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Archive for April, 2013

Remote Presence

Posted by tomwiles at 7:44 PM on April 30, 2013

[fblike layout_style='standard' show_faces='false' verb='recommend' font='arial' color_scheme='light']Ever wish you could look at a view or views of your home and/or property from wherever you are? Is it raining or snowing at home? Is the sun shining or is it cloudy? Are the neighbors’ vehicles home? Does everything look as it should?

Ever wish you could monitor the temperature in your house, or easily adjust the furnace or air conditioner settings remotely?

Not that many years ago these were impossible dreams that could only be accomplished by calling someone at or near your home. In more recent years, these things started to become possible but were difficult and/or expensive to implement and even then perhaps didn’t work all that well or weren’t all that convenient.

In the past two or three years these things and more have become not only possible, but inexpensive and easy to implement, especially if you know your way around your home Internet router. In this article, I am going to tell you about specific hardware and software I’m using and how I set it all up. I will be giving very detailed instructions on how to set up a Loftek CSX-2200 WiFi IP camera.

The Nest Remote Control Thermostat

Nest 1.0A couple of years ago the first generation Nest learning thermostat went on sale, and for me it has been a dream come true. I can easily monitor the status of my home HVAC system while I’m gone. I leave the temperature at the minimum 50 degree setting when I’m gone in the winter, and the maximum 90 degree setting when I’m gone in the warmer months. Several hours before I’m due to get home I remotely make the appropriate adjustments to the temperature setting via either my smartphone or tablet apps so it will be around 70 to 72 degrees by the time I step through the door. The first generation Nest learning thermostat sells for $179 on Amazon, and the current Nest second generation unit sells for $249. Both the old and newer generations of the Nest

 

thermostat connect to the Nest server via your home WiFi and keep their built-in battery charged up by the regular thermostat wiring that has a small amount of electrical voltage in it to make a conventional thermostat function. There are no ongoing charges with the Nest thermostat. Once you buy it, you can use your Nest.Com account for as long as the unit continues to function. I’ve had my first generation Nest thermostat for a couple of years now and it continues to work absolutely flawlessly. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Remote IP Surveillance Cameras

Remote IP cameras can be a bit more tricky to set up and access from outside of your home, especially if you have a dynamic IP address on your home Internet connection. Most people fall into the dynamic IP address category. Sometimes your Internet service provider allows customers to pay extra for an unchanging “static” IP address.

There are generally a couple of different approaches to gaining remote access to an IP camera (or other device for that matter) on a home network with a dynamic (ever changing) IP address. One approach is to have a remote dedicated server. The device – a camera or thermostat inside the home is programmed to know the remote server’s address and is able to access your previously-created account information. This is how the Nest Learning Thermostat functions.

This setup works fine, but with remote IP cameras there is usually an ongoing annual fee that can range from $100 on up for the ongoing privilege of accessing the camera manufacturer’s server.

The other alternative is to use a service such as DynDNS.org. One or more devices on your home network, either an IP camera or even a computer is set up to automatically and continually report the home’s public IP address. This functionality can also be programmed in to many routers. I am familiar with DynDNS. I set up a DynDNS account which charges a reasonable $20 dollar per year fee for 1 up to a maximum total of 30 separate devices reporting their ever-changing public IP addresses. For each separate device, simply create a unique host name for each one. I have two cameras set up with DynDNS so far, likely with more on the way in the future, so I simply created a unique name for each host address. The resulting URL looks like http://name.dyndns.org. The second camera has it’s own unique name such as http://name1.dyndns.org. These names are programmed into each specific camera, along with my DynDNS username and password account credentials. Thus, every 60 seconds, each camera calls the DynDNS server and automatically tells it the current public IP address they are hidden behind.

How To Set Up A Loftek CSX-2200 WiFi IP Camera

So far, I’ve set up two identical Loftek CXS-2200 WiFi IP cameras at home, one of them aimed inside the house at a central location, and the other aimed out of a window into the yard, both together giving me a great remote view of what is going on. I can open apps either on my smartphone or my tablets and the images from both cameras automatically pop right up without me having the foggiest idea of what my current public dynamic IP address is at home. I can even monitor sound with the apps or talk back via the cameras if I am using Windows Internet Explorer and have them plugged in to inexpensive self-powered computer speakers. The Loftek CXS-2200 WiFi IP camera sells for $59.99 on Amazon and is an Amazon Prime item. The Loftek CSX-2200 gives tremendous value for a relatively small price.

