Using a Raspberry Pi and USB Camera

You have a Raspberry Pi, or are comfortable with the idea of using one, and you want to use it to capture video or images using a USB camera.  Even though the Raspberry Pi has a port designed specifically for using a camera, it’s not as low-cost, nor as convenient as the USB corded camera.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 B+ (B Plus) Starter Kit (32 GB EVO+ Edition, Premium Black Case)

It would be a lot nicer if you had a web interface to access, view, and manage the content you’ve capture using the USB camera.  Learn to set up a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack on your Raspberry Pi and configure it to work as a web server and set up a basic website which you can access on any device on the same network as your Pi.  This is a link to a nice tutorial for setting-up a L.A.M.P. server on your Pi, the WordPress portion is optional, you can stop after installing PHP. 


Motion is the tool that you will want to use if you want to live stream, record video, capture motion, and grab a lot of snapshots.  More options means a lot more configuration options making setup more complex.

download and install:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install motion

usage:  See /etc/motion/ for configuration file(s).  The documentation for Motion is contained within the file motion_guide.html.

The offline version of this file is available in the doc/motion directory. The online version of the motion_guide.html file can be viewed here



fswebcam is a simple tool for grabbing snapshots using a USB connected camera and  can be configured to execute routinely using the operating system’s cron job scheduler.

download and install:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get upgrade
  • sudo apt-get install fswebcam




Make a Touch Screen Kiosk

touch screen

Raspberry Pi 7″ Touchscreen Display


SmartiPi Touch case for The Official Raspberry Pi 7″ Touchscreen Display – Adjustable Angle

Security through Obscurity


Security and Obscurity

“In security engineering, security through obscurity (or security by obscu58688968_1920_1080rity) is the reliance on the secrecy of the design or implementation as the main method of providing security for a system or component of a system. A system or component relying on obscurity may have theoretical or actual security vulnerabilities, but its owners or designers believe that if the flaws are not known, that will be sufficient to prevent a successful attack. Security experts have rejected this view as far back as 1851, and advise that obscurity should never be the only security mechanism.”

We often rely on our security being through some sort of obscurity.  “If they don’t know about it, they can’t use it to get in.”  Common household door locks only have so many combinations, yet we can rely on the lock of our front doors because we know that a thief would have to try every combination or break-the-door-down.  However, on the Internet, who is watching your front door, so a thief cannot try every combination?  Fortunately, our web-server has an access.log file that is automatically updated and archived for us.  Let’s start there and see if anyone has left their “footprints” on your web server.

Is anyone trying to gain access?

wget-shellshock-johnIf you are running a LAMP setup on a Raspberry Pi , open-up a terminal window and type in the following:

cd /var/log/apache2/
zcat access.log* | awk '{print $1}' | sort -n | uniq -c | sort -nr | head -20


The output should be a list with two columns, one containing the number of entries counted, and the second column is the IP address associated with each web request made.  The easiest way to get the most information from a reverse IP lookup is by using the following command:



Rather than rely on an external web service, you can do some digging after you install some tools that are not included by default with the Pi:

sudo apt-get install geoip-bin
geoiplookup IP.ADDRESS

Here is a good article on using geoiplookup.  Even more advanced digging not included by default with the Pi:

sudo apt-get install dnsutils

Does the location seem suspicious?  Try grepping for the activity, the zgrep command includes the compressed files:

zgrep 'IP.ADDRESS' access.log* -1

By looking at the web requests that were made from the IP address, you can determine whether the activity is suspicious.  Typically, you will find that these IP addresses are from bots looking for vulnerabilities in your security.  You can manually block IP addresses to your blacklist or you can just deny all and allow select IP addresses.  If you haven’t already, you’ll want to install and setup a firewall.

Power to the People!

We believe you shouldn’t need expensive gadgets and technical expertise to be a successful gardener. We are committed to a greener planet!

A handy IndoorGardeningChecklist – print yourself a copy!

Image Credits: Power to the People, Patrick Nygren 2014.
Creative Commons Commercial Use License.