1.14.2015

Review - LifeProof Cradle for iPad Mini


 Whether in a car, a boat, a big rig, or at your desk, having your iPad mounted in a fixed position can be very beneficial. This is the LifeProof cradle for iPad mini. It's molded to work specifically with their fré and nüüd cases. LifeProof boasts that it's lockable design also provides maximum security for your iPad mini.  Let's take a quick look at the hardware and see if it's worthy of the LifeProof name. 

The cradle is custom molded to hold the iPad mini by the four corners. This keeps all the ports and buttons accessible while in the cradle. It has a universal AMPS mount with four mounting holes on the back which I've attached With two bolts to a ball mount from RAM mounts. From the textured back to the honeycomb interior this thing screams quality. I've been very impressed with the materials. 

If you decide to purchase this cradle you'll definitely need some sort of AMPS compatible mount to attach it to and RAM mounts makes about anything you could imagine. I've attached another ball mount to my desk with a c clamp and connect the two with a double socket arm. Once you tighten this down the iPad is very solid. This has a lot more to do with the RAM mount than the LifeProof cradle though. 

To insert you place the bottom of the iPad in first and then snap it down into the cradle.  Removal is just as easy using the single latch.  It fits very snug thanks to four soft foam cushions underneath. This gives it a very satisfying click and snaps firmly into place. One handed use is a breeze as well.  The side of the cradle is cut out and you can grab the iPad mini by the side and use your thumb to activate the latch. 

But that's where the good news ends. Lifeproof promises maximum security for your iPad mini using the one handed latch. To lock the latch so it doesn't open you slide a tab on the latch into the locked position. When it's locked there's a red indicator instead of a green indicator when unlocked. To lock that tab in place there's another tab on the back that you slide up. To lock that tab in place you fold it out and put a small padlock through the hole. To unlock you reverse the process by folding one tab in, sliding it down, sliding the next tab down and removing your iPad mini. It's sort of a Rube Goldberg way to secure your iPad mini. 

I could get over the cumbersome combination of switches if they truly provided maximum security.  However, with very little effort you can easily remove the iPad mini from the locked cradle.  I will mention that the first time I did this it was a little more difficult than now, but it was still way too easy.  You're not going to be able to offer maximum security with a small plastic latch that easily flexes out of the way when locked.

Is this a good iPad cradle?  Definitely. Is it made of premium materials like you would expect from a LifeProof product?  Certainly. Would I recommend it?  Probably so, with the caveat that it's not a secure way to mount your iPad. It will provide a convenient sturdy way to mount your iPad. I've enjoyed having it mounted at my desk for a couple of weeks now and using it as a dedicated music player. With the proper RAM mount it could make a great cradle for almost any environment. Just don't lock it in the cradle and expect it to be there when you return. 

If you have any questions that I didn't cover leave them in the comments, and as always, thanks for stopping by.

1.07.2015

Review - Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Suction Cup Mount


 Suction cup phone mounts have always intrigued me. I really like the idea of having my phone easily viewable at all times while in the car. The problem was the online reviews. Half of the people say it's the best thing ever and the other half say it's terrible and don't waste your time and money. Who do you believe?  

This is the U grip plus by Aduro. It recently went on sale at Amazon for the amazing price of $9.99 with free shipping. Even if the negative reviews are right, this was worth the risk.

The mount comes with a flat disc with 3M adhesive. This is used if you need to mount the suction cup to a non-optimal surface.  I haven't had to use this yet and in a moment you'll see why.

The mount consists of three parts. An adjustable grip for holding your phone, the mounting base, and a collar for adjusting tension. To assemble the mount you remove the collar and snap the grip onto the base. Make sure you put the adjustable collar on first so you can tighten it to the grip. I find that I get the best results by keeping this as loose as possible. The suction cup is activated by pressing down on the lever on the base. 

The arms for the grip are spring loaded and also covered with a soft rubber lining. It's plenty strong for holding phones of all sizes. From a durability standpoint though this is the first place I would expect the product to break. Hopefully Aduro has thought this as well and made the tabs that the springs attach to internally extra strong. 

Pulling off the backing from the suction cup reveals what makes this mount so great. The material is very sticky but doesn't transfer any of that stickiness to the surface its attached to. It's so sticky in fact that it can sometimes be difficult to remove. They've included a tab on one side of the suction cup to assist with breaking the seal and removing the mount. Without using the added lever it still sticks great to smooth surfaces. To get extra strength suction you simply press the mount down to the surface with the lever up and then press down on the lever to lock it in place. This pulls the suction cup up into the base and creates a greater suction. This creates a very solid mount. To remove you reverse the process. Pull up on the lever and then use the tab to break the suction. You'll be surprised at how difficult it can be to remove from some surfaces. This is a good thing though.

