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Tenvis Mini319W IP Camera

Disappointing, even for an entry level device

Features and some setup information

This page is a "leaf" on a tree with information about remote sensing. It is a leaf of the branch about putting an IP camera (a bit like a webcam, or CCTV) on your LAN, either for local viewing, or, if you want to "open the doors", viewing from afar across the internet.

If you are just getting started with using IP cams, you may want to visit an overview of using IP cams I have provided.

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But! Back to the point of this page: Information about a specific IP cam. (IP cams are like webcams, but they connect to a LAN via TCP as opposed to connecting to a single PC, e.g. via USB). Here you will find information specific to one camera... see the parent of this page for more general points on using IP cams.


Features of Tenvis Mini319W IP Cam- why I wouldn't buy another one, or any of the more advanced products in their line

I bought one of these cameras to get a taste of the interface. Thank heavens. I was thinking of buying something fancier from their line, but have been saved what I conclude might well be an expensive mistake. A pity. Their website is slick, polished. What a pity their product doesn't live up to the packaging.

Much of this "review" is poorly edited, being an account of a day wasted fighting with this awkward device. In the course of the account, I have tried to show you how you can overcome the hassles I had with this device. Apologies for the fact it is somewhat random.

Main complaints...

Before I start with the Diary of the Bad Day, I will give you the executive summary

In what may have been well intentioned, Tenvis decided to ship the camera set to a static IP address. 192.168.1.239, in the case of the camera I received.

This is all well and good if your LAN is based on addresses starting 192.168.1... and a nightmare if you use the common 192.168.0...

Now, others may know "a way"... but I don't believe you can easily access such a device if you are set up as I am... and many others are.

Unless there is an "answer" to be had by playing with the sub-net mask... try it, if you are where I was this morning... I believe the only answer... and I don't recommend it to a novice... is to...

Sigh. (There's more detail below)

The examples which follow assume that your camera is not using your LAN's DCHP server, but rather has a fixed local address of 192.168.0.254

It assumes that your router has an external, WAN, IP address which is known to the internet generally by means of MyRouter.dyndns.org, by the magic of DDNS, or "dynamic directory name server" services.

If you have only one http server on your LAN, it can be at the standard port, 80, and you do not need to explicitly specify it. For the sake of the examples, we will assume that you camera has been put on port 81, so explicitly specifying a port can be illustrated. Just drop the ":81" which appears in many of the lines below if you are using the default port 80... or use ":80"... it will do no harm, and remind you to put the port in, if you go beyond one server. Which you would do if you added another camera, for example.

Default admin user: "admin". Default password: (blank, i.e. null).

To fetch a "snapshot" from the Linksys WCV54GCA, the "magic code" is....

Snapshot URL...

http://192.168.0.254:81/media/?action=snapshot

or

http://MyRouter.DynDns.org:81/media/?action=snapshot

... the first being the code you use if you are on the same LAN as the camera, the second being the code to access from afar, over the internet. (The second will also work "across" the LAN, but you will be "going around the houses".) (I won't be repeating the two variations after this, you have to remember they are there, use them as needed. The ":81" can be left out if you are using the standard port 80 for your IP cam, as discussed earlier.

You will probably need to have logged into the camera at some point before the above will work.

The camera should be operated from IE... with the usual uncertified ActiveX plug in... if you dare. My machine was being very odd by the end of the day... problems in my mouse... jumping about at random... on a machine which had been stable for weeks.

You can see an image with Firefox or an Android... but features, such as "beep"- on- alarm, on- screen- notification- of- alarm, are missing. Also, you can't from an Android change the image resolution of refresh rate. But at only 160x120 and one update per two seconds, I still wasn't getting a "live view" on an Android and web services that did fine with other cameras, so I suppose the "can't change" is moot, anyway.

