Nest Cam Outdoor – My experiences

So a couple of months ago some bastard keyed my car. My initial knee jerk reaction was to buy a CCTV camera to watch over it in case it happened again, so I knew who’s knees to break. So the search began, but I wanted something fast.

I looked at a couple of offerings but I wanted something easy and quick to install, and preferably without too many cables to run around the house. I settled in the Nest Cam Outdoor, after owning their thermostat for a year and being very pleased with its performance and functionality.

When the camera arrived it was very well packaged with the usual plethora of mounting hardware. The kit comes with long enough cables for most installations and all the required fixing hardware, including cable clips, which was nice.

The mounting system for the camera uses strong magnets to hold it in place. While this is a novel idea, in practice a well-aimed football will knock the camera off the wall and render it useless. Points lost there unfortunately.

The cable attached to the nest has a ruggedized USB connector on it that’s approximately 18mm diameter. All well and good until you need to run it through a wall. I know this camera is meant for American homes which I presume mostly have outdoor power outlets, but that’s an uncommon facility in the UK. Drilling an 18mm+ hole in a double skinned brick wall is no simple task. More points lost there.

Once installed the camera is easy to set up using the Nest iOS or Android apps. Scan the bar code on the app and away you go. Don’t forget you’ll need a constant internet connection for the camera to work though.

The video quality of the camera even in daylight is shit considering it is allegedly 1080p. While the camera sensor probably is 1080p, the camera compressed the nuts off the video to upload it to Google’s cloud platform, losing most of the quality. I honestly can’t even read the number plate of my car from the video, and the car is parked maybe 15 feet from the camera, if that. Image quality is even worse at night.

Remember Google’s server I just mentioned? They only allow the camera to store 3 hours of footage, unless you buy a Nest Aware subscription to store up to 10 days, or 30 days, whichever tickles your fancy. This isn’t particularly well communicated by Nest either, to the point that when my “Free Trial” expired, I didn’t even get a notification to say “Hey, your camera has just deleted all video over three hours old! Best break the credit card out!” Thinking about this logically, if somebody broke into my car between 1am and 3am, I wouldn’t have any footage of it at all. What’s the point?

In conclusion, don’t buy this camera. It’s effectively a glorified, very expensive, video doorbell without a subscription, which wouldn’t be as bad if the cost of the camera wasn’t so fucking much to start with. Even then, you can’t make out facial features unless the camera is installed at a level where the magnets make it easy to sabotage. Again, what’s the point?

Honestly. Don’t waste your money. This device has the potential to be awesome, but is used as a cash cow by Nest instead.

The Pirate Bay; The Lesser of Two Evils

A few years ago the courts in the UK Ordered that UK block access to the popular torrent site; The Pirate Bay. Fair enough. But was that a wise desicion, or one made by dinosaurs that don’t understand the current digital landscape?

Torrent sites like The Pirate Bay have been an effective distribution vector for malware for years. Non-savvy consumers often Google “(latest movies here) free download” and end up at a site such as TPB to download the latest flick. Unfortunately deviants (pronounced Dick Heads) took notice of this and started seeding infected wares to build their botnets or extort money out of unassuming folk using encryption to lock their baby pictures and cat videos. 

So blockin access to TPB was a good thing, right? I don’t think it was. 

Now when people try to obtain illegitimate copies of software, movies, music etc, they end up at smaller torrent sites, a lot of which are funded by the same deviants that used to target consumers through TPB. 

For slightly more savvy users, TPB is still accessible by googling “TPB proxy” and choosing one of the many proxies available for free. The problem with these proxies is that they too are riddled with malware nasties trying to take advantage of people looking to save a few quid.

So, with Sony’s PlayStation Network sustaining massive DDoS attackes on a regular basis, I can’t help but think that the majority of the infected nodes in the botnet are probably as the result of consumers trying to circumvent the UK TPB block and ending up on a less reputable website. I bet Sony didn’t consider that when they approached the courts to ban TPB. 

This is all speculation of course. I’d bet my last dollar on it being at least partially accurate though.  

Laziness, Ingorance & Stupidity Make The Internet Miserable

The internet is an incredible thing. When you really think about how it works, this massive, ever-expanding network of devices all talking to each other is astounding. Like a knife though, it’s both a very useful tool AND very dangerous weapon.

Everything is connected to the internet now and consumers are far too trusting in technologies to make their life easier. What they fail to notice, or indeed care about, are the security flaws in the kettle they can control from their smart phone. Technology companies actively exploit this unearned trust to peddle more cheaply developed crap into the homes of consumers.

What consumers probably don’t realise is that the CCTV camera systems, video door bell, or cheap “smart” light bulbs connected to their wi-fi are incredibly insecure. They are probably a part of a botnet, designed specifically to target Internet of Things devices with known hardcoded passwords or vulnerabilities.  Then they complain when Playstation Network or Xbox Live is offline due to a huge DDoS attack, orchestrated by a douche bag somewhere, commanding their CCTV cameras, video door bell and “smart” lightbulbs to flood the servers hosting the gaming platforms with garbage data.

