DIY home security

This is a note about replacing the old security system I made to monitor our front door. I am trying to achieve better image quality and higher frame rates.

The base concept is that a Raspberry Pi watches the front door and uploads as many picture to Dropbox as it can if there is significant motion. The Pi only sends me notifications when it is activated by our phones.


  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera v2
  • Official RasPi 3 Power Supply
  • 16GB SD card (class 10)
  • Computer with SD card reader
  • Ethernet cable
  • Cheap plastic RasPi case

Install Raspbian headless

It is possible to install Raspbian headless, but only with Linux. On Windows or MacOS I recommend to install it with NOOBS and configure with a monitor.

Download the official Raspbian lite image and install with an image writing tool. Etcher is a simple graphical tool, but dd is not much more complicated either.

Insert the SD card, and use df -h to find out the device name, it is like /dev/something. Unmount it using umount /dev/something to prevent unwanted reads and writes during the operation. If the card doesn't show up with df -h then use sudo fdisk -l to find out the name.

Unzip the image:
unzip /path/to/raspbian/

Write the image to the card:
sudo dd bs=4M if=/path/to/raspbian/image.img of=/dev/something status=progress

Run sync to write out data buffered in memory and remove the SD card.

Reattach the SD card and run df -h to find the partitions installed.


To enable ssh create an empty file called "ssh" in the root directory of the BOOT partition.

Generate your rsa key pair:
ssh-keygen -t rsa

Add to the end of /home/pi/.ssh/authorized_keys on the ext4 partition:
mkdir -p /path/to/ext4/home/pi/.ssh
cat ~/.ssh/ >> /path/to/ext4/home/pi/.ssh/authorized_keys

Set static IP

Set static ip by adding the following lines to /etc/dhcpcd.conf on the ext4 partition:

interface eth0 // or your interface name
static ip_address=
static routers=
static domain_name_servers=

Run sync to write out data buffered in memory and remove the SD card.

Assemble and continue through SSH

Assemble the Pi, first connect the network cable and then power up.

Log in using the default password raspberry or entering your passphrase:
ssh pi@

Change the default password:

Basic configuration


sudo raspi-config

Enable Raspberry Pi 3 Camera in raspi-config Software Configuration Tool

Enable the camera: Interfacing Options -> Camera

Set the correct timezone: Localisation Options -> Change Timezone

Add video0 device

Update the firmware to make sure the v4L2 drive is available.
sudo rpi-update and sudo reboot

Load and create /dev/video0 device:
sudo modprobe bcm2835-v4l2

To load at boot time add the following line to the end of /etc/modules:

Reboot and check:
sudo reboot


Upgrade packages before installing anything.
sudo apt update
sudo apt full-upgrade

Install git

sudo apt install git

Extend the life of the SD card

With noatime fstab attribute Raspbian doesn't record information about when files were created, last modified and last accessed, but regular write operations still shorten the life of the SD card.

Using tmpfs it is possible to mount a directory into RAM as it was an ordinary filesystem. We don't need much space, as the pictures will be deleted after having been uploaded to Dropbox.

Add an entry to /etc/fstab:

tmpfs   /var/lib/motion    tmpfs    defaults,noatime,nosuid,mode=0775,size=100m,uid=109,gid=1000    0 0

Root is the default owner of directories mounted by fstab. Adding uid=109, gid=1000 and mode=0775 motion and pi will be able to read, write and execute in the folder.

Reboot and check:
sudo reboot

Send mail

After creating a gmail account go to My account -> Sign-in & security. Scroll down and turn ON Allow less secure apps

To send e-mail from linux allow less secure apps in gmail

Back to raspberry install mailing apps:
sudo apt-get install ssmtp mailutils mpack

Edit /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf:


Try to send an e-mail:
echo test | mail -s "This is the subject line"

Dropbox uploader

After creating a dropbox account visit

Go to My apps, press Create app button and then select Dropbox API, App Folder, name your app and press Create app.

Create a Dropbox App

Clone Andrea Fabrizi's Dropbox Uploader from github:
git clone

Run without parameters for the first time to configure:

The Generate button is at the OAuth 2 segment.

The first upload will create the App folder:
echo 1 > test.txt and path/to/Dropbox-Uploader/ upload /path/to/test.txt appFolder/test.txt

By default your oauth access token will be placed to ~/.dropbox_uploader. However you can use a different file with the -f parameter if you need to.

Install motion

With raspberry 2 I was not able to successfully install the official motion from the repo either with wheezy or jessie but this time:
sudo apt-get install motion

Enable daemon mode

Change in /etc/motion/motion.conf:

daemon on

Change in /etc/default/motion:


Enable motion service:
sudo systemctl enable motion

On motion start

I created a simple bash script to run on motion start event.


status=`cat /var/www/html/notify`

if [ "$status" != "0" ]; then
    echo 'Movement at the front door' | mail -u pi -s "Security alert"

Make motion the owner:
sudo chown motion path/to/

On picture save

I created a simple bash script to run on picture save event.


/path/to/Dropbox-Uploader/ -f /home/pi/.dropbox_uploader upload $1 $2
rm $1

sudo chown pi:motion /home/pi/.dropbox_uploader
sudo chmod 640 /home/pi/.dropbox_uploader

Archive previous days

Dropbox preserves deleted files for 30 days. This is more than enough for me.

