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Remote Access

It's all well-and-good to get email alerts from the camera, but you'll also want to view your camera when away from home. Figure 10 shows access to my camera via the mydlink.com website.

Remote camera access via mydlink.com

Figure 10: DCS-930L Remote camera access via mydlink.com

This feature worked well and was easy to use. The site also tunnels back to the web server on the camera itself, allowing you to remotely change any setting that you could change locally. And there's also support for camera access on-the-go. Figure 11 shows access to the camera via my Android smartphone running a D-Link app.

access via an Android Cell phone

Figure 11: DCS-930L Access via an Android Cell Phone

This looks pretty good except for one problem. I could only get it to work when connected to my local network. Whenever I tried to access via the cell network, I'd get a timeout when trying to stream video. The app would log in properly and see my camera, it just couldn't get video.

I had the same issue when using the iPhone version of the app so there must be something about my network setup that the phone apps don't like. Or maybe my cell carrier doesn't allow apps to stream video for bandwidth reasons.

Accessing the camera's standard web page won't work on any device that doesn't support Java, which included my smartphone. But you can grab still shots via a documented cgi-script. This worked fine for me to get remote access to still images via my cell using a custom Android app that I wrote myself. Note that neither the iPhone nor the Android apps support audio from the camera.

Under the Covers

It's pretty clear that this little camera is based on a Linux stack. D-Link even includes a written notice in the packaging stating that GPL-licensed source code is available for those who wish to check it out.

Whenever I get a new device on my LAN, one of the first things I do is a port-scan to see what network ports are open. In this case, I immediately noticed that both FTP and Telnet ports were open on the device and I was able to log in via Telnet using the admin username and password that was set up during initialization.

So, what did I find? The Linux kernel is version 2.6.21 and like most of these consumer-level embedded devices busybox is used for utilities. The processor is a MIPS-based Ralink SoC, running at 320 MHz and 32 MB of RAM is installed. Web serving is courtesy of GoAhead and the video-capture capabilities are being provided by the open-source MJPEG suite.

Be careful about who you let access your camera over the LAN because I found a number of passwords in the clear including credentials for my Dynamic DNS account, the private HTTPS key plus a username and password to a D-Link provisioning server.

I also noticed a comment in the startup scripts indicating that the Telnet daemon was being started up for debugging purposes, so maybe someone forgot to turn it off for production? After poking around for a while using the Telnet interface, I would always get disconnected and could not re-connect until I power-cycled the camera. This indicates to me that the Telnet daemon was being killed by the Linux kernel due to memory pressure on the system. So this little device must be running at its limits as far as memory usage. 32 MB of RAM is pretty tiny these days and this camera has a lot of functionality. But then again, it only costs about $100 and D-Link has to make some profit on the product!

Closing Thoughts

I liked this little camera even though it had a few bugs, and some quirks. But for $80 (street) IP camera, it worked pretty well. It is missing a few features such as the ability to record a video stream directly from the camera and it has no IR illumination for low-light situations, although it did pretty well without it. I was a bit disappointed that the smartphone apps failed for me. But reading the feedback from other users, it looks like most people don't have a problem with the apps.

I wouldn't use this unit for guarding Ft. Knox, or maybe even the local grocery store. But for casual home monitoring, it will do the job and the price is right.

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