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Here is a challenge !

shermans
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Registered: 07-09-2007

Here is a challenge !

Here is an opportunity for some lateral thinking !  Do any of you boffins have some simple, bright ideas ?
Problem
I have a small place abroad and in winter I am always frightened about freezing weather conditions.  I already have a simple DTMF controller which enables me to switch the central heating on from home by telephone.  But of course, I have no way of knowing if there is ever a fault with the electrics or the boiler for instance.  All I can do is to switch it on and off remotely.
In an ideal world, it would be good to be able to get a temperature reading remotely. Roll eyes
There are a couple of possibilities that spring to mind.  The first would be to have a thermometer which interfaces with the broadband wifi in the house and which I could then access over the internet.  I have found such a device which only costs about £60.  The second, simpler idea is to place the old laptop I have near to the boiler and use the pc's webcam to view a standard thermometer on the wall - actually, that way I could even actually hear the boiler firing up !
There is a draw-back, however.  I do not want to have to leave a pc operating 24 x 7 unattended.  There is a second, unused  DTMF relay on the telephone controller which I could use to supply power to the laptop, but how would I get it to turn itself on ?  The switch on the laptop is of course a push button.  If it had been a desktop pc, I could probably have by-passed the switch, but I doubt that is a practical solution with an old W98 laptop.  That is the biggest problem.
Secondly, how would I communicate with the remote laptop from the UK ?  I used to communicate with a remote pc in the old W98 days just using the standard W98 system, but I have completely forgotten how I did it - was it called something like "Remote desktop " ?  I seem to remember that the remote machine had to be set to auto-answer an ordinary dial-up call.  I used to trouble-shoot my eighty five year-old father's computer from a hundred miles away whenever he managed to get into trouble (which was often).  But there does not appear to be a similar facility in Windows XP.
Perhaps the simplest solution would be to use the video facility Skype for this.
I am on a tight budget and don't want to spend large sums of money  - it would be cheaper to telephone a neighbour to go and check !  But if anyone has any ideas I would appreciate it.  Turning the laptop on is however beyond me.  There must be several ways of skinning this particular cat, and it would be fun to be able to do it. Crazy
TVM
30 REPLIES
Superuser
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Do you have broadband or just dial-up at the property?
You could look at using "Wake on LAN" if you are prepared to leave the PC on standby.
See http://www.depicus.com/wake-on-lan/
Maurice
shermans
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Hi
Thanks for that; it look promising.
Yes, I do have broadband.  But the interface between laptop and the router is wi-fi, although there is no reason why I should not use a cable connection.  Would this Wake-up on Lan work with Wi-fi ?
Reading the Depicus web-site, it talks about Wake-up on Wan but I am not sure whether this is the same product as Wake-on-Lan.
(Under "WOL over the internet, it says "Wake on Lan Magic Packets can be sent over the Internet - why not try waking up one of your machines with our free Wake On Wan Service.")
It looks at first sight to be a litle complciated, but maybe it is easier than I think.

Superuser
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Quote from: shermans
Would this Wake-up on Lan work with Wi-fi ?

Not tried it - but I wouldn't think so?
Quote
It looks at first sight to be a little complicated, but maybe it is easier than I think.

It is!  Try using the Windows GUI interface tool downloadable (free) from the site.
You will need to get the MAC address of the Ethernet card:  do an ipconfig /all at a command prompt.
You could also Google 'Home Automation'  lots of cool stuff available, but most of it needs some integration  effort.  You will need tp pat attention to the electrical legislation wherever your second home is though.
It should be doable, so best of luck in trying to get it to do what you need.  Perhaps a follow up when you've got it working?
Maurice

shermans
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Thanks.  I will do just that.  But I will not be going for a few weeks and will give some feedback then !
David_W
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Re: Here is a challenge !

If WOL isn't an option, does your laptop bios allow wake on timer?  You could set the laptop to turn on every day at say, 4pm, it'll boot up, connect to the internet and what not and run start up programmes which could include the application for you to log on remotely to the laptop and look at the webcam, you could then shut the laptop down remotely, the next day it'll turn itself back on via the wake on timer setting.
Another option using wake on timer, the laptop turns itself on and via start up programmes fires up an application that captures a picture from your web cam and then sends that picture via email to you and then shuts itself down again.  It would probably be possible to make a script that does that.  Of course, all this hinges on if your laptop supports "Wake on" functions.
Community Veteran
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Re: Here is a challenge !

How about a cheap IP camera http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B001U02HCI/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=471057153&pf_rd_s=lpo-to...
Just plug it into your Broadband router and then you can access it whenever you like from a web browser. That one doesnt have pan and zoom facilities but if all you want is to look at a thermometer then it would probably do the job.
shermans
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Re: Here is a challenge !

An IP webcam sounds just the ticket - I did not know they existed.
I have now seen wifi versions on Ebay also.  Presumably, if they say they have a microphone, then they must also send sound via ip - that way I can hear the boiler working also !  Am I right ?
Before I rush out and buy one, are they really as easy to use as they imply ?  Do they really not need a remote computer to relay the signals ?  Just plug in, connect to the broadband router by wifi and then use a web browser from anywhere to see and hear what's going on ?  Sounds too good to be true.
I already connect an Internet radio to the wifi to get the BBC and UK radio stations, so I suppose that is how the IP camera interfaces also in pronciple.
Thanks so much.
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Quote
Presumably, if they say they have a microphone, then they must also send sound via ip - that way I can hear the boiler working also !  Am I right ?

