OT: Hardware Question

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Hi, folks,

I’m installing a RAID controller card for a large external RAID box in a Dell server. I’ve got two riser slots available. Here’s the question:
the controller card has some large chips on one side, and if I put it in riser 1, those chips face downwards in the box, blocking ease of cooling, while if I put it in riser 2, the chips will face up… but be right over a large chip on the m/b that’s got a heat sink.

Opinions on which slot to use?


OT Hardware Question

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With the continuing annoyance from motion, my manager’s asked me to go looking again for a video surveillance appliance: basically, a motion-detecting DVR and cameras. The big thing, of course, is a) price
(this is a US federal gov’t agency, and being civilian, money is *tight*, don’t give me the libertarian/GOP line about how freely we spend, thankyouverymuch), b) it has to be on the network, and c) we need to be able to d/l to a server, and rm after we do that… and we want to script or cron job that.

Right now, I’m looking into Zmodo, R-Tech and CIB security. Anyone have a)
opinions on the quality of the hardware from any of those manufacturers
(yeah, I know, they’re just branded hardware), and/or whether we can do the SSH or telnet in to do what we need?

*Extremely* frustrating, since they’re all running embedded Linux, that so many say IE and Active X….


25 thoughts on - OT Hardware Question

  • I don’t have specific recommendations for you, but here is some general info that you might find useful, as I’ve been looking into this myself. Obviously, there exist IP cameras, but, as you’ve noticed, you have to be careful that it supports an open standard, and not IE/ActiveX exclusively. Another approach is to just get an analog camera, along with a capture device. The capture devices come in USB
    or PCI(e) flavors (possibly more), and range in price from super cheap
    (10 USD) to crazy expensive. Just from reading about this stuff, it appears there’s a tradeoff, the cheap hardware may require some wrestling to work reliably, and then may randomly die at some point. With a little research you can probably find a good balance. I’ve done a little searching on eBay, and it looks like there is no shortage of capture devices to be had there for cheap as well, if buying used is an option.

    As always, it depends on your application, but with an analog camera, you move the “smarts” to your PC or server. Consider if you have many cameras, do you want to have that many more “servers” to manage, or would you rather have one server with many purpose-built devices attached?

    Take a look at the ZoneMinder software package. It’s the free/open source way to build a surveillance appliance. Again, I haven’t used it. I currently have a Speco D4RS device (came with the house I just moved into), which is an off-the-shelf surveillance appliance. The viewer is IE-only, and the standalone apps are Windows-only (though they do have Android apps, so some quasi-Linux support)… it’s half-way decent, although I’ve only just started playing with it in earnest. But I’m looking to ZoneMinder as a possible replacement, partially to get onto an open platform, but also to hopefully consolidate a standalone device into my existing home server.

    As for the cameras themselves, I don’t know what model I have, and wasn’t supplied documentation. My dad’s been interested in getting some camera surveillance going at his house. But we both get discouraged when looking for cameras because there seems to be a million makes and models, but most are probably just re-branded OEM
    versions. The specs always seems to be unclear or inconsistent, and except for the crazy-expensive ones, they always seem to have lousy user reviews. So we always get discouraged trying to wade through the mess and give up.


  • Matt Garman wrote:

    I think you misunderstood me. I’m not looking for IP cameras – we’ll be getting cameras that plug into a surveillance DVR appliance. It’s the
    ->DVR’s< - firmware software will do the recording and picture taking. What we need is to be able to d/l *from* the DVR to a server, where we can store it. We don't even need fancy cameras - we're currently using 10 or so yr old, USB 1 or 1.1 webcams, and the standard package named motion, which works fine... when it works. When the drivers have bugs creep in, that's what's pushed my manager to ask me to look this up. mark

  • Your original email said, “my manager’s asked me to go looking again for a video surveillance appliance: basically, a motion-detecting DVR
    and cameras”. I interpreted that as you need a full on DVR suite, from the camera(s) to the DVR, to the management interface. Re-reading your original email, I don’t think my interpretation was wrong.

    Now it sounds like the camera part of your solution is already in place: you’re using USB webcams, right? And that part of the solution will remain unchanged?

