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Hardware Hacking Security Build

Is Cheap Video Surveillance Possible? 700

Posted by kdawson
from the eye-on-the-lamp-post dept.
timholman writes "After a series of burglaries and auto break-ins in my neighborhood, I'm thinking about adding some video security cameras to my home. To me, the object isn't just deterrence — if someone tries to break into my house or my car (parked on the street in front of my house), I'd like to provide a high-quality image of the perpetrator to the police. Inexpensive video surveillance systems, with their atrocious image quality, are nearly useless. The problem is being able to get good image quality at an affordable price. After some research, I've decided that using network cameras to FTP images to a central server over a HomePlug network is the best solution. However, good megapixel network cameras (e.g. Stardot or Axis cameras) can easily cost more than $1,000 each. Has any of you dealt with a similar situation? Is there any way to get reasonable quality (preferably open source) daytime and nighttime video surveillance equipment for home use without paying an arm and a leg? Is it better to go with a couple of expensive cameras, or a multitude of inexpensive cameras? Is paying two to three thousand dollars simply unavoidable if I want to monitor my front and back yards?"
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Is Cheap Video Surveillance Possible?

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  • IQeye (Score:5, Informative)

    by kmsigel (306018) * on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:48PM (#23218848)
    I've been working with IQinvision's IQEye 511 camera (www.iqeye.com) for the past couple of months. It is a 1.3MP camera capable of 15 fps. It communicates over and is powered by 100mbit PoE. I think the street price is somewhere around 600-700 dollars, depending on what you get with it (PoE injector, lens, etc). The camera seems to take pretty good pictures and can deal with pretty varied lighting conditions. It has various ways to retrieve images, like emailing or ftping them to you on a set schedule. Hope this helps.
    • Re:IQeye (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:08PM (#23218996)
      I'm surprised it has to be 600-700 dollars when 8mp consumer digicams are $180 and have an intricate zoom lens you don't even want for surveillance. What we need is a 6mp monchrome sensor with no IR filter, a fixed-length lens, and wifi, for about $100. OK, $130 with a motion sensor. Come on China, you can do it!
      • Re:IQeye (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Xzzy (111297) <sether @ t r u 7 h . o rg> on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:33PM (#23219198) Homepage
        There's pretty good motion detecting software out there already.. a bit of time with google should solve that problem.

        I've solved the security camera problem with a $50 webcam, but I was only monitoring a desk in a cubicle that had a bad habit of things going missing. Worked pretty well, though lighting wasn't an issue in that case. Neither was cable length, because the camera only had to be a couple feet from the host PC.

        Maybe one could rig up something like that, get a couple Fit-PC's (they run around $300 each) and a couple webcams and go from there.

        Not sure how to solve low light situations.. but it's a long shot cheaper than $1000 if you can live without it.
        • by timeOday (582209)

          Not sure how to solve low light situations.. but it's a long shot cheaper than $1000 if you can live without it.
          My understanding is normal CCDs are IR-sensitive (until they put a filter over them block it). So it just needs an IR light on it. Seems like camcorders used to come with a nighttime mode just like this.
          • Re:IQeye (Score:4, Insightful)

            by innerweb (721995) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:12PM (#23219436)

            Camcorders, and other digital optics used to not have the IR blocked. It was not until it became popular to post IR pictures of people in normal clothing became popular. The problem was/is that IR tends to let us imagine we are seeing through the clothing. As one could understand, not something most people want being done. So, congress rattled its saber and the camera manufacturers removed or filtered the IR. This is also related to why digital cameras make clicking sounds that in many cases you can not disable. It was to warn victims of someone taking illicit photographs.

            Which just goes to show, anything can be used in ways that were never intended by the inventor/manufacturer.

            InnerWeb

      • Re:IQeye (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hdon (1104251) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:49PM (#23219314)
        Imagine that! Video cameras more expensive than still cameras!

        Incidentally, timholman, I recommend you invest in a quality still-picture digital camera if you want an economic solution for high quality digital imaging.

