Build a Cheap/easy Linux based Motion Detection CCTV system

This is a guide for those that want to build a cheap CCTV server for your home or business.

It uses a analogue camera to do two things:

  • Motion capture surveillance footage only when needed
  • email pictures of captured footage to you inbox

It requires some computer skills, but you probably will be smarter afterwards.

Hardware Required:

  • Asus EEE PC 701 Netbook $260
  • Easycap DC60 USB Video Capture Adapter $8.90
  • Video Camera $0 free

I picked the netbook up online from and figured it would be useful for some small project. It sat around doing nothing for a while until I was given a camera for free. I thought the two would be perfect for a CCTV project. The camera had a composite video output so the first task was finding a cheap video to usb adaptor. I picked one of these up from after checking that there were Linux drivers available.


  • Ubuntu 10.04 LTS netbook remix
  • driver for the usb adaptor
  • motion
  • mutt
  • msmtp

The netbook came installed with Xandros. I replaced that with Eeebuntu 3.0 soon after I got it but that distro is getting a bit old. For this project I wanted something that was still being maintained and would suit a netbook. I settled on the netbook remix of Ubuntu 10.04.

The drivers for the USB adaptor were available from The documentation was great and it came with test scripts.

Motion was available in the repos so I picked that. I did have a look at Zoneminder but I wanted to keep the number of running processes to a minimum and Zoneminder was a bit of overkill for what I needed.

I wanted a way to email off the pictures motion took using just the command line. I picked mutt. Installing it from the repos installed postfix as the MTA. The problem was my ISP kept rejected the emails from postfix. Then I found an excellent guide at so I removed postfix and used msmtp instead..

Setting up
Install Ubuntu
Build/install usb driver
apt-get install motion
apt-get install mutt
apt-get purge postfix (use msmtp instead)
apt-get install msmtp
configure mutt /home/user/.muttrc
configure msmtp /home/user/.msmtprc
configure motion /home/user/motion.conf

I configured .muttrc and .msmtprc using the directions from I then tested it with “echo test | mutt -s test“. Great success.

I left most of the settings in motion.conf as is, the most important change I made was to add “on_picture_save date | mutt -s motion -a %f” to get it to send an email everytime it took a picture.

I also opened a port on my router so I could monitor the camera remotely using motion’s built in webserver.

Credit goes to my mate P, who wrote this.

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