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The Real Deal 177: Home security cameras

Rafe Needleman and Brian Cooley (a.k.a. the Cat Master) discuss the best hardware and software for monitoring your home when you're not there. Plus, your questions answered!

Rafe Needleman and Brian Cooley (a.k.a. the Cat Master) discuss the best hardware and software for monitoring your home when you're not there. Plus, your questions answered!


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Show notes:

First: Why? Snoop on cats? Security? What can you do after all? (A: Keep records)

The cheap way: Read Josh Lowensohn's story, DIY home surveillance with a Webcam, to turn your PC-connected cameras into security cams.

If you need more than that, you want dedicated Webcams. I use two Panasonic BL-C131A. expensive at about $240 each. But great features: PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom), audio, two kinds of motion detect. Great thing about them is you can access them at their own Web sites--they're servers--using Dynamic DNS.

I have mine set up to record all motion and I have them e-mailed to a special Gmail account. I tried getting them to FTP captures to my WHS but it was too difficult. E-mail is a great solution and no matter what happens to the house, I have a record.

If you don't want to hassle with setup and DynDNS and stuff like that, check out the WiLife cam sys from Logitech. No PTZ, no sound, expensive, but good features and motion detect.

Brian setup -

- Panasonic HCM-280A's
- Panasonic BL-C131A's
- Toshiba WB-11's and WB15's
- Milestone software
- Dynamic DNS



Question 1
I have a Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS, it's about four years old. I like it a lot, but the maps are out of date, and the traffic alert subscription has lapsed. The map update is about $80, and one year of traffic service is another $50 a year.

Staying within the Garmin line, the Nuvi 275T has lifetime traffic, fresh maps, and costs under $200.

I'm sure that TomTom and others have similar products at competing prices.

Does it make sense to pay for the upgrades? Or should I just buy a new unit?


Cooley: Good grief, buy a new unit. So much has changed. You can expect a faster processor and better GPS sat acquisition, free lifetime traffic (and the RTT receiver is built in), BT speakerphone, and MSN Content Direct optionally ($50/year)

* Smart traffic reports
* Send to GPS
* Gas prices
* Weather reports
* Doppler weather maps
* Movie information
* Local events
* Stock quotes
* News headlines
* Flight status

Question 2
My wife is a Realtor and she recently went virtual (i.e. no desk at the broker's office). We spent (part of) the money she saves on a desk fee on some updated tech for the home office and mobile computing--aka an HP Mini Netbook, which she loves, but wants more...When she sits at an open house where the client doesn't have easily accessible Wi-Fi, she could be making better use of her time with mobile broadband.

I see 3 options:

1) Monthly, two-year contract with Sprint, Verizon, AT&T for about $60/month, 5GB limit, free data card.

2) Pay-as-you go with Virgin Mobile, no contract, Sprint network, $10 to $60 for 100MB to 1GB, $150 data card.

3) Tethering her BlackBerry 8900 (2G) for (according to the guy at BestBuy) $15/month.

I am favoring option 2 as it allows us some time to understand what her real usage is and is scalable for cost and data depending on how busy she is with work. However option 1 should cover all her needs, and the early termination of about $175 is not much more than the Virgin $150 equipment if we change our mind. Option 3 will be too slow...

What do you think? Love the show, etc.


Lake Zurich, Ill.

A: Rafe--Either 1 or 2, depending on how much you expect to use it. Ask yourself what value can you get from the service. Here, we ask, is one timely blog post a month we otherwise wouldn't be able to do worth $60? It is. So we have contracts. And some advice: Get Verizon or Sprint. ATT is just too sketchy.

Cooley: Agreed, though I lean toward the Option 1 logic because 3G is a magical technology. Consider Sprint because they seem to be ahead on 4G deployment and if you're a customer you might be able to jump to that favorably when it arrives in your area which Sprint still promises this year (to "Chicago").

Question 3
I really badly need your help. I am on holiday in India and I have an old D-link DL-524 and there is no password on it because at the time i didn't know a lot about wireless and we have thrown away all the CDs and paper work that came with it. Recently I have seen some clues that lead me to believe the other people are using my Internet connection and it keeps crashing the router and increasing my Internet bill, which I have to pay extra if I go over. I am not sure if indeed there people using it but I need a way to know for sure or any other advice. Please help an avid fan in desperate times. It's a common problem, but you know, you can get manuals for a lot of products. Try Fixya or Retrevo, or the manufacturer sites.


A: Get the manual, do a reset, put password on it. See Fixya for your manual. Or try Retrevo.

Or, turn off Wi-Fi and use it wired. no more bandwidth thieves!

Question 4
Just wanted to know if I can upgrade from Windows Vista 32-bit to 64-bit without paying much money. I bought a laptop having Windows so i don't have a disc. Its a Toshiba satellite M500 i bought it from Toshibadirect.com



A: Our advice would be to get a Win 7 upgrade when it's available and move to 64 bits then. But, if you want to upgrade to 64 bit Vista on your laptop, this is what MS says: "If he has Windows Vista Ultimate, he just needs to use the X64 bit disk that came in the box. If he has Home Premium (which you do), he can just contact Microsoft tech support to order the X64 bit disk from Microsoft. He will only have to pay shipping and handling to get it. Once he has the X64 disk, he needs to do a clean install. But that's how he can get it."

Cooley: Sure you want 64? I went to it recently and sometimes wish I hadn't. Several favorite legacy programs won't run, so they're gone, as is access to CNET's VPN and use of my favorite Epson flatbed scanner, which would cost a lot to replace with similar image quality today.


E-mail comments

E-mail 1:
In episode 176, listener Dennis wrote in to ask which was better--the Pogo Plug or the Addonics NAS adapter. Rafe recommended the Pogo Plug, and I agree with that recommendation. However, he also said the Pogo Plug's "UI and features might be a bit too simple for geeks". For that, I have to throw a BOL style "well actually" at you Rafe. The Pogo Plug is a general purpose Linux computer and the company that makes it (Cloud Engines) has made if very hacker friendly and there is already a developer community that has created many useful (and easy to implement) hacks.

A good place to start is the "Openpogo" web site: http://www.openpogo.com/wiki/index.php5?title=Main_Page

I installed Openpogo and had a Web server running on my pogo plug within minutes.

Keep up the great work.

-MC Fisticuffs

E-mail 2:
I wanted so bad to join in live to see your interview with John Cioffi. I really enjoyed this show and his explanation on the fiber/copper stuff. I would love to have more people like this on the show.

Thanks for your show!



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