Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Tuesday, March 02, 2010

  Zoneminder/Facebook gateway and other random project notes

I woke up with a really good idea this morning that I need to write down but first an aside.

I am very happy that facebook supports jabber now (XMPP). That makes it the LAST of the chat protocols that I have to wedge into one multi-chat client (pidgin or emacs' erc).

( That is, if I ever get bitlbee 1.2.4 + otr + bitlbee skype plugin + znc working again. My last attempt at getting otr patched into bitlbee failed big time. )

I really hate how "chat" - merely talking to another person over the internet - has fragmented into 14+ major protocols including irc - which has itself, fragmented into 260+ irc networks. Perhaps it's an example of the human condition that we form tribes in this way, that the tower of babel lives on... (has anyone rigged a translation bot into chat with google translate yet?)

Anyway, that's the rant part of this morning, on to the interesting stuff.

One major subproject of mine has been trying to come up with a working security and sensor system for my home. The hardware side of the software I've been calling the "pocobelle" project, and part of the software side is built around zoneminder, which is a motion detection/video capture/alert system.

A month or so ago, I got zoneminder to automagically push alerts ("Motion detected at the front door, see http://whatever/whatever for details") into jabber. It was just a couple libraries and a few dozen lines of perl to do this. (cool)

To make it faster and more reliable for local alerting, I installed my own jabber server on the pocobelle box... and also tried to register a zoneminder specific account on the main jabber.org server.

Unfortunately jabber.org hasn't been taking new signups, which frustrated me because I'm trying NOT to use google (which also does jabber) for new stuff and wanted to demo the idea to a few people - and because the zoneminder box is behind NAT I can't use the nifty federation (x2x) feature that jabber has which I could use to "link" my jabber server to another jabber server like jabber.org - AND because although jabber works great over IPv6 nobody seems to do x2x over it....

I woke up this morning with a new idea. Since facebook supports jabber now, I could setup a jabber account on IT, and have zoneminder send it's alerts out via facebook. Not only that, but by using the facebook API/uploader I could have it automatically upload the captured video, and using the facebook friends system only allow certain people to be able to view it...

That's it for the new ideas on the zoneminder front. In other news... My mom came down last month and brought 4 of Ubiquity's nanostation M5 5Ghz Wireless-n capable radios. I just got them configured - 2 with the default firmware, 1 with openwrt built by openwrt and (this weekend) my own openwrt build...

Pluses - The hardware is great, it's low power, and rated to 70C, and it has a nifty POE passthrough feature for the second ethernet port. The factory firmware is dirt simple. The web based site survey tools are great. The power monitoring LEDs are useful. I can get two of the radios to talk at 108 megabits/sec, with a real transfer rate in the 80Mbit range. I'm told I can do better than that at longer ranges than within my house (shorter ranges overdrive the local receiver), but it's still basically double the theoretical performance of wireless-g and easily triple the real world performance I've observed with wireless-g...

Minuses - Lacking IPv6 and (especially) routing protocol support, the factory firmware is USELESS. Maybe I'm spoilt by dd-wrt and openwrt having support for ospf and olsr out of the box, but believe me, as soon as you add a couple routers to your network, having a routing protocol to automagically figure out how to get stuff from point A to points B,C,D is flat out necessary... and it's not there. (aside: the regular unavailability and lack of standardization of routing protocols is what made bridging so inevitable - there is ONE standard for bridging - stp - and everybody implements it - and it works well for most things)

Secondly the factory firmware is based on a ancient version of linux - 2.6.15 - and that in itself, scares me. That's over 4 years old.

So I installed openwrt, not with a little trepidation (you need to install the nano-m firmware via tftp from a recent build of openwrt trunk, then install a bunch of modules like ath9k, and yes, I'll write up more documentation)

oooh, luxury. 8MB of flash and 32MB of ram goes a LOT further than you'd think. Linux 2.6.32.9, even, less than 4 months behind the mainline linux kernel. I installed ipv6, babel, ahcpd, quagga, snmpd, ntp, and a few other things, and still had room to spare. The web interface is not all that great, but I don't really care, I want to manage these things via command line tools anyway. After some tweaking, I got openwrt talking to the ubuquity firmware...

but so far, only at 54Mbit. I'm missing some configuration parameter (I hope). I have a 40Mhz channel configured, but... I'd like it very much if I could basically drive the radios at 100Mbit ethernet speeds, it would lower the need to shape the outgoing traffic as much, and anytime I can get something that is 5x better than an older technology (wireless 11b) I'm happier...

I also haven't figured out how to override the power settings to the full range available, limited to 17dbm of gain instead of 27dbm...

Update: These two problems are related. I'm definitely overdriving the receivers. I can actually connect as high as 162 Mbits/sec between the two. I found this out when I accidentally pointed one of the radios at the ceiling... Ooh. 162Mbits.... NICE...

Now, since I envision a day where I have to build out a bunch more of these radios, and partially because I'm a glutton for punishment, I downloaded openwrt and built my own firmware. That worked... on the first try! (that's amazing in itself, but usually a bad sign indicating real trouble ahead, as I will always then proceed to dig my own hole). On my second try - after configuring a few more modules - it fails on building the kernel for some reason:

LD [M] fs/autofs4/autofs4.o
mips-openwrt-linux-uclibc-ld: unrecognized option '-Wl,-rpath,/usr/local/lib'
mips-openwrt-linux-uclibc-ld: use the --help option for usage information

I'm stuck on that right now. I have a bunch of tests to do (reliability, traffic shaping, different routing protocols, etc) but I'd like the two different firmwares to at least be talking at the same rate.

But it is kind of neat to see babel "just working" to route between the routers. Hmm... maybe I can get vlans to work... I wonder if this thing has any pins I could hang a temp sensor off off...

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Comments:
Tell us more about useful zoneminder stuff!

I think -in the end- just like in the beginning, that wireless is just about the weakest link in your chain. it's way to easy to make it fail, and overdriving the radios always results in suboptimal performance, and a lot of radios are overdriven right out of the box. I'm not keen on wireless at the kind of speeds folks want from it. If you don't really care so much about bandwidth, it works pretty well.
 
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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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