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My Silly Pondcam – Post 17 – Let’s put together our new case

Now I don’t feel as good about this post as I have about a bunch of the others because we already did this once and it didn’t work out too well. But you need to know why this case is different than then last so I will show you.I already mentioned that I figured out how to cut plexiglass. It basically is very carefully cutting with a table saw, then lots and lots of sanding. Then after that you have to sand some more to make sure all of the pieces fit together will no gaps.

I was all proud of myself and explaining it to my dad and he had a good idea. He said the way a woodworker would build a small box is to use tape to hold it together then get it all aligned and then glue the edges and bring it together to hold it all in place for drying.

That idea sounds perfect for the pondcam case. So I do that. I build my box and tape it together with blue painters tape. Here is what it looks like all taped together.


I unfold it to prep it for the epoxy. I will not be putting the back on as I will need to put the camera in before the final stage.


I carefully mix and spread epoxy on the edges that need to meet, then bring it altogether. As I am doing this I am very careful to make sure I am setting the correct pieces, my eyes are always fixed on the writing I put on each piece (top, bottom, side, etc.) at the same time I can’t get this song out of my head that my wife teaches my kids about washing their hands. It  goes like this (Sung to the tune of “Frère Jacques/Brother John”)… So you can be tortured like me some day with this silly song, here are the lyrics:

Top and bottom, Top and bottom,
In between, in between,
Rub them all together, rub them all together,
Make them clean, Make them clean.

Yes… I know I am a little nuts. But that is what goes through my head when I have to concentrate and deal with anything that has a top and a bottom.

So after I throw down the epoxy and bring the box together it looks like this.


Unlike the old pondcam case where I had that grey pasty looking epoxy, this stuff is clear. I can examine potential problem areas as it is curing. I can see where the edges meet with the epoxy and try and put pressure where I think there may be issues (I can see there is an issue at the top and at the bottom, the last pieces I made).


The next day I do a similar test with water (by filling it up) as the last case and I can see there is an issue, not as drastic as the last case, but definitely a problem that would destroy pondcam (I don’t think it would survive another soaking).


I dry it all out and take some measurements. I have to make the camera sit flush so I put a small piece of finely measured, cut and sanded at the bottom to make sure the bottom of poncam stays in the correct position to make the camera point straight instead of angled. This will hopefully take care of that leak and also make it so I don’t have to drill holes and push wood dowels thought later.


That part was easy enough. I start to think about how water got into our last case. I know I have to be much more careful now. This case has taken me a really long time to build because of all of the sanding and trepidation. If I didn’t want pondcam to get wet before, I so much more don’t want it to get wet now. I decide to build in some reinforcement to give me even better odds.


I cut some strips of plexiglass and then I; sand and sand and sand… Then I take a little break and sand some more. I cut them to the exact length and place them everywhere to reinforce the case and hold the camera in the correct position.

Literally every part where plexiglass meets I fit a carefully sanded strip and glue it into place (yes I use the mock goop glue for this, not epoxy). Here is what it looks like drying overnight. What you see is me  building out the back wall with a border of those strips so that our back will have double the area for epoxy to cure.


After this dried I put our cable assembly in and tested it. I didn’t take any pictures because then I would force myself to write about each one. This keeps me up way too long and makes my posts hard to get through because they are so long. Instead I will sum up:

– When testing I was trying to connect the antenna cable to the camera and I ended up breaking the connector off. This caused a big problem and I had to troubleshoot it. I found the issue and then reconnected it and tested to make sure it worked.
– I permanently mounted our pondcam wireless access point in its new weatherproof case.
– I went to the store and bought a firewall just for pondcam and pondnet. Actually they had some cheapy refurbished ones so I bought three of them. I don’t want any of my projects to touch my actual work network. I reconfigured pondcam so it would be on its own network (They were 14 bucks… old technology, maybe not so good for fast wireless networks but perfect for pondcam).
– I reconfigured pondam’s wireless network to be unencrypted with no password. I want people that hang around my pond to see that they can just connect and browse the web and not worry about asking anyone for a password.
– I test pondcam again and again and make sure everything works as expected. Then I put the back on.

Here is what the pondcam looks like in its new case right now. I spread as much expoxy as I could without fear of it leaking onto the inside of the camera and clamped the back of the case down. I am not sure there is any turning back from this. This case better work.


Now that has to cure all night.

One last thing… Just like the silly song that was going through my head that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have a similar thing going through my head every time I have to wait for something to dry. Except it isn’t a song, it is a story. If you have ever read  “Go dog, Go!” to your kids you will know exactly what I am talking about (I have read that book to my kids so many times). Near the end of the book it goes like this “Now it is night. Night is not a time for play, the dogs go to sleep, the dogs will sleep all night”.


My Silly Pondcam – Post 16 – How do you permanently wifi enable a pond and your walkway around it?

At the end of our last post I was prepping the camera connections to be tested in its “real world” way of working. I did finish that part, but don’t want to glue the pondcam together until I have a lot of what I call “adjacent minutes” free. That is a rare thing for me as I am constantly (but happily) interrupted by real life. I don’t want to glue those together and have an ugly pondcam. I want to be able to be methodically do that right. And that will take a lot of “adjacent minutes”.

I try to think of something I can do that I can just piddle through and it doesn’t matter if I am not concentrating. There will be nothing that I need to dry and I can be free to just leave a half finished part of pondcam for a while and not worry (not like letting epoxy dry and placing a case together perfectly).

I decide I need a permanent wireless solution for my pond. Now I am a utilitarian guy. If I can get more than one purpose out of some work I am doing I am all for it. Pondcam needs wireless network connectivity. Pondcam is going to be in the pond. I really like to walk around the pond when I police my yard (if you look up the word “police” the military word for it is to clean and put in order… Whenever I walk around my property I always think of that word “police”… it is the perfect word to describe what a suburbanite dad who is walking around his property is doing.

Let’s permanently wifi enable the whole pond and area around the pond.

Note: Literally as I wrote that sentence above I thought to myself, “I should have done this years ago! it is such a good idea”.

Here is a picture of my precious pond. It is bigger than it looks in this picture. In the spring it is really big because it floods and those back willows have water going up and over to my neighbors pond. I have a walkway around it. I want to permanently provide wifi so I can connect a notebook anywhere in the pond, across the pond, to the left of the pond or right of the pond. That whole part of my property needs to have wifi.


I want to setup a lawn chair on the other side of my pond and watch my kids from on top of the hill on the other side and drink coffee (or beer depending on the time of day) and watch my kids play on the beach… while I am looking at pondcam from my netbook.

I know what you are thinking, you are thinking, “Joe, you covered all of that and you had to pull out cantenna that was not good for transmitting wifi to a big area like that. You have it all wrong and it won’t work”. You are thinking that, but I am not. You forgot something. The broken connector to the antenna when Paul and I were working on the pondcam so many posts ago (man that was fun… I wish Paul would help me everyday).  I am going to make these two things do some real important work for me instead of just sitting in bins in my basement.


That is the wireless access point that I butchered to test pondcam. I mentioned I bought my wife her own that runs in her own little network and guess what? No complaints… Everything is working… The iPad, the kindle, her new computer, her iPhone, her new wireless printer… It all works. Why? Because it has nothing to do with anything that I do on the network. Her network is her own… That means that access point is totally mine and I can do anything I want with it. So let’s get to it.

I want to mount the antenna here. Right above those doors. That will make that high gain antenna send wifi all over that entire acre. There are no trees in the way, so it should work really well. The lady at the bottom of this picture is my wife’s buddy Celi. I know I can rope her into helping me.


I ask Celi to hold the antenna where I want it and I use some deck screws to hold it in place. Here is what it looks like.


I know this will work, but I have a problem. I am not sure how to power the wifi permanently. I do have an outlet there right at the bottom of that door to the right. The problem with that it is connected to a switch that runs a waterfall in our ornamental pond. I need the wifi to be on 24×7, not only when my kids are playing with the waterfall. I remember something important… I have one of these!


I am totally happy to use this. All I have to do is get an Ethernet cable to the wireless access point, then I can run power over the unused data cables in the Ethernet. The way these things work are just great. On the one side, you connect power to an adapter, then it shoots 48 volt DC current down the cable along with the data to the device (48 volts is what old “ma bell” phones use and it can go a long way). On the other side, you connect an adapter that steps down that voltage to either 12 or 5 volts. You then plug in your device.

So all I need now is a long Ethernet cable. I have lots of that (And I bought more at the hardware store the other day). I need to drill a hole in my basement wall so I can feed the cable out to the wireless access point under the porch. I drill a hole that would go right under the porch and start feeding the cable in. I push a whole bunch through.


Now I have to do the hard part that I totally don’t want to do… I have to crawl in here and find that cable.


The cable is all the way at the back of that dark cavern… There is lots of spiders and gross things. It gives me the heebie geebies just thinking about going all the way in there.

I ask my six year old to go get it because she is small. It is pointless to ask her because she makes me go with her. The problem is that I can’t see it. I realize later that it isn’t under the porch it is on top of the porch. I mess around and even get my two year old to help me grab the cable (she was too scared to get the cable and I didn’t realize that I never taught her the word cable so as we are both under the porch she didn’t understand what I was pointing at. Eventually… I get the cable pull it all through, I try to clean up what is obviously a cable coming through the front porch going to under it.

No one will notice this, right? My wife is due back in a few minutes… She totally wont notice this blue cable going out of the bottom of the wall and going down beneath the front porch, right?


Nope… She noticed. She got home a few minutes later and said, “Why is there a blue cable coming out of my house going under the porch?!?!? is this for Pondcam?”. My shoulders shrunk forward and my head tilted down for a moment and I just listened for more. I know she was waiting for a response and just standing by the front door. I said, “yeah… I though that hole would land under the porch… my bad”. Then I listened for a response…. I hear her walk inside. That sound of her walking in brings me back to childhood where you are doing something your mom doesn’t like, but your mom just lets it go, it is called a “green light sound” OK good let’s get back to work.

I connect our power over Ethernet and our antenna to get things rolling under the porch. Here is what it looks like.


Now this isn’t permanent… I still have to figure out how to keep rain out of those devices, but for now I am just interested in seeing if this will light up connectivity on my whole pond. I configure Celi’s phone to connect to the wireless access point and I send her to the other side of the pond with my kids for a picture. They are way out there and it is working (I am sitting just in front of the antenna on a lawn chair).


