D-Link 2.4 GHz Wireless Internet Camera

Model Number: DCS-1000W ($450)

The new DCS-1000W
doesn’t look anything like a Web cam, and that’s good, since that is not what
this unit is meant to be. Were it not sporting twin antennas, it could probably
be mistaken for a conventional wired security camera you might find at your
local bank. D-Link touts the DCS-1000W as the first 802.11b camera,
to I think Panasonic’s
Wireless Network Camera
s might have come first.

Pros:

  • Excellent IP View software
    lets you view and administer multiple cameras

Cons:

  • WEP may not work with
    third-party hardware
  • Administration console is
    confusing with no online help

FEATURES

The DCS-1000W is a color camera, and it captures images in three resolutions
(160×120, 320×240, and 640×480) with five levels of compression, ranging from
Very High to Very Low. Frame rates of up to 30 fps are supported, but only at
the lowest resolution. At maximum resolution, frame rates are in the single
digits.

The camera has a 10/100 RJ-45 jack for the initial configuration, and you
can use the camera in wired mode if you’re so inclined. A toggle switch on the
camera lets you choose between LAN, WLAN, and LAN+WLAN modes. The DCS-1000W
also has an I/O connector to be used with forthcoming optional modules, such as
infrared and motion detection sensors.

The DCS-1000W sports Power and LAN/WLAN LEDs on the front. You can choose to
have these lights remain dark, or in so-called "dummy" mode where the
LAN/WLAN light will remain on and flash randomly to obfuscate the operation of
the camera to passersby.

D-Link recommends that the DCS-1000W not be used outside unless it’s housed
in a weatherproof enclosure (or at the very least, placed under an overhang)
and fitted with an iris lens (the standard lens can be damaged by direct
sunlight).

INSTALLATION

Configuration and administration of the DCS-1000W is done by Web browser,
naturally. The administration console is a bit confusing and hard to follow. I
often had to hunt for certain settings, and there is no online help included,
so if you need to get an explanation of a particular setting (and you will),
you’ll need to consult the manual in PDF format on the included CD.

Like most wireless devices, the D-Link camera can obtain an IP address from
a DHCP server, but it also works with BOOTP and RARP, making the camera usable
in a UNIX environment.

Interestingly, the DCS-1000W can also work directly with PPPoE, so you could
presumably connect the camera directly to a broadband connection and have it
login to your account and send images.

In addition to the de rigueur administrator account, you can also add
up to 64 other individual users who may access the camera (image only, not
configuration) over the network.

You can specify date and time for the camera manually or configure it to
update itself automatically from a time server. Unfortunately, the camera
cannot overlay the date and time on either the live image or the frame grabs.
D-Link says this capability is coming in a future version of the camera.

Thankfully, the DCS-1000W supports e-mail alerts. Naturally, the e-mails
arrive with a still image attached, in JPEG format. I couldn’t test this
feature, though, because as it turns out you can’t simply send periodic frame
grabs from the camera; you need to have one of the (still unavailable) optional
modules (or a makeshift device–the manual discusses how to do this) connected
to the I/O port to trigger captures.

If you want to monitor your video without filling up your inbox, you can
alternately have the camera upload image captures to an FTP server. You can do
this according to a schedule you define, and it does not require an I/O
trigger.

Depending on where you put the camera, physical access might be problematic.
Because of this, the camera wisely lets you either reset it (equivalent to a
power-cycle) from the admin console or even restore the camera to its factory
default settings, saving you the trouble of pressing the little recessed button
on the back of the unit.

SECURITY

The DCS-1000W does support WEP encryption, and I had no difficulty getting
an encrypted connection to work with D-Link’s own wireless routers. On the
other hand, I was unable to enable a get a WEP connection between the D-Link
camera and several wireless access points and routers from other vendors.

The DCS-1000W has a very Spartan WEP configuration section, only allowing
you to specify the key type (ASCII or Hex) and the key itself. It doesn’t let
you specify whether you want 64- or 128-bit enabled, instead inferring the
level of security from the length of the key you input.

However, the camera only lets you input 5 characters or 13 characters (for a
64- or 128-bit key, respectively) and, according to the manual, "These
character counts result in bit counts of 40 and 104, respectively; the
DCS-1000W will automatically pad your input to a bit count of 64 or 128".

Herein, I believe, lays the problem. Since most other wireless devices allow
(indeed, require) you to provide the full key, it appeared to me that the
camera could not be given the same key as the access point, and thus the link
failed when WEP was enabled.

It may ultimately be possible to get WEP to work between the DCS-1000W and a
non-D-Link device, but be prepared to put a lot of effort into it.

MULTIPLE CAMERAS

What happens if you want to deploy several cameras? Administering them
separately through the browser must be a royal pain in the derriere, right?

D-Link recognized that if you need one camera, you’re likely to need
several, so they include an application dubbed IPView, which allows you to view
and access the configuration parameters of up to 16 cameras simultaneously. It’s
a pretty nice application, and you need it for certain things even if you only
have a single camera, like if you want to record video (or upgrade the
firmware). In fact, I recommend using IPView instead of the browser to interact
with the camera whenever practical.

SUMMARY

In the final analysis, the DCS-1000W is a solid overall product that does a
lot of things well, in spite of some notable weaknesses (the WEP issue).
However, if you can live with the limitations, need video surveillance, and don’t
want to wire, it may do the job for you just fine.

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