zoneminder logoThis weekend my colleague brought to our office simple 20$ webcam. I have to say that my previous attitude to such toys was quite ambiguous. But idea to build home/office video security system based on such webcam(s) and Ubuntu changed my mind especially taking into consideration extremely low cost of end system and it’s capabilities. First of all I was interested in events replay, multiple camera zones and web interface. As it was discovered later, such system provides tons of useful features.

ubuntu logoIn this post I’ll provide you with a free-style guide on how to set up home video security system that supports above mentioned features and is based on rather cheap webcams, free as beer software ZoneMinder and Ubuntu. I used Hardy Heron Ubuntu (8.04) for the installation but this guide should also work for 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) and Jaunty Jackalope (9.04).

logitech quickcam chatThe webcam we played with is manufactured by Logitech and has model name “QuickCam Chat”. It’s USB 2.0 camera that allows to capture video with 352×288 quality and 30 frames per second. Actually it’s more than enough for home security appliance. Thanks to heaven this camera is supported by U buntu by default as it works well with gspca/spca5xx driver.

You can check your webcam Linux compatibility here (it’s highly recommended to look through this list before buying camera). If your one is supported and column “Support” in above mentioned list is green it’s time to install drivers. Ubuntu users should execute the following command to install it:

sudo aptitude install gspca-source -y

After it’s done, you should restart your computer or run sudo modprobe gspca in order to load newly installed driver (don’t forget to plug your webcam). To check if driver is loaded normally you can run dmesg and look for “gspca” related lines, like these ones:

[15808.524000] usbcore: registered new interface driver gspca
[15808.524000] /home/viper/gspcav1-20070508/gspca_core.c: gspca driver 01.00.18 registered

camorama screenshotTo check if your cam works okay with installed driver, there are two simple programs that can help you: xawtv and camorama (both can be installed with apt-get or aptitude). Just after you run one of these programs you should get clean picture. If it’s not clean there is no reason to proceed with this manual but to get your cam working (Google helps in most cases).

The next step is to install ZoneMinder – a heart of our system. As it comes from developers’ site, it’s top Linux video camera security and surveillance solution.

ZoneMinder is intended for use in single or multi-camera video security applications, including commercial or home CCTV, theft prevention and child or family member or home monitoring and other care scenarios. It supports capture, analysis, recording, and monitoring of video data coming from one or more video or network cameras attached to a Linux system.

Installation procedure of ZoneMinder is extremely simple with Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install zoneminder apache2 php5-mysql libapache2-mod-php5 mysql-server ffmpeg

if you use Dapper or Feisty I recommend you to read this. Once apt-get installation is finished run the following commands:

sudo ln -s /etc/zm/apache.conf /etc/apache2/conf.d/zoneminder.conf
/etc/init.d/apache2 force-reload

At this point ZoneMinder is installed, and you can load it’s control panel with your favorite browser (I hope it’s Firefox :) ): (replace with IP address of computer you’ve installed ZoneMinder to). You should see empty ZoneMinder Console Page. If you see it the next step is to configure ZoneMinder, if you don’t it’s time to ask Google to help you or pray for gurus of this forum :)

Click at the “Options” of ZoneMinder Console to configure it. Here are screenshots of four main tabs:

web zoneminder options

system zoneminder options

images zoneminder options

config zoneminder options

After you saved new settings by pressing “Save” button it’s necessary to apply them: sudo /etc/init.d/zoneminder restart.

The next step is to create camera monitors. Click at “Add new monitor” and fill up suggested fields as it’s shown at the following pictures:

source zoneminder monitor

general zoneminder monitor

Don’t forget to set up function for newly added monitor (press appropriate link).

function zoneminder monitor

If everything is done properly after pressing at the name of Monitor you’ve added you should see the picture like this one:


How do you think where on the picture is the author of the post? :)

In case you have multiple cameras you should add more ZoneMinder monitors. That’s it, system is up and running.

By the way ZoneMinder has a lot of useful functions and is well documented, so I hope it won’t be difficult to set up certain feature.

Hope this manual helps you! And good luck!

P.S. You can use USB extension cables for your webcams to place them in unexpected places ;)

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  1. Pingback : quickerda » Blog Archive » Howto: Home video security with Zoneminder and Ubuntu

  2. November 6, 2007  10:46 pm by Konrad Reply

    Excellent Article! (Although it should be This weekend not These weekend)

    I have done something like this with a stripped down windows 2000 box and learnt a few things which it might be worth adding. Firstly, whilst a 352*288 camera will let you see whats going on, forget about it. Firstly because even at short - medium distances (0-5m) you will have difficulty getting a clear picture of the person's face and at longer ranges you will have difficulty making out their head. Secondly, cheaper cameras tend to have a low fps and poor low light modes. Even a VGA camera @30fps didnt work out too well. With the abundance of webcams on the market now, a cheap 1Mp Creative would be the best bet, drivers permitting on linux of course.

    Otherwise, great article :D

  3. November 7, 2007  6:49 am by artiomix Reply

    Hi Konrad,

    I wonder how could I make such stupid typo in FIRST word of the post? :) It's beyond me. Now it's fixed but I'm afraid it already scared away most of readers except one but real reader ;)

    Thanks for your comment! Your complements are really appreciated. I completely agree with you regarding 352*288 quality cameras and it's performance on distances more than 5 m. You can see this "quality" at the last picture of the post. But I still think that such webcams can be useful where there is no reason to have precise picture.

    Yeah, I'm sure 1M px Creative webcam would do it's job much better than 20$ one, do doubts. By the was Creative cam's price starts from 60$ :)

  4. January 4, 2008  6:00 am by death Reply

    artiomix you tosser - piss off.

    And to the author of this article - thanks. sure has helped me a bunch.

  5. January 4, 2008  7:47 am by artiomix Reply

    Hi "death"! You're star, I laughed as hell :)

  6. March 9, 2008  1:22 pm by N1N1 Reply

    I already found a similar article on the net but pleased to read this one.

    It made the installation go smooth.

    Thanks !

  7. March 12, 2008  6:28 pm by michel Reply

    hi there - i have installed zoneminder but having trouble working out how to email/ftp the events which is kind of necessary in case a potential thief takes the server with him. been looking all around the web/wiki/manual but to no avail - if you have figured this out maybe you can extend this howto to include this info... :)

  8. March 30, 2008  8:24 am by joe Reply



    I have set this up but I cannot figure out how to password protect access to zoneminder, form either the local network or the internet.

    Can anyone help?

  9. March 30, 2008  5:36 pm by joe Reply

    Figured it out. as I am relatively new to linux it is a bit of a learning curve.

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  11. May 11, 2008  6:09 pm by Michael Rozov Reply

    Wanted to thank u for the article, and also add: Vivotek is the taiwanese manufacturer for D-link, so I used your instructions to setup vivotek the same way as dlink 3220 and it works, thanks
    my 5300 does not show a decent picture, it shows the same image side by side, and black area under those double images, any suggestions?
    thanks Again
    Mike Rozov

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  15. September 4, 2009  2:56 pm by poker rake Reply

    Fairly decent laptops are becomming so cheap now i like to replace them every few years and just buy something in the mid range to budget area.

  16. November 9, 2009  2:59 am by TheIdiot Reply

    Great article but I'm getting errors:

    11/08/2009 18:57:20.081253 zmwatch[4821].ERR [Can't get shared memory id '7a6d0001', 1: No such file or directory]

    I'm on Ubuntu 9.10. I'll do some googling and report back status.

  17. November 18, 2009  9:02 pm by zumbi Reply

    11/08/2009 18:57:20.081253 zmwatch[4821].ERR [Can't get shared memory id '7a6d0001', 1: No such file or directory]

    Maybe this fixes it. Hope it helps! ;-)

    # echo 134217728 >/proc/sys/kernel/shmall && echo 134217728 >/proc/sys/kernel/shmmax

    Adding the following in /etc/sysctl.conf will make the changes automatically at boot time

    kernel.shmall = 134217728

    kernel.shmmax = 134217728

  18. November 23, 2009  1:58 pm by Zunno Reply

    You can reload sysctl.conf using -p flag

    # sysctl -p

  19. January 6, 2010  6:22 pm by Dane Stoetzel Reply

    This will be of serious help to me and my folks

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