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ZoneMinder: Linux home security par excellence

By Joe Barr on October 14, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

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I recently installed a remote home camera security system using wireless Internet cameras and a fine free software application for Linux called ZoneMinder. The cameras are installed at a friend's house, and the application runs at mine. ZoneMinder is powerful, feature-rich, and sophisticated. Updated
ZoneMinder was written by and is maintained by Philip Coombes, who explains on his site that he wrote ZoneMinder after having been burgled. His garage had been broken into and all his power tools were stolen. A recent similar incident sent me looking for a Linux security camera system -- my friend Susan's home was broken into while she was away on vacation. I was called when her home security alarm went off about 11 a.m. and the security company couldn't reach her. By the time the police and I got there, the bad guys were gone. The front door had been kicked in and the TV and DVD/VCR player removed. I guess the sound of the alarm going off kept them from spending more time in the house. It seems strange that a home protected by an alarm system is so vulnerable, but the sign in the yard didn't deter them.

I made arrangements to have the door repaired -- this time with a large metal plate to make it a little tougher to kick in -- and thought about what else might be added to make her home more secure. I finally decided that there wasn't really any way to keep someone out if they wanted in badly enough.

So I started thinking in terms of security cameras. If only there had been one in place and aimed at the front door when they came in, it would be a big aid in finding the bad guys. Or one aimed at the driveway, to get pictures of the car and the license plate. If the bad guys saw the camera and realized they were being recorded on video, they would just rip out the cameras and whatever they were attached to -- VCR, computer, whatever. Unless, of course, the video was being streamed over the Internet and recorded elsewhere. That's the approach I decided to take.

The hardware

DCS-1000W thumbnail
Click to enlarge
I found a pair of D-Link 1000W (the W is for wireless) cameras on eBay for just under $150 each. These VGA-quality digital cameras come with 2.4GHz wireless capabilities and allow remote setup via a built-in Web server. I found a matching wireless router, also from D-Link: the 802.11g/2.4GHz DI-524. D-Link does not support Linux on either product, but both the cameras and the router work just fine with Linux. Still to come are one or more UPS devices to ensure the system stays connected to the Internet even if power at the house goes out.

Because I needed to run ZoneMinder at a remote location across the Internet, I had a little extra configuration work to do. If you're knowledgeable about home LANs, firewalls, NAT, and port mapping, you can skip ahead. If not, I'll walk you through the basics and explain how I set up the LAN at Susan's house.

Next: A security LAN

 

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on ZoneMinder: Linux home security par excellence

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Great article!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 04:15 AM
This is one solid piece of review work Joe - and timely for me too. I've been trying to figure out a similiar setup for months and your experience as detailed in your finely articulated piece are a tremendous resource.

Thanks for writing this piece!

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Re:Great article!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 04:56 AM
I agree. Joe, you're at your best when you write these kinds of step-by-step articles. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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Re:Great article!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 12:19 PM
Yes I agree... well done!

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So let me get this right

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 08:05 AM
You've installed your spycams into some female 'friend's house.

"Oh no. The pictures have to be beamed straight to me, no no. They have to - no other way to do it."

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For night vision do you have motion detect lights?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 09:33 AM
Joe,

Interesting article... Questions!

1- Do you have battery backed up motion detection lighting set up in the living room as cameras do need light to work.

2- how does this Linux install compare to some of the default software that comes with some of the the D-Link cameras? I read that some of the cameras have the abiltiy to detect motion, take a snapshot, and then send picture(s) over the internet... it would be interesting to see a side by side comparison of features.

3- If intruders cut the phone, cable (power is more difficult and dangerous to cut, but can be done too), then what about that? Wireless idea would be to have a powered wireless router out on the power/phone pole, or have a satellite link with battery backup (http://www.wildblue.com/ WildBlue will be launching high speed Internet access via satellite to homes and small offices in small cities and rural America. Coming to you early 2005.). Note that WildBlue is supposed to cost about the same as DSL.

