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Ask Slashdot: State of the Art In DIY Security Systems? 248

An anonymous reader writes "For geeks that want to secure their home, it seems that the choice of Do It Yourself solutions are limited. And in case you prefer to use a company, most of them require to subscribe to a contract for 3 years that costs at least $20 a month. In case you want to make a DIY security system without a monthly fee, few options are available. Some products (such as ismartalarm, Lowe's Iris system or also the fortress security) let you install your own system but seem not to be very mature (for some the alarm is not loud, for others they do not use the internet and only a land line, etc.). Is there any recommendation for a basic DIY home security system for monitoring the house and just have notification by e-mail or through a mobile application? Is there any open standard for home automation and security devices? Any suggestion about how to build something simple, affordable and efficient?" How to top the big-name subscription-based security companies is a recurring question, but one worth exploring every once in a while, as sensors and software both advance, and especially as more and more people are carrying around phones well-suited as remote monitors for in-house cameras. (And here's a preemptive link to ZoneMinder.)
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Ask Slashdot: State of the Art In DIY Security Systems?

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  • Elk M1 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @01:21AM (#45863539)

    If you don't care about out-of-the-box sexy experience, it's hard to beat the Elk M1 as a DYI'er. Their view of DIY'ers is largely ambivalent... they won't go out of their way to solve your problems, but the moment you furnish them with a valid M1 serial number, they'll give you access to the same training materials, downloads, firmware, and accessories as their pro installers. It's a strategy that works for them, partly because lots of those prosumers who buy one to install themselves end up starting companies to get certified officially and install the same alarm systems for other people.

    Just one thing... do... not... even... THINK... about buying a cheap TCP/IP-UART bridge for ~$20 on eBay and connecting it directly to both the internet and the Elk serial bus. Make sure you have some kind of middleware sitting between the internet and Elk serial port that can only do specific things, like indicate an active alarm, arm the system, etc. And if you don't understand what I just said & want your alarm to be internet-connected, pony up the cash and buy a proper M1-XEP interface for it. The Elk RS-232 bus was NEVER designed to be directly exposed to attackers over the internet, and mostly depends upon being inside a locked box for security. If you interface it to the internet in a way that allows arbitrary values to get blindly relayed straight to the RS-232 bus after reading this, you deserve whatever happens to you for being a complete idiot.

    The only thing it really lacks, IMHO, is the ability to implement Boolean logic for triggering alarms. For example, monitoring the state of the glass-break sensor, the door-shock sensor, and motion-detector and triggering an alarm ONLY if at 2 out of 3 fire within 20 seconds. And having similar logic in other rooms. The firmware in my controller allows you to "sort of" do something like that for a single zone, but IMHO it needs the ability to independently do this in multiple zones.

    The nice thing about the M1 is that thanks to Arduinos w/Ethernet and the RPi, you can actually extend its logic pretty easily by using the M1 as your low-level sensor interface, and moving higher-level logic to a Pi or Arduino on the Elk RS-232 bus (relaying events from sensors as they happen to that serial bus, and triggering things like alarms by sending events back to the controller via that same serial bus).

    Kludge-tip: if you're in a hurry to set up the system, don't feel like pulling wires right away to each room, and have an unused landline phone cable with 6 wires buried in the wall to hijack, you can buy input expanders and use the 6 repurposed phone wires to daisy-chain the Elk bus to strategic points in your house (1 pair for RS-485, 1 pair for +12v, 1 pair for ground). I had my own Elk M1 wired that way for almost 3 years, before I finally got proper conduit and wires pulled throughout the entire house. I had one M1XIN hidden behind the TV in the living room & plugged into the phone jack (which obviously wasn't used for an actual landline phone), and a second one upstairs behind the nightstand in the master bedroom, along with the equally-kludged keypad. Amazingly, it actually worked (if I had voltage issues, plan B was to add DC-DC converters to boost the voltage from 12v to 48v as it left the box, then drop it back down to 12v at the living room & master bedroom. Fortunately, everything used very little power, and the only time I ever had an issue was around year 4, when the backup battery finally died and the voltage started sagging.

    Oh... also... Elk's M1 can interface directly with X10, Zwave, Insteon, and some other standard that escapes me at the moment. The MSRP of their expansion boards is pretty high, but you'll never actually pay those prices anyway because there's ALWAYS somebody selling them for a relatively small markup on eBay. However, make sure you buy the main alarm controller itself from an authorized dealer. Elk DOES track serial numbers of main system units, and if a serial number is reported as 'stolen' by a vendor, they'll re

  • Re:Blue Iris (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @01:46AM (#45863635)

    Google "blue iris security software". I think it's $50 for the full version.

    Nothing on Blue Iris, but the mention of closed-source security-video monitoring software got me thinking about government black-bag jobs and software backdoors.