        I'd take a look at buying one of the cheaper Canon Powershot cameras between $100 and $200 for which there exists open source firmware [slashdot.org]. For networking, you might explore whether or not the USB mechanism in the camera can be coerced into the host role (as opposed to acting as a device) which has been accomplished in similar situations for devices such as the BlackDog [projectblackdog.com] and many iPods with Linux installed [ipodlinux.org]. With USB device hosting capability in hand, you could then easily connect it to a USB Ethernet NIC for a little over $20.

        With your own firmware installed, you might even do something really novel and program the camera to do something that will get the intruder's attention before snapping a photo so that they are sure to be looking right at it, giving you an excellent shot of his or her identity.

        Let us know how it goes!
    • Axis 207MW (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ptbarnett (159784)
      I stumbled across a webcam in my neighborhood on Weather Underground [wunderground.com], and was impressed by the image quality: an Axis 207MW [axis.com], up to 1280x1024 at 12 fps.

      It supports both WiFi (WPA2-PSK, if you want it) and 100BT. There's no IR illuminator, but they claim 2 LUX sensitivity. You can find them on the 'Net for about $400.00.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ozmanjusri (601766)
        an Axis 207MW [axis.com], up to 1280x1024 at 12 fps.

        I have one of those too. Axis cameras are good for the price. I also use Linksys WVC200s, which are good pan/tilt/zoom cameras for around AU$350. A real cheapie is XNET's NTC101W Wireless IPCamera for around AU$200. The XNETs are low quality, but good for motion detection, which is then used to trigger the Axis.

        I mainly use Motion [lavrsen.dk] on the software side, along with a couple of shell scripts. At the moment, it's all custom stuff, and my personal setup r

  • Here is a start... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neapolitan (1100101) * on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:49PM (#23218850)
    Well, you've got to do a cost-benefit analysis similar to a business. In low light it is going to be difficult to get a high-quality images without extra light (obvious you are monitoring them) or a really, really expensive camera which is vulnerable to spray-painting or vandalism itself.

    I was going to do something similar at a previous residence, but found that I would have to worry about people stealing the camera, or simply wearing a mask and gloves when they break in, which will really render the best camera useless. In the end, I used a hidden cheap Linksys webcam that was discreetly hidden inside my house, enough to alert me and catch a careless criminal.

    I have also had good success with the D-Link products, which are very cheap.

    http://www.dlink.com/products/category.asp?cid=60&sec=0 [dlink.com]

    Also, keep in mind that making your house / area "different" may actually attract more attention. Numerous cameras outside a particular residence screams "important stuff here" if you can't hide them effectively.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      >>In low light it is going to be difficult to get a high-quality images without extra light

      I agreed with the rest of your post, but from what I've seen of small CCTV cameras these days, they use IR LEDs for illumination. I have one from DealExtreme ($12) that comes with them built in.

      -b
    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:07PM (#23218988)
      I use mainly low-end Axis cameras in my department. I have 6 set up constantly updating a dedicated server. 2 are done at the only points of entry for an automobile so we can get license plate numbers, 2 are set up on the doors of laboratories, and 2 are set up at the main entrances. The two times we've had to use data from the cameras showed that the thieves were actually people that we knew. The video quality isn't great (800 x 600). But realistically if the burglar isn't somebody you know, the highest quality video in the world won't help the police unless you live in a very small town.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:20PM (#23219100)
      Unless we're talking murder or some serious crime, you're probably going to have a hard time getting the police interested in investing the resources to try to identify the perp and hunt them down and arrest them.
      • by ePhil_One (634771) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:55PM (#23219346) Journal

        Unless we're talking murder or some serious crime, you're probably going to have a hard time getting the police interested in investing the resources to try to identify the perp and hunt them down and arrest them.
        One of the reasons is because of the difficulty in gathering evidence. About 90% of bank robbers are caught because banks have good surveillance systems. If you can provide the police decent video/photos of the crime/criminals you have a much better chance of getting them involved. They may recognize the criminal already (you may too, criminals tend not to travel far), and if they go to court the chance of success are very high.
        • by evanbd (210358) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:59PM (#23219770)

          Exactly. I sat on a grand jury a couple years ago and heard numerous burglary indictments. Most of the cases the police clearly weren't terribly interested until the perp happened to hit a place with good surveillance, and then they usually knew who it was immediately and the case went very quickly.

