OpenBSD Journal

Ask undeadly: OpenBSD & X10 Cameras?

Contributed by grey on from the stumpers dept.

Anonymous asks:

I have a client that wants to use X10 Cameras for security around his house. On top of this, he wants to setup a little server so that he can monitor the house when he goes away on vaction. Since security of the machine is a priority for him, I suggested OpenBSD + SSHv2 + Apache/mod_ssl. My questions are:
1) do X10 Cameras work well with OpenBSD?
2) is there anything special that needs to be done to share their info with Apache?
3) Is it better to do this or to setup the OpenBSD box as a VPN endpoint and show him how to dial in and view from another box?

This is certainly not the sort of question we see every day, and I haven't turned up much of anything useful on the mailing list archives either. The only thing I recall reading recently about X10 was completely unrelated to OpenBSD. Hopefully some of our readers have some experience or ideas (or have better mailing list searching skills).

(Comments are closed)

  1. By Stefan ( on

    It seems as these cameras send an video signal to some receiver device, which can then be viewed via tv or, in case of openbsd, via a bktr(4) supported device. For sharing the video signal look at this : Cheers, Stefan

    1. By Nick ( on

      I agree that getting a regular capture card working is probably a lot easier than trying to get the USB capture device X10 offers going on OpenBSD, but I think the capturing of the image is only half the problem. The question mentions cameras in the plural, so I assume a way of switching through them is needed.

      I haven't tried any X10 stuff since way before they started selling cameras or motion detectors or anything (and before they started making the net a slightly less friendly place to browse), but from briefly looking at X10's site, it looks like the way they support multiple cameras is that the cameras all seem to broadcast on the same frequency and you just switch them on one at a time (and all the others off) to cycle your view. The computer transceiver they sell for doing that is some USB device that is probably supported on Linux, but getting it to work on OpenBSD might be more difficult.

      If it's compatible with the system the cameras use though, the older transmitter-only "Firecracker" (CM11A) is certainly compatible with OpenBSD; it's just a plain old serial device. I haven't tried the firecracker out, but both Xtend and Flipit specifically mention OpenBSD compatibility. Of course, it's only a trasmitter so you won't be able to do anything like capture images from a camera when a nearby motion detector is triggered.

      As to your other questions, setting up Apache should just be a matter of having a cron job switch the appropriate camera on (and wait however long it takes to warm-up), capture a .jpg (or .mpg) with a capture program (Stefan mentions fxtv), turn the camera off, and stick the file in /var/www somewhere. Repeat for each camera, at whatever interval is appropriate. If you want a page with all the views available, either always write the image from each camera to the same filename each time and have a static HTML file inlining all the images, or have the crontab update the HTML each time it writes a new file (and maybe generate a list of the archived views on a seperate page).

      I think that a regular AuthType Basic password-protected website running over HTTPS (so that the password is not sent in plain-text) should be secure enough for protecting a directory of pictures (which anybody standing nearby can see anyway), and would probably be a lot easier for your client to use than having to dial-up the server (which limits his choice of from what computers and from what locations he can access it). That is, I think the greatly added convenience would override the minimal security difference.

      1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        I explained to my client the insecure nature of X10 itself, however he thinks that since he has about 4 acres of property, he is more worried about people vandalizing his house. it seems this has become more interesting...

  2. By Brian ( on

    X10 cameras are very unreliable. Don't trust them for home security, it would be like using a W2K server for home security. I must stress VERY UNRELIABLE.

    1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      If that's the case; what is reliable?

      1. By marco ( ofq@nfh.rqh on

        at work, we just got a 10/100 ready camera from dlink for like $100. built-in webserver, yada yada. it can also (supposedly. my boss is still playing with it) upload images to an ftp server

    2. By Jack Pile ( on

      I read your comments about poor quality of X10 video cameras and agree wholeheartedly. Also, their video surveillance system software (X-RAY Vision) is equally unrelieable and very buggy. I have been testing video software (WILDLIFE or SENTRY from I-Catcher, a british company). It appears to be very good. Do you have any recommendatiobns for good solid video cameras and/or video monitoring software (for either VCR/TV or computer input? I am specifically looking for a night/day camera, wireless type (2.4ghz) which really does see in low light. I would like to set up a system with multiple cameras. This system will be used for home surveillance with multiple cameras. Thank you Jack

  3. By David ( on

    It's for FreeBSD, but works like a charm with the bktr(4) driver on OpenBSD with a stupid code modification: I've used it myself.


    1. By makan ( on

      could you let me know what "a stupid code modification" do you mean here?
      So i could try it too...


  4. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    Take a look at AXIS Network Cameras. They're OS independent and you can grab the images from anywhere.

    Have seen these in action in my former employer's disaster recovery site, The Bunker. They had it setup so you could view multiple cameras from a single web page. Really impressive.

    I'm going to buy a couple of 2110's when I move house at Christmas and then have them all dump images to an Ultra 60 running OpenBSD for my CCTV solution.

    1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

      I've used these myself, but my client has already purchased the X10s and does not want to be convinced of anything but what he already purchased. The only reason why he relented to me upon the use of OpenBSD instead of Win2k was because he knew that I had a much better foundation in security (considering that this is my job in general) than he did.

      1. By Anonymous Coward ( on

        OK, but maybe you could hint that he return them for a refund? ;-)

        I found this in the Slashdot archives. Not directly helpful, but some of the higher moderated commments may have some juicy advice.

        x10+OpenBSD in google groups came up with this

  5. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    More information would be nice, such as which X10 cameras, what the final goal is, where the cameras will be located.

    The last i looked at X10's wireless cameras(years ago), there was no security to them so anyone could pick up the signal. The output from the receiver was easily picked up via a bktr card.

    If the cameras are going outside, make sure they can withstand the environment. We were once sold some Canon's in nice weatherproof cases, but the cameras didn't make it past winter. The case still looks good and no one's bothered to take it off the building, i guess it serves as a deterrent.

    If these cameras are just plugging into bktr cards, then the possibilities are as endless as your scripting skills. Look at fxtv or videod or maybe ffmpeg (haven't used the last) and write up some scripts to cycle through images, store images, present images, whatever. Kinda depends on the project goal.

    If this guy's house is so expensive, then also consider how to store images securely. Unless the guy has very good incident response time, thieves just need to cut the network, steal valuables, destroy image capturing computer. Maybe a hidden backup storage medium would be a good idea.

    But it really doesn't sound like this guy is truely worried about security, more like he is worried about his kids throwing wild house parties or his wife cheating on him. X10 cameras and real security just doesn't sound right, unless their products have seriously matured since last i bought them, but from the looks of their website they haven't. Better to put a few of these around the house and teach them how to recharge eachother.


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