Friday, May 28, 2004

The camera with a mind of its own

There's a really nifty science-education facility under construction here. The folks who're building it thought it'd be neat to have the construction process visible on-line. A science-education buddy of mine talked me into setting up their Toshiba Network Camera.

Now, network cameras are really, really nifty toys. They tend to have built-in web servers and are usually able to serve up both video (streaming or through a Java applet) and single-shot still images on demand. This is a good thing if you're either using them internally (for security, as an example) or have a lot of bandwidth.

In this case, the goal is to put images from the camera on a web site, so the general public can see them. Right-o, no problem, one would think. Except that the camera thinks otherwise.

First, there was the matter of it having somehow picked up an IP address from some DHCP server totally unrelated to the network it was on. I have no idea how this happened, but it required someone to climb a pole and hard-reset it.

Once I was able to get in and configure it, I told it to FTP an image to a web site where I have an account, every 60 seconds. It uploaded a couple, then started connecting every 5 minutes and only updating the timestamp of those files. Okay... I tried a 30 second interval instead. No change to its behavior. It seems to sincerely believe that what I
really want is for it to connect to the server every 5 minutes and do nothing. Grrr.

I poked around and figured out a way to easily request the latest image from the camera's built-in web server, and spent some time pondering possible software options for doing so and FTP'ing the results to their public web site 2,400 miles away, but didn't come up with anything useful for Windows XP.

On my way out for lunch, I decided the better way of getting around things would be to have their DSL router forward port 80 to the camera, then lock out most of the world to preserve their limited bandwidth. The final solution will have to wait 'til after the holiday weekend at this point, but hopefully you'll all soon be able to look at images of a construction site!

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