To set up a Loftek CXS-2200 camera, you MUST have access to a Windows computer. With the first Loftek camera, I used Windows XP running inside of VMWare Fusion on a Mac in order to accomplish the initial detection and hardware setup using the included software. With the second Loftek camera, I used Windows XP running on a netbook. You have to run a small program called BSearch_en.exe you either download from www.loftek.us or that you load from the included CD-Rom installation disc. The Loftek website vaguely states that you can do the intitial camera setup with a Mac alone, but in my experience you cannot. If you are using a Mac to do the initial camera setup you MUST have a copy of Windows running inside of a virtual machine program such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels.

You plug both the Loftek camera and the machine running Windows into your router via Ethernet, and then launch the included BSearch_en.exe program and then click on the button to make it search for the Loftek camera. Follow the instructions included with the BSearch_en.exe program and change the Loftek camera’s default internal network address to match your own router’s internal address numbering scheme. My internal network address scheme is set up for 192.168.254.x. The default Loftek address is 192.168.0.178. So to make the camera visible on my home network I changed the Loftek camera address to 192.168.254.178 and saved the new address to the unit. The first three sets of numbers MUST match your router’s numbering scheme, or the camera WILL NOT be visible on the internal network.

When your web browser successfully connects to the camera’s built-in web interface, you will be presented with a pop-up dialog box asking for the administrator username and password for the camera. The default username for the Loftek CSX-2200 camera is admin and the default password is 123456. If you change these defaults to something else (or add additional usernames and passwords), then you need to be sure to write down the new username and password and keep them in a safe place so you will have them for later camera access. Incedentally, if you should forget the new username and password or for some other reason want to return the camera to factory default values, there is a recessed reset button on the bottom of the camera that can be pressed with an extended ball point pen or paper clip.

You should always leave the camera set up with a static internal network IP address. That way, you always know what its address is. Other devices on your home network that are typically set up to request dynamic internal IP addresses can and do change addresses from time to time when your home router happens to assign them a different address when they reconnect to your home network. Write down the static IP address of the camera so you can know what it is later. This is especially critical if you end up with more than one camera attached to your home network.

Once the camera is set up with a static internal network address that’s visible on your home network while it’s still plugged in via Ethernet, go to any browser on your network and enter http://192.168.254.178 (or whatever you set your camera’s internal address at) into the address bar and press. This will cause the camera’s built-in control page to load. Enter the administrator name admin and the password of 123456 to make the control page display. Once in the control page, you can set many different parameters, including connecting the camera to your home WiFi. In my case, I also set up my cameras to automatically email me a series of images if motion is detected. Automatic emails of images on motion detection can be useful or even fun catching people walking through the frame or even occasional insects flying in front of the camera lens, but it can also be triggered by changing sunlight conditions or wind blowing trees around depending on what the camera is aimed at. This email feature can easily be toggled on and off from an app such as the excellent Tinycam Monitor Pro for Android available in free and paid versions in the Google Play Store on Android. Setting up the email to work properly can be tricky as the settings that you must use for the outgoing email server are determined by the specific email service you are using. You must have two email addresses – the one you are sending the email from, and the email address you are sending it to.

The other critical part that MUST be present for remote monitoring to function is port numbers and open ports on your router. There are tens of thousands of port numbers that you can use. In my case, I am using port number 1029 in one camera and 1030 in the second camera. These port numbers are programmed in to the camera’s web control page interfaces. In each camera I turned on the UP&P protocol, which in my case was successful in automatically updating my router to automatically route any external traffic utilizing these specific ports to the correct internal IP addresses. So for example, the camera I have set up on my internal network at 192.168.254.178 automatically receives traffic that is specified for port 1029. The second camera is set with a static internal IP address of 192.168.254.179 and it automatically receives traffic that is specified for port 1030. So, if I am outside of my home network and I type http://name.dyndns.org:1029 into a browser, I will automatically see the camera’s control web interface page open up in the browser. Remember that the word “name” in the address must be whatever you have named your DynDNS host.