          The county I'm in does grand juries a little oddly -- they have two standing grand juries for all felony indictments (investigatory grand juries are different). You serve one day a month for a year (one jury meets at the start of the month, the other in the middle), and you hear a couple dozen cases each day. So I saw plenty of burglary cases, and the ones that actually came to us tended to have either video surveillance or an ID from a pawn shop. There were some stupid crook stories too (hint: if you're stealing a car, with boat attached, remember to hook up the trailer lights), but mostly the indictments came from video footage accompanied by a comment from the officer that they thought the perp was responsible for several other area breakins but couldn't prove it.

    • by Nethead (1563)
      no, octal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Technician (215283)
      In low light it is going to be difficult to get a high-quality images without extra light (obvious you are monitoring them) or a really, really expensive camera which is vulnerable to spray-painting or vandalism itself.

      Built in IR is not good for color. A motion yard light is the norm and is often not thought of in conjuction with a security camera. A well lit area and cameras is an area often avoided, but a motion light is often ignored in backyards. Get good color photos. Color logos on clothing and o
  • WiLife (Score:5, Informative)

    by HaeMaker (221642) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:50PM (#23218860) Homepage
  • Where do you live? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:54PM (#23218890) Homepage Journal
    Unless you live in a small town a picture of the perpetrator is all but useless. The police really don't care about break and entry anyway.

    • by MrSteveSD (801820)
      That's true (at least in the UK where I am). Even if the windows were smothered in fingerprints, they wouldn't bother taking them.
  • I was thinking of putting good megapixel network cameras for surveillance but then I needed to buy another set of good cameras to monitor the surveillance cameras and then another set of cameras ...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Digestromath (1190577)
      I've solved this recursive camera protecting camera issue. I've rigged all my camera sites with low cost, high efficiency, surplus claymore mines. Most burglars aren't to familiar with tripwires or explosive ordinance disposal. It's very effective!

  • Quick answer - No (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The vast majority of CCTV, even professional installed stuff simply isn't of high enough quality to secure identity, let alone a conviction.

    If you want the quality then pay the money for good cameras. Megapixel is the way to go, especially if you want to cover a whole front or back yard.

    Also don't forget good lenses for them as well. Lenses that did a good job for standard definition often don't cut it with megapixel cameras.

    Check out http://www.arecontvision.com/ and http://www.iqeye.com/
    I don't work for e
  • Dog (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:57PM (#23218924)
    Get a dog. The TCO may be higher than the camera, but the deterrence factor is way higher (and it's better to not be broken into at all, than have footage of your breakins afterwards).
  • by evanbd (210358) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @08:59PM (#23218934)

    I sat on a grand jury a couple years ago. (Not an investigatory one; we issued general felony indictments. The county I live in does things a little oddly -- they have a pair of standing grand juries, each of which meets once a month to hear potential indictments. You're on the jury for a year, and hear a couple dozen cases each day, so I saw a bunch. All felony indictments go through one of the two.)

    The most common case for small time burglary was that there would be a set of crimes that the police were convinced were related, and then finally the thief would hit some place that had video cameras that were placed well enough to produce a usable image -- at which point, odds were they had already had dealings with that person, and the case got fairly easy. So usually they would present it to us as an indictment for just the one crime, but explain that the investigation was being treated as part of a group.

    So if you want the guy caught, there's really no substitute for good video surveillance. Sure, plenty of cases were based on things like the thief pawning stolen goods, but video was the most prevalent and easiest to work with.

  • by JumboMessiah (316083) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:00PM (#23218944)
    ZoneMinder [zoneminder.com] It has some really nice features.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:03PM (#23218972)
    Tell the local FBI office you're thinking of opening a Taliban mosque and they'll keep 24/7 high-res real-time video with CD quality audio of your entire property with an emphasis on identifying anyone coming or going. Then if anything happens they'll already have the suspect's name, address and phone number on record. Just ask the police to get the info from the FBI.
  • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:12PM (#23219040) Homepage Journal
    You need to get yourself a dog. It doesn't have to be big or scary looking- a small, yappy-type dog will do just fine. Unless you advertise the presence of valuable goods inside your house, a burglar will not break into your house if it is occupied. I think you'll find that most burglars will go for the lowest-hanging fruit, which will be your neighbor's house (unless they also have a dog, in which case the next house over is the low fruit). They want to get in, grab the stuff that is easiest to make off with and pawn, and then get out. I doubt you have any state secrets or anything like that in your house; this is a simple cost/benefit analysis for you and the burglars.

