Late last year, I decided that paying ADT $40 a month wasn’t worth it. I had 10 year old security equipment and they wanted a lot of money to upgrade to the latest and greatest systems.* I looked around and it became obvious that do it yourself home automation and home surveillance was something I would need to research. There weren’t any “kits” and local retail stores didn’t carry any electronics that I would want.
My first decision was on what kind of technology to use. My first step was video surveillance that included motion sensing and alerts. Looking around, there wasn’t much of a choice for configurable, functioning equipment. The only affordable player that qualified was d-Link. So, I picked up a few D-Link IP cameras. Two DCS-932L’s and two DCS-942L’s. In retrospect, I could have gone with all 932L’s. These are easy to setup if you just want to view them from within your own home and if you have no advanced needs. I will detail what I learned in another posting. Setting up to fulfill home surveillance needs was not trivial. That process alone will be a separate blog post. I can also tell you that while D-Link offers a free web based viewer for web browsers and a free app for the iPhone, you won’t want to use these. D-Link includes D-Cam Viewer software for Windows on their CD’s which is a real joke as it requires you to turn of UAC.
I settled on desktop controller from Blue Iris software that, while costing $50, does everything I could ask, including scheduling triggered alerts via email or SMS, etc., and it is viewable over the Internet with authentication protection. And there is a free iPad as well as an iPhone app that works beautifully with these cameras.
After setting up my cameras, etc., here is what I can see via a web browser accessing the Blue Iris controller remotely:
Each camera can be put on a schedule for triggered alerts. If one of the motion sensors is triggered, an email and/or SMS can be sent. I am quite happy with the video surveillance system.
*Note: I left the local ADT alarms intact, and shut off the monitoring service that cost $40/month, so if someone tries to come in through doors and windows when I have armed the ADT system, an ear-splitting alarm is set off.
For a very long time, it seemed as through every site I visited with IE9 created an annoying prompt about secure content and encourage me to show all content. I’ve seen fixes that involve lowering your security etc., but never thought THAT was worth the risk. I had an “Ah HA!” moment while troubleshooting a similar annoyance with a wordpress plugin. It turns out that this issue occurs if you are logged into Facebook using https (and you should be using https) and have elected to always stay logged in that since nearly every site in the world has a Facebook Like button or some tie in to Facebook.
My solution? (Edited 8/9/2011) Stay logged into Facebook with Firefox, but NOT with IE. And strictly use Firefox for Facebook. (And note that this warning does not happen when I use Firefox to browse other sites while still logged into Facebook because Firefox is displaying mixed content by default.). Microsoft has other solutions posted, but they involve allowing mixed content to kill the prompt, or not allowing it ever (which kills the prompt) and even adding Facebook’s https site to the trusted zone. I prefer to use IE for financial sites and keep prompts and elect to only display secure content. And I am not by any means advocating dumping IE9.
I’m almost always running at least two browsers, but I just had not figured out what was causing OE to behave this way. There may be similar situations with other Facebook type sites or plugins, but with Facebook being by far the most widespread, my solution solves 99% of the problem for me. Now I know, and if you didn’t know this before, I hope this is helpful.
If you’ve landed here on an iPad or iPhone (and I hope you like the experience) you may be wondering about the new and neat touch experience. Onswipe now powers this blog for iOS visitors. This is a different Onswipe experience than the WordPress plugin released a while back that can be activated for wordpress.com users and installed as a plugin on self hosted WordPress blogs. I’m using a much fuller publishing platform with more user customizable options.
If you are not using an iOS device, the image above shows how the site is displayed on an iPad.
There is a great sound bite from the 1997 movie Contact, where young Ellie and her dad discuss the possibilities of life “out there”:
Young Ellie: Dad, do you think there’s people on other planets?
Ted Arroway: I don’t know, Sparks. But I guess I’d say if it is just us… seems like an awful waste of space
Contact, while science fiction, and was inspired by the research using the SETI Allen Telescope Array, was about real “possibilities”. I watch the movie every so often and wonder why we stopped moon missions and stayed home, content to orbit our own plant. And I had a small measure of satisfaction that at least we were using technology to identify other worlds that could support life. And now all of that is on hold.
When I think about the fact that all SETI needs to fund the Allen array until new funding (hopefully) kicks in around 2013 is five million dollars, I have to wonder why no one has stepped up to the plate to offer a helping hand. You know, people like Richard Branson, who has funded Virgin Galactic, and who has demonstrated an interest in the world beyond our small little rock.
So, for the next couple of years, at least, if ET decides to call us, he’ll either get no answer or a busy signal, with no opportunity to leave us voice mail.
I’ve never had a CE device that exceeded my expectations. Until now. My Connected Home includes devices that enable me to stream media between devices on my network, but which also provoked frustration because of half implemented codec support and DLNA protocols. I thought I had true DLNA love back in July 2009 with a Samsung TV, but the lack of firmware updates for DLNA compatibility (such as support for WMA music) eventually caused me to realize it was just a summer romance. Samsung seems to abandon devices after 6 months or so, and concentrates on newer products.
Like many others, while I’d love a new DLNA certified Home Theater receiver DMR, the price range for these is currently $900+. And the Samsung TV is relatively new.
Enter the WD TV Live Hub. This >$200 little box does it all. Like many Home Theater enthusiasts looking for optimum solutions that provide Windows 7 Play To functionality, I’ve been frustrated and was not looking for an expensive solution. This is a very small box with gargantuan capabilities, including a 1TB hard drive to store your favorite media on.