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DMI News

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November 18, 2003 09:02

First off, I've added another cam so some of the other lamps are more easily visible. I've called it the Library cam although there is no true significance to the name, except it's casually aimed in the direction of the bookshelves. This makes the plasma ball more visible and gives a shot of the office lamp, plus a library lamp that I added just for the heck of it.

I've built a tarball of just the lampserver code for anyone that's interested and doesn't want to sift through the nightmarish mess that the source directory is. You can get it at
If you have lamps that you're interested in linking up to my site, let me know and I'll walk you through the process. Helpful if you have a cam too, so people can see what's happening.

Moving has been temporarily put off, but should HOPEFULLY happen by the end of this week. Mortgage companies are so much fun.


Site Updates

November 12, 2003 22:55

No house news yet. I'll post about it 5 minutes after I know something.

A couple new features on the page. The cams and the lamps are now completely dynamic. They can be added and removed automatically as they are made available. In addition, I've allowed the regulars to have their own cams accessible from the website, just as the classic ones are, and they show up and disappear as the cams are activated and deactivated.

In addition to the cams, the server program I use to control the lamps can now accept slaved connections from other systems on the internet, so other people who have X10 modules and a linux box can add their lamps dynamically to my page as well. This provides for a larger number of available features on the website. Right now I have X10 and parallel port connected relays supported via the slave mode, but eventually I'll be able to do the same thing with the pan/tilt/zoom rotors for the cams, rc cars, etc. A large number of appliances spread over multiple homes can all be seamlessly controlled via the same page.

Anyone who has some X10 equipment, a linux box, and a cam lying around that wants to play with this, let me know.


The Party

November 06, 2003 15:59

The party at Boop's went great, even looking past the broken bones. I wasn't able to get streaming working on the spot. My lack of prep time resulted in me taking down equipment that had issues, and spending all night resolving them wasn't part of the plan, so we just recorded the party instead.

So after a few days of figuring out how to encode it, I have two mpeg's of the party. I intend to re-encode them at a later date, as the format isn't really ideal, and the encoding has some distortion due to the radios that are running around here. I'm just going to need to move first.

So for those looking to get the video, it's in two parts: party5.mpg and party6.mpg. Get them from one of these mirrors:



If you want to mirror it as well, just leave a comment with the link.


Good News

October 23, 2003 13:18

It appears I will finally be moving again on or around the 12th of November. Assuming nothing changes, the site should resume its original functionality around that time, at a new location, with decent bandwidth and a number of new features.

First of all, the cams will mostly be operated from a couple high(er) end servers than I have typically used in the past. Not only will this allow for the classic javascript and netscape based motion jpeg refresh of the cams, but also streaming media (video and audio) in asf format to start and other formats as I get them working. The listen live feature will also work as originally available for those who won't have the bandwidth to handle the full stream. All the capture card based cameras will be replaced by low cost camcorders which will significantly improve the quality of the images, as well as allow for an easy to adapt to zoom feature. Panning and tilting will also be available on all cams in the near future.

The RC Car as it currently exists has been retired. The model currently in use is fragile, and therefore prone to damage, and I'm frankly tired of fixing something that's quite literally falling apart. The layout of the new house may not permit the use of a typical RC car under normal conditions, so instead at this time I'm planning instead for an RC boat for the pool. In the future I will be building a robotic platform with more reasonable speed control and sensors to prevent it from venturing where it does not belong. At that point there will be an indoor mobile cam again.

The barcode scanner will be active again and we will attempt to maintain at least a semi-accurate inventory of the consumables in the house. The doorbell will be interfaced and a camera viewing the front porch will keep a visual record of all visitors. In addition, a number of motion sensors in and around the outside of the house will capture any motion activity and the mailbox will have a sensor of its own to let us know when mail has arrived.

Yes, life will finally return to normal. On that note, I am searching for a local source of cheap used (and possibly somewhat broken) camcorders. I could easily do it via ebay for the price I want, but that's a gamble, and I'd prefer to at least spend a couple minutes testing them out first. What is required is the following: Working color video, working video out in RCA and/or S-Video, working zoom, and working power via an external power supply. Working audio and a remote control would be nice, but not required. It does not have to have a working viewfinder, battery, or tape deck, as it will never be mobile and never tape or playback anything. I am willing to pay up to $50 for a camcorder that meets these criteria from a local source. I can get them cheaper on Ebay, but like I said, I'd pay more to not have to risk a gamble.


