The Axis 2100 Network Camera
Images can be viewed straight through a customized web page or by uploading them to a remote FTP server. I didn't use the latter, but it can be configured to alert you, via e-mail, when a new image has been uploaded. Setting the camera to upload an image every five minutes could work nicely for home or office security. An adaptor on the back of the camera allows for hook up to devices such as motion detectors and doorbells.
All camera configuration is web-based, by using the “Installation Wizards” and the “Application Tools”. These are presented in GUI form and are used to define the system, set security preferences and tweak image and layout settings. Simply click on either link, which conveniently sit just to the right of the image(s) being displayed. The “Application Tools” allow you to modify anything from image resolution, to color, time, background color, image title and so on. The “Installation Wizards” is nicely organized into the following sections: security, date and time, image settings, focus, modem or network and TCP/IP. You are also given the option of uploading images to an FTP site.
By default, the camera is set to allow anyone access. This can be changed by registering the camera to a single user. That single user is then given the ability to set security permissions to individual users—requiring a user name and password for access. Similar to most Linux systems.
The 2100 has telnet turned off but does run an FTP daemon. To log into the camera, I FTP'd to the IP address of “my” camera's web page, then logged in as root, using “pass” for the password. Doing this allowed me to root through /proc files (see Listings 1 and 2). This is also the method for downloading upgrades to the camera, or uploading code, which is the coolest thing about this camera. Unlike most appliances running embedded Linux, you can go in and change things, if you are so inclined. As Jon Corbet writes (see Resources), “Axis makes available everything that is needed to do this: versions of the compiler and libraries (licensed under the GPL) are at the Axis developer site. It's mostly a matter of cross-compiling the code and FTPing into the camera.”
There is a Linux port running on the Etrax 100. Axis ported Linux to their products in December 1997 (kernel 2.0.33) This port, along with their developers not wanting to spend time developing a new OS, made Linux an obvious choice to run the 2100 web camera. The source code to the Linux port is licensed under the GPL and can be downloaded from the Axis site. Here's the hardware, as listed in the user's guide:
ARPTEC-1 compression chip; ETRAX-100
100 MIPS CPU
2MB FLASH PROM
The camera specifications, for those of you in the know:
Digital, 24-bit color
Image pickup device: 1/4'' inch HAD RGB progressive scan CCD
White balance: automatic, fixed indoor, fixed fluorescent, fixed outdoor and hold
Electronic shutter: 1/30s - 1/30000s, light condition adaptive
High bandwidth is the place to start. If you plan to transfer files from the camera over the Internet, a DSL (or equivalent) connection is the way to go. To view images, Axis recommends a “PC, ideally Pentium 300 or higher, with a high-speed graphics card and 100MB Ethernet network card”. The only software necessary is TCP/IP and either Netscape Navigator (their recommendation) or Internet Explorer. You will also need an IP address, Ethernet cable(s) and a network hub.
The 2100 network camera seems solid, as does the company producing it. Axis has been around since 1984. Headquartered in Lund, Sweden, they have more than 500 employees working at 28 offices worldwide. There Etrax-100 chip is a product in its own right and is used in numerous Axis products, ranging from cameras to print servers. Any product that can work with Linux, does. Axis makes source codes available on their developer site. This includes the code to their own Journaling Flash File System (JFFS), which the Axis site says is “aimed at providing a crash/powerdown-safe file system for disk-less embedded devices”. It allows the camera to be turned off and on without having to reboot—providing the necessary “always on” functionality.
I have spent the past week toying around with the camera, and I am still excited about it. I want one. Though it is designed for indoor use only, it does well with that. Images are crisp and quick. This is embedded Linux in action and the results are exciting. It's a Sunday, and I'm at work, playing with the camera. That should speak volumes.