Category Archives: Free Surveillance Applications

I Spy With My Little Eye – But iSpy Open Source Webcam Security Goes One Better

imageI watch you – you watch me. And, we all live together – happily – sort of. We live in a surveillance society, and whether that’s a good thing, or not, is open to much debate. We’ve discussed this issue here a number of times and, the consensus of opinion as expressed by readers is – Thumbs Down! – to surveillance in public spaces.

From a personal perspective, I have to admit to conflicting emotions. As a recipient of a  Neighborhood Watch award (back in the mists of time), I’m a strong supporter of the philosophy that we all share a responsibility to safeguard our personal environment. And, personal Web Cam surveillance, it seems to me, is an acceptable defense against hooligans intent on causing havoc.

I am NOT in favor, however, of broad scale deployment of security cameras by law enforcement based on the theory that doing so reduces crime. Survey after survey concludes that this is an urban myth. Worse yet, voyeuristic surveillance, such as this, is an assault on personal freedom.

But, on to how you can take advantage of a superb free (Open Source) Web Cam surveillance solution that includes a ton of built-in features. iSpy, last updated January 25, 2012, is an open source application which uses your webcam(s) and microphone(s) to detect, and record, motion and sound. And, a lot more besides.

Typical usage – click on graphic to expand.

image

Fast facts:

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web.

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web.

Detect, highlight, track and record movement.

Detect loitering.

Customize movement detection areas on your cameras.

Detect and record sound.

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected.

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity).

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams.

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams.

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support.

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website) and also via mobile devices.

Access and control iSpy remotely.

Password protect iSpy and hide it in the System Tray.

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically.

Time-lapse record from any camera.

Motion track and count moving objects.

Connect multiple instances of iSpy and iSpy server running on different computers to this website and view all aggregated media online.

Create groups, invite friends and share access to your webcams and microphones.

The following review is based on an older version of  iSpy –  January, 2011. The version currently running on my system.

Setting up iSpy while relatively uncomplicated, was not quite as easy as I would have liked. On the other hand, additional features often lead to more complexity.

image

As the following screen captures indicate, you’ll be presented with a smorgasbord of fine tuning choices.

image

image

image

image

Languages: English, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Deutsch, Español, Française, Hrvatski, Italiano, Magyar, Nederlands, Русский, Polski, Português and 中文

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7. Microsoft .Net framework will be installed if required. Windows media player 9 VCM codecs – will be installed if required.

Download at: iSpy Connect

iSpy user guide available here.

I’ve tested this application extensively and overall, I’ve been very pleased with its performance. If you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution, iSpy may be just what you’ve been searching for.

If you don’t need all of the features built into iSpy, (some of the bells and whistles are just that – bells and whistles), I’ve previously reviewed Secure Cam, an open source surveillance application which should meet your basic  surveillance needs.

Rise Cam, an application also covered in that review, is no longer available.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Software

iSpy Open Source Webcam Security, Surveillance, And Monitoring Software

imageIf you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution that includes a ton of built-in features, then iSpy may be just what you’ve been searching for.

iSpy, last updated December 28, 2010, is an open source application which uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement, or sound.

iSpy provides a number of additional benefits over the two more basic free Web Cam surveillance applications described later in this review, including:

Access to captured media over the Web, and to mobile devices – as well as the local network.

iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously, and has full Email and SMS alerting capabilities.

While I found setting up iSpy relatively easy, it was slightly more complex than the two free applications described later. On the other hand, additional features often lead to more complexity.

image

As the following screen captures indicate, you’ll be presented with a smorgasbord of fine tuning choices.

image

image

image

image

As the following screen capture indicates, you can access captures over your local network (local machine), which may be all you need.

image

Alternatively, you have the option of setting up an account, which will allow access to captured content over the Internet.

image

image

Fast facts:

Access and control your cameras and microphones using your mobile device (iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7)

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web

Detect, highlight, track and record movement

Record video and audio on demand (and via the web)

Detect and record sound

FTP frames from your camera to a remote server

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity)

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website and over your local network) and also via mobile devices

Access and control iSpy remotely

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically

Time-lapse record from any camera

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7. Microsoft .Net framework will be installed if required. Windows media player 9 VCM codecs – will be installed if required.

