Raspberry Pi + OpenVPN + the Baby’s Webcam – Secure Access to your Home Network

M and I have a great webcam setup for our home for the lil nugget – it’s a simple DLink webcam that costs less than $50. So much cheaper than an expensive, baby-specific monitor.

We use a tablet and our phones to check in on the baby using this great app (tinyCam Monitor Pro) – the best feature is that you can turn off your phone and still have the audio alert you to the baby starts making noise louder than the ambient room noise (i.e. squelch the volume & not have to listen all the time to the white noise we pump into the nugget’s ears to keep him happily asleep).

The problem is that we can’t view the webcam from outside the house securely. DLink provides an app that lets you view the camera when you’re not on your home WiFi, but it does so in an insecure way – basically broadcasting the video feed for anyone to intercept and see. That creeps me out.

So we needed a way to get secure access from our phones, anywhere in the world, back into our home network so we could see the camera. Well, need is a strong term… desire, perhaps.

This is what Virtual Private Networks (VPN) were built for – I’ll walk through how I set one up for our home.

This is a tech how-to. It’ll take an afternoon or a weekend to complete the project. It was a pain in the butt for me – I’m writing these instructions down in the hopes I can save someone else some time.

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Debugging Baby

Pacifier, Baby Bjorn, Beer. Only one of these is working.
Pacifier, Baby Bjorn, Beer. Only one of these is working.

Debugging babies is tough. Sometimes impossible. They are not little machines with logical rules and known workarounds. You can’t just turn them off and on again when all else fails. And ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Empirical testing doesn’t work either… try thing A, record result. Thing B, record result. Thing C. And on and on. Sure… there are the 5 S’s you want to do (shushing, swaying, swaddling, sucking, side/stomach)… And the other S’s you want to avoid (shitting, spraying [pee]) and more S’s you want to try (satiation [food], single-malt [whiskey])… But after you’ve covered those bases, where do you go? Back to the beginning to do it all over again, of course.

But by the time you’ve gone through each one of these procedures to debug whatever is wrong with your little nugget several, several times… And something miraculously WORKED (by the grace of whatever is holy WORKED!) you’re left not truely knowing what it is you did that actually soothed the lil monster into sleep (or, at least, silence). Maybe it was a magical combination of witchcraft? Maybe it was just time?

Only one thing is really certain, and that is that it’s not repeatable. And that’s the worst kind of bug in the system – the kind that is different every time.


Eat, Sleep, Poop, Facebook

A couple of weeks ago Margaret and I became responsible for a new lil life. If you’re family or friends, you may have noticed that Little E hasn’t gotten much play online and there’s some pretty good reasons for it… and it’s not because he’s not adorable. While the last two weeks have been mostly filled with our obsession over Little E’s eating, sleeping, and pooping we’ve also been having a conversation about just how much of E’s life we put online. It’s mostly because we (um, maybe mostly Kevin) are afraid of selling his digital soul down the river. Let me explain.

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