Wi-fi Security Camera Review: Netgear Arlo vs D-Link Guardian DCS-2630L

In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I’ll be reviewing the Netgear Arlo and D-Link Guardian DCS-2630L wi-fi security cameras. Tune in tomorrow to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show. In the interim, here’s the review:

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Netgear Arlo vs D-Link Guardian DCS-2630L

Those of you who regularly listen to the show know that I’ve been creating an increasingly smarter home. Continuing that trend, in this show I’ll review not one, but two wi-fi security camera offerings: the Arlo by Netgear and the Guardian DCS-2630L by D-link. To be fair, it’s difficult to directly compare these cameras as they are aimed at slightly different use cases. The Guardian requires a power outlet, and comes equipped with 180 degree field of view, 1080p HD video quality, two way audio and local recording but no cloud recording options. The Arlo is completely wireless, and comes with 110 degree field of view, 720p HD video quality, no audio and no local recording but does include cloud recording options. Both cameras have motion detection, apps for Android and iOS, live viewing, and event notifications. The Arlo kit starts at $200, with each additional camera adding $150 while the Guardian will set you back $200. For the Arlo, the free, 7-day recording option lets you sync up to five cameras. There’s also a 30-day option that costs $10 a month and lets you sync up to 10 cameras, as well as a 60-day option that costs $15 a month and lets you sync up to 15 cameras.

Note: The soon to be released Arlo Q is much more comparable to the D-Link Guardian, with the caveat that you’re still making a local vs. cloud choice. I’ll try to update this review in the future once that product actually ships.

Both devices are relatively easy to setup. For the Arlo you insert the four included CR123 batteries, plug in the seemingly unnecessarily large hub, download the phone app, create an account and sync your camera. The camera must be within 200-300 feet of the hub. The D-link is a similar process of plug in the camera, download the phone app, create an account, scan an included QR code and sync your camera. The Arlo comes with dome shaped magnetic mounts to allow maximum flexibility, while the Guardian has a solid more traditional swivel base.

With the devices both installed, lets move on to actually using them. The Arlo app home screen and website display a nice overview of all your connected cameras. From either you can view multiple cameras, control all available settings, select different motion detection modes, set schedules and view a library of past recordings. The app is intuitive and responsive, and video loads smoothly in both the app and browser. The D-link app defaults to a simple list of available cameras. The free app is fairly basic, but a more full featured app can be purchased for $.99 (although do note the paid app hasn’t been updated in over a year). The app is not quite as intuitive as the Arlo app and was continually laggy for me. While the video on the D-Link is of a higher quality, it sometimes takes a while to load. Incredulously the website doesn’t work at all in any browser in Linux. It’s not just that you can’t watch videos, nothing at all works. You can’t update settings, access a list of your cameras. Nothing. It requires a non-standard plugin for OS X but I wasn’t able to get that to work correctly. It’s almost 2016 and there is absolutely no reason for this. With HTML5 and other web technologies available I consider this a major strike against the Guardian. Also odd is that much of the advanced functionality of the device is hidden in a little mentioned local http server, which means you must find the IP assigned to your camera and manually type it into a browser. Luckily, this does work in Linux. While D-Link doesn’t offer any public cloud recording options, they do offer multiple Network Video Recorder options that allow you to create a DIY local cloud setup, although those come at an additional cost.

The video quality on the weatherproof Arlo is high and the field of view is well suited for most outdoor applications, which is one segment the camera is clearly aimed at. The Arlo in front of my house covers my entire yard and most of each house on either side of me. Battery life is very dependent on how often your placement and motion settings will trigger recording and notification. Overly noisy setups may only get 2-3 months, while well thought out setups should get around 6 months. The addition of a solar charging option would be a welcome addition here. The video quality on the Guardian is very high and the field of view is also the highest I’ve seen from any consumer security camera (and they’ve managed to keep the fisheye minimal). It’s enough to easily capture the entirety of even large indoor spaces. The night vision on both devices is more than adequate, with the Arlo seeing slightly farther and the Guardian being slightly brighter.

While both products are more polished and have a higher build quality than competing products from Foscam, neither support If This Then That (IFTTT) or integrate with any third-party devices, which may be disappointing depending on your integration needs. One concern I have with the Arlo is that the operating temperature low end is 14F. We’ll see how the device operates outside during a New York winter.

