Frustrated with the poor image quality and/or interfaces of our existing IP cameras, it’s time to search for better alternatives. New trends in IP camera technology include megapixel sensors, h.264 video encoding and, reportedly, open standards. There are several interesting open standards cameras on the market already:
Now we’ve seen that the nice and simple DCS-900 is pretty handy when controlled from Linux with no ActiveX. Time to examine the much more complex DCS-3220g, which should give us MPEG-4 encoded video. It’s another rebadged Vivotek as far as we can tell. This camera has a built-in WiFi radio as well as wired ethernet, has an interchangeable lens and should support a 2-way audio link. It comes with a Windows software package for managing multiple cameras. Continue reading
Since ERA already has some IP cameras from previous years, it’s probably time to dust them off and try them out with the new Asus 901s. We have a pair of D-Link badged items – a DCS-900 wired-only Motion-JPEG camera with a maximum resolution of 640×480 pixels, and a much fancier DCS-3220g which has 802.11g WiFi as well as wired ethernet, full PAL -sized MPEG-4 as well as Motion-JPEG output, sound support via an internal mic and line output socket and an interchangeable CS-mount lens. Continue reading
Good news sipdroid works with our Asterisk server. Following up on a lead I received from Ben Charlton at the JISCRI developers workshop last week, I tried running sipdroid on a borrowed G1 Android phone (big thanks to Paul Hogan). The default SipDroid pretty much works, but you need to set the nat setting in the Asterisk sip.conf file to yes (see sipdroid website – issue 15). No big deal but SipDroid does not authetnticate without it.
Once I got over the above registration issue, it was just a case of setting the Asterisk audio codecs to include alaw. Seems pretty OK – supports a steady audio stream. We could use this with a separate webpage displayed on the phone web browser for showing images and the video stream. Currently the SipDroid does not display a remote video and I was unable to get it to stream video from the phone within SipDroid, but audio is certainly doable.
An early outdoor phone exchange
Could it be that the way to make a telephone call on a geology site would be to use a telephone? Now we seem to have some fairly stable WiFi networking hardware, and are considering that we might ditch the awkward netbooks for our ‘Sherpas’ in the field, perhaps we could use WiFi equipped smartphones for some of our outdoor networking needs?
Since we’re using SIP, we’ll need SIP software for any mobile phones we use, and there are obvious commercial reasons why most mobile service providers aren’t keen on this, but on the up side, bluetooth headsets are designed to be used with mobile phones so this could add another useful feature to the ERA toolkit.
During our field trials, it became clear that the built-in video camera on the Asus EEE 901 (and 701) is in the wrong place for our needs.
Using the Asus Eee PC 701's built in camera to capture geological features. The camera is built in to the top of the screen and is clearly designed for 'video diaries' or online video conferencing rather than capturing views of the landscape.
The 901 camera itself is a pretty good (for a plastic lens webcam) 1.3 megapixel device that’s supported in Ubuntu, but it faces the user, and we want it to face the rest of the world. Additionally, we found when using an external USB webcam, that being able to hold a smaller separate device or mount it on a helmet, rather than trying to point a whole netbook, was both easier and safer when clambering about on the rocks. From our experience and listening to the field geologists, we came up with a wish list of properties for a new video camera… Continue reading