Job woes Part 1.

October 15, 2003 18:21

I have a great regular 40 hour per week job right now. It's not a ton of money, but it's steady, extremely flexible, and the checks show up and cash. Right now, that's great. However, I occasionally pick up other small jobs to work on in addition. So my dad refers someone to me who has some work. Some rather simple work from the sound of it, so I offer my normal lowball, but happy to work $20/hour rate which is happily accepted.

What is the job exactly? Like I said, it's simple. He has a Suse linux installation that he wants to have configured to use his dsl modem. While I haven't used Suse much, I've had no troubles configuring several other distros, and certainly shouldn't have much difficulty with Suse either. And in the end, the modem configuration took less than 10 minutes. It was getting to a prompt that was the tough part of the job.

Keep in mind, it took more than one phone call to find out what exactly I was going to be doing. On the first call, all that was established was exactly when I would be available to go over there to do it... what "it" was exactly was not clearly defined. Finally I discovered the desire to have the dsl installed, and asked some basic default questions to ensure some degree of success. You know, like "Is the DSL already working?" Well, it "used" to work before, but he disconnected it, then had it reconnected but not tested it. Had used it under windows before. Not sure if it was the original modem or not. But all the stuff was there.

First things first, I try to get the dsl working under windows. Because if I have to talk to tech support, they're going to expect me to be using windows, all the included software is windows based, and he wanted it working under windows anyway when dual booted, so I just attempt to solve that part first. Well, something isn't right, because the rather simple installation process isn't working. Of course, I'm natually jaded, and I expect that nothing works perfectly right out of the box. There's nearly always SOMETHING that someone has to do first. Whoops, we forgot to activate your account. Whoops, we forgot to set this parameter correctly. Whoops, we gave you the wrong password. Well, in this case, it was the latter. So I call tech support to get this problem cleared up. I'm on hold for ... quite a while. At least 30 minutes. On a cell phone (not mine). With a low battery.

Now keep in mind, the guy who hired me isn't even there. He's not even in the area. But he's calling me every 10 minutes to find out how I'm doing. This is while I'm sitting on eternal hold trying to get him online. Pointless, needless badgering, but hey. It's his nickel. Finally, the cellphone goes dead, so I recall on the landline, which I was going to do in the first place, but was discouraged from doing so for some reason. Finally get past the eternal hold session and it takes all of about two minutes to get the proper password which was one letter off of what he was provided. Modem connects right up, everything's great. Life is good. Thank the guy and hang up. Now onto Suse.

So I'm booting it up. Gets to the login prompt. I finally call the guy back and ask him what the password is. Hold onto your chair people. He doesn't know. But it's not for lack of trying. We try about 50 different passwords. Turns out he changes his passwords frequently. Sometimes several times a day. Now, I'm all for simple basic security concepts that instill that you don't use the same password on every account, but lets deal with our paranoia in a healthy way why don't we? Still no problem. I can boot up a linux box and get in, of course, I don't have any disks with me, and although I could download and write some rescue disks so I could break in, there were no blanks available, so I figure I'll just go home and come back some other time. Like maybe when he'll be there.

.... To be continued.....


More on Themes

October 12, 2003 17:56

I've written up a Theme guidelines page for those interested in designing a theme for the site. This goes into more details of what I'll want/need than I did in the previous news entry.

Also, you can now edit your own visitor page information here. Currently it only updates the sample visitor page until I've worked out all the bugs, but you can start playing with it.


Webpage and streaming updates

October 08, 2003 14:22

I'm finally getting user accounts put into place. Within a day, people should be able to submit information for the visitors page, which will support a number of features that will be explained further once it's working. Now people will be able to add and update their own record without having ME do it, which usually means it never gets done.

As part of this, I'm going to allow people to select their own theme for the site. A theme will consist of a constant background and color scheme, fonts types and colors, and navigation layout (the sidebar). These features will be constant over all pages on the site. In addition, the main page will have a different layout for each theme. So for all of you who thought you can do better, now is your chance to impress me. Since a large number of themes can be available, I'm more likely to be interested in anything that works.

Constraints for the main page: Has to have a 320x240 webcam image. Must have some way to select other cameras. Must have a way to turn on and off lamps. Must have a method to send messages. Must have enough leeway to allow for different options for each cam, such as the RC car which has driving controls or a cam for panning. If you want to do the whole thing in flash, remember that you have to be able to call the cgi scripts as well as load different different camera viewing options, including motion jpeg, multipart motion jpeg, asf and possibly realmedia streaming, and possibly some others yet.

