Help me turn an old laptop into a doggy monitor
September 29, 2010 1:18 PM   Subscribe

MacBook at home, VNC from work in order to use the webcam.

I would like to check on my dog during the day while I am at work. Maybe even say stuff to him :)
I have an old MacBook Dual Core with a dead battery. I'd like to leave it on the countertop and VNC into it from time to time to see how the dog is doing via its webcam.
Is it safe,from the standpoint of potential fires, to leave the computer on like this? Ideally it go to sleep and will I be able to wake it up via VNC. I noticed the power adapter gets pretty hot with usage, how can I minimize the potential for a fuse blowup?

What's the best free software to accomplish this with and how do I set it up?( I have used realVNC in the past. should I stick with it?)
posted by spacefire to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My MacBook Core Duo acts as a media server and is on 24/7 for years and my apartment hasn't burned down yet. I've gone into screen sharing (in Snow Leopard, using MobileMe's Back to My Mac) and fired up the camera and checked on my cats.
posted by birdherder at 1:27 PM on September 29, 2010

VNC as a protocol is pretty terrible. It doesn't natiely support encryption and the password past 8 characters is ignored. The password is also sent out via plaintext. I don't think it has any wake-on-lan capabilities either.

Most of that is solved by tunneling it through ssh, but even then I don't think you're going to be viewing a webcam via VNC over the internet.

You really want a solution that streams the webcam. VLC does this naitvely, but its all done via the command line. Tutorial here.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2010

I'd leave the computer on and logged into or Then you can just watch the broadcast on the service's website using actual streaming video protocols, instead of VNC which really, really isn't designed for full-motion video.
posted by mendel at 1:33 PM on September 29, 2010

The other day my girlfriend did this and just set up a tinychat room on the home computer and went to the URL for it from work. Easy and we could both look at it.
posted by ghharr at 1:50 PM on September 29, 2010

I wrote some detailed documentation here on how to more safely configure a VNC server and client, both running on a Mac. All the required software is free.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have a Mac at work, you could just set up iChat at home to auto-accept connections using Chax.

If not, you won't be able to talk to him, but iCamSource will serve up the video with their web-based viewer. The iPhone/iPad client app isn't free, but it's really slick. You can watch multiple cameras over 3G/WiFi, and also get audio when watching one at a time. I've used it as a baby monitor.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 1:55 PM on September 29, 2010

You can setup skype to auto-answer with video for specific accounts, and then your client machine can be windows or mac. It's how I monitor my cat at home.
posted by nomisxid at 3:02 PM on September 29, 2010

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