Security System Setup

After years of faithful service, I retired my old security system, a two camera Geovision system. This system ran on a PC so old it had RD-RAM (rambus memory), which makes it about 15 years old. Dell was really proud of the 700MHz processor in it back in 1998. The major defect in the old system was that a dedicated, proprietary cable needed to be run to the camera, which severely limits where you can place cameras.

I opted for Foscam Wifi Cameras. These can be placed anywhere one has electricity, at least in principle. In practice, they tend to lose their wifi connection and not recover, so I have run ethernet cables to them. It is still much better to run ethernet cable, where 100 feet costs around $10, than the proprietary cables of the alternative systems.

Here are my installation notes.

  1. Don't use the CD at all
  2. Connect the camera to your router by ethernet and open the management screen on your router. Note the IP address of your camera (something like On my router, cameras show up as IP-CAM.
  3. Login to your camera at that IP address, (enter or whatever your ip address is in the URL bar of your browser.)
  4. You will have to choose a connection type based on your browser; chrome and firefox are Server Push Mode, IE is ActiveX.
  5. Click on Device Management.
  6. Under Basic Network Settings, unclick Obtain IP from DHCP Server. Then enter the desired IP address (you can change the one assigned to you or keep it; I like to have my cameras have sequential IPs rather than some random numbers.) Subnet mask is Gateway and DNS server both appear to get the same address as the IP address (Gateway should normally be your router and DNS server a DNS server; I don't understand why Foscam wants something different but it seems to work.) I left ports at 80 but this makes the cameras not reachable from outside my network. The network lamp is that green light that says the camera is on, if you want to make the camera stealthy, uncheck. Submit.
  7. Changing the port is necessary if you want to visit the cameras from outside the house via port forwarding. I don't use that feature so left ports at 80.
  8. If you changed the IP address you will need to log into the new IP address. If you changed the port, the form is IP Address:port, e.g. if the IP address is and port was changed to 81, enter in your URL bar.
  9. Under Wireless Lan Settings, search for your wifi, select and then enter the password. But as I am using ethernet, I turned off wireless at this point.
  10. I also turned off the manufacturer's DDNS because I am not using it.
  11. I upgraded the software from Foscam's website.

I use Blue Iris, a $50 program, to manage the cameras. My main use is to have motion detected, and when motion is detected, record video. Blue Iris is smart enough that it captures 5 seconds before it detects motion. Blue Iris then uploads the video to a folder on my website. This is about 2GB per month per camera for me. I like this arrangement because even if my computer is stolen the video is available on the website, and I can download and watch the video when I'm traveling. I set it to record in MP4 format, which I can watch on any computer. Inexplicably, Blue Iris can't itself play MP4, so I lose the functionality of watching the video through Blue Iris.

However, I don't really value this functionality -- I'd rather just play all the MP4s.

My website host, InMotion, has unlimited storage for $110 per year, although I clean out the existing storage every three months.

Like everyone else who has used these cameras, I had a lot of lost wifi connections, even when the camera was just a few feet from the router. In desperation I ran ethernet cables to some of the cameras, and these became reliable. The problem was that the camera didn't recover from a dropped connection and became non-responsive. This is clearly a software problem and might be fixed by some future firmware update, but since the problem has been around for years, I am not waiting. The log shows these dropped connections are common but on ethernet the camera recovers, generally within a second.

We have a camera in a room with a projector. The problem is that the camera's infrared noisily clicks on and off when the screen gets dark or light. To solve this problem, I created two batch files, StopClicking.cmd and ReAimCamera.cmd. The contents of ReAimCamera is one line:

"C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" "http://IPADDRESS:81/decoder_control.cgi?command=31&user=USERNAME&pwd=MYPASSWORD"

where IPADDRESS is the ip address of the camera, 81 is the port of the camera, and the USERNAME and MYPASSWORD are the username and password I use to log into the camera. This command moves the camera to setting 1; to move the camera to setting 2, the only change is that the command=31 is replaced by command=33 (not a typo). I then use the web interface to put preset 1 at the normal position, and preset 2 pointed away from the TV screen toward the wall. On preset 2 the IR doesn't flick on and off (because the camera doesn't see the screen), hence no noise. Then, when I turn the TV on, I just run StopClicking.cmd from a link on the desktop.

I've created an automated task to run RestartCamera.cmd at 11PM every night; that way if I forget to reset the camera back to preset 1, it will go back on its own. But mostly we just click on StopClicking when we notice the camera annoying us, and on RestartCamera as part of turning off the projector.

I found other commands that can be run in the same way.