The other thing I REALLY didn't like about the camera is that you can (IE only, as I said) get a "beep" on alarm, OR on-screen notification of alarms, OR a transfer of image to FTP on alarm... but NOT all three. Try to turn all three on, and instead of giving you a warning, It Just Doesn't Work. And yes, I HAVE got FTP working... once I turned off the other two. FTP isn't easy... notes below... but it was the camera, not me, that was failing.

So. Disappointed. I've been playing with IP cameras for a long time. I've been buying at Amazon and eBay for a long time. People say that I am too cynical. Well, my "reward" for thinking "Go on, buy a MODERN camera... they will have got them reliable by now" was wasted time and money.

Barely edited diary of day's struggles...

As I said before, what follows isn't well edited... but if you have one of these cameras, or, probably, another Tenvis, or indeed any ip cam, I hope that I have succeeded in giving you pointers along the way about Getting Them Working.

As I said earlier, my camera came with a static IP, marked on label (192.168.1.239:81). Note the non-standard port.

Label on camera also gave "S/N" ID (letters) and pw (digits), followed by "DDNS (same letters).mytenvis.com"... server service?

I tried to go in with IE...

Remember that IE needs "http://" in front of things like 192.168..." or it will say "can't connect", as if there is a bigger issue.

Immediate problems, due to the .1. in 192.168.1.239:81, I think

My network set up for a zero there.

Tried to set one of my Wansview cameras to use 192.1681.xxx. It would not accept the IP address. (I will refer to local IP addresses as LIPAs sometimes. The 192.168.1... or 192.168.0... tells you it is local, but...).

Broke down, used the mfg supplied "install" disk, having seen someone else on the web claim he was in similar straits and saved by same. Didn't help.

===
I have never had such a hassle to get into a camera to do the first settings!

All because Tenvis tried to be helpful, sent camera out with a static IP address.

But because it was in the 192.168.1.xxx range, and my LAN was set up for 192.168.0.xxx, I was thwarted at many, many turns.

It did NOTwork (for me) to set a PC on the LAN to use, say, 192.168.1.5, and then try to use it to connect to the camera. (The 5 could have been almost anything.. the rest critical, to match the first three digits of my camera's static IP address of 192.168.1.239)

It did NOT work (for me) to use the mfg's "setup" utility.

Both of the above are cited as "answers" in some online posts... but, unless you've done something to your router's subnet mask, made it other than the usual 255.255.255.0, I just don't think it is possible for a PC to "talk" to something on 192.168.1.xx when the router is set to operate via 192.168.0.xx.

In the end... and it was only the START of solving my difficulties... I had to dig out an old router, set it to serve from 192.168.1.1, set it's DCHP to NOT use some of the range available, a range including at least the device's default IP address, and the one I wanted to set it to. Attach a PC, and let the router assign it a LIPA via DCHP (one set, at least, which wasn't difficult!)

Even when "all was ready", it wasn't. Something which "should" have worked didn't, until I did a power cycle of the camera, the PC and the router. (All 3 off before any of them powered up again.)

THEN I could "get in" (used Firefox, I think. IE might be a better choice... or might not, if you router not connected to WAN. Camera might "need" some ActiveX controls under IE... but maybe not, if you stick to just doing Network config.(Later work suggests I DID use Firefox... but in later work, using IE, the camera asked me to install an ActiveX component. I refused, and hence got no IMAGE, but I DID still get enough... once I'd made my IE window wide enough/ used horizontal scrollbar... to find the "settings" button, and it seemed like they would have "behaved" without needing ActiveX, unless you were setting something that needed an image.)))

I had the longed-for invitation to enter user ID and password.

Entered default user id: admin, and left password blank and clicked OK (blank, or "null" (not the word, the condition!) is the default password... you need to CHANGE IT, early... (probably as well to change admin name, too.. ah, no.. that's complicated, too... see below))...

... but STILL not out of the woods.

Having spent two hours to get to where I usually get within five minutes, I was much encouraged.

