PC-Based Home Security: Do It Yourself

D-Link DCS-930L mydlink-Enabled Wireless N Network Camera

That’s a mouthful for a camera name, huh? The key piece is the mydlink-Enabled bit. This is D-Link’s consumer-friendly software package, but, while it’s being tied here to the 930L, the software actually debuted with the 1130 and works equally well on both cameras. Also, while the 930L will top out at 640 x 480, just like the 1130, it will only do so at up to 20 fps. Is this a deal breaker? No. Especially in homes, the difference between 20 and 30 fps is nominal, and I found the image quality to be very similar between the two cameras. The only major difference is that the 930L lacks a night mode, and its image sensor isn’t good enough to be of much use in dim conditions. That said, you still get the same excellent microphone found in the 1130.

With the DCS-930L, D-Link wanted to sneak in under $100 ($119.99 list, $79.66 Amazon) and encourage people to blanket their homes and small offices with surveillance.  To hit this price as well as the smaller, 3.7” x 2.4” x 1.0” form factor, D-Link made the single antenna internal, went to a fixed focus lens, and dropped from 300 Mbps to “N 150” or “N Lite” or whatever you want to call it when vendors lobotomize the 11n standard to make something cheaper. Sure enough, the “L” in 930L might stand for “Limited range.” Keep that in mind when positioning cameras. Two external antennas beat one internal every time.

Much as I hate to admit it, these were smart compromises on D-Link’s part. The wireless performance is still good enough for most people’s needs, and the truth is that unless you’re willing to use infrared lighting, consumer cameras are useless for night surveillance because the shutter speed is too slow to capture anything but a blur. The 930L still has a 10/100 Ethernet port, making this an even better play for those with structured wiring.

There are some minor differences in the 930L’s settings. For example, rather than dragging on a live view to select a motion detection area, you now see a 5x5 grid overlaying the live image, and you click on whichever square you want monitored. This may be simpler for users, but I don’t like the step backward in precision.


Now, back to the mydlink application. Unlike so many other camera companies, D-Link has figured out that nobody really cares about the hardware. It’s all about the software experience. Ready the company’s marketing materials and this shines through clear as day. D-Links says, “Forget that DDNS and port forwarding nonsense. Log into mydlink.com to view your cameras and tweak your settings. If your PC turns off, no problem—this all runs from your router, no PC required.”

For the average consumer, this is compelling, especially when the cameras are so affordable. The mydlink interface is very streamlined, and D-Link finally even figured out how to support browsers besides Internet Explorer. To toggle between cameras, merely click their respective tabs on the left.

                [image: mydlink Page 2 Cameras]

The kicker here is the mobile app, mydlink Lite, now available for Android and iPhone. This is a great improvement over what you could do previously from the camera’s internal pages with 3gpp streaming. You’re saved all of the configuration headache, and the mobile app’s UI is far more attractive. The fact that these titles are free with an $80 camera speaks volumes about where the surveillance market is at today. Not long ago, this functionality would have cost several hundred dollars.

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  • thegreathuntingdolphin
    William,

    Cool article. I have been looking into security cameras for the home, especially ones that are outdoor or pointed outdoor (some noobcakes have been hitting cars and driving off in my apartment complex). I am a bit dissapointed that most of these don't really seem good for outdoors or for long distance night recording (I know some of these said up to 20 to 30 feet but in my experience that means they are really only clear at 10-15 feet). Foscam has a number of cheap IP cameras with pan and tilt, are for outdoor use or longer night vision use. Do you have any experience with them?

    The Schlage system is looking good. Hopefully others will jump on the bandwagon and get more products out. I am glad the Schlage deadbolt is not motorized like the Kwikset one since it greatly improves the battery life. Whenever I get a house I am definitly going to do something like the LiNK system.

    I too am disappointed in the current IP-based offerings. The perfect IP-based camera seems illusive. Too many have half the features. Most the N wireless ones seems to lack really good night vision capabilities and the ones with good night vision capabilities usually are G only or have N are stupidly expensive.
  • Nice article!
    It’s interesting how IP cameras and emerging technology, such as Jabbakam.com enable average people to transform a home surveillance system into a shared camera network that can be accessed by whoever is invited by the camera owners, to view the footage via an online account accessible from anywhere at anytime.
    Jabbakam is a system where you have complete access to your footage, to manage and share as you want. You can easily create a network (public or private) and invite your friends or neighbours to join and add their cameras so that you all have access to the footage of the cameras as a group.
    You can set up alerts so that you will be notified by email or sms if your camera detects something happening in front of it, and you have peace of mind that your camera is doing its job and working, thanks to a monitoring system that checks your camera status every few minutes. The Jabbakam website offers users a lot more functionality besides. Check us out, and join us on Facebook.com/jabbakam and Twitter (@jabbakam). We’d love to hear from you!
  • It is still an annual subscription of $80 a year it is only very well hidden by Logitech (just try and buy it and you will figure it out).
    The hiding of subscription cost itself is terrible, but also that they sell you just part of a product is outragous. It makes me mad and takes some of the joy of owning such a cool (and expensive) product.
  • I'll never buy a product that requires a subscription or is dependent on another site or "the cloud". Excellent article, except for the WPS thing.. WTH is that?