Category Archives: Gadgets

Dashcam Hacking

I’ve been playing around with my Blackvue dashcam a bit recently. Partly for fun and partly to figure out if I can copy videos from it to my iPhone’s camera roll. Having Googled about a bit, I found an unusually helpful Amazon review, where someone talked about FTP-ing onto the camera and copying off the videos.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R5EAUUH05X1FZ/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R5EAUUH05X1FZ

I liked the idea of this, so I gave it a go. Unfortunately, the Amazon post was about a DR500 and it seems Blackvue have changed a few things on the DR650 that I have, so my attempts didn’t work. I’ll explain a bit about what I did though, so anyone else that’s going down the same road can hopefully save some time.

According to the Amazon review, the Blackvue has a default IP address of 192.168.8.1. I confirmed this by scanning the network for devices. Sure enough, 192.168.8.1 was the only IP address on the network. A quick ping test showed a response from that address too, so a good start!

I tried putting the camera’s IP address into my web browser whilst connected to the camera’s WiFi & I got the following page:

Blackvue_web_root

Not especially useful, it’s just a blank page with “Blackvue” written on it, but it does confirm two things; I’ve got the right IP address for the camera and it’s running a web service. I tried a few variations on the URL, such as http://192.168.8.1/Blackvue, but none of them bore any fruit. Something I’d read on a forum indicated that there was a live stream available at http://192.168.8.1/blackvue_live.cgi, so I tried this. Sure enough, I got a live stream up on my screen:

Blackvue_web_live

I tried a few guesses at what the URL might be for the live stream of the rear camera, but I couldn’t figure it out. I then tried running a web crawler against the web site to see what pages were available, but nothing was returned. I guess this means that all the available pages are cgi scripts. Without being able to access the filesystem of the camera’s web root, I wouldn’t know what cgi scripts are availble, so I tried ssh-ing to the device. No joy.

Next, I tried a port scan on it, so see what my options were for getting into it. The following was returned:

Blackvue_scan

Looks like it’s a bit more tied down than the older DR500. There’s no telnet or FTP open, just DNS (port 53), which won’t be much use to me, and http (port 80), which I’d already found. It’d be great if I could somehow start an ssh server on there, but without getting into it in the first place, I can’t do that.

At this point, I’m bit stuck for a way to access the device. I need to start ssh, or ftp, or some sort of service that I can use to pull the files off the device. I downloaded the firmware for the camera from Pittasoft’s website. I thought if I could inspect the code, I could maybe modify it to give me a way in. Unfortunately, the firmware ships as a single binary file. I tried inspecting this, but I haven’t had much joy yet.

So, stuck again, I got to thinking how the Blackvue app copies files from the camera to the app. If the only service available for it to do this is http, then the files must either be available for download via http, or the app must run some sort of cgi script that starts an ssh/ftp server and copies the files over, then stops the server. My next trick will be to open the app and download a video clip, then do another port scan to see if something has been opened up during the transfer.

What would be really useful would be to get a look at the web root of a DR500, as I suspect most of the cgi scripts etc would be the same or similar to the DR650. I might be able to work out a way in if I could see what the scripts are doing. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a DR500 to do this, so if you do and you’ve tried anything like this, I’d be interested to hear your comments.

UPDATE 17/10/2014:
I had a bit more of a play with the Blackvue today. I tried copying a video from the camera to my iPhone and running a port scan on the camera whilst doing so to see if the transfer had opened up FTP, or SSH or something. Nothing. This means that the videos must be transferred via HTTP download, which limits my options for getting into the camera. What I really want to do is start an SSH or telnet session on there, so I can do whatever I want, however with only port 80 available to me, that may be difficult.

You may have heard of a bug called ShellShock that’s been in the headlines recently. ShellShock is a bug in the way the bash shell handles environment variables and it’s possible to exploit it via cgi scripts on a vulnerable server. The DR650 uses a cgi script to serve the live feed. Thinking that it may well initiate bash in some way, I thought I’d try and exploit ShellShock on the DR650 to break into it and start an SSH shell.

