The Neilston WebCam
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How does the Webcam work?

Varies types of cameras have been used over the past 10 years. The current one is a standard security camera with composite video output which gives good results under all lighting conditions including street lighting. The video signal is fed into an el cheapo PCI video capture card.  

The software used is WebCam32 which is specifically written for this type of application. It can caption the image automatically and submits it via FTP to any web site at pre-determined times. Its a bit long in the tooth now but works fine even under Windows XP, if it ain' t broke don't try to fix it.

The BirdbathCam uses a cheap security camera with IR LEDs so you get a picture at night time, you won't see any birds but watch out for the spider and occasional mouse. This camera is fed into a USB capture device and uses VisionGS software. This software is able to stream a live picture, send timed images and also send a picture when movement is detected, all at the same time. The motion detection isn't great since it sends pictures due to shadows and water ripples but if the sensitivity is reduced it misses the smallest birds.

 
           
  I use a Virgin Media broadband connection so the PC is permanently connected to the internet and can send in images any time. The picture displayed on the web page is a still
  image that is updated at varies intervals during the day, so there's no point standing waving at it :-) I have used several Hosts over the years for domain name registration but the one I use now is 123-reg, part of the Pipex group. Unlike many other Domain Hosts extras such as DNS management are all included in the price.
   

All pages on the web site are now hosted with Webhosting UK because it gives more control of what you can do and also since I ran out of space on Virgin's free web space in

 

2009. When I asked why I was limited to only 50Mb as opposed to the 200Mb advertised I was confronted by the old 'new customers only routine'. In the past I have used several Web Hosts and from experience have found that the big name companies do not necessarily provide the best service or best value. I've been with Webhosting UK for years now and have found them to be both reliable and good value for money, they even have a freephone support number which is quite unusual for low cost hosting. Because the old NTL web address found its way into so many search engines I have kept a front page there which directs you to the other Host.

The software I use for the photo gallery is Coppermine. This is an excellent public domain PHP application that I'd recommend for anyone wanting to host photos on-line. You can of course use web sites like flikr etc but you are limited to what you can do and how it looks and there is more than often a limit to the quantity and size of files you can upload. At the time of writing the photo gallery has over 2 Gbyte of files in it.

 
 

The weather information is obtained from a Davis automatic weather station. This interfaces to the PC via a serial link. The program used to collect data is Weather Display, it has just about every option anybody is likely to want, in fact maybe just too many. Weather Display uploads data via FTP to the web site every 15 minutes and also to Wunderground. Wunderground stores all the data and produces nice graphs of the weather conditions since I started uploading them. There is also an option to view real time weather data. This means you connect directly to the web server running here and you can watch the data change every few seconds as it receives it from the weather station.

Everything runs on an old Quad Core PC. I finally updated it to Windows 7 having run XP on it for many years. That was a bit traumatic since it required upgrading hardware that had previously worked fine just because there were no drivers for Windows 7. Luckily the change from Win7 to Windows 10 was much smoother. Since the PC is only running a few applications it quite happily runs away on its own for weeks without any intervention. The most commond reason for a re-boot is a Microsoft security patch.
         
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