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:

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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:

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

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The lightning connector end is as you’d expect:

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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:

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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”:

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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:

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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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Filed under Cars, Gadgets

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

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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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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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