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Ask Slashdot: State of the Art In DIY Security Systems?

timothy posted 1 year,24 days | from the real-time-pictures-not-after-the-fact-beeping dept.

Security 248

An anonymous reader writes "For geeks that want to secure their home, it seems that the choice of Do It Yourself solutions are limited. And in case you prefer to use a company, most of them require to subscribe to a contract for 3 years that costs at least $20 a month. In case you want to make a DIY security system without a monthly fee, few options are available. Some products (such as ismartalarm, Lowe's Iris system or also the fortress security) let you install your own system but seem not to be very mature (for some the alarm is not loud, for others they do not use the internet and only a land line, etc.). Is there any recommendation for a basic DIY home security system for monitoring the house and just have notification by e-mail or through a mobile application? Is there any open standard for home automation and security devices? Any suggestion about how to build something simple, affordable and efficient?" How to top the big-name subscription-based security companies is a recurring question, but one worth exploring every once in a while, as sensors and software both advance, and especially as more and more people are carrying around phones well-suited as remote monitors for in-house cameras. (And here's a preemptive link to ZoneMinder.)

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Is this advertisement junk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863159)


Re:Is this advertisement junk? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863313)

Nope. You're just a typical slashtard who sees a shill everywhere.

Build your own using LIRC and Linux MCE. (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863161)

If I told you, I'd have to thrill you.

Insurance? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863181)

DIY security systems are nice, but your insurance policy will dictate what you must have. Once you pass a certain threshold of personal property, they'll require you have a monitored system with specifics. What equipment and who you pick comes down to whether or not you want to fight the insurance company when you file a claim.

This means most of us sign with the 3 letter well known company since we know it'll be rubber stamped.

Posting as AC since my one flaimebait post from 5 years ago would bury this post. It'd be nice to have decaying karma.

Re:Insurance? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863191)

Pit trap, punji sticks, claymore, and shotgun trigger hooked to the doorknob.

What?! I live in Cambodia, you insensitive clod!

Re:Insurance? (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863693)

And here I was thinking you'd say Arkansas.

Re:Insurance? (2)

zenlessyank (748553) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863219)

Wear your negative karma with pride, as it gives others an example to which one can judge another by. I know I do ;)

Re:Insurance? (1)

Slick_W1lly (778565) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863467)

My insurance did not ask for specifics. I get a call once in a while asking 'Is your house still monitored by an external company?'. To which I answer 'yes' and they go away happy.

I suppose I might be asked to provide specifics in the case of a claim against burglary/fire: Can your monitoring company provide logs of emergency call? etc etc. But... well, they can. So, all's good.

Re:Insurance? (3, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863765)

It doesn't matter if they say it is OK on a call. It matters if they say it is OK on a claim.

Umm no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863195)

In the US having a DIY alarm can be a liability. You still have to pay for permit, and subscribe to a monitor. You can cut the monitoring if you don't want it to alert the police, but then what is the point? Buzzers don't stop murders and they only alert thieves that they have a time limit now.

Re:Umm no. (2)

Slick_W1lly (778565) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863449)

If you're only 'alerting yourself' there's no fee involved. The 'alarm fee' my township imposes on me is, apparently, to cover false calls. (naturally my wife had one of these once...). They have a yearly false call allowance of.. once. After that they start charging you.

I agree with 'what's the point' though. If I get burgled, I want the police to be notified, and either come shoot someone for me, or turn up with flashing lights if I'm away - not me sitting on a cellphone describing what they're removing from my house to a 911 representative.

Re:Umm no. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863495)

this and the insurance post.

and I didn't even think of that the post submitter wanted to use it for either - what he wanted was just monitoring, and not wanting to hook up to others, not trying for insurance benefit.

Re:Umm no. (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863647)

You can cut the monitoring if you don't want it to alert the police, but then what is the point?

In many jurisdictions, including where I live (San Jose, CA) the police DO NOT RESPOND to triggered alarms. 99% of the time they are false alarms, triggered by the cat, or a relative who doesn't know the disarm code. The police have better things to do.

Re:Umm no. (4, Insightful)

BLKMGK (34057) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863809)

Police? There in minutes when seconds count - if you're lucky. What thieves don't want is attention. People looking, people noting license tags, people calling the cops. If an alarm sounds in my home the very last thing I'm thinking is going to save me is the police but I will have been warned of trouble. Screw monitoring, I want NOISE and I want LIGHT! If you were a thief would you be robbing the home with the motion sensed lights and alarm warnings or the dark home with no signs or intrusion detection? Low hanging fruit is what scum look for.

Re:Umm no. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863697)

Depends on frequency and volume of your "buzzer", at just the right frequency and volume you could easily incapacitate the intruder.

Re:Umm no. (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863797)

You can cut the monitoring if you don't want it to alert the police, but then what is the point? Buzzers don't stop murders and they only alert thieves that they have a time limit now.

There is no point in monitoring period. The buzzer going off alerts people who are actually in the area and possibly able to assist in some way. Talk to those people before there is a problem and come to a mutual understanding.

If you betting on cops getting to you just in the nick of time after your monitoring company farts around going thru your contact list and then just ...drumroll ... "calls the police" to do anything other than file a report after perps have already fled your living a dangerous delusion. If your goal is not to be killed by a murder *you* need to be prepared to defend yourself, plan an escape route or hide in some kind of panic room and hope perps left their metal vapor torches at home.

