111174350993_1For years, I have been experimenting with home security and video surveillance systems.  I have seen a variety of them offered on ebay and various manufactures in China, some of which are pretty inexpensive.  However, they all of fail is the usability side and are locked down to such a degree that you can’t update them easily to add new features, and for the mon ey the manufacturers  wont update the software.  Those systems that do run with a large feature set tend to be much more expensive than one can afford for the home.  I have long worried about the safety of my family and house and beyond serving as a means to catch a potential, I also benefit from the system being a deterrent.

Web Enabled

Most of my experimenting was done in ZoneMinder.  ZoneMinder is an open source Linux CCTV security system which  is access via the web.   So, with ZoneMinder, out of the box you have the ability to monitor your video cameras on the Internet, or even a smart phone app.  It supports a variety of cameras including USB, composite video (with additional card), remote camera servers, etc…  So, essentially, any camera configured with ZoneMinder is now online for remote access.

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Overview

For years I have wanted a centralized digital home theater system.  The limitations of almost every component failed for a variety of reasons.  Cost being a big issue, limitations in computer speeds, noise and complexity all played their part in preventing me from getting the system that I wanted.  The biggest issue was not requiring a full blown media center enabled PC on every television in the house.  Even the cheapest PC is several hundred dollars, and you are forced to deal with consumable parts such as hard drives and fans wearing out.  Size is also a big issue, and boot up times is REALLY annoying.  Additionally, even the quietest of PC’s will add at least 30DB’s to the noise of the system by the time you add in several quiet cooling fans, power supplies, spinning hard drives, etc…  The way around this is long cables, dedicated rooms, etc… which is just more cost, complexity, etc…

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rasppi-voiceLast year, I wrote about cancelling my home phone line with our local provider and replacing this home service using the wonderful “PBX in a Flash” software on a server located in my house.  The original article details the process and hardware utilized.  Of coarse, the overall goal of this project is to cut home phone service costs, provided better phone service.  My wife Heather LOVES receiving voice mail messages on her computer via email.

In practice, there are a few draw backs to the the setup.  The good news is that there are solutions to every problem.

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rasppiFor months I considered purchasing a Raspberry Pi single board computer.  For the unaware, the Raspberry Pi is a single board computer, which is amazingly inexpensive ($35) and reasonably powerful for its size and cost.  The design concept was to create a small, inexpensive computer to use as a learning tool for children.  The back-story is really cool and a great example of how things should be done, well worth the read.

The Raspberry Pi Model B is a 700Mhz ARM1176JZF-S core processor with 512 MB of ram.  It has an HDMI and RCA video out, built in Ethernet, 2 USB connections and audio out.  Storage is done with an SD card and powered by a 5 Volt, micro USB connection.

The first thing to know about the Raspberry Pi, is that this is all about cost for them.  So, there is nothing extra in the package.  When ordered, your will get the ‘board’, no power cord, no SD card, no case, nothing.  This is not a pick one up from Best Buy and plug it in kind of computer.  But that is part of its charm, and the intent behind it, is to teach kids how to work with computers.

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vmfullRecently, I inherited a project which caused a bit of nervousness.  I inherited a custom compiled application with a set of dependencies that can’t be fulfilled with modern Linux distributions.  This program needed to compiled against MySQL headers for version 3.23.   To compile the program, it was determined that the best solution was FreeBSD 6.2.  This was the last version of FreeBSD which supported the required libraries.  I did try other distributions included Suse, Gentoo and Redhat, but I ran into circular dependencies issues which precluded this use.  However, the HCL for FreeBSD 6.2 is a little old at this point.

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