A Wireless Third Eye
 
How often could you use an extra eye on something important? Security cameras are built for just such a task, but they can be costly and difficult to install because they usually require a hardwired connection.

But using a wireless networking connection can let you position just such a camera exactly where you want it--that is, within range of a Wi-Fi hot spot. We've been testing just such a camera from Cisco Systems' (nasdaq: CSCO - news - people ) Linksys unit--the Linksys Wireless B Internet Video Camera--and found there is a good deal of potential for just such a product, though it still needs some improvement.
 
 
The Linksys Wireless B Internet Video Camera has potential.
 

The basic idea behind this camera is that it lets you position it near pretty much anything you want, where the camera can watch for you, notify you if there's any movement, or simply take a picture and send it to you.

One feature we liked right away and which worked very well was the integrated motion sensor. If the camera notices movement within its field of view, it will automatically start taking pictures. We set it up near the office candy machine and caught a few co-workers grabbing a snack. We were able to watch from a Web page that wasn't visible to the outside world. But it does come with software that makes publishing a live picture on the Internet easier.

The camera contains its own embedded server software and doesn't require a direct connection to any computer, only to a local area network. This creates some powerful options. One setting lets the camera automatically send a still picture by e-mail whenever it detects movement. If it's pointed at something that shouldn't be moving, it can let you know right away and send a short video. These e-mails can also be sent to you on a regular schedule if you prefer. This feature works as the company advertises, though we were surprised to find these video clips could only be five seconds long. Also, there's no sound, since the camera has no microphone.

The obvious applications are obvious. This camera could make a good baby monitor. And though we liked the features, getting to a point where we could actually test them was a frustrating process.

Our chief complaint was with set up. It took us several tries--and several of those were with the help of a professional network engineer--before it actually worked with our Wi-Fi network. We were about to give up on this test but gave it one last try, when it finally worked. We never did figure out what we had done wrong in the first place. This set-up process is in terrible need of some improvement for the sake of simplicity and the user's sanity.

For this product's purchase price of $190, we like it overall, but we don't love it. Linksys has done several things right only to botch the set-up process. Future revisions should focus not on adding new features but on streamlining and simplifying how users without an education in computer network architecture can it up and running

 
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