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Using Computers To Prep and Monitor Part 1

Avatar for Jose Martinez Jose Martinez  |  Updated: April 1, 2020
Using Computers To Prep and Monitor Part 1

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Computers are incredibly useful for most of us. One of their most extended use among preppers is, of course, inventory. But thanks to the availability of new devices, and their low pricing, this has opened an entire universe for our (now quite advanced, even if they´re outdated) regular desktop PCs. I want to elaborate on how we could combine this tool, and our layers of self-defense. 

Surveillance System For Perimeter fencing

Fencing is our first layer of defense. The reasons are more than obvious. However, there are some details that we as homesteaders need to be aware of. After having analyzed the psychology of the average thug in Venezuela (these guys are BAD, and smart; they can’t be underestimated) I have arrived at the conclusion that fences are just like cars. They can be interpreted as a means to define your social status…or they can make you pass unnoticed.

Of course, this is exactly what we want and need. A tall fence that looks expensive may attract unwanted attention. Sure, it will work as a deterrent mean for your lowlife average thug…but at the end of the day will be noticed by those with more resources, which usually include larger guns, and sophisticated methods like prolonged surveillance, the tracking of the routines of every inhabitant of the targeted place, and information gathering about the lives of the family members.

Yes, this happens. With the high percentage of people involved in this kind of crime, they gather intel and know how to use it. That´s why it´s wise to know how to keep a low profile and avoid information leakage, the absolute lack of routines and surprise movements.

For me, it would be easy. Keeping awake and making noise up to 2 A.M. wouldn´t be a problem. Coming back at 1 pm after just one hour of unexpected absence and come surprisingly wouldn´t be a problem, either. Even returning after just 10 minutes will make someone keeping a watch shift to think twice before trespassing. 

This said the best advice is, zero routines. 

Let´s move on. As everybody knows, fencing is expensive. Putting together a fence in collapse years, even worst. If you just buy a patch of land, it´s very likely you will have it already fenced. You could negotiate price if the fence is damaged, so keep an eye on that. How many fences you need…well that depends on you.

My patch of land is small and hilly. A good three-layered fencing install will defend it properly. My kiddo is growing up fast and he has asked for some toys…which is quite interesting, I should add. Attending to our OPSEC I will leave that to your imagination.

It can be good for first layer fences to have sharp blades and pointy things. These usually will be full of bacteria (even without one doing nothing) and very likely will lead to a nasty infection of the trespassers, once they have been discovered and hunting time starts. 

And now this has been said, I should add a piece of important information. It has happened before. 

A farmer gets a couple of young thugs inside their place. He is a law-abide citizen and takes them to the police station. There, the guys have some fun beating their crap out of those lowlifes, and maybe even they go to jail a few years if they don´t have the connections, as it happens everywhere in the world.

If these guys happen to survive that hell, that farmer is going to have a huge problem ahead. They will come back for him.

With connections inside and an accumulated resentment that will be not just for having what life denied them; they will look for revenge no matter what. 

We all know how brutal humans can be.

Otherwise, we wouldn´t be here. Nor me writing, nor you reading.

Therefore, it´s much better to deal with those guys in drastic ways. Quietly, but decisively. Why do you think the only way to pacify the countries invaded by communism is the creation of death squads after they destroyed the regular status quo, the economy and the fabric of society. 

How you deal with such hazards is up to you. Won´t get into the details of what to do with an intruder that knows your face, your entire place, and perhaps has seen your family members.

They could be just a couple of young, stupid piece of s***ts, but…never underestimate how bad hungry, generationally resented lowlife scum can be at the end of the day, when the chance of being in a power position presents.

Yes, it´s a quite complex moral dilemma. But if your neighbors usually don´t get their noses into your business, this could potentially be a strong point in favor. 

This point made clear, let´s keep moving. 

There is plenty to discuss about this fencing issue. A relatively weak, inexpensive and perhaps easily trespassable exterior fence can be reinforced with a sophisticated 2nd layer, meaning it would work primarily as an alert system rather than a physical barrier.

On the other hand, a stone wall surrounding your entire property would be a great addition, no matter where in the world you are located. Nor inexpensive nor weak, but it has worked as a deterrent for centuries, and for good reason.

Even psychologically speaking. Someone brave enough for trespassing such walls don´t know what will happen once they are out of sight of the outer world. Isn’t that cool?? ☺ 

Passive fencing

A fence can be beaten by climbing or breaking. The structure should be sturdy enough, and with the appropriate devices and shapes to avoid this. Of course, the doors and any associated device shall be quite strong too. An important aspect to consider is burying deep. However, this should depend on the materials used. 

Interactive fencing (electric protection/electronic surveillance).

Let´s see now how our good old used, maybe recycled PC, laptop, or even tablet can contribute to our surveillance.

Just to be clear, this system I will describe is just a preliminary design, a rough sketch of the one I´m going to install, configure, and setup. Some work has been dedicated to this, indeed.