Yes… That is right! They are so far away you can barely see them giving a “thumbs up” that it is working. I am happy. But you may not believe me that they are really giving me a thumbs up because you can’t see them… so I will zoom in.


It is all good. That whole acre of my property is lit up with wifi. But I have a problem…. The wireless access point will get wet if it rains. The power over Ethernet connector will get wet too. We have to keep them from ever getting wet. I think about this for a while. I could coat them in goop glue, but I hate that idea. After a bit I remember… I have one of these!


Now that is an outdoor case for electronic equipment. I can totally fit pondcam’s wireless access point and power over Ethernet connector in that. I just have to get rid of some bulk plastic. Basically I have to fit these in there.


So I take the board out of the wireless access point (I can do that now because it no longer belongs to the family and now is free to be dedicated to pondcam). I stick it in there and carefully place the power over Ethernet connector and now I have this.


And now I have this ready to be permanently mounted to under the porch to light up my pond with wifi indefinitely.


Somewhere in this process I did test all of the cabling on pondcam, so I should be able to glue it together soon. Here is what it looks like testing my cable assembly and all new connections with a small antenna I found in my wireless bin (After testing I wonder if I really need that big 9DB antenna… I doubt it).


And yes… I thankfully was able to see a picture.


That is the top gable of my house and it is all for now… I have important real work to do for the next week. I am not sure if I will be able to work on pondcam, but I will try. I will also drink a lot of water. I really want my next post to be about gluing our new case together… Unless I can think of some other thing I can do (I am very intimidated about the gluing process and don’t want to screw it up).

For those of you that are getting impatient (dad) and just want to see fish in the pond (like I do). I want to tell you something personally. When working on a small, but complicated project like this at some point it all needs to be wrapped up. I know there are a lot of moving parts; the dock, the camera, power and internet connectivity. It seems like there is too much separate things going on and it really needs to come together. We took some really bad turns and there may be more of them in our future, but today… I can see it all coming together and finally having a camera that sits permanently in my pond.

My Silly Pondcam – Post 15 – An unexpected bonus…

Now so many of you that are bothering to read this blog know me very well, but for those of you that don’t. I would like to explain something. My real job is not like pondcam, but does have to do with technology. I am not an electrical engineer like my mother, which is why I stick to the simple math of Watt’s law and Ohm’ Law. I am a network engineer by trade and do a whole bunch of stuff with firewalls and operating systems. Customers hire me to make sure they are secure and won’t get hacked… And if something does happen to someone’s computer that is related to security I help with that too. I almost never get into soldering and measuring voltages. Literally, the last time I used a soldering iron at a customer site was like 9 years ago and before that it was another 9 years (Both for “cold solder joints” which is an easy fix even for someone that doesn’t do it every day). And I don’t know if I have ever had to use a voltmeter on site like we do with pondcam all of the time.

So here is what is strange…. Last week a customer wants me to make sure every computer in their office has a UPS (Uninteruptible Power Supply, we got our batteries for pondcam from one of those) so when the power goes out their computers they still run for a little while so the users can shut their computers down so they don’t lose any of their work. That part is not strange. Lots of customers want that. So I do an assessment and tell the customer to order 12 of them and some surge protectors. It took a week or so for it all to come in. Me and a coworker installed them all. The next day they are all failing. They are beeping and beeping and all the users are getting really distracted and ticked off. We mess around with them for a bit and realize that the batteries are not getting charged. We talk about it for a while and figure that we have to just get the whole batch replaced because they are defective.

The customer says they will call the company they bought them from to get them all replaced. This is a piece of cake I think, it is a bad batch of UPSes and they will just replace them all. That was last week when I was thinking that.

Today I get a call from the customer and guess what? He is really ticked off. The tech at the manufacturer didn’t believe him that they were all dead and thought it was just batteries, so he wanted the customer to take a “voltmeter” and measure the voltage across the outputs of the transformer that charges the batteries”. When I was talking to the customer he was beside himself and pretty much told them, “NO WAY, I am not going to do that, this stuff is crap, just send me new UPSes that work!”. The tech on the phone with him pleaded and said, “Look… All I want to do is know if I should send you batteries or new UPSes”. As the customer is venting to me about this whole conversation, I am thinking… Crap… I literally just did this exact same exercise a whole bunch of times over the last month…. Which is trying to figure out if our solar panels will get our batteries charged.

Then I say what I absolutely love to say to customers. I say, “Don’t worry, I will take care of it”. If I didn’t make pondcam I may have said something like, “Oh… We are IT guys we are too high end for the crap, let them just send a whole new batch over and be done with it”, but not today. Today I said, “don’t worry I will take care of it…” Why? Because I have experience and while I am talking to the tech from the manufacturer of those UPSes, I will be trying to figure out a way for him to read about pondcam!

I get on site and do a bunch of other work for them first, but the whole time I am working on the other things I can’t wait to look at a defective UPS. There is clearly a defective one that is at a desk I was using as the battery was showing almost no charge on it’s display. I flip it over and open it, pull out the battery and sick the voltmeter on it. Here is what I see.


That is 15 volts I think. OK… Cool, the batteries are 12 volts and they are being charged by a little over 12 volts. Well, I think… Let’s see what the batteries are doing. They have been on the charger for over a week, they are probably going to show nothing.  So I stick the meter on them.


Oh.. That isn’t right at all. I can see right away something isn’t right. 25.8 volts from the batteries? These guys are in series which doubles their voltage. I want to learn all about the way a UPS works now so I run around testing any and all that are defective. When I am done messing with all of them I see they are all working correctly. It took a few days of them being plugged in, but they are all just fine. I go back to the first UPS that was clearly not putting out the correct voltage and it just started working as expected.

I took a lot more pictures, but I won’t bore you with any of them. I learned something at this customer site. I learned about our solar panels, our batteries and how a lot of stuff in the network world runs. UPS batteries charge at 24 volts. That means that UPS batteries have to be in series. They need two 12 volt batteries put together to drive a 24 volt system. Here is the neat part… Pondcam’s power supply can work with a 24 volt input. The Solar panels work with a 24 volt output in full sunlight. I am supposed to be working with two batteries instead of one.

Sorry for a lot of writing and not a lot of pictures (I have got a few complaints about how long my posts are… I always say, “they are mostly pictures!”, but in this case they are not… I will try to fix that moving forward).


Before doing anything on pondcam, I need to take an assessment of where we are right now. Here is an executive summary:

1) Pondcam still works. I tested it. But haven’t tested it in a while (I am afraid with all the stuff I do to that thing, eventually it will just end up broken).
2) Pondcam has a new light. It is way brighter, but wider. It uses more power than the old light.
3) Pondcam needs a new case. I know how to cut plexiglass now, I need to get it back together so I can stick it in the pond.
4) When I busted open my wireless access point and moved it, I broke my wireless network at home. I didn’t blog about this before, but that ended up in a series of events that made me buy my wife a new computer, a new printer, her own wireless access point… My wife now has an entirely separate network that is more powerful than mine…. I did it happily because she doesn’t complain about me working on pondcam…. And I never want her too. She doesn’t care about Pondcam, but my plan is to have her be really happy that I am working on it.
5) Pondcam does have a dock, but I don’t have enough empty water bottles to make it float the way I want it to. I have been working on this.
6)  We appear to be on top of everything else… I learned more about power so I think we are going to be OK there. I think we are pretty good on connectivity, because now I have a wireless access point with all sorts of possibilities.

What do we do next? Well first I want to get everyone up to speed on where we are with our dock. I have been a big pain at making my kids and wife  to give me their empty water bottles over the last couple of weeks. Here is what I have.


That is not enough to work on the dock. I need at least another bag and a half (it was one and a half bags when I first started collecting them… We need to drink more water).

As I have mentioned, over the last week or so I have been messing with cutting Plexiglas and getting it perfect so I can epoxy it together. I couldn’t bear to take pictures and bore everyone with the trial and error so I will give a summary of how I cut perfect (or as perfect as I can make it) Plexiglas:

1) I use my table saw and cut 3″ by 8″ strips. (This is for the front ant he back).
2) I cut two more 3″ by 7″ strips. (This is for the sides).
3) I cut two more 2 and 1/2 ” by 3″ pieces (This is for the top and bottom).

I sand and sand and sand some more. I start with 100 grit sand paper then move down to 200 grit to make it smooth. Here is what I end up with. All sides to our new camera case as perfectly measured as I can get them.


I didn’t spread them out on the table because I wanted to draw attention to the sides. They are really clean and straight.  I also did the same trick with the blow torch to get the brass fitting for out top as I did with the last case. These guys are ready to be glued together, but I need to do something first.

Here is my problem. I need to test all of my connections for the antenna that go to the camera. Everyone should know how sensitive wireless equipment is to connections. If they are not really good the wireless doesn’t work well. I need this camera to send good video data back to my network on the other side of the driveway when I sink it. So I need to test my new connectors, but I have to do it in a way that will be exactly the way pondcam ends up. So I have to squeeze these….


– The Ethernet cable.
– the new thicker antenna cable.
– and the power cable.

Through this…


It took a lot of messing around… I took out some motor oil and greased each cable separately so they would slide through it. It seemed to take forever. My hands were hurting from trying to grip the greasy cables and push them through the tube. After about a 1/2 hour… I ended up with this.


Now I have to connect the antenna end and the Ethernet ends for the camera. Ethernet is easy for me so I won’t bother to post that. I crimp two ends on and will test that later (remember I need to have the Ethernet outside of pondcam in case it gets reset back to its defaults for some reason, jut like it did when it got wet). The antenna though… I am not so sure about. I do the same trick as I did on the other side. I strip back the shielding on the two cable ends I want to bring together and solder the center… then put some goop glue around that solder to protect it.


Well… I have to let that dry. I try to think of more to do and can’t because I am too tired. I will stop for now, but really hope to put together the case really soon.

My Silly Pondcam – Post 14

OK… It is late on a Friday night and I do have to work tomorrow (The Friday I started this post was a week ago). I haven’t posted anything in several days as I got all in the weeds with a lot of stuff this week that just needed to be handled (I call that stuff “real work”). It is 11:47PM… BUT,… and this is a very important thing…I don’t have to be anywhere until noon tomorrow and my wife and kids have to wake up early because they have something going on that they have to get to… Sooooooo I can sleep in. As I calculate it, I have two hours tonight…. I better be sleeping in two hours… I may regret working on pondcam tomorrow if I don’t.