    That said, I believe my previous email still has some useful information for you. As I said, I have a Speco D4RS: this is an off-the-shelf DVR appliance (that actually advertises the fact that it runs Linux under-the-hood). In the general sense, it supports the features you need: download videos to your server (or cloud or whatever), and manage the videos on the DVR itself. But it falls short for you in that it expects analog camera inputs, and is mostly Windows-centric. But given that ZoneMinder is attempting to “compete”
    with these types of DVR appliances, I would be surprised if it didn’t support all the same features as my Speco, but on an open platform, and with many more input options (USB, IP, DVB/V4L capture card, etc). In other words, assuming ZoneMinder supports the features you need, another option for you is to “roll your own” DVR appliance with commodity PC hardware.

  • Seems out of character for you to replace hardware to fix a software bug. If you are going to spend money, why not drop in a Windows VM
    so you can run IE?

  • Matt Garman wrote:

    Mostly likely it *will*. I think we expect to get a surveillance appliance
    – a DVR with firmware, and cameras as part of the package. The ancient USB
    cheapie webcams will go.

    Most of them do. On the other hand, where do you see it using that? I’ve got to Speco’s unpleasant website, and managed to find a spec sheet, which does *not* mention what the firmware is, while Zmodo and R-Tech and others do.

    I do like the gigabit NIC on it. I don’t see it as a package, with four videocams, and the cheapest I see it is $322+; newegg wants over $500 for it, and that’s pushing the envelope, esp. when we need several, and there’s no cameras in the package. I may just call them to get details – I
    need to do that for several other OEMs.

    Btw, also, motion is not, AFAIK, zoneminder.


  • Les Mikesell wrote:

    a) We’d have to buy Windows to run in that VM. b) *None* of us really wants to run Windows, esp. to manage a linux box. c) The software bugs keep coming: I had trouble last year, when we went to
    6.x, I’ve had other weirdnesses, like a picture looping for no reason I
    know, when it doesn’t happen on another server (I really didn’t walk in, walk in, walk in, walk in….), and so on. Now, if it were just me, I’d probably try just buying a newer webcam that cost more than, um, what did I hear a couple years ago, $10? $19.99?, but my manage says he’d like to get out of the business of making video surveillance work, when there’s off-the-shelf stuff out there.

    And we do have some budget for things that need to be done, and security is required (and if we do it, it’s a lot less than other options…).


  • Are you saying it worked right in 5.x? If that’s the case, why not wait until 2017 for something else?

    Seems like the sort of thing that would have cross platform java software.

  • I see, so you’re looking at a complete package that includes everything. I was coming at this from an “a la carte” perspective, where you would buy the components individually, and piece your system together from there. That’s what my original email was based on anyway. If you do indeed go a la carte, then the number of options goes up, e.g. analog vs IP cameras, OTS DVR vs open source, etc etc. But yes, an all-in-one package makes many of those decisions for you.

    Check out this link[1], “Reliable Linux Operating System” is listed as the first Product Highlight.

    How many cameras do you need in total? And what is the budget?

    Right, I don’t know anything about Motion, except that I’ve seen it mentioned in context with ZoneMinder. My limited knowledge is that they are “competing” Linux/open source DVR packages, although Motion is the older one with fewer features.

    Why not use your existing USB webcams and just give ZoneMinder a try?
    Especially if you have an old unused PC or laptop that you can test with. Nothing to lose but time. For the sake of argument, say ZoneMinder supports all the features you need. It should run on low end PC hardware. If you don’t already have some old PC/server hardware you can re-purpose, you can assemble one for peanuts. Or, throw another hard drive on an existing server and run ZoneMinder on that. Resource utilization should be negligible (unless you’re capturing multiple high-def streams, which you clearly don’t have the budget for).

    My point is, assuming ZoneMinder meets all your DVR
    feature/software/management requirements, you can dedicate your entire budget to the cameras (and possibly capture device if you don’t buy IP

    In other words, why pay for a DVR appliance, when you can have all that functionality for free with ZoneMinder? If your budget is that limited, and you need to spread it out across the surveillance package
    (i.e. cameras + DVR), you’re going to end up with mediocre hardware. Cut out the cost of the DVR part and use the budget to get better cameras.