I tried the following to try and start an ssh server on the camera:

wget -U “() { test;};echo \”Content-type: text/plain\”; echo; echo; /sbin/service sshd start” http://192.168.8.1/blackvue_live.cgi

What I’m trying to do here is set the Content-Type variable and add a bit of code on the end to try to exploit ShellShock and get bash to execute a command to start an SSH server. This didn’t work. There’s lots of reasons why that might be the case – the device might not be running a vulnerable version of bash (unlikely), the cgi script might not call bash, the command I’m trying to run might not be valid, the script might not use Content-Type, or a myriad of other reasons. I tried a few different permutations of this hack, before deciding to quit & try another approach.

From a bit of research, I believe that the DR650 uses a Texas Instruments chipset, running a DaVinci platform. A bit of digging shows that this platform is based on a Linux distribution called MontaVista. I’ll do a bit more research into that platform and see if I can refine my methods for getting into it.

In the meantime, I began looking through the firmware image I downloaded, having discovered it was gzipped and unzipped it. I’ve found a few useful bits of data. There seem to be very few files hosted by the camera’s web service. They are:

System/www/blackvue_live.cgi
System/www/blackvue_vod.cgi
System/www/upload.cgi
System/www/index.html

I already found the index.html and the blackvue_live.cgi, but I didn’t know about the other two. The upload.cgi file seems to be used to upload new config & firmware to the camera and blackvue_vod.cgi returns a list of video files stored on the camera. Could be useful!

upload.cgi
upload

blackvue_vod.cgi
blackvue_vod

The blackvue_vod.cgi file looked very interesting. I said earlier that the video files must be downloaded via HTTP, but I didn’t know their location. The output of blackvue_vod.cgi indicates that the files are in the web server’s docroot, under a /Record folder. The script also returns the full path & filename of every file available. I immediately tried a wget of one of the files and sure enough, it was downloaded onto my laptop 🙂

[~]$ wget http://192.168.8.1/Record/20141017_163635_NF.mp4
–2014-10-17 16:38:17– http://192.168.8.1/Record/20141017_163635_NF.mp4
Connecting to 192.168.8.1:80… connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 200 OK
Length: 64500078 (62M) [text/plain]
Saving to: ‘20141017_163635_NF.mp4’

100%[======================================================================>] 64,500,078 1.05MB/s in 60s

2014-10-17 16:39:16 (1.03 MB/s) – ‘20141017_163635_NF.mp4’ saved [64500078/64500078]

[~]$

Excellent! My original intention was to download the videos onto my iPhone’s camera roll so that I could then transfer them onto my laptop, but with this, I can hook my laptop up to the camera’s WiFi and download the videos straight to it. So, time to automate it a bit. I can get a list of files with a simple curl command:

[~]$ curl http://192.168.8.1/blackvue_vod.cgi
v:1.00
n:/Record/20141014_202528_NF.mp4,s:1000000
n:/Record/20141014_202528_NR.mp4,s:1000000
n:/Record/20141014_202629_NF.mp4,s:1000000
n:/Record/20141014_202629_NR.mp4,s:1000000
…..

This is then easily tidied up a bit with some simple sed to give me just the path and filenames:

[~]$ curl http://192.168.8.1/blackvue_vod.cgi | sed ‘s/^n://’ | sed ‘s/,s:1000000//’ | tail
% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current
Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed
100 16508 0 16508 0 0 283k 0 –:–:– –:–:– –:–:– 424k
/Record/20141017_163635_NF.mp4
/Record/20141017_163635_NR.mp4
/Record/20141017_163736_NF.mp4
/Record/20141017_163736_NR.mp4
/Record/20141017_163837_NF.mp4
/Record/20141017_163837_NR.mp4
/Record/20141017_163937_NF.mp4
/Record/20141017_163937_NR.mp4
/Record/20141017_164052_PF.mp4
/Record/20141017_164052_PR.mp4
[~]$

