11.08.2014 - Camera Repairs

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Spare Parts and Repairs.
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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Acorn 6210 MM/MMX instructions for using SMTP

Fig 1: Ltl Acorn 6210MMX
During the last two weeks a member of a UK squirrel group has been conducting tests with a 6210MMX, to connect through the cell phone network using SMTP, thus enabling the low cost sending of images by email.

This feature of these cameras has been the subject of a lot of discussion recently, with no conclusive practical results until now.

This is a long and detailed post, which analyses the 6210s ability to perform this function, provides camera set up procedure, makes recommendations for improvement and concludes with some useful FAQs. Make a hot drink and get reading.

11.12.2012 Please refer to this guide for a quick SMTP set up. Read carefully and do exactly as I say and I guarantee it will work. If you have a problem, phone or email me for help.

These instructions are intended to help with the setup and operation of a Little Acorn 6210 MMX or MM camera to send emails with a photo over a mobile network using a data service (not MMS) to view on a device (PC, tablet or phone) that has access to email.

General packet radio service (GPRS) is a packet oriented mobile data service on the 2G and 3G cellular communication system's global system for mobile communications (GSM). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Packet_Radio_Service . GPRS is used to send SMS, MMS and IP traffic over the mobile network. To send emails using data rather than MMS you need to send them via an SMTP server. What is GPRS.


Post update: 13.09.12
The original report has now been updated and the final document is available to download as a pdf file.

Post update: 06.10.12
The Acorn MMS Module does not support 3G at this time, but Acorn have intimated that it may be upgraded in the future.
The person who conducted these tests didn't know if the camera was 3G or 2G and tried to test everything. Any mention of 3G was hypothetical and on the assumption that they may be upgraded to 3G.





Limitations

The maximum resolution of the email photos is a jpg with 640x480 pixels. The size of the photo file is 45 – 50 KB depending on the amount of detail in the photo. The size of an email via SMTP is 64 – 70 KB. Allowing for overheads assume 100 KB per photo.

The camera does not email videos but can be set to both record video to the SD card and email a photo on the same trigger event (it also writes the photos to the SD card).

You need a Windows PC to run the supplied software to setup the camera. I have tested with W7. There is no Linux or MAC software – but the software may work with a Windows emulator.

Currently we believe that there are two major limitations to using SMTP with the camera:

  • the camera does not do SSL encryption and most SMTP servers use SSL.
  • the username must be the same as the account name. 

It is reported that the camera will not send emails unless the mobile signal is at least 3 bars strength. The signal strength displayed on your phone or camera is the reception signal - but the strength of the transmitted signal from the camera is also key.

Ron Bury recommends fitting a high gain antenna to the 6210MMX. (see this post...RB)

With 2G coverage it seems that the camera can send a maximum of about 30 emails/hour. I would expect significantly more with 3G coverage but have not tested this.

So far SMTP has only been successful with the Plusnet SMTP Server.
Please tell Ron if you manage to get it working with another SMTP server.

Ron Bury is contacting the camera manufacturer to request firmware changes to make the camera capable of using both SSL (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_Layer_Security ) and unencrypted whichever is specified by the user. Also a separate SMTP "User Name" setting is needed rather than assuming the username is the local name part of the sender email address.

Cost per email

The cheapest way that we have found so far in the UK is to get an Orange PAYG SIM for an iPad (see below) and it works out at 0.5 pence per email.

If you don’t want to try the iPad microSIM approach then a Mobile Broadband SIM with a monthly payment for a data allowance will do the job. If your use of the camera will result in very few emails per month say less than 20 then MMS can be cheaper than SMTP. You need to do the calculation of the cost per MMS message (or your free allowance if MMS is included in your contract) and compare it to the monthly cost of using SMTP. At the lowest tariff found so far for SMTP the cost could be as low as £5 for 5000 emails every month (0.5p per email) but if you only get 100 emails per month then the cost is 5p per email.

