Posts Tagged ‘App Store’

I have never really liked the idea of a dash board camera as slowly we are letting everything we do be subject to a lens. Already we are recorded when we walk down the street and some of us even in our own homes, but now we are even letting the humble lens into our cars.

But as I found out, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

We were lucky enough to get sent the MiVue 658 WiFI to test in a real world environment and I have to say we were pleasantly surprised.

Before I even talk about the camera itself, I have to admit having the camera there made me think a number of things. Firstly, if these take off, which we can already see they are, I can see these becoming mandatory or a requirement from your insurance company.

Think of it….you ring up or go online to get your next quote and they will either supply it to you or give you money off your quote if you say that you will be using one.

Forgetting the obvious fact that this will pick up any accidents that may occur and later I could use as evidence against somebody else, this device really made me drive differently as suddenly I realised that if a crash was to occur my actions for the first time were actually going to be subject to investigation via the footage.

So its a good thing that we start with the fact that this dashboard camera comes with speed camera locations inbuilt and will warn you of any cameras that you are approaching. This comes as standard in the box and with free monthly updates for the life of the device which is very cool.Unboxed

So let’s take a look at the device in a little more details;

658 wifi

Design:

This is a very neat little camera and pretty unobtrusive on your windscreen. I think this is best placed near your rear-view mirror as most of us are used to having something there, so to have a small device like this below would not distract you and is probably best placed for filming.

I really like the design, but I have to admit the suction cup mount is a little annoying. The actual USB charging cable is threaded into the mount itself so you have to pull the camera away from the dock which normally ends in you pulling the whole dock away from the windscreen. I would have much preferred a Sat Nav style dock.

mivue 658 back

The other annoying thing is the extra long charging cable supplied which comes with a car style 12v adaptor fixed on one end and a mini USB on the other. The 12v cigarette style adapter is far bigger than most of the supplied adapters which come with Sat Navs today and I really cannot see why it has to be so big. I think a USB on the other side so that you can use the cable in your own multi USB adapter would have been better as the majority of car owners will want smartphones and sat navs being powered at the same time and will want to use this when they get home to charge or take data from outside of the car.

Key Features:

This dashboard camera is jam-packed full of tech. This is the real top end with GPS, camera locations and WIFI included. With all of this said, when you turn the device on, you get a real pointless “Welcome” spoken out loud….not sure why, but they have….let’s move on.

Let me start with the speed camera locations, this is superb, a nice notification to let you know at just the right distance that you are coming up to a camera and it even shows you the distance counting down. The only thing that was a little weird was when in a 30mph zone, the traffic sign is shown on screen, but for some reason it shows a speed sign with 29 in it (which as a sign doesn’t exist in the UK). Very odd, but I am sure it is easily rectifiable with a firmware upgrade.

WIFI connectivity is a very cool feature. I do like the ability to have the phone connected and instantly be able to download the footage just recorded to your phone. If you have your smartphone connected via WIFI all the time, then by clicking the orange button on the right of the dashcam screen it will instantly backup the footage to the MiVue App. Even though you are connected via WIFI, your phone is still able to receive data over 3/4G allowing you to use the phone normally.

With the help of the inbuilt accelerometer, if you have a collision the device automatically creates a 20 second video clip and transmits it to your phone’s MiVue app for safe storage and if you feel like uploading to social media the app makes it very easy. Oh dear!

The device accepts a micro SD up to 128gb which helps when you are filming in such a high quality and using things like Parking Mode, which are triggered with movement and can be used in the car while you are not present. You can also use the dashcam in Photo Mode which allows you to remove the device from its dock and use it to take photos of any damage that may have occurred in an accident. The good thing is here is that GPS coordinates are also stamped onto the photo for further evidence of the accident.

I think lastly we have to look at video quality as if this is bad then the device might as well go in the trash. Overall I am extremely pleased with the quality and would happily use this in my own car. Registration plates can be a little hard to see with motion, but with a few well timed pauses on the footage I was able to pin point the exact registration.