Maybe the technical level is going to be too much for some people, but will try to keep it simple.

With some time, anybody with a basic knowledge of computing I believe could be able to makeshift a system. Especially if this is wired, which I recommend. I don´t have a clue how a wireless system would work under one of those electric storms in the USA, to be honest.

I know if a bolt of lightning hits the building you´re in, the inductive pulse is going to be so hard that your outlets (including the network ones) will spit sparkles. I´ve seen it happen. 

That said, let´s see how a couple of good, old PCs can assist us as a surveillance system.

This can be as complex or as simple as we want or need to. The simpler would be a CCTV system, with recording capabilities maybe if you feel you need it. A single computer with an old-style graphics card will be able to handle a couple of VGA monitors, which can be found even for free. You won´t need too much of a resolution, and used flatscreens can be found used and will last decades too. 

One of these will be surrounding my cottage, and I´ve got a creative solution (hopefully it will be available to the public by the end of the year as it is still under development) for those blind spots your property could have. Hooking up a control room is not hard. If you want a pro doing it for you, choose it very carefully. Foreign eyes looking at your property will make them think perhaps you have more valuables to watch than what you really have. An innocent comment in a bar at the back of the wrong man, and it could be a potential problem on the long run and we all know that.

Remember: gangs will need a secure place after SHTF they can take over and watch with few men, but with the added value (under the difficult situation of the chain supplies being under heavy stress) of having enough facilities to make them self-reliant. How you manage this is up to you. Forget about “confidentiality” agreements and such nonsense. Once things get bad enough these contracts will very likely could be used as TP.

The “reputation” of a company installing security systems will be there until the owner gets sick, shot, and die because of some other cause related to the SHTF.

If you don´t have the knowledge, the community network is wide and with the proper connections, it´s very likely you will find someone trustable to assist you with that. My suggestions are below.

  1. Over a transparent sheet on your property map, locate the places you want to watch, and the approximate location of your cameras.  
  2. Define a space of your home/cottage to be used as a control room. I would suggest the less evident place, and you will have to use your imagination: a hidden room behind a fake shelves wall in your tool shed? Go wild and make yourself shine in those comments. 
  3. Measuring distances is the next step. If you want to go wireless, other considerations are needed:

Batteries/solar-powered monitoring cameras: small, hidden independent transmission stations can be built without too much trouble.

You need to consider that even a small solar panel station is going to be detected even by a toy drone. This can be overcome but will need some additional gear like a remote-controlled camouflaged cover on the panel and this increases the cost of the station.

Good thing is, once you set it, you´re ready to keep watching your place for as long as a time your batteries last, and new technologies like lithium batteries make that a lot easier than it once was.

Depending on how much time these will be subject to use and abuse, you will get some service time out of them. As the electronics of a camera and maybe motion and zoom in/out or focus control doesn´t draw too much power, this particular setup is quite adequate for this application.

Discharge/charge cycle times is what we need to be aware of. Be aware that lithium batteries definitely don’t like cold OK?

We want to build something durable. Exactly what we engineers love: build it once, on the cheap, but build it right, and live long enough to see your grandchildren use it and teach them how to take care of the dang thing!

Look on YouTube for tutorials about how to connect your own batteries; you will have to buy just the cells and even a half-ape man like myself can wire that stuff properly with those tutorials. (And I say it because despite being an engineer, electricity always had mysteries for me, LOL) 

  Wired Cameras

I like this system for close-quarters around the cottage. Don´t bury the wire: install a properly conduit all-weather pipe, and use an outdoors type of wire.

Good thing is, this can be pretty much thin and won´t cost too much.

Wiring is reliable, but they have to be properly grounded so an electric storm won´t fry your electronics. There are distance limitations, but this can be sorted out with devices called preamps. I´m not an expert on this and there is a myriad of different manufacturers out there who are constantly improving their stuff; but I would say that to monitor the surroundings of your cottage, a few wired cameras hooked up to a PC just for that application would be great.

Not very expensive.

I bought my system a few years ago for…something like $50 not great image quality but enough for what I wanted: see the face of someone coming close to the main gate…and it´s movement activated, low light capable, on the cheap. One camera, expandable to 3. They don´t need a computer though, as I preferred for the main entrance camera this capability, separated from the PC, but the system can indeed be connected to a PC if needed.

It can record still images every few seconds in a SIM card.

You can use a computer to monitor a lot of things you need to be more self sufficient during a SHTF situation.