    Another thing to look into is a neighborhood watch program. Of course, if you live in a neighborhood like mine that might not be a viable option. In that case, you need to get yourself a dog and a steel-core door. Skip the expensive cameras. Are they really going to save you money? Or is this a vindictive side of you, the side that might put a "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot twice" sign on your fence?

    -b

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:31PM (#23219178)
      Not true. Ever watched the show It Takes a Thief? They broke into so many people's homes [with permission] with 'family dogs.' The animals were so use to people, they just wagged their tail after being pet, or he'd quickly find them a treat in the fridge.
    • Or you could label yourself as a poor odd philosopher with a "All Prosecutors will be Transgressicuted" sign.
    • You need to watch the TV show 'It Takes a Thief' (Discovery Channel, 2PM EDT Monday-Friday). Time and again I see dogs portrayed by their owners as the ultimate security device, only to have them rendered 100% ineffective within 15 to 30 seconds after John enters the target house and isolates the dog into a room not used by the thief. I even saw him steal a dog once. Dogs, unless trained to absolutely kill anything that enters the house (including you) are not an effective deterrent, period. And if, unlike
  • by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedat[ ]et.eg ['a.n' in gap]> on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:13PM (#23219046) Journal
    "Is paying two to three thousand dollars simply unavoidable if I want to monitor my front and back yards?"

    Yes.

    What do you really want to capture? A video feed of something that looks like it came from an Atari video game, or an actual image of a face that police can use to track the perpetrator? And would you really trust a couple-hundred dollar camera to stand up to outdoor conditions? Security cameras are expensive because the companies that offer them know that clients want SECURITY. And security costs money.

    I wouldn't pay for cameras that expensive, because the value of the property that I have in my apartment doesn't justify the cost. But if you have property that you want to protect, you'll have to determine for yourself whether the cost of the cameras is worth the cost of protecting your property.
  • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:17PM (#23219080)

    Actually, quality isn't the issue. Angle is.

    What you need to do is ensure that you capture a face shot as close to eye-level as possible, without having the camera obstructed by people walking by.

    The police and FBI don't like to talk about it, but there is a program where if they input a digital photo of someone, even a poor quality one, the computer will compare it against the database of digital photos taken by the Department of Motor Vehicles and spit out the six closest matches.

    These system rely on facial characteristics like eye-nose-mouth ratio, hairlines, etc so as long as the computer can accurately calculate the centers of these areas, it works.

    But when cameras are mounted up on the roof or in a corner as is typical, they are worthless unless the suspect looks right at them.

    Also, you want to think about having a camera just for vehicle traffic on your street or culdesac. A license plate is going to be your best method for apprehension. Sure, the car may be stolen, but if it is recovered then it can lead to your property. And if it happens to be a crime of impulse, you will have a suspect.

    If you were really clever, you could find some way to rig a standard digital camera with a flash similar to a red-light camera. This would be your most inexpensive option but also a dead give-away and not recommended for busy roads. Instead, find the least expensive camera that offers changeable lenses, and then focus them on a spot on the street that you know vehicles must drive through. Add some inexpensive infrared lighting and you should be able to playback a log of all vehicles (suspects and potential witnesses) when there is an incident.

    I think having more inexpensive cameras with decent quality will have a greater chance of success than a couple high-quality ones. Also, don't overlook physical security sensors. Infrared beams and even motion sensors are the best way to deter the crime, instead of relying on catching the criminal.

    I have been on the victim side of countless incidents in my profession and, frankly, you won't get the time of day from law enforcement. If a light turns on, or a camera flashes as someone approaches your vehicle...they will move on. And don't forget if you are worried about your vehicle and not just what's in it...pick up a used Sprint/Nextel phone on eBay and split off power from your car's 12V plug. Hide the phone inside the dash somewhere on continuously. Get the least expensive plan, or just write down the IMEI so that you can later activate the phone by calling Sprint. If the car does get stolen, activate service and add-on the GPS tracking features.

