SOMA Nature Walk: My Only Friends Are Birds Now


I had the window open for about 15 minutes shooting some video of the crows with my phone and my eyes are burning like crazy already.

Dear Lazyweb, seeking a simple networked video camera whose "custom app" isn't going to rootkit me out to a Moldovan bitcoin farm.

I got a Reolink E1 Pro, and it was... almost ok, but mostly not. It's failings included:

  • It's way too wide angle, doesn't zoom, and can't focus close-up.
  • It's supposed to be able to record only when there's motion, and I couldn't figure out how to make it do that.
  • Live preview was in 4K but I couldn't figure out how to make it save any file that wasn't 360p.

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17 Responses:

    • Elusis says:

      Crows. Square tails.

      (If it has a pointed tail and makes you say "Jesus that is a HUGE crow!" then it's a raven.)

  1. At a previous gig, our head IT person really liked the UniFi stuff. I was fairly impressed with their cameras. You have to set up a server with their software (so maybe not simple?), but no clowns required.

    • jwz says:

      Well, those are like 8x as much as any other networked camera, and I don't know how to tell from the specs whether they also are all super wide angle, or in fact solve any of the other problems, either. So that's fun.

    • David Glover-Aoki says:

      The "UniFi Video" software, which you could self-host, is discontinued. The replacement, "UniFi Protect", only runs on Unifi-branded servers, so it's not really a good solution unless you already have the necessary equipment.

  2. Elusis says:

    Love your clear window box.

    I have, uh, ordered a multi-pronged hangar thing with a space for a bird bath, a finch feeder, and thistle seed, because apparently putting peanuts & cheese out for Huginn and Muninn, and sprinkling some sunflower seeds on the balcony for the finches and juncos, is not quirky enough for me any more.

    (The crows really like chicken carcass bits but if I leave those out, the seagulls start to circle, and I'm not having that.)

    • jwz says:

      I had been just putting some nuts out for them unattended, but then the pigeons caught on. Eventually the crows figured out that they have to show up and yell for service.

      • Elusis says:

        My crows, too, show up and shout into the drive-through speaker, aka my screen door, when I turn music on in the morning.

        Also they are learning to come when I rattle the jar of peanuts.

        I have ordered a parrot foraging toy.

        I'm also going to try drilling a couple of holes in a weekly pill sorter so I can zip-tie it to the balcony railing.

        • Nibby says:

          Hey, if you all are working on training urban crows, maybe you could test the feasibility of my dream of training them to peck out the lenses of government surveillance cameras. My own experience with crows suggests a typical crow personality is: annoying weirdo, but quite intelligent, loyal, and somewhat sneaky. One could not only feed one of the smarter things that might inherit the scorched earth, but it could be a tiny vignette in the organics vs skynet or whatever script we're in. Potential slogan: "Peck the Panopticon".

          • NIbby says:

            Sorry. I now see how inappropriate the pecking thing is for a camera recommend thread. Those bird boxes are so adorable, I was momentarily lost in bird related reverie.

  3. phule says:

    Wish I could help with the video. Good luck.
    Just wanted to say thanks for confusing the heck out of my cats with the audio on first clip. :)

  4. Tim says:

    It's really hard to get decent webcams these days, out of stock at retailers because everybody wants to look brighter and clearer on their Zoom calls. There are quite a few modern SLRs and mirrorlesses for which you can get Mac or Win webcam software to allow them to connect via USB. Dunno about linux. I've got an old-ish Fujifilm X-T2 that I plugged Into my Mac using Fuji's webcam software and it seemed to just work. Mind you I had the luxury of being a photog hobbyist with a cupboard shelf full of camera rubble so I also found a 10-24 wide-angle lens to screw into it. Normally my flesh crawls at using software from camera makers but this is existence proof that it isn't cosmically fated to be awful. Also I had to find a USB B-mini to C wire. I have to say that this thing held up on a lighting arm screwed into the back of my desk looks kind of cool.

  5. pagrus says:

    I feel like every time camera stuff comes up here some RPi fanboy shows up and tries to solve the issue at hand with a bunch of scripts and a LEGO enclosure, then gets shot down and/or ridiculed.

    Anyway I guess it's my turn this time, minus the LEGO. I have been impressed with the "high quality camera" despite not personally being able to take very good pictures yet. One of the nicer things is being able to use any C or CS mount lens which obviously would allow you to select your focal length and speed. They're not terribly expensive and if you don't have a lens already you can get those pretty inexpensively (and maybe even locally?) too

    I haven't used OpenCV in a while but when I did it was easy to detect motion, and that was years ago. There was also a pretty successful Kickstarter that may be relevant depending on whether you want to do fun/silly neural net stuff, or even if you just want to fool around with depth/stereo.

    On a side note we use Ubiquiti stuff a lot at work and while it it great when it works it is difficult to diagnose when things go wrong. I just decommissioned one of their gateways today, in fact, and replaced it with something much older we had lying around that is working much better. I should mention that I don't have any experience with their cameras though, so maybe that's another whole deal.

    So anyway. not exactly "simple" but that depends on your definition of simple I guess.

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