Thinking about cameras

OK, I think I am coming to the end of my search.  There are many more places to look butI think I hit enough to get a good representative sampling at the low end (i.e. cheap end) of VMS's. 
The short version is I think I will try Xeoma, because I think it is one of the more innovative, though it looks a bit risky.  The most solid and complete seems to be BlueIris, but for a couple reasons it came in second for me.  Zoneminder is a solid third, it will do everything I want, but just seems like I need to work too hard to get it where I want it.  Several others I passed on for various reasons.
I did a long writeup of what I found for each one if anyone is interested.  It is many pages, so I will not post it here and clutter up the forums.  If you want to read, it is here:
Comments welcomed (here - that site is not set up for comments at present).  
It is highly opinionated and built around my requirements, which may not be yours.  There is clearly not one perfect answer.
I'm going to spend the next couple weeks running wire and building a PC for it, and further experimentation.  If I find some significant new information will post.
Thank-you Linwood for providing a write up relating to you search.
Initially I did get drawn to your photography / pictures - most amazing stuff - you have an obi wan photographic eye.
I have here been using ZM for many years now always wanting the Linux solution for what ails me.
That said feel free to bug the current ZM developer.  I do.  The more folks that bug him about the application the more results you will see.
There is or was a commercial version of ZM that was created by one of the older analog capture card security companies a few years ago.
I am not sure if it is still around or available anymore.  (IE: Kodicom).
Relating to video algorithms motion detection there is no perfect product unless you want to spend a great deal of money. 
You mention wanting the use of outdoor cameras.  Today the use of video algorithms works but not really well.
I have a Grandstream NVR (still in the box) that has analog trigger inputs.
Personally here have gone with analog sensors to trigger motion recording events.  I do blend the triggers using multiple analog sensors and a bit of video stuff.  You can also purchase cameras today with analog inputs to internally record events.  Well they are little computers these days.
I am currently using one ZM box for "production" stuff and two Ubuntu 64 bit boxes for testing of ZM stuff (well they are just lamp servers).  One is a small footprint fast AMD based box and the other is a fast Intel based box.
You blog  / search article convinced me to try the Xeoma software on one test box here running Ubuntu 14.04
Thank you Pete, especially for the kind words on my photo hobby.  I am feeling a bit guilty as the heat has kept me indoors lately, so I skipped a soccer game today, probably the last of the spring season.  I will get back to Baseball I guess - at least it is in the evening.
I very much am interested in your reactions to Xeoma.  Do give it a few hours, it is just very different, especially the ill documented install and setup.
Hint: download linux beta, unpack it, and run with -install -hiddenmode which installs just the server.  Note the password it prints at the last moment.  On the client side run with -client to run just the client portion.   In particular I would love to know if you have time zone problems (assuming you are in a DST area).  There is a setting under Remote Users, Administrator for time zone that impacts the server, and for me it seems to work right on windows, but wrong on unix.  Yes, you would expect it to just use the local time zone (which in some form it does), but I either get the time it shows wrong (e.g. in marking the image) or the time on the archive wrong.  The have been very responsive but unhelpful, I am not sure how familiar they are with the concept of DST.
drvnbysound said:
What limitations are you referring to? Are they related only to W8 and newer?
I am running W7 Pro on my BI machine, have no monitor plugged in, and have no RDP issues; I get full 1080p (native monitor resolution) via RDP.
drvnbysound, I either imagined this or it was older versions.  I just set up my wife's 8.1 PC and rebooted it without a monitor plugged in (just a cable because I didn't want to pull everything out).   I could RDP to it with a variety of screen sizes. 
So I think that may be moot.
Just a quick update.  Five cameras are up, working on illumination for the one on the dock.  I need at least one more to cover another side where the AC equipment and power comes into the house, and also might put a 7th to cover one corner where the pool heat pump is (a recurring problem down here is theft of AC gear for their metal value, though it has dropped off with changes in legit recyclers rules; for a while there was a thriving business in security cages for them on snowbird homes). 
I found some of my analysis of the various software was incorrect as I dug deeper, am still torn between Xeoma and Zoneminder, or maybe BlueIris but stopped testing when the trial ran out (and I really don't want windows if I can avoid it).   One big issue was that I was using task manager in Windows to measure CPU load even when running in a linux VM, and discovered that is the ONLY task manager parameter that is wrong -- it purposely screens off the guest VM's, you have to measure them a different way.  So need to go look more carefully at CPU load issues.   But I have some linux hardware set up now so about to move testing to that.
