Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day

Death War

Today (27 January 2014) we remember (I don’t think celebrate is the right word) Holocaust Memorial Day. As most of us above a certain age have, I have watched many programs which have had things relating to the Holocaust in them. For me most poignant was the ending to “Hitler: Rise of Evil” where it went through the list of statistics that were associated not only with The Holocaust but for World War 2.

Lessons Learnt?

It has to be asked whether we as mankind have learnt the lessons of such atrocities. We have situations in various countries throughout the globe that are reminiscent of the discrimination that led to The Holocaust. The only reason (in my opinion) that some of them have not spread far is the conflicts are quite localised even though the hatred between groups of people is obvious. Again as with The Holocaust the hatred is often along religious lines.

To me it appears that for every generation that passes so does a chunk of the humanity and freedom that was so hard fought for.

The danger (again in my opinion) is when people begin to start to see unnatural death/murder/homicide as an acceptable “part of life”. In these situations the emotions that are naturally attached to such events are stripped and one no longer sees the enemy as someone’s Mother or Son etc.

As a soldier the causing of someone’s death would always have been a last resort and the knowledge that one has the skill and equipment to not only stop somebody’s heart from beating but the ability to metaphorically break the heart of a full family or more is one that is normally not taken for granted.

Death as a habit

Unfortunately there are times when death does become part of every day life and in my opinion more importantly death and misery becomes a habit

Example: Abu Ghraib

In the early part of this century there was an outcry (an rightly so) after torture was discovered at the Abu Graib detention centre.

Look: I am in no way saying that what went on there was right (it was completely wrong) but I feel that I can offer a bit of an explanation for the behaviour of the persons convicted of the torture.

Example: My Bomb-Disposal Tour

When one is working around death and human misery on a daily basis and it is the prominent feature of their lives the mind has to find a way of dealing with what it knows to be wrong.

When I was on my bomb-disposal tour I was surrounded by death many times a day and it was the over-riding factor in my life at that time. I/we did things on that tour that our minds would not think of doing under normal circumstances. Death and therefore human life became cheap and worthless and our minds had to find a way to deal with the enormous stresses that they were under. In this situation your mind finds a way to deal with it or you crack up – it’s as simple as that.

These are the dangers of living and working in an such environments. Although these examples are not on the scale of the Holocaust they show that the mind can make us do things we would not ordinarily do.

The Holocaust Legacy

As time passes and so do the survivors of The Holocaust we have to rely more and more on their stories from other sources (papers/recordings etc). It also makes it easier for those convinced The Holocaust was a lie to spread their thoughts unchallenged by first hand knowledge.

Recently “la quenelle” invented by the French comedian Dieudonn M’bala M’bala has been made even more famous by the French footballer Anelka. Anelka now faces a lengthy ban for his reverse Nazi salute and in my opinion this will not be a long enough ban. He is seen as an influential figure amongst the young and there are many reports of children in schools now doing the quenelle. Although this is claimed to be an anti-establishment gesture I believe it to be an anti-Semitic gesture and I believe Anelka should face a one season ban (as should all racist football convictions).

Iby Knill

Iby Knill is a woman that has survived the most notorious concentration camp – Auschwitz. She has given a 20 minute interview which is available on You Tube and has also written a book about her experiences. Is it because of people like Mrs. Knill that we are able to keep the memories (and by definition the lessons) of The Holocaust alive.

In the interview she says that most of the Germans were “Twisted”. It may be that their mind was telling them to do things they wouldn’t normally do because their mind was under massive stress; it may just have been because they hated (possibly by brainwashing) the Jews.

Holocaust Memorial Day – Conclusion

Although this post has been a bit all over the place I hope that I get my feelings on The Holocaust across and I hope I can offer some insight into why some people see life as cheap.

Do I dislike the German’s because of The Holocaust? Absolutely not. That would be like hating the current UK Government for the Miner's strike of the 80s.

