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Month: December 2016

Connecting iSpy to an Amcrest IP2M-841 webcam

Connecting iSpy to an Amcrest IP2M-841 webcam

This was more annoying than it should have been. When setting up my Amcrest IP2M-841B camera, I was able to use the Amcrest IP Config tool to log in and watch my camera without issue.

When using iSpy 64, however, the darn thing couldn’t figure out how to connect to it. Here’s how I did it. I left the camera on channel 1, set the encoding to plain H.264, and then did the following.

Test your camera using Amcrest IP config.

The first thing is to make sure your camera is working at all:

  1. Be sure you can open the IP config tool and see your cameras.
  2. Make sure passwords are correct, you can get a live view, and that it’s set to H.264 encoding and the channels are correct.


Test your rtsp line using VLC:

  1. Open VLC (install it if you need)
  2. Media->Open Network Stream
  3. Copy in your rtsp: address
    1. example without the username/password:
      1. rtsp://
      2. VLC will ask for your username/password and you can enter it.
    2. example with the username/password:
      1. rtsp://<username>:<password>@<ipaddress>:554/cam/realmonitor?channel=1&subtype=0
      2. I left the arguments as –rtsp-caching=100 (the default)
  4. You should see your stream come up in VLC
  5. NOTE: When setting your password, if you have any special characters like %!&#$ – or the like – be sure to convert them to their equivalent hex ASCII codes. See this chart here.
    1. Example: if your password is ‘cat&dog’, you should use the password: ‘cat%26dog’

Connecting to iSpy

If connecting via VLC worked, your 75% of the way there.

  1. Start iSpy
  2. Add->IP Camera
  3. Select the VLC Plugin tab (I have VLC installed, not sure if that’s 100% necessary)
  4. Set the VLC URL to what you had above (with the username+password):
  5. When setting the password, if you have any special characters like %!&%#$ – or the like – be sure to convert them to their equivalent hex ascii codes. See this chart here.
    1. Example: if your password is ‘cat&dog’, you should use the password: ‘cat%26dog’
  6. I left the arguments as –rtsp-caching=100 (the default)

Once you have iSpy connected, you can set up events and connect to the cloud for full web monitoring.



So, where did I get that rtsp line? Directly from the Amcrest HTTP API SDK Protocol Specification. Section 4.1.1, p14 – Get real-time stream. It’s also a handy guide on all the other parameters you can send the camera.

Lane Finding

Lane Finding

My first homework assignment for my self-driving automotive class was to find lanes on still, then on captured video. Here was my first attempt, which seems to have come out pretty well. I still want to improve it a bit with some more frame-to-frame smoothing.

Useful links/techniques:

Social Media sites are Highly Manipulable – by just as few as 3-5 accounts

Social Media sites are Highly Manipulable – by just as few as 3-5 accounts

Research is demonstrating that changing the entire narrative on a topic is shockingly easy on social media sites. Sites that claim to be free of such manipulation via user-submitted content and using up/down vote systems such as Reddit are shockingly susceptible.

In most cases, researchers found it only took 1 bot casting 3-5 up/down votes at the right time to change the tone of an entire subreddit for/against something. Further experiments showed that it only took about $200 to get a completely false story to the front page of Reddit. There is growing evidence that this is already been happening in the Bitcoin Reddit forum.

This is likely not only going to be used by advertisers but foreign agencies to change the narratives of just about any topic. All of this comes on a budget that is just pennies compared to traditional advertising and military efforts.

Perhaps this will cause us to come full-circle back to curated media – or for a startup to start a vetting and verification service?

Either way, the old adage is as true than ever: Don’t believe it just because you read it on the internet. But now we might add: Also don’t believe it just because it gets lots of up/down votes.

Mercy and Advent

Mercy and Advent

Mark Shriver, an advocate for poor kids and families, wrote a great reflection in the NY Times on this last Year of Mercy.

“At the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, I felt that Pope Francis was on “my side” — that he saw the church, as I did, as a social justice entity. I had considered mercy from an intellectual perspective and believed the pope was essentially calling me to be nicer to people. But as the Year of Mercy progressed, I realized that what Pope Francis meant by mercy had almost nothing to do with what I thought it meant.

Francis’ call for mercy is much deeper. When he says that “life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort” and goes on to ask us to “leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others,”

He is telling us to get out of our comfort zones. He is saying to me, a supposedly progressive Catholic who works on behalf of poor kids and families: Don’t be isolated and content, enter the chaos and the pain and the joy of others’ lives.

Then you will be truly merciful, and truly alive.”