The main dash I use this on has a slight texture.  I've used this mount in a few different cars and texture hasn't been an issue so far. 

One handed use is a necessity when it comes to phone mounts. To place your phone in the mount you press it against one side to open the springs and then slide your phone in. To remove you can press your thumb against one side of the grip and the phone easily pops out. Being able to rotate from portrait to landscape is a necessity as well. This is why you don't want the adjustable collar too tight. At first I thought tightening the collar would prevent vibrations but it doesn't appear to make a difference.   In fact the grip attaches tightly enough to the base that the collar really isn't necessary. One handed use with this mount really is a breeze. The back of my Otterbox Symmetry case has curved edges which do make this a little easier. But the Symmetry case on my wife's 5S isn't rounded and one handed use is just as easy. I chose to mount the phone on my dash instead of my windshield because I found it to be less obtrusive there. If you're like me you'll move it around to many places in your vehicle until you find the spot that works best for you. 

Now let's talk use cases. Of course navigation is a big one, but it's also very beneficial to have your phone on your dash for having quick and easy access to music controls. Or if you're parked and want to turn it landscape to watch a video. Also since the camera is facing out your windshield you can use Instagram's Hyperlapse app to capture neat video as well.

One of the constant complaints with suction cup mounts is that they fail in colder climates. I tested this on an early morning when the temperature was in the upper 20's to lower 30's. Instead of causing the suction cup to get rigid and fail, the colder weather seems to actually make it more sticky and can actually make it quite difficult to remove.  This mount sticks extremely well. And it's not just because it was applied in warmer weather. It still stuck well to my sub freezing windshield and again back to the cold dash. 

In fact, it sticks so well I decided to do a little extreme test and stuck it to the side of my truck GoPro style. For full disclosure I did zip tie my phone to the grip. After all, this was a brand new iPhone 6 and I wasn't about to have it go tumbling down the road because it vibrated out of the spring loaded grip. I did trust the suction cup enough though for it to hold to the side of my truck. There was a lot of vibration. The point here isn't to replace your GoPro, but rather to demonstrate just how strong this suction cup mount really is. And while we're on the topic of vibration that is my one complaint with this mount. It's not an issue in my Toyota Highlander, but in vehicles with stiffer suspension there is naturally more shaking and that's transferred right to the mount. It's not terrible, but it's certainly noticeable. Keep that in mind if you're putting this in a truck. For most any car it won't be an issue. 

Early on while trying to decide where to position the mount in my car I moved it around a lot. Consequently it picked up a lot of dust on the suction cup and lost its stickiness. It would lose suction and fall in my car during use. To fix this you simply run the suction cup under tap water and gently rub off the dust and debri. Shake off the excess water and be sure to let the mount air dry as using any cloth or towel will just put lint right back on the mount. After it dries, the stickiness is returned and it's almost good as new. 

I'm really glad I gave this mount a try despite some negative reviews. It sticks really well and I find myself continually finding other uses for it. For example I stuck it to the back of our car to get a group photo and to the wall to capture a time lapse. And some of the video captured above and in my other videos was actually captured with my phone mounted in a second one of these. I've owned this mount for a few months now and highly recommend it. Leave any questions in the comments. And as always, thanks for watching. 


10.20.2014

Otterbox Commuter versus Symmetry for iPhone 6



This is a brief comparison video of the Otterbox Commuter Series versus the Otterbox Symmetry Series for the iPhone 6.  I've been a huge fan of Otterbox cases for years because of the protection that they provide for the cost.  Other cases will offer more protection or cost less, but not at the same time.  Additionally, some of the Otterbox cases that they've begun to offer in the past few years offer great protection with little bulk.  I was sold when I watched YouTuber MobileSyrup repeatedly throw his phone down the sidewalk and road with no damage using a relatively thin Otterbox Reflex case.  The other huge plus here is I got my iPhone on launch day and both of these cases were available for purchase that day.  Watch the video above to see which case I think wins out between the two and why.