This returns the paths of the most recent 10 videos. I can then use a simple for loop to pipe this into wget to download the videos:

[~]$ for file in `curl http://192.168.8.1/blackvue_vod.cgi | sed ‘s/^n://’ | sed ‘s/,s:1000000//’ | tail`
> do
> wget http://192.168.8.1$file
> done
% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current
Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed
100 16332 0 16332 0 0 170k 0 –:–:– –:–:– –:–:– 201k
–2014-10-17 16:44:57– http://192.168.8.1/Record/20141017_163837_NF.mp4
Connecting to 192.168.8.1:80… connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 200 OK
Length: 63807644 (61M) [text/plain]
Saving to: ‘20141017_163837_NF.mp4’

100%[======================================================================>] 63,807,644 2.32MB/s in 55s

2014-10-17 16:45:52 (1.11 MB/s) – ‘20141017_163837_NF.mp4’ saved [63807644/63807644]

–2014-10-17 16:45:52– http://192.168.8.1/Record/20141017_163837_NR.mp4
Connecting to 192.168.8.1:80… connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response… 200 OK
Length: 23644147 (23M) [text/plain]
Saving to: ‘20141017_163837_NR.mp4’

100%[======================================================================>] 23,644,147 1018KB/s in 20s

2014-10-17 16:46:12 (1.16 MB/s) – ‘20141017_163837_NR.mp4’ saved [23644147/23644147]
……

It takes around a minute to download a video from the front camera and around 20-30 seconds for the rear camera. I probably don’t want to be downloading the entire contents of the memory card each time, but I can easily tell it to just download the videos from today:

[~]$ export BVDATE=`date +%Y%m%d`
[~]$ echo $BVDATE
20141017
[~]$ for file in `curl http://192.168.8.1/blackvue_vod.cgi | sed ‘s/^n://’ | sed ‘s/,s:1000000//’ | grep $BVDATE`
> do
> wget http://192.168.8.1$file
> done

All I need to do now is put this in a script, then I can download today’s videos by simply connecting my laptop to the camera’s WiFi and running the script.

I’m still interested in hacking the camera and getting a shell on there to play around a bit more, so I’ll continue to try to find a way in.

UPDATE (09/02/2015):

A recent update to the BlackVue app on the iPhone has enabled another option for exporting video – “COPY TO ALBUM” (no need to shout!). This copies the file to the camera roll:

iPhone 6 024

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Filed under Cars, Gadgets

Blackvue DR650GW-2CH Dash-Cam

A while ago, I started using a dashcam app on my iPhone called CarCorder. I used this for a while and whilst it did the job well enough, it was a bit of a pest having to put my phone in the windscreen mount every time I got in the car. Also, the app drained my phone’s battery pretty quickly if it wasn’t plugged in to power. As a consequence, I got out of the habit of using it.

I recently decided to splash out & buy a proper dashcam, so I drew up a list of “must have” requirements that went something like this:

  • Good quality video, day and night, ideally HD
  • Large capacity to store the footage
  • Small & unobtrusive design
  • Able to be left in the car and automatically record every journey without user intervention
  • Built in GPS

I also had some “wants” that I didn’t consider quite so important, but would really like to have:

  • A rear camera as well as front
  • Wifi, to be able to get the footage off the device without removing the SD card
  • Parking mode

I spent a while looking around at the various dashcams on the market and found a market flooded with cheap, but crappy devices. After digging a bit further, I managed to find a few devices from more reputable manufacturers that looked of acceptable quality, however most of them were of an absurd size. A lot of the devices I looked at had screens on the back of them. Personally, I can’t understand this. Why do I need to see on a screen what I can already see out of my window? This type of device would be no good, as I wanted something as small as possible that could sit discreetly in the car permanently. I did find a few cameras that seemed small & unobtrusive and were reviewed well and I decided that a Blackvue DR550DW-2CH met my requirements the best.

