October 2010 - Posts
After publishing a piece on how to connect an Internet enabled camera to WMC, iPhones and iPads yesterday, I received a couple of emails basically saying, “great, but I want to monitor more than one camera in a master view like stand alone IP surveillance software”.
I thought about this for a bit and then tested to see if an HTML page could be hosted locally, placed in the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs folder with the appropriate MCL and PNG file. The answer was yes, and this now opens the door to more customizations.
Further, I thought that the still images needed to be refreshed. Not much value in watching an image on the screen that just sits there. I fired up Microsoft Expression Web and created a page and added in a META REFRESH tag to reload every xx seconds (I used 30 seconds as the interval). While tables should not be used for layout on a page designed to be viewed in a real web browser (a deprecated means of coding), a nested table structure proved perfect for display inside Windows Media Center. I specified the Segoe UI font and ended up with something that looked pretty decent and worked. Here is the view inside Windows Media Center:
Here is the HTML code. You will need to replace the hostname, port, image path as I documented in the post linked above. The mycameras.html file I created contains the following:
<meta content="en-us" http-equiv="Content-Language">
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="30">
font-family: "Segoe UI Semibold";
border: 10px solid #FFFFFF;
font-family: "Segoe UI Semibold";
<body style="color: #99CCFF; ">
<p class="style3"> </p>
<td class="style4">Parking Lot Cam</td>
<img alt="" height="480" src="http://hostname.dyndns.org:XYZ/IMAGE.jpg" width="640"></td>
<td class="style6">Home Office Cam</td>
<img alt="" height="480" src="http://hostname.dyndns.org:XYZ/cgi-bin/video.jpg?size=3" width="704"></td>
<p class="style3"> </p>
The MCL file (mycameras.mcl) is as follows:
|<application url="mycameras.html" |
After removing the files I created and used yesterday, I placed the html file, the MCL file, and the new PNG file in the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs folder. Next I launched Windows Media Center,and opened Extras.
I finished by adding my new My Cameras extra as a top level Extras menu item.
Now, if I add more cameras, I can just edit the existing HTML. I’m sure I’ll have to change (reduce) the size of the displayed image to get more on a single page, but I now have a personal IP Camera viewport inside Windows Media Center. (And naturally, I’ve added the second camera to my iPhone and iPad Smartvue configuration).
Motivated by the upcoming yearly Halloween onslaught of youngsters and the not so young about to come through my condo complex, I started thinking about how to integrate an Internet capable surveillance camera with my connected home and devices. I’m not a “real” developer, but I’m a pretty smart geek (IMO) and I started looking around for ideas that I could borrow and customize.
My goals were to be able to check activity in my parking lot/walkway on demand from Windows Media Center, my iPhone, and my iPad. The web is a wonderful wealth of information, and putting this together was not really difficult. And definitely worth sharing with others.
Back in 2002, I wrote about adding an Internet Camera to my home network. Obviously, 802.11b with WEP doesn’t interest me any more, but since the device has a 10/100 Ethernet port, connecting to a MoCA network or using an 802.11n wireless bridge makes the device usable with more modern networking technologies. The device can display a live view with either an ActiveX control or Java (neither of which is usable on an iPxxx device or Media Center friendly. The I found the Smartvue web site, which not only listed the URL format for images for a huge variety of IP cameras, but pointed the way to free iPhone and iPad apps.
I tested the image path samples on the Smartvue site and found the correct one for my DCS100W by testing with Internet Explorer using the internal IP, my FQD URL (dynamic DNS) and on my iPhone and iPad.
First up was adding what was needed to view inside the Media Center interface. I found the info to create an MCL file and accompanying tile for Windows Media Center on The Digital Lifestyle and got started tweaking.
|<application url="http://hostname.dyndnsprovider.domain:Port |
Since I need to view on both laptops away from home and desktops at home, I used the fully qualified dynamic dns name from my dynamic DNS provider, the port number, and the image path as shown above. (And my home router has the corresponding port forwarding set up. My router supports loopback (and supports dynamic DNS providers), so this guarantees a sweet experience.
Below you can see the MCL file and the PNG image I created (in Photoshop, but Windows Paint will work) and where these were placed so that they would be available to all users. As stated on The Digital Lifestyle information, I had to create the last two folders.
I opened Media Center, and the new Camera tile was displayed as expected. When I opened it, I received a standard Windows login credentials prompt because my IP Camera is protected with a username and password. But since I had already opened the site in IE and selected “remember password”, I could select OK either with the mouse or the remote. Next, the expected warning about compatibility with the Media Center interface and selected to not warn me and view anyway (a one time task).
