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‘Certainly mitigates the stress’: how to give someone an app, subscription or other virtual gift | Christmas

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Postal delivery deadlines have well and truly passed, and the window of time for a last-minute gift run has just about shut. Add rising Covid-19 cases to the mix, and a hasty trip to the mall on 24 December feels very much like panic buying.

While browsing for digital presents is something we “often don’t consider” because of “the tradition of having something physically wrapped up,” professor in consumer behaviour from Queensland University of Technology, Gary Mortimer, says the pool of virtual gifting options has dramatically deepened.

“Being able to sit quietly one evening and go through a whole range of virtual gifts and experiences for loved ones certainly mitigates the stress of having to battle busy shopping centres,” he says.

A woman sitting on a couch in front of a lit-up Christmas tree, looking at her phone
Mortimer says the rush of last minute gift shopping can be mitigated, with virtual gifts accessible from the comfort of your own home Photograph: miljko/Getty Images

Gifting your virtual product

“I actually give a lot of virtual presents to my friends and family,” says Yulia Saf, blogger behind Miss Tourist, who spends much of her time travelling.

“I do not think it ever feels like a last minute, ‘I-didn’t-have-time-to-buy-you-a-real-present’ present.”

She says it is “really important” to consider what the person likes. Then it’s a matter of searching the web for “virtual gifts by interest”.

Once you’ve found something that works, gifting it digitally is easy.

How to gift an app on your phone

There’s an app store pre-installed on most smartphones, and while most people use the store to download purchases on their own devices, you can also buy an app as a gift for someone else through them. Here’s how.

On an Apple iOS device – like an iPhone or iPad – start by browsing the store for the app you’d like to gift. Once you’ve found what you want, tap the app to arrive at its detail page.

There, you should see a rectangle with an arrow pointing up; that’s the action button.

Tap it, and scroll through the pop-up menu until you see the “Gift App” option, then select it.

While most people use the store to download purchases on their own devices, you can also purchase an app as a gift for someone else through them.

From there, follow the directions to send the app as a gift, which will involve entering the contact details and a message for your recipient, setting a delivery date, and choosing a visual theme for your gift presentation.

If you’re an Android user, Google Play doesn’t offer the same gifting service. But don’t worry, there is a workaround.

In the Google Play Store app, tap on the Menu button.

From there, select “Send gift”. Google Play allows you to gift credit for an app, rather than gifting an individual app alone. You’ll be able to enter the amount you would like to gift, and follow onscreen instructions to deliver that credit to your recipient.

How to gift a subscription or experience

From Netflix to Spotify, Audible, and Amazon Prime, many online streaming services and subscriptions can be sent as gifts.

For most, you can find a dedicated gifting page built into a streaming product’s website.

For most streaming services, you can find a ‘give a gift’ page direct on their website
For most streaming services, you can find a ‘give a gift’ page direct on their website Photograph: Audible

But before you buy, Andrew Zeng, digital marketer and e-commerce expert, urges you to “read the fine print”.

“Many platforms will only allow you to gift a subscription to new users,” he says. The Disney+ one-year gift subscription, for instance, cannot be added to a recipient’s existing subscription.

Other services do “allow gifting additional months to pre-existing users”. Just be sure to double check the terms of the gift before you place your order.

Mortimer also suggests perusing virtual travel experiences.

A screencap of Indigenous travel site Welcome to Country
Indigenous travel site Welcome to Country is one among many that offer travel experiences virtually Photograph: Welcome To Country

“As a result of the pandemic, we saw a lot of travel agencies doing virtual tours of places,” he says. “Jordan, Petra, all the places you’d love to get to, but can’t.”

Airbnb offers virtual experiences, from trip planning sessions to tours of famous movie sets; closer to home, Indigenous travel site Welcome to Country also has digital travel sessions on offer.

A screencap of TheBeekeeper.org website, displaying an online course for beginner beekeeping
Zeng suggests gifting an online class, of which there are some quirky ones. For the uncommitted hive-curious, a month’s subscription to fancy beehive-maker Flow’s digital education resource TheBeekeeper.org is an ideal taster Photograph: TheBeekeeper.org

Zeng’s personal favourite digital present is the gift of an online class.

“A friend of mine gifted an online course subscription recently, around photography and branding, as I continue to grow my business,” he says. “I found it extremely thoughtful and endearing.”

Making it special

You aren’t limited to sending your gift to its recipient in a trite email with a link and activation code. Saf says there are plenty of ways to make giving the gift more fun.

