Linksys Wireless-B Internet Video Camera

By Eric Griffith

March 10, 2004

An interesting and easy to use product, Linksys's 11b video camera does a lot but isn't perfect for all applications.

Model: WVC11B
Price: $214.99
Pros: Easy to set up, easy to use over the Internet
Cons: Low image quality, pricey for 11b

There are a lot of wireless 802.11-based cameras around, and this Linksys Wireless-B model doesn't add much new to the mix outside of an interesting design that can be put on a desktop using a plastic stand or mounted on a wall (or maybe a ceiling if you don't mind upside-down images).

Like any wireless device it's still hampered by that most ironic of items: a cord. Namely, the AC power cord. Luckily this doesn't take much away from its abilities if you're a home user, the market where a product like this excels (despite the price). For corporate espionage and security... not so much. However the ability to view the video signal remotely over the Internet could be handy in a number of cases.

Installation is pretty straight forward: Connect the camera via the included Ethernet patch cord to your router or PC (it doesn't have to function with just wireless) so you can set it up to be recognized on the network. Insert the software CD, let the setup program auto-run, and it will find the camera. Using the default password, you can log into the camera's interface and set it to use DHCP for automatic setup; the default static IP is 192.168.1.115. Give the camera a unique name, input the wireless settings for your WLAN (Infrastructure mode, WEP security, etc.), and you're ready to play voyeur.

You can access the camera via a Web browser (the camera has a built in Web server) using the IP address, or using the included Linksys Viewer and Recorder Utility. The program will bring up a window you can watch video in -- even multiple cameras on the same network if you have them -- and will let you record video in Microsoft's favorite format. But the software is touchy. You need to separately set the IP address of the camera in the utility. The recordings work fine and run in the background, with an icon in the system tray indicating the program is running and when it's recording.

Accessing the video stream via the Web browser (by typing in the IP address of the camera) is much easier. Any computer on the network can view the video without installing the utility. The Web interface provides you with access to the full gamut of the camera's settings. From there can have it e-mail you Windows Media-based clips or stills whenever it detects motion (fun for spying on the dogs or kids) or limit camera access to specific users on the network. You can also setup the video image to display a time/date stamp and even a little caption like "Eric's Camera."

Cisco/Linksys kindly throw in a 90 day trial of SoloLink, a Dynamic DDS service that you can use to link the camera to a full-blown Web URL (like http://yourhouse.ourlinksys.com:1024) so you can watch video when you're not on the local network. This requires a broadband connection and a router where you can setup port forwarding to let the signal out of the NAT firewall. Linksys explains this well and provides diagrams showing it, though the setup they specify is obviously limited to a Linksys router -- which is what I was using and it worked like a charm (after a bit of time passed to let the account activate on SoloLink's servers). Once it was running, I had friends and neighbors able to view me on the Web cam in no time. They had to download an ActiveX OCX plug-in for Internet Explorer to view it. Mac users can't view the video. That's Microsoft for you.

Sadly, the first comment sent to me via IMs when they saw the video was, "Why is the picture so bad?" This was keeping the "image quality" setting to "Normal" (the mid-range setting), which tended to be pixilated even on the local network. At 320x240 (or 160x120 at the lowest) the resolution isn't bad, and considering that it is a compressed MPEG-4 video signal traversing a wireless network before it even got shot out to the Internet, I've seen worse. This isn't full-motion broadcast quality by any stretch though, even when its not traveling the Web. A couple of firmware upgrades have come out since the camera first shipped, and they help a little.

If you've got the $200 burning a hole in your pocket and you want to try a wireless camera around the house, it's an interesting product to try. But if you've got specific needs -- especially related to security video -- look elsewhere.

Originally published on .

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