Robert Dempster

Resident in Pietermaritzburg (PMB)!
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*** Welcome to my PMB blog, the umpteenth! ***

Town Hill Web Cam
A brief History

21 December 2019

After I retired from the the School of Maths, Stats and Computer Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) about ten years ago, I set up a personal web page. It basically continued the blogs that I had started to write while I was still at UKZN. Shortly after that started I was loaned a Davis Weather station and once I had set that up and displayed the current weather for our neighbourhood on the web, a D-Link web camera to show an image of what the weather was actually like followed.

Over the years the weather station has been replaced and upgraded twice. The D-Link was also replaced with a Foscam and it was the demise of that camera about a month ago that lead to this mini-blog. When the camera failed I was of course annoyed, but that annoyance was ameliorated to an extent by our decision to start thinking about relocating. When that happens, then both the weather station and the camera would be probably both be retired.

So the camera remained defunct until I received a call from a helicopter pilot who was curious about the state of the camera. This was the second such call we have had over the years, and the calls stem from the helicopter pilots use of the web camera's image of Town hill when it is misty in our vicinity, and they are wanting to land at Grey's Hospital.

The replacement of the camera started with a typical web search and that almost immediately revealed that what was now out there, was mostly Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV). The cameras now had all the bells and whistles, and generally stopped short of being able to throw stones at a would be intruder. The cameras that I was looking at also mostly had a cell-phone app associated with them and even the cameras with a wireless internet capability were heavily tied to the corresponding app.

Not exactly what I wanted, as I wanted to be able to log into the camera from my desktop box that ran the Linux operating system. Admittedly some cameras did support access through a web-browser from a computer running Windows NT, XP 7,8,9 10 (and 11?), did that not cut it for me. Nor did Apple's iOS. Bruce then suggested that we try a Raspberry Pi, and that is the route we followed.

Raspberry Pi is an initiative to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world. Surprised our President did not mention it during his babble about the, "Fourth Industrial Revolution" (4IR).

After some 4IR research Bruce ordered a Pi Zero (the size of a credit card) single board computer together with a "not the cheapest (i.e., could be focused / zoomed)" camera, and other bits and pieces. Bruce then put it all together and got it working. I helped tweak it and installed it in a suitable box which I mounted on the same mount as we had used previously. After that I had to revive all the other elements of the grand design that reside on my Linux box, and "Viola, The Raspberry Pi camera is cooking!".

Rasberry Pi cam view of Townhill from Oak Park

This page is best viewed on a computer (desktop/laptop) using a browser together with a mouse or pointing device.
Getting it to work on a device that has a touch-screen is a problem that I still have to solve.

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Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy a bicycle.

If you have any comments, corrections, suggestions or plain criticism, I would appreciate it if you would communicate the same to me.

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