I have to get my head straight so I can prioritize what I am going to do. From what I remember here is where we are:

1) Pondcam (the camera) is still working. The light is goofy, but all other components are fine.

2) We have pondcam’s dock that is in the process of being built, but it needs lots of water bottles. I have been saving them, but it may be a while before I get enough to finish the dock.

3) We have serious water issues. It was incredible that water got into the camera housing and the camera still worked, but le’ts be real… That was really bad news. Instead of writing this blog post I should be turning on and off the light on pondcam while it is in the dark water outside and seeing if I can get a glimpse of a fish or something.

The day I wrote my last post (I dunno was that a year ago? It feels like one as so much happened since then) I was talking to my father and he mentioned that he was able to get a clean cut of plexiglass with a table saw. I do have one of those! But it looks like this right now.


I know what you are thinking,  “I can kind of make out the table… And there may be a saw at the bottom… But why is it upside down?”. Well… That is because I was all about to document my dads way of cutting plexiglass and I realized my table saw was broken. It is upside down because of this.


Yes.. That is the switch to the table saw and it is broken. How do I know it is broken? I didn’t actually have to do anything to figure that out. Why? Because my wife’s brother came over. My brother-in-law is just like me (And maybe you too) if you are working on something he just cant help himself, he has to take over. I was explaining to him that I wanted to figure out how to cut plexiglass in a very clean way, like they would do it in a factory. He humored me and was glad to watch, but when we turned the table saw on and it didn’t work, he took over. I pretty much just did what he said, we flipped the table saw over…. messed with power outlets, etc. etc.. He was underneath, messing around with stuff, before long he said, “dead switch”. Perfect! I thought, just don’t throw away the switch because I want to take a picture of it later. So that is what I have, a dead switch on my table saw.

All I need is a simple switch to turn on the saw. I kind of want it to be safe, but to be honest the thing is so loud and I have watched a few table saw accident videos on youtube, I always unplug the darn thing when I am not using it. I look through my electrical bin and find this.


The only problem I have now is fitting it here.


OK… It took some messing around, but this is what I ended up with.


I plugged it in and turned it on and it worked. I know I am a crappy dad and a crappy husband… But I don’t think I woke anyone up when I tested it at 12:30AM. It is late, I need to focus on something quieter.

I tried to do other things, but what I really want to do is cut plexiglass to figure out how to do it. I give up for the night. It is 1:31AM… I am bored because I can’t use my table saw because it is way too late…. I should just sleep.


OK… After getting some rest I figure I really need to break open the pondcam. I know I drilled those holes into it and was thinking about patching it, but I don’t think that is the way to go. Here is what it looks like as I open the top. My two daughters wanted to help so they are sitting on the table… If you are wondering what is under my elbow in this picture, it is someone’s toes.


Oh… That is so ugly, but I love this camera. I have to do something for it to make it better . I pull the camera out and place it on the table, right away I notice some oxidation.


This is what happens when electronics get wet… Very bad. Here is what the case looks like all broken apart.


Pondcam makes me so happy that I want to do better by it. I am building it a nice pretty dock for it to rest from, I am doing my best to save all the empty water bottles so it will float comfortably on the water. I need to do more for pondcam.

Let’s do something I know how to do. The water made pondcam’s light a little gimpy… Let’s fix that, but how? Well, I have one of these!


Now that really is my daughters flashlight. The other one I butchered for pondcam wasn’t her’s (I was lucky). I bought two of these, one for each daughter because I was expecting the power to go out this past spring and I wanted to make sure they had flashlights to make the power outage fun, instead of being just scared while my wife and I walked around the house trying to figure out what to do with no lights, no TV, no Internet. Well… the power didn’t go out this past spring, so my kids forgot all about them… lucky for pondcam.

I don’t do anything with the flashlight right away. I don’t like ruining something that works perfectly well for something that may just fail altogether and fill up one of my mystery bins with parts from projects that don’t work, so I distract myself for a few minutes. I really need to figure out what to do with the case and waterproofing. Something went terribly wrong with our case and pondcam got all wet. I need to learn more about waterproofing. I want to try that other epoxy I bought. The other epoxy is like a clay. You mix it together by hand. If you don’t recall, here is a picture from an earlier post to remind you and me that I documented buying it for this project.


I open it up and slice off a small piece with a razor and knead it together and roll it into a line. I am going to join these two pieces together to see if that will hold. Here is what I want to do.


I am going to use that little clay looking strip to bond the edge of one of these gross old pieces of plexiglass to the other. And see what happens.

I won’t keep you hanging on this lame idea, I check the next day and it is totally useless. The wrong way to waterproof a plexiglass box, but at least I know that and didn’t waste any real time on it.

I get the nerve and finally pull apart the new flashlight. It is wider than the other flashlight, so I notice I have to trim it down or make the case a good amount wider. I also notice, instead of three LEDs there is just one big one. You can see it sitting in middle of the electrical tape in the picture below.


I take a hacksaw blade and cut away at the edges of the light housing to bring it down below 3″ in width to fit in a new case that will be 3″ wide (I will worry about making that case later as I don’t know how to cut plexiglass yet).


After trimming the case down and having pondcam all out of its home I started to think about something else. I am worried about our connections for the antenna. I pull a “N” connector off of a custom cable I made so many years ago and fix it to the edge of pondcam. Then I take a new mini wireless connector and attach it to the connector on the board.


This will give me an easy way to attach and detach the antenna without worrying about that little connector getting broken. Hopefully the cleaner connection will give us less signal loss. If what I understand now about wireless is true we are only losing 1/2 db from that connection, but it could be less or more, but as far as I am concerned that is totally acceptable as we have lots of ways to boost signal in this house (Boy, I hope I don’t have to get into that).

Now you may be thinking, “that is all fine and good but what are you going to connect to that?”. Well… I have to make a connection for it… Here is my plan to keep it as low loss as possible. I strip a connector that will fit that and connect it to a cable that is very similar to the thinner cable that goes up to the last pondcam antenna cable we used. Here is a picture to give you an idea.


I stripped the shielding wires back and soldered the inner wire. Then I putt a little glue over that connection and then a little electrical tape, then some aluminum foil, then some more electrical tape and now I have this.


The connector to the left isn’t connected yet, but I show it so you have an idea of what I have to do later. After I push the cable through the new plastic hose, I will then attach it to that connector. Also, if you look carefully you will notice a coating of goop glue over the fragile parts on the silver colored connector. I want to avoid all of the wireless connectivity problems we may have had because of that broken connector. Remember this picture? Ouch.


That sucker fell off when I brought it inside. I doubt it was even working when Paul and I were doing all of that testing. That was a totall setback and wasted a lot of my time and Paul’s time… I am careful with connections now because I want to make sure no one wastes time on stuff that isn’t teaching us something.

Note: I learned from a satellite dish installer that 90% of all service calls are because of bad connections. Good to know.

I pretty much had done everything I can to avoid messing with the table saw. I really needed time to think about how I was going to handle it safely. I fixed the table saw days ago and have just been doing other stuff because I don’t want to ruin the little plexiglass that I have left.

I want to make sure everyone is clear on what the problem is. Here is my picture from a previous post.


I can make it out now, but when I took the picture I wasn’t really thinking of it. Those pieces of plexiglass do not have smooth edges. If you look carefully, they aren’t even square. I cut them with a jigsaw. I really thought this would be OK weeks ago. I just figured I would just pick up the slack with extra glue. Let me use a term that I use with my six year old, “that was dumb dumb”, I should have known better. Pondcam got all wet because of my misunderstanding of how “easy” it would be to waterproof something.

Let’s take a close up view of the crappiest part in the picture above. Tell me if you see something wrong with having this part fit into a box that will protect a sensitive piece of electronic equipment.


Oh… That is no good at all. I liked that a lot a few weeks ago, but now… Oh… I can see that is all wrong. That isn’t good enough for pondcam. I need to do better. Here is another picture to give you an idea of how bad a jigsaw was for cutting plexiglass. This is a picture of a jigsaw cut next to a clean factory straight cut. The clear side is the jigsaw the blue side with the cover still on it is the factory cut.


Pretty much every joint on the old pondcam case had weirdo gaps like that and all over the place. That is what I have to fix.

So I finally bite the bullet and I carefully measure 3″ with my table saw and make my first cut.


After it is done, the edges are straight, but they totally have some melty crap on them and are rough. I do the first thing I think of and start sanding the edge with 100 grit sandpaper. I notice a big difference and can see I am getting somewhere right away. If you look at the picture below you can see that the top wasn’t sanded and was straight off the saw, but the bottom looks much better.


While I am messing around with this I want to get something else going. I did have to go to the hardware store to get more plexiglass. I bought every last bit they had (no big pieces), the guy made me a deal, he said, “Two bucks”. I said, “No! one fifty!”, actually I didn’t’ say one fifty, I said, “OK”.

While I was there I really wanted to improve on all things waterproofing. I put a bunch of different types of glue in my cart (When I read the ingredeients they have the same stuff as goop glue and the same warnings, but I didn’t read them until after I got home, so I didn’t know I was buying stuff I already had, some of them had better spouts than the goop globber, so I was pretty happy). In the next isle I came across this.


Oh yeah… that is right… 2 Ton Epoxy… I looked at all of the “marine” epoxies in the same isle, but I didnt’ care, they all weren’t worth anything to pondcam. I wanted this stuff. It would cure clear, it should be perfect. I can’t let it touch any of our precious plexiglass for pondcam’s case so I have to test it first. Here is a picture.

So I grabbed a gross piece of old pondcam’s case and sanded it off, then placed it on top of another piece of old pondcam case.


A couple of days later it was strong. Really strong. I broke it when playing with it (I was planning to put one of our batteries on it for a picture, then it broke, I didn’t get the picture, but I did get the idea…. It is pretty strong and a much better epoxy than then “marine” epoxy that I bought becauase of the label (I know… Irony… I bought this one because it said “2 ton”… sue me then).


All things are going fine with pondcam and then something very interesting happens while I am working on it. I take this picture.


Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “Why did you take a picture of that?”. Well it is because I actually need my multimeter on site for the first time in 23 years. I got a call from a customer and he is really ticked off. I have a conversation with him and I realize pondcam has to deal without a multimeter for a bit as I need it for my real job. Poor pondcam.

My Silly Pondcam – Post 13

Is pondcam dead? I have no idea at this point. I got home from Mass (it is Sunday). Hannah wants me to ride bikes with her and I just cant. I have work to do. The fact that pondcam can be dead is really bugging me. I have been thinking about it all day. I almost don’t want to check it. It is still sitting out there in my back yard, connected to the aerator that is supposed to be pushing oxegen into my septic tank, but instead is pushing warm air through the pondcam. If you don’t remember I put the cover on and it looks exactly like this.


Under that green enclosure is our camera… It is attached to the pump with a tube… It so may be dead. I am scared to test it, but I have to. I need to know if I have to get another camera somehow. I totally don’t want to buy a camera. But I can’t just do nothing today, so I lift the cover off and disconnect the camera. When I pick it up, it is nice and warm. That makes me think it is really dry inside. There is another thing I check right away. On the white housing that surrounds the camera lens there was some water dropplets. I though they would never dry from our tests yesterday so I ignored them. I look for them this time and they are gone. That sucker is as dry as a bone inside.

I bring the camera inside and connect it up to the battery right next to the wireless access point.


After setting it up the light still looks the same way as it did before. One of the three LEDs was bright, the other two dull, but still on. It did flash a few times like it was booting. I run over to the netbook and check to see if it comes live.


Nope… no picture, no sound, no ping. I can’t see it at all. At this point my stomach sinks a little. I am sad. When I was working on it I thought I really would be OK with buying another camera, but now it really hits me. If I were to buy another camera I should buy one that is more suited for what I am doing. That would mean a lot of what I did would be absolutely wasted. I got a little sad. I just didn’t want to have this project take that terrible turn. It would be like saying to a customer (granted I am the customer and also the contractor in this case), “Um… Sir, I really thought this would work out, but you have to buy a whole bunch of stuff that you never intended, basically we made a mistake and ruined everything. It is going to cost you a bunch of money to get this project back on track”. Who wants that? I would hate it if that happened to me and I were the customer and a contractor said that to me I would say, “Isn’t there anything else you can do? Anything else you can think of? Anything else you can try?”. Yes… I would beg the guy to try to figure something out. As my poor little tired and sad brain is griding this all out I do have an idea. The little Pollyanna in there isn’t dead yet. Water got into the camera and maybe it broke it, but also maybe it just sent the little guy back to its factory defaults. If it is at its default configuration it would have no idea how to connect to my wireless network.

Remember this cable?


Yep… That is an Ethernet cable. I clipped the end off way back in another post because I didn’t have a good way to waterproof it. Let’s put an end on that.


That took like two seconds because all of my tools were right on the workshop (Remind me to clean that up later, it is a total disaster). Let’s plug it into that switch that is right by the garage door that we used to move the wireless access point.


OK… I do see a link light, let’s see if we can ping or connect to the camera. It should be on the same IP as last time as it hasn’t been down for that long.


Nope still nothing. I think,well maybe it will be at a different address (I am really desparate here). I log into my sever that hands out IP addresses and look.


Yep… There it is. It shows it’s default name “TV-IP551W”… That is our camera… It grabbed an IP address. All we have to do is see if we can connect to it.


Oh that is really nice. I am very happy. The camera still works. I configure the wireless and set it up over next to our wireless access point and cantenna.


Yep… Everything still works. The light… The wireless… The camera… I am happy.


When my family got back from my parents house tonight, I really wanted to get moving on one of the most important parts of pondcam. A buddy of mine who is an artist created me two different pictures. Here is an example of one of them.


I took the pictures and added something to the right side of my blog site. I added a widget that would just show a picture. Then I wrote a script that would ping pondcam every 5 minutes. If pondcam is live, it would change the picture to a “pondcam is up” image. If pondcam is down, it would change it to a “pondcam is down” image. If you go to my site and see the “pondcam is up” sunfish, you will know the camera is on and working. Sometimes you will see it down (Actually I think a lot of time it will be down only because it is going to have to be re-waterproofed (it is up right now because I am too lazy to disconnect it from the battery).

I will send everyone the login once it is sunk in the water again and at a safe distance from people. Who knows what kind of stuff you will hear if I just gave those out and someone connected to it while I was working on it (Maybe lots of swearing!).

For now the camera works, but its an absolute mess because of all of the holes in it. I talked to my dad tonight about cutting fiberglass. He had a really good idea. I also talked to my mom about a way to build a resistor bug that would light up. I have some ideas I need to digest. I have to work tomorrow, so I have no idea when I will be able to get away and work on pondcam, but for now I am really happy… Lots of good ideas to think about and the camera still works. This was a very good day.

My Silly Pondcam – Post 12

I had a lot to do today before even touching pondcam. First I wanted to go to first Friday Mass then have a lunch meeting with a friend of mine. While at lunch I was talking to him about Pondcam. He had all sorts of really great ideas. I mean really good ones. While we were casually talking about it something came to my mind. I said, “I just realized I never really got to see what the camera looks like under water.” He looked at me very plainly and said, “Oh.. You need to do that next”. He was totally right. I don’t know how that slipped out of the top  priority. I did put it in the water, but it never showed anything because it wasn’t connecting. Then I got all distracted with the washout thing, then the dock idea came up and the coyotes were all on my mind during post 10. It was too much going on and that very important test slipped my mind. As soon as lunch is over I speed home to sink pondcam!

Now today is Friday and my family goes to my parents house for dinner. I really like to get there by 5PM or before so I hurry up and start getting to testing. I grab two landscaping pavers and place them in the pond in about 1 1/2 feet of water. I place them out into the pond a little (on the beach so I don’t have to step into gross clay). I tell Hannah (my six year old) to dig two holes for the back legs of our table. I needed to do these two things to make each somewhat level, so it doesn’t look stupid. I setup the camera and make sure it is sitting as deep into the water as it will go. Here is what it looks like.


The water is pretty cloudy, but I don’t care. I need to see what it looks like from a computer, I run upstairs to look and I can’t see it on my computer (I found out later that I typed the wrong address for the camera when I was trying to ping it). I couldn’t so I grabbed the netbook and powered it up. I then connected to the camera and this is what I saw.


That is with the light on. I don’t know what to make of it. Why can’t I see anything? I must mess with the video settings, but I can’t. My wife and kids are already in the car waiting for me to hop in and go to grandma’s house. So I just anxiously leave everything the way it is.

While I was at my parents house I brought them all up to speed on where we are with pondcam and mentioned the fact that I can’t see anything in the water. My dad brought up a good point. He said that if there is nothing to see then it is likely that there will be no picture in front of the camera and it will be grey because there really is nothing there. He said you need something for the camera to focus on like a ruler or some sort of measurement in the distance a bit so there is something to focus on. Now that sounded good to me so at least it got it off my mind (We left as soon as we could from my parent’s house because I had to get home before there wasn’t anymore light).

When I get home it is a little bit light out. It it is 8PM or so. My wife Rosie takes the girls inside and I check out our camera.

As soon as I connect to it, it is the exact same thing. Just grey. I remember what my dad said and thought, “Well… I don’t really want a ruler out there, I want to see fish.” So I grab some fish food and throw it in the water all around the camera. I run upstairs to my office. I can see fish swimming around, but it is really messy. I can make them out, but it is terribly fleeting. I am more excited at this point than I have ever been during this whole project. I just love seeing those fish in the pond from my desk! I don’t care if the water is murky! I grab as many screen shots as I can and here is one of them after I turned on the light.


That picture is really crappy. But it is something. Here is what I really like; that is the face of a fish that was looking at the light. When I turned on the light and the sound was going I could tell the fish, every once in a while, we trying to take a bite out of the camera, I could hear them pounding on it. I could see them too. Sometimes pretty clearly, but always very fleeting I couldn’t get a good capture of it so the picture above is all that we have.

Another thing to notice about that picture is the weird bubbly mess all over. It is hard to make out from this picture, but as I watched the video it was a little clearer, it looks as if tiny bubbles formed right over the lens as I sunk it. I have to figure out what that is about because it looks terrible.

I run outside with a paper towel, take off my shoes and march out into the pond (I discovered there was a leak in my pond sloshing boots, so I have to get new ones). I wipe down the Plexiglas on the front of the camera, and literally run back to my desk to see if I can grab a screen shot of what I see (Yes I am back to running all the way back up to my office, I know I am nuts). I see fish swimming past the camera. It isn’t is as clear as I want it, I try to capture the picture, but I got all screwed up messing around with video settings to get something clear, but it was too late… It got dark. Even with the light on I can’t see anything in front of the camera. I can say the weird bubbles are gone, but the picture just wasn’t clear like I was hoping. I really need to do some better underwater tests.

I think that I really need to start recording or getting better pictures instead of my screen captures. There are some more features on this little camera. It came with some recording software. I played with it a little bit but not enough to really know what it does, let’s look at that.

The software is “SecurView Pro” and it came with the camera. When I first installed it and attached it to the camera it looked pointless, but then after I dove into it tonight, I can see it really is perfect for what I want. Here is what I want and it matches nicely to its features:

1) I want to record only motion in front of the camera so I can see what is going on. If there is nothing going on and all it sees is grey, then don’t bother recording because that is boring. Well the software does that.

2) I want to record sound because if a big fish tries to eat the camera even if I can’t see it I would like to hear it.

Those features are well within the software’s capabilities so I start it up and also start my normal web browser connection to the camera. Currently it looks like this (I turned the light off, it wasn’t doing anything anyway and I hope to capture something big moving past the camera in the morning).


If I can figure out a way, I will get some recording of what is going on and figure out how to embed the video into my blog. All I have to do is wait for something interesting to happen. I really hope I setup the motion recoding properly. I have no way to test it. I also hope the camera doesn’t have a small leak and will be filled with water by tomorrow as I am leaving it in the pond overnight!

A little while later I see the camera go down then come back up again. I fuss with it a bit, then a little while later it just goes down and doesn’t come back up. I figure, well it is nighttime and the battery is probably dead. I thought to myself, “I did fully charge it so it should really be good until morning. Maybe that battery is no good too, or maybe we sprang a leak”. I will wait until tomorrow when the solar panels get some sun and see what the story is.