I would presume so but I haven't any experience of one with sound.
Quote
are they really as easy to use as they imply ?  Do they really not need a remote computer to relay the signals ?

Yes most of them are pretty easy to use. They do not require a computer, they use either a wired or wireless network connection to the router ( although double check cos I've seen some advertised with USB connections which must need a computer!! ) and implement a simple web server which allows you to access them from a browser. The hardest thing you may have to do is a bit of port forwarding on the router to route incoming connections to the camera although some provide Dynamic DNS facilities which eliminates the need to port forward. One of my colleagues has one at his house and he often connects to it from the office to check what's happening at home. As I said in my earlier post some of the more sophisicated ones provide pan & zoom facilities and a lot of them can be setup to respond to movement and record video, thus providing a simple security system.
I'll find out what make/model my colleague has when I get into the office tomorrow.
shermans
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Cheesy  Thanks again.  There are lots advertised on ebay, and I think I am going to go for this one :
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320472906395
It costs £49 including postage.  I have bought things from Hong Kong before on ebay, and delivery has always been reliable enough, if a little slow.  This one seems to have everything : remote controlled tilt and pan, wifi, in-built microphone and loud-speaker, night vision, software, alarms.  640 x 480 pixels is all I have on my existing webcam, so it should be sufficient.  Sounds too good to be true !
The only thing which I do not understand is "Visit IP camera through domain name, no need to IP address".  I make allowances for the Chinese translation.  That implies that it does not need an IP address which puzzles me.
I had assumed that I would need to have a static IP address for the wifi modem / router.  I do not want to leave the router and camera turned on all the time - as I explained previously, I have a spare DTMF telephone switch which would enable me to supply power to the wifi router / modem and to the webcam as and when I need it - and with Plusnet's Home Phone service, calls to France are free.  But I fear that every time I remove power from the wifi modem / router, my ISP in France will give me a new dynamic IP address.  The answer of course would therefore be to have a static IP address but ....... we are dealing here with a State owned monopoly, France Telecom, aka Orange !  And there is no technical support, no help desk and absolutely no service whatsoever.  If you go into their shops, all you get is the famous Gallic shrug.  There is a telephone call centre, staffed by uninterested morons who have no technical knowledge, and if they don't understand, they just cut you off.  The very thought of trying to ask for a static IP address fills me with absolute horror and despair !!  It would be easier to get a discount from our Inland Revenue than that !!  So I am very interested in "Visit IP camera through domain name, no need to IP address" if that means that I do not have to try to request a static IP address.
The reason I do not want to leave the wifi router / modem turned on is anther State owned French monopoly - EDF !  The electricity supply is unreliable, and spikes are a frequent occurrence, especially during thunder storms.  If you complain, again all you get is the Gallic shrug.  I suppose the answer would be to fit some sort of anti-surge device, but then I am told that they offer very limited protection.  I have been advised therefore to turn the router off when not there.  But I do sometimes wonder if that is really necessary, as the RCDs which already protect the various circuits in the house should in theory protect the router.
We actually do not appreciate just how good things are here in the UK !
Any further advice on the the above would again be most appreciated.
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Quote
This one seems to have everything : remote controlled tilt and pan, wifi, in-built microphone and loud-speaker, night vision, software, alarms.  640 x 480 pixels is all I have on my existing webcam, so it should be sufficient.  Sounds too good to be true !

That does sound VERY cheap... might be worth trying to find out a bit more about it, like who manufactures it etc
Quote
The only thing which I do not understand is "Visit IP camera through domain name, no need to IP address".  I make allowances for the Chinese translation.  That implies that it does not need an IP address which puzzles me.

Normally to make a connection to your router from the internet, you are right, you would need a static ip, what the camera does is to support Dynamic DNS. You are allocated a domain name and when it starts up, the camera connects to the DDNS server and sends an update. This will contain your current public ip ( whether static or dynamic it doesnt matter ) and the server updates the DNS info for your domain with the new IP. You can then connect to your router, and thus the camera using the domain name. http://www.dyndns.com/ provide a general purpose ( free ) facility but some of the camera suppliers also provide it using their own servers. If the camera supports the general purpose DDNS and not a manufacturer specific one then you might be better off with a free dyndns domain, but you need to use it every 30 days I think to keep the domain.
Moderator
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Re: Here is a challenge !

I seem to recall a discussion a while back about accessing your router by typing in the address username.plus.net without the www....works for me.
If I type in www.username.plus.net I get my webspace. If I leave off the www I get my IP webcam.

Customer and Forum Moderator.

shermans
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Many thanks again for that info, MisterW.  It saves my bacon ........ Roll eyes
Since writing this, I have just Googled in France for a static IP address with Orange, and found a recent posting from someone with the same problem using a surveillance camera.  It took him 10 calls to the call centre, and then was advised that a static IP would cost him £13.50 per month on top of  his broadband subscription of £38 !  Ouch !  See what I mean ?
However, your answer is a great relief  ! Smiley
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Re: Here is a challenge !

Quote
I seem to recall a discussion a while back about accessing your router by typing in the address username.plus.net without the www....works for me.

@strat,I know that works if you have a static IP, does it also work with a dynamic one?. As an aside it doesnt quite seem to work with a domain hosted with plusnet. I have a free one ( after the email spam fiasco a while ago ) and both www.domainname... and domainname... both resolve to my PlusNet webspace.
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Re: Here is a challenge !

No it doesn't work with hosted domains. I have a static IP so can't check it on a dynamic IP account.
Maybe someone with a dynamic IP could check.
Pinging the two URLs should show different IP addresses.

Customer and Forum Moderator.