SIM purchase

Apart from the camera you need a SIM with a data transfer allowance or PAYG from a Mobile Phone Network Operator (MPNO). This is often referred to by MPNOs as Mobile Broadband.

Check which networks have good data signals in your area – see http://www.smartmobilephonesonline.com/?page_id=43 . It doesn’t need to be 3G for the camera, 2G is perfectly OK.

The information in this guide is based on Orange in the UK.

The cheapest way to do SMTP emails on Orange is to get Mobile Broadband ‘iPad SIM Only’, see  http://shop.orange.co.uk/ipad/sim-only/payg/true . The SIM is free and you pay for data usage at the rate of 5.1p inc VAT per MB transferred over the mobile network. The monthly payments are taken  by Direct Debit and are capped at £40 (8,000 emails each with a photo). After ordering on-line the SIM took 8 days to arrive including a Bank Holiday. I registered the SIM online. Note that the website keeps talking about registering a phone, it is the Pay Monthly option i.e. not PAYG . When opening the Mobile Broadband Account it asks for the dongle number – what it wants is the mobile phone number stuck to the SIM card.

The iPad uses a MicroSIM and you have to get a caddy to convert it to a normal SIM for a £1 or so on eBay or make your own caddy by cutting out a plastic card using a normal SIM as the template - see http://gizmodo.com/5539485/how-to-make-a-diy-micro-sim-to-sim-adapter .

If you don’t want to try the iPad microSIM approach then any SIM with a data allowance for mobile internet should work. A Mobile Broadband SIM is probably the best and typically comes with a limited data allowance and either a one month or 18 month contract.

For Orange Mobile Broadband see http://shop.orange.co.uk/mobile-broadband/dongles and read the Small plan – up to 500Mb of data for 30 days at £12.50 plus £10 for the dongle. But if you have been an Orange customer (PAYG or contract) for at least 3 months the cost is £7.50 for 1 month with a 500 MB data allowance and the dongle is £5. Note that Orange doesn't just cut off the service when your allowance is used up - the charges can mount up if you exceed your allowance. If you exceed the data allowance the additional charge is 5p/MB at the end of the month. There is also a £3 /day charge ‘out of bundle’ - the Orange rep said this was for using a UK registered SIM in Europe; see terms & conditions at http://web.orange.co.uk/documents/ice/termsandconditions/mobile_broadband_price_guide_170412.pdf  .

The £5 is taken by giving credit card details and the £7.50 is taken by Direct Debit after you give them your bank details. This starts a rolling monthly debit of £7.50! I was advised to cancel the dongle as soon as I receive it as 30 days notice is required for cancellation. They will then offer you the option of changing to PAYG data at 5 pence per 1 MB with monthly payments continuing  by Direct Debit (this is a really good deal as you may not need 500 MB in a month).

Note that the month starts from the day you receive the dongle/SIM which is delivered by courier the next working day and has to be signed for.

Taking an 18 month contract would give a data allowance of 500 MB/month at £5 per month for an existing Orange customer (and the dongle is free).

 It would therefore seem to be best to start with a 30 day SIM to see how the camera works with emails in one's own location before committing to an 18 month contract. But it is probably cheaper to go for the 1 month deal, cancel it and transfer to PAYG.

If the data SIM doesn’t work in your camera for whatever reason you can return the SIM and dongle for a refund within a 14 day cooling off period from the day you receive it.

Email account

You can send emails to your usual email account but it may be worth setting up a separate email account just to receive the photos. A new email account specifically to receive the pictures allows any number of people to look at the emails photos.

For example Gmail is free, has 1 GB data storage allowance and supports IMAP. Any number of clients can connect to a single Gmail account and work simultaneously with their web client (eg Thunderbird, Outlook). However, once one user has read a mail, it will then show up as ‘read’ for everyone who looks. This could be an advantage depending on what you are looking for! Flags could be set manually on when an email has been opened and found to contain certain information. If you want users to store their own versions of the emails then you could set up an email address filter at your domain host and forward the emails from the camera to multiple recipients.