—- Next day —-

I have to work in the morning for a customer so I don’t have a lot of time. Before I leave the Sun is just about to shine over the oak trees on our solar panels which should turn the camera on. It may be a little while. I did check to see if could at least ping the camera and I couldn’t. I don’t have time to mess with anything so I just take off to the customer’s site.

I worked until about 2:30 and didn’t get home until 3:30PM. I still had stuff to do. I don’t bother messing with the recording software because that obviously wouldn’t have anything on it. I check our camera. I don’t want to pull it out of the water. I want it to stay, this will be a good underwater test if I can get it back up.

I run over to the camera and I disconnect and reconnect the battery to see if it will come up… Nothing. I mess with the direction of our cantenna and try to reboot the camera again, still nothing. I then notice I never plugged it into the solar panels. I thought, “Oh… that is it duh!” I plug them in and figure there will totally be enough power because of all of the tests we did in earlier posts. Still nothing. I can’t ping the camera, I can’t connect to the camera. It is down.

I even pulled out some “known to be good batteries” out of a UPS that is sitting in my basement (a UPS is a power supply for a computer that will keep it on when the power goes out). The batteries are brand new, but I have to break them apart because they are stuck together with really sticky double sided tape. I bring one of them out and connect it. Still nothing!

I am convinced. The camera might be dead.

I go to the beach and drag it out of the water and set it upright on my patio. I see something right away that looks really bad.


Just look at the lens. It has got fog on it. I don’t think it was that humid when I put the top on it. I pull it off the mount and turn it upside down so I can see if there is water in it.


Oh… That is pretty much the worst thing that could happen to our camera (Aside from lightning). There is water in it. My waterproofing job didn’t work at all. I dry the outside as good as I can and take advantage of the water that is still in it. I want to see where the leak is. I stand it back on the table and just look around for water leaking out.


I can see two leaks there. There may be more on the top and sides. That is a really really bad water proofing job. I thought we tested this and it was going to just work. We aren’t going that deep. I have old empty Clorox bottles with just their caps on floating beneath the surface of our pond for over two years to allow me to pull up the diffusers that are attached to my windmill pump. They don’t sink. It is late summer and they are still fine, but our epoxied, gooped, rubberized paint sealed camera didn’t last overnight. That is bad bad bad. The camera might be toast.

Now you may think this makes me sad. But it really doesn’t. Not even a little bit. It is the punches that you don’t see coming that knock you out. I always thought waterproofing was going to be the hardest part. I am familiar with the techniques to get every part of our pondcam working before we started, so I at least knew I had a shot at it. The one part that I never did before in my whole life was actually waterproof an electronic device so you can put it under water. More than ever I want to figure that part out.

Another thing. I really am a Pollyanna by nature. Like the ugly burnt power supply there may be a chance that we can get this sucker to come back to life. It is a small chance, but definitely there is a chance.

Now I know what you are thinking, “What are you talking about? You are crazy, that sucker is dead just like the battery charger your sister and wife connected to the car the wrong way. It has water in it you DUMB DUMB! This Pollyanna crap has got to stop, you are wasting all of our time. Just tell us what you are going to do now.” Now that is what you are thinking, let me tell you what I am thinking:

– Granted there is water in that camera. And I did all sorts of bad things when that happened. Instead of quickly pulling it out of the water and drying it off, I let it sit in the pond overnight. That was really bad. Another thing I did was to keep trying to power it up. I connected solar power to it, when that didn’t work I connected brand new batteries to it. Oh… That is really really bad. I did notice a spark when I connected the new battery to it too… That probably fried a bunch of stuff, but… maybe it didn’t.

– I have seen all sorts of devices come back to life after they dry. Twenty years ago I dropped a pager into a cup of coffee when I was driving. I pulled it out and dried it off. It smelled like coffee forever (I think I still have it somewhere), but it worked.

– My buddy was canoeing in my pond last spring and fell in. His cell phone got all wet and he put it in rice for a month. He turned it on and it was broken. He left it in the rice for a few more weeks and then it worked. As far as I know that phone is still working.

– I jumped into my ornamental pond with a brand new phone to get my niece out of there when she fell in. It was dead when I got out, but I stuck it in rice and in the morning it worked.

– My nephew took a digital camera and put it in water. I took it apart and dried it all off and it worked again too.

OK.. Granted we cant do the “rice trick” to dry out our camera. It will be 50 years before we  can finish. So I have to think of something else.

There is a LOT of water in it. It isn’t filled to the top, but there still is a bunch. I clip our antenna connector off and pull off the  clear tubing that is connected to the brass fitting. I empty out whatever water I can.

I don’t want to take the camera apart (Remember the pegs I drilled holes for to push the camera and light? I would have to destroy the whole case and start over). I haven’t even figured out how to cut Plexiglas properly so the next case I make wont leak. I am hoping I can save this one… somehow. I have to figure out how to dry this sucker out without opening it and my only opening is the unplanned holes that are at the bottom and the brass fitting at the top.

I look around for a way to dry it out. I do have a lot of canned air. It isn’t warm dry air that would really help dry the camera, but it will do something, so I stick it in the brass fitting and just blow the remaining contents of the can into it.


Water is coming out all over the place. This is getting some of the remaining water out, but I know to make it totally dry inside I am going to need to do something different. I want to do the “rice trick” on steroids.

I am pretty desperate for ideas where I can get air. Now I have lots of things that can blow air into this camera to dry it out. I have blow dryers (Like for hair), I have electric air pumps for bikes and car tires, but I really want something that will run for a long time. Like overnight. Blow dryers and tire pumps are not designed to do that at all. I am getting so desperate I am even asking my wife, who doesn’t care about pondcam in the least, if we have a bubbler for our fish tank. I ask her, ” Do we have to have a bubbler for a fish tank”. She says, “No”. I believe her because I don’t remember ever seeing one and if I did have one I would have set it up this year when I cleaned out the ornamental pond and put my biggest fathead minnows in the fish tank overnight. They died from lack of oxygen. So the bubbler idea is out. Too bad because it would have been perfect. A constant stream of air pumping into our camera overnight to dry it out completely. Then it hit me… I have one of these!


That is a septic tank aerator. And I know a hell-of-a-lot more about these than I ever wanted to. When I bought this house I noticed an big jewel light attached to a power junction box against the basement cement wall toward the back of the house. During the first year we lived here I didn’t have much going on in the basement at the time so I almost never went down there. One day I was getting something downstairs and I notice this light flashing and this kind of quiet alarm noise. Not loud enough to be heard upstairs, but definitely loud enough to be really annoying in the basement. Well, I figured out what it was. The motor/aerator for the septic was dead. I bought a mantenence kit which required me to pull it all apart and replace what looked like graphite blades that run in a housing to pump out the air. When I was rebuilding and testing it I did notice three things. 1) It was warm air. 2) I was probably about 15 PSI. I could easily hold the pressure back with my hand against the air outlet. 3) And this is the most important. This air pump is meant to pump air 24x7x365. It runs all of the time.

Now I know what you are thinking, “You have got to be kidding me Joe. Don’t hook your pondcam up to that, just leave that alone. That is an important functioning device that is part of your home. If you disconnect that it may ruin you septic and then you will have a whole mess on your hands”. Yes… And you are exactly right, I would have thought the exact same thing. But when it broke and I ordered the repair parts I talked to the lady on the phone and she said, “Oh.. Those go out for people all of the time, as long as you get them up and running in a week or so you will be fine”. Good enough I thought. Last year (during the drought, when the wind wasn’t blowing at all to aerate my pond) I hooked up water hoses all the way up to the outputs of my windmill aerator to pump air into the pond for a few days (That was like 300 feet or more away). I may actually do that again this year if I want to clear up the water for pondcam.

Now we have to figure out how to use that warm dry air coming out of our septic aerator to dry out our pondcam. Let’s pull the cover off as I forgot what those connections look like.


OK… We can do something with that. I take our camera and drill some holes across the bottom where we know the leaks are.


It doesn’t look like holes are there but there are. They are really small and I drilled like six right across the bottom (On the other side of the camera where the air will be coming in). You can also see I cut a nice long length of the clear tubing to push our wires through to allow us to pump air right into the camera. Here is what it looked like after I got the wires through (I had to give the three sets of wires a thin coating of motor oil so I could get them through that tubing and attach the it to the brass fitting).


The rest is easy. I just take that, disconnect the output to the aerator and connect our pondcam. Here is what it looks like.


Now I really learned a lot when I did this. Little bits of water were coming out from all over. Top and bottom the sides, everywhere. My seals on this case were just terrible. I am happy though. I found a really good way to test the pondcam for leaks that won’t risk its life (If it ever works again). I can hook it up to this thing and stick it in water. If I don’t see bubbles we could sink the enclosure to the bottom of the pond and it would be fine.

I want to leave it there until it is completely dry. I look for evidence of water that I can watch for to dry up so I can test it. I do see this.


There is some water that I can see (not glue) that if it is dried up I can test.

After a couple of hours it really looks dry. I pull it off of the pump and see if it works.


Now I can see right away that is not right. Two of the LEDs are not as bright as the other. That tells me something is wrong. They were always the same and very bright. Water must still be in the camera. I test it anyway, but it still doesn’t look like it is working. It does act like it is turning on, but I get nervous while trying to connect to it and just give up for the night. I re-attach it to the aerator and put it under that green cover over night. After Mass tomorrow it will be dry. If it doesn’t work then, it will be garbage time for that camera.

I am very intersested in what everyone thinks at this point because I have no idea if the camera will work or not. I would love to see some comments on this. If you think the camera is dead or not. I have some hope, but again… It may be over for the camera and I will have to find another.

My Silly Pondcam – Post 11

As usual I am up late and I worked on this as soon as I got everything work and domestic taken care of. Again I had to check where we were with the last post to make sure I knew where to begin. OK.. I remember. Our camera totally works, I got it working way on the other side of the pond which is a couple of hundred feet away. I think we are good on connectivity with our new antennas. I got a call from a customer this morning nice and early that had a problem with his PC. So I helped a bit over the phone and then realized I really needed to go there. But before leaving I did check to see if our pondcam was alive in the low light of an overcast morning.


Nope… It is still totally dead. It is pretty light outside, but definitely cloudy, and there is no sun in sight. I don’t really have any time in the morning because lots of people need me to work on things, so I take care of all of that first.