However, my main system will have a UPS, a small, dedicated PC with at least 4 PLC control cards (programmable cards you shove into your PC slots and allow to run tons of different devices with a quite simple programming interface, all from your keyboard) that will be hooked up to devices like the following:

  •  Fish pond temperature
  • Rainwater collection system storage levels
  • Irrigation system control,
  • Smoker/curing room temperature and humidity (this is important because smoking and curing in our tropical weather is not as easy and power grid failure would mean huge money losses) (an analog indicator on the door will be in place, too of course, just in case) 
  • UV microalgae purifier function indicator, as clean, pristine water is important for tilapia and cachama (tropical river tasty fish adequate for raising).
  • Hygrometer, atmospheric pressure, wind speed measuring instruments,
  • Chicken and rabbit coops cameras, dogs and cats GPS collar (
  • HAM radio
  • Surveillance drones (air and ground),
  • Fencing sensors

Of course, all of these subsystems should have a secondary, manually activated control. PC remote control is just for comfort, or if our ability to move around is limited by some cause. 

With some refinement, we can even have an estimate of what part of the fence is being compromised.

Good thing is, movement or contact sensors and that kind of stuff are not as expensive as they used to be. I won’t be using the computer to monitor the battery rack charge at first. A good, cheap, old-style needle voltage indicator will work for this like a charm. I think you’re going to love some Fallout NV details I’ve planned as a decorative touch for my cottage.

My dad received a wonderful gift years ago in the form of a junked out radios over 70 years old, and we’ve been slowly dismantling, but the racks they came in are an awesome frame to mount all of that. I just can’t wait to get myself a used old-style HAM radio and mount all of that in my studio with some old-style globe type bulbs (but with new LEDs inside) hanging off the ceiling. Just to calm down my dad (I know him and he’s going to be quite concerned about my mental health if I start to set up cameras and alarm devices, sensors and stuff all over the place while kiddo practices with his bow, mace and sharpens machetes and knives)

I will set up the PC as a 24 hours music jukebox before going onto the rest of the surveillance system. I have an entire assortment of music and a few speakers distributed all around the place will make everyone (chickens and rabbits included) feel relaxed and pleased. Reggae, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.  

You need to make sure your system is going to have power when the grids goes down, so plan ahead your consumption and make your calculations, program your budget, and your procurement schedule. Stick to it as much as possible. I strongly suggest this because 2021 is going to be hard. 

One of the nice features of integrating a PC into your security system is that you can escalate it later on. You could transmit a signal to your handheld device and check who´s at the main gate while being in the far end of the land patch.

With the adequate devices, you could even run into your control room at the slightest indication of danger, and close all of the gates, activating all the needed alarms and cameras at once. I have even some predetermined spots to allow for unexpected access to the cottage from the outside that will unlock with a special method, but that can´t be explained thoroughly here because of OPSEC. 

Of course, you can use some drone-like devices (we´re already working in such prototypes, specially adapted for cottage surveillance) and control them from your PC. If you are an elder or disabled homesteader, running as much as you can from your control room is a wise idea.  The last thing you want is going out on a stormy night to check for yourself the chicken/rabbit coops while having a cold. This can bring severe consequences…and healthcare cannot be readily available, as things go.  

There is still plenty of stuff to say about this, and if you want a 2nd part of this article please let me know. 

I hope soon enough, in the next few months my articles will be written on-site, with a proper video describing how to set up things for yourself, saving you money and time to prepare.  

Thanks for your donations, fellows, I really mean it. A couple of bucks here and there every once in a while will take me a long way: times ahead are going to be really hard, especially for me, having no other income than my oil industry-dependent profession, now gone into the wrecked mess of a country the communist invasion left us. 

God bless us all, with his infinite love.


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5 Responses to “Using Computers To Prep and Monitor Part 1”

  1. Kudos on buying a better quality security camera. I have four Sony 5K infared cameras installed on the house and they work excellent during the day. The clarity and quality of the video is great. The cameras are rated for 120′ of night vision but I was lucky to get about 50′. Fixed the problem by adding a few IR illuminator’s to expand the coverage of the cameras. Now my property is better viewed and recorded during the night. A friend helped my get the system up and running on it’s own network. I love the software and set zones for alerts that get sent to my phone.

    I’m going to have to figure out how much total power the system consumes and work on some back up battery bank system and solar panels dedicated just for security. Sure the prices have come down, but it’s worth the piece of mind.

  2. Two things to point out:

    Due to chemistry lithium-ion batteries die completely in 3-5 years whether you use them or not, the chemicals begin breaking down as soon as the battery is exposed to air. This can be delayed by vacuum sealing the battery and storing it in a refrigerator. (Do not freeze!)

    This is one reason so many devices still use the older, cheaper, nickel-cadmium rechargable batteries, or exotic manganese-sulfer batteries.

    Second, I’ve used 720p security cameras. Until the criminal was right in front of the camera to bash it with a club, it was impossible to recognize his face at night. Going through other recordings, thieves have been visible but likewise their identities unprovable to police who refuse to investigate. (Our local police in Amarillo, Texas are incredibly corrupt, it turns out they run the burglary crews and fences and slaving crews and brothels, in turn using those to import and distribute drugs.)

    If you try the 4K and 5K HD cameras, the difference–particularly distance and clarity at night, but also during the day–is immediately clear. It’s nice to be able to identify who is surveiling me!

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