Re: Umm no. (3, Interesting)

cbowers (908860) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863895)

Depends where you live I suppose. In the greater vancouver area (Canada), I use US based Alarm.com The system is great and convenient with lots of system features, zwave stuff, automated locks etc. A few months ago our house was broken into. I was about 10 minutes away. I raced back and was greeted by 3 RCMP cars blocking my driveway, they were already inside sweeping the house. We lost nothing. The guy broke in via a rear window and sensor logs show he raced around the lower floor, missed easy pickings, pulled the knob off our stereo cabinet door, dropped it and exited via the rear patio door in under 2 minutes, and got away (until a couple weeks later a few blocks away). Earlier, my wife entered the unlock code on the door incorrectly, and inadvertently entered the duress code. I got a push notification on my alarm .com app, checked the sensor log and felt it was likely a false alarm. I called my wife to check in, she hadn't realised from the symptoms that she'd triggered the duress but it made sense to her in hindsight. I assured her to expect a knock at the door shortly, and sure enough, again the RCMP were there, insisting a thorough check of ID, an interview, and a tour of the house. I couldn't be happier with the performance of the system and the service. Far better than I had in the past with ADT, Chubb, etc. even in the same house with the same police force, the response was not that good, and in fact before I switched, I got a letter from ADT saying that there would no longer be a police response unless the monitoring company was able to connect to the home owner and the home owner requested it. On the other hand, no Neighbors, heard, noticed, or responded.

Z-Wave (1)

njbair (781810) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863205)

Z-Wave, the wireless mesh protocol behind most of these systems, is an open protocol. That means you can build yourself an a la carte system. Not just for security, either, but total home automation. You can even buy Z-Wave USB dongles that work with Linux. Of course you'll need software as well. Or you can pick up an embedded device such as Vera Lite. If you're okay with a small monthly fee, Nexia (formerly Schlage LiNK) is Z-Wave based.

Re:Z-Wave (4, Informative)

NoMaster (142776) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863425)

Z-Wave, the wireless mesh protocol behind most of these systems, is an open protocol.

If by "open" you mean "closed & proprietary, but with some reverse-engineered partially-functional open-source API impementations", then you're right.

just think back to 1990s popup ads (2, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863225)

Have you looked into X10 [x10.com] ?

Re:just think back to 1990s popup ads (2)

Carnildo (712617) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863353)

I prefer Remington [wikipedia.org] .

Re:just think back to 1990s popup ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863465)

I prefer Remington [wikipedia.org] .

Most only need an app that will play the sound of a Remington 870's slide being worked. With half decent external speakers the unwanted visitor will decide to go somewhere else that evening.

Re:just think back to 1990s popup ads (4, Informative)

sylvandb (308927) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863515)

X10 went bankrupt in mid-2013. The current reincarnation purchased the name and IP at auction. So far they seem more professional, but time will tell if they can continue to build and improve the product line. http://www.x10.com/about-us/ [x10.com]

Re:just think back to 1990s popup ads (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863601)

X10 for me too. Have X10 motion sensors, X10 USB receiver, always on nettop with x10 API, vbscript to email me when not in house(pretty fixed schedule so easy to do), and cheap webcams to see what is going on upon receipt of email. Local police number available, if I need to make "the call". Last time it was the mother in law showed up early, but who knows who it will be next time...

X10 fail (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863703)

I was a big X10 user decades go. Did see a much higher than expected failure rate on the modules. But it stopped working for me as I added more and more surge protectors and UPSs to my home. And that is not saying that the transmitters or modules were on surge protection devices. Just having one or two on the same circuit seemed to be enough to damp out the signal, particularly if the xmitter and receiver were not on the same breaker (which pretty much meant they had to be in the same room for me).

Re:just think back to 1990s popup ads (1)

mrclisdue (1321513) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863883)

...Last time it was the mother in law showed up early...

So, your alarm works perfectly. Can you provide more details, you an' me gonna be rich...?


X11... (1)

steppin_razor_LA (236684) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863227)

I used their system for a while. It worked adequately enough although if there was a break in, I'm not sure what I would have actually done...

Re:X11... (4, Funny)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863279)

Run Xkill, click on the bad guy?

Re:X11... (1)

sylvandb (308927) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863523)

This is /. so shouldn't that be "Run xbill, ..." ?

Re:X11... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863341)

Except there was just an article about X11/X.Org security being in bad shape [slashdot.org] .

Simple answer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863229)

It's called a Rottweiler.

Re:Simple answer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863303)

Or a Beagle, twice the bark, but eats and shits a quarter what a Rottweiler does.

Re:Simple answer... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863343)

What do insurance companies say about guard dogs, by the way?

Re:Simple answer... (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863473)

What do insurance companies say about guard dogs, by the way?

"Here is your more expensive policy."

Re:Simple answer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863623)

whoooo's a good dog?..now whoooo's a goo..wait ...no, wait.. what the .. AAAHH GETOFFME

Re:Simple answer... (2)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863707)

He's just playing.

Blue Iris (4, Informative)

roc97007 (608802) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863231)

Google "blue iris security software". I think it's $50 for the full version. It supports a wide variety of security cameras, including those pan and tilt wifi models.

I paired Blue Iris with a 4 channel capture card (about $100) and four Bulldog wired cameras (about $28 apiece) and a few minutes work with dyndns and the built-in web server, and I can monitor my house from anywhere I have network access, and any movement will send snapshots to my phone and record an AVI that gets sent to a secure server. The software supports configurable "dead zones", so if you have a tree that trips the motion detector in the wind you can block it out.

To my knowledge, this is the absolute cheapest you can go and have a usable configuration.

Re:Blue Iris (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863321)

You can do the same thing with motion and some creative scripting. So... old box, some webcams, some time...

Re:Blue Iris (1)

jones_supa (887896) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863507)

There's too big danger of some script breaking or doing some other schoolboy mistake.

Re:Blue Iris (1)

rubycodez (864176) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863817)

so what? test the stuff over a couple of weeks with everyone in the house going in and out

Re:Blue Iris (1)

jones_supa (887896) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863855)

Really professional. :D

Re:Blue Iris (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863953)

Really professional. :D

Uh yeah, that's why it is called DIY...