Camera setup

Model: Acorn 6210 MMX 940nm IR LEDs
Firmware version: 1.1.006U
Check whether you have the latest version of the firmware at http://www.ronburyswildlife.com/search/label/firmware%20update . Download and install the latest version if appropriate – be careful to use the correct file and follow the instructions in the manual.

I currently have one firmware update for the 6210, available on request by email to correct Night time infra-red lighting and exposure ...RB

Software version used:

Check whether you have the latest version of the software at http://www.sendspace.com/folder/7zd6ic

Download and install the latest version of the software 1.2.016.rar if your version is older.

To decompress the .rar file use RAR File Open Knife 3.00 downloaded from
 http://www.tucows.com/preview/612969/RAR-File-Open-Knife?q=rar+decompress

You could change the setup.exe filename to acorncamera.exe, make a shortcut and put the shortcut in your Start Programs by dragging the shortcut.

Download the latest manual  Ltl-6210M Manual(trigger time = 0.8 Sec).pdf from the same website http://www.sendspace.com/file/dky1w4 USE THIS VERSION OF THE MANUAL.

SD/SDHC card: insert it in the camera and format it on the camera before first use (see instruction manual)

Batteries: Insert 4 , 8 or 12 batteries in the camera.

I use 7dayshop.com  branded rechargeable 2900 mAh AA batteries and their 8 battery recharger which automatically stops charging and can optionally discharge the batteries prior to charging (currently only a 4 battery version available from them). http://www.7dayshop.com/catalog/default.php?cPath=777 .

SIM card: Make sure that the SIM has the PIN disabled, use a phone to Disable Security on the SIM. Insert it in the camera.

Connect the camera to a PC using a USB cable.

Load the program and you see this screen

















Select the appropriate Select Language option and set the Camera Model to “Ltl 6210MG”.

You may need to switch MMS off if you have previously used it. To do this click on the MMS Setup box
and set MMS Status to Off; go to the bottom box and enter the drive number of the camera e.g. E:\ ; then click on Generate. The USB cable must be connected to the camera and the SD inserted. The program then writes a file to the SD card. Then click on Exit.

Click on the SMTP Setup box and fill in the parameters. The example shown below is for an Orange data SIM and Plusnet’s SMTP server (Plusnet is my ISP).







































SMTP Mode is set to Manual.

The drop down at the top right of the SMTP setup screen is mislabelled as "MMS Mode", it should be "SMTP Status" and needs to be set to VGA for the SMTP email to work.

Set the SMTP Mode to "Manual" and the APN to "orangeinternet" (all lower case, without the quotes), the account and password were left blank.

The camera appears to only support non-encrypted communication with the SMTP server (default for this is port 25). Most email services (e.g. GMail, Fastmail) require SSL (default port 465) or STARTTLS (default port 587).


The camera assumes that your user name for the SMTP server is the "local name" part of the sender email address field (the part before the @).  This is not the case with many SMTP servers (e.g. fastmail, hMailServer), which require the full email address as the username.

Luckily Plusnet's SMTP server provides non-encrypted access on port 25 and has a short user name.  Their email addresses are in the format anything_you_like@username.plus.com, so if you use username@username.plus.com in the sender email on the camera this works.

The SMS Remote Control was set to “Off”. This function isn’t described in the manual.

Go to the bottom box and enter the drive number of the camera e.g. E:\ ; then click on Generate. The USB cable must be connected to the camera and the SD inserted. The program then writes a file, smtp.dat, to the SD card. A small new window appears saying “Ltl 6210 SMTP configuration file has been generated”, click on OK. Then click on Exit in the first window.

Next click on the Camera Setup box (alternatively this can be done on the camera using the Menu – see camera instruction manual).

These are the values used in the test:









































Mode is set to Camera i.e. no video.

