Saturday, October 8, 2011

IP Cameras

Recently, there have been a couple of break ins in nearby neighborhoods.  A couple of guys go door to door during the week, knock, and if someone answers, pretend to be an arborist offering to look at trees, or some other door-to-door type thing.

If they get no response, they break a window and let themselves in.  The police say that they're in and out in 10 minutes, and go first for the master bedroom for jewelry and then electronics.

I'm not one for worrying all that much about stuff, but my family are my jewels and I want to keep them safe. We have a rambling house, and a knock at the front door may or may not get an answer.  Or rather, a human answer.  The dogs will bark like crazy.  They're our own personal doorbells.

As a part of my normal curious nature, I've been messing with IP cameras, and with the break ins, it's a great excuse to buy a couple more and set them up.  Yeah, it won't stop someone for burgling, but now I can hang those "WARNING, VIDEO SURVEILLANCE ON SITE!" signs outside.

FI8918W (click to enlarge)
During my research, I came across Foscam IP cameras.  I bought one a couple of months ago (to mess around with) that's an indoor version.  It's an FI8918W.  It has both wired and wireless (802.11g), powered pan and tilt, but no zoom.  Getting full PTZ (adding zoom) seems to amp up the cost to $400+/camera.  This one was about $60 on sale. Sample pic to the right.  Yes, it's pointing outside my office at my bird feeder. Sue me.

Recently, I bought a couple of outdoor (waterproof) versions. FI8904W.  They're still (no pan/tilt/zoom(PTZ)), but have a wider angle of view and more IR (they see more, and can see farther at night.)  I put the two outdoor cameras on our shed to the side of the house, since it has power.  One pointing in front, one in back.
Front yard (click to enlarge)

Back yard (click to enlarge)

They are also wireless, so all I had to do was make sure they had power and were mounted to something.

To manage them, I did some research and found some great software called Blue Iris. After playing with the demo, I pulled the trigger and bought a full version.  Not only will it handle up to 64 (!) cameras, but it has built in motion sensing (including cropping), manages audio from the camera, and has some pretty good file management built in.  I've got it setup capture if it senses movement for more than 5 seconds, store them locally, and after 7 days (or 10GB used), copy them to the server, at which time it'll keep them for 28 days (or 100GB used.)

I'm running Blue Iris on one of the servers, and it even has a web interface, which I can use to setup view from outside the network (or my iphone.)
Blue Iris web view (click to enlarge)

I'm pretty pleased with the whole setup.  Haven't tried the outdoor cameras at night yet. We'll see how well they work. I suspect they only see about 40 feet away.  I'll try to update this with night pics.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Since I've been up here in the Pacific Northwest, one thing I've missed is good Mexican food.  Yes, there are a couple of good places, especially here in Redmond (like El Toreador), but even so, I've been doing more and more Mexican food cooking. Over the next few days, I'll be posting my recipes. But for now, my favorite:

Jeff's Cooky Carnitas

4 chicken breasts
2 Cups water
Salt (to taste)
Ground Cumin
Chili Powder
Black Pepper
Garlic Powder
4-8 cloves of Garlic, diced (optional)
2 Cups fruit juice, the weirder the better.

The key to good carnitas is that they're cooked for a looooong time.  And they're twice cooked. And they are a little tart.  Ok, that's three keys.

Put the meat in a pot and season to taste.  Add 2 cups water. Sorry there are no specific measurements for the seasonings, you're gonna have to wing it.

Cook for 2 hours at 325 degrees until the meat is done. If the water cooks off, add another cup.

Chop the meat into cubes or loosely shred.  I prefer it shredded so there are more crispy bits (see below.)

Make up two cups of your favorite juice.  The safe ones are orange or pineapple. I like passionfruit or guava.  I use the frozen cans.  I take about half the can, put it in a 4 cup measure, then add 2 cups water and stir.  Makes for a light syrup.

Add the meat back into the pot, and pour the juice into the roaster (over the meat.)  This also has the advantage of deglazing the pot and getting the good juices out.  Add the garlic.

Cook at 325 degrees for an hour or two. Stir occasionally .  The liquid will cook down. I prefer it to cook away altogether, myself, but if you want your carnitas a little wet, stop sooner.

Take the meat and put onto cookie sheets in a single layer. Broil for 5-10 minutes until carmelized and brown.  Watch it carefully, there's a fine line between brown and burned.

They should look something like this:

Serve with fresh tortillas and fresh salsa.