Just before I continue: To reset the camera to factory defaults, it seems that, with power on to the camera, you press AND HOLD the "reset" button for about 5 seconds. I don't think longer would do any harm. Shorter might not be enough. In my case, the times I did it, what the LED was doing changed after about 5 seconds. I took that to be a good sign, left the reset button pressed a few seconds longer "for good luck", and released it. Sometimes I then also did a power cycle, but that was probably unnecessary.

Nothing very "rocket science" or unusual in the above... but I wanted to reassure you that the Tenvis does seem to reset by the "usual" (in my experience) procedure.

Back to The Struggle...

So I started trying to configure the camera for my LAN.

Now... if you are doing this after me, remember: As soon as you change the static IP address from 192.168.1.xx to 192.168.0.xx (you have to put digits where I've put the "xx")... OR change the port... you will lose your connection to the camera. This is normal, and, if you think about it, reasonable. So what you need to do is...

Change setting.
Move the camera to a LAN that CAN see the range you have made the camera operate on.
Reconnect.

Simple? Should have been. But it didn't work, first few tried.

Eventually got there, though.

Connected to camera.

Went to settings.

Went to Network, IP Config...

And tried to change...

Made entries for what I wanted. Clicked OK. Tried to re-connect on the settings I'd made... and... no joy. And could no longer connect on default LIPA + port. Sigh. Reset device.

All of the above several times, in several permutations.

Eventually got device switched over to 192.168.0.xx by changing only 1 or a few parameters at a time. Remember that you also must(?.. unless you can tell me otherwise!) move the camera from one LAN to the other LAN whenever you change the third number in the LIPA ("1" to "0", in the case of my wants.)

Here are the steps I took. Each lettered "line" was done in one "log in, make setting(s), click "OK", reconnect" cycle....

... AND **FINALLY** had the camera connected to my LAN. Sigh.

=========
Generally, one of the first things I do is to check if a firmware update is available. Generally a good idea, but be VERY CAREFUL when updating firmware.

In this instance, I couldn't face all of the above again, post-upgrade, so these notes are about a Tenvis Mini913W, hardware version 2.8, firmware 2.7.21

After I finally found the right page at the Tenvis website, I found that no newer firmware is on offer at 01 Feb 2014 for the Mini319W, hardware version 2.8.. but you only discover that if you go into the website by one route. Go by a different route, and you get different information. Bah.

=========
Right! Remember I said you should change the name and password for the administrator?

Turns out you can't deleted the user "admin". What you can do is add a second user, different name, with admin privileges. Test that it really does work, with a reasonable password. Then go and change the password on user "admin" to something really robust. You won't use it... but you want to lock everyone else out, too.

By the way... on the web I heard someone moaning, and even if this isn't relevant to the Tenvis (though I think it is), it is a general "gotcha" worth knowing about...

Quite reasonably, and almost unavoidably, there is a limit to how long a user id or password can be.

What isn't reasonable is for an interface to ACCEPT a password which is, say, 20 characters long, behave as if all is well when you click "save", but only save, say, 16 of the characters, but then refuse to let you in if you enter the 20 characters which you thought were the password.

Another Tenvis "feature"... there are two pages in the interface connected with passwords... one under System/Change password and another under System/ User. I think that the first is for changing the password of the currently logged on user. In the second, you can (good! (^_^).. see, I don't JUST moan!) set up multiple users, with three levels of permissions... there's even a table to tell you how the permission levels differ. Sadly, there's no fine grained control of permissions, but that's not essential. It looks like maybe Tenvis is thinking of adding that sometime in the future.

Connection to Wi-Fi...

As ever, as is unavoidable, you must start the setup with a wired connection.

For many of us, after getting in, and creating an admin user other than "admin", with a good password, the next step is setting up the wireless connection.

For me, on the Tenvis, this was ALMOST painless. The device is capable of scanning for a wireless network to connect to. Detects the protection protocol. In my case, as soon as I'd set up the connection, the system moaned that there were two devices on the LAN at the same LIPA. I fixed that by unplugging the wired connection and closing/ restarting my browser. Didn't need to re-boot camera. (I could swear I've used other cameras in wired and wireless mode at the same time, on same LIPA... but no big deal.)

