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May 12, 2014

Introducing Wambooli PorchCam 2.2

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

Sometime on April 29, 2014, my Wambooli webcam — the PorchCam &mdash died. I should be used to these things.

For years, I ran the Wambooli DriveWay Cam back when I lived in the county. When I moved to the City, I swapped the old DriveWay Cam for the PorchCam, version 1.0. It was an old Intel webcam that eventually died. I tried replacing it with a duplicate I purchased on eBay, but it never worked.

For a while, I used cheap-o Logitech webcams — you know, those things that looked like eyeballs on top a PC monitor? That was PorchCam 1.1.

In the middle of August, 2011, my last cheap-o Logitech webcam bit the dust. So I invested in a higher-quality, pan-tilt camera. You can read about it here. It became Wambooli PorchCam 2.0.

I got tired of PorchCam 2.0’s bad IR cutoff filter, so I purchased a new webcam in August of 2013. You can read about PorchCam 2.1 here.

Lamentably, PorchCam 2.1 didn’t last a year.

I can blame the cold. You see, the device I’m using is an indoor webcam. I put in on my front porch, where the temperature dropped to -3° for a spell this past winter. (That’s -19°C.) The webcam is designed to operate at temperatures above freezing, i.e., inside a house. So I’m pushing the technology a bit by having it operate 24 hours a day outside.

Despite the weather, PorchCam 2.1 worked well. Hundreds of photos were snapped by Wambooli visitors over the past 10 months. I highlight some of the more interesting ones at the end of the year.

Then in late April, the thing died.

It was due for a software update. I’d been putting it off, mostly because I’d have to bring the thing inside to hard-wire it to the network for the update. But the update didn’t work and it didn’t help; the camera was dead.

I had considered buying the outdoor version of the camera, but it’s operating temperature is the same as the indoor camera: Above freezing. So I figured I’d save some bucks and buy another indoor camera and toss it outside into the weather.

Like many new bits of technology, the transition to a new device wasn’t as smooth as I would have desired.

First, the only web browser that could access the device’s web server is Safari on the Mac. I swear: Chrome and IE just didn’t work. That was one hurdle.

Second, the camera’s API (Application Programming Interface) had changed. The code is written by well-meaning, intelligent programmers who truly don’t speak a lick of English but for some reason believe they do. Deciphering the documentation was interesting.

Third, I had to re-code the PorchCam web page to accommodate the new camera’s features. That was fun, and it took the better part of an afternoon. (Don’t tell my publisher.) In fact, it wouldn’t have taken so much time if I’d earlier spotted a teeny typo in the webcam’s URL.

The new image has a widescreen format, which I chose because it sends the data more quickly than the old PorchCam. The first successful image processed by the new PorchCam 2.2 is shown below.

Figure 1. PorchCam 2.2 first successful image text, May 5, 2014, 17:40.

Figure 1. PorchCam 2.2 first successful image text, May 5, 2014, 17:01.

Click here to view the current PorchCam image or mess with the controls.

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