Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Response to all the hyped postings about the Ring "hack story" / Ring review

First off could people stop posting variations of this same story? I must have seen it posted at least dozen times in a couple days. Everyone should have seen it by now. And if they have not they probably will not gain anything from seeing it now. I'm making this cause I'm tired of explaining the story and correcting all the bad replies to all these posts.

Second if you actually read the accounts this hype is based on, it is mainly A guy doing these "hacks" for a podcast. He and his audience thinks it is funny.  Like a radio talk show host making crank phone calls.

Third any script kiddie can do this to accounts on ANY site if login info is reused on multiple sites without 2FA. BTW This is totally diff from brute forcing which even basic VPS served sites block pretty quick these days.

This is the 21st century. Passwords are like door locks. Reusing passwords if like locking your door with an old style lever tumbler lock might be better than leaving it unlocked but I doubt you are still using them on your doors. SMS 2FA is like upgrading to a typical pin tumbler lock. True 2FA with a fob or app is like adding a deadbolt. If you have deadbolts on you doors then you should have 2FA on any accounts you care about someone getting into.

If any of the above is news to you, get studying or hire someone to handle your online interactions NOW! At bare minimum use something like Lastpass to generate unique passwords for each and remember them for you. Personally I would also suggest getting a domain with mail forwarding and using a unique email address with each site as well. That way when you start to see spam come to that address you know the site has either been breached (often this never reported much less makes the news) or they have sold on your info. In the former you need to change your login ASAP. In the later you may want to route that email address trash and stop doing business with that site.

Now as whether you should get a Ring


I bought the original Ring Doorbell back in 2015 and sent it back same day. The video was awful and it took forever to connect.

Recently I got a deal from Amazon for a Ring 2 with Show 5 for less than the normal Ring 2 price so I thought I'd give it another go. Some of the things I ran into:

  • Failed install with flashing light pattern not in list of options. All options basically said rerun setup. Redid install from scratch despite doorbell showing in app since there seemed to be no way to rerun setup on it or remove it. Seemed to sort in end was same cam and old one disappeared.
  • Installed at my desk then moved outside to install on the door frame and could no longer connect to it. Assuming was because it needed to switch to closer AP so told WiFi to do reconnect. It would not reconnect till I powered it off and on again. This is probably because I have multiple APs but I've only seen this before in really old IP cameras where they get stuck on a channel till rebooted. Fortunate this should not be an issue that often.
  • I've been running a ping sorting the WiFi issues
  • Initial tests seem to show the same bad lag as with the original cam. I'll add more details after more tests.
My playlist of sample videos. Note most should have link in the description to a video of the same shot from another camera to compare with.

Seriously if you are just looking for a cam to watch your front door there are a lot of better options out there for less money. The reason to get Ring is the same one I hear the most complains about, the neighbors app. The video doorbell option with replacement guarantee was the main thing I was looking for.  If a doorbell is your main use and you do not need the neighbors app then you might want to look at the Ezviz DB1 It has 3MP rez (half again what Ring has) and can stream to your NVR as well as the cloud and SD card.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pan, Tilt and Zoom worth the money?

In my experience, Pan / Tilts and zoomables as a rule are generally a waste of money unless you are actively monitoring them. After all that was what they were designed for originally. Panning cams were a way to reduce costs back when panning motors were a lot cheaper than cams. These days though with cameras so cheap, even if you are monitoring your cams you generally want as much coverage as you can get with software alerting you to motion or openings where there should be none.

Realistically at home you are not going to be monitoring your cams. Even though I have dedicated monitors so I can see what triggered an alert or what the dogs are going on about, I am still mostly looking at what happened, not what is happening. I have a few PTLs and 1 PTZ. Except for the Wyze Pan I bought to try the tracking, they are all older cams bought before I found I virtually never move them. At the moment I have 2 PTLs are in the main living area (open plan kitchen, dining and living rooms) and I'm thinking of replacing them with wider, higher rez cams and moving the PTLs to the shop where I might want to look about without having to go down there. Mainly to upgrade the shop cams though. I need better coverage in my main living area to track "things" the cat brings in to play with to their hiding places. The PTZ in in the garage I've mounted several places from using it to monitor the gate but decided and Escam QD900 with a 12 mm lens did better. To the north power so I could try and see what the dogs were barking at but it kept going offline. To the garage where I'm replacing it with a GW Security GW5747MIC which covers almost the same area the PTZ can be pointed at almost the same level of detail as the Foscam FI9828P zoomed all the way in. Next stop will probably be in or under the shop though the barn might be a good spot as well to be able to center and zoom on things.

