Going to vacation, provide safety for your pets. Xeoma + Ubuntu, User’s testimonial
SUBJECT: Very old 2nd-hand hardware, Ubuntu and low cost POE cameras with anywhere access for less than ‘off the shelf’ branded solution
Challenge: Ensuring our puppies are OK and sitters are coming on time while away from home – with high quality Realtime access and notifications.
As the ‘kids’ in the neighborhood grew up and we had to start looking for strangers to let the dogs in and out when we were away from home, we decided some form of video monitoring was required.
So, with that I did some research and decided to purchase a ‘shrink-wrap’ rapid deployment solution from a big-box store. The solution used battery powered devices (3) and cloud storage: while it sort-of worked as promised, I was very disappointed by:
- battery life and limited storage that could only be upgraded by an expensive subscription
ISSUES: At first: each morning and evening we got a message showing a picture of the sitter entering and departing the house twice a day, unfortunately the slowness of the cameras usually caught a blurry image of entering and exit but it was enough I supposed.
About 5 days into the vacation I got a late text with a clip showing the sitter with a group of friends entering the house, I pulled up the live stream only to notice noone was there, checked the time stamp and discovered it was the day before. Obviously, we called and made a complaint to the sitter. For the rest of the vacation I was checking in on the live streams at random times; by day 6 the camera’s batteries ran out of power and we were in the dark! Let’s just say it was concerning – in the end however all was well but it wasn’t good enough for peace of mind!
TIME FOR A REAL SOLUTION
Being slightly geeky, I decided to go DIY, so went online and started researching software and hardware solutions. After a few hours I made the decision that Ubuntu was the best option and there were a few software providers out there that said they supported low-cost support Onvif cameras, plus a 2nd-hand server could be purchased from a nearby server recycling warehouse!
Server Hardware: 2nd-hand $USD 250 (x-Akamai) Supermicro 2U Server, AMD Opteron 64bit processor, 8 GB Ram and LSI RAID running Ubuntu. 4x2nd-hand 2 TB SATA drives.
Cameras: SV3C generic ONVIF Bullet and Dome POE Cameras (with POE support & power supplies)
Cable & Switch: Purchased $75 CAT5 cable and a low cost POE switch to support cameras
TOTAL Hardware cost: $500 USD with 8 TB storage
First attempt: Zoneminder
Installed Unbuntu, completely no brainer to setup and required little or no real expertise (that couldn’t have been solved with Youtube).
Zoneminder at first seemed like a good solution, rave reviews etc. However, it was not exactly intuitive. I am relatively technical.
1) Couldn’t find my cameras
2) Confusing to install and set to start at boot
3) Configuration took too long (and complex)
4) I ran out of patience after 5-6 hours!
5) Mobile access? I also needed a web server!
In the end, I manually discovered the cameras, but as they were cheap, finding the setup information for Zoneminder was annoying!
Second Attempt: Xeoma
I discovered Xeoma searching for other solutions. At first it seemed a little sketchy and too good to be true being multiple platform, multi-client!
Anyway, downloaded Xeoma to my Mac, ran the trial and BANG! It found the cameras – no special configuration, nothing! I was like WOW seriously!
NOW FOR UBUNTU: Wiped everything and started again, downloaded Xeoma trial and again BANG! Found the Cameras! Total time from ‘bare metal to live’ about 60mins (server was slow).
Left the trial running till it expired, tried remote access in and out of the house, multiple devices! No complaints!
PURCHASED XEOMA 3 YEAR 8 CAMERA LICENCE!
PROS of the setup:
- proactive notifications
- no extra cloud costs apart from power
- SECURE AND ALL IS MY OWN, anyone with permission can access
Performance: As the server is 6 years old, local use of the XEOMA GUI is a little sluggish as it’s using the native video controller. Remote configuration however is quick and seamless and as it’s in the basement – who cares!
OPTIMIZED MOTION DETECTION, time of day, Light detection REDUCES CPU LOAD: Being an old server with 8 Cameras, the CPU was getting a little taxed, Xeoma enabled me to reduce the CPU load, and in addition I reduced the camera’s FPS and resolution (you don’t need HD!). Also, the cameras’ LEDs were very strong, which gave excellent motion detection in the night time.
CAMERAS: Immediately upon getting any camera, reset the password and turn off P2P, if it’s enabled. This limits access to 3rd parties by backdoors. These specific cameras had used P2P – I disabled that and set up the dedicated IP Address assignment via my router to each camera. Xeoma doesn’t need this, but it does make things a bit easier to maintain.
XEOMA: Create an account on the server for viewing your cameras and lock the software down with a password. If you have a static IP address at home, you just need to set up port forwarding on your router. You may need to open the port on the server as well (Xeoma has great documentation).
NETWORK : You can isolate the servers and cameras to a single virtual or physical network. I put them all on their own switch with the server and put on the DMZ port of a router I was already using. This way you can’t get into the house.
At a hotel in Mexico, I put a tablet on the table and turned on Xeoma. Live streaming all the time! Additionally, I received emails whenever motion was detected by any entrance or upstairs in the house. Unfortunately, the sitters were coming too late – but at least we could have seen that they had been cleaning up the mess. I called them to complain, and they never came late again!
March, 27 2019