I deliberated over buying the DR550 for a while, whilst I read some reviews to see if it was as good as it seemed. During this time, Blackvue launched an updated version, the DR650GW-2CH. This was much the same as the 550, but with a couple of things that I appreciated; an all-black finish (without the silver ring of the 550) and compatability with 64GB micro SD cards (as opposed to 32GB on the 550).

Note that the “GW” in DR650GW-2CH means it has GPS and WiFi and the “2CH” means it’s two channel, so it has a rear camera.

The DR650GW-2CH seemed to meet all my requirements, so I took the plunge and bought one. I bought mine from here:

http://www.blackvue.eu/Blackvue_DR650GW.php

I paid £329 for the camera, with a free Smart Power kit. Of course, the day after mine arrived, they dropped the price to £310. Sigh.

The camera arrived last week and I took a few pics of the box:

On the left is a soft pouch, then the SmartPower kit and the Blackvue box on the right.
Blackvue_box_ext

The front camera (top) and rear camera (bottom).
Blackvue_box_int

The other bits that come in the box; cables, a micro-SD card reader and some cable tidy sticky pads.
Blackvue_box_bits

I installed my kit last week and found the installation really easy. They say they recommend having the device fitted by a professional, but I really wouldn’t bother if you’re at all handy with this sort of thing. It took me around half an hour to install and I wasn’t in any real hurry. Firstly, I fitted the front camera in a spot behind my rear view mirror. I have a bunch of sensors for lights & windscreen wipers behind my mirror, so I had to put mine slightly to the side. I then connected the power lead and ran it around the windscreen, under the passenger dash and along the transmission tunnel to a cigar lighter socket in my center console. The kit comes with little sticky pads to help you clip your cable to your windscreen, but I didn’t use any of these. Instead, I just tucked the cable in gaps in the trim as it gives a neater install, with the cables all completely invisible. Also, I have a heated windscreen and I wasn’t sure how well the glue on the sticky pads would cope with that.

The camera installed behind my rear-view mirror
Blackvue_front_closeBlackvue_front_screen

After fitting the power cable, the main device was ready to go! I still had to fit the rear camera though, so I ran the single cable from the front camera to the back of the car and installed the rear camera at the top of the rear window. I was a bit worried the cable wasn’t going to be long enough to reach to the rear camera whilst taking a slightly indirect route in order to hide the cable well. As it turned out, there was about 6″ spare cable in the end. Depending on the size of your car, this may or may not be an issue. My car is a Jaguar XF, so anything much bigger than that and you’ll probably struggle, but you should be ok with something around the same size, or smaller.

The rear camera
Blackvue_rear_closeBlackvue_rear_screen

I’ve read reports of the older DR550GW’s rear camera cable interfering with DAB radio antennas. My car has a DAB radio antenna in the rear window and the camera’s cable runs pretty close to it. I’ve had no issues with either my DAB radio, or the rear camera since installing it, so I guess the issue doesn’t apply to the DR650GW-2CH.

I have my power connector plugged into a cigar lighter socket, which means that the camera starts automatically when I unlock the car and turns off automatically when I lock it. My kit came with a Smart Power adapter, which looks like it’s designed to connect directly to the car’s battery. This has a little black box that controls the power to its own cigar lighter socket which you then plug your camera into. The idea is that the camera then has permanent power, meaning parking mode can be used. The black box is supposed to monitor the battery’s power level and cut power to the camera when it goes below a certain voltage, in order to prevent your camera from draining your car’s battery. I haven’t installed this yet, but I intend to, as soon as I’ve figured out my car’s fuseboxes well enough to find a suitable spare fuse to attach the device to.

Once my camera was set up in the car, I enabled WiFi, by simply pressing the WiFi button on the side of the camera. The camera responds with a voice confirmation of “WiFi enabled”. Nice. I then connected my iPhone to the WiFi network provided by the camera and opened the BlackVue app. I could then select the WiFi connection and view a live feed from the camera in order to position the cameras optimally. I had a look through the settings via the app and decided that I didn’t want most of the voice confirmation messages that you get when the camera powers on, off, records an event etc, but I still wanted voice confirmations when I turned WiFi on/off or enabled/disabled sound recording.

