As a new father a couple of years ago, I obviously relished looking at the different options for babycams – I was looking for nothing less than audio AND color video (with infrared night vision), the ability to plug into the feed via multiple monitors (iPhone/iPad, internet browser, etc.) and I wanted to be able to move the camera via any of those methods.
Did these options exist? Of course. Were they expensive? Stunningly so. Hundreds of dollars.
So I found exactly what I was seeking for less than $60.00.
Allow me to explain…I knew a Wifi-enabled set-up was a no-brainer when it came to simplicity. I’d read about iCam on Lifehacker and knew I could run a multi-camera server off one of my home computers that my mobile devices could access via iCam – even over mobile data plans (I’m on AT&T). So a Wifi camera with an internal web server seemed the most obvious solution and I headed to Ebay to see what the market had to offer.
I’ll spare you the boring research details but suffice to say, I found a lot of options for less than a hundred bucks. The Foscam (and Foscam-rebranded) cams seemed the best solution. But I hate waiting for shipping from China so I hit Amazon and found a model that looked promising for $50 and offered Prime Shipping (EasyN FS-613B-M166). Done.
The next day, I got the camera and easily set it up on my home network. I mounted it in the corner of my daughter’s room, added it to the iCam server software I downloaded from their website, and was in the money. It works 24/7 and appears on both my and my wife’s iPhones from wherever we are on Earth. We can also access it via iCam’s website through any web browser.
Emboldened with the idea that I could add more cameras around my home for security purposes, I added three more cameras around my house. My home gets pretty dry weather, so I added all of them outside, underneath my home’s eaves. Now I can see and hear most of my property, day or night, from almost anywhere I might be.
And this, of course, includes directly on the screen of my HTPC screen. As you can see from the photo, I can pull up the cams and display it over the currently playing content. I do this via my remote control and will admit I use it mostly to see when the pizza guy arrives! Systems like this, particularly if you want to control it all via your Mac (as I did), are really expensive. But the only cost I ran into beyond iCam’s cost ($5.00) were the cameras themselves. I did add a Sony Dash I grabbed from Woot! for $50 that displays the camera video feeds (along with weather conditions and the time) that I mounted in our bathroom.Read More
It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s actually a good thing. While I’ve had some additions to my Mac HTPC enviornment (that I’ll be posting about shortly), mostly I’ve been enjoying the most valueable asset any set-up can offer: stability. I still remember stumbling through temporary fixes like Core Audio when trying to squeeze all the functionality I wanted from my Mac Mini.
So I’m especially grateful when I enjoy rock-solid performance from my Mini. Currently, I’m still living off the Holy trinity of Plex, EyeTV, and Remote Buddy. My old Mini finally started to give up the ghost around Christmas, so I bought a new Mini (specifically, the Mac Mini MC815LL/A).
This was a long time coming: I’d upgraded the processor myself on the old Mini, along with installing a new hard drive – I’d pushed it well past its limits and it had earned the life it now has surfing the internet and checking email for an elderly couple in Colorado.
And the new Mini was light years beyond the old machine in performance stats. It chews up tasks I didn’t even try on my old Mini – mainly, transcoding EyeTV live streams for my iPhone/iPad while watching other HD programming via EyeTV or Plex. I can also run iCam in the background for my home security system (again, full write-up coming soon!). Plus, I’ve saved so much money cutting the satellite/cable cord, that absorbing the cost was much easier.
After experimenting with a compact 5.1 receiver (Yamaha YMC-500BL) and Klipsch surround speakers, I ran back to my all-in-one soundbar (Yamaha YSP-800) which provides really great sound, I learned. And it removed the grip of wires and speakers involved in the other set-up.
I also consolidated all of my external storage into one device (the ProBox 4 Bay Hard Drive Enclosure), turning three sets of cords into one – which is always a great thing.
Otherwise, everything is rock solid. I flirted with OSXBMC for a minute due to its ability to play Amazon Prime videos, smooth EyeTV library integration, and the ability to customize home screen shortcuts. But instability in every version I tried combined with difficulty replicating the remote shortcuts I’m used to in Plex sent me running back to Plex.
…and that’s Plex/Eight, incidentally. While I love lots about Plex/Nine, it has creates serious holes in my personal HTPC workflow that I’ll be detailing shortly. But Eight is still killing it for me in the area I care most about: stability.Read More