After the unfortunate demises of retailers including Dick Smith Electronics, Masters, and Pumpkin Patch in Australia (to name a few), and my own shopping for Christmas gifts not a month ago, I began pondering an issue with the humble gift card. While this has been written with an Australian context in mind, the principles apply worldwide (and with a little local sleuthing, you should find local details appropriate for you).
With there being no legal requirement in Australia for gift card balances to be ‘treated like cash’ (despite most gift cards saying they should be treated as such), a gift card purchaser is at the absolute mercy of the continued solvency of the retailer. You know the old saying cash is king, this certainly holds true and gift cards it would seem, are definitely not king!
However, there is an alternative which, in my opinion, carries a significantly lower level of risk. Many people are unaware, but Visa offers both prepaid and reloadable cards that can be purchased from Australia Post stores (for Aussies) or from other retailers worldwide. Essentially, for a couple of dollars more than your ‘gift card balance’ you would like to buy, you can transfer your risk from the solvency of an individual retailer, to one of the major credit card providers of the world. Sure, Visa themselves could go under one day, but that is infinitely less likely than a single trading retailer going bust, in a single country.
The prepaid cards carry the benefit of being usable where any Visa card is purchased, so they are not locked to any one retailer, can be used physically in person, or online also. The reloadable card (available for around $7AUD more) can be used repeatedly and reloaded as many times as desired until the expiration date, which can also be beneficial in itself.
So, before you next purchase a gift card for a loved one, consider the risk you are willing to accept for you investment, and perhaps consider the Visa prepaid card as a preferable alternative. Call me risk averse, but I will put my bets on Visa being around for many many more years, major Australian retailers however, seem to be going bust like it is going out of fashion.
Final thoughts – My sympathies go out to all those affected from retailer demises, in my early years I too worked at Dick Smith, and have a lot of memories from there, in it’s day it was the best store, with the best customer service!
Slow downloads from Apple on Telstra Mobile and Broadband Networks
Last Updated: October 3, 2015 10:00 AM (latest updates at the bottom of this article, it looks like it may now be resolved)
Since shortly after the release of the iPhone 6s a number of Telstra customers have been experiencing widespread issues with downloading anything from the Apple network (including Apple Music, App Stores etc) both on mobile and home broadband connections.
Thus far, we have not seen any formal recognition or ownership of the issue from Telstra (especially surrounding internal communications outlining the issue), it does appear that at least some members of the social media team know about it now, therefore I have put together the following video to ACTUALLY demonstrate the issue. Over the last four days however, some Telstra reps were responding that there may be an issue, while others seemed to have no idea.
If you want to get around the issue, some people have had success with changing DNS servers, but the most reliable way I have found is to use a VPN provider, TorGuard is my favourite (as they have Australian servers which are a lot faster for us Aussies). You can read my review on them here if you are so inclined.
Parameters of the experiment:
Connect to Telstra Network (proven with IP address, showing WiFi disconnected, showing that app greater than 100MB will not download.
Showed SpeedTest demonstrating true available connection speed.
Demonstrated attempt to download on 4G (extremely slow for 22MB download)
UPDATE, 11.38am: A Telstra spokesperson has issued Fairfax Media with the following statement: “We’re aware some customers may be experiencing slow service when using mobile devices to download or update apps, or stream music. We’re investigating the issue and we will provide an update as soon as we have more information to share with you.”
A Telstra spokesperson has issued Fairfax Media with an updated statement: “We are experiencing issues with an undersea cable connecting Australia with Singapore. As a result, some customers are experiencing slow service when using mobile devices to download or update apps, or stream music from some providers. “We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, including utilising alternative paths while repairs are undertaken. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and as soon as we have an update on the current situation we will let our customers know.”
Update October 2, 2015 3:29 PM
I have seen evidence (unconfirmed by Telstra) that potentially this is due to a SeaMeWe-3 cut:
“We are experiencing issues with an undersea cable connecting Australia with Singapore. As a result, some customers are experiencing slow service when using mobile devices to download or update apps or stream music from some providers,” a Telstra spokesperson told ZDNet in a statement.
“We are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, including utilising alternative paths while repairs are undertaken. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and as soon as we have an update on the current situation we will let our customers know.”
Still no ETA till resolution tho *sigh*
Update October 2, 2015 8:32 PM
It looks like we have some progress people 🙂 tweet me on @StuartCRyan if you find you are still having issues:
Update: At 5:55 pm on a Friday afternoon, Telstra e-mailed The Register to say: “Arrangements have been made to re-route traffic away from the affected subsea cable and as a result the immediate issues impacting customers have been addressed. We will continue to work to ensure the impact does not return. We thank our customers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience caused.” ®
Choosing a VPN provider can be difficult, you want one that provides great customer service, security, reliability and most importantly, one with servers close to you as well as around the world. When my account with Astrill came up for renewal recently, I decided it was time to review the field again.
For a limited time, due to Australia’s new Data Retention laws I have managed to get Torguard to provide me a 20% off any Torguard plan coupon for my readers. You can use this by heading over to Torguard and using the following coupon “AnonymousVPN”.
I use a VPN for a variety of reasons, I find them extremely handy for security reasons, I now have two static IP services with TorGuard so that I can restrict certain things I log into by public IP address. This also means that I can connect to these from anywhere in the world. As many Australian’s will know, they can also be used for “Geo dodging” services that are restricted to certain countries. Being a lucky user of Foxtel I personally don’t have that issue but if that is your end goal you will be happy to know that TorGuard has servers all around the world you can connect to. Lastly, they are handy for getting around firewalls when you are in a restricted environment (and have a legitimate reason for needing to get out of the firewalled environment)
I came up with the above list based on those that have servers within Australia and will also note that some of these I have used previously. After testing the speeds of each provider, TorGuard turned out to be the best VPN for me as a Sydneysider. I am not necessarily saying that the others weren’t good, but I lost very little overall speed on my connection when using TorGuard, which was one of my primary goals.
After testing and selecting TorGuard, it was refreshing to see most things included. Astrill offers upsell after upsell (even for example if you want to use more than a single device), the only thing I have had to pay for extra so far with TorGuard is my static IPs (which are not a necessity for most people). I have found the service to be exemplary, support tickets are answered promptly, the service is solid as a rock and I have stayed connected for days at a time (usually only losing a connection when my ADSL drops sync… still hanging on for this NBN we keep hearing about).
The OSX client that comes with TorGuard was easy to use, I opted to purchase a full Viscosity license to get the latest version and configure it myself, I am stoked with it as a VPN client, however you will be happy to know that the clients that TorGuard offers are simple, easy to use and sufficient for 99% of all users needs.
So if you are looking for an anonymous VPN service that has endpoints in Sydney, has anonymity as a priority, is affordable, reliable, doesn’t require long contracts and above all… JUST WORKS! I can happily say that TorGuard is well worth looking into.
As always, when I review a service that I love, I have put an affiliate link here in the post. If you would like to visit the service directly please visit http://torguard.net.