today in police state news

  • Lessig has Gilmore's reply about the "Suspected Terrorist" incident.
  • Cory writes: "A kid who put a note telling TSA snoops to stay out of his luggage was busted on trumped-up "bomb-threat" charges for penning the following and putting it in his bag:"

    ''[Expletive] you. Stay the [expletive] out of my bag you [expletive] sucker. Have you found a [expletive] bomb yet? No, just clothes. Am I right? Yea, so [expletive] you.''
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Current Music: Vast -- Here ♬

toy shopping

I need a new toy ("oh aah oh") and perhaps you, my informants, can help me find it. Basically, I want a webcam that I can pan/tilt/zoom/focus under computer control. I've been googling madly, and I'm not getting anywhere. Help, I'm lost in a maze of poorly designed corporate web sites! But before you point me at or X10 or something, let me clarify: I want a camera with baseband NTSC ("RCA jack") output. Digital "network" cameras with built-in web servers are of no use to me. USB cameras are of no use to me. To be able to actually use this camera, I need: <LJ-CUT TEXT=" --More--(19%) ">

  • baseband NTSC output;
  • color;
  • extremely good in low light (1 lux or lower);
  • pan, tilt, zoom, and focus controllable via a simple, documented serial port protocol.

Now, in my experience, there are only two varieties of cameras that are both color and good in low light: there are high-end pro cameras, which are typically $5000 or more; and there are Sony Nightshot 8MM camcorders, which are $250. (You'd think that a camera would be cheaper than a camcorder, since the recording mechanism with all its moving parts must be the most expensive piece to manufacture: but economies of scale and price points are involved, so your simple earth-logic does not apply.) Sony Nightshots are what I use for the club's webcams (though I don't run them in infrared mode.)

If a camera doesn't mention a lux rating, that almost certainly means it's 7lux or worse. Just about all digital webcams are terrible in low light, and X10 cams are terrible unless you're actually standing on the surface of the sun.

So I think what all this means is, I want a dingus that is a pan/tilt camera mount, and that can also control an arbitrary camcorder that is bolted on to it. I believe most (all?) Sony camcorders can be controlled by a protocol called Control-S and/or SIRCS and/or LANC and/or S-Link. (I suspect that those are four names for the same thing, but maybe not.) I gather it is basically a digital version of the IR remote control blips-and-bleeps.

The stuff on looks promising, though it's really expensive. Here's a summary. They sell a few things that look like the might work, like CamMotion PTU and (maybe?) CamMotion PTB plus Bescor MP101.

But I can't really tell whether any of these will actually do what I need. Which ones are computer-controllable and which ones only work with a physical joystick dingus? If they are computer controllable, do they truly require closed Windows software, or some Java/ActiveX nonsense, or will I be able to find a way to drive them from the serial port of a Linux box using a Perl script?

I can't tell. It all looks pretty damned pricey, though.

Then there's this Slink-E thing, which is a box with a Control-S plug on one end and a serial port on the other (but no servo motors.) Will I end up needing one of these too (and two serial ports on the controlling computer?) I don't know...

Surely one of you knows about this stuff? Gimme a clue...

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