4 - Do you know if something can be worked out where the open source GnomeMeeting software could be used with this as well? Maybe a stupid idea?

5 - Is the Live CD version of the Zoneminder software something that is plug and play ready? Did you test the live CD version as well?

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Re:For night vision do you have motion detect ligh

Posted by: Joe Barr on October 15, 2004 10:01 AM
1- Do you have battery backed up motion detection lighting set up in the living room as cameras do need light to work.


No, it's limited to available light.


2- how does this Linux install compare to some of the default software that comes with some of the the D-Link cameras? I read that some of the cameras have the abiltiy to detect motion, take a snapshot, and then send picture(s) over the internet... it would be interesting to see a side by side comparison of features.


The D-Link cameras do come with software. I don't do Windows, so I can't tell you how it compares with Zoneminder. But using Windows for security is like using gasoline to put out a campfire.


3- If intruders cut the phone, cable (power is more difficult and dangerous to cut, but can be done too), then what about that? Wireless idea would be to have a powered wireless router out on the power/phone pole, or have a satellite link with battery backup (http://www.wildblue.com/ WildBlue will be launching high speed Internet access via satellite to homes and small offices in small cities and rural America. Coming to you early 2005.). Note that WildBlue is supposed to cost about the same as DSL.


If they cut the cable, the system is out of service. The cable modem, router, and cameras are UPS protected for more than 1/2 hour, so loss of power can be handled satisfactorally.


4 - Do you know if something can be worked out where the open source GnomeMeeting software could be used with this as well? Maybe a stupid idea?


Interesting question, and I don't know the answer.


5 - Is the Live CD version of the Zoneminder software something that is plug and play ready? Did you test the live CD version as well?


I believe it is pretty much plug and play, but I haven't used it. Not yet, at least, I probably will if put together a system for my own place.

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What about MythTV with Motion?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 07:42 PM
I'm planning to eventually set up a MythTV box. It has, from what I read on the web site, similar capabilities, with a plugin called motion, or motion cgi. Is the MythTV option similar to what you set up? Would it kill two birds with one stone, eliminating one computer from what would otherwise require two computers? As long, of course, as the processor and hard drive setup could handle the data.

The only extra cost I can see is for the video capture cards. And that's a point of confusion for me. Looking at the Zoneminder site (and from previous articles, I've seen requirements for a video capture card or cards, depending on the number of cameras. I didn't see this in your article, I don't think. Are they required in your setup? If not, can you explain when they would/would not be required? Is it analog to digital where they are required, or compressing from jpeg to a more compressed format? Or something else?

I wrote the other comment about windows and firmware upgrades, and forgot to thank you for a great article in that one. So for that comment, and this one, thanks for the nice job on this article! It had a good background, and covered setup nicely for a tech news site. Disregard the other post complaining on the setup details being included. This article had a very nice balance of tech and non-tech (background) info. The setup details are welcome when an install is somewhat beyond the capabilities of a newbie (or appears to be).

Keep 'em coming!

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cell phone interrupting wireless connection?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 02:23 PM
I use a wireless router at home and I have noticed that cell phone usage between wireless points has a negative effect on reception, in fact, to get the network working again, I have to reboot the router. Have you considered the role that intentional or unintentional electromagnetic interference might play in regards to your system?

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Buy a mobotix camera instead

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 05:31 PM
Just save yourself the trouble and buy a camera from here:


<A HREF="http://mobotix.com/" title="mobotix.com">http://mobotix.com/</a mobotix.com>


It will do everything descibed in the article and more with a webbrowser and a few clicks. It runs linux by itself and the cost is comparable.

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Only if you speak German?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 08:25 PM
I clicked on the order page to check prices, and the order page is only available through the German site.

I'd be hesitant to buy something outside US, but because the cameras there are Linux based, I'll look some more to see if pricing is lower than Axis cameras. They'd need to be much lower than Axis, but this shouldn't be a problem because Axis cameras are extremely overpriced.