I go to the customer site and take care of the PC issue. When I get home it is still pretty early, but I have lots to do. I have to make a plan for an email migration and fix a dead website and in between I do a server restore. During one of those (I am not sure which one), I see this on my monitor (The time was 1:42PM).


That is weird, I thought. I look outside my office window (Which, again,  is really far from the pond). And what do I see? Sun breaking through the clouds. I immediately stopped what I was doing and connected to the camera.


That is a picture from the camera, that is looking over the beach at the pond. This puts me in a really good mood and I am reenergized about what to do next. I still had a lot of work to do, so I continued doing things that are important instead of silly for the next few hours.

All of those important things kept me busy until much later. I wasn’t able to do anything until about 6:45PM. But once I was done with everything, I couldn’t help myself. I had to do something for the pondcam. We know the solar panels can power up the camera and charge the batteries. I didn’t have to do anything, I was just sitting there working and then woink!… the camera came up all by itself. This gives me hope that this plan will actually work.

Now it is overcast and our battery definitely isn’t charged for any serious work, but we still have some problems to tackle. Do you remember this picture?


Well if you don’t remember it, I sure do. That won’t work at all. I almost didn’t post that because it is so stupid looking. I can just imagine some dope on the Internet saying something like “You stupid idiot, you need to suspend that camera from something that floats, just build a dock for it and you will have something that is pretty to show people instead of embarrassing yourself and your family name”.

Unlike the imaginary coyotes in my brain from post 10 that aren’t very smart and would just tear me to pieces, the imaginary troll in my brain has a good point. I will build a dock for my pondcam. A dock would be perfect. It will solve these issues:

1) The level of my pond follows the water table. This is really neat for the pond, but bad for the pondcam. If I put it out there and we have one of the many “100 year” storms we have been having every other year, it is game over, everything is under water. Instead of marching around my yard taking pictures of how cool all of the flooding is, I will be taking care of and messing around with the pondcam. I know it seems strange right now to anyone who has been following this post, but in the end, I want to look at what is going on in my pond from my desk. I don’t want to have to go out and change batteries, move crap around and walk in mud to see what is going on in my pond. I want pondcam to be its own autonomous little system that comes up and turns on when it is sunny, then kind of waddles down at night and goes to sleep because the battery that charges it runs out of juice and dies. It may not be 24×7 pondcam like I was hoping, but that is OK with me.

2) I can’t forget about my kids and all of the other kids that like to hang out here. If it can be messed with, one of them will. I think instead of plowing a big path through the tall grass with my “manual weed whacker”, I will instead strategically place the dock behind some of the grass and only clear enough room for me to set everything up. Then just leave the dock sit there naturally floating on the water and keeping our pondcam in a safe place where the kids won’t notice it.

3) The last thing is more for my personal entertainment. I love docks. When I was little we used to jump off of them into the a lake. These were really good memories for me. I want to build a small one, so I can figure out a clever way to build  a big one that I can jump off of into my pond someday.

So, with all of that stuff being said. It is late… I really don’t want to go to the hardware store and get wood or anything else. Let’s see what I have in my basement to make a dock for our pondcam.

All of the docks that I have been on are made out of wood. I do have some of that. Check this out.


I can probably turn some of that into a dock for our pondcam tonight if I get to it. But first I have a problem. I have to figure out how to make the floats underneath the dock. I don’t have any Styrofoam like they use on the docks that I jumped off of when I was a kid. I need something that floats. I have an idea…. It is a little bit of a longshot, but I think it will work with some really basic planning and calculation. My family consumes a LOT of bottled water. And I have a bunch of these.


I can use these for our dock.

I have to work really quickly if I want to get some sleep (There will be painting involved and it needs to dry). I grab my saw horses and set them up and pull the big fiberboard sheet out and place it on top. I stick the base of the antenna and camera right on it and start taking measurements.


Now remember I am going to have to put that camera under the water. So I need to make a hole that lets light through the top where the camera is focusing. So I am sure to measure out a place where the camera can be lowered into the water.

What about our solar panels? We need a place for them too on our dock. I place them on the board and take some quick measurements.


Oh… I like this picture. The solar panels are reflecting an American flag that is hanging on my wall. That is neat. But let’s not get too distracted. We still have to make our dock. So I;

– Saw.
– Drill.
– Saw some more.
– Swear a little bit when the saw horses fell and had the whole dock crash to the ground partially finished (the girls didn’t hear me).
– Saw some more.
– measure some more.
– Run out of neat 1×4 easy to work with wood and have to make the last piece from another piece of wood.
–  Then drill in a handful of deck screws.
– OK our dock is pretty close to ready.


I like it. Unlike pondcam in clear plastic that is kind of pretty in a “form follows function” sort of way. Let’s get our camera base on this thing and see how it looks.


Let’s look at where the solar panels will sit.


That looks pretty good. Let’s see how those water bottle floaters will sit on the bottom.


That looks pretty good. This sucker is going to need a couple of coats of porch paint. I just know the edges of that wood are going to be sitting in the water. Lucky I have some left.

– Paint one coat on top.
– Setup fan so it dries faster.
– Clean brush.
– Work on my wife’s computer while I wait for it to dry.
– Paint another coat on top.
– Clean brush.
– Work on my wife’s computer while the paint dries.
Blah, blah, blah…  Now we have this….


OK… That has to dry…. What can I do now? Oh… I know… I have to figure out how to attach our empty water bottles to the dock. I do have an almost full tub of this.


That looks a lot like a big tub of glue to me. I think I will use that.

When I lifted up the dock after it was all put together, I imagined bringing it out to the pond. That would be a pain. It needs handles. What can I do for handles? Well… I do have some of this.


I will just drill some holes in the side of our dock, insert a short bit of this rope at four places so it is super easy to carry. Here is a picture of it being figured out.


OK… I did two coats on each side  with porch paint (Top and bottom). We are totally out of porch paint, so if I need to treat any wood at all in the future, I am going to have to find something to use.


I setup a fan to make it dry as fast as possible. This is what is drying overnight.


OK.. It is late and it is also supposed to be sunny tomorrow. I must state that I did put our battery back on the “charger to charge batteries that go into a car” tonight (Instead of using sunlight from our solar panels, which I wanted to do). I don’t want to have to wait until it is sunny to show some pictures underwater, if I get there. I took a picture of it connected to the charger, but I can’t find it.

Crap… It is 2:07AM. I have to go to bed!


I can’t remember if it was yesterday that I finished writing the above or the day before. For some reason I thought I got to bed at 1AM last night, I think I was wrong.

The first thing I did tonight after getting back from work was to take out the garbage. I know what you are thinking, “why are you telling me this?” It is important because that is where all of our empty water bottles are. I scrounge and scrounge, but all I could come up with is this.


We aren’t even close. From the angle it looks like we are closer than we really are, but that is really only a quarter filled. I am going to have to drink a lot more water or find another way to get empty water bottles. Or perhaps find a different way to make it float. I suppose I could just screw a plywood bottom on it and waterproof that, but I just know that would sink eventually. I think I am going to stick with the water bottle idea.

I can’t do anything about our lack of bottles, so I finish putting all of the handles on the dock.


And I drilled a few holes to secure our antenna and solar panels to the dock. You know what would happen if I didn’t do that right? The first windy day, it would knock everything into the water. And I would probably be too busy to notice and won’t find it for a few days. Better to be safe than sorry.


Well, that is all I can to tonight. I can’t think of anything else. I am really happy with the dock so far. I thought this was going to be an eyesore and when people come over they would look at it and say “what is that weird looking thing?”. Now I think they might say, “What is that cool looking antenna over there on that dock?”.

I do have to solve this bottle shortage problem though. It will take my little family weeks to drink that much bottled water.

My Silly Pondcam – Post 10

It is the next day. I was so tired yesterday. I did so much family stuff and then worked on the pondcam and blogged until 2:30AM (Again…). I have to wrap this up so I can get back to boring suburban dad life and get to bed at a regular hour.

We did a ton of stuff and today I want to test it all. But there is one problem it is dark outside. One thing we can do is check our camera.

I did another coat of the rubberized spray last night before I fell asleep. After work today, I went down and peeled back the blue painters tape and here is what it looks like.


I probably wouldn’t call that “pretty”, and it is still a little bit ugly, but much better than the frankencam hack job that was so obvious through the plexiglass.

Let’s pretty up our antenna and mount our camera. I use the much more flexible thin cable to connect the antenna and hold it down with zip ties. I bolt our camera to the bottom and we are done. Here is what it looks like in the garage.

2-mounted-camera-on-antenna mount

Oh.. I have to test this, but it is dark outside. I don’t care. I bring it out by the beach and set it up. Here is a picture.


All I want to do now is test it. The access point fell overnight because the blue painters tape came free that I was holding up the antenna. I fix this and am too exited so I place it in the window any way that it will stay.


I then connect up the camera. I watch carefully as it starts up because when I drilled one of those holes it did pound the camera board a little and I wonder if it will do anything. I see the light flickering like it always has then after it totally boots up the light turns off. Here is what it looks like with the battery attached.


Looks good to me, lets go to the workshop and power up the netbook.


I am really happy now, I can totally see the wires and the grass that the camera is pointing to, but don’t want to stop testing. I want to bring the camera to the other side of the pond. We have all of these high gain antennas I just have this feeling I can get this thing going really far away. There is a pretty high berm on the other side which is the furthest away from the wireless access point I can take it on my property in the direction of the pond. It is a little hike.

I grab the camera/antenna and the battery. Now one thing you can’t tell from pictures is how scary my property is at night. There are 13 or so huge red oak trees that are like 200 years old and they are 60 feet high (maybe more), like the pondcam the oak trees are ugly and menacing looking at night. My house is a log house and right now it is pretty well lit up, but we don’t have a lot of outside lights. There is tons of wildlife our here, the biggest thing on my mind is coyotes. I know what you are thinking, “No one gets killed by coyotes. The only case was out east, we don’t have those kind here, out there they are half-wolf, here they are more like little dogs, you are a grown man you could just kick them and run.” Yes… You make perfect sense, but it is really scary and really really dark. We live a half mile from the fire station and anytime a fire truck comes out at night you hear all of the coyotes. You almost never see them, but when they hear a siren, you hear like 20 of them. And they are all over the place. Sure I can fight off one coyote… Maybe two of them, but 20? I don’t think so. And, a few feet away from where I want to place the camera my neighbor told me a couple of years ago that he saw a mom coyote with pups that would growl at him every time he would mow lawn. Let me put it this way, I don’t want to be that first dolt that gets killed by a pack of coyotes in the Midwest. Anyway… That was my fear creeping in. Pondcam is way more important than me getting eaten by coyotes so, I march on and get it all set up. I connect everything and power it up. Here is a really crappy picture of it from the beach.