If you cannot get UP&P to work in your router, you can always go into the settings for your router and set up port forwarding manually. This process will vary from one router to another. Generally, the idea is this: when traffic comes in on your external dynamic IP address with a port number specified such as http://name.dyndns.org:1029 the router will automatically know to route the traffic to the specific internal network static IP address you type in. That’s one reason why you need to write down and remember the IP address you set up for your camera.

If you run into problems, chances are good that they revolve around port forwarding not working in your router. I have had one DSL router that port forwarding does NOT work on, even though it seems to allow it by saving my port forwards in its configuration screen. Go to a site such as http://www.canyouseeme.org/ and type in the specific port number you wish to use to see if your router is actually opening up the port that you are specifying for it to forward. If the port is not open after you have set up port forwards within the router, there’s a problem with the router not functioning properly and you will likely have to get another one.

Once you have gotten your camera working, be sure to write down the various things that you did and parameters that you set, just in case you ever have to set it up again with a different DSL or cable router, or if you wish to add additional cameras.

I have plans to add at least one more camera to my setup at home in the near future. This third camera will likely be a Loftek Nexus 543 WiFi outdoor camera, which will enable me to utilize the built-in infrared capability of the camera to illuminate and display a clear image of a completely dark outdoor scene. The second camera I currently have aimed out of a window into my yard will not display infrared illuminated images at night because it is aimed through glass. Nothing shows up but glare.

Once the Loftek CSX-2200 is properly set up and visible on the home network, it can be disconnected from the included Ethernet cable and placed anywhere that it can be supplied with AC power that’s within the network’s WiFi signal range. The built-in infrared LED’s that surround the lens have a range of 15 meters and can easily illuminate the image in a totally darkened room. The camera is also motorized and has a motion rage of 90 degrees vertical and 270 degrees from side to side. It can be remotely triggered to pan to predetermined saved positions, or simply pan from left to right and then return to it’s initial position. As previously mentioned, once an email account’s credentials are properly configured it can send emails automatically to any second email address when it digitally detects motion in the scene it is looking at.

Remote IP Camera Access

For primary remote access via my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone and my Google Nexus 7 Android tablet, I purchased the pro version of the excellent TinyCam Remote app from the Google Play Android store. To make it work, you simply plug in the appropriate values, including the DynDNS address of your IP camera, the camera’s port number, and the camera’s username and password. If everything is functioning properly, you can simply open the app to the live view and your camera or cameras (if you have set up more than one) will automatically display. When a particular camera is brought up in full screen mode, you can turn on the audio to monitor the sound as well as the video from the camera.

I have yet to find an Android or Apple iOS app that can utilize the microphone function and send audio back to the Loftek CSX-2200 camera. The only thing I have found so far that is capable of sending audio back to the camera’s audio out function is accessing it via the Windows Internet Explorer browser with the appropriate browser plug-in installed. This fact is actually stated by the manufacturer and seems to be true.

Remote IP Camera Recording

It is also possible to set up software on a computer and record the camera’s video. I am currently using an excellent free program installed on a Mac Mini running Mountain Lion on my home network called IP Camera Viewer 2. It will continuously record video from the camera and analyze it for motion and face detection. It even has a second part of the program that enables the user to quickly scrub through the recorded video to find the action parts, and even has the ability to export just the period of the video you have marked. The program is free in the Mac App Store. In the free configuration, it can record one camera. If you wish to record video from more than one camera at a time, then additional camera recording capability can be added for small fees outlined on the company’s website located at http://dcomplex.com/products/mac/ip-camera-viewer/.

All of this incredible level of remote presence functionality has been possible for a while, but has traditionally come at a fairly steep cost. With today’s advanced hardware, software and network availability, far superior functionality can be set up for a fraction of the cost. I’m carrying direct instant access to my home right in my pocket.

