The Belkin 54G wireless access point I’ve been using for a few years has been suffering since we extended the house.. there’s just not enough range on it, and it tends to temporarily lock up if it’s hammered a lot.
Finding a replacement took a lot of research, but I eventually decided on the ASUS RT-N56U, costing about £85, after reading some great reviews, including one in PC Pro. It’s worth reiterating that it doesn’t contain an ADSL router.. so if you’re on that type of broadband you’ll still need one of those in your set up. I’m happy with that, since the master socket isn’t where I want to place the wireless router anyway.
Configuration was straight-forward, aided by a decent web interface. As soon as I plugged it in I upgraded the firmware to the latest version from ASUS. I’d also seen that there are unofficial firmwares from a Russian group which are meant to fix a bunch of stuff & add new features. I’m sticking with the ASUS firmware unless I hit stability problems or find that I want to tinker later on. I certainly like the option to have a customised firmware should the need arise.
After having it running for a few days I’m really impressed with the speed and coverage across the house. It allows you to either use one SSID for 2.4Ghz and one for 5Ghz.. which lets you decide which band you want a device to use. Or set the same SSID for both, and it’ll automatically switch you over to the fastest band according to the signal strength. I was in the kitchen, and it connected on what must have been the 2.4Ghz band (due to the distance), then moved to the living room where the speed shot up & was obviously using the 5Ghz band.
Here’s a table showing how the signal strength has been affected by the upgrade;
||Signal Strength (dBm)
And here’s my unboxing video;
Last week I bought one of these cameras to keep an eye on the house. After initially thinking I wanted the old D-Link DCS-900 I stumbled across the Edimax range of cameras. Here’s a summary of what they have available:
- Edimax IC-1500 – Older model
- Edimax IC-1510 – Updated version of the IC-1500 – ~£40
- Edimax IC-1510wg – As per IC-1510 but adds wireless – ~£65
- Edimax IC-1310 – Same as the IC-1510 but adds audio – ~£48
- Edimax IC-1310wg – As per IC-1310 but adds wireless – ~£78
I went for the IC-1310 because I thought the audio might be useful, even if I didn’t use it at first. I also couldn’t justify the more expensive wireless model when I’ve got a couple of Belkin wireless APs in the loft that could be hooked up to add wireless at zero cost to me.
One week on, this camera is great, especially for the price! In low light the images are pretty decent, and in daylight they’re great. Some of the features require that you use Internet Explorer; e.g. getting audio as well as video requires their ActiveX control, as does the initial setup of the motion detection. However, most other features work through other web browsers like Firefox (I don’t think some people read all the documentation!) it’s all in the ‘CGI Commands’ manual on the Edimax website. You can get straight to the MJPG video stream or individual JPG images through whatever browser you like. However, I’ve not yet been able to get the audio and video stream mixed together on other browsers. The ActiveX control also doesn’t seem to work through corporate proxies.
Network setup is relatively trivial for anyone who knows their way around port forwarding in a router. It took me about 10 minutes to set everything up & make it available using a DynDNS host name for external viewing.
It hooked up to my Android phone without any problems, streaming the video over 3G using apps like ‘Tiny DVR‘ (which I’d recommend) or ‘IP Cam Viewer Lite‘. Over 3G the frame rate was about 1-2fps.. enough for a quick check on the house. Edimax have their own app for those with iPhones.
If you don’t need audio then go for the cheaper Edimax IC-1510 (which is currently about £40). I’ve had mine wired through a ethernet cable so can’t comment on the wireless side of things; if you want wireless then you need to see whether it’s worth the extra £30 to go from the IC-3010 to the IC-3010wg.
URLs that work through most non-IE web browsers are:
Single-image, not logged in (you define the file name to use);
MJPG Stream with authentication
To go with my purchase of a new Topfield 5800 Freeview PVR in February I replaced the mess of remote controls with a single universal remote from Logitech. As usual I did some exhaustive research so that I knew exactly what I was getting, and that it’d do everything I wanted. The remote I chose was the Harmony 555; now available for about £50.
The main thing with the Harmony remote controls is that they’re very customisable, however you’ll need patience to set it up if you’re a perfectionist. All in all it took me around 3 hours (on and off) to get it just right. Programming it requires you use some software on a PC & upload the settings to the remote via a USB cable. This worked pretty well and I couldn’t imagine trying to configure it without a PC. An added bonus is that even if you break the remote all your settings are kept with Logitech and can be synchronised back down.
Batteries (4xAAA) lasted around 4-5 months. Some of the more expensive Harmony remotes have colour screens and recharge an internal battery.. I’m really not that bothered about seeing the screen in colour and having to dock the thing to recharge it seems like a hassle & is another charger to add to the drawer.
After 6 months of use I’m still happy with it, and I’d recommend the Harmony 555 to anyone who wants a completely customisable universal remote.