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Re:Only if you speak German?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 11:02 PM
The manuals are in english as well

<A HREF="http://www.mobotix.com/mx_pdf/mobotix_m10_reference_v20_us.pdf" title="mobotix.com">http://www.mobotix.com/mx_pdf/mobotix_m10_referen<nobr>c<wbr></nobr> e_v20_us.pdf</a mobotix.com>

I guess following your logic the rest of the world should just stop buying US products????

But for US citizens there is a nice US distribution center:

<A HREF="http://mobotix.com/mx_english/mx_kontakt.htm#US" title="mobotix.com">http://mobotix.com/mx_english/mx_kontakt.htm#US</a mobotix.com>

Well, I can tell you that AXIS was way more expensive in Germany. Plus, the software on the camera is better than that of any gadget I have seen so far.

Basic camera is 650 Euros, that is with all software on the camera and one motion sensor.
<A HREF="http://mobotix.de/mx_pdf/mobotix_preisliste_kunde.pdf" title="mobotix.de">http://mobotix.de/mx_pdf/mobotix_preisliste_kunde<nobr>.<wbr></nobr> pdf</a mobotix.de>

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Re:Only if you speak German?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 11:53 PM
I guess following your logic the rest of the world should just stop buying US products????


Relax. It was an observation, that I was checking pricing, and I got a message that the pricing page was only available in German.

Since you didn't post about a panasonic or other popular security camera (many other brands sold for security, at same distributors, none list the brand you listed), I figured you might have some connection or interest in the company, so you'd be able to answer with a link that showed pricing.

I took a look at the German site, and it didn't appear to show pricing either, but since I don't speak the language...

Also, normally, for most web sites I've seen involving b to b or b to consumer sales, the very first pages translated are the ones involving pricing/ordering and how to buy. So I was looking for either pricing, or a list of vendors. Neither provided in English. If they are new, that's excusable, and fine. But if they aren't new, and have documentation in English, then English is one of their target markets, (and if iirc, not any other, or few other languages) how do you justify that? It isn't temporarily down, it hasn't been created yet.

I don't care. That's their problem, not mine. The real question is why are you attacking me over a deficiency in their site?

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What about firmware upgrades on cameras?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 05:45 PM
I took a look at the DLink site for the cameras, and one of the "benefits" cited for the windows software was ability to update the firmware.

One of the things that sucks about Linksys/Cisco routers is that Windows software is required to update the firmware, they don't even answer emails requesting ability to upgrade firmware using Linux. The last time there was a security hole, I had to wipe a Linux install, temporarily install windows 98 to upgrade the firmware, and then reinstall Linux.

What's going to happen to the security system you set up if/when the wireless cameras are found to have a security exploit, and the only way to fix it is with a firmware upgrade? Is it going to be possible to do it with a Linux desktop? Or is it mandatory to have a dedicated Windows computer for this, which pretty much negates the need for zoneminder, since you could simply use the dedicated Windows setup for firmware upgrades to run Windows security software? Setting aside the advantages of a database storing the images and other advantages of zoneminder (and the associated non-newbie parts of setting it up), what's to stop inertia, from someone simply using Windows because they need it for firmware upgrades anyway?

Now if Axis were to price their cameras reasonably...they'd experience a huge increase in sales (I know a security company going through hundreds of cameras a year, b&w/infrared/ntsc/outdoor with great resolution/low light are about $230, color to b&w low light under $400-$450, outdoor housing included). I know a tech that sets up video (and servers) of satellite offices for his company, who also took a look at Axis but dropped the idea after he priced them in quantity. Axis may have great cameras and use Linux firmware, but I hear Rolls Royce and Ferrari make great cars also. Just not that many.

btw, if Axis is being sued over jpeg patents, why not switch to png? Or even gif if possible, since the gif patent expired in US? With Linux firmware, it shouldn't be too hard to switch formats, I would think, no?

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Re:What about firmware upgrades on cameras?

Posted by: Joe Barr on October 15, 2004 07:15 PM
I updated the firmware on both cameras. Windows was not needed. The only thing Windows is needed for is to run the DLink server application, as far as I can tell.