Great advice (2)

AHuxley (892839) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863323)

Yes roc, depending on your country and laws, thats the neat way set up :)
Great software on fast a i5 or i7 cpu with 24/7 server quality HDs and a way to get the data when alerted to another external system.
No use having the person walk out with the only recording :)
Another tip would be to read up on any HD cameras - some have more unique password and port settings for their HD stream, others just work :)
Read up on test sites about night use, not all are great at night for the price.

Re:Great advice (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863565)

It's also worth remembering (since the objective is to be more secure by the time you've finished) that the firmware of IP cameras is largely crap. Maybe I'm doing some Chinese OEM slave factory whose owner's savant cousin actually cares about the firmware a disservice; but you can't afford to assume that any networked camera, wireless or wired, is anything other than a nasty infection waiting to happen. We are talking 'firmware builds even worse than the ones on $20 routers, except much more enthusiastic about sending video of your house to the internet' here.

You probably will find that (unless you really love running coax), IP devices, some of them wireless, will end up being what you go with; but whatever you do, segregate that crap on its own network with no direct access to the wider world. Any offsite storage/monitoring/messaging goes through a properly configured computer only, not the devices directly.

Re:Blue Iris (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863451)

Remember that if you can access your system remotely, so can hackers.

Re:Blue Iris (4, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863635)

Google "blue iris security software". I think it's $50 for the full version.

Nothing on Blue Iris, but the mention of closed-source security-video monitoring software got me thinking about government black-bag jobs and software backdoors.

Maybe this is movie-plot stuff, but wouldn't it be (technically) cool to put QR-code recognition into the software such that if you walked up to the camera with the right QR-code the monitoring software would disable the alarm, erase the last 10 seconds of footage and replace it with a static scene as if you were never there? When you are done, just show the camera a different qr-code to re-enable everything.

Real Geeks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863249)

Buy a dog, a big dog that goes WOOF.

Ubiquiti Airvision + mFi (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863255)

It's not as reliable as it could be yet, but I've set up a couple of these now and they worked for my jobs well enough. (Assuming version 2, original release sucked if you had more than one or two cameras.)

Is it a complete solution? Not yet. I've been working with some of the mFi stuff and it's okay too.

For an on the cheap system, I'm pleased enough. I'd *really* like to see the two product lines integrate with each other better though.

http://www.ubnt.com/mfi [ubnt.com]
http://www.ubnt.com/airvision [ubnt.com]

Zoneminder is nice (2)

FridayBob (619244) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863259)

Our site uses Zoneminder together with Axis M1054 cameras. However, although these IP cameras can produce 1280x800 dpi images at 30 fps, we run them at only 1 fps because of the high load that this would otherwise put on the local server's CPU. So I suppose the program could be further optimized, but otherwise we are quite happy with it.

Vista Alarm and AD2USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863265)

Buy a cheap vista (15p, 20p, etc) alarm and some sensors off of ebay or home security store and an AD2USB from alarmdecoder.com - you can self monitor or integrate into existing home automation. Roughly $200'ish initial investment, but 0 thereafter.

2GIG systems are great, but you need a maker outlo (2)

smjespy (786886) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863311)

The 2GIG systems can be installed yourself, but you have to prepared to research. They are big enough that third party monitoring companies support them, but they are really designed for installer use, so a DIY installation requires a bit of know-how. I replaced my ADT system when they bought Brinks, and I really didn't save a lot of money, but I got a degree of control, and avoided the monopoly. Pleased.

Visonic is pretty awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863315)

not many vendors tho

Simple. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863333)

Couple of plasma mines hidden under pots and pans; a few rigged shotguns, and an electrified door controlled via a very hard terminal.

Should keep you secure from anything but an asshat with a pip-boy on their arm.

Dont fall for the subsidies... (5, Informative)

alanshot (541117) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863347)

I work for a company that installs alarm systems. Dont want the insane mothly monitoring with a contract? Dont let them install "free" systems. You are paying many times over for the life of the contract for that "free" system.

Pay for the T&M up front, and many local companies will do the monitoring for as little as $10/month. (ADT and other national companies wont, but odds are you have a locally owned company that will.)

And beware DIY systems; If you dont do it RIGHT, you can end up paying more due to false alarm fees. Many municipalities charge per alarm after so many alerts. So if you dont know what you are doing and end up sending in multiple false alarm calls the the police, you could end up paying hundreds per incident in penalties.

Many options (4, Informative)

pirodude (54707) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863367)

You are looking for either the HAI Omnipro II or the ELK M1 gold. Check out http://cocoontech.com/forums/ [cocoontech.com] for all the information you will ever need.

Re:Many options (1)

fear025 (763732) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863443)

I second this, a dedicated hardware solution is going to be more reliable than a pc-based solution. Plus those Cocoontech forums are a wealth of information.

Motion (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863375)

Motion - I have a number of cams, some are common usb webcams, 1 is a real IR IP security cam, the IP cams would be the best but cost a bit more, but also can be put outside, and have significant night vision.

Motion is configured to save any images with changes above a certain threshhold, and can also be setup to copy those images to someplace else (a HD hidden someplace, or in a big heavy gunsafe--some have usb passthroughs, or via internet/email to elsewhere).

I have been using this for years, and at the very least unless someone burns down everything (and deletes the remote copies) then there will be records of some sort.

It it is also much simpler to setup that zoneminder.

Standards based interfaces? (1)

Paul Carver (4555) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863377)

I haven't looked into it lately but it used to be that composite analog video (i.e. NTSC/PAL) quality was the only standard. Any higher quality video was proprietary and often required Internet Explorer. The only other option was using something like zone minder or motion to grab jpegs as quickly as possible and create videos after the fact.