After going for a short test drive, I connected to the camera via the app again and downloaded the footage from the front and rear cameras to my phone. I could then view the videos from within the app, including a map overlay showing the car’s position, as well as a small bar at the bottom showing the car’s speed.

Video playback in the iPhone app
Blackvue_playback_front

I later on tried to copy the video from my phone onto my PC, but found that I couldn’t. When you save a video to “Internal Storage” in the Blackvue app, it doesn’t put it in your camera roll on iOS (not sure about on Android). Instead, it seems to keep the video within the app, meaning you can’t easily copy it off your phone. The options in the app let you upload it to YouTube, but that’s about the only way of getting video out of the app as far as I can tell. This seems like a bit of an oversight and hopefully a future software update will bring a way to get the footage off my phone. In the meantime, I’ve got a few ideas of how to get the videos into my phone’s camera roll and I’ll post an update if I have any luck. In the meantime, I can get the video onto my PC by simply removing the micro SD card from the camera and putting it into my PC. This is no worse than most of the other cameras on the market, so I’ve not lost a great deal here.

Options available for exporting videos within the Blackvue app
Blackvue_app_export

First impressions of the DR650GW-2CH are good. I’ll update this post as & when I play with it and discover more features.

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Mu Folding Plug

I travel a lot. I’m also a bit of a geek. This means that when I travel, my bag is usually full of an array of chargers for my various devices that I couldn’t possibly live without. I find UK mains plugs terribly cumbersome and a really awkward shape for travelling. Their pins stick out and get in the way, threatening to pierce my iPad’s screen, or something equally heinous.

Back in 2009, I came across a design concept that seemed like a stroke of genius – a folding three-pin plug that folds flat, leaving no pins sticking out. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one that thought this was genius and some time later, they found funding to produce it and launched it as a real product called the Mu plug.

The website (www.themu.co.uk) has a nice animated graphic showing how it works, but when folded away, it looks like this:

iPhone5 390

It has a single USB port, which is perfect for charging most of my devices. One point to note though is that it only provides a one amp feed, so although it will charge an iPad, it won’t do it very quickly (the Apple charger for the iPad provides 2.1 amps).

iPhone5 391

When folded away, the pins are covered and it’s basically a small, white plastic square. This makes a perfect travel companion, as there are no pins sticking out to poke holes in anything, it’s very light weight and I can simply change the USB cable between Apple 30-pin, lightning, mini-USB, or whatever else I need to charge my iPad, iPhone, camera etc.

Here are a few pics of the Mu when unfolded:

iPhone5 392

iPhone5 393

iPhone5 394

I love my Mu and use it frequently, though it’s not perfect. It’s a UK plug, so only useful when travelling in the UK. This is fine, as when I’m abroad most countries use a two-pin type plug, which is much more travel friendly to begin with than a 3-pin UK plug. Also, the Mu is expensive, at £25 and there’s the issue with the low current meaning if you want to charge larger devices, like an iPad, you may want to take another higher-powered charger. Personally, I just use the Mu and leave it on charge over night.

Summary:

One of those designs that you can’t believe no-one thought of decades ago and an invaluable travel companion, though not without fault. Low current means charging power-hungry devices can be time consuming and they’re not cheap, at £25.

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Eastern Collective USB to Lightning Cable

For a while now, I’ve been in need of an additional USB to lightning cable for my iPhone 5. I’ve got tons of the old 30-pin style cables at home, but only one of the lightning connector cables that came with my phone. I’ve been putting off buying one for a while, as the Apple ones seem expensive and with the authentication chip in the lightning connector, alternatives are limited. A couple of weeks ago, I happened across the Eastern Collective cables on coolhunting.com. I liked the individuality of their cables and although they’re expensive, they’re not much different to a standard Apple cable, cost-wise. I ordered one from easterncollective.com and it turned up the other day:

