Diggin' technology every day

November 22, 2011

Traveling Geek with remote monitoring

Filed under: Random Thought — Tags: — Nate @ 9:08 pm

[warning: non technical post, read at your own risk]

I told one of my friends this story yesterday, wow was it only yesterday, and he loved it so much he insisted that I write about it.

Maybe one and a half years ago I bought one of these, an IP-connected camera, which has an embedded computer, a RJ45 port and a wireless connection. So it’s completely self contained and does not rely on any other software or computer connection to function. The main purpose was to spy on my cats when I was away on trips. I let the camera sit for about a year, basically until I moved to California since I was too lazy to set it up.

One of my cats captured by motion activity

On Sunday morning I went through the process of configuring my firewall so I could access the camera remotely, I had originally set it up so I could access it through an Apache proxy but turns out that didn’t work and I had to rely entirely on port forwarding. So I set that up, routing the camera connection from my colo server through my site to site VPN to my home cable modem where the camera lives. I ended up having to connect to my win2k3 server on my colo internal network(which has access to my home internal network) in order to troubleshoot the connectivity issues from outside my network since I had never tried to access this camera from remote before. I want to set up OpenVPN on my laptop so I can just connect directly to my colo server and basically sit on my internal network but haven’t gotten round to doing that yet.

I fired up my browser and looked around — no cats.  I had previously configured the camera so that if it detected motion it would start taking pictures and upload them to my server, but disabled the functionality for a while since it resulted in a large number of false positives, I think the changes in the light level triggered the motion sensors.

Anyways, I pointed the camera at my cat tree, which the cats love to play in on Saturday afternoon and turned on motion detection.

On Monday morning(doesn’t seem like yesterday since I was up pretty much all night) I checked and there was no activity, which I thought was strange. Maybe the cats were dead? Not likely but very unusual for them not to spend any time on the cat tree during the night.

I panned the camera around the room again, no activity, no signs. The lights were off so it was dark, though the camera has limited night vision capabilities so I could still see some stuff.

So I figured I need to get their attention some how. So I looked around for some cat noises, and came across this which looked promising. So I uploaded it to my system at home, cranked up the volume to the max, and played it.

They came out, very slowly. I’m sure they were freaked out after having nothing but silence for two days all of a sudden cat noises coming from my computer speakers. They were very cautious and I could not see their bodies on the camera but saw their eyes glowing. One of the cats came forward and looked around. When I attempted this again a few minutes later they did not respond quite as well I suppose maybe it was too loud they were more scared and stayed further away.

So there you have it, my semi hi-tech way of keeping tabs on my cats while I’m out. It’s not formalized yet but it does the job. I am considering getting another couple of cameras to put in other areas.

The biggest downside to the camera is I don’t have a way to view live video from my tablet or phone since it relies on Java.

My trip and thoughts about moving to Cali

As for my trip, it was a good one, I did more of many things in the 4 days and 3 nights I was there than I have done in 4 months in California. I hit pretty much all of the venues I wanted to go to, and met up with most of the people that I wanted to see. Not as many folks showed up to party at Cowgirls as I was expecting. I’m constantly amazed as to the excuses people dig up to not go out and party a lot, whether at Cowgirls or elsewhere. They may be fine to go out for an hour or so after work, but if it’s 9-10PM on any night all of a sudden it gets real complicated.

I was so pumped up about going that I managed to stay up for 42 hours straight without any sleep whatsoever(Thurs morning -> Sat Morning). I wasn’t even that tired when I went to bed but I did fall asleep very fast when the time came. My drunk friend who crashed at my hotel on Friday night tried to wake me up at one point but could not.

I think the closest I’ve come to 42 hours was probably in the range of 34-35 hours before and that was being on the verge of passing out for a good 4-5 hours before that.

While I do miss most of the people that I know so well in the area, as well as my places to hang out, from a career perspective at this point it was a good move to leave Seattle for now anyways. I have friends that are still trying to recruit me back up there, and so far they haven’t come up with anything worthwhile. The economy in general is significantly weaker than it was even a year ago. Most of the tech companies are really not doing well or not interesting places to work for.  I interviewed with at least a dozen before I left and I was excited about exactly none of them. Some of them sounded cool initially, but then I learned more about what they did, how they did it, and in some cases inside information as to who is there, and in every case it was a turn off. Nothing interesting.

Speaking of companies, some folks from HP came out to visit today, one of them had a local publication of some sort, I didn’t catch the name but he asked me if I knew who they rated as the fastest growing company in the Bay Area? (I assume that was the scope of the article), I really had no idea. Turns out I had never heard of the company. But the SECOND fastest growing company is the company I am at! Woohoo!  But if I had not known people who worked there I would of never have heard of them either. Of all the companies I have worked for the one I am at now has the most name recognition at least in casual conversations with folks I knew in Seattle, I was shocked when I mentioned the name some folks would instantly know who it was, even though in the grand scheme of things I think it’s still a small company, I guess it is having a big impact among the target audience.

Looking more I think this publication was the San Fransisco Business Times, with the article being here, to get the real stuff you need to be a subscriber though. I saw some PDFs of previous versions of the list and the format was identical, and the article shows the company I’m at as #2, though it doesn’t talk about the revenues and stuff like the full article does.

My Car

Another minor update about my car, a large rock managed to hit my windshield just before I got to my old stomping grounds in Bellevue, WA.. of the dozen of so trips between Cali and WA over the years it had to happen to my new car. I also blew out the rear speakers on my stereo. I had Car Toys fix them, though either they fixed only one, or one of them blew out again between Saturday and this morning (I didn’t test till this morning I assumed they worked and really I can’t tell if the volume is cranked up unless I specifically fade the volume to the rear to test).

All in all I drove roughly 37 hours 15 minutes, averaging 52 MPH for a total of 1,954 miles over the span of four days. I think I averaged in the neighborhood of around 21 MPG, which was lower than I was expecting.

I got significant usage out of the all wheel drive on both the trip up and down as Oregon had some of the worst rain storms I have ever driven through. It was quite scary at times even with the AWD in the middle of the night in such a storm, especially driving by big trucks which I normally zoomed past them at around 80 just to get past them quicker. Last night the rain must’ve lasted a good 400 miles from somewhere in WA to about Redding, CA. Took a lot of concentration to maintain control, very mentally draining. I ended up sleeping at a rest stop for two hours north of Redding in the pounding rain because I just couldn’t go on any more. Managed to get in at around 7AM this morning, in time to meet with HP at 11(from which I learned a bunch of cool stuff that I can’t talk about!). So I was on the road for about 16 hours. If I hadn’t been planning on this meeting for weeks I would of just taken a longer break and came back to work tomorrow.

The traction wasn’t as good as I was expecting, I have never driven an AWD car before so I have nothing to compare it with. The one thing I did notice, is my car has a LCD where it shows in real time where the power is being applied to the wheels. If I even touch the accelerator it clearly shows more power going to all wheels, and if I corner real hard it shows power going away from one wheel and more to the others. But in cruise control I never saw the status change. Even if I accelerated from 60 to 75 MPH using nothing but cruise control the indicator never showed more power going to the wheels. I asked Nissan about that when I got to WA and either they didn’t know what they were talking about, or I wasn’t asking the question right but they basically said “trust it, it’s working”. I will talk to the local Nissan place here again when I get my oil change (I just got an oil change last Friday, and I think I will be up for another this Saturday). I really couldn’t tell if I was completely hydroplaning at some points or if only one or two wheels were and the AWD was correcting very quickly for it. It certainly felt like I had better traction when I was not in cruise control and the AWD indicator showed more power going to the wheels.

Maybe traction tires would be a good fit, I’ve been wanting to get those just for better grip, even if they do wear out faster.

One thing is certain though — I think four months between trips might be too long.

It looks as if my trip to Atlanta was pushed out a couple of weeks to the week of the 19th. I imagine I will fly in on the 17th, do some work on the 18th-20th and leave on 21st or 22nd.

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