Tag Archives: video

Adding a Storage Drive to Gigastrand NVR

Using a secondary storage drive was not originally in the design for the Gigastrand NVR software however, it is a critical feature for many users to be able to separate out the video storage from their main system drive. It also solves a host of other issues with storage and even allows for an external device or a RAID to be used for storage.

At some point we will release a script file to do this automatically. For now, this is how you can do it manually. NOTE: This could result in data loss if not done properly. If you are not comfortable doing this on your own, Gigastrand can help you remotely.

  1. Format and setup the drive (using Parted or Gparted)
    1. NOTE: If you format the drive EXT3, the rest of the instructions will work fine. Otherwise, in step 4, change ext3 to the file system that you set the drive up with.
  2. Mount secondary drive (ex. sdb1, sda2) in /etc/kmotion/images_dbase
    sudo mount sdb1 /etc/kmotion/images_dbase

    1. NOTE: Rename the folder (ex. images_dbase2) before mounting if you want to copy information over later.
  3. edit fstab (/etc/fstab) as root (right-click on the file>Root Actions>Open As Text)
  4. Add the line:

    /dev/sdb1 /etc/kmotion/images_dbase ext3 relatime,errors=remount-ro 0 2

  5. Save the file
  6. Open the drive
  7. Change ownership to active user (right-click>Root Actions>Ownership to Active User)
  8. Edit /etc/apache2/envvars as root
  9. add the following 2 lines
    export APACHE_RUN_USER=user
    export APACHE_RUN_GROUP=user
  10. restart Apache

    sudo service apache2 restart

It wouldn’t hurt to restart the computer to make sure all the settings took hold but that is optional. Be sure to stop the NVR before you start and start the NVR (icons on the desktop) once complete.

 

Foscam setup in Gigastrand OS

Foscam cameras come in a wide variety for sizes and styles and have a number of features, however, they are not very Linux friendly. Just to access the back end to change camera settings, a Windows executable is required. This is the case on some other cameras as well.

The good news is that the Foscam cameras can be configured to stream video to the Gigastrand NVR without having to access the back-end. Using the default username and password, you can reserve the IP address it pulls down in the router. Then, follow the instructions below. Source: http://foscam.us/forum/how-to-fetch-snapshots-and-mjpeg-stream-on-hd-cameras-t4328.html

Fetching JPG snapshots by URL (HD Video)

http://ip address:port/cgi-bin/CGIProxy.fcgi?cmd=snapPicture2&usr=admin&pwd=

Fetching MJPEG stream by URL (SD Video)

There are two steps needed to fetch the MJPEG stream.

Step 1: Set the stream to MJPEG.

http://ip address:port/cgi-bin/CGIProxy.fcgi?cmd=setSubStreamFormat&format=1&usr=admin&pwd=

Here “1” sets an MJPEG stream, if we don’t want to set the MJPEG stream, we would set the number to “0” which sets an H.264 stream.

When inputting this URL and pushing “Enter” in your browser, it will return the following result:

<CGI_Result>
<result>0</result>
</CGI_Result>

Step 2: After setting the MJPEG stream, it can be fetched using an HTTP URL.

http://ip address:port/cgi-bin/CGIStream.cgi?cmd=GetMJStream&usr=admin&pwd=

Simply replace the IP address, port, username, and password into the above URL to access your camera’s MJPEG stream.

Accessing Foscam Back-end Natively in Gigastrand OS 

If you absolutely have to access the camera back-end, it can be done with a Virtual box running Windows, however, there is a less complicated way to do this.

Using Crossover, install Firefox 20. Gigastrand OS comes with a 14 day trial of Crossover. You can use this Windows version of Firefox to download and install the web components executable. This has been tested to work, though you will not be able to view video directly from the camera. You can get around this by using the MJPEG video URL in a native browser.

Gigastrand NVR: Refresh Repositories Before Install

If you attempt to install Gigastrand NVR immediately after a fresh install of Gigastrand OS, you will want to refresh the package list before you do. If you don’t, the NVR software will look like it installs, but will miss several critical steps resulting in failure.