Has the situation improved? Are there cameras available that provide live realtime HD quality video without a dependence on the camera vendor's software or a web browser plugin?

Installing it is One Thing (1)

rueger (210566) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863387)

Our client base is primarily in West Vancouver BC - the richest municipality in Canada. The kind of town where a $3 million house is a "starter", and will immediately be pulled own to build a 20,000 ft McMansion.

In many years of working with clients in WV, I can recall TWO that actually ever turned on their alarms, and would estimate that half of our clients don't even lock their doors.

If nothing else they demonstrate that Vancouver's criminal class is either really dumb, or can't afford a bus pass.

Elk Products M1 Series (3, Informative)

chazchaz101 (871891) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863399)

I had a good experience building a DIY security system based on a M1 controller from Elk Products. The documentation was clear and there are add on options for connecting it to the internet and interfacing with other home automation equipment.

http://www.elkproducts.com/product_family_overview.html [elkproducts.com]

Re:Elk Products M1 Series (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863761)

AC, sure, but I second the ELK hardware and systems as excellent. DIY install, full customization to my needs (internet, wireless door/window sensor support, integration with UPB lighting systems). I'm using a local monitoring company that calls me first, and have had no problems with false alarms.

Also the M1G has an excellent programming/scripting language built in that lets you write just about any rule you can think of, and define/use numeric variables within those rules. "If the front door opens after sunset or before sunrise then turn on the foyer lights." or "When in vacation mode, if the last user was the cat sitter and it's been more then 1 hour since the alarm was disarmed, automatically re-arm the system". It's perhaps not quite Turing complete, but close.

My only complaint is that the internet connectivity is somewhat limited in its integration with the programming. You have to predefine static email messages and recipients and then issue commands like "send message 1" rather than having the ability to use variable names within those messages and or adding extra current state.

On the other hand, they do seem to keep developing the system and releasing new firmware with increased capabilities, and their customer support is quite good.

Build your own... (5, Informative)

Slick_W1lly (778565) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863403)

I have done just this. After ADT refused to 'update' the installation I had done about 12 years ago, and wanted to charge me $800 or so AND continue to charge me the $50 a month for monitoring.

So, I junked their old (crusty and mostly non-working) system and bought all my own kit. You'll find you can *always* buy better than what they give you in their 'free' package anyway, and tailor it to your own needs. You can find a monitoring company for around $10 a month. My insurance company doesn't care who does it, as long as it calls the police, alarms for fire, etc etc etc.

So. Here's what I got :

Vista20p panel. It's what most 'big name' companies install, except YOU get to set the 'installer code' and the ability to change / add stuff you hook up to it.
Honeywell 6120RF keypad. You'll need a 'keypad' to program your panel. This one also takes care of wireless sensors.
Various door sensors, heat / smoke sensors, break-glass sensors, Pet Immune movement sensors.
Don't forget the siren :P

If you have a landline, you can hook it up to this panel and have it call your monitoring-company-of-choice when an event trips. If you don't, you can get wireless addons which call them via cell-phone.

All this stuff is easy to order, easy to physically install. The programming for the Vista20P is a bit arcane and reminds me of programming assembly from my youth, but a day or two with the manual and some judicious googling and you should be set.

One of my requirements was that it hook up with the z-wave stuff I'd started installing, and I'm a fan of gadgets. So I *also* bought some touch panels with pretty graphics and stuff on them. They're expensive, mind (about $400 a pop) and their z-wave capabilities were limited. I ended up not using them for that and got a Vera-lite anyway. The wife, however, likes them.. so I consider the investment worthwhile (they can also display security camera feeds).

Note: NONE of this stuff allows you to monitor without a contract to a company. If you want to do that, then you can buy the add-on daughter board for the Vista20P called the Envisalink3. Hook that up to your home network and it can send you mails and stuff when things occur. Also note: if you do that and your power goes out, and you don't have battery backup for the internet gateway it sends through, you'll uh.. not get notified.

All this stuff I bought from 'the home security store'. Which is a haven for DIY'ers. They have a very helpful forum, very helpful staff and their prices are reasonable. I bought my bits a year or so ago and I've been a very happy customer.

Links follow :

Vista20P : http://www.homesecuritystore.com/p-958-vista-20p-honeywell-vista-20p-security-system.aspx [homesecuritystore.com]
Wireless Keypad : http://www.homesecuritystore.com/nsearch.aspx?keywords=6150RF [homesecuritystore.com]
Touchscreen pads : http://www.homesecuritystore.com/p-2081-tuxw-honeywell-tuxedo-touch-screen-keypad-white.aspx [homesecuritystore.com]
Glass break sensors : http://www.homesecuritystore.com/c-76-glass-break-detectors.aspx#Filter=%5BManufacturerID=7*ava=0%5D [homesecuritystore.com]
etc etc etc

Re:Build your own... (4, Informative)

Slick_W1lly (778565) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863411)

Oh, and here's the envisalink3 which lets you do your own monitoring :

http://www.homesecuritystore.com/p-2164-evl-3-envisalink-internet-alert-module-for-dsc-honeywell-security.aspx [homesecuritystore.com]

Re:Build your own... (1)

mowen01 (1959584) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863639)

Oh, and here's the envisalink3 which lets you do your own monitoring :

http://www.homesecuritystore.com/p-2164-evl-3-envisalink-internet-alert-module-for-dsc-honeywell-security.aspx [homesecuritystore.com]

I second the recommendation of the Envisalink3. I recently installed a DSC 1832 security system and the Envisalink3 board in my house and it was super easy and works perfectly.

Re:Build your own... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863555)

The programming for the Vista20P is a bit arcane and reminds me of programming assembly from my youth, but a day or two with the manual and some judicious googling and you should be set.

Glad to hear that nothing has changed since I was programming alarm and pbx systems in the mid-1980s!