Here is some video footage from the device;

Video During the day

Video in Dark Conditions

Key features:

All in all I think the quality is fine and like the fact that the speed and GPS coordinates are stamped onto the footage so that you do not have to dig around in the software looking for them. Of course it could be sharper as motion blur does at the first instance make it harder to look at finer details, but once downloaded to your phone or PC you can easily find out what you need as the internal stabilisation has done its job.

Along with having great quality video footage this device is more importantly easy to use. I couldn’t see many people having to dig out the manual and that is important in something that is going to be used in this manner.

You can buy these now at £159.99 on the internet and we think this is well worth a try especially if you drive for a living.

TheTechSpy Rating 8/10

It is amazing the things you can do on a tablet nowadays. The games you can play and the uses are endless. From talking to your friend half way across the world for free to editing a hi-res photo with professional detail while on the sofa listening to music. It makes me think of what did we actually do when we were younger? How did we survive? How did our parents keep us entertained?!

As a parent myself, it worries me that my child uses the iPad far too much and sometimes we all rely on it far too often. I have even seen my son walk up to a digital photo frame and swipe to the right to see the next picture, but left feeling slightly confused as it doesn’t work.

The question is, are children nowadays too reliant on modern technology and is the imagination that I think we had, going to be lost to a processor? This question can only be answered as time goes by and we see what happens to the next generation.

All is not lost though…A company called Tangible Play (made up of old Google staff) have released Osmo, a new crowd funded app for kids that encourages ‘real world’ play. It allows the user to pick up things and build using their hands, thanks to a mirror attachment which turns the iPad’s camera to view the surface where your child is playing.

Recently I have looked around the App Store and failed to find anything that is different or breaks boundaries, but this app is very different and we should stand up and take notice.

All of the games to be used with this kit are optimised for ages 6-12 but each game has a varying range of difficulty. Take Newton, it’s a physics game, which uses the same concept as “Cut The Rope” where players can use any object, from lines on a piece of paper to a toy or even their own hands to control the stuff on screen. All you really need is a piece of paper and a pen to get started.

Tangram, is a game where puzzle pieces in the real world must be matched to the shapes on screen. The kit comes with an iPad stand and mirror connector and promotes your child’s creativity as suddenly the brain is thinking in many dimensions!

I do not only love this as a educational toy for my kids, but also as a concept in itself. It is not often you get something that comes along that breaks the mold and creates a whole new genre of games….this might just be that thing.

Available now on the Osmo Website for $49. This is a steal considering what you get and of course this will double once pre-orders have been fulfilled. The company is concentrating on developing the apps, but will eventually open this up to developers to create their own games….so watch this space.

Check out the Osmo video

 

 

Up until now, if you wanted to play a downloaded video on your iPhone or iPad, you would either have to download an Apple-friendly MP4 version or convert it to one.

Apple’s iPhone 5 specification webpage states that it will natively play H.264 video up to 1080p, 30 frames per second, High Profile level 4.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats’.

The problem with this is that for the vast majority of downloadable HD videos, MKV is the container of choice. It has become so popular because of it’s flexibility – it can contain almost any codec for both video and audio tracks – indeed it can have multiple of either track – and has excellent subtitle support too.

Most MKV files will contain an H264 video track which iOS can play, but the MKV container is not recognised and the audio track is invariably not in the preferred stereo AAC format. An MKV video file is simply not recognised by iOS.

The options until a couple of years ago were to either convert the entire video into a recognised file format or ‘remux’ it. There are a myriad of encoding applications available for both the OSX and Windows, but are usually easy to use paid-for applications or perplexing free ones.

Converting the entire file loses quality on both the audio and video tracks and to make matters worse could take a very long time to accomplish on all but the fastest machines.

Remuxing on the other hand is a clever process whereby the application separates the H264 video track from the audio track, and then converts only the audio stream to AAC before stitching them back together again in a friendly MP4 format. Result? No loss of quality for the video, and a playable file.