Of course having your CCTV system used in a botnet to bring down services on the internet isn’t worse case scenario to most people. What about the creepy guy sitting in his stained Y fronts in front of his old CRT monitor with his box of cleanex, watching you sunbathe in your bikini on your own CCTV cameras? Or watching what you and your better half get up to on the sofa via your internet connected, smartphone controlled nanny cam, while the kids spend the night at their grand parents house. Worrying isn’t it?

So who’s to blame for the situation the internet is in at the minute? Is it the hackers? The technology companies? The consumers? In my opinion it’s all of the above.

The hackers are a diverse cross-section of society. Some of them hack people for financial gain, some for fun and some just to be A holes and show off to their friends.

The consumers need to stop looking for the easy solution, and start thinking about the effect their cheap, insecure devices have on their privacy, their neighbour’s privacy, and the impact on the rest of the world. After all, if your CCTV camera is part of a botnet that targets services as big as PSN, you’re partially responsible for the inconvenience caused to millions of people around the world, all because you didn’t change the password to something other that “password” when you set your new gadget up.

Technology companies don’t do enough to secure their products. Don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that some vulnerabilities in devices arise from vulnerabilities found in widely used services and protocols, such as SSL. The main boggle I have with the technology companies is when they release devices with the obvious and simple weaknesses built-in for the convenience of either the consumer or technical support. Things like hard-coded passwords and wi-fi passwords stored in plaintext in configuration files on devices. These shortfalls in security just play right into the hands of the hackers and make their life easy. They are also inexcusable.

I personally believe the problem is only going to get worse unless the technology companies step up the mark and actually start designing products with security in mind. People might say Apple are obnoxious, self-righteous pricks for locking their HomeKit system down and preventing smaller manufacturers from entering the eco system unless they pay apple for the privilege. In reality though, at least they are bothering to do something to try to address the security issues.

The whole top and bottom of the problem is, consumers are ignorant, technology companies are lazy and hackers are stupid. I say stop making product setup workflows as easy as possible and guide consumers through the process of securing their new gadgets by adding steps like mandatory password changes into devices during the setup process. If the technology companies made the effort, and consumers made the effort, then maybe at least some of the script kiddies out there would give up because of the extra effort involved in continuing to make people’s lives miserable.


BE Broadband Block The Pirate Bay

Today my ISP (BE Broadband) imposed a block to prevent its subscribers from accessing the world’s most popular file sharing website, The Pirate Bay. While many people are outraged by this, I see it as a good thing. Now before you start shouting at your screen in protest, read on to find out why.

To start with these blockades are trivial, and if anything will only prevent Joe Bloggs from visiting TPB to see what all of the hype is about. Any hardened pirate will have an arsenal of methods to circumvent the blocks and continue to use their favorite torrent site regardless of what the courts have ruled.

Secondly blocking one website is NOT going to solve the self-inflicted problem that is copyright. I say self-inflicted as copyright owners have brought piracy on them-selves by over charging for products.

Imagine this scenario; In order to relieve congestion on Britain’s roads, the government impose a ban on yellow cars.  People will simply buy black cars instead, thus the problem is still there

The exact same logic works in the case of this blockade. By blocking TPB, hard-core torrenters will simply use other torrent sites, or circumvent the block with proxies and VPN’s etc. thus wasting a lot of money in legal fees to get the block imposed, and a lot of money on technology to impose it.

Personally, I used to download a lot of copyright infringing material, mainly music and movies. Nowadays I download my music from iTunes and listen to it on Spotify, and I watch movies on Netflix and LoveFilm, simply because they are convenient and fair. To solve the problem of piracy the record companies and music industry need to realize that the world is changing rapidly, as are the habits of their customers, and they need to evolve with them, make their products more convenient, reasonably priced and easily accessible.

In the meantime, the UK legal system should be shot with shit. The whole point of the internet is to allow people to access information freely, not to do the dirty work of the entertainment industry or fixing their fuck up from when they got left behind by technology.

In conclusion, this block is a milestone for the consumer. It will prove that blocks do not work and the courts will eventually get bored of the fruitless requests from the entertainment industry to block websites.

As for the BE members who have decided to “terminate” their BE contracts in an irate and public manner on BE’s blog, good luck to you terminating you service contract on the grounds of “I’m a prick and blame BE for doing as they were told by the man”. As for BE, May the cancellation fees be with you!

I for one will remain with BE as in my opinion they are still the UK’s best ISP. No traffic shaping, no download limits, greater upload speeds than many ISP’s, excellent Customer Service. I have been a BE customer for many years now for these reason and I will remain with them come rain or shine.

Plus I can always go to just to piss the entertainment industry off 😛