Re:Build your own... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863731)

Interesting. My dad works for ADT. He does corporate/government work, not home stuff, so I guess it's a different situation, but for the typical setups he does, he can actually get components cheaper than most people can on the open market.

Posting anon for last name being in email.

Re:Build your own... (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863899)

He probably can, what he can't do is sell that to normal folks cheap...

Re:Build your own... (2)

angrygretchen (838748) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863969)

A Vista 20p panel is a good recommendation. If you don't want to go the wireless route for the keypands and sensors, then stick to the wired 6160 Honeywell keypad. The 6160 has a larger display then the other keypads, which makes gives you more characters for reading the sensor names, and makes programming easier. http://www.homesecuritystore.com/p-154-6160-ademco-alpha-keypad.aspx [homesecuritystore.com] As far as wired sensors go, the two most important in my opinion are the door contacts and motion sensors. With these two types of sensors you can create an effective coverage that would detect most thieves. You can sign up for cheap monitoring with the Vista20p. Some monitoring companies have their own smartphone apps, that will let you arm/disarm your system with your phone, run reports for which sensor was tripped, etc.

Install an alarm panel without central moniting (1)

aXis100 (690904) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863417)

Just about any standard security panel will have dialer options, which can then phone your mobile if there is a break in. Just fill your house with standard PIR motion detectors, and some nice loud sirens (inside) near your valuables so that it drives the thieves crazy. You can even go wireless these days to save on install fees, but I like the reliability of wired.

There's lots of bands to chose from but I went with DSC (the PC1832 model - http://www.dsc.com/index.php?n=Products&o=view&id=2 [dsc.com] ) because they are regularly used by commercial installers. They are well priced and available on Ebay, and any technically minded person should have no problem installing it themselves. This on it's own should be enough to make thieves move on to an easier target.

For video surveillance then Zoneminder is an easy choice and works a treat. Also the DSC panels support a PC serial interface module so between Zoneminder and some scripting (or a home automation platform like homeseer) you can have a comprehensive monitored system that records incidents and can do something smarter about them.

Re: Install an alarm panel without central monitin (1)

corychristison (951993) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863681)

I did Alarm installs for a local security/fire protection company for a while a few years ago.

We used DSI and Paradox. DSI is much cheaper and easier to get going. I personally recommend spending a few bucks more and get a LCD keypad (vs LED).

As the parent poster pointed out, commercial panels can be set up to dial out to any number including your cell phone for self monitoring.

One thing to keep in mind is because it is common hardware, in the future you can always have an alarm company monitor it for you. You must be aware they usually require an install fee to reconfigure and properly test the hardware and signaling. Don't think you will save any money vs having them install it for you.

You won't, however, be locked into a contract (36 months @ $30+/mo was normal when I was doing it).

Roombas with flame throwers (1)

Jeremi (14640) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863423)

A half dozen or so ought to be enough.

Re:Roombas with flame throwers (1)

Opportunist (166417) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863723)

What? No sharks? No lasers? I'm sorely disappointed.

Front Point Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863461)

Front Point is a self install battery backed up cellular system with an android and IOS app. It is more expensive that ADT per month but with the low install costs it is only more expensive than ADT after 8 years

Better uses for that $20/month (4, Informative)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863475)

There are two better uses for that $20 per month. You could either bump up your dataplan so that you are sent lots of pictures to your phone of any vaguely interesting activity. Or if you have a good data plan then you could use $20 per month to get a data only plan for your security system so that it can communicate via your internet connection or via a cell data system as backup.

My sister has me as a contact for her security system. So I have driven across town more than once only to find one of her family has set it off and the phone is turned down or off the hook. It would be great to just get a snap of whomever set it off. Neice. Nothing. Nephew. Nothing. Guy in balaclava with sack over his shoulder, call the cops and give them a blow by blow description of who is exactly where.

So a DIY security system should not only be as good as traditional ones but should be way cooler.

On a side note, don't mount the cameras up high looking down. All you will get is an image of the robber's hoodies or baseball cap logo. Mount the cameras in a concealed location at eye level. This way you basically get a mug shot. If you want cameras for deterrent you can get fake cameras to mount up high. The only cameras you want up high are to capture the over all picture. I will tell you that you will be sorely disappointed if your security camera only provides enough evidence to say that a guy(race unknown) 5'4" to 5'10" wearing a Blue Molson hat, a grey sweatshirt, jeans, and black sneakers took all your stuff. Get a good enough picture at eye level and the police will drive right over to the halfway house and arrest him 20 minutes later.

diy alarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863479)

Get an elk m1 gold with the ethernet interface. Its the defacto standard for alarm / home automation diy nerds. It can email you if its triggered or any other rule you create. There is also a Perl module that you can directly communicate with the alarm system. I have a Linux box that monitors the alarm and sends twitter updates for all zone changes etc.. Even sends me a pic if someone rings the doorbell. You can pretty well do anything with it.

Roll up your sleeves (1)

Andrew Valencia (2978205) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863483)

I just built such a thing over the last year. I bought PIR sensors and low voltage (i.e. telephony) wire. Hired an electrician to do all the runs through walls. It all ran back to a USB-1024LS which reads logic lines and plugs into USB. We already had a IP PBX running on a small 24/7 Linux box (which also handles DNS, DHCP, UPNP, etc.). Coded up a FSM to deal with all the alarm states, and wrote Asterisk AGI scripts to interface into the phone system (so dialing into Asterisk and having it talk to you with Flite is its UI). On alarm it can send e-mails and/or make phone calls. I beefed up the UPS so the alarm system and Internet feed can last a good long time even when the power drops.

So... roll your own is a very reasonable proposition if you have some basic scripting skills and some very basic low voltage wiring skills. I went with a wired system because I could see that all the Wifi-based ones could be easily disabled with a simple jammer. It also made it easy to supply UPS-backed 12V power to the alarm sensors, since I had that low voltage wire run anyway.

