Home Network & Security Cameras

As I have said elsewhere, I am a carpenter. I have no business whatsoever telling anyone how to install security cameras or a home network. This is just how I have done it after watching many YouTube videos by people who don’t know either. My way may be wrong but it is working for me. Your mileage may vary.

We needed new security cameras. The old ones were, well, old, and resolution has improved dramatically over the past seven or eight years since we bought them. I watched a lot of YouTube videos (of course) and read a lot of articles weighing the pros and cons of each type and brand of camera and system.

Because we live in at metal house, the wireless type camera wouldn’t work for us. I had to run wires. Along with much higher resolution cameras, a new standard for connection has grown to prominence over the past few years, too. It is called Power Over Ethernet (POE). Ethernet, or Ethernet cable, is the wire that runs through many homes so that you can get Internet access in any room of the house by plugging into a jack in the wall. POE simply means that your device (my security cameras for example) can get electrical power over these cables as well as data transfer. I chose to go the wired, POE type.

But we don’t have Ethernet cable running through our house; I would have to install it. Before I started this project, our Internet access amounted to a modem/WiFi router supplied by our Internet provider. It sat on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen. Being that our house is built from metal, the kitchen was just about the only place in the house we could get Internet; the WiFi couldn’t pass through the walls. So I wanted to extend our Internet coverage inside and outside of the house.  Two birds with one stone — power for the cameras plus wide spread Internet access. (A friend once told me of when she was a little girl and her father came home all happy one day and said he had killed two birds with one stone. She cried her eyes out for hours and wouldn’t speak to him for quite some time.)

I chose a Riolink brand, 16-camera system that came with an NVR (Network Video Recorder) and eight cameras. I figured what the heck and bought eight additional cameras. I mounted them in both obvious and hidden locations around the perimeter of the house.

Here are a couple of the obvious locations. The first picture — the front steps and front gate — the carport and my shop door.

I found some nice plastic boxes at our local hardware store. Ideal for managing the wires and provides a good mounting surface.

The next picture covers the front gate from another angle plus the garden path along the front of the house.

The aluminum cover provides a mounting surface plus protection from the south sun and debris from nesting birds above.

After I mounted all the cameras it was time to run wires. But where should all the wires end up? Cynthia and I walked through the house looking for a space where all the wires would meet up with the Internet and camera recording equipment. About a month later, we settled on the perfect location under the stairs. Under the stairs is divided into two spaces — a half bathroom and a dead storage space. The storage space was filled with suitcases and other stuff but we weren’t happy about this because everything smelled musty. We had to air out the suitcases days before taking a trip. Having the electronic equipment in this space is better because it gives off heat and eliminates the mold and mildew. To access the space, you have to open one of the pantry doors:

This is our kitchen pantry. The red reflection on the aluminum is from the glass lampshades that Cynthia made. They warm the space nicely.

The storage space didn’t have a door on it and I wanted to protect the expensive gear inside, so I made a door. I had a 4-foot by 8-foot by 1/4-inch thick sheet of steel in the shop that was itching for a purpose. I cut the steel easily with my Milwaukee steel cutting circular saw. I put a 1,200 pound pull electromagnet lock on the door that is controlled by a digital touch pad. Because, why not? Here is the door — I want to put a sign on the door that says, “Caution — Snakes” in Spanish and English. Because, why not?

With the room enclosed by the steel plate door, the steel plate stairs overhead, and a tile-covered concrete wall, the name of the space naturally became, THE BUNKER. I remember when I was a kid the I had a fort under the basement stairs. It was a wonderful space with a cardboard door. I consider THE BUNKER an upgrade.

With THE BUNKER being the assigned space for the equipment closet, I could now run Ethernet cable to the cameras and jacks for network access. Here is the first of two, one-thousand foot rolls of CAT-5 Ethernet cable.

(Even though there is now CAT-6 cable, I chose CAT-5 cable because it is a. less expensive, b. easier to work, and c. because CAT-5 can handle throughput of 1,000-Megabytes (1-Gigabyte) of speed. We currently have 150-Megabytes of speed from our Internet provider and it will be years before we would outgrow the CAT-5 cable.)

I made a stand for the spool so that I could work in the crawlspace and pull what I needed from the coil above in THE BUNKER. Can you see the face on the end of the spool?

Here is some of the cabling under the house. For those Ethernet installers out there, yes, I am aware that zip ties can damage the cable. I was careful and set my DeWalt Zip Tie Installation Tool® to the low, “Loving Cuddle” setting. The other, tighter settings are “Chiropractic Adjustment” and “Full Nelson.” At least the cables aren’t sitting down in the dirt.

(There is no such tool; I made it up.)

I drilled a four-inch hole in the floor of THE BUNKER and passed all the wires up through the hole:

I spent days and days under the house. And of course, it was the rainy season. All in all, it was too much fun for this seventy-one-year-old Ethernet cable installer. Here I am going into the house:

But Cynthia cut me off at the pass and moved me away from the door. I just can’t understand why she wouldn’t let me into the house:

I worked with a headlamp and pushed and pulled a plastic box with all my tools in it around the crawlspace. Did I say, “for days?”

After I had all the Ethernet cables run, I moved upstairs to THE BUNKER (yes, it is ALWAYS spelled with all caps). The next photo shows most of the equipment. I chose the UniFi line of Ubiquiti brand network equipment. It is used in many corporate environments, but is priced not much above residential grade equipment. It is nice because it all works together and is configured and controlled from just one (relatively) easy to use app.