So, what’s the bad voltage verdict? The Arlo is a solid system and if you’re looking for a completely wireless setup it’s one of your only options. While the hub is giant, the battery life is surprisingly good for the feature set included and the free cloud tier will be sufficient for most people. It’s a device I’d be comfortable recommending. The Guardian is definitely better than similar devices from Foscam and the like, but at a higher price point to match. If you’re looking for a camera with 100% local storage it’s a high quality device that will serve you well. That said, the D-Link is a little difficult to use and they seriously have to get their act together when it comes to browser support. There’s just no excuse these days.

arlo-lightguardian-light arlo-dark guardian-dark

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Episode 54 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which we are curmudgeonly, we are ethical philosophers, and:

  • 00:02:00 Are developers learning libraries and not learning the actual programming languages they’ve chosen? And is this a problem? Are JavaScript hackers just using jQuery or PHP hackers just using Laravel when they shouldn’t? Or is this greybeards complaining about the kids today?
  • 00:16:47 Review: the Blue Yeti USB microphone. Almost by coincidence, the whole Bad Voltage team have purchased the Yeti USB mic from Blue Microphones, and so we all review it together
  • 00:27:20 The rise of self-driving cars brings up the question of algorithmic morality; how should the car be programmed in the event of an unavoidable accident? Protect the driver at all costs; reduce loss of life overall even if the owner gets the short end of that stick; what? This is a big decision that needs to be made: how do we think this should be handled?
  • 00:39:50 THe UK government have recently started making more noises about banning encryption from being used by ordinary people, to prevent terrorists from being able to communicate without security services reading it. It’s the Crypto Wars and the Clipper chip, all over again. Meanwhile, Apple have made a big point of how they work hard to protect their customers’ privacy by ensuring that iMessages are end-to-end encrypted and so forth. Clearly, these proposals are in opposition. The question is this: if Apple declared that these government proposals were incompatible with their customers’ privacy and so threatened to pull out of the UK market… who would blink first? And would Apple do this? And is it OK that they might have this level of power?

Listen to 1×54: The Trolley Problem

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Episode 53 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which Jeremy is unwell and yet battles on heroically, everyone is cynical about politicians and yet battle on heroically, and:

  • 00:02:14 The rise of inexpensive open source computers: the PocketChip and DragonBox Pyra are examples of new cheap open source computing devices, and everyone knows about the Raspberry Pi. Are these things cool for people who aren’t the Bad Voltage team? What good are they? Isn’t it great that these exist?
  • 00:12:22 “Vigilante malware” as a concept is in the news again; this time, there’s a real example, Linux.Wifatch, a network worm which infects Linux-based routers and embedded devices and then… turns off insecure options and makes sure they’re up to date with patches. It’s malware, but on the side of good. Maybe this is the way forward? Question mark?
  • 00:27:55 We’ve been asked about Owncloud quite a lot, and brought it up for discussion frequently: now we speak to project founder Frank Karlitschek about what Owncloud’s up to now and why it might be a good idea
  • 00:44:37 Why don’t the open source community continually introduce laws saying things like “all router firmware must be open source” so the enemy has to spend resources and time battling these things, much like they keep introducing laws saying “everyone must use DOCX” and we have to battle them? Why not fight fire with fire?

Listen to 1×53: They’ve Got A Flamethrower

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

 

Bad Voltage Episode 50 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you the wonderful world of Bad Voltage, in which you get a mat underfoot because your feet hurt, there is a small Lunduke on the scene, and:

  • 00:04:48 Mycroft, the open source “AI for everyone” home automation thing that you can put in your house and speak commands to, has achieved its Kickstarter goals and will happen. We like it. Here’s why
  • 00:24:48 Chris Waid from Thinkpenguin and savewifi.org speaks about the American FCC’s consultation which requires restricting wireless devices from using unapproved frequencies. Understandably, the SaveWiFi team are very concerned this will result in outright banning of open source router firmware and possibly open source wireless drivers generally. Today we discuss the issue with Chris, whether it’s quite as big a problem as is suggested, and what can be done about it
  • 00:48:17 Hack Voltage: Jeremy spends a minute recommending a cool thing. In this episode, a bathroom mirror which runs Android
  • 00:49:24 Unbiasedly leading on from Mycroft, one of the things it touts itself as is integrating with your home automation; Internet-of-Things things around your house, whether thermometers or Dropcams or smart fridges. We’ve been getting into home automation to varying degrees, and it’s a big area; here we talk about it and open standards
  • 01:08:14 Jono reviews the LIFT standing desk conversion kit, and the idea of standing desks generally

We’re doing a live show, and you can be in the audience! See details of Bad Voltage Live, in Fulda, Germany on September 30th 2015, at badvoltage.org/live!

Listen to 1×50: Automated

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Episode 49 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you the wonderful world of Bad Voltage, in which it’s all about the money, it’s never about the privacy, and we disagree about:

  • 00:05:03 The Endless Computer bills itself as “a computer for emerging markets”; a unit with a priority on design, created to plug into an existing TV and pre-packaged with content so it doesn’t need an internet connection. We discuss whether it lives up to its lofty goals.
  • 00:21:26 At roughly the same time, Dustin Kirkland wrote an extremely angry “open letter” to Google about his horrible Nest smoke alarms, and meanwhile our own Jeremy found himself very happy with his Nests. We asked Dustin for a comment, and Jeremy reviews the Nest 2 and why he’s considerably happier
  • 00:37:52 Hack Voltage: Stuart has been playing with drawing app Gliffy
  • 00:39:15 Microsoft: friend or foe of the open source community? Every time they seem good they turn around and do something terrible to us, but then the open source community have finally moved beyond the “Micro$oft” years and we want to embrace them as being on-side. Are they OK now? Are they as bad as they ever were?