After living in Germany for 5 years as part of the British Army I can honestly say that the German’s are just as nice as the British. I have had many good nights out in Germany, often leaving me friends and wondering off my myself (a bad habit I know) and most of the time I end up talking to Germans at the bar the same as I do/did in English bars. My wife and I have visited quite a few German attractions and have found the hospitality second to none. It is one of my only regrets that whilst posted in Germany we did not visit Auschwitz.

Image of the selection process at Birkenau - An important spectacle to remember on Holocaust Memorial Day

This is the time that detainees are sorted to go to either the labour camps or the gas chamber. Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Selection_Birkenau_ramp.jpg it is evidence of a true atrocity

Swimathon 2014 – challenges, training and goals

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Sponsor form link is the logo above

My Training

Week 1 Review

Well, my first training week has finished and I’ll pleased to say that I’m still with it although currently I have lost all hearing in my left ear which puts training in jeopardy.

This week’s training involved 3 sessions at 750m and 1 session yesterday of 1km. Here are the bulletin points of what I’ve discovered this week.

Bad points

There are more bad points than I care to mention: as a backstroker I have never had to concern myself with the finer details of the breast stroke.

  • Breathing – It has been so long since I undertook an exercise regime that my lungs have lost all their restive qualities and this is holding my technique up.
  • I can only go for half to three quarters of a length with a proper breathing technique (head underwater and looking down to breath out then lift head up to breath in). This is due to the above point – breathing.
  • My technique – although this is getting much better I am still struggling to get the details of the arms/leg techniques correct. Like I said this is getting much better with practice and from watching videos on youTube etc.
  • Times – As the lengths I have to swim increase (the next one will be 55 lengths/1.3km/0.8 mile which will take an estimated 1 hour 1 minute but when I get up to 106 lengths/2.7km/1.7 miles it will take me 2 hours (at my current pace) this will obviously put a major scupper in the works as the lane swimming is only open at certain times and may have to adjust my swimming times to go for the very longest sessions I can get.
  • Not being able to hear anything in my left ear – this started after my swimming session yesterday and a shower. The very worst thing that can happen is the Doctor (if the problem gets that far) says that  I should lay off of the swimming for a while. If this happens I will have to practice my technique on chairs and try and recreate the muscle groups exercises.

Good points

  • Practice makes perfect (or better) – The more I practice the more I get better. This is evident even after a single week (or 3 swimming sessions) and the more I concentrate on the breast stroke the better I will become at it. Once I have mastered a decent breast stroke I shall be moving onto the front crawl. I have concentrated on the breast stroke first as this is the hardest. By the time I have mastered the breast stroke my lungs will be string enough to cope with the breathing style of the crawl and this should hopefully be much easier to learn as the breast stroke as it is MUCH more like the back stroke that I am used to.
  • Determination – If there’s one thing that I have it is a determination to finish what I start
  • Support – I have a fantastic support team around me. I know that my lovely wife is always there for me and should I ever need encouragement then my social media circle of friends is always ready to offer some words of encouragement.
  • Finances – I/my family are in the lucky position to be able to afford the gym membership that is required for me to carry on training. The very thought of doing 200 lengths without these training sessions terrifies me. The theory of train hard – race easy is one that I believe in and planned for. This is visible from my training structure and I have planned to swim up to 6km/240 lengths/3.7 miles) in training but this of course depends on my timings and the time I can get in the pool.


This is about it. I have already started work on myswimathon.co.uk site and I am looking for feedback as to what features people would like to see in this site.

Monday, 3rd February, 2014

Today was the start of my rather harsh training program. I initially got the timetable for my training milestones incorrect and accidentally added another 2 months on. When I discovered this it came as a major shock when I had to re-calculate and compress the training schedule.

One mistake I made today was to trust in my memory for the amount of distance I had to cover in the session. I believed it was 30 lengths (which I did) but when I got back I discovered it was actually only 20 lengths and so I’d swum/swam an extra 250m.

The training itself

Today I re-discovered the long forgotten muscles that are needed for swimming. I was mainly concentrating on the breaststroke and about 95% of the lengths I did were exclusively using that stroke.