Why DLink works so hard to suggest otherwise is a question only they and Microsoft's Office of Flagrant Abuse of Legal {ractices can answer.

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Something more important, on issue you raised

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 08:05 PM
Why DLink works so hard to suggest otherwise, why you see "OEM recommends Windows XP" (covered in a Grok post on the settlement update), why you don't see Linux in printer descriptions on operating system compatibilities, and other restraint of trade practices, see this: http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=display&s<nobr>i<wbr></nobr> d=20041012211638401&title=Slotting%20fee%20primer<nobr>%<wbr></nobr> 20please&type=article&order=&hideanonymous=0&pid=<nobr>0<wbr></nobr> #c220483

and if you have further questions on the post, respond to this post saying so, and I'll arrange to talk to you via irc chat. If your irc handle is posted somewhere, provide a link, if not, when you respond to this post, I'll repost with my irc handle (and keep an ear out for you, I'm normally not on).

It's important that you as a writer, and you as someone in the sector understand exactly what is in that post, because much more damage can be done by those practices than anything else on a retail level.

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Better link

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 08:19 PM
right <A HREF="http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=display&sid=20041012211638401&title=Slotting%20fee%20primer%20please&type=article&order=&hideanonymous=0&pid=0#c220483" title="groklaw.net">here</a groklaw.net>.

Forgot to do that in top post.

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Re:What about firmware upgrades on cameras?

Posted by: Joe Barr on October 15, 2004 09:06 PM

I wrote about Microsoft buying up shelfspace from London Drugs in Canada back in 94, then making London Drugs remove all copies of OS/2 from their shelves.


The spineless worms in Redmond haven't changed a bit. The only difference now is that they own the Department of Justice.

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Shelf space

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 15, 2004 09:45 PM
Ok, so I know you're aware of the issue. But you are in a far better position than me, a regular user, to keep reminding people in a position to change language in the settlement, like the issue with "OEM recommends Windows XP" that was brought up by probably HP being embarrassed about selling a Linux laptop with the windows statement on the product page.

Shelf space, and slotting fees (and the absence of Linux from printer product descriptions) and other methods mentioned in the post are important to get into the settlement. If language may go in prohibiting the "OEM recommends Windows XP" on Linux installed hardware, then it is not a huge leap to try and put a limit on shelf space, slotting fees, and other methods of restraining trade/Linux.

I'm not saying you have the power to alter the settlement. But you have the ability to reach the right people, and you know who the actual right people are. Since you are already aware of payment for shelf space, and maybe Pamela from Groklaw can fill you in on slotting fees, you can make a difference in this important area, as you have made a difference in other areas.

The time to strike is when the iron is hot.

I'll be on irc in the debian and ntp channels for a few hours, if you don't get an answer right away, try again about 20 minutes later, look for bin11, or something like that, don't remember my handle right now.

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Don't get too hung up about wireless

Posted by: zoneminder on October 16, 2004 12:23 AM
I'll express an interest here as I wrote ZoneMinder but I thought I'd chip in as a lot of the comments here relate to the suitability of wireless cameras etc.

I realise that was Joe's setup but most people use wired cameras, either IP types, or coax video cameras or even just plain old USB webcams. I don't have any definitive stats but there's probably less than 5% who have exclusively wireless setups. You can basically use it with whatever you've got lying around. Got an old WinTV card not being used? Hook up a single video camera to it and stick it over your front door, or your cat flap!

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Re:Don't get too hung up about wireless

Posted by: Joe Barr on October 16, 2004 02:42 AM
Phil,


I hope people are taking the time to visit your site (linked to in the story) and learning more about Zoneminder there. I wrote 3K words and didn'
t really get deeply into any of it.


Thanks for the great app.


Joe

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ZoneMinder: How do you install this on ubuntu

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 76.190.6.180] on November 03, 2007 03:11 PM
I cant figure this out! I have ubuntu installed but I can't find were to type the promts, I tryed in the terminal but that doesnt work can someone help me?

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