The challenges of dealing with other people’s hardware and firmware

“The Foscam C1 still does not connect!”

Imagine if you would, a job where you and your new coworkers form a project team to deliver on a very popular product and you need to deliver on all sorts of dimensions: design, branding, functionality, pricing, sales literature, everything.

As one of the leaders of the team, you spend the time and energy helping the team building up their social understanding of each other. You spend time getting to know about their lives, their families, their career goals and how to communicate with them – are they visual, auditory or text-based learners? You learn what is a persuasive argument to convince them to agree on a direction and then go with it.

And then, suddenly, one of them has a major event in their family. A divorce. The death of a child. A sudden bankruptcy. A sudden medical condition.

Now, that carefully constructed dynamic you have built between yourself, your other team members and this team member is now somewhat out of whack. Yes, she is acting professionally the same, but for some reason, she responds with a slightly different energy, information coming from her does not match prior information. She has a new, negative reaction to what was a “normal” question which used to generate no reaction.
You realize have to spend time (if she is going to stay) reconfiguring your interactions, being cognizant of new changes/sensitivities of this person. And that takes time and effort to make happen as well.

Now, imagine having that happen to each member of the team – either in groups or individually or bringing a whole new member to the team. The dynamics shift, the expectations change and dynamics are all being revised and updated as quickly as we as humans can.

And now, you have an understanding of what managing a universal IP camera app with cameras having changing firmwares and APIs is like.

Keeping everyone “happy”

One of the first things we did when OWLR had a restart is investigate what cameras were being used the most and primarily what people were most happy with. We knew we wanted to focus our energy – we only had limited time, people-power and budget – so we wanted to pick the best targets to help the most people.

And, as many of you know, Foscam turns out to be the most popular home IP camera in the US and UK and D-Link turns out to be the most popular in Europe. We also discovered things about Panasonic, Samsung, Belkin, Axis and the like – but these two are the biggest players to work with.

The challenge is that the number of camera models that both Foscam and D-Link puts out is astounding. Yes, Foscam has only release three new cameras in the past six months, the firmware they offer and release changes much more rapidly and sporadically and sometimes without clear rhyme or reason.

And D-Link is an interesting manufacturer with so many hardware versions for the same camera, firmware versions and the like.

So, when we discover that one of the players have changed firmware, we spend a lot of time looking over documentation, testing out the APIs and generally getting frustrated over some of the changes that may or may not have made it to the documentation.
But when we do solve it – boy, it feels good.

Keeping it transparent

As of the next release of OWLR (v0.9.7), I have asked the team to increase the transparency of our efforts to you, our users.

On our Support Site, we already provide you a list of OWLR Tested Supported Cameras and User Reported Supported Cameras, along with the Default Password for Supported Cameras.

We will extend our Supported Camera details to include the firmware we have tested the camera with.

In addition, we will list the camera performance metrics we find with the cameras we are testing – so you can see what we are seeing when we release.

The real goal is to help you help us – when something is not right with your experience with the cameras or our app, we want to solve the problem as effectively as possible. Hopefully this will help you with helping us figure out the changing team members we work with, and need to take the time to understand and help get to the next level for you.

And, as always, if you have any questions, send us an email at