Download at: Download.com

Two additional free Web Cam surveillance solutions, previously reviewed here:

Secure Cam:

Setting up Secure Cam is a breeze since the interface is minimal. Simply launch the application, and from the main menu select your device, select the device format and then initialize the device.

image

You will then need to set the application options – click on the image in the Secure Cam window to bring up the options dialog box. Choose your options and you’re good to go.

SecureCam 5

I’ve tested this application extensively and overall, I’ve been very pleased with its performance.

Fast facts:

Automatically captures images when motion is detected

Adjustable motion detection trigger level

Supports up to 99 cameras

DVR card capable

Multiplexing capable

Capture Images when motion is detected, or continuous

Image sensitivity adjustment

Image Archiving (1,000s of images)

Dynamically expanding and contracting archive

Archive images from minutes, to years

Application viewer for image playback

Image playback at various speeds

Low processor and memory usage

Adjustable Jpeg Quality

Text Overlay

Timestamps

Image Rotating, & Flipping

If you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution, Secure Cam may be just what you have been searching for. In fact, this is the application I settled on.

System requirements: Windows (all), DirectX 9 or greater, 600Mhz Pentium 3 with 128MB Memory, Web Cam or DVR PCI card

Download at: Source Forge

Rise Sun:

Rise Sun is another free web cam surveillance application I looked at that’s perhaps not quite as feature rich as Secure Cam. But, if you don’t need all of these features, (some of the bells and whistles are just that – bells and whistles), this application is a very acceptable alternative that will meet your basic  surveillance needs.

Rise Sun 3

(No, I don’t really have green dots on my face – this is the motion detector in action).

Installation is straightforward and the interface is simple – no esoteric manual to digest here. New users should not encounter any difficulty getting this application to perform as advertised.

Fast facts:

Works on all webcam models available on the market.

Powerful motion detection algorithm that allows flexible adjustments to suit your needs.

Extended Period Algorithm (For Extra Precision)

Automatically take pictures, logs events or display silent warnings when motion is detected.

Silent Alarm, Alarm, Motion Logging System

Extended Threshold, Sensibility and Performance Variables

Automatic Snapshot (JPG Compression to reduce file size.

While I haven’t run this application for very long, it’s a very capable application. It does what it’s designed to do, and turns your webcam into a fully functioning motion detection video surveillance system.

System requirements: Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, and Win 7.

Download at: Download.com

Note: If you’re a Linux user you haven’t been left out in the cold. Checkout – Motion, a software motion detector, here. Since I now run Ubuntu more than half the time, this application is on my testing to-do list.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

7 Comments

Filed under Connected Devices, downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Open Source, Software, Surveilance Tools, Surveillance, Video, Video Apps, Web Cam Applications, Windows Tips and Tools

Use Free Prey To Track Your Lost Or Stolen Laptop Or Cell Phone

imageRecent statistics indicate that more than 10,000 Laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports alone. Broken down, this same set of statistics indicate that a Laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds!

If you are a Laptop owner, you should consider what can you do now, to increase the probability that should your Laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you.

One solution is offered by Prey, an Open Source application, that can enhance recovery chances. Stolen Laptop recovery is always a hit and miss proposition, but without an application such as Prey on board, the chances of recovery, at least statistically, are virtually nil.

image

What is Prey?

Prey is a small applet for your Laptop or Android Cell Phone, which, when activated by a remote signal, either from the Internet, or through an SMS message, will provide you with the device’s location, hardware and network status, and optionally – trigger specific actions on the device.

According to the developer – “Prey helps you track and find your Laptop or Phone if it ever gets out of sight. You can quickly find out what the thief looks like, what he’s doing on your device and actually where he’s hiding by using GPS or WiFi geopositioning. It’s payback time.”