See that light blue dot, that is the camera with our light turned on. Now let’s get inside and see if we can connect to it!

Nope nothing. I can’t see it. I can’t ping it. I can see that every once in a while it does come up, but it just isn’t reliable. I mess with the directional antenna and try to point it at the antenna way out there on the other side of the pond. Still nothing.

I think about it for a little while and have nothing. I am ready to just call it a night, but as usual I think a little more and get roped in to doing more.  So, I decide to keep messing with things. I definitely would rather mess with something in the light than go out there with all of the coyotes. I try to think of a way to get more gain on our wireless access point in the house. I do see this in my wireless bin.


This is pretty cool. That is a “super cantenna” it is a really powerful directional antenna. I have it because when I do security assessments for my customers it may be necessary for me to try to break into a customers network from outside their office or branch office. With this connected to a notebook, I can point it at different areas of their building and try to pick up wireless signals that I can break into. You just aim it at the area you want to pick up signal and the rest is just messing with software. Right next to it is the adapter I need to connect it to our wireless access point.

I grab the access point off the windowsill and stick our “cantenna” on it. I grab a lawn chair and just point it right at our camera antenna that is all the way out on the other side of the pond, that is also running on that battery in the dark. It looks really goofy. I just plugged it right into the top with an adapter and no wire to move it around. Here is a picture.


I really don’t know if this will work. All of the hacked connections I made to connect things introduce some loss, but I have no idea how much. Also, on my way out the coyote side of the pond I bumped that antenna on the ground. I think to myself, “It did fall off the roof years and years ago, it is probably OK”. But who knows? I run inside and look at the netbook.


That is tough to make out, especially if you are not an IT guy, but it is exactly what I was hoping. The netbook can see the camera. The packets being sent by that ping command are now coming back just fine. And it is really low latency too. It should give me a picture. Let’s pull up the software.


That is tough to make out too, but that is grass in the front where the light is hitting. Beyond that grass is much taller grass and then the pond.

Here is a better picture I grabbed as a screen shot from my desktop before I started writing.


I am really happy with this and want to let the pondcam run like this overnight. So I did three things: I made a firewall rule on my home firewall so I can connect to the camera from the Internet tomorrow, if it is still up in the morning. I also wrote a script that runs from my workstation to send me an email if it goes down in the middle of the night. I really want to do this test because I need to know how long that battery will run the camera for without solar power charging it. But I will share what time it went down at night if it does go down. I brought the camera out there at about 9:15PM. It is now 11:32PM. It has been on this whole time. I wonder if it will go all night.

I was so excited about this I brought the netbook upstairs and dragged my wife into looking out the kitchen window past the pond and having her watch me turn on and off the light from the netbook (My wife is not technical at all and probably only read the first paragraph of post 1 and then stopped). I was sure to tell her, it doesn’t matter where I am in the world I can look through the camera and turn on and off that light. She looked solidly unimpressed, but did say, “I think our kids will end up smart because you are interested in this stuff.” My gosh if that is not the green light to continue my project what is?


So it is the next day. 7:30PM. I didn’t see any emails so I assume the camera is still up and working. I try to connect to it and can’t. I check my test script that I wrote and it looks like it didn’t work correctly (I thought I tested that last night, but apparently there was something wrong with it).  I worked all day at a customer site, so didn’t even get a chance to look at it from a remote connection. I did know that it was working this morning. So a full charge will most likely run the camera all night. I doubt that the solar panels can fully charge those batteries and run the camera in one day, but who knows unless we test. I moved the camera back by the beach and connected the solar panels to the battery, then the battery to the camera. Looks like I have nothing to do until tomorrow. I will be excited to check if it is on when the sun comes up.


Oh… Crap… I just checked the weather. It is going to rain tomorrow. I don’t even know if the camera will actually turn on at this point. The solar panels have to do two things:

1) Charge the batteries.
2) Have enough juice left over to turn on the camera.

It didn’t turn on in the “low light” of dusk. Dang… I can’t wait to check it tomorrow to see if it turns on. I really don’t think it will though. It just seems like it will be too much for those solar panels in rain and probably clouds.


My Silly Pondcam – Post 9

Has it really been 9 posts about the pondcam? Oh… that is bad. And they are long too (At least that is what I am hearing. My response is always, “They are mostly pictures!”).

Post 8 was all yesterday and it is still fresh in my mind. It felt like a total bust but I did so much work to get around things I didn’t feel that let down. Here are some very important takeaways from Post 8:

1) Waterproofing did work. I don’t know why it worked, but it seems to be fine. I sunk that sucker a whole bunch of times during testing and no water got in the case. We may actually be in really good shape on the part I thought was going to be the hardest.

2) This is really important. I am 99% sure we learned what our whiteout issues were in post 2. It was a setting on the camera and has nothing to do with power. That tells me all sorts of things. One of the most important is our solar panels and batteries are pretty good for this application. I don’t remember if I wrote about it, but when I didn’t see a picture when we were testing the camera outside, I was convinced that the blank video we were seeing was because we weren’t getting enough power, so I became obsessed with turning off the light. I learned something wrong more than a week ago and it followed me every step of the way until Paul was here. In medicine this is called “Diagnosis Momentum“. Diagnosis Momentum is when a doctor makes a diagnosis and states in on a patients chart (In our case the patient is the camera, and the chart is blog post 2) then forever, further treatments even from other doctors are pigeonholed into treating the wrong illness. In medicine people die and it is a big problem. In my world, it just means a camera shows white instead of a picture. I am not sure what doctors say when they are in this situation, but a very common thing to do in IT is pull a colleague over and say, “I need a second pair of eyes”. Paul broke the code on this really quickly. He didn’t fall for my previous diagnoses of the “no picture” issue, I was happy he didn’t.

3) Aside from the “whiteout” issue I just described we had all sorts of connectivity issues. Paul didn’t like the little access point we were using. He took one look at it and was like “what?!? is that what you are using?”. I really thought I did enough testing in post 1 to prove that this was working correctly. I did find that broken connector from the camera, but we still need more gain. Sadly I have to do more wireless testing before sinking it again.

4) Because of what I just learned about our connectivity. I really beefed things up; I put an extension on our camera to lift up the antenna. I gave our access point a better antenna too. Hopefully those things should help a lot.

Now that we covered the lessons learned from our last effort and how we overcame them lets move on to something more interesting. I don’t like the way the light or the camera sits in our case. How do I fix that? Here is a picture to give you an idea.


See how the camera is crooked. That makes the lens angle up. I don’t want that. Another thing, you can’t see is the light broke free of its glue and is sitting back a bit from the inside front of the case.  To fix this I am going to drill three holes into this case. I know what you are thinking, “What did you just say?!!??! You can’t drill into that case it is water proof, just leave it and move on!!!! You stupid jerk, just don’t do it”. Why do I know you are thinking that? Because I thought the exact same thing after I drilled the last hole. I thought, “Oh crap. I really screwed this case up now. There are three holes in it and the idea wont work, it is just stupid. You should have left it alone”. Well too bad so sad, I didn’t leave it alone so I was forced to move forward with my plan. Here it the plan.

Note: When I drilled the last hole I put too much pressure down and the drill bit in the front went down a little hard against the camera board. I don’t know if it is broke. It looks fine, but you never know  for sure until you test. If you see me really excited about the next time we turn the camera on it may just be because it is simply still working.


I am going to drill the following three holes. Each hole we be as close as possible to the exact thickness of the wooden stick we bought at the hardware store yesterday. I am going to cut a piece of that stick and push it through to make the camera and light move in the direction I want. Then I am going to epoxy over the hole, let it cure, then put a coat of Goop around the epoxy for good measure.

1) In the back of the camera I am going to drill a hole and push the light forward so it is against the case.

2) I will then drill another hole right beneath it to push the camera board forward so the lens is against the glass.

3) I will drill another hole in the bottom front of the camera to push the bottom of the camera board back so it sits straight.

Here is a picture after all three holes were drilled and our pegs put into place to make the camera and light be were we want them.


If you look carefully you can see them. The camera and light are in place. The black tape is for putting over the epoxy to hold it a little and make sure it doesn’t leak while it cures.

Here is a better shot as the one above isn’t as clear.


While I am waiting for it to cure, I decide to put some extra Goop on our top. Only because it is easy and one less place for water to get in.


That was were I left it all last night and it dried and looked really solid. When I woke up this morning my 6 year old handed me this and said, “Dad, do you know what this is a picture of?”.


That was great. Another interesting thing happened too. I was at my brother-in-law’s house and he said you need to figure out how to stick an LED on one of those bugs and make it light up. Needless to say I have been trying to think of a good way to do that. That is a really good idea. I will post the results if I can figure out a good way to do it.

Here is a picture of our camera the way it looked when I got back from all of the fun family stuff today.


Everything is straight and flush in the case. I can’t think of anything else to do. So let’s put some lipstick on this pig.

I first mask off the two things we need to actually “see” out of that case. The camera lens and the light.


Then I take it out to the garage and spray it down with the black rubberized coating. Here is what it looks like drying in the shop.


I am too tired to do anything more today, so I will stop.

One last thing… On an only slightly related note. If you remember from several posts ago I lost my black jumper and blamed it on my kids. Nope… It wasn’t them. I found it in my wireless bin. Hooray!


I love cleaning up loose ends. Don’t you?

My Silly Pondcam – Post 8

OK. We got our Pondcam all in the case. It is pretty permanent. I technical can pull of that top and still get at the camera with a lot of effort and cleaning afterword (Goop does come off plexiglass and plastic pretty well, but it takes some work). Let’s hope we don’t have to take that top off.

My brother Paul is coming over and I need to help him with a computer issue he is having so I need to kill some time without making any real progress because I want to rope him into helping me with the camera (He is an IT guy too and very technical). So I think I will start with this mess.


