That special hell (caution, moderate geekery ahead)

Comments Off on That special hell (caution, moderate geekery ahead)

There’s a moment as you’re hodging together archaic, or at least well obsolete technology that you think ‘oh ah, maybe using new stuff would be nice’. So, the garage security (and music) system is to be made from bits that if someone half-inches them will not cause me too much distress. Thus, the 8 year old PC (which for some reason takes several attempts to POST, but does it all by itself and has done it the same for at least several years), the freecycle 1280×1024 LCD monitor*, the keyboard sporting a handy XT/AT switch (no, not a nice IBM clicky keyboard, a Tandon knockoff)*, a PS/2 mouse*, some of those dinky little plastic speakers you used to get and connect to your ‘puter* and a WiFi dongle that was designed to work with a G3 Mac. There’s also a £3 night-vision camera, a webcam**, and soon a second somewhat better webcam. It runs Linux on a 200gig hard disk.

Getting it running using this shonky heap of hardware has actually proven to be very easy, if a little slow. Ubuntu went on in a hitchless fashion. Motion and the handy graphical config utility kMotion went on smoothly. kMotion has some rather irritating quirks that limit Motion’s function with it***, but the handyness of the instantly viewable webpage showing multiple cameras makes for niceness. In the end, a back up utility that basically writes a CRON job which runs every 3 minutes and updates a permanently stored backup of images on a remote machine kinda made up for the bit that I couldn’t do with Motion.

So all that works. The cheap camera can’t be used for motion detection because it sends corrupt images every few seconds and they trigger the motion detection, and it was essentially permanently recording video.

But it’s handy for seeing what’s going on in there, so it can stay.

And then we get to the network.

The G3 dongle? That works fine. Drivers picked it up no problem.

Then we get to extending the network down to the garage. I have an aged PCI 102.11b802.11b (‘scuse the thinko) network card in the media server, it’s not used because it has a nice wired connection. I would use it, but the drivers struggle to make the benighted thing work at all. It’s never been reliable. So I asked John if his venerable collection of stuff included any spare wifi kit. Didn’t have to be new, or shiny.

He pulled out a router and a WAP box. John rocks.

It turned out that contrary to initial thoughts, the router does not include a WiFi component. It’s just a router. But that’s handy, because the little dinky 4 port 100baseT hub that I swear is hiding in the house, is doing a damn good job of hiding. Really damn good.

I have been through a lot of boxes today, and it’s stayed well hidden.

So I set up the router to behave and play well with the Be Internet Wifi router. All is good.

Then I come to the Belkin WAP box. And there’s a special hell reserved for the designer of this box.

Yes, I’m sure you made it really very cheap. Well done. But a Windows only configuration utility? On a network device? How could you? Your mother would be ashamed.. I see her now, weeping, asking what’s become of you. How you could sell out your soul like that. A network device that can’t work without windows. For shame.

So now I’ve updated VMWare. Hopefully, after this reboot I can download and install the software required to make the device work, and set it so it’ll only allow devices with specific MAC addresses to connect (‘cos it has WEP “security” only *sigh*).

And *then* I can mount the computer down in the garage. And we can have our lounge back.

* Thanks John!
** Thanks Nikki, I think
*** You should be able to add any command for it to run after saving a movie or image, but you can’t add any commands that kMotion doesn’t automatically generate when it’s running as it overwrites the config files each time it’s run.


Kate is lord and mistress of all she surveys at