When video was tested the Video Size was set to 1280x720. The 720p video is 30 frames/sec and 16:9 aspect ratio i.e. widescreen. The 1080i option is only 15 fps and 4:3 aspect ratio (but is a horizontally squashed up widescreen image which does not represent real life dimensions).

Interval is set to 2 minutes. The possible values are 1, 2,…..59 secs then 1, 2, 3…. 60 minutes ie not 61-119 seconds. On 2G it seems that the minimum time between successive emails is greater than one minute and thought to be nearer 2 minutes or sometimes longer. On 2G an Interval of 1 minute would result in more photos being taken but a similar number of emails being sent. See the results in the section below called Testing. With 3G and a value of Interval below 1 minute should make the camera capable of sending more emails.

Set the other parameters for your purposes.

Go to the bottom box and enter the drive number of the camera e.g. E:\ ; then click on Generate. The USB cable must be connected to the camera and the SD inserted. The program writes a file, menu.dat, to the SD card. A small new window appears saying “Ltl 6210 menu configuration file has been generated”, click on OK. Then click on Exit in the first window.

Note that as you change the parameter values the drive number of the camera sometimes reverts back to C:\ - make sure that it is E;\ or whatever it should be, before you generate the file.

Using Windows Explorer you can see the .dat files on the SD card.

Note that you have to enter the parameters in full every time you change them. Set the time just as you are about to generate the file and start the camera. You can make a copy and save the setup files to your hard disc if you want to (these files can be copied to the SD card in the future but it can’t be read or modified by the software on the PC – note that the camera settings file includes date/time so copying the file would give the wrong date and time on the camera).

Disconnect the USB cable.

Switch on the camera and set the switch to TEST.

The screen lights up.

The camera firmware reads the data files on the SD card and applies the parameter values. A yellow message flashes up on the screen saying something like “Updated smtp.dat successfully” and “Updated menu.dat successfully” when it finds new setup files on the SD card. It then erases the setup file(s).


Note the red ‘G’ next to the battery charge level on the bottom left of the screen. This shows that the camera is operating in GPRS/SMTP mode rather than MMS (which displays an M).

After a few seconds the mobile operator name is shown at the top together with the reception signal strength shown by a number of bars. Before the operator name appears the field says in red the following sequence: CSQ, CREG, CGREG, COPS1,WAIT then ORANGE appears.

The red + next to the camera icon shows that the camera is set to do both photo and video.

Switch the camera OFF until you are ready to use it. If left in TEST the screen switches off after 30 seconds or so.

If you want to set a security PIN for the camera then this must be done on the camera in TEST mode.


Operation

Put the switch in the Test position and check you have mobile coverage, then move to the On position, close up the case and secure the camera in position.

When the camera is switched to ON the red light on the front flashes about 12 times. (7 to 14 times..RB)

When the camera triggers the following events seem to happen in this sequence:
  1. The camera takes a high res photo and writes to the SD card a file in folder DCIM/100MEDIA
  2. The camera takes video for the specified time and writes to the SD card a file in folder DCIM/100MEDI
  3. A 640x480 version of the high res photo is created and it writes to the SD card a file in folder MMS 
  4. it sends an email via SMTP with the 640x480 image as an attachment

1-3 are established by the timestamps in file properties. The time on the emailed photo image is the same as the time the high res photo was written to the SD card. I assume the email happens last as the 640x480 photo may not exist before the other steps have occurred, but I may be wrong.


The filenames on the SD card are IMAGnnnn.JPG for full resolution photo (1.1 MB) and IMAGnnnn.AVI for the 720p video (8.5MB for 10 secs and 1080p 9MB for 10 seconds). With both photo and video the files appear as IMAG0001.JPG, IMAG0002.AVI, IMAG0003.JPG, IMAG0004.AVI ….. If you use the ‘burst’ feature set to 3 (ie  Picture No. set to “03 Photo”) the files appear as IMAG0001.JPG, IMAG0002.JPG, IMAG0003.JPG, IMAG0004.AVI ……

A copy of the 640x480 sent by email is written to the SD card in a folder called MMS with a filename nnnn.JPG starting with 0001.JPG – the next file was 0003.JPG and these numbers correspond to the high res photos in the 100MEDIA folder.  Sometimes a photo is not present in the MMS folder – see the test results below.

