Category: Gadgets

My (very positive) experience with Amex Refund Protection

One of the lesser-known benefits of some American Express cards is Refund Protection. It’s not so well known because it’s only given a scarce mention in their marketing alongside (in my opinion) mostly worthless benefits such as travel inconvenience insurance.

Background

A bit of background: credit card issuers in the UK are required to provide consumers with two means to resolve disputes with merchants: chargeback, a feature provided by Visa/MC and Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. Both, and American Express’s voluntary implementation of Section 75 for charge cards, which are not provided for in the Act, are extremely useful in limited circumstances, such as when you purchase something that isn’t delivered and the seller is unresponsive, or when the seller goes bust just after you’ve placed an order with them.

Refund Protection is in addition to this. It gives you 30 days to arbitrarily decide that you don’t want something (i.e. buyer’s remorse) and, if the seller refuses to take it back, the insurer will reimburse you.

What Happened

I recently purchased some headphones from Argos at a price of £270. The moment I tried them out, I realised the sound was more like that of £50 headphones. With a 14-day moneyback guarantee plastered all over Argos’s website, till receipt and stores, I assumed I was in the clear. I took it back to Argos only to find that the guarantee is void once the shrink-wrapping has been removed, rendering is mostly worthless. The manager had clearly heard it all before and rather than discussing it with me and trying to help at least a bit, she just stormed off in a strop.

This really annoyed me because I had chosen to buy the item from Argos because of this guarantee. Had I known the treatment I’d get, I would have bought it from Amazon, saved myself a small amount of money, the time spent arguing with an overgrown teenager and had the opportunity to return the item.

I debated taking it to another Argos store and trying a bit harder, maybe suggesting that the poor sound could be indicative of a fault but I decided to try Amex’s Refund Protection.

Using the Service

The insurance is administered/underwritten by Chubb. Finding the online form meant digging through the card’s Terms. Once I found it though, it only took about 5 minutes to complete and I was surprised that there wasn’t a long list of exclusions and limitations or an onerous form. I received a call from Chubb a couple of days later in which they told me that I couldn’t keep the item, so I should return it to a charity shop (!) and fill out a very brief declaration that I’d given the item to a charity shop. Again, all very easy and the British Heart Foundation gained a nice donation.

I actually debated going back to the BHF shop to buy the item back, guessing they’d sell it for £25-50 an

d at that price, I’d have been happy to keep them. I decided against this, too, though.

About a week after filling in the very short declaration, the whole amount was back in my bank account.

Conclusion

I got messed around by a big company and a bigger company sorted it out for me. I probably won’t buy from Argos again because none of this would have happened if I’d bought from Amazon. This lesser-known benefit saved me £270, roughly double the annual fee for my Preferred Rewards Gold card.

Ubiquiti Networks EdgeRouter Lite review

About 2 years ago, our small (tiny at the time) company moved into an equally small office. Having an Asus AC58U VDSL router at home that offered good reliability, throughout and control at home, I bought an AC58, the cable version, for the office. No major problems until recently.

We now have about 15 VMs, 6 computers, a smart TV, an Airtame, a smart printer and various other SIP and mobile phones and tablets connected to a 50Mbps symmetric connection. During the day, our developers are browsing the web, listening to Spotify and the SIP phones are making and receiving calls. At night, the VMs run backups.

Packet loss became frequent, latency increased and the DHCP server often did strange things.

Ubiquiti Edgerouter Lite

I took the opportunity to get us an EdgeRouter Lite from Ubiquiti Networks, a 3-power firewall/router that can supposedly do 1 million packets per second. It runs Ubiquiti’s own EdgeOS which seems to be Unix based and comes with a great GUI and an apparently powerful CLI (which I’ve yet to try).

DHCP issues are a thing of the past (though admittedly we took the opportunity to statically address some equipment), latency is noticeably lower and throughput is noticeably better. The old Asus router is now being used as an access point so even wireless devices have benefited. The next step will be to replace the Asus router with a dedicated access point with a stronger signal so that the meeting room in another part of the building can benefit from our connection.

EdgeOS

I’ve not had the chance to test the CLI yet, or the need to use it. However, the GUI (after updating it) is great albeit missing a few nice-to-haves. You can configure multiple networks and routing tables for each. You can configure QoS and SPI if you want them. You can also configure a range of more advanced settings such as MTU and OSPF.

What’s missing – well, historic analytics are only available when SPI is enabled, meaning that you have to trade privacy and throughput for analytics, if you want it. The routing table doesn’t let you set the remote IP address – so if you want to expose a service to the WAN,  it has to be publicly accessible.

EdgeOS

Summary

The adage, “buy once, buy well” applies to this router. The consumer versions that do include WiFi offer less control and seem to fare worse in user tests so this is a good option for home as well as work. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this for a small group of servers in a datacentre environment either.

 

Airtame review

Airtame is one of a myriad of HDMI dongles to wirelessly connect computers to TVs. Airtame is, annoyingly, one of the more expensive options but there seems to be a steady supply of new and unwanted units on eBay at much more reasonable prices.

Unboxing

There wasn’t much of an “unboxing” experience, perhaps because their target users are corporates and public sector organisations. It looks like a USB stick so you might expect it’d be a similar size – it’s noticeably larger than that and, depending on the port layout on your TV, it might preclude the use of the neighbouring HDMI port. There is an extension cable in case your HDMI port is on the rear of the TV and the TV is wall mounted, and a USB cable to plug into the TV to power the unit.

Airtame

Setup

The setup was very, very easy. Switch the TV to the appropriate HDMI input and switch your computer to the WiFI network displayed on screen. Then, open the Airtame app for Windows, Mac or Linux (!) and you can (optionally) configure it to use your existing network, set up a screensaver, set up a password and so on. The ad hoc network makes setup quick and easy, and makes the unit suitable for taking with you. Just as it’s easy to take it with you and present anywhere, it’s also very easy to leave it attached to your TV and let guest speakers connect with minimal preparation.

Performance

The performance is surprisingly good. With the Airtame and my MacBook Pro connected via AC WiFi, the lag, although noticeable, was much shorter and less frustrating than expected. It’s not well suited to movies but for presenting – either with a slideshow, short video clips or sharing your screen, it is very smooth.

Summary

I highly recommend this product. The companion apps are great, performance is great and the ease of use in unparalleled. This is the device for you if you hate faffing with technology when you’re already running late.