Now I do have a few others that are remotely zoomable but mainly for the autofocus feature they need to support that. If you are looking at close and far targets in the same view, autofocus can make a big difference.

BTW my original pan was a fixed bullet mounted on an antenna rotor. No night vision but it was high tech for a home cam back in the late 1990s.

An example:

DS-2DE4A425IW-DE with sample videos. $489 to $900
Amazon link Newegg link

What you are really paying for is the 25x zoom (120mm lens) and the autotracking. These are designed for use in places like a parking lot after hours were someone monitoring the system can use them to get detail and hopefully track things the monitoring person might not notice. Some high end systems claim to direct PTZs like this based on detected movement form other cameras and sensors. (See below.) But many people seem to think they can use a camera like this instead of covering an area with multiple cameras. Despite what the ads imply I'm still waiting to see a video where a camera actually tracks an object well. Much less deals with multiple moving objects. The wider arc you try and monitor with one of these the worse the results. Note too even if tracking includes zoom, zooming in is optical which limits the field of view and requires time to refocus the image. 

For the equiv money, you could get 4 to 10 cameras in the 4 to 8 MP range setup to cover the the same area at various zoom levels and be pretty much guaranteed to see the object the whole time it would have been visible from the location. And at probably close to the same level of detail while the object is moving. This is closer to the modern WAMI approach to monitoring that assumes multiple objects may need tracked at a time. Granted the NVR required to handle the video will be need to be more powerful but you will get the shot you need and probably save money. Here is an example of tracking a guy looking for stuff to steal on my property after the fact.  While it looks like the kind of videos the tracking cams claim to do it is zoomed and panned in post with views from 5 cameras. For most of it the odds are pretty low a "tracking" cam would have followed him without predictive level AI smart enough to look for him on the other side of an obstruction.

Integrated systems

Now it would be awesome to have some cams like the DS-2DE4A425IW-DE mounted above the roof and tied in to my system to track and zoom in for detail using the other cams and sensors as a guide but that is some pretty high end linkage there to do right. My current system links PIR motion sensors and alarm contact sensors to highlight camera on consoles, mark the video from the linked cams and in some cases even switch the main video feed to the triggered console. This gets me most of the way there and is basically a freebie with my Blue Iris servers being linked to my Homeseer home automation setup. In theory I could integrate some of them to really be worth the cost the system would need tighter integration like the systems that direct PTZ cams to an area based on sensors and triggered cameras which is a costly and is probably best left to pros to get working right.

TODO: find web page again that showed a system with PTZs being triggered by static cams and PIR sensors.

A note about other sensor options

And then there are these

Dahua's 8 x 2MP Multi-sensor Panoramic + PTZ Network Camera which has a 4MP surrounded by 8 2MP cams so the camera has a constant 360 view with a linked PTZ to center and zoom up to 40x on a moving object using their Smart Track linking system. Note this is $7000 camera though there are people claiming on sites like eBay that they will sell you one for as little as $2000. Again this basically gives you a 2 MP panorama with hopefully good detail IF it is tracking the right object. 

Digital Watchdog MEGApix PANO 48MP Outdoor Dome Camera 4 linked 12 MP cams in a single case to give a 180 panorama view. Just $3120

And all these 20MP options.

Second opinions:




Monday, December 9, 2019

Answer to: I just want a decent system

The problem

Decent is pretty subjective. Kind of like asking what is the best way to get to work. You'll get answers from ride a bike to only a Karlmann King will get you there. Not only is it subjective relative to what they need and can afford it is subjective relative what they have actually tried model wise and using the resulting video. As one installer put it "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."