Elk M1 (2, Interesting)

Miamicanes (730264) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863539)

If you don't care about out-of-the-box sexy experience, it's hard to beat the Elk M1 as a DYI'er. Their view of DIY'ers is largely ambivalent... they won't go out of their way to solve your problems, but the moment you furnish them with a valid M1 serial number, they'll give you access to the same training materials, downloads, firmware, and accessories as their pro installers. It's a strategy that works for them, partly because lots of those prosumers who buy one to install themselves end up starting companies to get certified officially and install the same alarm systems for other people.

Just one thing... do... not... even... THINK... about buying a cheap TCP/IP-UART bridge for ~$20 on eBay and connecting it directly to both the internet and the Elk serial bus. Make sure you have some kind of middleware sitting between the internet and Elk serial port that can only do specific things, like indicate an active alarm, arm the system, etc. And if you don't understand what I just said & want your alarm to be internet-connected, pony up the cash and buy a proper M1-XEP interface for it. The Elk RS-232 bus was NEVER designed to be directly exposed to attackers over the internet, and mostly depends upon being inside a locked box for security. If you interface it to the internet in a way that allows arbitrary values to get blindly relayed straight to the RS-232 bus after reading this, you deserve whatever happens to you for being a complete idiot.

The only thing it really lacks, IMHO, is the ability to implement Boolean logic for triggering alarms. For example, monitoring the state of the glass-break sensor, the door-shock sensor, and motion-detector and triggering an alarm ONLY if at 2 out of 3 fire within 20 seconds. And having similar logic in other rooms. The firmware in my controller allows you to "sort of" do something like that for a single zone, but IMHO it needs the ability to independently do this in multiple zones.

The nice thing about the M1 is that thanks to Arduinos w/Ethernet and the RPi, you can actually extend its logic pretty easily by using the M1 as your low-level sensor interface, and moving higher-level logic to a Pi or Arduino on the Elk RS-232 bus (relaying events from sensors as they happen to that serial bus, and triggering things like alarms by sending events back to the controller via that same serial bus).

Kludge-tip: if you're in a hurry to set up the system, don't feel like pulling wires right away to each room, and have an unused landline phone cable with 6 wires buried in the wall to hijack, you can buy input expanders and use the 6 repurposed phone wires to daisy-chain the Elk bus to strategic points in your house (1 pair for RS-485, 1 pair for +12v, 1 pair for ground). I had my own Elk M1 wired that way for almost 3 years, before I finally got proper conduit and wires pulled throughout the entire house. I had one M1XIN hidden behind the TV in the living room & plugged into the phone jack (which obviously wasn't used for an actual landline phone), and a second one upstairs behind the nightstand in the master bedroom, along with the equally-kludged keypad. Amazingly, it actually worked (if I had voltage issues, plan B was to add DC-DC converters to boost the voltage from 12v to 48v as it left the box, then drop it back down to 12v at the living room & master bedroom. Fortunately, everything used very little power, and the only time I ever had an issue was around year 4, when the backup battery finally died and the voltage started sagging.

Oh... also... Elk's M1 can interface directly with X10, Zwave, Insteon, and some other standard that escapes me at the moment. The MSRP of their expansion boards is pretty high, but you'll never actually pay those prices anyway because there's ALWAYS somebody selling them for a relatively small markup on eBay. However, make sure you buy the main alarm controller itself from an authorized dealer. Elk DOES track serial numbers of main system units, and if a serial number is reported as 'stolen' by a vendor, they'll refuse to give you access to their site to get updated firmware, etc.

All in all, if you're a hacker who wants total control of every aspect of your alarm system and the freedom to implement additional logic as you see fit, it's hard to beat the Elk M1. Especially if you're Arduino-experienced and itching to connect alarm-type sensors to a Pi (using the M1 to manage the sensors & drive the siren, handle the phone interface, etc, and interfacing it to the Pi through the RS-232 bus).

Goals? (1)

erth64net (47842) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863541)

What are your goals? Deterrent? Watch/record? Catch a thief? Glass breakage and/or entry detection?

For us, we wanted to catch a thief, and to record their actions while onsite. If they hear a siren, maybe they'll leave sooner, maybe not. With a camera and well secured recorder, we'd hope to have a good shot at identifying a thief. Adding battery power and offsite wireless transmission of data helps even further. Pay-as-you go WiMAX services like www.yourkarma.com help keep those costs down.

Also check out www.networkcameracritic.com for an excellent list of 2MP+ PoE enabled IP cameras (they recently reviewed a nifty 10MP fisheye camera). Stay away from the wireless cameras, as they tend to be less reliable than hard-wired (and you'll still need to run power to them anyways).

Re:Goals? (1)

Eskarel (565631) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863859)

A security system to catch a regular old burglar is a complete waste of time and money. Your odds of getting any usable footage of the guys face is fairly low to begin with, the odds that the police will be able to identify the person on the video is even slimmer, and even if they happen to know who it is finding the guy and proving it is even less likely.

The purposes of an alarm system are as follows.

  1. To minimize the amount of time the thief spends in your house and in doing so minimize the damage and amount of stuff stolen.
  2. To make your neighbours house seem easier to break into(though you actually only need up to date alarm stickers for your windows to accomplish this, not an actual alarm system.
  3. To potentially reduce your insurance costs.

Attemping to achieve any other goal is a long shot and a huge waste of time and money.