There have been substantial changes and improvements to Prey, since I last reviewed it here on January 28, 2010.

Installation is very simple, as the following screen captures indicate. BTW, Prey can protect your desktop/s, as well.

image

image

image

image

Fast facts:

100% geolocation aware – Prey uses either the device’s GPS or the nearest WiFi hotspots to triangulate and grab a fix on its location. It’s shockingly accurate.

Wifi autoconnect – If enabled, Prey will attempt to hook onto to the nearest open WiFi hotspot when no Internet connection is found.

Light as a feather – Prey has very few dependencies and doesn’t even leave a memory footprint until activated. We care as much as you do.

Know your enemy – Take a picture of the thief with your laptop’s webcam so you know what he looks like and where he’s hiding. Powerful evidence.

Watch their movements – Grab a screenshot of the active session — if you’re lucky you may catch the guy logged into his email or Facebook account!

Keep your data safe – Hide your Outlook or Thunderbird data and optionally remove your stored passwords, so no one will be able to look into your stuff.

No unauthorized access – Fully lock down your PC, making it unusable unless a specific password is entered. The guy won’t be able to do a thing!

Scan your hardware – Get a complete list of your PC’s CPU, motherboard, RAM, and BIOS information. Works great when used with Active Mode.

Prey can check its current version and automagically fetch and update itself, so you don’t need to manually reinstall each time.

You monitor your devices on Prey’s web Control Panel, where you can watch new reports arrive and manage specific settings, such as changing the frequency for reports and actions.

You can add up to three devices for free, and can optionally upgrade to a Pro Account in case you wish to bypass this limit.

Full auto updater.

System requirements: XP, Vista, Win 7, Mac OS, Ubuntu Linux, Linux – all other distributions, (64 bit where appropriate), Android.

There is no guarantee that even with Prey on board that a stolen, or lost device, will be recovered – but, it seems sensible to make every effort to increase that likelihood.

Download at: The Prey Project

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

5 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Android, cell phone, Cloud Computing Applications, Connected Devices, downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, GPS, Interconnectivity, Laptop recovery, Linux, Mac OS X, Open Source, Software, Ubuntu, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Two Free Web Cam Surveillance Solutions – Secure Cam and Rise Sun

image Yesterday’s article on Luxand’s Blink, free facial recognition login software, was a bit of a hit – lots of reads, and lots of application downloads. So, I’ll take that as a sign of overall interest in free web cam applications.

Here are a couple of specialty web cam applications, that will turn your webcam into a security system of a sort.

In the last year I’ve done just that, since, in my neighborhood, the only form of crime where we have seen an appreciable increase is Burglary. From a personal perspective I’m concerned with this increase – electronic equipment seems to be a favorite target during a break and enter.

Being a Techno geek, I suspect I have far more electronic equipment, and toys, than the average person, and this increases my risk of loss. So, I have increased my perimeter security, windows, doors, and so on, very substantially. To supplement this increase in physical security, I have added a number of Web Cams strategically located both inside, and out.

Since I’m conservative in my spending habits (I’m cheap!), I searched for and found, a more than adequate software solution to my next question – how do I drive these cameras?

I took a close look at two of the free Windows software applications available for download, and tested them thoroughly, to ensure that either one would meet my needs. If you’re a Linux user, see the note at the end of this article.

Don’t be spooked by my harsh 6 AM Monday morning mug shots – definitely not my best time of day.  🙂

Secure Cam:

Setting up Secure Cam is a breeze since the interface is minimal. Simply launch the application, and from the main menu select your device, select the device format and then initialize the device.

image

You will then need to set the application options – click on the image in the Secure Cam window to bring up the options dialog box. Choose your options and you’re good to go.

SecureCam 5

I’ve tested this application extensively and overall, I’ve been very pleased with its performance.