But you still just want something for outdoors

If you just want to get 4 outdoor cams to cover the yard around your rectangular house you could start with this 4 4MP cam bundle from Reolink though I think it was like $50 cheaper last week. Still $341 is not bad to get you started. You can reuse the cams later with about any NVR. They are pretty decent for the money. And the NVR is speced for 8 cams so will probably cover you unless you need more features or go nuts buying cams like me. (60 cams as of this writing on 4 serversNote though you might have a time getting non Reolink cams to work with it.

Better yet if you have a PC not doing much,  get the Reolink RLC-420 cams and a copy of Blue Iris. Note however Blue Iris 5 seems to have developed issues with some cams (including Reolinks) that Blue Iris 4 does not have.

But you still just want something for indoors

Now if you are looking indoors and wireless get some Wyze cams. Pretty much a toss if you want to upgrade later but you are talking about $100 for 4 plus some SD card you can probably reuse if need be. And they come in handy for monitoring things where you want a temp setup or need to get something in place quick.

On the other hand a bit of research could save you time and money 

The above setups will help you get a feel for the low end. But if you want to do the research up front to get the most bang for your buck you can start reading my post "What is the best camera for X?" to sort what specs you need to be looking for the match what you want to monitor.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Reolink 511 vs Amcrest IP8M-2496 (5MP autofocus vs 8MP fixed)

I look like a bad cable might have killed the Amcrest IP8M-2496 I had pointed at the north yard. I was thinking I might want to swap it with a Reolink 511 anyway as I had a couple spares. With all the posts suggesting 4K (8MP) cams I thought this would be another good compare of 5MP autofocus vs 8MP. Or how rez does not make up for proper focus. Since the Amcrest died the shots are not exact compares but are from the same time on two consecutive night so damn close. Ignore the on screen times. The Reolink seems to be on PST. Bost cams were tweaked a bit to get the best looking video though not that far off default values.

The old cam is the Amcrest UltraHD 4K (8MP) Outdoor Bullet POE IP Camera, 3840x2160, 131ft NightVision, 2.8mm Lens, IP67 Weatherproof, MicroSD Recording, White (IP8M-2496EW-28MM) which according to specs has a 112 degree horizontal view angle and 0.06 Lux/F1.6(Color,1/3s,30IRE) 0.3 Lux/F1.6( Color,1/30s,30IRE) low light rating. And went for about $110 new.

The replacement is the Reolink PoE Camera 5MP Super HD 4X Optical Zoom Outdoor Indoor Video Surveillance Work with Google Assistant, IP Security IR Night Vision Motion Detection with Phone App RLC-511 which claims a 90 degree horizontal view angle but give no low light info other the 0 Lux with IR on. And as I'm writing this is going for $71 on Amazon.

First at high noon. You can see the view is a bit wider in the Amcrest though not as clear. Especially in the shadows. Note the white dog in the Amcrest shot is not easier to see than the black dog in the Reolink shot.
Amcrest at noon
Reolink at noon
Zoomed in to roughly the same section of dirt.
The Amcrest zoomed in. Note the black dog behind the white one. You might not even notice it if not looking for it.
Reolink zoomed in a bit more than the Amcrest. The black dog is almost the same spot as in the Amcrest shot though facing the other way.

How about an early morning shot just as the cam flips to color mode? In this one it is a tougher call but the Amcrest might be a bit better.

Reolink early morning

Amcrest early morning
On IR the Amcrest is better close in but the Reolink kills it in the darker areas. Note there is an IR flood on the side of the house near the dog.
Amcrest IR shot. White dog in front of tree.

