Home Video Surveillance Setup - Part I

Seems that anyone you talk to these days wants to have a video surveillance system in place. Maybe we've become used to being watched, or maybe it's because we've seen on TV first hand how beneficial it is to catch someone red-handed... Whatever the reason, video surveillance has become very popular.

With hardware costs coming down the way they have recently, putting a system together is relatively inexpensive. Also factor in the idea that most of what you'll need you may already have and any components you do have to buy can perform double duty. This makes this notion all the more appealing.

So how do we go about building this video surveillance system?

Well, first we need to figure out what components we'll need. We also need to determine how elaborate we want to get. Do we want to monitor more than one entrance? Will we want to control the camera remotely? Are we going to want this system to notify us and send the recording to another location? These are all good design questions. Luckily we don't have to be too bogged down with these right this moment - we just need to keep them in the back of our head.

My suggestion is to start out small and simple. Let's get comfortable with what we're doing at this level and then we can expand and crank it up from there.

So first we'll need a computer. If you have a spare Mac laying about, you have that taken care of. One thing to consider though is the age of this spare computer? If it has a G4 processor or less - don't even think about using it. Video processing takes considerable horsepower and a G4 or less aint gonna cut it. A laptop probably isn't the best choice either cause they don't like to be running continuously... However, you can use a notebook mac to get the feel for this project - just keep in mind that you're gonna wanna swap that out real soon.

image apple macintosh mac mini with remote
My suggestion is to find a fairly recent Mac Mini. These are cheap as hell and if you really wanna save some money, consider a reconditioned unit. Both these guys can be had for peanuts by visiting Amazon.com's Apple Mac Mini selection. The beauty of a Mini is that you can use a spare monitor and keyboard if you have either of these laying about which cuts your costs even more. The mini is, well...Mini. It's very small so you can hide it in a closet or on a bookshelf, and it also comes with a remote control. Yes, remote control - are the gears in your head turning now? One last reason to go the mini route is the future. The recent minis are intel based units. The current release of the Mac OS (Snow Leopard - OSX 10.6) dropped support for the powerPC processors. So even though you could probably get a G5 tower for around the same cost as a mini, why be left with an orphan?

Next thing to do is prep this computer for this project. Make sure the system software is up to date. Delete all user accounts except for only one Admin account. Then delete all the files from the DESKTOP, DOWNLOADS, DOCUMENTS, MOVIE, MUSIC, PICTURE, and SITES folders.

Go to the APPLICATIONS folder and delete everything except for Address Book, the AppleScript folder, iChat, iSync, Mail, Preview, Safari, TextEdit, and the UTILITIES folder. Everything else should go. Download a copy of Cocktail and use it to strip out all the blot - run ALL scripts to clean up the system drive.

Next, download a copy of iCleanLanguage and run it (first in 'Dry Run' mode) to clean out all the extra language files. We don't need all this crap so lets get rid of it and free up the hard drive for the video we will be capturing from our surveillance cams.

Alright - that's enough for this post. In the next we'll discuss what cameras we wanna consider. See you in a week, if not sooner.

Apple Mac Mini Desktop Computers