– Ben Martens

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Blue Iris and Foscam

We’ve had a Foscam FI8910W around the house for a while and I’ve enjoyed being able to look in on Tyla and Elijah while I’m at work. It has worked so well that we decided to expand our collection a bit. We now have a camera watching our front door and another in the garage. It’s a really easy way to watch for packages, make sure we shut the garage doors, and keep track of people who come up to the front door.

To manage all three cameras, I picked up a copy of Blue Iris. It has an incredible array of options including the ability to tweak the motion detection to your heart’s content and then set up alerts that will send you emails, text messages, and much more. Any motion gets recorded to our main file server and backed up into the cloud. There’s an app for all the phone platforms that lets me view live feeds from all the cameras and see recent alerts.

I’m really impressed with the system. These cameras are only $60 each now. It makes me want to pick up a few more.

Foscam Review

Walking out the door in the morning and saying goodbye to my wife and son isn’t fun. I know Tyla does a lot more work during the day than I could handle, but I feel like I’m missing so much of Elijah’s life! Thankfully Tyla agreed when I brought up the idea of buying a web cam so I could peak in during the day to see my family.

I ordered the Foscam FI8910W from Amazon and so far I’ve been very impressed with it. It has pan/tilt controls from either a web browser or via your phone and it’s visible either inside or outside of your network. The picture is 640×480 and it does have a pretty good night vision mode. It also has two way audio so the remote viewer can listen in and talk into the room.

My only concern with it is security. It’s very easy to set up, but part of that easy setup creates a web page for your camera with a default password. It’s ridiculously easy to “hack” into people’s cameras with a Bing search and the default password. Obviously I have it locked down more than that, but I still wonder if I can do more. For now it’s sitting in my guest network so there’s no access to our other resources and has some longer non-default passwords. I’ll be looking at a few other options like a reverse proxy with SSL to really encrypt it.

But other than that, I give the camera two thumbs up!

Power Over Ethernet

I dare you to try and buy just one security camera. That’s how it started for me. Now I have six. I might need an intervention.

The last one I put up was an “extra” that we had lying around after we upgraded one of the cameras to a newer 1080p. This old one is only 640×480 but hey, why not use it? I decided to stick it on the back corner of the house, but that meant a long cable run from my network closet and there’s also no power nearby. Power over Ethernet (PoE) to the rescue!

In your standard ethernet cable, half of the wires are unused. The PoE specification defines a common way of transmitting power over those extra wires. This means that instead of running a network cable to the camera along with installing a new outlet nearby, I just had to run a network cable.

You also need something to combine the network signal and the power on one end and deconstruct it on the other end. For the injection side, you can either get a standalone plug/ethernet jack combo thing or you can purchase a switch with PoE built in. I chose the latter since I’ll be using this more in the future. My WiFi access points are already PoE so I can get rid of the two injector plugs and switch them over to this unit. And while it’s possible to buy PoE versions of these cameras, I don’t have those yet so I had to buy a splitter for the camera end.

The hardest part was running the wire 40 or 50 feet under my house and even that wasn’t hard, just dirty and cramped. Elijah loves it when I go down there and always asks if he can poke his head in there too.

The end result is a really nice view of either the cul-de-sac or our back yard depending on which way the camera is rotated. It’s not going to do much for security, but it’s fun to see Elijah playing during the day while I’m at work or just get a little extra assurance that everything is ok while we are away.

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P.S. If you are interested in setting up something like this at your house, I have a post detailing my basic setup. You can get more posts by searching my site for “foscam“.

Security Camera

I’ve written a few posts in the past about our security camera setup. It continues to work very well, but as the years have gone on, I’ve been itching to upgrade our 480p cameras to the new 1080p models. When Tyla asked to put a camera in Elijah’s room, I took that as a request for me to upgrade to a new camera.

I moved a camera from our front door into his room and bought a new 1080p Foscam model for the front door. I think I paid about $70/camera when I bought the old ones and this new one was under $100. Prices have really come down for the higher end models. The difference is incredible. Not only is the picture more crisp but the field of view is much wider and perfectly fits the installation spot on the front door. Below you can see a comparison between the old and the new. Click on the pictures to see them in full size and really compare the difference.

The only problem I have now is wanting to get more of them to replace the rest of the old cameras we have around!


Church Surveillance System

amcrest1080p8chI’m the volunteer IT guy at church so they came to me when they wanted to install a camera surveillance system. I have a DIY system at home that works pretty well, but for church, I wanted something that “just works” and doesn’t require a geek to operate it.

I ordered the following:

A couple Saturdays ago, I met DaveK and LoganB at church to do the install. It’s not very complex. You just decide where you want the cameras, where you want the DVR, and then you run wires to connect them. I’d say about 90% of the project was just running cables around. Yes, there are wireless systems but wired is a lot more reliable at this point. Plus you don’t have to worry about powering a wireless cameras. The cables carry both video and power.

I was really impressed by the quality of the cameras. Those eight cameras give us good overage over most of the church and the entrances. Even with it cranked up to record all 8 cameras 24/7, we still get over two weeks of storage on the DVR.

We were done in about four hours, and by the end I was itching to upgrade to some better cameras at home because these cameras at church look so nice!

Night Vision Camera

I’ve done quite a bit of DIY security work on our house and it’s built up into a system that I’m proud of. I haven’t blogged about it for obvious reasons, but one of the pieces is a bunch of security cameras. I recently added one more camera by the garage and it’s so cool that I had to share some info about it. The camera itself is the same model that I use most other places, but the difference is that I added an IR LED light that is supposed to be good for 200-300ft. This means that at night, the entire front of my house is now lit up light the mid-day sun, and best of all, it’s invisible to the naked eye. Here’s a screenshot with and without the IR light.


I know these screenshots are small, but when someone walks in front of my house or comes out of the path in the woods, I can see tons of detail and it’s all automatically recorded to my server.

If you’re ever interested in some DIY security at your house, let me know. I’m happy to chat about this and share what I’ve learned. It drives me nuts that I can’t blog more about it, but I really don’t feel like sharing the details of it (though even knowing probably wouldn’t help a thief too much if I did everything correctly.)