Updated Facebook app coming to Windows Phone

Posted by Alan at 11:26 AM on April 30, 2013

Microsoft is now seeking beta testers for a new and updated version of the Facebook app for Windows Phone. Version 4.2.1 is still the current iteration on the mobile platform, but a new one is on the way. “Today we’re launching a new program designed to help speed up delivery of new features in the official Facebook app for Windows Phone and need sharp-eyed, energetic volunteers to download a beta version of our next release and tell us how to make it better” announces Microsoft’s Michael Stroh.

Users will find that the app is undergoing a major redesign and now includes several much-requested features, including new support for high-res photos, post sharing, and Facebook Timeline.

facebook beta for windows phone

Before you get too excited, Stroh cautions that if you “don’t like it when apps crash? This probably isn’t the program for you”. The good news is that you do not lose the current Facebook app if you decide to take the plunge then the beta will not replace the existing Facebook app, but instead run side-by-side with it.

Hulu Plus doubles subscriptions

Posted by Alan at 8:49 AM on April 30, 2013

Hulu continues to surprise me — the service never seems quite mainstream, but continues to thrive. This time the TV service is announcing record gains in subscriptions to its Plus service, the paid subscription plan that it introduced back in 2010.

“Overall, Hulu continues to grow very quickly. In Q1 of this year, we set new records for revenue, and for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter” states Hulu’s acting CEO Andy Forssell. In fact, the company has seen continued growth every year that it has existed – in Q1 2013, Hulu Plus surpassed 4 million subscribers—setting new records for subscriber additions.

hulu usage graph

Mobile viewing is also growing, now accounting for 15 percent of Hulu’s consumed videos in 2013-2014. Living room viewing now makes up 29 percent of the viewing audience.

Forssell also points out advertising revenue — “Hulu is also #1 in market share of all premium online video providers, delivering 1 in 3 of all premium video ads in the U.S. Our reasonable ad load drives the highest recall and awareness for brands, which results in higher effectiveness for the video ads”.

Hulu has recently jumped in the game of original content with Quick Draw and East Los High. This brings the service into direct competition with Netflix and Amazon Prime.

GNC-2013-04-29 #854 On Track

Posted by geeknews at 1:05 AM on April 30, 2013

My studio is about 500 pounds lighter but I am still tracking down and audio bug on the Video side… Will get it squashed but audio on produced video is great no worries..

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Even Pirates are Frustrated by Piracy

Posted by JenThorpe at 6:58 PM on April 29, 2013

Greenheart GamesGreenheart Games has done something unique, and fascinating, with the release of their brand new game. They released a cracked version of Game Dev Tycoon that contained something that the real version did not. The results show that even people who pirate software become frustrated when someone pirates from them.

Game Dev Tycoon is a Sim game where you run a game development company. The idea is to create some great games and make as much money as you can. The cracked version included in-game messages that were designed to look just like the regular ones. One such message reads:

Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.

In the cracked version of the game, that is exactly what happens. Every time the player creates a good game, he or she finds that more people are pirating it than paying for it. They will, over time, go bankrupt as a result. Greenheart Games found a unique way to hold a mirror up to the nefarious and unfair behavior of people who choose to steal games instead of paying for them.

The irony is apparent in the comments that the pirating players left in regards to this particular in-game difficulty. They were obviously frustrated. Greenheart Games has posted a few really telling comments on their blog. Keep in mind, the players who had this particular in-game problem were the ones who obtained pirated copies of Game Dev Tycoon.

I find this fascinating! As a former teacher, I am well aware the learning potential in experiencing something for yourself (rather than just reading about it). Those who felt frustrated by virtual players pirating their games will, hopefully, consider buying the next video game that interests them. Game Dev Tycoon sells for about $8.00 USD.

Little Black Box brings XBMC to the set-top box market

Posted by Alan at 7:38 AM on April 29, 2013

XBMC has long been a darling of the HTPC crowd, bringing a free and open source alternative to Windows Media Center. Now a Dutch company wants to bring the platform to a set-top box. Known as “The Little Black Box“, the device has just become available for pre-order.

The box will contain 1GB of memory, 4GB of Flash storage (800MB for the system, 3.2GB for XBMC) and a Meson3 single core processor capable of running at 1Ghz but clocked at 800Mhz.

little black box

The box is available now for €99.99 and according to the site “The first batch will be in limited numbers. As that limited amount needs to be divided between the different distribution channel, availability will most likely become sparse very fast”. The company is accepting pre-orders world-wide.