    Cheapest Lojack you will find.

    Good luck.

    -JoeShmoe
    .
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Qrlx (258924)
      These system rely on facial characteristics like eye-nose-mouth ratio

      This system must really excel at catching criminals who don't have a 2:1:1 ratio like the rest of us.
  • I know you stated you goal is good quality footage to catch a thief but is that really your ultimate goal? I believe preventing theft or to limit the loss from theft would be a better goal.

    Take the standard precautions everyone else takes and get home owners/renters insurance from a reputable company.

    A camera shot of the perp MIGHT help catch him eventually but what are the chances that your stolen stuff is going to be found and in returnable condition after that?
    The odds do not seem to justify the cost an
  • I have a pair of AirLink101 AIC-250 wired network cameras monitoring my driveway/garage area and my barn area (I live in the sticks). I've been pleased enough that I intend to acquire two more of them. Normal price is in the $80 range, but Fry's runs them as cheap as $49 at times.

    Their performance in almost darkness sucks, but that's going to be true of almost any camera unless you spend big dollars. Their performance from pre-dawn to post-dusk, however, has been phenomenal for such a cheap camera. Howe
  • Good Luck! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:23PM (#23219114)
    My wife's bicycle was stolen at her work (directly across the street from the police station, with regular police officer foot-traffic in the building). We had fancy cameras and a close-up of the guy's face within an hour of the theft.

    Did it help anything? No...

    The cameras were also in plain sight, and he was especially brazen in how he went about it all.

    Technology won't solve the problem.
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:23PM (#23219118)
    Here is some good software [steves-digicams.com] for turning many consumer cameras into a computer controlled camera.

    Steps: 1)Go through the list of cameras on the above site, and select one that has the specs you want (good resolution, zoom, etc.)

    2)Check eBay or find a used one.

    3)setup software and install camera where you want it.

    4)Enjoy cheap but hi-res image security.

    Many of the cameras on the list above go for less than $100 in good used condition, and offer many megapixels and good optical resolution. Many of them also have other features like low light mode, or other things that can be controlled by computer software. Good luck!

    • I tried to do this (using a Nikon Coolpix 4500 and gphoto). One thing I noticed is that there would be a long pause, and occasionally "usb bus resetting" messages, before the camera took a picture. This pause can be longer that 30 seconds and made it useless in my opinion, given how I wanted to trigger it.

      However, I noticed that the same camera would also pause as long as 10 seconds when triggered manually from the button. I will have to go through the menus and see if there is something I can do to fix
  • Do it cheaply (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yossarian45793 (617611) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:23PM (#23219120)
    You can do it cheaply, but don't expect to get any amazing images. I have 4 cameras outside my house recording full motion video 24x7. I spent only about $800 on the hardware ($125 per camera, $50 per video capture board, and $25 for coax cable). I record at 640x480x30fps and I can store about 3.5 days worth of video on an old 120 GB hard drive. I caught a kid breaking into my car at night, but there was no way to identify him, and police didn't want to pursue the case because he only took a few dollars out of my change tray. Even if his face had been clearer on the video I still doubt they would have done anything unless I also gave them a name and address. I believe the police view petty theft under a few thousand dollars as an issue for your insurance. Your best bet is to install motion sensing lights outside your house. They're a lot cheaper than cameras and they have better deterrent value. If you still want cameras, get the lights too because they're much more effective than infrared-LED-based night vision, which have very limitted range. After having these cameras running for more than a year the thing I use them most for is checking whether the UPS man left a package on my front steps.
  • You do realize the cops are going to do the absolute minimum possible even with video evidence? They will come out, maybe watch your tape and file some papers and thats about it. Don't expect CSI to come out and swab for saliva or prints.
  • by morari (1080535) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:24PM (#23219132) Journal
    Or better yet, don't live in the city at all! Don't park on the street, use your driveway or garage. People that park on the street simply take up space on the street and often essentially turn it into one lane for those of us who are driving. Also, buy a nice big handgun and wear it strapped under your shoulder while out cutting the grass and such. Make it known, because no one is going to assess the risk factor in that and still proceed with robbing you.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:27PM (#23219148)
    Part of the issue you will face is that yes, a good security camera will cost several hundred dollars each.... that said, professional systems are not particularly difficult to install yourself.

