If you look carefully at the above photo, you can see Ursula sulking in the background. When I put my hand into the tank to check the new camera’s frame rate and motion blur, she turned a sort of red-on-white paisley—an unfamiliar pattern that I interpreted as a statement of disapproval inexpressible in any vertebrate language.

Our improvised test housing was a wooden box of paper towels from the touch pool, with the camera fixed in place by a wad of towels and cloth diapers. For further structural support, we rested the camera on a jar of formalin-preserved octopus eggs inside the box. The final installation will have a rather more stable and elegant housing. Prototyping is a fantastically organic and immediate process.

We’ve been struggling with this potential replacement Octocam for the past week. This was a neat, compact security camera that strongly resembled HAL from 2001. We took it into the Visitor Center, plugged it in, typed in the IP address, and…

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t allow you to do that.”

We got nothing. We tried a different Ethernet cable. We tried using another port. We tried reconfiguring the network. We tried installing new drivers. After several frustrating days of experimentation, I unplugged the AC adapter to see if one more power cycle would end our troubles. Before I could plug the cord back in, Mark stopped me. The network light was blinking! The camera was happily negotiating a connection with the server on Ethernet power alone.

Apparently, the AC adapter was turning off the Ethernet power, disabling the Ethernet connection in the process. Plugging the camera in caused it to not work. Perhaps that most insulting of tech support questions (“Is your device plugged in?”) doesn’t have as obvious a correct answer as it seems.

Once the camera started feeding to the network, we discovered a different problem: the frame rate just wasn’t high enough for our standards. This model would make a fantastic security camera, but it made a so-so Octocam. As much as we dislike prolonging our time without a tank-level Octocam, we can’t justify trading one problem for another.

We’ll have another model in soon, and hopefully this one will give us what we’ve all been waiting for.


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