On the Topic of Technology… 4

7 05 2012

May 7, 2012

(Back to the Previous Post in the Series) (Forward to the Next Post in the Series)

Today’s blog article has an unusual tie in with Oracle.

The last couple of weeks I have been experimenting with video technology.  Computer related video capabilities have certainly changed over the years.  In 1996 I purchased a Sony Handicam and a Video Snappy.  The Sony video camera was capable of recording video with about 480 lines of resolution (NTSC standard) with a 10x optical zoom and recording capability in just 0.6 LUX of lighting.  The Video Snappy plugs into a computer’s parallel (old style printer) port, connects to the Sony video camera by an RCA style video cable, and converts the live video feed from the video camera to still photos.  Combined with a 120MHz Pentium processor, it seemed to be a state-of-the-art setup at the time (of course ignoring the capabilities of the Commodore Amiga/Newtek Video Toaster).  A picture of the Sony/Snappy configuration is shown below.

Of course the video capabilies of current tablets, cell phones, and digital cameras far exceed what was available in the 1990s – video recording with those devices was described in the previous blog article in this series (see the link at the top of this article).

A product that I recently found is the Synology DiskStation DS212+, which has some remarkable features considering that its primary objective is to provide an external hard drive array with RAID 1.  This particular unit ships without hard drives, so I purchased two Western Digital 2TB Green hard drives.  The external hard drive enclosure includes an SD media card reader, a single USB 2 port, two USB 3 ports, and an ESATA port to allow connecting additional external hard drives, printers, and wireless cards.  While not much larger than the hard drives installed in the unit, it certainly offers much more than access to those drives.  The DS212+ offers FTP services (including secure FTP), an iSCSI interface, DHCP services, media sharing services, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, a remarkable operating system that fully renders console screens in a web browser without the use of Adobe Flash (uses HTML 5 and CSS 3), and more.

The Synology DiskStation DS212 line’s disk throughput is limited by a combination of CPU performance and gigabit network maximum transfer speed, with the DS212+ offering the fastest rated transfer speed of roughly 108 MB/s read (very close to the maximum speed of gigabit Ethernet) and 66 MB/s write.  The Synology DS212+ is pictured below, measuring roughly the same height as five books on the topic of Oracle Database.

So, what does the first picture have in common with the second?  More about that commonality later.

Below is a screen capture of the Synology DS212+ operating system GUI (graphical user interface) rendered in Internet Explorer 9, roughly 21 minutes after powering on the unit for the first time and installing the latest version of the operating system.  As seen below, the 2TB drives were 84% formatted roughly six and a half minutes after I connected for the first time (a verify process lasting several hours started immediately after the format, but the hard drives were accessible during this verify process).

The operating system renders resizable, movable, drag and drop capable, right-clickable windows within the web page.  Several of the free optional packages for the DS212+; a resource meter showing CPU, memory, and network utilization; current network connections; and recent log entries are shown in the picture below.

So, what function does the DS212+ serve other than consuming electricity?  That is still a question that I am trying to answer, but I have only had access to the system for a couple of days.  I installed several of the free optional packages (after downloading the latest version from the company’s website), and experimented a bit.  The screen capture below shows the DS212+ playing an Internet radio stream (the channel was essentially selected at random), while simultaneously playing back a 640 pixel by 480 pixel video.

Incidentally, the above video was captured in a completely dark room using infrared lights that are built into the video camera.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, over the last couple of weeks I have spent a bit of time working with video technology.  Pictured below are two TriVision NC-107WF video cameras and a SanDisk 32GB micro SD memory card that works with the cameras.  I have also worked with a couple of TriVision NC-107W video cameras, which lack an infrared cut filter, resulting in poor color rendering.

