Current Temperature:


I’m retiring the gator

Sorry if my website isn’t very interactive lately. I went away for the holidays and needed to put my fish in the different aquarium. The other aquarium had an automatic feeder attached, so my fish didn’t go hungry while I was away. Upon my return, I didn’t put my fish back fish immediately. The fish you are used to watching were in an aquarium in my living room and I began to enjoy actually seeing all of my fish in one place. You see, my “fishcam” aquarium has been in my office for a few years now. It is tucked away in a corner with a cardboard shroud over it.  The shroud helps keep unwanted reflections away from the camera.  Unfortunately, it also blocked my view of the the tank while I was at my desk.  Since it was in a bad spot and I needed the extra space in my office, I decided to retire this version of the fishcam.  Don’t worry, I’m still going to keep A fishcam going.  However, the interactive gator is going into storage.  It would not be easy to incorporate the gator into my new aquarium setup.  Although I will be thinking of something to replace the gator and I hope to do so eventually.  Until then, enjoy the video feed!

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Jason’s Fishcam Setup (long overdue post)

Since I finally have a little downtime, I thought I’d use this opportunity to explain my fishcam setup in a bit more detail. First take a look at a picture of the entire setup.


1. 10 gallon aquarium
2. USB webcam & servo
3. Laptop (server)
4. Gator ornament
5. Servo (for gator)
6. ioBridge module
7. Moonlights
8. Timer
9. Temperature probe

Not much to it, is there? As far as the video goes, I use an USB webcam plugged into an old 1GHz laptop. The laptop uses WebcamXP to grab the video stream from the USB camera and serve up the images. The laptop is connected to my router which has a port open for internet traffic to see the video. I suppose I could have used an IP camera, but I put this together with parts I already had.

You may have noticed that my fishcam is interactive. Not only can you pan the camera left and right, but you can open and close the gator jaws. Both actions are controlled by hobby servos (the kind you find in radio-controlled airplanes). For the webcam, I used zip-ties to attach a servo to the top of a miniature tripod. Then I just shoved the servo axle into the button of the webcam. The webcam is manual focus. After setting the the focus with the adjustment wheel, I placed a piece of tape over it. The tape was needed because of the back and forth motion caused the camera to slowly shift out of focus.

The gator is attached to a different servo with a piece of fishing line. I drilled a small hole in the top of the gator head and threaded the line through it. The line then comes up and out of the tank and attached to the servo below. You can see the servo clamped to the side of the aquarium stand with the fishing line running to it in the picture to the right.

So how are the servos being controlled from the web? This is done with a few pieces of hardware from ioBridge.com. The main component is the IO-204 module. It connects to my router through a network cable. Once plugged in, the module establishes a connection with the ioBridge servers on its own. After creating an account and registering the module, I was able to make a few “web widgets” that controlled the servo positions. The widgets were easy to create through a menu based wizard that asked a few questions about my setup. I then had a snippet of code that I inserted into the HTML of this page. That snippet automatically loads the button, which when clicked, moves the servo to the correct position. In order for the IO-204 module to control servos, I needed to get a Servo Smart Board from ioBridge. Basically, this is an accessory board that plugs into module and allows for servo control.

The ioBridge module is capable of doing a lot more than moving servos. Since I had a few open connections left on my ioBridge module, I decided to attach a few probes to track the temperature of the water in the aquarium as well as the outside temperature. Using the same online wizard, I was to make another widget to display the water temperature on this page.

The other aspects of my setup aren’t quite as hi-tech. The main light is on a digital appliance timer. I have the light set to turn off at 11pm and back on at 7am. As my fishcam popularity began to grow, I noticed a lot of visitors were coming to my site when the light was off and seeing nothing. I added the moonlights to at least give them something to look at during the night-time hours. The moonlights are basically a string of blue LEDs. I drilled a row of holes in the aquarium hood and pushed the LEDs through the holes. I just leave the moonlights on all the time. It doesn’t seem to hurt anything.

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Interactivity provided by ioBridge.com

You have noticed my interactive buttons changed a few weeks ago. I am beta testing a new product/service from ioBridge.com. It replaced all of the custom hardware and software I used previously for fishcam interaction. I’ll post more details soon.

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A good aquarium resource

If you’ve looking for good website regarding fish and aquariums, check out AC Tropical Fish. They have a nice section with pictures to help identify your fish and advice on keeping them happy. There is also a guides for live plants and a great community forum. Almost makes me wish I had a better pet store around here so I could get some of the more exotic varieties.

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No more viewer stats?

Some of you have noticed that the viewer stat is gone from the corner of the fishcam video feed. Because of the popularity of my fishcam widget with Chumby owners, I had to switch to faster server software. The old server would start to hang after it got hit with more than 10 viewers. The new server can get fishcam images to many, many more people simultaneously. Unfortunately, the new server isn’t capable of displaying the viewer count like the old server. I enjoyed the viewer count as well. It was a nice way of measuring the load on the server and popularity of my fishcam.

- UPDATE –

I’ve attempted to make my own “viewer stat” insert for the video feed. It seems to work, although it’s not as pretty as the old one. Hopefully the little tool I coded is stable enough to run 24/7. I guess we’ll see!

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Full Screen Mode!

I’ve had a few requests for a larger fishcam… one that would fill the entire screen. Well, I finally got around to making that happen. The resolution won’t get any better but at least it will fill the screen now!

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Check out Memming’s Fishcam too!

I helped my good friend Memming hook up a fishcam yesterday. It’s a saltwater aquarium and once he get’s a few more fish it’ll look nicer than mine! Check out the live version!

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Welcome Chumby Users (although they’ll never read this)!

I was wondering why I started getting a lot more traffic to my fishcam until I discovered that someone made a Chumby widget out of my video feed. A Chumby is a little LCD/squishy blob that accesses your wifi and cycles through a bunch of customized channels (ebay, news, stock tickets, etc.) So now those lucky Chumby owners can watch my fishcam on their LCD blobs all day long. At first I didn’t know what to think about it since the widget bypasses my website and goes directly to the video feed. But after about 2 minutes of intense thought I’ve decided to embrace the Chumby widget. More people will probably see my site because of it.

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The clown loach is just playing dead.

Everyone can stop emailing me to tell me that my striped clown loach is dead. Apparently, this type of fish likes to lay on it’s side and take naps from time to time. It fooled me the first time too. I thought it was a goner, but as soon as I got near the aquarium, it shot off like a bullet and hid.

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Ok, I think I have things working again. I managed to string a very long ethernet cable from my router to fishcam server. I haven’t had any hiccups since then. I also added a little counter at the bottom of the image to let know how many other people are watching fishcam at the same time.

In other news… why is Netscape’s fishcam ranked higher than mine again? Their site hasn’t produced a live image of a fish in YEARS yet I’m still doing battle with them for the top spot on Goggle.

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