The subject of the email is always “Ltl” if the serial number is set to Off. If it is set to On and 0001 then the email subject is always “Ltl0001”. The filename is always PIC.JPG .

Typically it takes 80 – 90 seconds (sometimes maybe over 2 minutes) for the email to arrive in the Inbox (10 seconds of this could be recording a 10 second video). The photo has the following data at the bottom of the image: battery strength, the sequence number of the email sent in the day, moon phase, temperature (which seems to be about 5°C too high), date and time.

If you use Thunderbird as the PC email client, it can be set to open the attachment in the Preview Pane by checking Display Attachments Inline in the View menu. The iPhone opens the jpg as standard.

You need to check how much of your data transfer allowance is being used – you can do this online after registering your SIM – note that the account information is up to 48 hours behind actual usage but could be almost real time. On Orange there is no indication of how much data is used each day just a cumulative amount for the month.

To view the videos you need to open the camera and view them on the small screen, or remove the SD card and insert it in a card reader on the PC or connect the camera to a PC using a USB cable. To view the avi files I use Videolan’s VLC Media Player which is free. Download it from http://www.videolan.org/vlc/ . Use the Media, Open Folder option and it will play all the files in the folder sequentially allowing jump to next file, back, slow, fast, pause. Speeding it up can be particularly useful if you have a lot of video to check.

After watching the files, copy any you want to keep to your hard drive and delete them all from the SD card (you can delete the DCIM and MMS folders as the camera recreates them).

FAQs

Does the camera send emails using an SMTP server using GPRS with a data SIM? Yes providing you can access an SMTP server which does not use SSL and the username is the same as the account name. So far SMTP has only been successful with the Plusnet SMTP Server.

How much does it cost per email? As little as 0.5 pence on Orange. Other networks not costed.
Does it work with 2G and 3G? Only tested with 2G (should work with 3G).

How much data allowance is used per email? About 100 KB per email including one photo.

Does it work with 2G and 3G?  Yes.  emails are sent with 2G but not every trigger event result in an email. It seems that the minimum time between sending emails is about 2 minutes. On 2G it can manage to send 30 emails/hr using SMTP. See the results in the section below called Testing. 3G should be better as it takes much less time to upload the email but this hasn’t been tested.

How much data allowance is used per email? About 100 KB per email including one photo.


What signal strength is needed for the camera to send emails successfully? I have tested 1 mile from mast with the standard antenna. I have tried using 8 and 4 (not 12) fully charged rechargeable batteries at a time. The signal strength indicated on the camera screen was 4 bars (4 bars with the high gain antenna). The manual says 5 bars is the maximum and I have seen this once on the camera. It has managed to transmit in a marginal reception area at 1.7 miles with 3 bars and at 3.5 miles with 4 bars from an elevated position.
Does a high gain antenna make a difference? I have done very little testing in marginal positions. I haven’t got any hard evidence that proves a high gain antenna is better than the standard one but I will try to do some more testing.

How long do the batteries last (sending jpg emails, taking videos, night time activations, days standby)? Not tested (so far 8 rechargeable batteries have lasted 2 days with 65 emails and 65 videos of 10 secs on the camera. After 3 days the battery level on the camera shows 3/3 but on the email photos it now shows 2/3 (i.e. B2). On day 4 (switched off overnight) the battery indicator on the photos is sometimes B3 and others B2.

Can you record videos on the camera and send jpg emails ? Yes.

Does the ‘battery low’ email alert work with a data SIM? Not tested. The emailed photos contain the battery level of the camera – if this is B1 the manual says the batteries need changing.

