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YAIPVC (yet another IP-enabled video camera)

Oct 13, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

Last week we discussed the D-Link DCS-1000W Air 2.4-GHz wireless network Internet camera,  a terrific wireless Webcam system priced at around $300.

And hot on its heels we received a new wireless video camera from Linksys. This product is the WVC11B Wireless-B Internet Video Camera, also offering 802.11b, or 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet connections. The Linksys camera is similar in features and slightly less expensive than the D-Link model with a retail price of about $230.

Setting up the camera is simple. There are a number of setup options, including resolution (the maximum screen size supported is half VGA, or 320 by 240 pixels), image quality, automatic or manual brightness, and RGB color correction.

The frame rate is set automatically by the camera, depending on the number of clients. But despite our tweaking, the image quality of the WVC11B was not quite as sharp as it was on the D-Link camera.

You also can enable time-stamping and set a title (such as “Office Camera”) to be displayed on the image. These captions work but don’t render very clearly in the video output.

You can watch and save the video stream using the supplied view-and-record utility, although we found the software to be flaky. After working fine for some hours it suddenly wouldn’t access the camera, claiming that the name or password was incorrect. In the end we deleted the camera entry from the utility and added it again, after which it worked.

The utility’s recording functions let you record ad hoc or set up schedules for multiple cameras for simultaneous recording. The video is saved in ASF format so you will need Microsoft Media Player 7 or above to view the content.

The other way to view camera output is from the camera’s built-in Web server using Internet Explorer 5.5 or above. Explorer is required because the video data is handled by a Windows OCX control that is downloaded and installed on first access. According to the documentation, up to four users can simultaneously view the video stream.

The camera also has Linksys’ SoloLink Dynamic DNS service built in. With DDNS service you can make the camera accessible by name even if your ISP-assigned IP address is not static.

This service costs $19.95 per year, which seems expensive when you can get an equivalent service for free without much effort.

WVC11B’s advanced features let you enable movement detection and reporting. When movement is detected a report is e-mailed to whatever address you require with an ASF file showing what triggered the report. The documentation warns that detection can be triggered by light-level changes so pointing the camera at an outdoor scene could cause more triggers than you’d like.

This feature is actually useless because light changes occur indoors. The camera should compensate for light-level changes and detect scene changes more accurately for this feature to be useful in all but the most limited circumstances (for example, monitoring an artificially lit corridor).

We tried for about an hour to get the e-mail reports sent via our local mail server. Despite several resets we didn’t have any luck, but then for no apparent reason they started working! The camera also can be enabled for Universal Plug and Play, but we still can’t get that to work.

We called Linksys technical support. What a joke! The first technician gave up and hung up on us, and the second was totally inept (and not very well-spoken, using the phrase “it ain’t working” without any apparent intention of being funny).

As with the D-Link camera we discussed last week, you can define users and passwords. But, as with the D-Link system, there is no support or information on how to use the client-side viewing software in your own Web page – it appears to be limited to the default page from the camera.

This leads us to wonder why so many products of this type seem to ignore the need for customization so that the end user can be presented with a look and feel that is appropriate to the application. Answers on a postcard please.

Overall, the WVC11B Wireless-B Internet Video Camera is good but needs a lot of polishing to get a higher rating. Oh, and perhaps technical support could be a little better trained.

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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