Limited Time: Get a $50 discount on a Nexus 7

Posted by Alan at 7:33 AM on April 28, 2013

google home page nexus 7 ad

Google’s Nexus line of phones and tablets have been popular since debuting last year — well, the tablets and also the latest phone debuted in 2012. Price and the promise of a pure Android experience has lured customers and provides good competition for Amazon and its Kindle Fire lineup.

If you have been procrastinating on the purchase, then today is the day that you may wish to reconsider. Computer retail giant NewEgg, a staple of my shopping locations, has the Nexus 7 on sale for $149. This is the 16 GB model, which also comes with an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor (1.20GHz), Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), full Touchscreen and NVIDIA ULP GeForce.

The tablet is a refurbished model, but NewEgg is also a trusted source and I have purchased refurb hardware from them in the past. Yes, this is not new, but it comes with a 90-day warranty and the price can not be beat.

Retail for a 16 GB Nexus 7 is $199. NewEgg is offering this for $189 with a $40 rebate. The deal is good through May 6th of this year, so if you want the tablet, but were debating spending the money, then this may be the time to act.

 

 

The New Media Show #3 Michael Wolf

Posted by geeknews at 3:36 PM on April 27, 2013

TheNewMediaShowVideoIn this episode we talk with Michael Wolf about the state of podcasting. His recent Forbes article has been all the buzz in the new media space over the past couple of week. We also talk about his on new site and show hosted at NextMarket.co

Rob and I have new email addresses for this show so feel free to drop us a line at Rob or Todd @ newmediashow.com

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LivingSocial has been Hacked

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:26 PM on April 26, 2013

LivingSocialAre you using LivingSocial? At the top of their website today is an important notice for customers that says “if you haven’t already updated your LivingSocial password, please update it now”. According to CNN the LivingSocial website, which people use to get daily deals, suffered a cyberattack on some of its servers. Data for more than 50 million users may have been accessed. LivingSocial says that credit card data was not affected by the cyberattack.

AllThingsD has posted the entire email from CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy that was sent to employees of LivingSocial. The email states:

The information accessed includes names, email addresses, date of birth for some users, and encrypted passwords – technically ‘hashed’ and ‘salted’ passwords. We never store passwords in plain text.

The same paragraph was in an email sent to users of LivingSocial, along with instructions about how to change their password. Users are encouraged to also change passwords on any other sites in which they used the same, or similar, password as the one they were using on LivingSocial.

I am not a user of LivingSocial, but I know that it is a website that offers people daily deals on a variety of things. There are many other websites, and apps, that also offer special deals to users. When people sign up for these types of things, they are doing it because they want to save money.

Nobody thinks about the potential for their favorite deals website to get hacked. It makes me wonder if the ability to get good deals through services like LivingSocial is really worth the risk of having your personal information out there (potentially accessible to hackers).

BBC content coming to Netflix

Posted by Alan at 4:26 AM on April 26, 2013

Netflix_Web_Logo

Netflix, in its battle with Amazon Prime and, more recently, Redbox Instant, continues to add new content. Now the company is bringing some of the BBC Worldwide content to its streaming platform. Elizabeth Bradley,vice president of content acquisition at Netflix, made the announcement this morning — “We’re thrilled to let Netflix members in the US know that we’re introducing three new extraordinary series from the BBC Worldwide this spring and summer”.

Bradley tells us that Call of the Midwife, Top of the Lake and Ripper Street are all coming to Netflix. Both Call of the Midwife (season one) and Top of the Lake (a mini series) are available immediately, while Ripper Street will hit the service on July 18th.

Netflix announced on April 15th that it would be moving from Microsoft’s Silverlight platform. “Over the last year, we’ve been collaborating with other industry leaders on three W3C initiatives which are positioned to solve this problem of playing premium video content directly in the browser without the need for browser plugins such as Silverlight. We call these, collectively, the HTML5 Premium Video Extensions” said Netflix’s Anthony Park and Mark Watson.