Thursday, December 31, 2015

Safe Windsurf Travels

This is not really a post about windsurfing. If you are not a geek, stop reading now.

But some windsurfers travel a lot, and may sometimes worry a bit what's going on at home. Maybe that happened to us a bit last year, when we spent 6 weeks in Texas just as Cape Cod had record snow falls.

We sure won't give up traveling. So how about being able to see what's going on at home while traveling? Easy enough, with IP security cameras. After spending countless hours exploring options on Amazon, we spend about $100 for a nice IP camera - 720p, motion detection, infrared, pan, tilt, zoom, control from anywhere with you smart phone, and about 100 more features that can keep geeks occupied for days (hint: alarm relay out for voice alerts, bright LED lights, and who knows what else...).

We set up the camera before Nina and I left to visit family in Germany over Christmas. Did it work? No, of course not! The wifi-enabled light switches were not accessible, either. The DDNS provider logs showed no contact after the first day. Seems the network was down. I suspected the cable modem/router combo, which had acted up a few weeks earlier.

For almost two weeks, we worried a bit. Just a bit, but more than we would have without the camera. Back home, we discovered that the cable modem was indeed to blame. Or maybe the cable company. It seems that they had upgraded the firmware in the cable modem just after we left. Since we were using the modem in a non-standard way (just as a modem, with the router disabled), that apparently screwed up things. It required a reset to default settings and a few reboots before it worked again.

Obviously, we needed to add more geek toys to our system! The cable modem was replaced with a newer, faster model. The ancient router went back into hibernation, being replaced with a sleek new model. The new router now has a tethered Android phone that serves as a backup internet connection. If the cable modem acts up again, the router automatically switches to cellular data.

That's just part of the story. I won't bore you with security details like what happens when the camera detects motion, but it includes emails with snap shots as well as FTP and cloud uploads of videos and additional snapshots. Chances are that will never happen. The more relevant thing is that we will be able to see our beloved home from afar, and that we definitely will be able to turn up the heat before we get back.


  1. Would like to be bored with some of the details. Which camera did you buy?

    1. Brian, I bought an Amcrest Pro 1080P. I'm pretty happy with it, but have no experience with any other IP cameras.