I now know what I must do in order to progress with my training in 2 days time (Wednesday). I desperately need to concentrate on stroke technique as my stroke today was terrible. I was not sitting well in the water at all. My body was far from horizontal and I had an aversion to putting my head fully in the water. I have no doubt that when my stroke technique improves then the rest will fall into place. I need to get on the internet and look up training videos and ‘dry’ training stroke exercises to do tomorrow night.

My timings are also massively off. I took my timings for the distances that I have to do from my native backstroke times. These are 3 times faster than the breaststroke times I achieved today. This means that should my current times not get any better – the final 5km swim would take me a whopping 5 hours. Again: Once my breaststroke improves I am confident these times will drop.

My session on Wednesday involved swimming 30 lengths (the distance I did today) and so I’m confident in my abilities though maybe my muscles may not agree come Wednesday.

Thanks for your support in all of this and don’t forget to sponsor me.


So this is all about the 2014 Swimathon. Yesterday I decided to enter and I set myself the goal of 2.5km (1.55 mile). This was to be a major challenge for me as I have never swum anywhere near that sort of distance before. Today I decided to increase the challenge by going from the 2.5km up to the maximum of 5km (3.1 miles) – a huge distance that will require all my mental as well as physical effort.


  • The most I have swam in the past has probably been about 500m during the short time that I was competing. These were 30m & 50m sprint events though.
  • By nature and by training I am/was a back-stroker. During the Swimathon I am not able to do the back-stroke and as such have to train on the strokes that have only used when forced to go slow on lane swimming.
  • Finances – In order to complete a 3 mile swim I am going to have to train quite a bit. This means a gym membership as well as some new goggles and a length counting watch. There is no way I’m going to manually count the 200 lengths that I have to swim so I have bought a relatively cheap automatic length counting watch off of eBay.


I hope to take you all on a journey from start to finish with a range of video as well as literary (well, an attempt at literary) posts.

Next month I should be getting my new phone which by coincidence will take not only photos but videos underwater. This will give me a great tool to allow you to join me on this journey.


I’m proud to announce that I’ve already purchased the name myswimathon.co.uk so that after this year’s adventure is over I can set up a portal so that anybody who takes part in the Swimathon next year will be able to give their friends, family and supporters a web address to look up. The fundraisers will then have a portal in which to upload content of their own and write their own blogs. Needless to say there may be the odd additional option such as for the corporate teams wish to make the page their own corporate identities on the page instead of the site’s own . This is for after I’ve done my bit this year and I see what’s possible.

For this year I will probably use it as the base for my event updates but I’m busy working and once I catch up I’ll get to work on that

I hope you will all stay with me through this.

Training Milestones

Date Distance (kms) Distance (miles) Lengths (25 meters) Time (hh:mm)
1 February 2014 0 0 0 0:00
8 February 2014 1 0.6 40 0:20
15 February 2014 2 1.2 80 0:40
22 February 2014 3 1.9 120 1:00
01 March 2014 4 2.5 160 1:20
08 March 2014 5 3.1 200 1:40
15 March 2014 6 3.7 240 2:0
22 March 2014 5 3.1 200 1:40

Living with PTSD


Contents (this is a long page)


PTSD Post Introduction

After having PTSD for around 4 years now I thought I’d share with you what life is like as a PTSD sufferer. I consider myself to have a mild case of PTSD and I’m aware of many more people that have the condition much worse than I.

My PTSD thought process

An example

The other day I was having a discussion on Twitter which involved my usual extremist ways of dealing with people that break the law. The tweet that set my brain in a descending spiral of anger had mentioned that if I had my way the Army would have been brought in for the London riots of 2011. This set off a trigger that made my brain go down a similar route to previous episodes.

I start to think that some people (in this case the rioters) are very ungrateful of the sacrifices that I and others have made. Had it not been for people like me willing to risk our very lives being completely obliterated leaving those that we love totally mortified, they would not be able to enjoy the freedom they take great pleasure in flouting.

