I’ve started to accumulate quite a heap of old smartphones, and would really like them to either get useful or get gone. It was my initial intent to “simply” hook one up as a networked webcam, and have it serve images via HTTP, not unlike the units sold by everyone from Axis to Panasonic. Sadly, however, this proved more complicated than I’d imagined.
After quite a bit of procrastination and some help from the guys down at the Makery, I found a package called WebCamera Plus, which only partly fit the bill. Half of this packages’ functionality requires a client installed on a PC, where the actual web serving happens. Without that “server” PC, the best it can do is FTP photos out on a timed basis.
Adding insult to injury, about the time I was ready to bite the bullet and spend the $20 on this thing, the company sorta disappeared. On the upside, the company’s website did resurface a few weeks later, with the software now priced at $9.99. The decision had already been made, however, to go in a different direction.
One of the features of the Makery (now the defacto name for the Omaha Maker Group’s space) is a standing webcam that publishes live photos of the space to the Internet. We have a few USB webcams hooked up to a PC running YawCam, which is a free (as in beer) webcam package written in Java. We run one copy of the software per camera (Copied into separate directories, as the config is file-based) and each serves its image on a separate port.
Initially, people were having problems accessing HTTP on non-standard ports, but we weren’t inclined to “use up” port 80 on our only IP address with just one webcam; With some help from the mailing list, I hacked together a Perl script that runs on our website hosting provider and proxies requests to the camera server’s separate nonstandard ports. It then re-serves the images on port 80 and also uses GD to return text images in the event of an error (like a timeout fetching the webcam image). This setup has the added benefit of masking the firewall’s IP address from the website, and would even support cameras on multiple IP addresses that look like a single image.
At Dave’s request, I also included “indicator pixels”, to coordinate with his “are the lights on” python script.
Overall (for my part, at least), it’s sort of a hackjob, but it seems to work pretty well.
Today was a pretty full, if short, day at the Makery; It started around noon, when the power was out as we arrived; It turned out to be a circuit breaker that must’ve tripped overnight somehow.
Once power was restored, work continued on both the robotic arm controls and the partition wall that now divides the overhead door area from the “kitchen table” area. The partition itself is made up of 5 4′x8′ panels, which are pinned and bolted together, and then painted.
Brandon also made quite a bit of progress on the “dis-armed” z-axis of the robotic arm he’s been dissecting. Using an Arduino and an old Traxxas speed control, he had the linear actuator going pretty reliably, though the speed control might be missing some magic smoke now… A short video of the arm is here.
Following last night’s meeting, a number of Panasonic Industrial robotic arms were dropped off at the Makery. These arms were used in some sort of assembly operation, and seem to have been manufactured (at least the motors) in the early 80s. A number of people hung around pretty late messing around with them, and had them moving under their own power on pretty short order.
There are some videos from last night, which are now available here.
Any ideas for what they could become? Brandon recommends that they NOT be used as an arm-wrestling simulator
The next regular meeting will be at the space on Tuesday, April 5th at 7pm. We’ve got two presentations:
Brandon will be showing his progress on the remote controlled Tricopter he’s been working on (as seen on this site); If you’re unfamiliar with exactly what a Tricopter is, it’s like a quadcopter with just 3 rotors.
Nick will be pre-presenting his paper on SCADA, an acronym used to describe the systems used to control the supply of electricity, water, gas, and so much more. Because of their high profile status, SCADA systems have been garnering a lot more attention from unsavory elements. This talk represents an introduction to SCADA systems and attempts to look at the challenges in securing them.
The space will be open starting around 5:30 on Tuesday through whenever people leave after the meeting. (Though the meeting typically runs from 7 to 8 or so). See you all then!
The Space (aka The Makery) is really starting to come together. A build day has been scheduled for this Saturday (March 26th, 9:37am) to see about some shelves and tables. Full details on that are the mailing list.
In other news, our local network is operational; We have Wireless-G, network printing and a functional DHCP/DNS server. Internet access, long a subject of (heart|head)ache at the space, is scheduled for install tomorrow evening.
Now, a few photos of setting up networking and the general state of things.
The Omaha Maker Group’s space is coming along nicely; This weekend saw the arrival of more shelving, tables and other materials; The space also received its first quadcopter visit; I spent time down there both Friday night and Saturday afternoon, and was very impressed by everyone’s generosity with both their time and their material support.
Our next regular meeting will be at the space on Tuesday, March 22nd at 7pm. No official topics are planned yet. If you have a presentation that you’d like to give, please email the list and we’ll get you on the docket. We do have screen facilities, though not quite as nice as what we had at PKI (yet ).
Also, as of right now, we are mostly ready for anything that you’re planning on bringing. At the moment, we’re most in need of furniture (shelves and chairs especially), though just about anything can be stacked on the floor for the time being.