We’re doing a live show, and you can be in the audience! See details of Bad Voltage Live, in Fulda, Germany on September 30th 2015, at badvoltage.org/live!

Listen to 1×49: The Tapas Of All Bananas

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

 

Nest Protect Generation 2 Review

In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I’ll be reviewing the Nest Protect Generation 2, a network capable Smoke + Carbon Monoxide detector. Tune in tomorrow to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show. In the interim, here’s the review:

Nest Protect Generation 2

As someone who travels quite a bit, a smoke detector that can notify me when I’m away is a compelling device. As a technology guy who has a fair amount of home automation equipment, a smoke detector that can integrate into my increasingly smarter home seems like a natural choice. So, why am I just now reviewing the Nest Protect? Well, the first generation Protect had quite a reputation for false alarms and a “wave” feature that was so buggy it resulted in a recall. And while I’m an early adopter who suffers through quite a few wonky first generation devices, when it comes to something as important as a safety device… I decided to play it safe. But when Nest recently released the Nest Protect generation 2, I decided to take the proverbial plunge.

While the generation 2 device is noticeably sleeker than its predecessor, its what’s inside that prompted my purchase. It uses an advanced smoke sensor, called a Split-Spectrum Sensor, to detect a wide range of smoke events, including both slow smoldering fires and fast flaming fires. That sensor is shielded against outside light and encased in a stainless steel screen, which has a hexagonal pattern designed to let smoke in and keep bugs, dust and fibers out. This should vastly decrease the likelihood of a false alarm. The device also has built-in sensors to detect carbon monoxide, heat, humidity, occupancy and ambient light, as well as (slightly disconcertingly for some I’m sure) a microphone. On the outside is a central button, surrounded by a colorful LED ring, which alerts you to the current status of the device: Blue during setup/testing, green for good, yellow for warning and red for an emergency.

Setting up the device was extremely straight forward. Download the Nest app (available for Android and iOS), select “Add product” and follow a couple simple prompts. Total install time was less than 5 minutes per device, although I installed the battery powered version. If you opt for the hardwired version it will take a little longer. You can enable a couple optional features during install, including Pathlight (which will turn the LED ring into a night-light if you walk by in the dark) and Nightly Promise (which will result in the device glowing green briefly at night, to let you know that it’s fully operational). Installation concludes with a final safety test.

As part of the install, you select where the device is located in your home. One thing that separates the Protect from a more traditional device is the Heads Up feature. If smoke or CO levels are elevated but not at emergency levels, the device will loudly say: “Heads up: there’s smoke in the hallway”. Once the levels pass a certain threshold, the full alarm is sounded and you will start to receive mobile notifications. Unlike the first gen device, you can silence the alarm from the app, although due to regulations there are some parameters around when you can do so. As a networked device, when one Protect senses trouble, all devices will alarm. That means if my Protect on the 3rd floor detects smoke, the device on the 1st floor will also alarm, making it much more likely someone will hear it. The device also regularly tests the battery and will inform you if it’s low, hopefully making the just-not-often-enough intermittent chirp of a dying smoke detector a thing of the past.

There are some additional features that more advanced users may take advantage of as well. The Protect can integrate with other Nest devices, so for example you can have a Dropcam send you a picture if the Protect alarms. There is also full IfThisThenThat support with quite a few existing recipes available. This enables scenarios such as “Text a neighbor when your Nest Protect detects a smoke alarm emergency” or “Add a reminder to my calendar when Nest Protect batteries are low”.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? At $99, the Protect is significantly more expensive than a traditional smoke detector. While I’ve only had the second generation devices for a little over a month, I haven’t gotten a single false alarm yet. If that remains the case, the additional features, notifications and integrations are compelling enough to justify the cost for me. Because I like redundancy, I also installed a more traditional (although Z Wave enabled) device on my second floor.

–jeremy

LinuxQuestions.org Turns Fifteen

WOW. Fifteen years ago today I made the first post ever at LQ, introducing it to the world. 15 Years. I know I’ve said it before, but 5,354,618 posts later the site and community have exceeded my wildest expectations in every way. The community that has formed around LQ is simply amazing. The dedication that the members and mod team has shown is both inspiring and truly humbling. I’d like to once again thank each and every LQ member for their participation and feedback. While there is always room for improvement, that LQ has remained a friendly and welcoming place for new Linux members despite its size is a testament to the community. Reaching this milestone has served to energize and refocus my efforts on making sure the next fifteen years are even better than the first fifteen. Visit this thread for more on how we plan to do that. We can’t do it without you.

–jeremy