Grandstream Revisited: Time For Some Tough Love

A few months ago I made some observation of how Grandstream had come to be in-use around my home & office. I especially appreciate their surveillance gear. The GVC cameras and NVR are in 2/47 service and have served us well the past couple of years.

That said, two problems have cropped up recently that bear examination.

Browser Plug-ins

Most typically, the devices are setup using a web browser to access them remotely. In the case of the NVR, it’s possible to perform setup locally, but it’s terribly inconvenient. Web-based remote access is much more commonplace.

To actually see the video streams presented requires that the browser load a plug-in. At the time when we initially installed the gear this was ok. I could access the cameras and the NVR using either Chrome of Firefox. The use of the plugin was merely an annoyance.

In 2015 Chrome disabled NPAPI plugins. Thus our ability to view the video stream in Chrome was lost. At the time, the change in Chrome was not a big deal. I simply used Firefox when I needed to access the surveillance gear.

That workaround disappeared with the March 28th release of Firefox 52, which also disabled NPAPI.

Given that change, at present, the only browser I have on-hand that can see the device streams is Microsoft’s ancient Internet Explorer.

only-IE-Seamonkey

In Grandstream’s support forum their staff recommend IE or SeaMonkey to users. One user reports that they managed to use Firefox 52 Extended Service Release (32 bit) but I haven’t managed to make that happen as yet.

There are very legitimate reasons why Internet Explorer is no longer installed or supported. The current release of SeaMonkey is built upon Firefox 49, even as Firefox 52 is more generally in use. The project is run by a small community that moves very slowly. It’s largely unknown, not widely adopted.

The collapse of browser support for NPAPI puts Grandstream in an untenable position. They need to move past the current requirement for a plug-in. They need to commit the resources to get that done, or drop the products.

Better ONVIF Support

ONVIF_pb1ONVIF is a standard protocol used in surveillance devices. It’s THE way that IP surveillance devices from different manufacturers can be assembled into a complete system. It stipulates how the devices communicate, even how a network video recorder (NVR) can configure cameras remotely.

Grandstream makes quite general claims about ONVIF support. However, they are not completely open or truthful in making those claims.

Since I was using Grandstream cameras with their own GVR-3500 NVR everything worked perfectly. It wasn’t apparent that the cameras use a proprietary protocol to connect to the NVR.

According to ONVIF Device Manager (ODM, shown above) the cameras (GXV3672_FHD_36) support ONVIF v2.2. In contrast, the NVRs do not have substantial ONVIF support!

HMDI-to-IP H264 ONVIF Encoder

Later, I purchased the smaller GVR-3552 model NVR, intent upon using it with a mix of Grandstream cameras and an HDMI-to-IP encoder (pictured right) from another manufacturer.

According to ODM, the encoder supports ONVIF v2.4. I was able to see it using tinyCam Monitor Pro on Android, Blue Iris and Sighthound surveillance software on Windows. Even so, there was no way to get the Grandstream NVR to “see” the encoder.

This was curious. I had thought that the NVR “supported ONVIF.” After all, the maker claimed as much. Further, some time ago I had tried cheaper Amcrest IP camera. While that camera was unsatisfactory, the NVR has no issue seeing its output stream.

Nonetheless, the Grandstream NVR could not be made to see the HD encoder. I infer that the NVR supports only some older ONVIF standard, as would be implemented in a simple camera.

I engaged Grandstream support to no avail. I was eventually able to confirm that ONVIF support is lacking in their NVRs. In the end I was forced to purchase a truly ONVIF compliant NVR (Dahua) to go forward with the project.

Summary

Grandstream continues to grow it’s product range, most recently offering some potentially attractive SMB Wi-Fi gear. I hope that in their effort to grow they don’t abandon those of us using their existing gear, which plainly needs some attention.

2 thoughts on “Grandstream Revisited: Time For Some Tough Love”

  1. I have the grandstream pbx at my house and figured why not get the cameras as well because they can register as extensions and I will be able to view them from my gxv phones. I goth both the outdoor and indoor set in addition to the 3552nvr. I quickly realized that I couldn’t get the cameras working on my mac because the browsers didn’t support the required plugin then like a perfect storm, my isp switched me to their cgnat platform so I no longer had a public IP address and the nvr doesn’t have a cloud option.
    The silver lining in all this is I had to put on my creative juices hat and solved most of my issues with simple solutions. For viewing all the cameras from my tablets (android and iPad) or mac, I use a third part app called “ip cam viewer”. I also solved my remote access problem as well by creating a VM on aws and configure strongswan vpn server. My home network then uses an edge router to connect via IPSec to the aws VM for a specific subnet so all my browsing traffic don’t end up being tunneled. I then use my tablet to make a “road warrior” connection to the aws vm, and access all my cameras with the same 3rd party app. If I need any historical data the nvr is also accessible however for this scenario (which I am yet to solve) I have to use a windows browser with the plugin enabled. As this use case is very rare, I can live with this for now.

    1. Yes, if you have GS phones the cameras make a lot of sense. The issue with the plugin is a more serious problem now.

      I’ve always used a VPN to view the cameras when not on my home network. My router registers with a dynamic DNS provider, so I can access the home VPN by domain name, regardless of the IP address from the ISP.

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