This is exactly what we are about to celebrate – what Christmas is. That God, perfect and needing nothing, so loved us that he became human to live among us – as one of us – in all our human frailty. So that he could be in relationship with each of our broken, messy, and joyful lives and to open boundless healing for each.

Is there some ‘comfortable’ area of my life that it’s time I invited God into? Is there a lack of real relationship with those in my life or those I interact with – family, a coworker, or even the poor? Now is the time for us to open ourselves and have an advent arrival into the stony parts of our own hearts.

De Tomaso Mangusta Legacy Concept

De Tomaso Mangusta Legacy Concept

That’s a beautiful concept car.


Design student Maxime de Keiser decided to recreate it for the 21st century and we like what we see in his De Tomaso Mangusta Legacy Concept. Though it clearly steals some of its rear quarter panel work from the Lamborghini Diablo, the overall execution works well. The crazy flat hood and the aggressive angry-eyebrow headlight and taillight treatment give the car a cat-like appearance and the massive air intakes and wide platform give it the requisite supercar aesthetic. For now, it’s just a 3D model and the birth of an idea from a talented designer, but it could potentially be the start of a resurgent brand if it found the proper funding. We envision a carryover of the original powertrain manufacturer, perhaps dropping in the 5.4L supercharged V8 from the Ford GT. Oh, to dream.

mangusta-legacy-concept-02_ mangusta-legacy-concept-03_ mangusta-legacy-concept-05_ mangusta-legacy-concept-06_ mangusta-legacy-concept-12_


Hawking joins voices saying automation and AI are going to decimate the middle class

Hawking joins voices saying automation and AI are going to decimate the middle class

Steven Hawking added his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned that AI and automation are going to decimate middle class jobs, worsen inequality, and increase the risk of significant political upheaval.

Article here

A report put out in February 2016 by Citibank with the University of Oxford predicted that 47% of US jobs are at risk of automation. In the UK, 35% are. In China, it’s a whopping 77%. Hawking writes that automation will, ” accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”

This is what I’ve said for some time. AI allows you to replace whole swaths of employees. We can see how this is playing out by looking at the economies AirBnB and Uber are setting up. Instead of these nationwide chains of workers facilitating this new industry, the work is largely done by servers and AI on commoditized server farms. Instead of that money coming into a company of thousands, machine learning and automation can do it with only hundreds. Those hundreds are in narrow job titles with many traditional disciplines no longer needed. Further, it’s not hard to see how this concentrates money from a nation-wide chain into an incredibly small number of pockets instead of a host of employees they might have hired in years past.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for putting our heads in the sand and ignoring these new economies or saying we should stop them. That’s impossible. However, as Hawking and economists note,  “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.”

So what will be lost and what will be left? Just like the industrial revolution – certain kinds of jobs will be affected, but others will not. Creative, supervisory, and health care roles are likely safe. Skilled workers that know how to build and maintain AI server systems as well. But jobs like cashiers, tellers, secretaries, logistics, quantitative marketing/planning/strategy, financial planning, truck drivers, possibly even train conductors or airline pilots could all see major parts of their job functions replaced with machine learning algorithms. We’re already seeing this with automated checkouts, automated driving vehicles, and logistics AI’s are already out-performing replacing live counterparts. Even if one’s job is not replaced, there might only need to be one or two persons in the cockpit instead of 3 to 5.

This is going to come to a head in our lifetimes, and it’s very important we start talking and thinking about it now.

Google Home Vs Amazon Echo

Google Home Vs Amazon Echo

There were predictions that we would soon have intelligent agents in our home. This is a comparison and I’d say they’re pretty much there.

They’ve got ordering things down, playing music, etc. But a few items are still missing involve doing slightly more complex tasks for you:

  • Find then schedule best flights for you based on criteria you specify (price, stops, dates, etc)
  • Tell it to make calls to your doctor’s office/auto shop/etc to make appointments and check on the status of repairs/etc and report back.
  • Find and buy the best tickets for a show – scouring craigslist, ebay, ticketmaster, etc. for best prices/seats/etc.
  • Find out about a topic and summarize it from a few sources (not just google) – giving you verbal decision trees (automobiles are broken down by commercial vs passenger, trucks vs cars vs motorcycles, etc – which would you like to learn more about?)
  • Law – Is X legal in my state/local?
  • Tell you when appliances are finished (laundry is done, etc)

Perhaps there’s an opportunity here for services to work with these companies – especially in the case of law/etc. You could opt to talk to a real person in which case it would call the local office and you could continue more detailed discussion for a fee.

And as I have stated before, here’s another example of how AI and machine learning are removing a whole class of white-collar jobs. I predict professional assistants will always be necissary for some situations, but a lot of them are about to be replaced in version 2.0 of these devices.