I also added the Tile to the top level menu (right click or I on the remote)
And here’s the view inside Media Center of my IP Camera (we had a frost last night so there is some condensation).
Integration with my iPxx devices was next. Smartvue provides FREE apps for both the iPhone and iPad in the Apple App Store and they are both pretty neat. (And they have apps for Blackberrys Android’s and more !) They also support a way to view password protected cameras like mine (documented on the bottom of the third party camera page AND in the apps themselves.
On the iPad, with the larger display, there is a list of cameras on the left and the view from the selected camera is on the right, (Out of the box, both the iPad and iPhone apps have some default cameras configured, but you can delete/edit, etc.)
And on my iPhone, here’s the default list, with my own camera at the bottom:
And the view from my iPhone:
And, the camera itself can send email and a screen shot when motion is detected, so no matter where I am, I’m going to know who’s pulled into my other parking space or is walking to my front door!
I’m not easily impressed, but my jaw is hanging open today after installing two Sonos S5 Music Players to cover my home with end to end music. I’ve used computers, Media Center Extenders and all kinds of hardware and software in the past to move music around my home, but I always had to cobble together pieces and use separate devices and controllers to get what I wanted. What did I want? Well, everything imaginable. The list below is not in any particular order:
1. The ability to stream from ANY of my computers (using Play To or anything else) to more than one music player/renderer simultaneously.
2. To be able to control the volume above individually or together.
3. Play Pandora Radio and other Internet sourced digital music
4. Use existing/create new playlists
5. Use iPhones, iPads and iPxxx whatever to control and manage the device as a remote control (including graphical menus).
6. Use the system as an alarm clock with choices to wake from alarm, music, Internet music, whatever
7. Wireless connectivity in my Living Room
8. A system that was upgradeable.
9. Quality sound
I’m still stunned that I found a system that does ALL of the above. (And I’m betting I discover more features – I’ve only had a few hours experience with this all, so my exploration and discovery has only just begun).
First, it’s a nice looking system. Available in Black or White, it will fit in anywhere,
Connecting two of these to my complex network was mindlessly simple. I plugged one into a switch uplinked to my router and connected the power. As for the second one, I stuck it in my living room and plugged in the power. The two units found each other over wireless 802.11n automagically, without my having to do anything. My network is secured by WPA2-AES, but Sonos uses “SonosNet 2.0” which is a secure AES peer to peer mesh wireless network, so this is a separate, but secured network. Interestingly, the speakers have two Ethernet ports for Ethernet bridging. And they also have a jack for a powered sub woofer which the devices find automatically. The docs state that you can use TWO of these in a single room for left/right stereo, but I’m wowed by just one in my living room and another upstairs that covers my loft home office and master bedroom.
I downloaded and installed the latest Sonos controller pc software from the Sonos website (rather than even opening the enclosed CD). After installing the software, I had to push a combination of buttons on each speaker to link to the software, but that was easy and fast. I saw that firmware upgrades were detected for both speakers and they were downloaded and applied seamlessly. I then connected my existing Pandora account through the Sonos Controller software. Done!
I fired up Windows Media Player (already set up for “Play To” with my Samsung TV which was not turned on at the time) and as you can see below, both units were available for Play To.
And of course, it worked beautifully.
I’ve got music stored on a flock of computers, including WHS1 and Vail. So how can I stream to my new Sonos speakers without moving from the sofa or booting up a laptop? Well, Sonos has apps for the iPad/ and for the iPhone/iTouch. Just below is a screen capture from my iPhone. I can browse all my media servers and drill down to Artist, Album, etc. etc. and add to queues, play now, (etc. again). And I can stream my Pandora stations, too!
The iPad Sonos controller software, with more screen real estate, is a real knock out, as shown below.
And yes, there is a Line-In on the speakers themselves to connect even more devices. Like a Zune or whatever. Both the desktop software and the iPad software allow me to set alarms and sleep timers (!)
I will be setting up a series of alarms that I can turn on or off. This is so slick.
The sound is great. Sonos supports a wide variety of music formats (but not WMA lossless or Apple AAC enhanced or Fairplay). Most of my content is mp3, so I’m all set.
This is the most advanced, converged system I’ve seen, and I’m more than just a little impressed. Kudos to Sonos for having the vision that supports my connected home.