offline when the IR LEDs kicked on. I ended up routing the power through the old power cables till I receive replacement cables.

Update 7/25/2019:

The install down by the creek has been working well so I started thinking of doing similar out by the gate. This involved running about 300 feet of armored 120 VAC cable through the trees from the house breaker box and putting the home end on a different circuit, though on the same phase on the main. This would seem to be well beyond the specs but it appears to be working fine at an average of 230 kB/s. Note the price might be a bit daunting though. By the time you add in the cable, breaker, connectors, GFI outlet, boxes and such it came out to almost a $1/foot. With the Ethernet of Power being the first $100 of that. But it is handling 30fps of 720p just fine across the built in WiFi which is much better than the 1-3 I was getting before and should let me upgrade to cams with better data rates without worrying about how well their WiFi is.

So far the only downside seems to be that I'm not getting traffic status in the network monitor anymore since a Unifi port or AP is not the first contact point for the clients. Though I can get the traffic stats on the Unifi port the home end to plugged into.

Next I want to swap out that old Foscam FI9804P 720P Outdoor HD Wireless IP Camera with a Wyze cam with sensor hub in an outdoor case. And probably another wide angle cam to watch the street. I'll have to see how it handles the load.
The Wyze cam was a bust.
Ended up with a Reolink 5MP centered on the mailbox so I can zoom in on if needed.

Update: 1/20/2020 some gotchas.
I bought a third unit to use as a spare and had the bright idea of naming them so I more easily tell which was which. This seems to not do anything but cause the units to unpair.
TP-link device setting screen.
Also I plugged a Etekcity smart plug into the outlet that joined the 250 foot run from the gate to the 50 foot run to the house so I could control some low voltage lighting I added. This totally messed with the signal reducing it to the point I was averaging 1318 ms pings. Adding a surge protector between the line and the plug seems to have brought things back to the normal average for that line of 155 ms ping times. Note the original run to the creek area is averaging 7 ms pings.

Update 1/31/2020: The ping times started getting bad again. The issue appears to have been the Stanley power strip I plugged the indoor end into was causing noise on the line. Moving the indoor end back to the wall outlet got the ping times back to averaging under 70 ms. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Added filterable sheet to camera compare

On my Camera spec compare sheet I added a transposed version of the HD cams sheet called HD filterable. It is not as readable as the other given it is over 200 columns by almost 30 rows but it had the advantage of being able to filter the camera models by all the features you are interested in. Just go to the HD filterable sheet and create a temporary filter

Then click on the down arrow of each column you want to filter.
For instance here I selected Brand, Color and Viewing Angle such as
To get a view like this

Monday, November 5, 2018

What is the best camera for X?

I see that question posted a lot. Often just "What is the best camera?".


It really depends on what you are monitoring and the features you need to do that. If you are just looking for a motion alert about anything will do. Note outdoors that will likely include things waving in the breeze or reducing the sensitivity and or marking to the point you miss a lot. But if you actually want to be able to have video usable by the police or (even more usual in my case) see what caused some damage and find how it got there to do it or where some critter is hiding, you need to have the right equipment in place before it happens. And that takes some thought. Preferable leaning to the overkill side given lenses get dirty and odds are you will not think of everything that will happen that you will want footage of after it does.

Once you start looking you find WAY too many posts and even news reports where someone only discovers the video they have is basically worthless after something has happened. Then as mentioned at the start I see almost daily posts just in one Facebook group alone, much less other groups from people asking which camera or even camera / NVR bundle is best with little of no mention of what they are trying to monitor. There seems to be a common myth that there is a best best cam that is also best in every situation. Better it do a bit of planning up front for the best match to your situation and get the footage you want latter. Even then you will probably want to add or upgrade cams once you see what you get. Especially the way prices are dropping per megapixel.

Think of it like buying TV(s). If you are cool with watching TV on a phone then the stream quality does not matter much. If instead you are coming from a 25 inch analog TV to a 40 inch 720p looks awesome but a get you see 1080p you will never go back. Though 4K is probably overkill till you are ready for a larger screen as well. But for TVs HDR (kind of analogous to color low light sensitivity in cams) is probably more significant to most than 4K. Though to get HDR you generally need to buy a higher end 4K TV.

Things to take into account:

If you are looking for some examples of what actual footage from several models of cameras look like check out my playlist of security camera examples.

Use the above to figure out the minimum specs you need to get usable video.

This why I currently have online are a mixture of brands and models. See my compare sheet.

To find the best camera(s) you need first by gathering the answers to most of the above then ask that question again and or do a bit of research.

Again plan on wanting more once you know what you have been missing you can easily want to cover every inch. I started with a tower cam on a rotor so I could see what the dogs were barking at without having to go to the right window or maybe even outside to see. Even with all my cams I  still have spots I want to add cams.

This whole blog is me documenting what I learned from what I've tried, what worked and what didn't despite of or confirming other's claims. And hoping to spare others some of the pain.

Adding this which should be pinned to the top of every security cams group.

FIRST figure out the specs you need for each camera location THEN start looking at models. You might be OK with Wyze cams or need $10K worth of gear to do what you want. The important part of that is what YOU want. I currently have 61 cams online and I'm still adding and doing upgrades but that is me. I'm covering multiple buildings plus acreage and I have critter issues. Some are OK just seeing something is moving on their phone.

The basics for usable footage (not just motion detection):

  • Any bundled system is just a starting point to learn on. 
  • Read NVR specs with skepticism.  For example supports 16 cams might mean only recording on motion or recording 24/7 but with not motion detection or 16 lower rez cams than the ones it is bundled with comes with much less the max rez it says it supports.
  • Any cam looks OK on a phone. The question is can you see the level of detail you want to see at the distance you want to see it by zooming in after the fact (assuming you are not monitoring your PTZ cams 24/7).
  • Avoid analog, battery power and WiFi cams and recording only to the cloud where you can.
  • Record 24/7 somewhere. This means no battery powered cams.
  • 4K will not let you see farther. it is for getting more detail in the designed range. 
  • An unmonitored PTZ cam can not reliably cover the same area multiple fixed cams can.
  • Any cam that is not auto focus has a fixed range where objects are in focus. This is called depth of field. This range can be large or small depending on the camera design. Google it for more info. 
  • Sample night vision shots mean little without knowing what external lighting might be affecting the result. Compare shots between cams taken at the same time of obviously the same view are the best.
  • Put your cams and NVR on a UPS.
  • Most of the people posting in groups only know the one thing they bought often with little or no research other than asking a vague question in a Facebook group. I would not call myself an expert even with all the stuff I've tried. This analogy an installer told me sums it up perfectly. "I have to explain to my clients that if you have only ever ridden a horse and someone gives you a small compact car, you are gonna think it's awesome purely because you don't know you can get a Range Rover or a Truck for the same money." Then there are the ones trying to sell you what they sell. They might not even be pros. You definitely need to take the source into account and factor in bias and scope of experience.