This increases my anger

I then start to think about the things that I and people like me have done in order to ensure that these morons retain their freedom (by this point they are the lowest form of scum on the planet and my mind is stuck in a downward spiral).

This gives my brain a chance to feel sorry for itself

The Favoured Incident

The time in history my brain usually decides to bring to the front and push in front of my eyes; nose; ears (& parts of my body that technically do not have senses) is a specific job when I was a member of the Bomb Disposal Team on my third tour of Iraq.The job involved going to suicide bomber that had already decided to share his hatred for the world with others. Whilst they were a few lifeless bodies laying on the floor, they were nothing that we didn’t see day in; day out.

After a short time on operational tour you forget that these lifeless bodies that you see in front of you are actually someone’s Son; Daughter; Mother; Father; Brother; Sister; Wife or Husband. Instead you see what is logical with the emotions stripped from the situation: you see an empty shell/corpes.

The reason that this job stands out is the sensory overload that was actually left after the operation had finished. Although at the time it was something that shocked me in many different ways, it was something that was quickly put to the back of my mind as we moved on with the various jobs that we received.

A picture of a bombed car could be a trigger for PTSD

This is the sort of thing that we had several times a day (click to see full size image)

The Onset of PTSD and Depression

I went on to finish my fantastic career in the Army and left to start a business dedicated to providing a courier service to the members of the Armed Forces and their Families based outside the United Kingdom.

After a year or so my business failed which co-coincided with the re-occurrence of two recurring injuries I picked up in my time in the Army. The fact that my business had failed and I had nothing to occupy my time meant that for the first time in a long time my mind had a chance to relax. As it turned out this happened to be a negative outcome. My mind was now relaxed and I was starting to suffer from depression from the failure of my business and the loss of my only means of income.

It soon became apparent that my mind was suffering more than it was telling me. I would avoid having a shower for a week at a time as when I got in there the feel of the water running down my face caused flashbacks of another bad job that we had (on the same tour) when we had to wash the blood and dirt from our faces. Even the thought of a shower and the flashbacks would fill me with dread. This meant that my depression got worse which in turn led to my physical conditions getting worse and so started the downward spiral.

Image showing the downward spiral of pain and depression

The well known downward spiral of pain and depression

Luckily my fantastic GP and the support team around him quickly diagnosed that I was suffering from PTSD and gave me the tools to cope with it. I would like to say that they have cured me of it but I don’t think the condition will ever leave me and I believe it is now about managing with it as best I can.

A good friend of mine Bill Waters also pointed out that

Drinking is not frowned upon as much as it is in civvy street so we are able to use it as an emotional crutch under the guise of work hard play hard. I think a lot of service men and women will suffer when they leave the service because that life style/comeraderie can not be replicated in civilian life and I believe that that in itself could be a trigger.”

How PTSD affected me – Self harming

In me it wasn’t evident straight away what was wrong with me. Obviously not showering and flashbacks were a good indicator but the general depression brought on my PTSD also led to a lack of patience and with a new son this was not a good thing.

Things came to a head when I had been self harming for a few weeks. By this point It looked like I’d been having an affair with Cat Woman (incidentally one of my Wife’s nicknames). In order to cope with one of my toddler’s tantrums I had to leave the room and drew every fingernail on my right hand from my left shoulder all the way down in one diagonal stroke to the right side of my stomach as hard as I could. Although it drew blood and hurt it wasn’t enough and so I filled my hands with hand sanitizer and spread it all over my torso – now that hurt. This was the first of the self-harming incidents that was visible to my Wife and she then became very worried (even more than she already was). I have to say that my son never saw me self-harm although he witnessed the outcome of the above incident.

The outcome of my self-harming was a calm feeling and a massive release of tension in my body. I am unable to explain it but when things got bad I just wanted to hurt myself and when I did I felt much better; as if a great big weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

The above incident was the final straw for me and the sheer thought that there was a possibility that my son may witness such an incident or start noticing the results meant that I had to seek professional help.