You can refresh the package list in 2 ways.

1. Open a terminal and type

sudo apt-get update

2. Open Apper; click on Updates; click Check for New Updates.

This will refresh the packages so you can install the NVR software fully. The operating system will refresh the packages automatically – eventually. This is a bit faster.

Anatomy of an unsuccessful NVR attack

One of our NVRs was attacked recently using a known attack that would have compromised or destroyed an off the shelf DVR. The operating system was corrupted by the attack, but it effectively stopped the attack in its tracks. The damage was repaired in less than 45 minutes and only the software was affected.

We have learned quite a bit from the analysis of this NVR system. The attack was designed for Busybox – a version of Linux that runs many different types of embedded devices including security cameras and cheap DVR systems. The point was apparently to gain access to the system in order to use it in a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS).

We have been implementing new security rules on our NVR systems – with this system next on the list. We developed new security procedures after we posted this story from Ars Technica on our Gigastrand Facebook page. Changing default passwords is an easy and effective way to protect your system.

Many cameras also come with a proxy or Dynamic DNS service that allows easy access directly to the camera through a firewall. Gigastrand has been disabling these services on the cameras it sells. We recommend this for everyone using similar equipment.

We will soon be implementing changes that will make it easier for the end users to change default passwords on both the OS and NVR.

Gigastrand NVR Can Record Your Phone Camera

Gigastrand NVR can record IP and web cameras at megapixel resolutions. With the help of an app, you can now record your phone camera using the Gigastrand NVR.

How did we do it?

First, you have to install a program called IP Webcam from Google Play. There is a pro version that removes ads, etc. but, for testing, we went with the free version.

After that, we configured a few things, played with some settings, but we essentially just pressed start. The video url was http://IP.ADD.RE.SS:8080/video.

We will post this information on our NVR IP Camera Compatibility page.

Neat, huh? Why would anyone do that?

For several reasons.

1. Automatic pictures. Let’s say you want pictures of a particular landmark. You can set the NVR on snapshot mode and take 1 picture every second from your phone and send it to your desktop.

2. Personal security. With the help of a proxy like the DynDNS client, you can walk around and capture video of a place you are visiting. If you are the victim of a crime, your phone can be a silent witness.

3. Phone security. If your phone gets stolen, you will have video of who stole it.

4. Dashcam anyone? No need to buy a separate device. Capture your road trip or commute. If your phone is lost or damaged in an accident, you will still have documentation of the crash.

5. No more missing out. No more “Man! I wish I had my camera!” moments.

6. Baby monitor or home security. No need to buy a camera. Just use an old android device.

I am sure someone can think of a few more uses, but that should about do it.

Gigastrand successfully tests first High Definition IP camera with NVR

It is a fairly inexpensive high definition camera that initially seemed incompatible. It is a Dlink DCS-935L that can push HD video at 1280×720. On paper the camera looked compatible but the RTSP video streams could not be read by the software.

dcs-935l-front-sitecore

Today, Gigastrand re-tested the camera using the still frame URL of the camera. Not only was it viewable in live view, it also displayed and recorded high definition video.

This is a major breakthrough for the Gigastrand NVR. The method can be applied to other cameras thus opening up additional compatibility with HD cameras and resolutions. While this method works in the main NVR software, the Advanced Live View NVR (ALVN) is another matter.

This method is not compatible with ALVN. When the still frame URL is entered into ALVN, a single frame is rendered and doesn’t change until the page is reloaded. This will be resolved in a later version.

ALVN can display some video streams that the main software cannot handle. You can set up ALVN to use a streaming URL instead of the still image URL. Keep in mind that the still image URL might look different from the streaming URL.

Gigastrand will continue to test additional cameras and re-test cameras for enhanced capabilities.

Video Security: 4 things to avoid and what to look for

In 2001, I got my first real-world experience with installing security equipment. It was an all-in-one gizmo that was supposed to provide some kind of alarm and video from a couple of cameras. The customer bought it off the shelf from a wholesaler. It was such a giant piece of junk that pieces started to fail as we installed them. That experience led us to avoid security for nearly 10 years.