Fast facts:

Automatically captures images when motion is detected

Adjustable motion detection trigger level

Supports up to 99 cameras

DVR card capable

Multiplexing capable

Capture Images when motion is detected, or continuous

Image sensitivity adjustment

Image Archiving (1,000s of images)

Dynamically expanding and contracting archive

Archive images from minutes, to years

Application viewer for image playback

Image playback at various speeds

Low processor and memory usage

Adjustable Jpeg Quality

Text Overlay

Timestamps

Image Rotating, & Flipping

If you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution, Secure Cam may be just what you have been searching for. In fact, this is the application I settled on.

System requirements: Windows (all), DirectX 9 or greater, 600Mhz Pentium 3 with 128MB Memory, Web Cam or DVR PCI card

Download at: Source Forge

Rise Sun

Rise Sun is another free web cam surveillance application I looked at that’s perhaps not quite as feature rich as Secure Cam. But, if you don’t need all of these features, (some of the bells and whistles are just that – bells and whistles), this application is a very acceptable alternative that will meet your basic  surveillance needs.

Rise Sun 3

(No, I don’t really have green dots on my face – this is the motion detector in action).

Installation is straightforward and the interface is simple – no esoteric manual to digest here. New users should not encounter any difficulty getting this application to perform as advertised.

Fast facts:

Works on all webcam models available on the market.

Powerful motion detection algorithm that allows flexible adjustments to suit your needs.

Extended Period Algorithm (For Extra Precision)

Automatically take pictures, logs events or display silent warnings when motion is detected.

Silent Alarm, Alarm, Motion Logging System

Extended Threshold, Sensibility and Performance Variables

Automatic Snapshot (JPG Compression to reduce file size.

While I haven’t run this application for very long, other than for testing purposes, it’s a very capable application. It does what it’s designed to do, and turns your webcam into a fully functioning motion detection video surveillance system.

System requirements: Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, and Win 7.

Download at: Download.com

Note: If you’re a Linux user you haven’t been left out in the cold. Checkout – Motion, a software motion detector, here. Since I now run Ubuntu more than half the time, this application is on my testing to-do list.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Linux, Open Source, Software, Surveilance Tools, Surveillance, Web Cam Applications, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

The Internet is NOT Childs Play – Internet Tips for Parents

imageIn the last year,  McAfee Inc., the well known provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, released research which indicated that most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.

So, were these mothers concerns justified?

You bet! While it’s true that the Internet can provide a rich educational and cultural experience for children, and teenagers, it is virtually impossible for them not to be exposed to,  “the underbelly of the internet”.

One of the more harmful urban myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. This “truth” however, should not be taken at face value.

Simply because a teenager is more comfortable with technology than a parent, does not makes a teenager tech savvy. Knowing how to text message, or load a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”. It really is a situation where “they don’t know what they don’t know”, can have serious impact.

I fully understand where this idea of the tech savvy generation comes from – just listen to the mainstream media. The media constantly pontificates on how technically literate today’s young people are. The dichotomy is, these are the same young people whose literacy skills are insufficient to deal with their own education, never mind the complexities the techno world presents.

If you think this is an overstated argument, then consider this: According to a study of more than 19,000 college graduates, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, only 31 percent can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. Without doubt, the world of Internet security is the most complex world I have ever inhabited.

Staying safe in today’s techno centric world demands knowledge, and acquiring that knowledge requires that a major effort be made to obtain it. Lacking in appropriate literacy skills makes the job of accumulating that knowledge a difficult undertaking.

It’s no wonder then, that the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety.

Let me ask you this question – would you drop off your child, or teenager, in a neighborhood where more than half of the buildings were adult stores, and which was potentially full of predators?

In my view, if you allow your child, or younger teenager, to interact with the Internet unsupervised, or without having communicated to your child information concerning potential on-line dangers, this is what you may well be doing.

How much do you know about where your child goes on the Internet?

What social networking sites does your child subscribes to?

Who are their online friends and acquaintances?

What does your child post online and where is it posted?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know.

It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.

Additional study statistics:

Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.

Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.

Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study, reported having done so.

I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.

So what’s a concerned parent to do?

fbi_logo 2

You can bring yourself and your teenager up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.

Then, follow the advice offered by the FBI in the United States, which lists some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your teenagers possible victimization on the Internet.

According to the FBI, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your child’s possible victimization on the Internet.

Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.

Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.

Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.

Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:

Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.

Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.

Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.

Parental Control Bar 2

An important aspect of ensuring that your child is safe while using the Internet, (recommended by child safety experts/organizations), is the installation of parental control software.

Parental controls will provide you with the advantage of being able to:

Block access to materials (text and pictures) identified as inappropriate for kids.

Permit access only to materials specifically approved as safe for kids.

Specify what types of materials are appropriate for your child.

Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet by storing names of sites and/or snapshots of material seen by your child on the computer for you to view later.

Set different restrictions for each family member.

Limit results of an Internet search to content appropriate for kids

Enforce time limits set by parents.

If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.

An additional problematic issues is, the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

23 Comments

Filed under Child Safety Internet, cybercrime, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Children, Internet Safety for Teenagers, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Parenting Help, Sexting, social networking, Windows Tips and Tools

Webcam Motion Detection Software – Two Free Applications

This is the year that you can prove to your children that Santa Clause really does exist!

Using one of the following free software applications, which will turn your webcam into a high-tech surveillance system, good old St. Nick will  be  caught just as he comes down your chimney. Hard to argue with that kind of proof – right?

After Christmas you can then use these applications to monitor your home, your office, or any other location, for that matter.

Secure Cam

image

Setting up Secure Cam is a breeze since the interface is minimal. Simply launch the application, and from the main menu select your device, select the device format and then initialize the device.

You will then need to set the application options – click on the image in the Secure Cam window to bring up the options dialog box. Choose your options and you’re good to go.

SecureCam 5

I’ve tested this application extensively and overall, I’ve been very pleased with its performance.

Fast facts:

Automatically captures images when motion is detected

Adjustable motion detection trigger level

Supports up to 99 cameras

DVR card capable

Multiplexing capable

Capture Images when motion is detected, or continuous

Image sensitivity adjustment

Image Archiving (1,000s of images)

Dynamically expanding and contracting archive

Archive images from minutes, to years

Application viewer for image playback

Image playback at various speeds

Low processor and memory usage

Adjustable Jpeg Quality

Text Overlay

Timestamps

Image Rotating, & Flipping

If you’re looking for a free (Open Source), Web Cam surveillance solution, Secure Cam may be just what you have been searching for.

System requirements: Windows (all), DirectX 9 or greater, 600Mhz Pentium 3 with 128MB Memory, Web Cam or DVR PCI card

Download at: Source Forge

Rise Sun

Rise Sun (where do they come up with these names?), is another free web cam surveillance application that’s perhaps not quite as feature rich as Secure Cam. But, if you don’t need all of these features, (some of the bells and whistles are just that – bells and whistles), this application is a very acceptable alternative that will meet your basic  surveillance needs.

Rise Sun 3

(No, I don’t really have green dots on my face – this is the motion detector in action).

Installation is straightforward and the interface is simple – no esoteric manual to digest here. New users should not encounter any difficulty getting this application to perform as advertised.

Fast facts:

Works on all webcam models available on the market.

Powerful motion detection algorithm that allows flexible adjustments to suit your needs.

Extended Period Algorithm (For Extra Precision)

Automatically take pictures, logs events or display silent warnings when motion is detected.

Silent Alarm, Alarm, Motion Logging System

Extended Threshold, Sensibility and Performance Variables

Automatic Snapshot (JPG Compression to reduce file size.

While I haven’t run this application for very long, other than for testing purposes, it’s a very capable application. It does what it’s designed to do, and turns your webcam into a fully functioning motion detection video surveillance system.

System requirements: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP/Vista/NT, Win 7

Download at: Download.com

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

4 Comments

Filed under downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, Living Life, Open Source, Software, Surveillance, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP