Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Answer to "I'm new what should I get?"

Wire your cams. You have to run power to them anyway (do not get battery powered ones) so you might as well run cat 6 and power them through that.

Only record to the cloud as a backup. Get a NVR like Blue Iris to record local.

Record 24/7. Recording on motion will get most stuff but usually misses that one thing you REALLY needed to get.

Think about what you want the camera for. 720p is fine if you are mainly looking at stuff up close or letting you know someone it there but if you want to have a pic the police can use you will need something with enough pixels to work with at the max distance you might see them at. This applies to viewing angle as well. The wider the angle the thinner you are spreading those pixels. If you are not rich you will be making compromises. You need to decide what you can live with.

Cams that also record to an internal card is not a bad idea too. Cameras should only talk to the NVR and be blocked from talking to the outside world.

I hace a lot of notes, tips and compare pics of most of the cameras I've tried in my blog Security Cam 101

Automation is VERY subjective. Anything from simple remote control of a bulb to multi room scenes that happen automatically based on conditions. The only real suggestion here is get a hub and look for devices that work with multiple hubs to keep your options open. This blog lists a lot of the stuff I've tried and some of the issues I've dealt with. I also have a matrix of hubs and devices I've tried tracking how well each worked. As a first hub I generally suggest SmartThings or Vera as they are both fairly cheap and simple to set up. When you are ready to go whole hog you can upgrade to Homeseer which costs more and is aimed more at the installer but does almost anything you can think of except talk directly to Zigbee devices.

Gateways / sub hubs like Hue are good too just try and get ones that do not need to link through the cloud.

In a similar vein you can use your automation sensors for an alarm system if you really do not think you need an alarm and just want something simple. But if you think you need an alarm get one that is separate but talks to the hub you decided on above.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Voice data bandwidth, a quick test, could Alexa listen all the time even if they wanted too?

Seeing a lot of posts about Amazon seeking a patent for voice sniffing which seems to imply they either do have the capacity on the device to recognize a whole list of trigger word or they plan on streaming all your voice to the cloud to be processed for key words. For example "Amazon patent reveals 'voice sniffer algorithm' that could analyze conversations". My response was:

These are the same devices that supposedly do not have the ability to let us select our own trigger word but will be listening for variations of I like or hate that? Does not add up. In theory they could stream all your voice to the cloud servers but that quickly starts taking up some serious bandwidth and server resources. 

Plus for all that, all they are going to find is I love my pets and hate slow computers and the cable company. No news there. Given the false triggers both my Alexas and Homes get they would build more of a profile of the characters I watch on TV than me. They would have to sort the whole speaker recog first. Alexa still is having big issues with that. Being able to read your emotional state is simple be comparison and they are still working on that. Then there is the whole I'm commenting on something I'm looking at instead of what Alexa last heard too.
Most likely here they are looking to cash in if someone attempts such a silly thing.

But as part of that I tried to find just how much data a request takes. I could not find an actual spec online so I asked my Echo Show and one of my Google Minis the time. The Mini used 254.5 KB processing the request and 26.7 KB while I was talking to Alexa. Alexa used 213.6 KB processing the request and 0 KB while I was talking to the Mini. By comparison my Roamio TiVo used 12.9 during both exchanges. That was way more than I expected and puts this even more in doubt. It takes roughly a second to say "what time is it" so those are pretty close to the kbps rates the devices sending your requests at. So say 5 of them streaming continuously would swamp the 1 Mbps upload speed of many US ISPs. Granted a lot of ISPs are advertising "up to" 5 Mbps upload now but that is still a lot especially if you are using the ISPs router provided WiFi. Then there is the other end where a server now needs to handle not only usual requests, say a 30 a day. That server has gone from processing and average of 74 bps total (over a day) to 213.6 times the number of devices I have every second of every day. That is 2886 times the amount of data needing processed now.

The other assumption that they are going to move some of the processing local for this, even though they say the devices to not have the horsepower to handle user defined trigger words. This would seem to be squashed as well given the amount of data sent just to process "what time is it".