So, what has 16 years of technology progress provided, comparing to the Sony Handycam shown at the start of this article?  The camera shown below records video at 640 pixels by 480 pixels, much like the Sony Handycam, so that feature has not improved much.  The TriVision camera digitally records nearly a month’s worth of video to a memory card that is about the size of a thumbnail, while the Sony Hanycam digitally records between a half hour and two hours of video to a tape that is about the size of an average person’s fist.  The TriVision camera records black and white video in complete darkness due to its built in infrared lights, while the Sony Handycam records excellent completely black videos in the same lighting conditions.

Surprisingly, there are no reviews of the TriVision line of cameras on Amazon.  The cameras appear to be a clone of the (Amazon) highly rated Sharx Security brand of security cameras.  Unlike some of the other security cameras on the market, this camera ships with a well written user manual (with only a small number of typos).  Offering motion detection, support of up to 32 GB of storage, automatic upload of video and still photos to an FTP server, live streaming through desktop web browsers and mobile devices, and a handful of other capabilities, it is hard to believe just how much technology is stuffed into such a small package.  The wireless range when paired with a Cisco 1250 series access point is impressive, but not terribly impressive when paired with a consumer grade Linksys/Cisco wireless router with integrated antennas.  Poor wireless performance is not necessarily a problem, since the camera stores recorded video to the memory card until the specified FTP server is accessible.  The cameras ship with Multi-live software that permits simultaneous viewing and recording of up to 36 cameras directly from the video streams, which is helpful if an FTP server is not configured.

Reliability of the TriVision NC-107WF/NC-107W cameras is still an unknown.  I have experienced occasional glitches accessing the built-in web server, making it impossible to adjust the camera settings (power cycling the camera seems to correct this issue), however those glitches apparently do not affect video recording or uploading of the captured video to FTP servers.

I have also spent a bit of time working with TriVision’s NC-306W outdoor wireless video cameras, which are shown in the picture below.  The NC-306W camera appears to be a clone of the (Amazon) highly rated Sharx video camera.  The web-based configuration of the NC-306W is nearly identical to that of the NC-107WF.  A 32GB memory card with automatic FTP uploading is supported, as is two-way audio (the NC-107WF supports one-way audio).

Since there are no reviews of the Trivision NC-306W, it is difficult to determine the long-term reliability of this camera.  During installation, one of the mounting nuts snapped due to over-torquing, but that nut is only needed for overhead mounting as seen in the picture below (the mounting nut is attached directly between the sun shield at the top of the camera and the white colored dial at the end of the mounting rod).  As with the TriVision NC-107WF/NC-107W cameras, the built-in web server has occasionally stopped responding, but that problem has not affected video capture or FTP upload.

Below is a screen capture of a video stream from a TriVision NC-107WF camera.  The original video quality was slightly better than pictured below (conversion of the screen capture to JPG format caused some detail loss).  The same scene captured by a TriVision NC-107W camera would have a pink, purple, or red cast due to the presence of infrared light (the NC-107WF and NC-306W are able to selectively filter out the infrared light).

I had hoped to upload a couple of videos captured by the cameras, however, WordPress apparently does not support directly uploaded video formats.  I plan to update this blog article as I better understand all of the features that the Synology Diskstation DS212+ offers, and to provide reliability updates of the DS212+ and the TriVision cameras.


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3 responses

30 05 2012
Charles Hooper

You can read my reviews of the security cameras here, and also see video clips that I captured with the cameras (the videos were captured at 640×480 resolution, so you might be able to see more detail by maximizing the Amazon video viewer):
NC-306W: http://www.amazon.com/TriVision-NC-306W-Wireless-Waterproof-infrared/dp/B0067XY94C/ref=cm_cr-mr-title
NC-107W: http://www.amazon.com/Original-TriVision-802-11n-Wireless-Network/dp/B006G7V4SI/ref=cm_cr-mr-title
NC-107WF: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006G8NA84/ref=cm_cr_thx_view

29 05 2014
peterpkinsman@gmail.com

I ordered 2 cameras from Trivision but was sent and invoiced for 3 cameras.
I overlooked this and paid for the 3 cameras.
One of the cameras was faulty within the first week of operation. I was asked to return the camera, which I did at my cost.
Since then, over a period of 6 months, I have been promised a replacement camera but it has never been delivered.
I have received muliple emails promising for it to be rectified but it has never happened.
Despite these cameras being very good quality, there is simply no after sales service and they completely disregard your concerns.
Buy your cameras from a local supplier that will provide proper support and after sales support.