iPhone5 379

The company is based in the States and I couldn’t find a UK distributor. The Eastern Collective web shop will ship to the UK and with the current GBP/USD exchange rate, it wasn’t criminally expensive, so I took the plunge. The cable arrived within a week or so, which wasn’t bad considering it had come half-way across the world. Eastern Collective also do a range of other cables, including Apple 30-pin and mini USB in all sorts of patterns & colours. I chose a blue & yellow one:

iPhone5 388

The USB end of the cable has a nice Eastern Collective logo on it:

iPhone5 395

The lightning connector end is as you’d expect:

iPhone5 396

The quality of the cable and the connectors appears very good and the pattern looks ace, with vivid, bright colours. It’ll certainly stand out at home amongst the nest of white 30-pin cables and make it easier for me to pick the right cable for my iPhone 5.

UPDATE:

My Eastern Collective Lightning cable stopped working recently 😦 Since I upgraded to iOS v7, I’ve been getting warnings on my phone’s screen when I connect the cable saying that it’s not a certified cable. I was able to dismiss the warning and everything would work just fine. I recently updated to iOS v7.0.4 and it appears that Apple have updated the behavior of non-certified cables. Now, a non-certified cable won’t even charge the phone, making them redundant. My Eastern Collective cable sadly was not Made for iPhone (MFI) certified and so stopped working.

I looked into this and Eastern Collective said that their cables are now MFI certified, so I took the plunge and ordered another one. Sure enough, it works flawlessly with my iPhone 5 on iOS v7.0.4, with no errors or warnings. Happy days! The newer cables look slightly different to my old one pictured above – the white plastic housing around the lightning connector is a bit chunkier and the USB end no longer has the funky pattern, but is just plain white. The cable bit looks exactly the same as the old one however.

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Carcorder

I bought a copy of Carcorder last week, having looked at a few options. I’ve been using it for a few days now, so here’s my first impressions…

Firstly, I found it a bit unintuitive to use. This isn’t helped by the complete lack of any documentation or help. The app doesn’t appear to have a website and there isn’t even much that comes up on forums etc. Also, there is no help within the app itself. The app itself is reasonably simple, but at first, it didn’t appear to work the way I thought it did. This turned out to be a problem with the settings for my specific setup.

On my first test, I set up my phone on my windscreen and pressed the record button. So far so good, the record button and the info bar at the top of the screen turned red, indicating that it was indeed recording. All was well, until after a few minutes I noticed the info bar had turned black again and it seemed to have stopped recording. I pressed the record button again and it started recording, but again, after a few minutes stopped. I looked in the settings when I got home and found a setting for “Video Recording Time” which was set to 3 minutes and thought that must be it. I was a bit annoyed at this point because I thought it was supposed to record continuously and I didn’t want to have to keep telling it to record again every 3 minutes:

iPhone5 401

I went for another test drive with the video time set to 10 minutes, but had the same problem as before – after a few minutes, the recording stopped. When I got home, I again went through the settings, trying to understand how it works. The way it actually works is as follows:

  • You set the amount of space you want to allow the app to use to record. I set mine to 4GB initially.
  • You set the Video Recording Time to the length of time you want each recording segment to be
  • The app will then record continuously, creating files 3 minutes (or whatever you set it to) long, then starting another file until you stop the recording. If your allocated space (4GB in this case) fills up, it starts overwriting clips starting with the oldest first.

I found another setting for “Shake detection handling”:

iPhone5 402

This seems to be a setting where you can tell it to stop recording if it detects a shake, from which it determines you’ve been in an accident. You can also get it to automatically call an emergency number in such a case. My car (a Honda S2000) is fairly stiffly sprung and I wondered if the app was thinking I’d been in an accident every time I went over a bump. I set the shake detection handling to “Continuous recording” and went for another drive. Sure enough, it recorded continuously the whole time, without stopping once. Problem solved!

