Charging a Ring Stick-up Cam camera

I was faced with an annoying situation that was inconvenient to solve. The problem was an outdoor Ring Stick-Up Cam, which was permanently mounted to a wall, needed to be recharged.

The solar panel that was supposed to keep it charged was poorly positioned and didn’t receive enough daily sunlight to keep the battery topped off. The camera itself, perhaps because it is a first generation model, doesn’t have a “quick release” mount to take it down from the wall. Furthermore, being mounted 10 feet above the ground over some precarious landscaping, makes it tricky to reach the screws that hold it to the wall.

All of this is not a one-time challenge. The camera will need to be recharged regularly unless that solar panel is moved.

My solution? A cellphone battery booster pack. I opted for an Anker Power Bank, which at 20 watts is more powerful than the Ring requires (2 watts) but I thought it might charge the camera more quickly (I was wrong) and be useful in other situations (we’ll see). The Anker unit has a trickle charge option for low-powered devices (which would seem to include the Ring), but I did not use it.

The connection from the Power Bank to the camera is via an extra long cord from IKEA. A great source for low-cost and high-quality cables, as I’ve noted previously. The photo shows the Power Bank resting on a wall box, with the charging cord running up to the Ring Stick-Up camera. The Power Bank is plugged into the camera where the solar panel is normally connected.

photo of camera and power bank

The “device health” display in the Ring app is decidedly not real-time. It displayed 13% battery power when I began charging, and stayed that way for five or six hours, until jumping straight to 100% after letting it charge overnight.

The Ring website wasn’t especially helpful in solving this dilemma. Mostly because they make it very difficult to find support documents for older models. There is no way to filter the results to show only information that is relevant to the product you own.

Book Review: Fan Fiction

Fan Fiction, by actor Brent Spiner, is a very unusual novel. It blends day-to-day actor life with L.A. noir, overlayed with an insider’s perspective of early Star Trek: Next Generation. It’s simultaneously true and clearly not true. It’s ambitious, funny, and silly. I loved it.

Would I recommend that you read it? No. Get the audiobook instead. It’s read by Spiner (which increases the surreal fictfactigous nature of the story). It also features a delightful array of guest voice actors — including Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and LeVar Burton — all playing themselves in this unusual, rollicking, shaggy dog, bio-fantasy-fanfic tale.

Did I mention that I loved it?

I’m opposed to spoilers, so I’ll let the publisher’s description carry the weight of more details, but if you want a spoiler-filled second review, see this NPR story. (But, keep in mind, I contend that the audiobook is likely superior to the printed edition.)

I listened via Audible, but of course, the Amazon has all the mediums you might want.

How to lose a customer, the Amazon eero 6e way

Oh, eero, you disappoint me. I’ve been a customer since before you were assimilated into the Amazon. I even upgraded my original system to your “6 Pro” models. And, I’m an eero Secure subscriber, despite the hassles it causes with overly aggressive site blocking and nonsensical “new client” alerts.

When you recently enticed me to upgrade to an eero Pro 6e system, I took the bait and spent $600 (with discount and trade-in) for your latest models. Boy, do I regret it.

The new Pro 6e stations refuse to recognize each other, and they complain about being placed in the same locations as the stations that I’m replacing, I dutifully tried moving them closer to each other. Then, when that failed, even closer. I tried starting fresh instead of using your “replace an eero” option. Nope. Nope. Nope. These pretty white half-cubes are steaming piles of shit.

Fortunately, I was able to reinstall my “old” 6 Pro stations, which immediately worked perfectly in the same locations where the new ones failed. I wasted nearly three hours of my life trying to accomplish something that should take ten minutes. Something that did take ten minutes the last time I upgraded.

I’ve returned the new system, cancelled my eero Secure renewal, and I will eventually find some 6e stations by one of your competitors. Thanks for the memories, but don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

How to lose a customer, the Physician’s Mutual Insurance way

I was sitting in my dentist’s waiting room, waiting for a follow-up visit after a pricey root canal, when the Hallmark Channel played a commercial for Physician’s Mutual Dental Insurance. That’s how they got me.

Admittedly, I was an easy mark, both situationally and financially. My dental coverage from Aetna had barely paid anything for my procedure, and given my age, I anticipate more work in the future.

I visited the Physicians Mutual Insurance website and requested an information packet. When it arrived, it seemed like much better coverage than Aetna, although I wouldn’t be eligible for any big-ticket reimbursements during the first year. I decided to bite anyway (see what I did there?) and enrolled online.

Oddly, while setting up my account, I was unable to elect spousal coverage. I assumed I could add that later. (If you’re keeping track, this is my third mistake of the story.)

Immediately upon signing up, my credit card app pinged. They had already charged my card, but they gave me an empty promise (spoiler alert) to send me the policy and membership information via snail mail.

Nearly every day after I signed up, I received spam email from them, asking me to sign up. At my post office box, I received at least 10 mailings also asking me to sign up, but no policy or membership card. The policy and membership card, in fact, never arrived.

I emailed their customer service to add spousal coverage. I received an email response with an encrypted message. To read the message, they wanted me to install some shady-looking app on my computer. Unless, the message said, I was using a “mobile device,” in which case I needed to forward the message to a third party who would decrypt it and send it back to me. (I am not making this up!)

I replied to the message, telling them I could not read the encrypted message. They replied with another encrypted message. This exchange was repeated twice more until I finally had enough. I called them to cancel my policy.

The customer service person asked for my membership number. (Which I didn’t have because it’s only provided in the membership packet, which I hadn’t received, despite it being nearly 30 days after I enrolled.)

I explained all the problems. I could hear the representative shrug their shoulders on the other end of the line. I asked that my policy be cancelled. The only way to do that, I was coldly told, is via mail. Snail mail. He gave me the info to do so. I asked for a refund for the first monthly payment that they had taken within minutes of my enrollment. He said, “put that request in writing, too.”

One month after I mailed the cancellation and refund request, I received a paper check (hello, 1995 called) refunding my payment and confirming my “disappointing decision to end coverage.” (I would use a different adjective.)

Two weeks after receiving the refund, my policy and membership card finally arrived, which I happily dropped in the shredder.