Reolink IR shot. White dog on walkway near IR flood.
As a compare and to kind of take the cams IRs out of the equation here is a shot from the Reolink with the cams IR LEDs off. I wish I'd saved a similar shot from the Amcrest when I installed the IR flood.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

GW Security GW5747MIC

 I did a test with a GW5747MIC 5MP Optional TWO-Way Audio PoE IP Camera 1.9mm 160° Wide Angle Night Vision Sony Starvis HD 1920P Security Mini Dome 5 Megapixel Built-In Microphone and Micro SD slot, Audio in/out Recording but the view was not only no wider but not as good in low light as the Amcrest IP4M-1026 despite it having the lowest lux spec so I stuck it looking at the bird feeder. It is also does not have the 160 view angle. Here are some compare shots at the point the cams pointed at the bird feeders flipped from day to night mode.
The supposed 0.01Lux (F1.8, Color) GW Security GW5747MIC flips to night mode first
Flipped at 17:43:42.
A Hikvision DS-2CD2142FWD-I speced at 0.07 lux @ (F1.2, AGC ON)
Flipped at 17:45:38
An Escam QD900 rated Color: 0.1 Lux/F1.2, B/W: 0.01 Lux/F1.2 Note you can see the Microseven on the barn has already flipped to night mode.
Flipped to B/W at 17:51:23
Lastly an Amcrest IP3M-956 rated at 0.1Lux /F2.0 (Color)
Flipped last at 17:54:25
After dark things were not much better. Though part of the problem here is the GW cam is smaller so sees the wall and AC unit that the Amcrest, right next to it, does not.
GW5747MIC at midnight


IP3M-956 at midnight. Note the dome is already dirty again so there is glare.
In the daytime it looks about as good as the Amcrest despite being a lower rez. Note it is only speced as 100 degree view angle. You can see here the GW cam is about the same view angle so not way it is 160 degree.
IP3M-956 about noon
GW5747MIC about noon

I've decided to move all the dome cams inside since they get dirty and pick up reflections real quick (see pic above) so I moved the GW5747MIC to the garage to replace the Foscam FI9828P. The GW5747MIC does have better night vision than the Foscam on top of better rez and view angle. The GW5747MIC can monitor almost the whole garage at the same level of detail without the need for pan and tilt. Though the Foscam can still zoom into get a bit better shot if you are watching and can center and zoom quick enough to get the shot. All in all it seems like a pretty good fit for the garage though realistically I doubt I'd buy another one if this one went out or I need a cam for a similar area.

First though I noticed the diff between the top two rez settings seems to be that is stretches the picture vertically. You will notice here that both show the same amount of the garage. Yes I know it is a mess. Note is a two car garage though it looks more like a 1 1/2 in the pics.

shot in 2592x1944 mode

shot in 2592x1520 mode


Similar shot from the FI9828P
FI9828P zoomed all the way into the corner
Similar post zoomed image from the GW5747MIC
When I turn off the over head light and just have the opener light on the Foscam has to go into night mode though the GW5747MIC does not even in the default Auto switching mode.
GW5747MIC with just the door light.

FI9828P with just the door light
Lastly compare shots with all lights off.
GW5747MIC in the dark

FI9828P in the dark.
Note you can stretch the flip to night mode some more by switching from Auto to Auto(inter sync) though you will some more graininess during the extended color period. adjust the sliders for the right compromise between seeing color and grain.


This is about the max you can push the flip. With THR. of day much lower it will flip back and forth.
Update: Notice something else today. After upgrading my router to one I could turn IPS on without cooking it I discovered this camera is making DNS requests to several sites around the world. Not that I let DNS requests go anywhere from my IoT networks except to my local DNS servers. A quick google shows this is not a new thing with them.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

More IR options

I've posted before about the U06R 60 degree flood and the U06R2 90 degree floods.  They do a good job and only about ~$20. You still need a power supply though. Recently I came across some models from Tendelux that come with the power supply. Their model similar to the U06R2 is just ~$10 more. They also seem a bit less visible if that matters. I tried 3 models.

First let's start with the small spot, just $20, and some compare shots from an Amcrest IP4M-1026
Tendelux 80ft IR Illuminator | AI4 No Hot Spot Wide Angle Infrared Light for Security Camera (w/Power Adapter)
Shot with the illuminator off
Shot with the illuminator on. Far tree is about 35 feet from illuminator and 38 feet from the camera.
No bad for so a fill spot.

