Sunday, July 13, 2008

Review: IP Surveillance 101

I recently received an email from John Honovich, the author of Security Manager's Guide to Video Surveillance, an e-book I recently reviewed in this column (see: "Review: Security Manager's Guide to Video Surveillance"). He noted that he is working on two new chapters for that book that will address the "absolute basics" of video surveillance. He expects them to be completed in a couple of weeks and will let me know when they are posted on his site.

I had asked him to recommend an internet source for basic information on video surveillance. He noted that: "Almost all the material out there (for free on the internet) is done by vendors so they suffer from bias." He did recommend one document about IP network based systems. He cautioned that it only provides information on IP camera based systems, not analog camera systems.

IP Surveillance 101

I downloaded and read this introductory text, IP Surveillance 101. It does cover more of the basics than does Honovich’s e-book. The level of technical detail seems to be appropriate for an introductory text, but the quality of the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Like many modern technical documents it reads like it was written by someone translating from Geek to English.

I’m a chemist not an English major, but communication requires proper utilization of the tools of the trade. Any organization that wants to convince their customers of their technical competency needs to be able to communicate. This document from ACTi does not convey that competency.

I know this is a chemical facility security blog, but someone has to tell these technical experts that they are shooting themselves in the foot. This is a pet peeve of mine; I have to vent from time to time. So, if you didn’t like paying attention in 8th grade writing classes, skip to the next entry on this blog.

Writing Critique

Verb-subject agreement is harder to find than a successful Middle East peace accord. A typical example from page 4:

  • "Each one of the security surveillance system are focusing on different aspects and each of the security surveillance system is somehow integrated with other systems in different applications."

Other times the words look okay, they just don’t make sense. Here is an example from page 30 where the author is discussing types of network connections:

  • "The network device is connected to the network via direct network cabling. This network has different kinds of type."

Finally, the inverted word order problem crops up throughout the document. Here is an example from the introduction to wireless connections section on page 32 (also note the punctuation problems and misspelling of ‘many’):

  • "Although most current buildings are with network cable pre-built, there are still manay places where
    • "a. network cable can’t reach
    • "b. it’s very expensive to lay network cable"

Poor Grammar Indicates Lack of Attention to Detail

A dedicated reader can muddle through this stuff, but it makes a relatively short 46 page document seem much longer. About half way through I began to wonder if it was worth the effort. Any organization that could not afford the time or money to have an editor correct the endemic grammatical defects in this document would probably have other defects in their technical offerings.

If you are really interested in learning about IP security surveillance you can read this document. It will take some translating skill, but it could be worthwhile. Or, you can wait a couple of weeks and see what John Honovich comes up with.

NOTE: I realize that very few small to medium sized tech companies can afford to hire full time editors. There are web sources for hiring free lance editors to edit or even write single documents at reasonable prices. I do some free lance writing out of one of these sites;

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