A laptop on a table surrounded by Christmas presents, displaying a video of two people wearing Santa hats
Zeng suggests personalising your virtual gift with a video to your giftee Photograph: FilippoBacci/Getty Images

An easy option that will personalise the gift is a video.

“Just record a simple, short video of yourself with a personal message,” Zeng suggests. “As if you were to give the gift in person.”

Saf also says using video can be a helpful way to teach a not-so-tech-savvy recipient how to activate their virtual gift. She recommends using Loom video, which supports recording your screen and face simultaneously.

A selection of e-cards available online
E-cards are an easy to find, free companion to your virtual gift Photograph: Open Me

For the camera-shy, Zeng suggests pairing your virtual gift with an e-card.

Easy to find for free online, some e-card sites offer digital versions of classic printed cards, featuring quirky quotes and designs you’d pick up from the local news agency. Others offer animated video cards. Both are a ribbon on top of your virtual gift which you can upload into an email and shoot over to the recipient instantly.

Finally, beyond the apps, subscriptions, vouchers and e-cards, Zeng recommends gifting custom digital art.

“You could use a marketplace like Etsy, find an artist and have them hand draw a self-portrait, or something of significance,” he says. “It’s all about personalisation when it comes to virtual gifts, that makes it extra special.”

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Best podcasts of the week: what does the bloodsucking saga Twilight tell us about society? | Podcasts

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Picks of the week

The Big Hit Show
“Twilight is stupid; if you like it, you’re also stupid.” Why is there so much vitriol towards female Twihards? (Spoiler: misogyny.) In the first run of a series unpicking pop culture’s biggest moments – from the Obamas’ media company – Alex Pappademas starts by dissecting the wildly popular tale of teenage vampire love – and what the reactions to it say about us. Even if you’re not a fan, he raises some great questions. Hollie Richardson

Fake Psychic
Journalist Vicky Baker captivated listeners with Fake Heiress and now she investigates the fascinating story of Lamar Keene, the go-to spiritualist of 1960s America. When he hung up his questionable crystal ball he decided to reveal the tricks of supposed psychics, and Baker asks if that too was a con while pondering the authenticity of the psychics who followed. Hannah Verdier

Deep Cover: Mob Land
Animal lover, lawyer and switcher of identities Bob Cooley is the subject of Jake Halpern’s new season of the reliably mysterious podcast. Cooley was a top Chicago mob lawyer in the 70s and 80s, but what was the price when he offered to switch to the FBI’s side? This dive into corruption quizzes the key figures around him. HV

Chutzpod
This lively, engaging podcast attempts to “apply a Jewish lens to life’s toughest questions”. Hosts Rabbi Shira Stutman and one-time West Wing actor Joshua Malina cover topics ranging from reality TV shows to the Jewish “New Year of the Trees”, via the recent hostage stand-off at a synagogue in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville. Alexi Duggins

Backstage Pass with Eric Vetro
Eric Vestro is a vocal coach who’s worked with the likes of John Legend, Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello and Ariana Grande. Here, he entertainingly lifts the curtain on their craft, talking to them about their journey in a manner that feels genuinely intimate given their pre-existing relationships. Expect some enjoyably daft voice exercises too. AD

Royally Flush investigates the monarchy’s relationship with the British slave trade.
Royally Flush investigates the monarchy’s relationship with the British slave trade. Photograph: Chris Radburn/Reuters

Chosen by Danielle Stephens

It’s fair to say that in the last couple of years the British monarchy has been put under a microscope for the way they handle their own family members, whether that be an heir to the throne and his American wife, or a prince embroiled in a civil sex abuse case. In a two parter titled Royally Flush, however, the Broccoli Productions’ Human Resources podcast goes back in time to investigate the royal family’s role in the slave trade in Britain, questioning how influential they were in trying to prevent abolition.

This is clearly a pandemic production as audio quality can sometimes be shaky, but the content is an important listen. As the country gears up to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee, writer and host, Moya Lothian-McLean takes us on an unexplored trip down memory lane, presenting fascinating insights into why – despite ample evidence that the monarchy was historically instrumental in propping up the slave trade in Britain – we haven’t heard so much as a sorry coming from Buckingham Palace, according to the program maker.

Talking points

  • Never underestimate the skill that goes into making a good podcast. Over a year since Meghan and Harry’s audio production company Archewell signed a podcast deal with Spotify, they’ve only managed to release a single podcast. Hence, presumably the job ads Spotify posted this week, looking for full-time staff to help Archewell.