Video security has not always been a major part of Gigastrand but we have seen how small companies and box stores are able to sell cheap, prepackaged CCTV systems at ridiculous markups. For us, that has never sat well.

Folks aren’t video security experts, however, and are not likely to become so just to purchase a system.

So, what do you look for and what do you avoid? We have compiled a list of some of the pitfalls customers have faced with other systems.

Look out for narrow lenses
This piece of advice only applies to the actual “eye” of the system: the camera. Regardless of the type of video system you are trying to install, as any photographer will tell you, the lenses are the most important part of any camera.

Most camera lenses are measured by focal length in millimeters (mm). The higher the number, the more “zoom” the lens has. This might sound good, but on a video security system you want as wide of a shot as you can get to get the most out of each camera.

Cameras with varifocal lenses (lenses that can zoom in and out) from 2.8 – 12mm are the best, but most low cost cameras come with a fixed focus lens. These are also less expensive – which is ok if you know what to look for.

For nearly all applications, you want a focal length of 3.6 or below. This will give you 80 – 90 degrees of view. Avoid lenses that have a fixed focus of 4mm or more, unless you want to shoot down a long hallway or over a field as they excel at a distant, level view.

Why is this so important? A 2.8mm lens can cover 2x the area of a 6mm lens in the types of shots customers want to see. This means a 2.8mm camera will be more valuable in an install and you could potentially use fewer cameras.

Can’t find the focal length? Avoid the camera and any system it comes with.

Thin wires
This applies mainly to analog CCTV systems. Off-the-shelf systems will very often come with a very thin coaxial (coax) and power wire in one. This wire is complete garbage. It breaks easily and when it does break, it can’t be repaired. Customers have often thrown away cameras because they think it is the problem. Professional installers use a thick version of this wire that doesn’t lend itself to breakage and can be repaired easily.

One way to tell what kind of wire is packaged with the system is the size and weight of the box. If the box is fairly small and light (or even the same general size and weight as all the rest of the systems on the shelf) it probably has this thin wire.

Avoid appliances
So, pretty much just leave the box store stuff alone and avoid installers trying to sell you stuff that kind of looks like it. On average, things start to fail on those small boxes after only a year. You might be lucky to get 3 years of use on an appliance type system.

Appliance (often called embedded or standalone) systems can’t be upgraded, and the software to view them is usually of poor quality or won’t keep up with your technology. In some cases, you never even know they have failed until it is too late. They continue to run despite a failed hard drive.

Specialty Analog
This tale starts with a story. A few years back traditional analog solutions started to be left behind in favor of IP/network systems. Companies who were used to selling and installing analog systems struggled with the network technology required to run the new, megapixel cameras.

So, the industry responded with something called High Definition Composite Video Interface (HDCVI). High resolution cameras that work over that work over existing analog lines.

Up until this point, this has been a critique of the technology itself. HDCVI is a fine technology that delivers what is says it does. However, it is a stop-gap technology and not an industry standard like analog or network based systems. If you need the resolution, go with a network video security solution like the Gigastrand NVR. If not, stick with standard analog and upgrade the DVR. It will often be less expensive and the right DVR will improve the look of your cameras.

Recommendations for HDCVI
While we do not strongly recommend it, if you do decide to go with this type of system, make sure that it is backwards-compatible with existing analog technology so you don’t spend a ton on replacing perfectly working equipment. This is often referred to as bi-mode or tri-mode. If you can, get a system that will also do a couple of IP cameras as well (tri-mode systems will often have this capability).

 

Gigastrand NVR software installation

Note: The Gigastrand NVR software works without the need for special instruction in Gigastrand OS 3.0. Earlier versions of Gigastrand OS can run the software, but it will require special instruction. As a rule, however, it is not out of the box compatible with earlier versions of Gigastrand OS.

You can also follow this video we made on how to install the Gigastrand NVR.

