Even the most dedicated and hard-working businessperson can’t be at work 24/7. And for some small business owners, it’s often necessary to use technology to be their eyes and ears when they’re not around—technology like the $400 Linksys Wireless-G Business Internet Video Camera with Audio (model WVC2300).
The WVC2300 is a box-style camera equipped with a 10/100 Ethernet port (required for initial setup) and a pair of 802.11g/Wi-Fi antennas. (A similar model, the PVC2300, lacks the Wi-Fi capability but adds PoE (Power over Ethernet) support.) The WVC2300 has an integrated microphone, but also offers a pair of jacks for connecting an external mike and speakers (which enables two-way audio). An input/output (I/O) connection block on the WVC2300 lets you use the camera in conjunction with various external devices and sensors such as smoke detectors or light switches. Though the WVC2300 doesn’t do PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom), Linksys reports that the camera is compatible with Pelco bases that can provide that capability.
The WVC2300 comes with a fixed-focus lens with a 60 degree field of view and of the standard CS-mount type, so it can be substituted with various special purpose lenses like zoom, wide-angle, etc. (A lens adapter and tool are included.) Linksys supplies an adjustable and wall-mountable metal stand for the WVC2300 (though the actual mounting screws aren’t included) but the camera can also be used with a standard indoor or outdoor enclosure. The camera also sports a Kensington security slot to deter theft (think of the irony).
Linksys supplies a Windows utility that can detect the camera on your network and let you configure basic parameters such as the device’s name and access password plus time/ date settings. Since the WVC2300 seeks an IP address via DHCP by default, you can also skip the utility and go straight to the browser-based configuration controls for advanced configuration and to get the camera connected wirelessly. The WVC2300 supports WPA and WPA2 in both Personal and Enterprise flavors, along with the archaic and insecure WEP. (Once the Wi-Fi configuration is complete you must physically disconnect the Ethernet cable for the wireless connection to be enabled, so it pays to configure wireless first before mounting it in a difficult to access location.)
|The Linksys Wireless-G Business Internet Video Camera with Audio offers an alternative way to keep an eye on your business.|
When you first point the browser to the WVC2300, you’re greeted by a home page from which you can monitor the live video and audio feed. From here you can also switch between the camera’s three resolution options, manually capture still frames and zoom in on the image at either 2x or 4x magnification (it’s a digital rather than optical zoom, however, which tends to produce blocky images, particularly on the latter setting). An ActiveX control, which requires Internet Explorer, powers the browser-based monitoring; you can still access the camera via Firefox but you’ll get only a bare video feed sans audio or any controls.
Speaking of video, the WVC2300 supports various resolutions including 160×120, 320×240 and 640×480, in either MPEG4 (the default) or MJPEG formats with a frame rate up to 30 fps. The camera can also stream in 3GPP format viewable on mobile phones.
To minimize the video stream’s impact on your network, you can specify a maximum amount of bandwidth the camera uses. You can also cap the frame rate and pick from five general video quality settings ranging from Very Low to Very High. A time/date stamp and/or custom text are displayable over the video window rather than directly atop the image where it might be obstructive.
In addition to standard picture adjustments (brightness, contrast, sharpness) the WVC2300 also has a night mode infrared filter that better defines the image in low lighting conditions. You can toggle the night mode on and off from the browser view or set it to turn on and off according to a schedule, but the night mode can’t come on automatically in response to changing light conditions.
As noted above the WVC2300 has an on-board microphone, allowing it to monitor sounds as well as sights, and connecting an external speaker to the WVC2300 gives you or your designee the ability to communicate with anyone in vicinity of the camera. If you don’t need the audio you can disable it.
Administration and Advanced Configuration
There are a number of ways you can manage authorized access to the WVC2300. The camera supports IP filtering to block access from specific IP addresses or address ranges, and you can also create up to twenty user accounts with one of three privileges level—Administrator for unfettered access, Monitor for control of video settings only, or Viewer, which lets you view but not change anything.
The WMV2300 supports motion detection (again, enabled by an ActiveX control so only configurable via Internet Explorer). You can set up the camera for movement across the entire viewable area, or you can define up to three individual zones, each with its own sensitivity setting. You can set the WVC2300 to perform a variety of tasks upon detecting motion, including delivering still frames or motion clips via e-mail, FTP or your Jabber-based IM server (and for the first two you can specify secondary servers to be used in case the primary ones are down).
The WMV2300’s browser-based monitoring doesn’t let you simultaneously view multiple cameras or recording of video, so for those tasks you must use a separate Windows-based utility. The Monitor utility provides the same controls as the browser but lets you view up to 16 cameras at once arranged in a variety of ways (including one image among many displayed in an oversized window).
You can configure the Monitor utility to connect to cameras over the Internet, which lets you use it from home or another off-site location. It can also link to a mix of local and remote cameras at the same, which is useful for monitoring cameras in different geographic locations (say, a main office and a satellite office).
From this utility you can also perform ad-hoc video recording, define a schedule for automatic recording, or have recording start in response to a trigger (e.g. motion). To view previously material involves a separate Playback utility, which takes time to master due to an inflexible search feature and a generally confusing interface. Also, recorded video isn’t playable outside the Linksys utility unless you run a “Convert to AVI” function on individual clips, and the feature didn’t work consistently for us.
Once you get a handle on the dicey Playback software, the Linksys Wireless-G Business Internet Video Camera with Audio offers small businesses useful capabilities and flexibility when it comes to setting up a surveillance system.
Joe Moran spent six years as an editor and analyst with Ziff-Davis Publishing and several more as a freelance product reviewer. He’s also worked in technology public relations and as a corporate IT manager, and he’s currently principal of Neighborhood Techs, a technology service firm in Naples, Fla. He holds several industry certifications, including Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).
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