29 05 2014
Charles Hooper

Peter,
I am not sure why you posted your complaint here as well as attached to reviews for three different camera models on Amazon – did you buy three different camera models (which model did you buy)? At least one of those cameras were you posted your review is fulfilled by (invoiced and shipped by) Amazon, which suggests that Amazon is at fault for over shipping and over invoicing you for a product. The other cameras that you reviewed on Amazon, if you bought from the TriVision seller, are invoiced using Amazon’s billing system – if you bought two and were invoiced for three, then once again Amazon is at fault, not the TriVision seller/manufacturer. If you bought the cameras from another company (Ebay, Aliexpress, ATC LLC, etc.), then I can understand how you could be over billed for the items. I can also understand that you are upset that the camera sent in for repair was never returned – I would be furious if that happened.

Since you decided to post your complaint on my blog, I will share my experience with TriVision (originally posted somewhere on Amazon):
I have bought over 30 TriVision cameras in the last two years (there were no reviews for the TriVision cameras at the time). The first big order that I placed for the cameras, four NC-107WF and four NC-306W was incorrectly shipped by the selling company, ATC LLC. ATC LLC sent me a somewhat panicked email stating that they had accidentally shipped eight of the NC-306W cameras in addition to the four NC-107WF cameras, asking me to pay a discounted rate for the four over-shipped cameras. In reality, ATC LLC had shipped zero of the NC-306W cameras at that time – the problem was corrected in ATC LLC’s system, and the four missing cameras were shipped by overnight delivery. This problem was not a TriVision problem, but instead a problem with ATC LLC. When ordering the cameras from TriVision through Amazon became a possibility, I started ordering cameras from TriVision rather than ATC LLC. In September of 2013 TriVision was using ATC LLC to facilitate shipment of ordered cameras. I ordered two NC-336PW cameras, and only received one in a box that was just large enough to hold a single camera. I contacted TriVision about the issue, providing a picture of the single camera in the shipping box. TriVision shipped the missing camera, and then made the decision to switch to having Amazon facilitate shipment of most ordered cameras. If Amazon is facilitating the shipment, you will receive the number of cameras ordered – I have had no issues with the orders since then.

I had serious initial problems with the two TriVision NC-316W cameras that I ordered in December 2012. TriVision sent to me four different firmware updates over the course of about a month trying to solve the problems, including one firmware update that was released on Christmas day. The fourth firmware update fixed the issues that I had with the NC-316W cameras – I eventually replaced those cameras with the higher resolution NC-336PW cameras.

I had a problem with the light sensor on a NC-326PW camera, which caused the camera to think that it was daylight when in fact it was late at night, so the camera was blind at night. TriVision sent me a couple of replacement infra-red boards – it took about four weeks to receive the replacement from China, but the replacement part fixed the night blindness problem (those infra-red boards are now listed on Amazon, so replacement parts should ship faster). Another one of the NC-326PW cameras has developed a similar problem, but I have not yet replaced the infra-red board in that camera [the lower half of the infra-red LEDs have failed].

The issues that I mentioned in my review of the NC-336PW camera have been addressed and corrected by TriVision – the currently shipping cameras do not have any of those issues (other than the lack of a TriVision website). I have 10 of the NC-336PW cameras, and have found the cameras to be very reliable. I last installed a firmware update in the cameras in December 2013, and most of the cameras have been up non-stop since that firmware update installation – they seemed to be reliable prior to that time, but did not yet fully support Synology’s Surveillance Station NVR software. A couple of the NC-336PW cameras have spontaneously rebooted, but it is not clear what caused those reboots (it could be a temporary power failure caused the reboot where the UPS was not fast enough) – the cameras have always worked whenever I tried to display the video feed.

