Our CCTV system, which was never simple, has grown over the years. It’s made up of a pile of different components, it’s laid out like this;
Camera – DVR – HDMI/Composite Converter – Encoder – Modulator
Camera – Both Analog and IP Cameras feed into the Digital Video Recorder.
DVR – The DVR creates a multiplexed (that is all cameras visible on a single screen) which is then fed into the HDMI-Composite converter (this is my fault as the DVR I bought has only a HDMI output – buying a DVR with a composite output would have eliminated this step).
HDMI-Composite Coverter – This device simply takes the HDMI output from the DVR and converts it into a basic analog signal so it can be fed into the Encoder and then the Modulator (earlier versions of this arrangement saw the signal fed into an amplifier and then split to the Encoder and the Modulator separately).
Encoder – The encoder converts the analog signal into a digital one, which can then be viewed by our home automation system and portable electronic devices (smartphones etc).
Modulator – The composite analog signal is then fed into a modulator which converts it into a frequency recognized by CATV as a specific channel (this allows us to view the multiplexed feed on any TV in the house when we bring up a designated channel).
The encoder is an important part of the overall system. We originally had a Aviosys IP9100a performing this function, and while far from ideal it was economical and mostly reliable (towards the end of its service life I had it plugged into a Belkin Wemo module so I could remotely power cycle the device). The first unit lasted approximately 2 years, and its replacement another 3.
When the most recent unit died it was time to find a better solution (also it appears the Axiosys 9100a is no longer available). As with other components we have phased in to our system I would prefer commercial grade hardware where possible – my concern was that a new device might not integrate into the various system we have in place.
More updates as we try out the new hardware.
Our emergency kit started out as a generic Costco ’72 hour 4 person kit’. I wasn’t happy with the quality or quantity of the contents (although I’ll admit that just having a basic bag was a vast improvement over the ‘cabinet lottery’ we would play in any sort of emergency situation). The arrangement was expanded to one bag for each member of the household and tailored to their needs, but with each capable of carrying the group for the requisite three days if needed.
Pictured is one of the “adult” bags. Two of these are configured almost identically with slight variations for each person (one bag has feminine hygiene products and tinned tobacco/rolling paper whereas the other has a fully stocked first aid kit including vitamins, common over the counter medications and a dizzying array of bandages etc).
» Read more..
Recent range trip to get the red dot scope sorted out. Jilly came along for some shooting with the Ruger 10-22 and then with the JR Carbine.
She found the recoil substantial after shooting only .22LR. She also officially has a range membership now, so I’ll have to pick her up some proper gear.
I recently had a shake up in my gun cabinet. Old rifles were sold off (something I’m always reluctant to do) and a few new ones added.
I had long been interested in the Just Right Carbine, a Pistol Calibre Carbine that uses magazines from common handguns and can utilize AR15 furniture (stock, handguard, pistol grip and trigger group). In Canada it is classified as a non-restricted firearm and as such could be carried in the bush (unlike the AR15 itself).
The price tag on this side of the border is rather dear (with the usual import mark-up and the state of the Canadian dollar) with the basic carbine weighing in at about $1000 shipped to your door – and that’s before adding a means of aiming the carbine (optics or BUIS must be added to the flat top) or swapping out any of the furniture.
My initial impression was that it was a sharp little rifle, although I took an immediate and serious dislike to the standard “aluminum quad rail” handguard that ships with it – finding it uncomfortable and an asthetic train wreck (to each their own). That said as soon as I added a 4x armored scope to the thing we were off to the range.
» Read more..
I’m a big fan of the DSC 1832/1864 series of alarm systems. It’s a robust system with all sorts of functionality right out of the box. A few of the features we’ve made use of include;
- Scheduled auto-arming – On a preset generic schedule the system will automatically arm itself to “away” mode bypassing any faulted devices. You can specify days of the week and time of day for this.
- PGM – Progammable outputs – These are extremely handy. In our system the PGMs are used for;
- Activating an LED by the back door indicating the system is armed (our keypads are not prominently displayed).
- Linked to our garage door so we can open the garage using our alarm system keyfobs.
- As a “false alarm reduction tool” for our hardwired smoke detectors (the system automatically shuts down, then restarts the smoke detectors in the event of an alarm – if the smoke detector STILL detects smoke after the reset the system considers it a legitimate alarm and notifies the monitoring centre and activates the siren).
My personal favorite feature is being able to open the garage door using the keyfob – Lisa just enjoys the convenience of pressing a button on the remote to arm/disarm the system without messing with codes and entry/exit delays.
Aside from burglary protection our alarm/HA system offers some other features;
Fire Monitoring: Individual smoke/heat detectors connected to the alarm system and monitored remotely.
Freeze Protection: If the temp drops below 6 degrees the alarm monitoring company is notified.
Hydro Status: If the power fails a zone is tripped.
To this I wanted to add proper flood protection.
All critical functions of our home setup are delegated to the alarm system as it has proven itself reliable. This way detection and notification are handled by the alarm system and any automated response is handled by the HA system. If the HA system fails a notification is still sent to the alarm system, and by extension me.
The proposed arrangement is to have two Water Detectors (these are fundamentally just two metal probes that trigger an alarm when water completes a circuit between them) installed – one under the water heater and the other by the supply lines in the laundry room. Water detected in either area will trigger an alarm which will in turn notify the HA system.
This will be augmented by a Zwave Motorized Controller for the main water shutoff valve. Once a water leak is detected the water for the house can be automatically shut off.
At least that’s how it should work in theory.
It was just shy of two years ago that we started down the Home Automation path setting up a Veralite to look after some routine home automation tasks. The system grew, and now I can’t imagine our home without it. We’ve since upgraded to the Vera Edge (which was good and bad – good in that it increased the reliability of the device, bad in that we lost a few devices that had worked just fine on the Veralite)
We have no immediate plans to expand the system any farther, but who knows what shiny things lurk around the next corner.
It’s easy to say we’re saving money by “cord cutting”, but are we?
We moved into this house in July 2010, and if we had gone with a basic cable option at that time (let’s say $40/mo – although I suspect that’s a little light) we would have spent $2640.00 on Television since then. At present our system is comprised of a Media Server with 6TB of storage and 5 media players scattered around the house – this hardware represents approximately $1100 in expense.
On its face it looks like we’re spending the equivalent of $16.60 a month for our current setup versus the $40 the cable company would have charged us.
…..of course that doesn’t take into account the experimentation and ‘failed’ devices that have passed through our system OR the cost of the original iteration of our media system. My spreadsheet (Yeah, I know….geeky) tells me that I’ve spent $2210 on our arrangement once the ‘experimental’ (and now discarded) stuff is added in – this pushes the cost to approximately $33.48 a month (that gap is closing).
On the plus side we’ve still come in cheaper than basic cable, and it’s basically subsidized my experimenting with technology for the past five years. So I’m going to go ahead and say that YES we are saving money AND I get to monkey with technology.
It’s official. We’ve selected the Amazon Firestick for our replacement platform for our aging (but still running) Boxee Boxes.
Really what we’ve decided to go with is XBMC running on an Amazon Firestick, but I’ve found that the firestick is a much more reliable platform than the majority of the “Android Media Boxes” I’ve experimented with (see previous posts). With a series of customizations the Firestick delivers (through XMBC Kodi) seamless access to our local media AND Netflix AND local/regional/national/international Live Television streaming sources.
You can buy Firesticks already configured for this stuff, but it’s really not that complicated to set it up yourself.
I’ll document the mundane process below the cut for my own edification and for those that might be interested in replicating the process.
» Read more..