Consider the risk of gift cards for your next birthday or Christmas present

Australia Post Load and Go Prepaid Visa CardAfter 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).

For those of you not keeping up, when a retailer enters administration, a seemingly regular side effect is that already purchased gift cards go into limbo, held at the mercy of the administrators. As the administrator will receive no additional funds for the exchange of goods, they may choose not to honour the gift cards, or place additional terms on their use. Countless examples from the demise of Dick Smith Electronics occurred where people lost entire balances and large sums, as well as customers of Pumpkin Patch being told that gift cards would only be honoured if an equivalent amount of cash was spent in store at the same time.

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.

Australia Post Load and Go Reloadable Prepaid Visa CardThe 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:

  1. Connect to Telstra Network (proven with IP address, showing WiFi disconnected, showing that app greater than 100MB will not download.
  2. Showed SpeedTest demonstrating true available connection speed.
  3. Demonstrated attempt to download on 4G (extremely slow for 22MB download)
  4. Connected to TorGuard VPN service.
  5. Downloaded a 29MB app which downloaded almost instantly
  6. Demonstrated again an attempt to download an app > 100MB to prove still on Telstra 4G.

If anyone has any questions, happy to answer them, you can get into contact with me via @StuartCRyan on Twitter.

I now implore you to poke, prod and raise this issue with Telstra, the more that do, the more likely we will get a fix. You can prod them via @Telstra on Twitter, Telstra on Facebook or the Telstra CrowdSupport Forums.

There are also two ongoing discussions on Whirlpool, the new one dedicated solely to the Telstra specific speed issues downloading from the Apple App store and other Apple Services, you can also see the original thread which had a lot of early discussion on the issue.

Anddd just to show some of the discussion on Twitter:

At least it now appears that Telstra are acknowledging the issue as of this afternoon (may have come a bit earlier in the day too):

Update October 1, 2015 8:51 PM

I have prodded a few people on Twitter with these details, including Andrew Penn, the CEO of Telstra.

Update October 1, 2015 9:51 PM

It appears my posts have hit quite a nerve with quite a few Telstra customers on Twitter:

It also appears that it has now been posted to the one and only Slashdot #woo haha.

Major Update October 1, 2015 10:44 PM

After tweeting Telstra off the cuff we have a bit of extra info:

Update October 2, 2015 7:04 AM

Last night this issue made the front page of Slashdot… that is a major step forward in getting some formal visibility on the issue and hopefully some additional pressure on Telstra to resolve the issue as we enter into day 5. You can see the full article at

I also awoke to this discussion on Twitter which I think highlights some of the issues more closely:

Update October 2, 2015 10:22 AM

Reports of issues are still incoming with the same responses from Telstra, so no end in site as of yet

Update October 2, 2015 11:04 AM

An interesting issue has arisen for some other subscribers of worldwide LTE services, it is unknown at this stage whether the two issues could be related:

Update October 2, 2015 11:50 AM

Tim Biggs from SMH was kind enough to write an article for the Sydney Morning Herald and has since been provided a formal response from Telstra. As he mentioned in a tweet to me a short while ago, the response is very similar to what we are being told on Social Media:

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.”

Read more:

Also I thought it would be good to include all the areas I currently know about that have active discussions on the issue (following the writing of the original article)

Update October 2, 2015 1:34 PM

As per the SMH Article at

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:

I have also been doing some tests which seem to support the theory that the Telstra network is suffering issues with connections to Singapore (by testing download speeds from Singapore servers).

I can validate that there are definitely far slower speeds to Singapore on the Telstra network as opposed to iiNet or via VPN.

Update October 2, 2015 5:46 PM

ZDNet has posted a new article with another statement from Telstra stating:

“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 October 2, 2015 10:00 PM

I have just seen a formal update on The Register’s coverage

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.” ®

Update October 3, 2015 10:01 AM

ITNews has posted an article including further details:

Vocus general manager of engineering Rick Carter confirmed the SEA-ME-WE cable connecting Perth to Singapore has been cut at segment 3.3 since September 25.

He said a cable repair ship had been deployed to address the issue and expects to repair the cable by October 15.

Internet service provider iiNet has posted a fault notice with an unnamed international cable alerting customers to a similar issue.

How dirty is your keyboard? Time to give it some TLC for the new year!

Micro Men pulling apart a black Computer Keyboard

I want everyone to stop, pick up their keyboard right now and shake it… go on… you KNOW you are dying to. Something that many people do is clean around their desks, making sure that all is squeaky clean and tidy, but especially in offices the common keyboard is far to often neglected.

Now that it is the new year it is time to give your computer a spring clean and your keyboard is the best place to start.

It might be time consuming, it might be icky but it is definitely a necessity. So lets find out how many of you have now shaken just SOME of the collection of KeyChow (Keyboard Chow) from your keyboards? Cleaning a keyboard is simple but time consuming and consists of one by one pulling each and every key off the keyboard, giving them a good wipe, vacuuming out all the crud underneath the keys and replacing everything back to normal.

There are some great articles on how to do this on the internet already such as HowToGeek’s – HowTo Thoroughly Clean your Keyboard (take a look about half way down for the good stuff).

The only additional piece of advice I really do STRONGLY emphasise is to take a photo of your keyboard before you start, that way you already have a solved version of the puzzle for when you need to put it back together.

So if you haven’t done so in a while, wipe off your desk and give your keyboard a good clean. The germs of the world will hate you for it! 😀

Happy New Year everyone!


P.S. Apologies for being so quiet lately, been pumping all of my energy into a new open source project I am working on for the Atlassian Suite. I will try to blog more soon!