What's the easiest way to spy on my cats?
December 8, 2014 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Is there a cheaper and easier set-up for spying on my cats than setting up something like Simplicam or Dropcam?

I want to set up a video-monitoring kind of thing to spy on my cats (here are obligatory pictures of the small, medium and large beasts in question). I really like the sound of Dropcam and Simplicam in that they're motion-triggered and easy to access from away. On the other hand, they require paying for an annual cloud storage account. Is there a similar but equally easy home-brew solution? I'd even be willing to sacrifice video footage for maybe just a still shot every 30 seconds while the camera is picking up motion. On the other hand, I'm just not interested in the idea of setting up something super complicated.
posted by infinitywaltz to Technology (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How handy are you? My partner wrote up some code to sense motion and then take still shots, and it is uploaded to dropbox as a video. It just uses a regular web cam. If you're interested I can check with him if the code is stable enough to share. I can't remember what language he used off the top of my head.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:30 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bought a cheapo wifi camera on eBay (something like this) that I can view it on my iPhone, and there is an option in the settings to automatically email me photos when motion is detected (or drop files in an FTP folder).

I'm currently using it as baby monitor, but will probably use it as a security camera eventually.

No subscription required.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:30 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

St. Peepsburg, I am slightly to moderately handy, but as far as implementing code, suffice it to say that I was an English major in college.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:32 AM on December 8, 2014

Do you just want live monitoring or do you need to be able to review footage? If it's the former, then you don't need cloud storage at all, so you can opt-out with Dropcam or just buy a cheap wireless camera like this. I haven't used mine in a while since my cat doesn't need monitoring anymore but as I recall I could look at live footage on my phone or work computer for free, and it was very easy to set up.
posted by acidic at 8:42 AM on December 8, 2014

I want to be able to review footage or photos. I like blue_beetle's idea above for a camera that will just automatically e-mail me pictures when motion is detected.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:49 AM on December 8, 2014

I have a wireless Foscam camera that will do the emailing you pics when motion is detected from its internal software. If you add in ISpy you can set it to record footage to your computer every time motion is detected. Finally, you can also watch the camera live from a free smartphone phone app like Ip Cam Viewer.
posted by merocet at 9:17 AM on December 8, 2014

I recently set up something like this. I bought a Foscam on a black-friday deal for about a hundred bucks, and then just used its built-in motion triggering abilities to record video to a SD card inserted into the slot on the camera. With a 32GB SD card you can hold quite a bit of video.

You can log into the camera's webpage (https://camera.ip.address/) and view both live video from the camera right then, and also the saved video on the SD card.

The only thing this setup doesn't get you is offsite/remote backup of the video, which makes it a bad idea for a security camera, but just fine for a cat-food-dish camera.

There is a bit of router jiggery-pokery that you have to do, if you want to access the camera from outside your house, just as a sidenote. You have to set up a port forward or enable UPnP. Pretty straightforward and there are a lot of explanations online of how to do it, depending on your model of router. I did not do this though, for security reasons, since I do not wholly trust Foscam to develop software that is exposed to the Internet. I'm fine reviewing the video later on.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:39 AM on December 8, 2014

There is a bit of router jiggery-pokery that you have to do, if you want to access the camera from outside your house, just as a sidenote. You have to set up a port forward or enable UPnP.

Is said router jiggery-pokery required if I just want the camera to e-mail me some still pics, or just if I want to watch it live?
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:56 AM on December 8, 2014

I recommend Tincam. It will do all these things and upload via FTP to your own site, or you can send the pictures to a folder of your choice (i.e. dropbox folder? which would then automatically sync or whatever? I do not cloud so am not versed in this). I have done both FTP and having pictures go to a specific folder for another program to do something with, and it is a really nice program. Detects motion, will email pictures, etc.

I used Tincam for this for a long time and really liked it. Eventually something went weird with Tincam and it would not work for whatever reason. Now I use Yawcam to take the pictures and Fling to upload. Fling will scan a folder and anything new gets uploaded once per minute (the scan/upload instantly thing does not work on my machine so I have not tried that - once a minute is enough for my hamster cam anyway).

I have Yawcam send the pictures to Folder A. Then I have Fling scan Folder A at 1 minute intervals and upload via FTP to my web site. This works great for me. Yawcam also does the motion thing.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 10:29 AM on December 8, 2014

Is said router jiggery-pokery required if I just want the camera to e-mail me some still pics, or just if I want to watch it live?

You only have to open a port if you want to view the camera live. You can configure it with an SMTP server and have it email you photos (motion triggered or on a regular schedule) without opening any incoming ports.

That's how I have mine, because I don't like opening incoming ports through my firewall. (Also have mine set up to send video files to an FTP server, but that takes a bit of configuration, mostly related to getting an FTP server working.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:46 AM on December 11, 2014

We decided that we did want the benefits that came with the cloud-based options, after all, so we went with a Simplicam. Thanks for all your help, everyone.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2015

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