How I reversed the downward spiral

Again – thanks to the brilliant help my Barnsley Primary Care Trust /NHS and after seeing several different people I was given access to the back to fitness program. This gave me a 6 month gym membership for free to do anything I wanted in the local leisure centre. As a former swimmer and given the chronic back pain that I had I decided to concentrate on just swimming. I went most mornings and I saw the benefits almost straight away. I had to use a walking stick to walk with less frequency and after a few months I was actually able to look for work that would help me get even better.

I began to deliver Betterware and then Avon books. This allowed me to carry on the physical side of the treatment and the very fact that I was once again earning money and contributing to society was a massive Phycological step forward.

There it was, the downward spiral had been reversed. I was exercising again – this gave me a better mood and the fact that I was earning contributed even more. My physical conditions got much better and I no longer had to spend 18 hours a day laid on a floor unable to move.

PTSD Coping Techniques


My second (more specialised councillor) taught me about a technique called grounding. I had to decide on an item or aspect of my life that would remind me that I wasn’t surrounded by sandy climates or in danger but was instead back in my home Town of Barnsley and was surrounded by the people I love.

Rowan Evans: Come on Down!

As I was a new Father at the time and I was a house-husband (with not so much emphasis on the house) I chose my lovely baby boy. He would always be there and at the time this was quite literally true. If I went somewhere, so did he and visa versa.

From then on, If I experienced an episode or flashback I could look at him or (if I was away from him) take something out of my pocket that belonged to him and I knew that the grounding strategy was working. This in itself would relax me and as I would always be extracting myself from the cause & go straight home to where I was safe – things would soon get better.

Image of a snow globe with a picture of my son inside it

My fantastic Wife bought me this for this [2013] Christmas to keep on my desk for when my son is not there and in case of a PTSD incident


I find that music is a great help when I’m feeling down and particularly when having a PTSD “episode”. For me it has to be chilled out classical music: usually (unless I’m in a really bad state of affairs) chilled out classical music will calm me right down and make me forget my troubles. To a lesser extent there is music from the lovely voices of Alison Moyet and Adele.

Image of the Pur Classical Chillout CD cover

This CD nearly always calms me down and relaxes me massively

Modern Times

Moving onto more modern times. I still have bad memories and flashbacks. The latter are the worse and are a common occurrence in dreams and they often immerse me in the world I was once in. I see what I saw then; I hear what I heard then; I smell what I smelled then; I feel what I felt then (the sense of trying to anticipate what was going to happen next etc); this is even extended to senses that aren’t well…senses (hard to explain so I won’t try).

There are many days when I actively suffer from PTSD and there are many days (like today) when an incident happens and I know it’s one of my triggers so I do my best to try and keep calm. I am not in a position to carry my son around with me all the time and so I have to try and manage it myself. It is not easy.

Today I walked past to late teens/early twenties males walking down from Town and they each had a bottle of alcohol with them, openly drinking them during the early hours of the afternoon. It may be that they had just finished a shift but more than likely they had spent the money that we pay in taxes to buy booze instead of getting a job. This is a very common trigger for me. It helps if I’m not alone but if I am I find that listening to music through headphones whilst walking provides a decent distraction and gives me something to focus on when I encounter a trigger.

In general the lives of my family has been changed. I can no longer watch any programs that could involve exploding cars or things on fire and if I manage to catch a news report that contains something along these lines my mood changes for the worst for the next few hours at least.

My Wife – My Saviour

My lovely Wife has told me that she knows I dream of these times as she can hear me crying in my sleep. She is also aware of what sort of visual queues set my PTSD off and gives me warnings when I am out of the room. My Wife has stuck with through me all the bad time regardless of how bad I have been or how bad my condition(s) have gotten. Even when I had to spend 18 hours a day lying on the floor unable to earn money she has been the unflinching concrete post that has been supporting me and offering both emotional as well as physical help.

PTSD Facts

  • According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 11%-20% of veterans of Iraq and/or Afghanistan will suffer from PTSD. Read More
  • Interestingly, it also says that only 5% of all men will suffer from PTSD where 10% of all women will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime.
  • According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists PTSD does not have to related to a specific event. It can
    also be triggered by less acute, but equally distressing and longer-lasting traumas, such as ongoing mistreatment, and physical or sexual abuse in the home.”