    [1] http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/875452-REG/Speco_Technologies_d4rs500_D4RS_4_Channel_DVR_500.html

  • Sounds like a classic problem where you have three requirements…

    1. “Just works” / off-the-shelf, no management required
    2. Quality & reliabilty
    3. Low cost

    …but can only choose two. :)

    Just from reading user reviews of the low cost stuff, it sounds like you sacrifice quality & reliability for ease-of-use & convenience. But even those features are suspect, if the reviews are to be believed.

    Just my $0.02 :)

  • Les Mikesell wrote:

    Because it has to work, perfectly, right now and every day, 24x7x365.25. Turning it down is not an option.

    And it *does* work on some of the servers, there’s just a few that have issues, and in some cases, I have no clue why, as they’re similar or the same.

    Just using std. repos….


  • I just setup a Ubiquiti AirCam for fun at home. these are $99 per outdoor grade camera, use power-over-ethernet so there’s JUST a single cat5 wire to run, and the DVR is a PC running their free AirVIsion software, so you don’t need any expensive box…. you can hook up as many cameras to AirVIsion as you like, place them on a map or floor plan, and set the boxes and sensitivity for motion detect on each one.
    the one I got is NOT a tilt-pan camera, but they also have a ceiling cam. it works pretty good, my dog sets it off all the time, leaving a trail of 10-15 second mp4 files ;) the motion files are saved in a tree by year/month/day, and are timestamped TS (transport stream) mpeg-4
    h.264 format, playable by most anything that understands .ts, including VLC. it can send email or other sorts of alerts on specific events.

    they have AirVision packages for Windows, Mac, and various flavors of Debian/Ubuntu. the UI is web based and works from a variety of clients, including android tablets.

  • John R Pierce wrote:

    Hmmm… that $99 each camera gets expensive, fast. We use three or four in several rooms, which is why were were hoping for a package that included the dvr appliance with cameras. The Speco looks interesting, but I don’t see it anywhere as a package, and, in addition, the only AirCam for CentOS
    seems to be from repoforge, and *very* frequently, I see a lot of conflicts with the base, epel, and rpmfusion packages when I’ve tried repoforge. Plus, we’re almost exclusively a CentOS shop (which is why I
    live here on this list), that would be more to worry ’bout.

    mark, working hard to get the best value for our tax dollars….

  • Did it do that under 5.x, or did you ever have it in production?

    The bug reports I see relate to kernel versions.

    Seems like you have exhausted that already, though. And java apps tend to be fairly self-contained and easy to manage separately – since linux distros have been so weird about supporting it.

  • Have you considered that part of the reason you’re having hardware problems is that you’re using $19 cameras, and expecting professional results from them?

    $99 for a networked PoE camera is *cheap*. When you make your presentation to the boss, bring a datasheet for any comparable Axis camera, which will be $500-1000.

  • did I mention these are HD (1280×720) cams with decent low light sensitivity (but not IR nightvision)? I didn’t find any decent quality weatherproof PoE cameras with mounting hardware for much less than that. and the way the whole AirVision software DVR operates is quite slick. it autofinds and autoconfigures the cameras, all you need to do is name them and place them on a google map or floor plan graphic, then you can see where motion alerts are happening on that map and drill in to see whats happening

    I too prefer CentOS, but wouldn’t mind setting up Ubuntu LTS or something for this dedicated task. NFS export the video folder for your archive-n-scripting requirements. all management is done via the web interface on the airvision server anyways.

  • Les Mikesell wrote:

    It’s worked for years. I don’t think we had any problems on some of the same servers under 5.x. With 6, we had some problems with half or more of the screen being green. I just had it happen again, a few weeks ago; the workaround was to go from 640×480 to 320×240. That’s the one that’s started complaining about buffer overflow, though the videos are fine.


  • Warren Young wrote:

    That’s not going to happen. The budget won’t allow that much for this item. The budget could spring for $40 or $60 webcams, I figure, but he wants me to look at canned solutions.


