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In Use

When I finally had the camera set up, I unplugged the Ethernet cable, and moved the camera into position pointing out my front window. Hawking provides a Windows application for viewing and recording video from the camera, but my interest was in its web capabilities. Figure 7 shows the basic viewing screen accessible from a web browser. The video window shows the view from my camera which was approximately 50' and two walls from my WRT54G.

Basic Web Interface

Figure 7: Basic Web Interface

When viewing the camera from a web browser, the basic viewing capability is provided via a Java applet. I was happy to see Java used instead of ActiveX, which many of these cameras use, because it meant that usage was not limited to Internet Explorer. From the main page, various options are available including turning on a date/time overlay on the picture, changing the resolution etc. Note that the figure shows that I have the date/time overlay turned on, but the image doesn't have the overlay. I found that this feature sometimes worked, and sometimes didn't. 

A status line on the bottom of the browser showed me how many users were connected to the camera and the current frame rate. Hawking specs the frame rate and resolutions available as: 30+ fps @ 160 x 120 (QCIF), 30fps @ 320 x 240 (CIF) and 10fps @ 640 x 480 (VGA). I found that I would typically get 10-12 frames per second with a 320/240 resolution. When I raised the resolution to its maximum of 640/480, I was very lucky to get 4 frames per second. Most of the time I would get no picture at all.

To rule out problems due to the wireless connection, I temporarily switched over to using Ethernet. I found that I could reliably get around 8-12 FPS at the maximum 640x480 resolution and even low 20s if I covered the lens. This told me that the image compression algorithm used isn't smart enough to recognize available bandwidth, which isn't an issue with a 100Mbps Ethernet connection.

At the 320x240 setting with a wired connection, I was able to achieve FPS readings of high 20s to low 30s. Figure 8 shows a frame grab when I did get 640/480.

640x480 Screen Grab

Figure 8: 640x480 Screen Grab - Click for full-resolution image

In general, I found the image to be of pretty good quality at this high setting, but since I couldn't reliably get any image, it didn't do me much good. I did find that moving the camera closer to the access point helped both the frame rate and the ability to use the higher resolution.

An option for 50 vs. 60 Hz was designed to allow users to account for the presence of fluorescent lights. The button below the image allows a user to take a "snapshot" of an interesting frame and email it to defined email address. But like the date/time overlay, I found this button sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. And even when it did work, I found it hard to get the correct image. There seemed to be a few seconds lag between the pressing of the button and the time when the image was actually grabbed.

Other setup options available through the web interface included setting the time via a NTP server, network configuration, changing the administration password and defining up to four view-only users (Figure 9).

User Creation Option

Figure 9: User Creation Option

Under the "Network Settings" menu, I found an option for turning off the LEDs on the camera. This is a nice feature for surveillance use where you would want a camera to be stealthy. Unfortunately, the setting returns to its default state of on / blinking with network traffic each time power is cycled.

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