If you download the Gigastrand NVR software, it will need to be installed. The install.sh script will automate most of the tasks for you, however, there are a few steps to get to that point. Chrome and Firefox will download the GsNVR.tar.gz file to Computer>Downloads (/home/user/Downloads).

Gigastrand NVR Install Prep
Gigastrand NVR Install Prep
  1. Extract the downloaded file to your home folder (/home/user) also called Computer
  2. Go into the GsNVR folder, right-click on the install.sh file and select Properties
  3. Click on the Permissions tab and select Is Executable
  4. Click Ok

Now we are ready to install.

  1. Right click in a blank area and go to Actions>Open Terminal Here
  2. type ./install.sh
Gigastrand NVR Software Install
Gigastrand NVR Software Install

The process is automated but will prompt you for input in a couple of places. Use the default prompt in all cases.

Restart your computer once complete.

Gigastrand Celebrates 10 years of Linux Advocacy

February 1st 2006, Gigastrand International* was founded. At the time, Linspire was the flagship operating system product, and Gigastrand’s mission was simply Linux advocacy through sales and support. That same month, Gigastrand attended the very last Desktop Linux Summit in San Diego.

Linspire logo
Linspire logo

Linspire folded in 2007. After looking at creating a Gigastrand distribution and evaluating several existing distributions (including a short-lived distro called Klikit) Linux Mint KDE became the new flagship OS.

From 2008 – 2011, Gigastrand simply existed while it tried and failed at several grand ideas. Some stuck, some didn’t. For those years Gigastrand survived off of the remnant sales of freespire and Linux Mint discs it sold online. Some Ebay and Zazzle sales helped pay for the website.

Then, in 2012, Gigastrand caught several breaks. Ventures into a short-lived wholesaling gig and PC servicing helped generate more revenue than in previous years. 

In September of 2012, founder Josh Tordsen rebooted Gigastrand and added services from his previous venture, Gigabytes Computer Store, which he had closed in May 2006. With a small $3000 initial investment, Gigastrand broke sales records year after year. Recently, December 2015, January 2016, and projected sales for February 2016 shatter all previous sales records for those months in the company’s history. 

 

GsOSDesktop1
Gigastrand OS Alpha .04

As a part of the reboot, Gigastrand reinvented its Linux advocacy plan by revisiting the idea of Gigastrand OS. It developed the Gigastrand OS into 1.0 and released it January 4th 2014. Six months later, July 14th, 2014, saw the release of Gigastrand OS 2.0 and September 1, 2015 Gigastrand released v3.0 – the first 64 bit version of the operating system.

The effort in developing the OS has been enormous but the results have been encouraging. Gigastrand OS set out to make Linux as easy as possible for everyone. The developers have taken over a decade of trying to convert people to Linux using various distros and incorporated what people want.

Gigastrand's Best selling PC
Gigastrand’s Best selling PC

The numbers are impressive as well. In the last half of 2015, 100% of new and used computers had Gigastrand OS on them. Since Gigastrand OS 1.0 was released, over 10,000 people have downloaded the operating system. In 2 years of new and used PC sales with Gigastrand OS we have seen a 98% adoption rate and a 0% attrition rate on new computers.

Gigastrand’s bread and butter continues to be technology management and security. It allows the company to focus on development of new solutions like the Gigastrand OS.

GigastrandNVR1
Gigastrand Network Video Recorder Software

What does the future hold for Gigastrand? According to founder Josh Tordsen, a lot.

“Our focus in 2016 will be software. A new version of the Gigastrand OS with more features is not out of the question before the end of 2016. More immediately, we are on schedule to release the Gigastrand NVR software for recording security cameras by the end of February then, in March, we will start porting some Windows software we own to Gigastrand OS.”

In short, Gigastrand continues its original mission of Linux advocacy while adding products and services to an ever-expanding technical portfolio. Gigastrand has had many ups and downs but it continues to move forward.

 

 

 

 

*In 2015 Gigastrand has dropped the “International” part of its name though some remnants of the old name can still be found.