NTP settings.... Getting the time of day from the internet

Yes, the camera CAN access an NTP server, or so it says. It came set to use time.nist.gov, which I think I've used successfully before. However, there doesn't seem to be a way to connect to the NTP server NOW for an update. The "Sync with host" button of the interface sets the clock's time to whatever is in the PC your browser is running on.

As there isn't a "sync to NTP now" button, I don't know an easy way to test whether the sync to NTP service is working. Nor can you easily set the camera's time to what you want. You have to change the time in the host PC, do a "sync with host". If you are setting a "wrong" time, to test the NTP service, do remember to restore your PC to the right time.

You CAN see the camera's current system time quite easily.. just go away from System/ NTP setting and back again, and as you arrive, the camera's THEN current time will be "painted" on the screen. Don't expect to see it change as you watch.

(Another working (01 Feb 2014) NTP server: time.windows.com.)

UPnP

Under System/ Network, there's an option to disable UPnP. (It is enabled by default.)

To me, for my wants, I THINK it is "just one more thing to go wrong/ provide chinks in security wall"... so I disabled it.

DDNS

Under System/ Network/ DDNS.... This was ENABLED, as the default setting. BAD, BAD, BAD.... could have conflicted with the DDNS I have set up already. Changed to Not Enabled.... which SHOULD have been default.

The device can be set up to use a few third party DDNS providers... but only the five "approved" by Tenvis, it seems.



Alarms/ Email/ FTP....

Set up seemed fairly logical.... although options seemed limited.

You could have motion detection or not... but without any masking to restrict what parts of the scene are watched for movement.

Sensitivity could be set from 1 to 7. (A detail: Some cameras have "meters" to show you what motion the camera is "seeing", and the meter is marked, so you know where the alarm set-point is. Certainly the lack of such a frill, as in the Tenvis, is no great disgrace. But the presence of the frill would have been welcome.)

The alarm could be armed 24/7, or set to be armed just at certain times, with different schedules for different days, and a 15 minute resolution. (Double click in an hour's block to turn on (or off) the whole hour.) A fairly tedious "click-fest" to establish your schedule, but you don't have to do it often.

Having turned on motion detection, set the sensitivity, and, if you wish, set a schedule of "on and off", you then tell the device what you want it to do when it detects motion.

The simplest... which are nice features, even if they are "simple"... and not always present...

"On Screen Display", and "Warning Tone."

(Alert interval: 5-600 seconds allowed.)

Set up of FTP account SEEMED to well... even has "test" button, hurrah! All this with IE, by the way. The Tenvis's support for viewing or managing via other viewers: Limited. Also, the alarm won't be heard unless you are viewing with IE. And image flipping isn't inside the camera, or any client other than IE.

But was mislead by message "SAVE Succeed". The new parameters were stored in the camera successfully. Lurking behind the main window, there was a smaller window I didn't see at first. In it, I was told "Cannot connect", no route to host".

Once I'd found that, it actually displayed useful troubleshooting information.

Settings which worked for me....

FTP server: 192.168.0.xxx where "xxx" was the number for my FTP server... Filezilla running in a PC on the LAN. Nothing but the digits and the full stops.

When I tried the URL that is "connected" to my server via DDNS, it something like "MyPages.dyndns.org", at first I was getting "Cannot connect". I then discovered that on Network, IP Config, I had a typo in the DNS server entry I'd made, which of course fully explained why the camera couldn't go to MyPages.dyndns.org. Fixed the typo... made the DNS server's LIPA the same as the Default Gateway LIPA, and went back to alarm page.