    Couple tips:

    1) Avoid network cameras, the Cat-5 medium is not as noise free as other methods, and the circuitry involved to convert it to a digital/network capable camera adds cost... I recommend using RG-59 grade coaxial cable and any 18guage-2conductor wire for power. Get a moderate DVR, or better yet use one of the PCI-card kits and an old PC to save more. 4 Camera cards can be had for around $160.

    2) Consider the benefits of good nightvision. Examine cameras with IR LED's, they will provide some of the better night-vision capabilities, however viewing range is limited outside the IR's angle. That said, Speco sells a line of cameras called the "Intensifier" that has some of the best night vision I've seen. We use many of these in some very high-profile homes (let's just say as far as world's wealthiest goes, we're in the top 10). The Chameleon indoor/outdoor model can be had for under $400 each.

    3)It's not about quantity vs quality, it's about paths and coverage. Our general camera strategy is to have a couple cameras for general coverage, and a couple cameras in major pathways, close-up, for good ID. So you know who it was, and what they did.
  • Even if you do manage to get a picture of someone in the act, I doubt that the police are going to put out an APB with the snapshot that your system took. At best, if you know who is doing this in your neighborhood, you can help build a case against them. If it isn't, they're not going to play CSI with the pics from your security system and will focus on violent crimes and/or revenue-producing law enforcement opportunities.

    On the plus side, the presence of such a system could scare off the less motivated
  • First off I'm not a lawyer, but I was wondering the same thing a month or so ago. I asked around to a few cops and a friend who had been researching forensics. My big question was that it seemed to make more sense to keep any recording off site in case the thief though of stealing my PC, so should I? It seems that there was the question of the Cain of Custody. In the end it boiled down to the further away, the more work law enforcement has to do to get the evidence and the less likely they will ever bother
  • by aXis100 (690904) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:45PM (#23219274)
    Forget the cameras. Put in an alarm system with lots of PIR's (I have them in every room that has valuables), and make the internal siren(s) loud enough to make your ears bleed. Same with the car - put a 120dB siren (or two) on the inside.

    Unfortunately sirens and strobes on the outside get ignored by the general public, and the cops dont care about the petty crime as much as you would like. When the internal sirens are so loud you nearly vomit, the crooks will leave prematurely and unsuccessful.

  • How about a fake dog (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EEPROMS (889169) on Sunday April 27, 2008 @09:52PM (#23219336)
    I was listening to a radio interview with a professional house theif. When the said thief was asked what was the best deterant the reply was "a small dog as they are next to impossible to catch or bribe". After hearing this news the mental gears started whirring and I created a fake YAPPING dog security system. Its very simple with a IR motion sensor on the back and front entrance hooked into a MP3 player and a small PC speaker system. The hard part was finding a good yapping dog recording until I asked someone at the park if I could record her dog barking and she was happy to oblige once I explained why. Another trick is to have multiple varying MP3 files and make sure the MP3 player is set to shuffle so it sounds more realistic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Danny Rathjens (8471)
      I remember a story from a few years ago about a survey of criminals that showed the two things they most fear are dogs and AIDS. Therefore the best deterrent was putting up a sign that says, "Warning: Dog has AIDS." :D
  • by aiken_d (127097) <brooks@tangentry.DALIcom minus painter> on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:08PM (#23219402) Homepage
    I spend $150/year to insure $30k worth of electronics from theft. Are you really going to find a better cost/benefit solution?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2008 @10:20PM (#23219482)
    Here's what works great for me - total cost, about $500. I live in a fairly-grotty neighborhood in Oakland, not far from Nina Reiser's former home.

        One cheap color video camera, aimed out the window on my front door. The camera cost $40 on eBay and is wired directly to my DVR. It sees my front stairs, the sidewalk, and street in front of my house.

        One modestly cheap color video camera with IR Leds (about $60 on eBay). Hardwired to the DVR. This is on the driveway of my house, pointing towards the street. Its far coverge is similar to the front door.

        Neither video camera has Pan/Tilt/Zoom ... I manually aim 'em. Rarely have I wished them to be changed.

