[hackerspaces] Webcam setups, for security and community?

Charlie X Wallace charlie at finitemonkeys.com
Fri Nov 4 19:47:19 CET 2011

A lot of usb cameras don't work on active extension cables, we've been 
trying various cameras on our pick and place machine and I use an active 
cable for development, half the cameras appear as a device but don't 
transfer video.

There are a bunch of waterproof usb bullet cameras. most of them are low 

ebay as always is a good source


-----Original Message----- 
From: Nathaniel Bezanson
Sent: Friday, November 04, 2011 11:14 AM
To: Hackerspaces General Discussion List
Subject: Re: [hackerspaces] Webcam setups, for security and community?

> avoided? Is there such a thing as a weatherproof USB webcam? How far can
> you stretch a USB connection? (It'd be cool to put a camera over the front
> door, but that's a good 80 feet from where the PC would live.)  Video

You can probably stuff a USB webcam into an outdoor enclosure, but they're
generally not built to cope with freezing temperatures. Shouldn't be a
problem, though, and for a few bucks it might be worth a try.

You definitely can't make a single USB link go 80 feet, but plugging
active extension cables (basically 1-port hubs) together can probably get
you there no problem. Funny thing is, 4-port hubs are actually cheaper, so
just get a handful of those and some longass cables for in between.

Another option is a USB-over-IP device server. Most of these products
specifically exclude isochronous frames (the type of USB message used by
webcams and audio devices), but I've found that the IOGear GUIP-201 does
handle them, and handles them well. The pricetag on such a gizmo is
nontrivial, but it should work with any device you plug into it.

You're probably better off just using a regular NTSC camera, which are
trivially available in all manner of outdoor-rated designs. If you already
have a box of cat-5 and would rather not invest in a box of coax too,
simply run twisted-pair to the camera, and use a pair of video baluns to
transform the signal at either end. I've had surprisingly good luck with
the cheapies from DealExtreme. Bonus: Signal fits on one pair. Use two
more pairs for power. That leaves a spare pair for whatever you can dream

Choice of video-capture device is largely a question of drivers, just like
choice of webcam. Pick a model that's well-supported in all the OSes you
might run on the capture station. I can't tell you how many
perfectly-functional webcams I have relegated to the scrap bin because
they're "obsolete" and unsupported.

One other option is a native IP camera. Getting live video from one may be
an exercise in frustration (codec what?), but pulling still frames is
generally pretty easy, and used models are affordable. Software is really
the sticking point here, so do your homework before buying anything. I'd
investigate the Ubiquiti AirCam, since it's all standard protocols (the
official live viewer is just VLC, for instance) and quite cheap.

Ultimately, your software/server goon will have more to say on the
subject. Good luck!

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