Re: Goals? (1)

cbowers (908860) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863935)

Not always so. In our case the same burglar had been hitting multiple houses in the neighbourhood. From the block watch reports, our house with an alarm.com 2gig panel was the only one not to have a loss. But though they thought they knew the guy involved, they didn't have proof. They did eventually catch him in the act some weeks later. But this is what caused me to buy a 2gig image sensor for $100 on eBay and add it to my 2gig/alarm.com system to cover the corridor used in our breakin. It's wireless and runs on battery for a year. It's a passive IR system that takes multiple still images, trigger by movement if the alarm panel is armed, based on rules I create on the panel, or manually on demand from the app on my phone. Images go to the panel and the panel uploads them by cellular radio to alarm.com. It's pretty painless to setup and use, not bandwidth expensive since it's multiple still images, so the usage is already covered by my monthly alarm.com plan.

Easier now than it has ever been (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863583)

Computers, sensors, webcams, wireless, batteries, mobile telecommunications networks and big dirty stinking bass speakers.

buy alarm, $5 monitoring separately (1)

raymorris (2726007) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863589)

I've messed around with a few things. It turns out the traditional method gets two things right and one thing wrong. Simple wired sensors are good. Changing batteries in wireless ones sucks. Monitoring is also good. What sucks is the traditional marketing strategy, where you pay $50 / to cover commissions for various middle men and that "low cost" alarm.

There are companies that provide the same monitoring service for about $5 / month. You may already own the alarm system. If not, you can buy a traditional alarm system at low cost. Of course you can also build one with something like a Raspberry Pi.

This is one area where geek hacks don't end up making a lot of sense. China cranks out well designed alarm panels cheap and $5 / month for monitoring can't be beat.

Ask Slashdot? (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863593)

Timothy, Timothy, Timothy. When will you ever learn? "Ask Slashdot" posts belong in the "Ask Slashdot" section so that those of us who choose to filter out those stories can do so. It doesn't work though if you keep posting "Ask Slashdot" stories in other sections.

get decent locks and make sure you use them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863621)

When you buy physical security for a home what you are paying for is essentially Time.

Given enough time anyone with enough determination will break into your house no matter what. Now how you setup your security all depends on your goals.

Most crimes are done through opportunity that means open windows and open doors so your first course of action is to make sure you lock your doors and your windows. Don't just shut the door as 99% of people do, it makes me sigh when I see how many of my friends install decent locks yet never ever actually LOCK them. If you don't use your keys when you are leaving home you are not using your locks.

Before buying into any kind of "security system" think about investing some of that money in some good quality deadbolts and window locks instead. Then use your locks every time you leave home.

Decent locks will actually make it that much more difficult to break in meaning you have now increased the time it will take to break in. Now is the time for you alarm system to kick in to call the cavalry while the lock quit literally holds the fort. Now depending on your goals you can put the pressure on the burglar by signalling to them that they have been busted, this may be a gamble worth taking if you don't want to spend money on anyone actually coming. On the other hand if you want to try and catch them well then a silent alarm is your friend.

Just installing an alarm system without good physical security (strong doors, door frames etc) will just give some nice footage of your gear being carted out the door that you can watch on your neighbors TV.

Sure you can have your elite alarm system but it's only use will be to record a nice home video of your gear being carted out the door.

How hardcore do you want to go? (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863625)

I've thought about doing something like this. I'm sure something could be rigged up with a few Raspberry Pis along with sufficient tinkering and script fu.

Setup a number of them with camera modules and wifi adapters. Each camera Pi has a cron job to take pictures as frequently as you want and uploads them to a "master" Pi that acts as a web server for remote access and uploading to a remote server outside your home (in case it's stolen, you have captures to potentially identify burglars)

I know I've seen motion detection utilities available for Linux. Set a cron job to switch on motion detection and alerts overnight. The server Pi could run apache to host a secured, web-based control and viewing system (there's your remote access). This can easily include controls for configuring any part of the system, ie.: toggling motion detection.

Find out your cell phone carrier's SMS email gateway (they all have one) and have it send you a text when it detects motion that breaches your configured threshold.

No, it doesn't have home integration or break-in detection. Maybe there's something that could be done with the Pi's GPIO, but I have no idea.

Anyway ... state of the art / DIY & cheap / easy setup. Pick two.

Synology or Qnap NAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863627)

I highly recommend the Synology disk station or Qnap NAS solutions for IP monitoring.

Both have video monitoring applications with multi-view, recording, web access, email notifications, Android and iPhone applications for monitoring on the go. They support a wide variety of off-the-shelf WiFi or IP based cameras.

In addition each provides cloud sync applications for Windows, Android and iPhone and web access to your photo's, videos, audio and files. You get a DLNA server and with a Linux based OS you are free to install 3rd party applications like Plex, TeamSpeak, the list goes on.

Simplisafe (1)

Shawn Quinn (3483619) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863633)

DIY install, no contracts and service as cheap as $15/mo. I use the $25 plan to monitor / arm / disarm from my phone and I get SMS alerts. I'm VERY happy with them.

Re:Simplisafe (1)

Shawn Quinn (3483619) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863641)

and you can print a certificate of monitoring to make you insurance happy. State Farm is happy with my Simplisafe system.

Re:Simplisafe (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863727)

I was going to mention them. I've been considering buying an alarm myself for a while now, and they're the leading contender as far as I'm concerned. If I buy one, that's going to be the one. For the stuff I need, it's $400 for the system and I agree, I'd go with the $25/month plan just because I want the smartphone toys.

Cheap wireless systems (1)

drkim (1559875) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863653)

There are some cheap wireless Chinese systems you can get fairly inexpensively.

Some offer GSM/Cel phone dial out/listen in capabilities, multiple zones, and a variety of sensors: PIR, mag-contact, water leak, smoke detect, gas detect.
They have remote, cel, or panel control.

You can just add stuff until you get all the parts you want.