9.04.2014

Armored Fiber Jumpers


Over the years I've come across situations where I needed to extend a fiber jumper from one location to another and didn't feel that a traditional jumper would be protected enough in our environment.  The first solution to this problem was to run the fiber jumper through some plastic conduit.  This not only took a very long time, but looked terrible when we were done.  The second method was to pay a company for a made to order armored fiber cable.  The trouble here is the cable is way too stiff and when you get to the end you still have a few feet of standard, unprotected fiber cables.  This also looks messy on the termination end.

loose fibers at the end of an armored cable
certainly don't belong in a harsh environment
When I first started searching online I had a hard time finding armored fiber jumpers.  However, this past year I was introduced to a company that changed all of that.

SanSpot.com* is an online company that specializes in optical storage and networking needs.  I haven't used many of their products, but I can speak very highly of the heavy armored fiber jumpers they carry made by Optospan.  I've purchased a few of these over the past year and continue to purchase them for when I'm installing a fiber jumper in a less than ideal environment.  For example, if I'm connecting a telco fiber termination to a router in another room or if I'm connecting an IDF to an FDP in a harsh environment.  These cables are premium quality and made to last.  They mention military and tactical environments in the description and I can believe it.  The cables are very flexible but very durable.  They are wrapped in steel and Kevlar and come in many sizes and configurations.  You will pay almost double of what a normal fiber jumper costs, but it's well worth it.  I highly recommend you check out their website the next time you're in the market for a fiber jumper that's being installed in a less than ideal environment.

A 10M heavy armored cable from SanSpot.com
Armored 10G fiber uplinking a switch on the
opposite side of the data center.
An armored cable in a sea of traditional fiber jumpers.
SanSpot mentions that this fiber is 100 times stronger
than regular fiber optic cable.


*I am not affiliated with SanSpot.com or Optospan.com in any way.  I'm simply a satisfied customer that's trying to get the word out about an otherwise hard to find product.


7.01.2014

TWC Greendot Scam

Recently I was targeted twice by a scam that is circulating regarding TWC.  I tried to contact TWC and inform them so they could email their customers.  When they didn't seem interested I figured it best to post it here in hopes that someone will Google this and be informed before they are ripped off.

The first time I was contacted by a guy claiming to be from TWC.  He informed me that because of being a valued customer and because I signed up during a promotional period he'd like to tell me about a promotion I'm eligible for.  He was going to cut my bill in half and triple my Internet speeds for the next two years without signing a contract.  All this sounded too good to be true.  He then told me that the only catch was I needed to pay for a years worth of service up front.  This sounded more reasonable.  There has been a lot of discussion about fiber Internet coming to NC so I assumed TWC was trying to get me locked in for a year so I wouldn't switch to an up and coming competitor.  I told the gentleman that I would call him back if I decided to take advantage of it and he was persistent that he would call me back.  I then asked him to verify my account number.  Up until this point he had been able to tell me my home address, my telephone number, my email address, the type of service I had and the date I signed up.  He said he needed to look up my account number and then hung up on me.

Later that week I was contacted by a second guy that wasn't nearly as polished.  His accent was much thicker and he was harder to understand.  I immediately asked him to verify my account number.  He said he was with the promotions team and they didn't have access to that information but he would happily verify all the same information that the first guy had.  I told him since TWC has my credit card number already couldn't he just take the money that way.  He said that Green Dot prepaid cards were more secure and I needed to pay with that.  I then just proceeded to tell the guy how terrible it was that he would take advantage of people and steal from them.  I eventually had to hang up on him.

I called TWC to inform them of the situation.  The guy I spoke with was extremely rude and said they already knew about it and there was nothing they could do about it.  I told him that at the very least they should send an email to their customers letting them know it's happening.  Afterwards I was asked to fill out a survey and I gave him a terrible review.  I received a followup call the next day just generally asking me if I was happy with my service.  The representative asked me to verify my name and phone number.  She then asked for the last four of my SSN.  I told her I wouldn't provide that and I needed her to verify my account number.  She wasn't allowed to do that and I explained to her the two phone calls I received and how I can't trust anyone claiming to be from TWC.  She eventually, reluctantly verified the first three digits of my account number.  I told that lady that someone needs to do something about these scams and she said she would contact someone to see if they could send out an email.  As of writing this I haven't received anything from TWC warning me of this scam.

Final thoughts:  I'm guessing that TWC has been compromised in some way.  Not entirely since they didn't know account numbers, but to some extent.  Going forward I only do business with TWC if I call them or if they can verify my account number to me.  Maybe that's not sufficient enough, but it seems to work against this scam.  Additionally, like they always say, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.