Tommy by Rudyard Kipling

Death Poem

Even today this poem rings true. As a squaddie I was often ostracised for being such but when needed things always changed.

I WENT into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, ” We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, wait outside “;
But it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? “
But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! “
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

Create a cheap CCTV system that uploads to the cloud

Create a cheap CCTV system that uploads to the cloud


In this post I will show you how to create a cheap CCTV system that uploads to the cloud.

After moving my office into my garage I found I needed such a system so I built one & thought I’d share my newly found knowledge with you all.

My new CCTV system takes images from 2 cameras, 1 mounted outside the garage and a webcam inside the garage. It then records both images and videos and immediately uploads them to the cloud in case the computer which is collecting the information is itself stolen.

Equipment needed

External CCTV camera
This has to be weatherproof ideally with IR lighting built in.
A Webcam
I would buy the best webcam you can justify as you want the images of the intruders to be a clear as possible
A Cloud Account
Ideally this will be with something like Google Drive or Dropbox, you can use FTP but there may be limitations as the number of connections etc
A Video Card for your Computer
You will need some sort of video card that has the right connections from your camera
CCTV Warning Signs
Here in the UK the ICO who is in charge of peoples privacy rights has deemed that if you are going to use images or people taken from CCTV then you must inform them that you have CCTV equipment in use.
An Operating System
Finally you will need an operating system capable of running this software and for that I recommend a linux system such as Ubuntu

Hooking it all together

Step 1: The Video Capture Card

I would suggest that if you do not already have a card installed you choose one that is compatible with one of the various TV/PVR software libraries such as MythTV. MythTV has a good guide when it comes to choosing a card and is a good starting point if you are a beginner. The video card that use is a Compro S350 that accepts RCA video connections. This is the video connection that my camera has so I was in luck with this stage of the process.

Step 2: The Camera

First of all you need to put the camera in the correct place for the area you want to monitor. For me this was just above my garage door. I set it up so that the view-point of the camera can monitor the shared double drive that our neighbours and us share. The view extends over the road and onto the opposite houses (luckily they are town houses and the bottom floor is a front-door and a garage only).

Picture showing CCTV camera mounted on the outside of my garage

My CCTV camera mounted on the outside of my garage

The wires from this camera go inside the garage and are routed to the back of my Computer where they go into the video card (that I already had installed for Freesat).

Step 3: The Webcam

Next is the webcam. The webcam’s job is to grab any images of intruders that actually get past the first line of defence, and then upload as many images of the intruders to the cloud for later use if needed.

Picture showing webcam angled towards door of garage/office

This picture shows that my office webcam is not pointing at me but in fact at the garage/office door

With the webcam set up so that it faces the garage/office door I have maximised the chances of capturing images of any intruders and uploading them to the cloud before the computer is possibly unplugged and stolen.

Step 4: Test the cameras

Before we install the camera monitoring software we need to make sure that the cameras themselves are working and we know which camera relates to which input.

The best way to do this is by either installing VLC or Cheese Webcam. This example shows using VLC to find out which video input is assigned to which camera.

Picture showing the Open Capture Device option in VLC

This option allows us to view the video inputs on our system

In VLC, right click on the blank area of the window and select “Open capture device”, you will then be presented with the below box. I am typing this post on my laptop so I only have one input but if all is well you should see at least two inputs.

Picture showing the video capture device selection box

You should see multiple inputs here but this clip is showing just one

All you have to do is cycle through the video inputs and take a note of which video input is assigned to which camera.

Step 5: Install Motion

The ideal software for this project is Motion. This is a brilliant, not to mention free piece of software that allows you to control not only the cameras but the detection status as well as the quality and the interval etc.

For Ubuntu users like me this is simple. You just install it via Software Centre. For other users you will need to follow the instructions that are given on the Motion website.

Step 6: Configure Motion

Once it’s installed you will need to configure it. It is pretty much configured for one camera already.