A few years ago, Apple relaxed the policies on the App Store to allow third party developers to publish their own video players. These have until recently only been able to play unofficial formatted files in software. What this means is that instead of using the dedicated video chip, it uses the CPU to decode it. This can result in a lot of dropped frames, making the video appear jerky and also massively decreases battery life.

Around a year ago, Dolby, angered by lack of money generated through licensing Dolby Digital decoders, requested Apple to stop any developers providing apps on the App Store that could decode Dolby Digital soundtracks without paying Dolby a licencing fee. Apple responded, and all apps that could play Dolby Digital soundtracks were pulled and were only allowed to be republished once either the functionality was removed or the developer paid Dolby a licensing fee.

Google however, seems to have come to the rescue.

It was discovered this week that if you upload an MKV file to Google Drive in what seems like ANY format, including soundtracks in DTS, you can then download (or stream) it using the Google Drive app on iOS immediately. These files are played in the stock video application, meaning that GPU accelerated decoding is being used, keeping battery drain to a minimum. It would seem that Google is quite happy to do the remuxing/converting for you in real time without any cost to you using their servers. Quite why Google is willing to do this is up for debate, but for now, let the good times roll and stop converting!

 

Written by our guest writer Phil Carroll.

 

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Apple are very good at what they do, but if you are looking to get more out of your iPhone, you can find  alternatives to the stock apps. Apple are sometimes a little slow to update their own apps and this is where other developers create improved versions to monetise on the company’s flaws. Check out this list we have put together:

Apple: Mail

Non Apple: Mailbox – Free

Mailbox is one of the most anticipated apps of 2013, created by a team of 13 people and recently bought by Dropbox for a rumoured $50m, they certainly have done well. The email client uses gestures to control your inbox and can quickly get your inbox to zero if you like to do so.

One of our favourite features is the “Later” option, which allows you to ignore an email when it comes in and pushes it to another time of your choice. You can delete emails and even move them up further in your inbox to prioritise them, all via gesture control. Another good feature (which improves on Apple’s Mail app) is replying back to an email and attaching a photo, a simple feature which Apple seem to ignore. The only issue with Mailbox is that you need to go onto a reservation list as the app was so overwhelmed with downloads, but, we can assure you….it is worth it!

Apple: Calendar

Non Apple: Week Cal – £1.49

You can find a lot of apps to replace Apple’s Calendar as this has stayed relatively the same since it started. Week Cal has vastly improved the views, allowing you to “drag-n-drop” events at any point, linking contacts/places to events and even colour coding individual events to show on your calendar. You can even add entries into multiple calendars which is a great feature for the business user.

This app works well, has many modifications and options for the user to toggle which make it personal and is very easy to get the hang of. If you are a serious calendar user…it’s a must-have.

Apple: Weather

Non Apple: WeatherPro – £2.49

The stock weather app does the job, but it doesn’t excite in any way. WeatherPro is amazingly reliable, has seven day forecasts and even drills that down to 3 hour sections. You can save favourite locations which will show you wind direction, air pressure and temperature (with the important “feels like” approach to temperatures). This app also supplies sunrise and sunset times with lovely high res weather maps and also can show you satellite/radar imagery of your location.

If you are looking for the more detailed weather app that you can trust, this is well worth the money.

Apple: Videos

Non Apple: OPlayer – £1.99

The main problem with the Video app is its lack of playback format options which are quite limited. Unless you download from iTunes, you will struggle with some of the newer formats. OPlayer deals with this brilliantly, playing almost anything thrown at it with no real issues, allowing you to even choose between language options (if the video you have has multiple audio) and subtitles. If you have a NAS at home, you can even stream videos direct to your phone from the NAS over a WIFI connection (Streaming support HTTP/MMS/FTP/SAMBA) or through Dropbox.

This app does its job well, but be warned, the developers have recently run into licensing issues with AC3 (audio) but promise to get this fixed promptly.

Apple Apps