"Unexpected server response to STOR: 550 Permission denied"

Again, not the camera's fault, really... except for the fact that it always uses the same filename for the test...

camera_ftp_test.txt

The user I was giving the camera access to did not have permission to delete files from the FTP server, so, since I'd done one successful test, I couldn't do another until I had deleted the test file by other means. Once I had, a new test went fine... even though I tempted fate, and wrote that before doing the test!

You can leave "FTP Upload Folder" blank, if you are happy to write to the root folder of the FTP share you have given the user ID and password for. Or you can put "\" to be sure of using the root, or "/".

If your FTP user's share has a sub-folder, called, say, "Feb", and the user you are logging on with has permission to write there, you can have uploads go to that folder by putting "Feb" in the "FTP Upload Folder" field. The relevant Tenvis help page warns that you should not put a "\" or a "/" at the start of any folder specification string. E.g., use "Feb", not "\Feb".

The camera cannot create a folder, so if you want to use one, create it by other means before pointing the camera at it.

Be sure to go back to Alarm Setting/ Alarm setting and put tick on "FTP Upload Folder"... which, I think, says, "Do Upload On Alarm"... the "folder" bit being somewhat irrelevant?

So... hours and hours in, and I thought, just maybe I was "there".

No.

At this stage, I can do the test FTP send, and get success. The camera will detect motion, and "say so", on screen and with a beep... IF I am running IE... not with others.

And when I DO have an alarm, the next time (on a PC running IE10/ Win7 PC), when I try to go back to "Settings" I get "IE has stopped working.." Close that, and at the bottom, I see "\ I try to do anything other than look at the still-live... though suddenly laggy... picture of what the camera is seeing, (Doesn't happen with IE on a different PC running IE 8/ Win XP... but neither does the onscreen or "beep" alarm work their, either.

In a post to forum.tenvis.com, we are told that with some Tenvis cameras, if you enable email AND FTP, you may have problems... but we are also told that the FTP-on-alarm SHOULD work, even when the camera is not being monitored in a browser window, which I would hope, but it is nice to get confirmation! It would be even nicer if the save- to- FTP- on- alarm WORKED.

I've got the camera doing alarms.

I've got the camera doing test FTP uploads.

Very nearly wrote the camera off as useless for my needs.

Struggled on for another hour.

Finally discovered "the answer", I think...

It can't give you and on-screen display, AND warning tone, AND FTP upload. Turn the first two on, and the third won't happen. (I'd read on the Tenvis website that you can't have email AND FTP, so I tried turning off the other two, and, AT LAST, I got an FTP upload on an alarm event. BAHHH!!! (The interface should not allow you to select combinations of services which won't play together, should it?)

Very disappointed.

For a simple baby monitor... maybe okay. And you can get simpler devices to do that.

As an IP cam? Disappointed. So good in some ways. But when I can't get the basics to work...

What the LED does

On final little detail for you, in hopes it will help.

LED behavior: Often LEDs on IP Cams are used to deliver helpful information. The only problem is finding out what a particular signal means. As far as I can work out, the LED on the Mini 319W has only several states, and is only an indication that the device is receiving power.

In the interface's "Misc Settings" page, you can choose for the LED to be set to "Close", "Open", "Flicker". When the camera is up and running, and online, the LED will, respectively, be, on steadily, and red, on steadily and an orange (yellow-ish) color, or alternating red/orange at a little more than one change per second. Why three versions of nothing more than "unit has power", I do not know. (With the LED's behavior set to "Close", during a power cycle when without a wired connection, it does go through various states... I would presume they "tell" us something about the unit's attempt to connect to the wireless LAN, etc.

Manual/ Firmware downloads...

Call me dumb... but I couldn't find where to download manual or firmware.

Eventually, I saw the button saying "Download" near the top of the pretty page for "support" at Tenvis.com. But, you can follow two paths from there for Tenvis's information on what firmware upgrades are available... and the two "answers" are different.

So...

Maybe you will see this before buying Tenvis. And even if you don't, at least it may save you some hair pulling.

What a pity... so good in some departments, but too flawed in others, for my taste.





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