You can view the recorded videos in the clips list and from there, you can choose to export a video to your camera roll. It takes 30 seconds or so to convert the video and you can choose whether or not to overlay speed/location data. Annoyingly, if you do overlay the data, it will show your speed in km/h, even if you’ve set your speed units to mph. For my tests, I’ve been using a 640×480 resolution and 3 minute clips. With these settings, each clip exports with speed/location data at around 110MB. I’ve got my app configured to use 4GB of space, so I should get around 30 minutes of video with those settings before it starts overwriting, assuming the video isn’t compressed as it exports to the camera roll. Over the coming days, I’ll play with higher resolutions and giving it more space to play with.

Carcorder also has a map/navigation feature, where you can have a little picture-in-picture window in the corner with a map, or vice-versa, with the map full screen and the video in the corner, or just full screen video or map. It’ll do navigation too, either via Apple maps, or Google maps. I’ve not played with those features yet, but it’s nice to know they’re there. I’d like to use my phone for navigation, but Apple won’t allow video recording from an app when it’s in the background (for obvious enough reasons). This means that if I had Google maps open for navigation, I wouldn’t be able to use Carcorder in the background. By incorporating navigation into the app, Carcorder gets around this quite nicely.

Also, when playing back video, you have the option of a little map in the corner, showing the location of where the video was recorded:

iPhone5 403

iPhone5 404

If you’re a user of Carcorder, or another dashcam app, I’d be interested to hear what you think in the comments.

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RAM Mount

I mount my iPhone 5 on my car’s windscreen with a RAM Mount windscreen suction mount, paired with the iPhone 5 cradle. I’ve been using it for a few days now, so thought I’d write a post with my views on it.

The RAM Mount comes in two parts; the windscreen suction mount and a separate iPhone 5 cradle that then bolts on to the suction mount. This approach makes the RAM Mount pretty flexible and means that when I next change my phone, I can just buy a new cradle and re-use the suction mount, saving a bit of money. You can buy all sorts of different cradles (and for that matter, all manner of different mounting apparatus) from RAM Mount. RAM Mount are a US firm, but you can order from their RAM Mount UK website, as well as a number of re-sellers.

Here’s a few pics of my mount:Image

Image

Image

You can see in the above pics the suction cup that mounts to the windscreen, with a screw mechanism used to tighten it. I’ve used many windscreen suction mounts for sat-navs etc in the past and they’ve been almost universally hopeless. This one is different, it’s yet to come unstuck and feels rock solid when attached. Two thumbs up from me!

Between the suction mount and the iPhone 5 cradle are two knuckle joints, which can be adjusted to set the angle of your phone. The thumbscrew in the middle is then used to tighten the joints so that they stay where you’ve set them. This works really well and the mount feels ever so solid when set up. My only gripe is that it’s not as flexible as I’d hoped and the range of positions that you can set is quite limited. For example, I can’t get it set up on my windscreen so that my iPhone’s camera doesn’t have the suction cup in its view without also having the phone’s screen tilted too far towards, or away from me. I’m sure there’s a more flexible version available, possibly with an additional knuckle, but it’s a minor gripe that I can live with for the moment.

Summary

An impressively sturdy mount, expensive, but I suspect less so over time, as parts of it can be re-used for several devices. The only real downside being the slight lack of flexibility when positioning.

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Filed under Cars, Gadgets

Dash Cam

Since being involved in a crash where the woman responsible tried to wriggle out of the blame, I’ve been keen on the idea of a dash cam. Having looked into available hardware, I was surprised how few devices there are on the market, the lack of any major brands and the poor quality of those available. After pondering options for a while, I came to the conclusion that my phone contains everything required to make a reasonably good dash cam, so I started looking for apps. The following struck me as the best looking apps available for the iPhone:

Having looked at the features and interfaces of the above, I decided to give Carcorder a go. I’ll update as I get to play with it.

To go with the app, I’ve bought a RAM Mount to attach my iPhone 5 to my car’s windscreen via a suction cup. This ought to be good kit given reviews I read before purchasing, but again, I’ll update with my experiences.

UPDATE: I’ve written a separate blog post on my RAM Mount

UPDATE: I’ve also written a post about Carcorder

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