Y-Cam seemed to be an established brand. I bought two of their 1080P outdoor cameras in September 2012 at a cost twice as high as the TriVision 1080P outdoor cameras (the TriVision 1080P cameras were not released until June 2013). Motion detection did not work at all on the Y-Cams, the cameras locked up a couple times a day, uploaded videos were frequently corrupt, continuous 68% wireless signal strength regardless if the camera was within a foot of the wireless access point or 50 feet away, audio recording did not work, large blocky sections in the video when there was fast motion, corrupted memory cards, etc. After working with Y-Cam’s support department on and off for a couple of weeks, a firmware update was promised by support within two days. That firmware update finally came 256 days later, bricked (permanently disabled) one of the cameras, and fixed a couple of the issues while creating new issues on the second camera. Those cameras never worked properly for even a single day, and were not properly supported by the manufacturer. If you want more information, take a look at my review of that camera:

So, buying established brands of cameras is no guarantee that the camera will be problem free, or that effective product support will be provided for the camera. Buying cameras local is a good idea, but what happens if the local shop simply goes out of business – you might then be on the hook for trying to obtain support for cheap/poor quality Chinese cameras that the local company sold to you at a premium price.

There are risks with any brand’s products that a product may be classified as obsolete – no longer supported, you might receive an unnecessary amount of run-around from support, or the manufacturer may simply close up shop.

Possible alternatives to the TriVision cameras:
Sharx now has a 1080P camera that is nearly identical to the TriVision NC-336PW, apparently down to the firmware software that is built into the camera (I suspect that the cameras may be assembled in the same building). That Sharx camera does not support the simplified remote viewing that is offered by the TriVision cameras. I have not bought any of the Sharx cameras, and some of the reviews for the cameras seem to be a little suspicious due to the lack of anything other than absolutely glowing comments. Here is a link to the Sharx 1080P outdoor camera:

Y-Cam now offers a second generation 1080P outdoor camera, even though the company did not bother to properly finish their first generation. I heard that this Y-Cam camera has potential, but currently does not even have a manual. Oddly enough, like the Sharx, this Y-Cam’s firmware software is nearly identical to the TriVision’s firmware software, but like the Sharx also does not offer the simplified remote viewing that is offered by the TriVision cameras. I will not be touching these cameras, but other people might be interested:

I have heard mostly positive comments about the HikVision cameras when used in combination with BlueIris or other NVR software/hardware. From what I understand, the firmware software in the HikVision cameras is less polished than that of the TriVision cameras. If a HikVision camera is instructed to write to a NAS, that NAS (hard drive volume) cannot be used with any other cameras. The FTP functionality of the HikVision cameras is also difficult or impossible to configure properly. Additionally, the camera writes videos in a proprietary video format that cannot be easily played back on computers (this is an essential feature if the video must be provided to the police). The TriVision, Sharx, and second generation Y-Cam cameras record in standard Apple Quicktime format, while the first generation 1080P Y-Cam recorded in one of the standard Windows video formats. Some of the HikVision models have the ability to store video on internal memory cards, and you might be able to wire up an external powered microphone to some of the models.

As mentioned above, I have had fairly good success obtaining support for the TriVision cameras, although I did initially have difficulty sending emails to the company using a Yahoo email account. However, I think that TriVision’s support department is currently a bit overwhelmed; some people have a very easy time setting up the cameras, while other people complain that the same cameras are impossible to set up. I am extremely disappointed that the company’s website still is not online, but that is not related to your post on my blog. I suggest patiently trying to explain your problem again to TriVision support – if you bought the cameras through Amazon the cameras should include a one year warranty. It is possible that your previous emails were simply misdirected once sent to TriVision.

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