By default it is located at /etc/motion/ If you have a camera and a webcam you will need three files

  1. motion.conf
  2. thread1.conf
  3. thread2.conf

All the generic options are placed in motion.conf and all camera specific options go in the particular thread files. The Motion website has good documentation on all of the config options.

Step 7: Upload to the Cloud

In this example I shall be using the Google Doc CLI. We will be using this facility along with the on_picture_save config option. This will allow us to upload images to our Google Docs/Drive accounts as soon as they are taken by motion. This way, if an intruder gets past your other lines of defence and steals your computer you should have plenty of images already in the cloud and safe for future use.

Step 7a: Install the CLI

The Google CLI Downloads page has loads of options and as an Ubuntu user I’m very pleased to see a .deb file for each release.

Step 7b: Configure the CLI

The first time you use the service you will have to authorise the computer you are on to use your Google Account. It makes sense therefore that we do this early. The format of the CLI input is
Google <Service> <command>
. So to authorise your computer just try to list the contents of your Google Drive with
Google docs list
You will then be asked to enter your Google username. Make sure you enter the full email address that you are registered with. Once you enter your username you will be presented with an interface that will give you an authorisation code to enter back into the command line. Enter the code in the command line and Bob’s your Uncle; Fannie’s your Aunt (that good).

We also need to make sure that we upload to the correct folder. The CLI does not take a hierarchical folder structure; it simply takes the name of the directory that you wish to upload to. That means that you need to make sure that you have a directory with a unique name to upload your media content to.

Now enter
sudo gedit /etc/motion/motion.conf
Find the line that says
; on_image_save
Now change it to
on_image_save Google docs upload %f <upload_directory>
for example to upload to the CCTV folder I use
on_image_save Google docs upload %f CCTV
The %f bit is a motion shortcut for the filename. you can change the format of the filename in the motion.conf file

Step 7c: My setup

You may be wondering how I have my motion configured.
I have my video files set at 25 frames per second on both cameras with 100% image quality (I’m looking at reducing this though).

I have the external camera set to take 1 shot per video. This is the option that detects the most pixels changed and uses this as the image/thumbnail. On the webcam I want as many shots as I can get of any intruders so as well as the video file each and every frame is saved to a separate file/image (and uploaded).

That’s it, now it’s time to test it all.

If you’ve configured motion properly you should be able to fire up http://localhost:8081 and get one camera…

Screenshot of the working outside CCTV images

Taken not long after dawn so not the best shot but it shows the sort of picture you get. This one isn’t at full resolution either, it is just to show and test that the camera is working properly

…and change to http://localhost:8082 and get the next camera (your camera order may not be the same as mine).

What Next?

There are a few things that we still need to consider:


Unless you have massive amounts of [hard drive] space to use you will be needing some sort of system to manage how much media you store. There are several options:

  1. Automatic deletion of media over a certain amount of days eg over 3 days
  2. A purge on media when storage gets down to a certain threshold eg purge media when storage gets down to 10GB
  3. Do nothing and simply have a manual approach: assuming you are able to check on your system at regular intervals this is a viable if not time consuming option

I am currently in the process of creating a CMS for my CCTV system which will allow such options and once the system is complete I will probably be releasing it for beta testing.

Automatically Start Motion Detection

I have found that one of the biggest pains of the current system is having to manually start and stop detection. Again there are several options.

  1. Have cron jobs start and stop your detection system
  2. Use the Motion plugin that starts and stops detection based on whether a registered bluetooth device is in range or not
  3. Simply having shortcuts or keystrokes set to start and stop detection


That’s it: I have left out the configuration details for motion as every system is different and you may not want your system set up the way I have but with a cup full of technical know-how & a bag full of enthusiasm it isn’t too difficult to create a cheap CCTV system that uploads to the cloud. You can make it quite configurable and suit it to your own needs. There’s nothing saying that you cannot extend this to a whole array of uses included live webcam streaming etc (which is one of the features I have already implemented in the CMS that I am creating).