It is not necessary to code the entire page. Only a layout idea is necessary. Any of your themes that are used will be attributed to you if you so desire.

I'm having difficulty with the asf streaming via ffserver. I have been successful getting a 128kbps stream at 320x240@15 fps, but I can't get it working with audio yet. WMP7 plays it with no sound, and WMP9 won't play it at all. MP3 streaming from the same server works fine, so it's most likely something to do with the asf format. I'll keep hacking at it.



October 07, 2003 03:03

Been a while since last I wrote, but since nothing spectacular has happened, there hasn't been much point. Still nothing firm on when or where I'm moving next, although I'm hoping to know for sure in the next couple days.

I've made significant progress getting streaming media working. Although I can't use it over the internet from my present location, I have an ASF video stream embedded in the browser, as well as the traditional javascript and serverpush motion jpeg options. I'm also working on getting a java applet based mpeg viewer as well. Both streaming formats will also stream audio and a separate audio stream will be available as a traditional listen live option for those who can't handle the bandwidth of the stream. Right now I'm playing with a 128kbps video stream at 320x240 @ 15fps. I'll tweak it a bit in the daylight to see how well it turns out. I'll also create a smaller stream, maybe 64kbps...

Planning some changes to the dynamics of the main page. In the past, I've hosted webcams for a few people. I intend to continue that, but now when their cam is online, it will show up in the camlist on the main page as an icon, and will be removed when the cam is no longer online. Lamps and other appliances will be added or removed as they're available, and messages sent will be sent to a station closest to the location of the cam, and those who don't want to receive messages directly will simply have no message field available.

The manifest and visitors pages will be redone and merged into a single page. User accounts will be utilized and people will then be able to submit and change their own pictures and information for these pages. Then, as they check the page or join the chatroom, their record will move to the top of the list. The page will also take the format of the captures pages and only show 10-20 entries at a time. A starting template is here. Still not sure how I'm going to work the slideshows, but I'll figure something out.


Video and other things

September 11, 2003 17:50

I've had success both with using the video loopback driver and camsource. In addition, I'm able to encode a decent mpeg stream from the looped back video and the entire operation uses less than 20% of the cpu, so with luck I'll be able to operate at least 3 video sources per machine. Of course, I'll probably investigate streaming media other than mpeg and I'm still fussing with the audio, but I think it will work.

And on a special note, I would like to point out that sometimes what you want to do is not always the right thing to do, and doing the right thing is painful. It sucks. And yet, you realize, that despite how much it hurts, things will work out for the best. Time is the best solution for some problems, and chance may yet have another card to play.


Video Stuff

September 09, 2003 14:12

I'm currently playing with the video loopback driver under linux to support having multiple applications access the same video source. This means I can continue to serve up motion-jpeg streams as I do now, but also stream any number of streaming video feeds. Some of the software also makes it possible to stream not only hardware video sources, but also the desktop or output from other applications, like mplayer, so movie playback can be sourced back into a video feed, so people can watch the same movie I am, as I'm watching it. None of this will really be possible until I move and get some decent bandwidth again, but it's my intention to have the capability ready at the time.

Also, by next weekend hopefully, I'll have the behind the scenes footage from the techtv interview available. I have yet to see any of it, so I plan to just encode all of it in as raw a format as possible, and upload it somewhere I can have people grab it from, then play with it later to sift it down to something more reasonable. At the moment, there's probably 2-3 hours worth of footage, although I'm not positive about that.

I'm going to retire the 486 that's been doing all the controlling all these years. It has never worked properly since the move, probably got bumped around a bit too much. I only really kept it around since it was an expendable machine. I can easily move the controlling functions to inferno, thereby reducing my computer needs by one. With combining video functions, and running multiple cams per machine, I can probably get my computer count down to 6 or less at the new place, instead of the 12 I had before. Of course, I'm sure I'll just use the opportunity as an excuse to expand the number of video sources, and therefore probably end up with that many anyway, but you'll all get more bang for your buck, or at least I will. It's still free for you. :)

I've cleaned out one of my storage units, and now I only have one remaining. I realize most people don't care about this, but I'm telling you anyway. :) Hopefully I'll move before the end of the month, which that unit is paid for through the end of.