  • Why not try: Smartless | Screenshot

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California’s net neutrality law dodges Big Telecom bullet • The Register

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The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s refusal to block California’s net neutrality law (SB 822), affirming that state laws can regulate internet connectivity where federal law has gone silent.

The decision is a blow to the large internet service providers that challenged California’s regulations, which prohibit network practices that discriminate against lawful applications and online activities. SB 822, for example, forbids “zero-rating” programs that exempt favored services from customer data allotments, paid prioritization, and blocking or degrading service.

In 2017, under the leadership of then-chairman Ajit Pai, the US Federal Communications Commission tossed out America’s net neutrality rules, to the delight of the internet service providers that had to comply. Then in 2018, the FCC issued an order that redefined broadband internet services, treating them as “information services” under Title I of the Communications Act instead of more regulated “telecommunications services” under Title II of the Communications Act.

California lawmaker Scott Wiener (D) crafted SB 822 to implement the nixed 2015 Open Internet Order on a state level, in an effort to fill the vacuum left by the FCC’s abdication. SB 822, the “California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018,” was signed into law in September 2018 and promptly challenged.

In October 2018, a group of cable and telecom trade associations sued California to prevent SB 822 from being enforced. In February, 2021, Judge John Mendez of the United States District Court for Eastern California declined to grant the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the law. 

So the trade groups took their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has now rejected their arguments. While federal laws can preempt state laws, the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband services has moved those services outside its authority and opened a gap that state regulators are now free to fill.

“We conclude the district court correctly denied the preliminary injunction,” the appellate ruling [PDF] says. “This is because only the invocation of federal regulatory authority can preempt state regulatory authority.

The FCC no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services

“As the D.C. Circuit held in Mozilla, by classifying broadband internet services as information services, the FCC no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services. The agency, therefore, cannot preempt state action, like SB 822, that protects net neutrality.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supported California in an amicus brief, celebrated the decision in a statement emailed to The Register.

“EFF is pleased that the Ninth Circuit has refused to bar enforcement of California’s pioneering net neutrality rules, recognizing a very simple principle: the federal government can’t simultaneously refuse to protect net neutrality and prevent anyone else from filling the gap,” a spokesperson said.

“Californians can breathe a sigh of relief that their state will be able to do its part to ensure fair access to the internet for all, at a time when we most need it.”

There’s still the possibility that the plaintiffs – ACA Connects, CTIA, NCTA and USTelecom – could appeal to the US Supreme Court.

In an emailed statement, the organizations told us, “We’re disappointed and will review our options. Once again, a piecemeal approach to this issue is untenable and Congress should codify national rules for an open Internet once and for all.” ®

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RCSI scientists find potential treatment for secondary breast cancer

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An existing drug called PARP inhibitor can be used to exploit a vulnerability in the way breast cancer cells repair their DNA, preventing spread to the brain.

For a long time, there have been limited treatment options for patients with breast cancer that has spread to the brain, sometimes leaving them with just months to live. But scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) have found a potential treatment using existing drugs.

By tracking the development of tumours from diagnosis to their spread to the brain, a team of researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre found a previously unknown vulnerability in the way the tumours repair their DNA.

An existing kind of drug known as a PARP inhibitor, often used to treat heritable cancers, can prevent cancer cells from repairing their DNA because of this vulnerability, culminating in the cells dying and the patient being rid of the cancer.

Prof Leonie Young, principal investigator of the RCSI study, said that breast cancer research focused on expanding treatment options for patients whose disease has spread to the brain is urgently needed to save the lives of those living with the disease.

“Our study represents an important development in getting one step closer to a potential treatment for patients with this devastating complication of breast cancer,” she said of the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Deaths caused by breast cancer are often a result of treatment relapses which lead to tumours spreading to other parts of the body, a condition known as secondary or metastatic breast cancer. This kind of cancer is particularly aggressive and lethal when it spreads to the brain.

The study was funded by Breast Cancer Ireland with support from Breast Cancer Now and Science Foundation Ireland.

It was carried out as an international collaboration with the Mayo Clinic and the University of Pittsburgh in the US. Apart from Prof Young, the other RCSI researchers were Dr Nicola Cosgrove, Dr Damir Varešlija and Prof Arnold Hill.

“By uncovering these new vulnerabilities in DNA pathways in brain metastasis, our research opens up the possibility of novel treatment strategies for patients who previously had limited targeted therapy options”, said Dr Varešlija.

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