  • John R Pierce wrote:

    a) We’d need several, for several rooms. b) Don’t care about weather at all – they’re in locked rooms. c) Don’t care about low light – the lights in those rooms are on 24×7 for the cameras. d) They *do* need to be on the network, so we can back up the pictures and videos to a server. That means they *must* be up to date on security.


  • The price is still right for CentOS 5.x… Why not reinstall and ignore it for another 3 years? Even if RH backports the breakage to the older driver you could probably keep using an older module.

  • Les Mikesell wrote:

    We’re trying to get rid of all 5.x servers, either by upgrade, or surplusing the hardware. We could, I suppose, set up some ancient boxes;
    of course, they’d have to be on ups’s (the power blips every bloody day in this building, usually early morning), and it’s a waste to run a rackmount server for just that… and there’d have to be one in each room.

    And my manager feels, I guess, that he has the budget, if we can find something in our price range.

    mark “call your Congressman and/or Senators and tell them to spend more money in the civilian sector
    of the government”

  • So find the person who chose that arbitrary number, and explain to them that in their ignorance, they chose a number that has no connection with reality. Ask them — now that they know what professional equipment actually costs — if they would like to choose a new number.

    We’ve been over this ground before, in your UPS battery thread, but I’ll repeat that your salary costs are not fixed, sunk costs. The time you spend futzing with poor quality equipment is time you don’t spend doing other things. If you don’t include the portion of your salary with the budget, you’re not doing the budget correctly.

    A solution that costs $1,000 in hardware but takes 1/10 your average yearly time to hand-hold is more expensive than a solution that costs
    $10,000 and only needs a specialist to come in and check on it once a year. If you think that’s wrong, you aren’t amortizing over the years the cameras are expected to last. Your time is a recurring expense; the hardware isn’t. A pro-grade security camera should last many years.

  • Warren Young wrote:

    My manager knows his budget, he’s not completely ignorant, and if professional equipment is several thousand dollars, it’s not going to happen. We have servers, and workstations, and some servers in a datacenter, and we need to worry about our budget. This is not a case of some PHB pulling numbers out of his *ss.

    But if the money’s not there, the money’s not there. Feel free to contact your legislators and tell them to raise some taxes and spend more money. Oh, and while they’re at it, have them spend enough money to rehab this whole damn building, that was *intended* to be rehabbed 20 years ago, and then the money wasn’t there, so we live with power blips, and tenement heating (it’s very often too hot, or too cold, or only on one side of the building…), and the cheapness of them taking away our water coolers, and telling us to use the in-wall drinking fountains….

    If I sound surly about some of this stuff, I am… because we, and you, deserve better. You’d think this was some poor sister organization, rather than part of the one of the biggest and best research organizations on the fsckin’ planet.


  • I’m missing something about the relationship of the OS to the hardware. Are you running other stuff on the current boxes and just stealing a usb port for a nearby camera or what? Seems easy enough to just reinstall 5.x on the hardware you have otherwise. Hmm, wonder how well KVM handles giving a USB port to a guest?

    If you’ve already put in the time to make a working system why not squeeze as much out of it as you can?

  • the Aircams are network devices. they use https and rtsp or whatever it is. the PC/server running the AirVision NVR software also uses https, and collects the videos from any number of these cameras on your LAN.
    if you want extra security, put the cameras on their own LAN connected only to the airvision server, which could be dual homed to your WAN.
    Instead of using a single port PoE power inserter for each camera (which they come with), Ubiquiti sells LAN switches with their own flavor of PoE built in.

    The Airvision software can be configured (in fact defaults to)
    autoupdating camera firmware when new releases are available on Ubiquiti’s website. If you have 100s of cameras, then you probably should be thinking of several AirVision servers, as there’s probably some performance limits where it can’t be doing motion analysis on /too/
    many cameras.

    for your indoor application, the airCam Dome camera would likely be more appropriate. they come in 3-packs and are designed for ceiling mounting.

  • Looking down the thread, probably not what you want to hear since it runs on Windows, and it’s not an “appliance”, more DIY, however


    Is “free” and works really well. Feature list is everything you’d expect from a surveillance system.

    We use cheap (<