Create an archive script:


DATE=`date --date='-2 day' +%Y/%m/%d`

/home/pi/Dropbox-Uploader/ -f /home/pi/.dropbox_uploader delete /motion/$DATE

chmod 755 /home/pi/

Add to crontab with crontab -e:

37 7,18 * * * /home/pi/

Configure motion

Open /etc/motion/motion.conf

# Comment out logs
#logfile /run/shm/motion.log

rotate 270
width 1280
height 720
framerate 3

threshold 10000
lightswitch 100

minimum_motion_frames 2

pre_capture 5
post_capture 5

output_secondary_pictures off

quality 80

# For debugging light changes
locate_motion_mode on
locate_motion_style redbox

text_right %Y-%m-%d\n%T-%q
text_left CAMERA %t
text_changes on

target_dir /var/lib/motion
snapshot_filename %Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S-%q-snapshot
picture_filename %Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S-%q-motion

on_event_start path/to/
on_picture_save path/to/ %f 'motion/%Y/%m/%d/%H-%M-%S-%q.jpg'

We will add a mask file later.

Create a two way switch

Install nginx and fastCGI PHP

Install nginx:
sudo apt install nginx

Install PHP fastCGI process manager:
sudo apt install php7.0-fpm

Edit /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default:

location ~ \.php$ {
    include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;

    # With php-fpm (or other unix sockets):
    fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.0-fpm.sock;

Test nginx configuration:
sudo nginx -t

Reload nginx with the new config:
sudo systemctl reload nginx.service

Secure php

Edit /etc/php/7.0/fpm/php.ini:


Restart php:
sudo systemctl restart php7.0-fpm

Write some basic PHP and HTML code

DIY Alarm System iPhone Home, Turn ON, Turn OFF screen

Create the simple php file.


    header("Cache-Control: no-store, must-revalidate, max-age=0");
    header("Pragma: no-cache");
    header("Expires: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 05:00:00 GMT");

    $notify = fopen("/var/www/html/switch", "r+") or die("Unable to open file!");

    if (isset($_POST['status'])) {
        fwrite($notify, $_POST['status'] === "0" ? 0 : 1);

        header("Location: /index.php");

    $status = rtrim(fgets($notify), "\r\n") === "0" ? "off" : "on";
        <meta charset="utf-8">
        <meta content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1" name="viewport">
        <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="./button.css">
        <link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="180x180" href="icon.png">
        <meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes">
        <meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-title" content="Alarm">
    <body class="<?php echo $status; ?>">
        <form id="form-id" method="post">
            <input type="hidden" name="status" value="<?php echo $status == 'on' ? 0 : 1; ?>" />
            <div class="button" onclick="document.getElementById('form-id').submit();"></div>

Create the CSS file.


* {
    user-select: none;

html, body {
    height: 100%;
    width: 100%;
    margin: 0;
    padding: 0;
    position: relative;
    font-family: Helvetica, Verdana, Tahoma, sans-serif;
    font-size: 18px;
    font-weight: 300;
    color: #ffffff;

form {
    position: absolute;
    top: 50px;
    bottom: 50px;
    left: 50px;
    right: 50px;
    margin: 0;

.button {
    height: 100%;
    width: 100%;
    position: relative;
    text-align: center;
    border: 1px solid;
    -webkit-border-radius: 4px;
    -moz-border-radius: 4px;
    border-radius: 4px;

.button::after {
    position: absolute;
    top: 50%;
    left: 50%;
    transform: translate(-50%, -50%);
    -webkit-transform: translate(-50%, -50%);

.off .button::after {
    content: "Turn ON";

.on .button::after {
    content: "Turn OFF";

.off {
    height: 100%;
    background-color: #d9534f;

.on {
    background-color: #5cb85c;

.off .button {
    background-color: #5cb85c;
    border-color: #4cae4c;

.on .button {
    background-color: #d9534f;
    border-color: #d43f3a;

I was using an icon from dribbble with the permission of the author.


iOS lock icon png for iPhone
Made by Chris Knight for Avira.

Create the switch file:
touch switch

Set permissions:
sudo chown -R pi www-data /var/www/html
sudo chmod 775 /var/www/html/switch

Add to homescreen on iOS

Add Alarm icon to home screen on iPhone

Put the pi and the camera in place

Shut down the pi gracefully:
sudo shutdown -h now

And put it in palce.

Create the mask

I have a cat and the door reflects a window so I had to create a mask to ignore insignificant changes.

Create an image with the exact same size that you get from motion. The base should be white and the areas you want to ignore must be black.

My mask file:
My mask file

Install djpeg:
sudo apt-get install libjpeg-progs

djpeg -grayscale -pnm [inputfile] > /home/pi/mask.pgm

Change motion configuration:

mask_file /home/pi/mask.pgm

Reload motion and ready to go! :)
sudo systemctl reload motion


I am satisfied with the upgrade. Got better image quality but not more frames per second. Dropbox uploader uses a lot of CPU when uploading pictures. 3 frames per second is not a lot but it is more stable now and it is enough for me. About 20 fps is achievable without it.