    Maybe this is movie-plot stuff, but wouldn't it be (technically) cool to put QR-code recognition into the software such that if you walked up to the camera with the right QR-code the monitoring software would disable the alarm, erase the last 10 seconds of footage and replace it with a static scene as if you were never there? When you are done, just show the camera a different qr-code to re-enable everything.

  • Re: Umm no. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cbowers ( 908860 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @03:40AM (#45863895)
    Depends where you live I suppose. In the greater vancouver area (Canada), I use US based The system is great and convenient with lots of system features, zwave stuff, automated locks etc. A few months ago our house was broken into. I was about 10 minutes away. I raced back and was greeted by 3 RCMP cars blocking my driveway, they were already inside sweeping the house. We lost nothing. The guy broke in via a rear window and sensor logs show he raced around the lower floor, missed easy pickings, pulled the knob off our stereo cabinet door, dropped it and exited via the rear patio door in under 2 minutes, and got away (until a couple weeks later a few blocks away). Earlier, my wife entered the unlock code on the door incorrectly, and inadvertently entered the duress code. I got a push notification on my alarm .com app, checked the sensor log and felt it was likely a false alarm. I called my wife to check in, she hadn't realised from the symptoms that she'd triggered the duress but it made sense to her in hindsight. I assured her to expect a knock at the door shortly, and sure enough, again the RCMP were there, insisting a thorough check of ID, an interview, and a tour of the house. I couldn't be happier with the performance of the system and the service. Far better than I had in the past with ADT, Chubb, etc. even in the same house with the same police force, the response was not that good, and in fact before I switched, I got a letter from ADT saying that there would no longer be a police response unless the monitoring company was able to connect to the home owner and the home owner requested it. On the other hand, no Neighbors, heard, noticed, or responded.
  • by onceuponatime ( 821046 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @05:12AM (#45864059)

    I developed Hydra Control Freak as a result of a personal security problem I have involving a stalker. It's been evolving over a period of more than 6 years now but for 2-3 years it's been available in product form. I still have problems with the stalker (which is why I'm trying to keep my name out of the main stream a bit) which takes up far too much of my time but it has helped developed the product to be extremely effective.

    From a commercial perspective it's been a complete failure, as I don't have the financial resources to market it as product properly and I'm rubbish at marketing (I will be trying to present it from a more grass roots perspective this year targeted more for the self installer). From the perspective of it working as a security device it's extremely effective and it's very flexible. At my place I have a great many cameras and many different kinds of sensors, both wired and wireless. You only need to enter my property a couple of meters and I'm alerted by E-mail alerts, notification systems, wired rows of led lights that blink (One per sensor so I know instantly where people are), piezoelectric beepers and video displays that load up automatically, showing both live and looping event views. At night, the TV turns on automatically as I wired a Phidget to a universal remote control, it switches to the AVI channel and by using a simple javascript program that is subscribed to the websocket interface the HCF provides it dynamically loads the cameras and the looping event view. All I have to do is look at the tv and slam the panic button if it's a bad guy. The system allows you to link devices in the same way over the wan, so I also monitor some clients places via the same system. If someone comes onto their property, their system tells my system, my system loads up their cameras (Triggered by the websocket interface) and my panic button triggers their sirens etc.

    The Hydra Control Freak is built as a standalone device into a Sheeva plug. It's written in Java and runs on tomcat7, but I've made it a self contained, plug and play product and not a user hackable product (It supports remote software updates though). It supports the following devices:

    * Legacy X10 controller (Started with this)
    * rfxtrx433 home automation transceiver from rfxcom (Fantastic for Europe, not usable in the US)
    * Phidget I/O controllers, really useful for wired sensors and wired control, can add several of this to one device
    * Cameras (Reads MJPEG streams continuously so you have instant alerts with activity that happened prior to the trigger
    * http, both inputs and outputs to propagate events, interface to external systems such as iPhone alerting apps and to expand the
        monitoring over the WAN

    I tried to make this device so that it was simple to use. To this end I don't support a scripting language for programming it's behavior,
    rather I have a state machine/event engine with declarative configuration via web-based guis. However, this is also a failure. In the sense
    that it appears that this is not really simple for people, you have to be quite geeky to think well in terms of state transitions, although
    my most success has been with just non-tech users where I configure the system for them.

    The websocket interface is one of the most exciting features I've added recently. Using that and ajax and you can make pretty much any
    kind of dynamic display you like. The HTTP actions can pass over handles on the events to remote devices so that the websocket interfaces
    there no how to load up the cameras from the source in response to the events. By using HTTPS I can have a small window open on my machine inside the corporate network and my cameras loads up automatically instantly (In addition to the alerts).

    SSL hides the websocket
    protocol from the firewalls so that it works flawlessly

    If you want to know anything more about the product, you should contact me directly at this point. The website is not updating at this time as I consider how I restructure the sales approach. (tech development with updates is continuing however).


...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake