Geeking Out

Surveillance saga

Quite an exciting collection of Unifi networking equipment, and the first of several disappointing security cameras.

When we moved into Hacienda de la Tortuga I went a bit overboard designing a home network using the Unifi platform. I spent many hot, dirty days running ethernet cable through the basement crawl space and attic. The end result included, amongst other things, five wireless access points and six security cameras.

Our wireless coverage is pretty great, although that does not do anything to alleviate the frequent Spectrum outages. The cameras are a different story. Their motion detection is pretty awful, constantly being triggered by branches and wind, regardless of how I tweaked the sensitivity settings. Twice the system crashed and lost all of my footage. The second time was while we were in Hawaii and our sewer was backing up, which would have been an excellent time to check on the house and see what the plumber was doing.

After that I ripped out the Unifi cameras and switched to a system called Reolink. This involved running additional wires, more crawling under the house, and installing a bunch of mounting boxes. The cameras turned out to be huge, so now it looks like we are living in a secure government facility, or a prison yard. The picture quality is great and the recording is reliable, but the fancy “person and vehicle detection” does not work at all.

The big Reolink cameras and mounting boxes make the backyard look like a prison yard. I still haven’t gotten around to painting the cables and patched holes from the old cameras.

Today I went down to Home Depot and picked up one of those video doorbells. It was cheap, easy to install, and has cloud-based object detection that can pick out people, cars, animals, and packages pretty reliably. When someone comes to the door it lights up and sends me a push notification. I can choose 20 different chimes. For a couple bucks a month all of the storage is taken care of.

I guess there is something to be said for consumer-level technology. Reolink and Unifi both offer local storage and lots of configuration options, whereas the consumer products are simpler and require cloud subscriptions. You obviously need to choose a company that has a good security and privacy track record, and that can sometimes be hard to know. But in exchange the technology is inexpensive, feature-packed, and simple.

If I had it all to do over again I would not have run all that cable or installed all that fancy, expensive equipment. I was never concerned about playing CSI, I just wanted to see what animal was eating my vegetables and when a package was at the front door. I’m seriously considering ripping it all out and just sticking with the video doorbell and maybe a few additional cheap cameras.

But then there will be so many holes to patch. 🙁

Reolink did not see this opossum in the vegetable bed, but a little battery powered Wyze camera placed nearby caught the curious creature!

One reply on “Surveillance saga”

  1. Hooray, another UniFi WiFi family!
    My father also tried their cameras and was stung when they EOL’d that revision and completely stopped supporting it (and they didn’t support any standards, so it was essentially a bunch of expensive bricks, but mounted 25ft in the air). They make good WiFi gear (there is nothing else close within an order of magnitude of the price point) but I wouldn’t touch anything beyond their networking equipment.

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