Unifi Protect

I decided to buy a Unify G3-Flex. I’m already a user of some of the SDN products that Ubiquity have in their range, and was interested in their video offering. The G3-Flex was the cheapest way to get in to the range so I figured it was worth a punt.

Sadly, the video controller (pretty much required if you want the nice functionality, or if you’re not going to create your own) doesn’t support ARM so you cannot install this on a Raspberry Pi. That’s disappointing as you can install the SDN controller on a Pi fairly happily (for how much longer is open to debate. It feels as though the Cloud Key is the preferred option for Ubiquity going forward. Won’t lie, don’t want one.) There is also an NVR you can buy if you don’t want to build your own controller. For one camera costing $79, it made no sense to splash out $365 on a controller when I can build my own for free.

Anyway, a quick squiz of the install doc shows the system requirements to be:

  • 64‑bit Debian 7.0 (or above), Ubuntu v14.04 or v16.04, or Microsoft Windows 8/7 system with an Intel or compatible 1.86 GHz (or above) processor with a minimum of 2GB RAM

Easy enough, spin up a virtual machine with the default settings for Ubuntu 16.04 and we’re good to go! Except, not quite. Virtual machine provisioned, video controller installed, camera…. won’t adopt. It just kind of….. didn’t.

The default config for your VM under VirtualBox is 1Gb RAM and a 10Gb HDD. Stupidly, I assumed this would be OK. It wasn’t. When I was trying to adopt the camera it simply didn’t work. I couldn’t work out why, searching on the Ubiquity forums people had different suggestions such as reboot the camera (thanks…), change the cable being used (done), ensure the switch is providing sufficient power (plugged in to a Ubiquity switch, so all should be good), but none of the suggestions really worked.

After clicking about a bit, I see some weird errors and can’t seem to work out why. But, browsing the controller software to ‘Settings -> System Configuration -> Configuration -> Space To Keep Free’

Unifi Video free disk space setting
Unifi Video free disk space setting. Ensure this is sufficient for your build!

Well, would you look at that! The amount of disk space the controller wants to keep free is 10Gb, on a 10Gb disk. That’s going to be a bad day in the office. Once the disk had been extended to 50Gb, I was able to adopt the camera with success. If I recall correctly, the errors logged in the controller were complaining that it was unable to update the camera firmware. There was no mention of disk space issues.

That was an annoying, and frankly daft, problem.

After that, e-mail has been annoying. Going through the config, everything works and is received as expected. Great. But, the triggered e-mails (motion detected, camera disconnected, camera reconnected) don’t work so well. It seems the test e-mails send well constructed mails, but the other mails don’t. It’s a simple one, but test e-mails include the ‘Date:’ e-mail header and the “normal” e-mails don’t. Depending on your e-mail client, all e-mails will be dated either the time you checked your e-mail or January 1970. Disappointing. E-mail is well understood and well defined, it’s not all that new, I kind of hoped that if you’re sending e-mail in 2019 you’d be able to send well-formatted e-mails. 

And, finally…

I tend to check the camera via the app on my phone, rather than the web interface of the video controller. I happened to log in to the CLI of the Ubuntu controller and run an ‘apt-get update’. There was an upgrade to unifi-video available. This isn’t something which was advertised via the phone app. But while I’m at the controller console, let’s upgrade!

Only, don’t.

I performed the upgrade from controller 3.10.1 to 3.10.2 and the camera just stopped. I could log in to the camera directly, see the steam, all good. Via the controller, the camera was sort of offline and sort of online The app wouldn’t show a thumbnail, but would show the live picture (if I rotated the phone to be in landscape mode?) Logging in to the web interface, the camera showed as ‘managed’ but didn’t give all the normal details/options.

Everything on the forums stated that the upgrade to the controller needed to be done via the web interface and not via apt. Ok, so I roll back to 3.10.1 via apt (sudo apt-get remove unifi-video followed by sudo apt-get install unifi-video=3.10.1), then perform the upgrade via the web interface. No change.

Factory reset of the camera, re-adopt. Nothing. The camera stays at ‘managed’. Reboot the controller, nothing. Confirm disk space, nothing. Revert to 3.10.1, reset the camera, upgrade to 3.10.2, re-adopt the camera, nothing. Gah! Nothing seemed to work. Browsing the forums, nobody offers any suggestion above “upgrade via the web interface, not via apt”. Hmm, not sure what to do now, I seem to be going round in circles.

Then. Rollback to 3.10.1 via apt, and upgrade again to 3.10.2 via apt (as I did originally) and everything…. worked.

That was a huge waste of time, and I cannot explain what happened. Do better Ubiquity, do better.

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