        A 4 Channel Security Video Recorder - records mpeg4. About $250 on eBay. I only use 2 of the 4 channels. A 100Gbyte IDE disk drive adds another $60 to the total.

        Cheap car-headrest style 5 inch LCD/TFT monitor, which is set next to my computer monitor.

        Wire & connectors to connect everything (to my surprise, cheap CAT-3 cable works fine, even though it isn't shielded!)

        An infrared doorbell which chimes whenever someone walks up the drive. When it sounds, I glance at the monitor to see who's there.

        The recorder saves a week's worth of imagery. It's a bit of a pain to scan to what I want to see (the DVR software is horrible).

        Over the past three years, this setup has:
      - Caught one postal thief! The guy came up on my porch and tried to steal two boxes. I caught him in the act, and he ran away, dropping my two boxes along the way. Thanks to the video, the US Postal Inspectors successfully prosecuted him for mail theft. The guy lived in the suburbs and trolled the city looking for mail to steal.

      - Caught a purse-snatcher! The SOB chased after a woman on a cell phone; she fought back and held onto her purse. The guy ran away, but I gave the video to the police, who eventually tracked the guy down.

      - Stopped a guy from stealing my neighbor's tire (I glanced at the monitor and saw someone removing a tire ... I chased him away. He left his wrench behind)

      - Saved me innumerable trips to the front door, to deal with Jehovah's Witnesses, salespeople, and other such annoyances.
  • Super Circuits (Score:3, Informative)

    by Vskye (9079) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:06AM (#23220180)
    A buddy of mine has purchased some security cameras from these folks, good quality stuff. http://www.supercircuits.com/ [supercircuits.com] Some good lower cost cameras would be the PC177IR-4, 5 or 6 model that are weatherproof IR color day/night cameras. The most expensive piece of gear you'll want will be a DVR capable of internet / network access. They support X number of cameras, depending on the model also. (normally 4, 8,9, and 16) Hope this helps some. (not affiliated with super circuits btw)
  • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:17AM (#23220234) Homepage Journal
    A cheap Canon Powershot digital camera, plus the CHDK firmware replacement* to get motion activation, plus a SD wifi card to capture the pics directly to your securely hidden PC. You'll want to take it apart and remove the IR filter, there are guides on how to do that for various models. Best cheap solution I can think of.

    * - technically it's a binary that runs on top of the existing firmware. so sue me.
  • Deadly force (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SystemFault (876435) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:24AM (#23220268)
    Get a medium sized bottle of some well known brand of vodka. Carefully remove the cap, pour out a fourth of so of the contents and replace with good old poisonous rubbing alcohol. Reattach the cap so that the bottle looks like it had never been opened. Place the adulterated vodka so that a burglar will certainly include it in his haul. Ensure that no one in your household will accidentally imbibe.

    A similar scheme could use attractive snacks and different poisons; but again, make sure that no innocent person becomes a victim.

    It won't stop the burglar immediately, but it will stop him before he can victimize yet again.
  • by Charcharodon (611187) on Monday April 28, 2008 @12:49AM (#23220366)
    Buy a dog, a shotgun, and a flash light. (Well as long as you live in Texas.) After you bag a couple of criminals the rest will know not to come around.

    If you live in the UK, leave the keys in the ignition, with a note apologizing for not having the car warmed up for them, along with $100 on the seat so they can by 1/2 tank of gas.

  • by WoTG (610710) on Monday April 28, 2008 @01:17AM (#23220490) Homepage Journal
    I've setup three retail stores with security cameras for a small retail chain. At the first store we tried a camera at, almost as an experiment, we used a TCP/IP one from D-Link. About $200. It was OK as a deterrent, but not really all that useful if we actually had to use the footage for identifying people.

    The next stores used a kit which bundled 4 analog cameras with a PCI DVR card. Think TV tuner with 4 inputs. The whole kit was about $500. It's great but "only" 640x480. The newer ones have modest IR support for night-time recording. The DVR software provides remote TCP/IP access, though, via a proprietary client.

    From my admittedly limited experience, you get better value from analog cameras -- the market is much bigger for them, so they're higher volume, and therefore cheaper. Plus, the camera's are interchangeable (it's just analog, afterall). You can mix and match easily and get standardized lenses and filters, etc.

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