In the next photo, from top down: Riolink brand network video recorder. Next space down: UniFi Cloud Controller. Next space down UniFi 48-port POE Switch. Then some blank spaces for cable management. Next space down (with the white labels) is a 48-space patch panel. (A patch panel is a convenient place to bring in and land all the Ethernet cables.) Below that is a surge-protected Trip Lite brand plug strip. All the equipment plugs into the rear of this plug strip. Below on the aluminum is mounted the UniFi Router. The router plugs into our service provider’s modem to get Internet:

I built the aluminum base and bought a rack to mount the equipment in.

Here I have the patch panel face down  on a towel so I can connect all the Ethernet cables. The red tool is called a Punch Down tool. Every one of the blue cables has eight wires in it. These wires are “punched down” onto their respective terminals. Tedious work and it took a while but I was successful in the end:

Each cable is tagged with a number that corresponds to my master list.

Here is the system up and running. Additional items not in the previous rack photo: Top left is the Internet service provider’s modem. I had the tech guy disable the WiFi on their unit. WiFi now is provided by my equipment. Now on the aluminum stand is an Ethernet jack so I can plug in a laptop. To the right of that is a small, blue box. This is a very robust and easy to configure firewall made by Firewalla. It runs a full version of Ubuntu for those who are keeping track. Next to the right is a walkie talkie. We have a few scattered around the house so Cynthia and I don’t have to yell at each other. There is also a remote control for the LED light and battery-backed-up 12-volt DC power for the door lock.  Up on the right is a monitor for the security cameras, plus a smoke detector under the monitor stand:

One friend asked if I was going into the Internet Provider business. Another said that Amazon could run their business from THE BUNKER.

And just because I can:

As for WiFi, we now have three UniFi WiFi Access Points plugged into Ethernet cables — one in the kitchen, one in the carport ceiling (covers the carport, my shop, the studio, and the greenhouse), and one in the master bedroom dry room closet. (WiFi gives off a radio wave. Although it is not ionizing radiation, I still prefer not to sleep in it. We generally unplug the bedroom WiFi Access Point while we sleep. The UniFi WiFi Access Points look like this one on the kitchen ceiling near The Bunker:

The blue light indicates that WiFi is active. A white light instead of the blue light indicates that the unit is booting up from being unplugged.

So there it is. Better home network, better security cameras, and a whole lot of learning about this stuff.

There is, however, one key component missing from the Master Plan; solar panels with battery backup for the security cameras, Internet equipment, phone and laptop charging, plus air pumps for the fish in the greenhouse. Stay tuned.

In Other News

A batch of bananas growing in our compost pile were so heavy that they fell over the other day. I put them in the bed of the truck and took them to Armando’s house. We can’t wait until he can return to work — with the rainy season in full swing, the weeds are taking over! Looks like another two weeks of Covid-19 lock down for us. I hope the birds timed it just right…

The grasses in the pots at the front of the house are beautiful this time of year:

Something, probably a spider, bit my upper left arm in the night. I woke in the morning to this — it looks to me like a histamine response. The white spot is the bite after soaking it with hydrogen peroxide. The marks dissipated over the course of the day.

Speaking of hydrogen peroxide, it is our sting stopper of choice.

Patacones For Breakfast

Patacones are twice-fried green plantain. Every Panamanian restaurant worth their salt has them on the menu, however we find the restaurant ones inedible because they are cooked in bad, rancid oil. Instant indigestion sitting like a rock in our stomachs. But we have them, homemade, pretty much every morning. Here is how I make them:

Start off with green plantain (platanos in Spanish). If they are turning yellow, they will have too much sugar in them. Still good, but we severely limit the sugar in our way of eating. I usually cook two for breakfast. I cut off the ends, run a knife down the length of the skin, and peel them under water as the sap can be very sticky on your hands. After peeling, I slice them into pieces:

I cook them in a frying pan in coconut oil until they get the slightest amount of crispiness:

When they are a little crisp, I take them out of the oil and smash them with the bottom of a drinking glass. I cut them off of the glass with a knife. When they are all smashed, they go back in the oil for the final frying. Here they are smashed:

And here is the second fry. If anything, I was a bit too slow getting this batch out of the pan:

And here they are (a different batch, the perfect amount of brown/crisp) after the second fry, ready for some pink Himalayan salt. I think I make them thinner than the basic Panamanian style. Thinner, they are very crispy and make good chips. Eat them while they are hot:

Even our cat Winston likes them. He gobbles the little scrap crunchy bits. You might ask, don’t you worry about eating too much oil? Nope. Our diet is high-fat, low carb (the plantain makes up most of the carbohydrate that we eat in the course of a day. In our experience, the Standard American Diet is absolutely all wrong. We eat on a sliding scale between Paleo and Keto. Seems to work for us.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by. Fred

9 thoughts on “Home Network & Security Cameras

  1. After 8 years, I’ve missed your regular entries. I miss your humor and sarcasm.
    Nice to have you back.
    I see plantains in the grocery store, from time to time. I’ll have to try your recipe.
    Thanks for being here. Enjoyed the Yang sticker on the BUNKER door 🙂

  2. That was way too technical for me! I remember Cynthia’s beautiful pollera lights in the kitchen and I think the patacones recipe should be wonderful. I’ve never eaten one in a restaurant that I thought was edible, so when I get back down there it will be well worth trying your recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Another fantastic project completed Fred! I love it, next time, would you just duplicate your whole project and send me the extra one? lol. Say “hello” to Cynthia for me. Tell her that Ellie and I are doing fine, just hangin’ out at the house. I’m a DIY’er as well, I have run several CAT-6 cables under the house. However, it’s no way near what you’ve done, great job!

  4. Fred & Cynthia,

    I’m just now getting around to reading this post and, as always, amazing work! I used to have a security camera company and, I must say, your work is world-class.

    Stay safe!

    Saludos from Chile,
    John, Ximena, and girls.

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