I have always been very fascinated by motion sensor software but if a fully-fledged security system is likely to bankrupt your wallet, then there are always freeware alternatives which you can hook up to your webcam. I recently tested two of them – Secure Cam and YawCam. Both worked very well and did as advertised.
All you need is a decent webcam which will take good clear shots – a concealed webcam (like the ones embedded in a laptop monitor) would be better, rather than one which is perched on top of your computer, all exposed as if to say “cheese!“. Or use Skype which I discussed in a previous article (that isn’t motion sensor but still another good option though for checking up on your house).
Setting up a motion sensor on your computer would be useful for things like :
- finding out who is on your computer when you are away. Maybe your roommate is secretly reading your emails while you’re in the shower?
- have it covertly installed on your laptop in case someone steals it and you want to get a snap of your thief.
- use it to check on your home while you are away. In the case of Secure Cam, you will need to have remote access to your computer and therefore able to check the hard drive folder from another computer or your internet-enabled mobile device.
Let’s now take a look at both Secure Cam and YawCam and see which one is best.
Secure Cam is the most basic package of the two. This will snap pictures of anyone and anything that walks in front of your webcam and sends the pics to a folder on your computer.
After setting it up, you first need to choose which webcam you are going to use. So go to Device in the top menus. Clicking on that will take you to a screen where you can choose your webcam in a drop down menu. Once you have chosen your webcam, click initialize and that will start the whole motion sensor process. You can also choose how large you want your captured images to be.
Once all that is done, click on the image and that will bring up your options :
The options you need to look out for are :
- Tick all the boxes for saving images
- Decide at what intervals images should be snapped, under “save every ***** second(s)“
- Choose the folder paths to the captured images folders. You may want to bury these folders deep so no-one else can find them.
- Decide how long you want the images to be archived for
- The most important one – set the minimum “Motion Trigger Level” for it to kick into action and start snapping images. Zero means every movement gets snapped and 255 means they would have to be headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody before the motion sensor detects them. To get everything (otherwise, what’s the point of using it?), set the sensor to zero to make it ultra-sensitive.
- Choose how many images you want captured and saved at the one time. The default is 5. If you’re hoping to catch someone “in the act”, for the purposes of a criminal prosecution, then you may want to raise this level to perhaps 10 so you don’t miss anything.
Once the options are saved, you can close the open Secure Cam windows so there is only a small icon left in the taskbar. But behind that icon, here’s what’s going on in the background.
When someone walks in front of the camera, whether a snap will be taken will depend on how sensitive you made the motion trigger level. When the webcam detects a movement, small red squares will start appearing around the image area where the movement was detected. When the detection meter reaches the sensitivity level you specified in the options, the software starts snapping shots and then saves them to the folder path you specified.
That’s basically all there is to this software. When someone walks in front of the webcam, pictures are taken and saved. End of story. A pity that there is no ability to send the images to a FTP server or email address but the next one I tried DOES offer these extras if this is what you really need.
Now this is MUCH better if you want all the bells and whistles attached to your motion sensor. This is surprisingly good for a freeware product and it is very easy to set up.
When installing, if you don’t already have Java Runtime, then it will tell you that you need to install this first. Then go straight ahead and install YawCam.
When you start it up for the first time, this is the first thing you will see :
The first things you need to set up are :
Settings–>Camera–>Select Camera – select your webcam.
Settings–>Startup–>Enable Motion Detection – to start the motion detector
Window–>Motion Detection – to go to the set-up window for the motion detector
The set-up window is this here :
Everything is more or less pretty straight-forward. On the left, that big blue blob is my head (but the X-Files poster and Star Wars poster on the wall behind me comes out pretty sharp). Underneath, you have the bars showing that movement is happening and being picked up by Yawcam. Just like Secure Cam, when it reaches the sensitivity level that you specified in the settings, pictures will start being taken and sent to you via a variety of ways.
On the right, choose how you would like to be notified. You can save the images to your hard drive, have them sent to a FTP server, have the images emailed to you, run an exe program or play a sound. Choose either one or them all. It doesn’t matter. Maybe you would like them emailed to you, with a backup going to your FTP server and a loud siren blaring “INTRUDER ALERT!” scaring the hell out of your snooper. Go on, let it rip.
With the last two, you can set up a really loud scary sounding alarm to go off to scare the hell out of those pesky kids who won’t stop playing with your laptop. Remember to disable it though before Grandpa goes on the computer or you’re likely to give him a heart attack.
If you want the images emailed, you will need to specify your SMTP mail settings. Just look for the POP / SMTP settings in your email program. Gmail’s is here if you happen to use Gmail.
And of course, remember to click that “enable” button there to start the motion detection.
All in all, I much prefer Yawcam for its wide variety of notification features. On the other hand, if you just want something simple and basic, then you may be drawn to Secure Cam instead.
Which one gets your vote? Or do you prefer another? Can you think of other uses for motion sensor software?