My main issue is that Xeoma works better than ZoneMinder in general - fewer bugs and quirks.  But it is not configurable, it is just "trust the product".   Zoneminder I can actually program.   That's an attractive lure.   I think I'm going to take a run at a version of its "timeline" that shows all cameras and uses more modern HTML so it might be more portable. 
In the meantime, re-hydrating to run another wire in the attic -- this one all the way across the house at the widest point, so it will not be fun.
Good news Linwood!
Over the years here have noticed that everything exposed to the nearby salt water deteriorates. (since the 1970's).  Plastic works better.
I did install a weather station there about 5-6 years ago that is mostly plastic and is still OK?  I was at the time going to install a camera but instead replaced all of the lower level outdoor lighting.  (upper level is all plastic and is doing well)
The cameras that the neighbor installed are in IPXX housings and they look OK from across the canal.  I have never seen the lenses cleaned on the cameras.
Last hurricane evacuation neighbor (bored a bit) just mostly sat in his back yard (facing the bay) with a shotgun.  It was a bit sad that it (tiny 50 home subdivision) came to that point and the local authorities just didn't have the resources (boats) to keep checking. 
it is just "trust the product"
This is sort of similiar to that EU arm based automation modular product that is being sold here and there.
Still playing on dedicated box built just for the application. 
It took way to long to discover my cams (network is only Axis, Grandstream and Panasonic cams).
When I tried to interrupt the flow the program seemed to freeze up a bit.
I have not had much free time lately such that I have done little with it yet.
I do use VMs for testing stuff.  That said relating to video stuff never have unless I was testing one stream.  My MythTV box and ZM boxes have always been on separate hardware.
The migration from SD to HD video stuff now eats much more CPU/Memory.  Personally doing commercial security stuff and evals a few years back looked at Linux / Wintel NVR boxes.  I only went to / suggested using Wintel because the IT resources didn't have a clue about linux.  That said the Wintel software (provided by Lenel) was pure garbage; but that was my personal opinion.  I do not think that Blue Iris was around then though.
Just a brief update.  I have now spent a month or so completing the hardware.  I have 7 cameras up and running, covering most areas of interest outside.  I might want one more eventually, but pretty much "done", wires run, all nicely terminated on a switch in one closet.
The software is still more interesting.  I have spent a lot of time on ZoneMinder.  There is one aspect that is very appealing to it --if you don't like something, just change it.  For example, while it allows export of images or videos for offsite storage, it is slow -- it runs in a loop and grabs them in batches.  Minutes lat if not longer.  I wanted something more real time, so just call up the Event object and add a real time extract.  Very cool.  Then just add a shell script to keep them uploaded quickly to Amazon Cloud Drive.
This is a bit like a drug -- look around, find something else you want to tweak -- tweak it... instant gratification.  No waiting for the next vendor release to hope they include something.  Like a drug you then need your next fix and keep doing it.  Soon you realize weeks have gone by!
The bad part about ZoneMinder is that it is old, and a LOT of baggage is carried around in there.  The Timeline display, for example, was built in about 2008, and used the HTML available then.  It was probably very cool then, but now is pretty bad, and will not work on many browsers.  So I redid one that shows all monitors using HTML5, but have not despite lots of effort managed to fit it in properly with all the various ways the old one can be called -- lack of documentation and what i think is dead (unreachable) code.  The other views are buried in old workarounds for IE and CHrome, java (not javascript) objects to fill gaps in browser features long since actually filled with browser support.  It could use a good house cleaning, but I think there is a pretty conservative group managing it who do not want to obsolete old "features" -- plus no one likes working hard to remove features, they like adding new ones.
But I am still working on ZoneMInder.
One other comment -- I found that the camera software in HikVision is decent, but seriously lacking in some ways.  The good news is you can "drive" it from a host.  For example, you can schedule a switchover from one set of exposures to another (say day and night), but only at a fixed time.  You cannot do it relative to sunrise or sunset (despite having ntp sync of time in the cameras and lots of other features). But learning perl and writing a script to schedule changeovers relative to the sun was a pleasant two days of more programming.