You know the drill by now. Everything gets put away except the stuff we need for our place in the project. I can put the charger in the garage we are done with that for now. The drill can go away. I can put the soldering iron away, we don’t need so much of this stuff because we have come really far.


That is much better. I brought in the mount for the camera because we are going to need it. Paul still isn’t here so I decide to go to the hardware store. I have three things on my list:

1) I want to see if they have some sort of waterproof sealant. I plan to do some underwater testing today, but after we are done I would like to spray it with something to give it a final coat of protection.
2) I need more solder. We have like less than an inch left. We shouldn’t need it anymore, but I hate being out of solder.
3) I want to get a new socket 9/16ths. I didn’t write about it, but it is the most popular one to use. It is good for bikes, a lot of nuts and bolts on my tractor. And because it is the most popular that is the one that is always gone. I know it is around, but I couldn’t’ find it so I want to get a spare (I can blame this on my wife because my six year old just started riding without training wheels, so she put it somewhere and I have no idea where to look).

Now when I go shopping I ask my kids if either of them want to come with. To my surprise my two year old wants to go and my six year old wants to stay home and wait for Paul and his kids to come over. It is usually the other way around. So I am happy, me and Cordie get in the car and head over to Ace.

Cordie and I don’t get to spend a lot of time together so I decide to spend as much time as possible at the store. I go through every single isle that may have some long shot of what we will need. And it paid off. Here is what I got.


This looks pretty good to give our camera a final coat. They had three different colors; black, white and clear. I definitely don’t want clear because I want to cover up all the ugly. I wanted the sealant to be dual purpose: First – waterproof, Second – makeup. I am totally on the fence about white or black. Would black scare away the fish? Would white be better? I have no idea and will decide later.

While wandering through the store I also saw this.


This type of epoxy is different as you roll it together like a putty. If this plexiglass case works well I may want some of this to make another one. The epoxy I am using now got all over the place.

And I totally need some of this.


More solder and something else we need.


We really need a way to fasten the camera to the base of the mount easily, I hated doing that with vice grips and I am not sure what to do about securing our camera to the base so I got some of these.


They look like they will work. I have a need to make that camera and the light more level, but the case is closed so I bought one of these. I will explain what I plan on doing with when I get to that part.


Now it is hard to see but those two sticks are actually perfectly round. I am not sure the size. It used be be one piece. I let Cordie play with it in the store, she didn’t break it. It ended up getting broken in the trunk, I am not sure why, but it doesn’t matter. I plan to cut it up anyway.

As Cordie and I were wrapping things up at the store I found these.


They really do look like the right size so I bought them. I have no idea if these will work as I didn’t measure them. If they fit, I will mount these to our center pole to attach our camera. I am thinking, “Yes I totally need this because what if a big fish gets mad at the camera some day and wants to eat it? These will hold it solidly in place”…. If they work.

Time to start getting stuff put together so we can continue (Paul still isn’t here, but I don’t care… Pondcam can’t wait). I want to mess with those brackets and bungees we bought to mount the camera securely to the pole.

Interesting note. After I got back from the store, I saw this by a workbench in the garage.


That is my missing 9/16ths. I grab that one and use that. I put the new one in my socket box. Now on to the camera. I set it up and tighten all bolts to make it secure. I fasten the camera with both the bungees and our brackest to see if any of them work. Here is what it looks like all put together.


To my surprise they both worked very well. The brackets especially. I won’t need the bungees. Here is a close-up.


Oh… I almost forgot there is something still in my car from the hardware store. I bought one of these.


I know you are thinking, “What is that and what do you need it for?”. I can’t remember what it is called, but today I will call it a “manual weed whacker”. If you ever used one you will know how handy they are, you swing it like a golf club in thick weeds and it trims it all down to the ground. Why I need one is this.


In the picture above I an to put the camera right in the upper left. The problem is that I will have to mess around through this, unless I can cut it back.


Eventually I hope to make short work of the above picture with my terrible golf swing using a “manual weed whacker”. I do have a real weed whacker, but from what I remember from my pre-teen years a manual one is what we want for this.

Paul still isn’t here and I really want to sink the camera today. I have to think of something more to do before he gets here. I have an idea of how to test it in water before he gets here. To test it in water I need some room underneath the base of the camera in the mount. You will see why in a minute. For now I just raise it so that it is no longer touching the ground.


Hooray… After I do this Paul shows up. I get him to help. We pull some tables out and fill up my fish tank with water.


My plan is to just take the camera and its mount and place it over this and look for bubbles. Here is what the camera looks like next to the tank.


We anxiously lift it into the tank and look for bubbles.


No bubbles. Let’s turn it on!


This is a problem I wasn’t expecting. The light is on and stays on. The problem I can see right away is that it is too bright outside. It is cloudy today, but there is still way more light out here than in the basement. I never tested for that. Looks like it will be “BLACK” for our waterproofing / beautifying session with the rubberized spray I bought at the hardware store. So I am not going to worry about that now, I am going to bring out the netbook and take a look.


It is tough to make out, but it is the whole “no picture” issue. I am stunned that it is doing this. Paul and I are both trying to figure it out and try so many different things. I can’t possibly post all of the troubleshooting that went into this because it will be up to 4AM and still not be done. Since I have to go to Mass tomorrow I will sum up and say that there was a setting in the software called “anti-flicker” that seemed to be the trouble. When we were outside it was so sensitive to light that it just washed everything out in white. I don’t know why antiflicker would do that, but it is probably in the manual that I didn’t read except for getting voltage and current. All of the panic and troubleshooting in Post 2 was probably not necessary.

After we got that ironed out we did put the camera in the pond for fun to see if it would work at all. Here is a totally embarrassing shot of what it looked like.


When it was there I went up to my desk to see if we could see anything and it was the same old thing. Just a whole lot of nuthin’. I did notice today the pond was so cloudy I couldn’t imagine seeing anything in that water. I am clearly have to have two places for this camera, one that is in the pond and another that is over the pond.

We did more tests and realized that we just didn’t have good wireless connectivity. It is the middle of the summer and my pond gets low. It pretty much follows the water table. This spring the pond actually was all the way up to the beach and almost touching the driveway. Paul said we really need to get the antenna of pondcam higher. I agree. Here is a picture of our last connectivity test that was no good. The antenna is far in the distance behind those green chairs on the beach.


Our access point has been brought out as close  as our Ethernet would allow us. Still nothing! I don’t understand this, as we should have really good connectivity.

OK.. We have to settle this connectivity thing. Let’s see what we have. I don’t know if you noticed in a lot of those pictures of our wireless access point. But there is an interesting thing about it. Let’s look at it more closely.


Yep.. That is right, no external antenna. I want to put one on it. But I need to see if I have one. Let’s look in my wireless bin.


Oh… That is right… An 8dbi wireless antenna. Let’s connect this to our access point. I know what you are thinking, “You can’t connect that to the wireless access point, there are no external connections”. I don’t care. I have a feeling I can put it on one way or another.

I try to bust open the case, Paul gives me some song and dance about FCC and how you are not allowed to attach high gain antenna’s to 802.11 devices and how hard it is, blah… blah…blah.. I don’t care. After some work I get the case open and what do I see.


Those are the same little connectors we had to deal with in the camera. After some soldering, cutting a hole in the top and  really having a hard time with that connector we end up with this.


Now that antenna is a directional antenna, so it focuses all of its power on the face of it toward where you are pointing it. I mount our new antenna back at the garage window and point it at the pond.

What about our pondcam antenna? It is too low because the pond is so low this time of year. Well lets do something about that too. I have this.


Oh and we need to get that antenna to our camera as high as possible, I have this too.


That is an extension for the roof mount for our antenna. Let’s put this together in the same way I attached it to my old house to give my neighbors free wireless.

Note: When I was first married I was mounting this on the roof of our old house. I didn’t want to bolt it to the roof because I wasn’t sure if I would cause a leak so I used cables to the edges of the roof. Something happened and one cable slipped loose and everything came tumbling down off of the roof, inside the house the sound it made was really loud. We were newlyweds at the time and she thought I had fallen. The expression on her face was a learning moment for me. What I leaned was, I had someone that cared about me a ton and needed me, be careful and don’t kill yourself doing something stupid. Lesson learned. I don’t even need a ladder with my pondcam project. Oh… And bonus… The solar panels and batteries won’t kill me unless I eat them (I do think I could eat the solar panels and not die, the batteries on the other hand would definitely kill me).


That will be about 10 feet or so which should allow a way better connection. When I go to move the bracket and antenna to the top I see this.


See that little crink in the red coating around the white wire? That end is about to break off. I make a note that I have to fix that (It actually did break off when I brought the camera to the desk later on). That actually may be all of our issues with connectivity. That connection isn’t meant to be roughhoused like we have been doing. I need to solve all of these connection issues, I find all of the new connections we need and replace this one with one that would be better for this application (I have adapters that let me connect things in a low signal loss way). I get the antenna moved to the top of our pole and clean everything up.

Note: I did take a lot of pictures of me putting ends on a couple of new cables. It was a lot of work, but documenting little things like that today is really hard. Here is a summary without pictures: I made one cable for our antenna, but I replaced the broken camera antenna adapter with a different one that we can mess with more. I have an adapter that will fit it to two cables that can reach our antenna. One is really thick and hard to work with, but will have less signal loss, the other is perfect for our purposes, but may not work as well. If you see different cable going up to the antenna in future pictures I will be messing with both.

I will show you one more picture though of our cables. I have one very thick cable with little loss that is hard to work with, then I have this one.


Nice and flexible. I think I may like this one better.

That is all for now… It is 1AM. I totally learned a lot today thanks to Paul being here. I would never have messed with that video part of the software without his help. At one point he said, “Before you open the water proof camera lets troubleshoot it a bit… I have a webcam at home that has some video settings”. That saved the day.  I totally was thinking lack of power was causing our trouble with the “no picture” but it was a setting in the video. It still doesn’t make sense to me that changing the “anti-flicker” setting would have fixed that washout issue we were seeing.

I did more this evening, but that will be for another post. Sorry… I so wanted to show a picture of the pond. This post reminds me a lot of post 2. I hated that post. It seems like every time I try to bring the camera out to the pond it doesn’t work. Grrr!

To continue reading see post 9.