No monthly fee. You can't have it dial the police directly (legally) but it could call you, you could listen in, and then you could call the police if you hear people breaking in.

http://dx.com/p/dp-60-gsm-home-alarm-system-w-wireless-door-sensor-window-sensor-pir-motion-sensor-black-275911 [dx.com]

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/HOT-NEW-99-zones-wireless-GSM-alarm-system-with-LCD-Keypad-voice-Free-shipping-Promotional/453561713.html [aliexpress.com]

Re:Cheap wireless systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863687)

But what if you have fallen and can't get up?

Re:Cheap wireless systems (1)

drkim (1559875) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863735)

But what if you have fallen and can't get up?

The tiny wireless remote has an "emergency" trigger on it (as well as arm/disarm)

So, if you were elderly, you could program the system to call neighbors or family.

Security Checklist (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863701)

Maybe this is a good time to review some anti-theft tips. Keep in mind the 4 D's:


* Install motion sensor lights on the front and back of your house.

* Install a fake camera. For deterrent value, a fake camera will work as well as a real camera, but will cost far less. It should have a bright blinking LED to make it more noticible. You can buy realistic decoy cameras for less than $10 on Amazon.

* If you install a real camera, make sure it is good enough to actually identify the perp. Otherwise, what's the point? Install several fake decoy cameras as well. If the perp is trying to avoid the fakes, he is more likely to be seen by the real camera.

* Put a "Beware of Dog" or "Vicious Dog" sign on the gate to your back yard, whether you actually have a dog or not.

* Put up a security alarm yard sign and window stickers, even if you don't have an alarm system. Yard signs and stickers are available on Amazon, eBay, etc.

* Get some old, well worn work boots, size 14 or larger. Leave one pair on your front porch, and another by your back door.

* When you leave home, leave a radio playing on a talk station. Set the volume so it is slightly audible from outside your home.

* Set up timers to turn lights on and off when you are not home.

* If you have an alarm that frequently goes off accidently, get it fixed. Otherwise your neighbors will ignore it.

* Valuables should not be visible from any door or window.

* Put wood dows or PVC pipe in the slide track of each window and sliding door. These should fit snugly, so they are not easy to dislodge by someone reaching through the broken window. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to remove the stop in case of a fire.

* When not home, lock internal doors. This will prevent an intruder from moving quickly around your home.

* Leave out some decoy valuables, such as an old laptop with no HDD, or some fake jewelry. Decoy valuables should be left in a conspicuous place, but not visible from outside.

* Frost or laminate your garage windows, so a perp cannot see if your car is gone.

* If you have a safe, bolt it to the floor with a bolt that is only accessible from inside the safe. Cut the bottom out of a cardboard box and put it over the safe to hide it.

* If you have a an unused safe or lockbox, fill it with bricks, lock it, and put it in a conspicuous location.

* If you have a second story, don't store a ladder in your yard or shed.

* Trim any trees that can be climbed to reach a second story window, or make sure those windows are secure.

* Use plants with thorns, such as roses, in front of your windows. Keep them trimmed below the window sill, so neighbors can see anyone breaking in.

* Go through your wallet and purse. Do you really need to carry more than one credit card? Write down the account number and phone number for each card, so that you can cancel them quickly if they are stolen.

* Make your possessions easy to identify. Paint the handles of your tools orange or lime green. Laser etch a custom design on the back of your phone or laptop.

* Take photos of your valuable possessions, and record any serial numbers.

* Scan any important documents, and save the images off site.

Don't own anything worth stealing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863791)

Material possessions are just stuff... I've managed to accumulate a fair bit of wealth, but feel no need to have a lot of stuff.

Sure, my house is valuable, and it is insured. Nobody is going to steal that anyhow.

My money is invested. When I do spend, it is for charitable causes I want to support, education, travel, and other experiences. No need to collect stuff.

You can't take it with you...

Re: Don't own anything worth stealing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863943)

Your post is just cognitive dissonance: your valuable house is a material possession. Also, your post paints a bizarre image of you sleeping on a futon in a bare, echoing McMansion that is free of all the anchoring ties of material possessions.

Home security systems are easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863799)

My home security system consists of 6 very large dogs that can roam the entire fenced area around my home. If that doesn't work, I have an assortment of handguns, rifles, and shotguns that will stop any intruder.

Get foscams (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863865)

Seriously. Just get a few foscams with their IR systems. I have them watching all entrances and exits to the apartment. They send photos by emails whenever motion is detected in the defined grid.l and record the video. Wireless enabled, on a battery.

Spare yourself - proportionate response! (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863889)

I wanted to get the fancy schlage remote control lock for our vacation home to be able to give friends a limited access code. So, I figured I needed an alarm system as well to make sure it was working, maybe a camera too... Then I took apart the schlage lock. You could bypass it with a little knife and maybe a dremel if you wanted to go all wild and crazy.

The bottom line is that your security strategy needs to be proportionate to the risks. Reduce risk first, then make a solution that places your home at a competitive disadvantage compared to neighbors when someone is scouting the neighborhood.

Nothing is really secure, and you will go mad trying to make it better. One example-- friend's home broken into, thieves took the dvr for the security system. Cops said it was standard procedure... ADT suggested remote recording for an additional fee...

Piper and Canary on Indigogo (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,24 days | (#45863917)

Piper - http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/piper-smart-elegant-security-and-home-automation
- pan/tilt camera
- two-way audio
- siren
- temp, humidity, ambient light and sound sensors
- zwave hub
- web/iOS/Android
- $240, shipping starts Jan 2014

Canary - http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/canary-the-first-smart-home-security-device-for-everyone
- camera
- microphone and speaker
- siren
- temp, humidity and air quality sensors
- wifi
- $200, shipping starts July 2014

Best Home Security System (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | 1 year,24 days | (#45863977)

Remington 870 pump. No annual or monthly fees. Easy to install next to bed. Close to 100% effective;

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