Next the U06R2 equiv
Tendelux 120ft IR Illuminator | BI8 Compact and Powerful 90° Infrared Light for CCTV Security Camera (w/Power Adapter)
I stuck one down in the picnic area to see what was passing through at night setting off the motion sensor. The camera, HikVision DS-2CD2032-I with 12mm lens, is about 50 feet away so its LEDs do not light much. It is mounted about 10 feet or so to the left of the picnic table.
A shot with the new flood off though there are other floods down the path in the distance.

After shot with the trees trimmed back a bit and the new flood on.
From another camera, a Hikvision DS-2CD2035-I, you can see the BI8 shines clear across the area some 60 feet bright enough for this cam to notice about 80 feet away.
The bright spots near the center of the pic are the eyes of raccoons at the water trough.

Then for a fill in I added another U06R2 I had not installed yet about 20 feet down on the fence to the right. The water trough is about 60 feet from the cam and about 40 feet from the U06R2.
U06R2 added
Notice it blows out the area near it more than the Tendelux does.

Lastly I was hoping the larger model would be good for the driveway but oddly not so much despite being billed as a 200 foot illuminator it is really more of a wider angle flood.
Tendelux 200ft Long Range IR Illuminator | BI18 90° LED Outdoor IR Flood Light for Security Camera (w/Power Adapter)
Here are compares from a Amcrest IP8M-2496 watching the south leg of the driveway.
Shot with no flood on.
With the "200 foot" Tendelux  on.
I swapped in a U06R and it looks much better. The distant tree is about 55 feet away.
Here are same shots from the Microseven M7B77-WPSV1 zoomed to the 22mm max. The building is about 300 feet away.

With the "200 foot" Tendelux  on.
With no flood.
With the U06R on.
When I swapped the "200 foot" Tendelux with the U06R I moved the "200 foot" Tendelux to point south. From the feeder cams (an Escam QD900 and Reolink RLC-422W). The Tendelux  could probably stand to be tilted up a bit.
From the Reolink pointed west and the "200 foot" Tendelux on, pointed south
From the Escam and the "200 foot" Tendelux on, pointed south south west
For compare. Note how far to the side it had lit up. Seems more than the stated 90 degrees.
From the Reolink pointed west and the "200 foot" Tendelux off, pointed south
From the Escam and the "200 foot" Tendelux off, pointed south south west
Note in the above Reolink shots the U06R was on. Here is a shot from the Reolink with it off for compare.



Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cheap AND good the RLC-420-5MP

Reolink PoE IP Camera Outdoor (Pack of 2) 5MP HD Video Surveillance Work with Google Assistant, Security IR Night Vision Motion Detection Audio SD Card Slot RLC-420-5MP

This just place holder for something longer later but I stumbled upon these and I'm pretty impressed. As I'm writing this Amazon has these in 2 packs for just $95.99 PLUS 15% for an actual cost of just $40.80 per! Almost the same price as a Wyze V2 with an outdoor case on it. But here you get a 5MP POE camera that does RTSP native. And better night vision of course being a cam made for outdoors. It even records audio and has the on board SD card and can send to the Reolink cloud if you should want. Note Reolink has a model D400 that is the same cam with a bit fewer vertical pixels, 1440 vs 1920 for about $5 less but why? Both are the same 2560 pixels wide 80 degree view.

The only down side might be that there is no WiFi model. The closest Reolink WiFi models are:
The RLC-422W, a dome model with 4X zoom for about twice the price
The RLC-410W, a bullet model that is only 4 MP and about half again the price.

There is also a RLC-410-5MP which is a bullet version of the RLC-420-5MP for about the same price.

Here are a couple videos to show how it performs. Both show my dogs walking about 30 feet away. I would point out an addition IR flood should really be added here. The night video is just with the in cam IR LEDs.

RLC-420-5MP night shot example
RLC-420-5MP day shot example

Here are some sample shots as well. Note the date and time are obviously WAY off. Seems my ntp server crashed and the Reolink software does not support a backup.
Me standing by the fence about 30 feet away.

White dog on about 30 feet away. If you look close you can see his teeth.

Day shot on a sunny and very windy day.

Another day shot but on an overcast day.