If you use the ‘burst’ feature set to 3 (ie  Picture No. set to “03 Photo”) do you get 3 emails per trigger event or one email with 3 photos attached? Neither – you get one email with one photo.#

Does the limit on the number of emails to be sent in a day work? Yes - it certainly keeps count up to the daily limit but not all may be sent as emails. When the limit is reached all subsequent images in the MMS folder on the SD card have the number ‘limit+1’ i.e. we set the limit to 50 and subsequent images all have 51.

Do multiple email addresses work and does this increase usage of the data allowance? There is a maximum of 40 characters for the Email01 field. The spec says that it does 3 emails. I have tried more than one but it appears that only a single email address can be specified. Multiple email addresses separated by ; cause no emails to be sent. There are better ways to achieve multiple emails than getting the camera to do it - so this isn’t a problem.

Does the Time Lapse feature work? Yes but not exactly to the value set. I set it to 2 mins and the camera took a photo every 110 seconds. I set it to 1 Minute and the camera took a photo every 55 seconds (but only every other photo was emailed).

Testing & analysis

All the results below are for 2G operation with a signal strength reported as 4 bars on TEST.
Using a high gain antenna with Time Lapse set to 2 minutes and not recording videos the 100MEDIA folder contained 158 photos, the MMS folder contained 143 photos and 126 were received as emails ie. 80% over a period of 4 hours 18 minutes. With Time Lapse set to 1 minute the 100MEDIA folder contained 131 photos, the MMS folder contained 67 photos and 63 were received as emails ie 48% of triggers resulted in an email being received over a period of 1 hour 58 minutes. Note that twice as many photos were recorded on the SD card when the parameter was 1 minute.

Note that the Time Lapse tests showed a higher number of emails received/hour for the 1 Minute Interval at 31.5/hr against 29.3 emails/hr when set at 2 minutes. With Interval set to 3 minutes a maximum of 20/hr can be achieved.

Earlier tests using the PIR with Interval set to 1 minute, a test period over 3 days 77% of the triggers resulted in an email being sent. Out of 107 trigger events (I assume a trigger event puts a photo and video in the 100MEDIA folder and that is what I have counted) the 100MEDIA folder contained 107 photos & 107 videos, the MMS folder contained 94 photos and 82 of these were received as emails. On a second test out of 66 triggers, the MMS folder contained 54 photos and 46 emails received – but the camera was being moved between locations affecting a few shots.

I don’t know for certain why some photos don’t appear in the MMS folder or why some in the folder weren’t sent as emails – the battery level was OK, it could be the camera or the mobile network.

My theory is that it takes a long time to upload an email on 2G and when the event occurs  which should send another email, the camera is busy processing the previous email. It still takes the high res photo but doesn’t write the 640x480 version in the MMS folder and doesn’t send an email for it. This style of operation seems OK.

So why does it take so long to send an SMTP email?
This site says that GPRS phones are 'always on' http://www.mobile-phones-uk.org.uk/gprs.htm so the camera shouldn’t need to make a connection for each email.
Vodafone says 2G data upload speed is 10-20 Kbps http://www.vodafone.co.uk/personal/mobile-internet/discover-and-learn/coverage-and-speed/index.htm .
The email is 70KB (from account info it appears to be nearer 100KB but the extra 30 KB may be the data transferred concerned with continual handshaking with the mobile network).
If we get 10 Kbps (= 1KB/sec allowing for extra bytes) then 70KB will take 70 secs or 35 secs at 20 Kbps. There are many stage delays and contention time to add on. The camera will be busy during this period of data transmission (though it does seem to take photos in this period).
On 3G at 700 Kbps  70KB it will take 1 sec.
Then the SMTP server and internet transmission times and stage delays probably add a few more seconds before the email arrives in the target inbox (but the camera is not tied up during that part of the process).
So a massive advantage and much a higher potential throughput of emails is expected with 3G. I just need to test this theory!


Watcher 2/9/12

Our sincerest thanks to Watcher for all his hard work in researching and compiling this information...RB

E&OE




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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.