PLDT DSL Game Lag – Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls

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Update: PLDT reported a fiber optic cable break on one of their main Internet routes. This forced them to route traffic to other carriers. ETA is by mid April.

It’s been more that a year since I last played Diablo 3. There were no issues then, it simple worked, no lag or any issues whatsoever. That was prior to the speed upgrade PLDT implemented last year. I was at plan 3000, which was 5Mbps then.

When the Diablo 3 expansion, Reaper of Souls was released, I played Diablo again and lo and behold, the latency is not that great anymore. Occasionally, it will be fine(around 100-200ms), but often time it is in the 600-1000ms range. I’m still at plan 3000, but speed now ranges from 8-9Mbps.

Anyone having this issue? I’m in the US server by the way.

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PLDT Throttling/Limiting Bit Torrent Traffic?

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Update: As of 2pm January 7, 2014, bit-torrent speed is back to normal.

A few days back, I needed to download something using Bit Torrent and noticed very slow speed. What used to be 1 MB/second(8Mbps-9Mbps) of throughput, now down to less than 50Kb/second(0.4Mbps).  This started probably around December 23 and it’s been 4 days. Apparently, other netizens experience the same issue(tipidpc, pinoydsl, PH reddit etc). I’m on PLDT wired DSL service by the way.

What’s the reason this is happening? PLDT has not issued any statement about any policy changes. These are the possible reasons I can think of:

  1. There was a submarine cable break in Vietnam before Christmas. According to some, this undersea cable is also being used by PLDT. So speculations abound saying that PLDT has to cut down torrent traffic to compensate for the loss bandwidth to the US. IMHO, this is a valid excuse, since this is an accident, but if this was the reason why speeds are being throttled, why is PLDT not issuing any public advisories? There was an undersea cable break a couple of years back and ISPs affected reported the issue for everyone to know.
  2. PLDT might be testing their traffic shapers. These equipments does the throttling and advanced ones can detect how ever you disguise your torrent traffic(port change, encryption etc). If this is the reason, then I will probably find ISP alternatives soon.
  3. PLDT have internal network issues. Some says they called 172 and CS told them they have server issues that will be fixed by January 8. Not sure how accurate is this because only a handful of PLDT CS knows what they’re saying, specially on the technical side. :)

Please feel free to post your experience. I do hope this is not permanent.

Update: 01/05/2014

Ok, now I’m back home(Manila) and have just tested this PLDT issue this morning. Here are some additional info on my own PLDT connection. Some users report performance issues on browsing, regular downloads etc, but in my case it’s only bit torrent traffic that’s affected. See below.

  1. Speedtest results are unaffected. I’m still getting the maximum throughput offered for my plan.
  2. Regular downloads via http/https are unaffected.
  3. Streaming from YouTube is unaffected. I can watch streams at 1080p without any buffering.
  4. bit-torrent download traffic is extremely throttled down. bit-torrent upload traffic seems unaffected. Bit-torrent download bandwidth is significantly reduced(by 90-95%). I downloaded 2 heavily seeded torrent files and combined download average is around 60KB/s sometimes spiking to ~100KB/s.

Speedtest: (no problem)

 

Regular Downloads: (no problem)

2014-01-05 06.27.37 am

Bit-torrent: (heavily throttled download, upload is fine)

2014-01-05 06.59.06 am

 

Alright, so I tried changing my client’s listening port – no effect. Tried enabling encryption, didn’t help at all. So far, I’ve not found any working solution to bypass throttling. I haven’t tried VPN solutions or Torguard yet, but I’ll look into those in the next few days. If this persists, I guess the only solution would be to shift provider. We’ll see in the next few weeks how this progresses.

Possible Solutions: {Updated: 01/06/2013}

  1. Anonymous proxies anyone? – Noiskee posted that anonymous proxies work. If your torrent client supports proxies(http/https/socks), then you can search for open proxies online and set the proxy’s IP and port on your torrent client.Pick HTTPS/Socks proxies(do not use HTTP) for added security. Anyway, this is not a solution for me, as (1) most of anonymous proxy servers don’t last long(you are lucky if you can find one that lasts for a day).  (2) my torrent client is on my NAS and it will be a pain reconfiguring it manually every time a proxy dies down(i don’t have time to automate proxy IP changes, maybe later). Anyway, I posted it here if someone wants to try, but testing on uTorrent on my Windows box, it does NOT work on a few proxy IPs i’ve tried.
  2. Use VPN(Not free though): Will post testing speeds soon. I’m having my HMA account reactivated. This will certainly work, but you won’t get 100% of your torrent speed. VPN encrypts traffic and forwards it to a VPN endpoint abroad. The issue with this is that its not free. I’m using VPN to do my job so this might extend its use. :)
  3. SSH Tunneling, suggested by Rob Locke(requires access to a computer with un-throttled connection).  The idea is to tunnel your bit torrent traffic to a computer via SSH. This is a crude version of a VPN. If your office has unfiltered access to bit torrent traffic, this might be a solution, specially on the weekends. On weekdays however, you can just download from the office and bring them home when they’re done. But if you work from home and have access to a server in the office, then this is a viable option.
  4. Shift from torrent to file sharing sites(requires premium to get maximum speed). This is the reason why file sharing sites still exists(mega, 4shared, sendspace etc). But to get the most out of them, you need to get a premium subscription. jDownloader is a useful tool if you use these. You also need to look for alternate sites that hosts files on file sharing sites instead of torrent trackers.
  5. Seedbox(suggested by Rommel) – I am only a casual torrent downloader and this might apply to someone who downloads torrent most of the time. You basically rent a server instance from a service provider(US) and download/seed torrent on data center speeds. You then pull the download to your home connection. 
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Pobox vs Forex vs MyShoppingBox vs Johnny Air Cargo – A Review Series (Part 3)

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Gone are the days when you only rely on your US relatives trip back home to PH to bring you your designer clothes, newest shoes, electronics and other items. Here’s a review of delivery companies offering forwarding services from the US to the Philippines.

This is the third part of my review of shipping companies that offers delivery services for items purchased from US online merchants to the Philippines.

Company: Forexworld
Website: http://www.forexworld.us
Shipping Type: Sea Freight
Transit Time: 30-45  days
Cost:

Published Rates for LA Warehouse
Box
Dimension
Shipping Charge
Green box (non commercial box)
24” x 18” x 24”
$65.00
Blue box (regular box)
23” x 20” x 17”
$55.00
Red Box (medium box)
23” x 16” x 17”
$45.00
Bulilit box
18” x 16” x 9”
$35.00
Any box smaller than the bulilit
$25.00
These rates apply to Metro Manila deliveries only.  Deliveries to provinces are available for an extra charge, depending on its destination.

Pros:

  • Offers different sized boxes, depending on how big your packages are, no weight restrictions. Quite cheap if you are ordering heavy items.
  • Accepts odd sized packages as well, gives you a quote on how much the cost is.
  • Free Item Consolidation, they remove the merchant’s boxes to save space! They can store your items for a maximum of 45 days
  • Online portal to manage your items, status of your box. Once you input your items online, allow 24-48hours and it will be updated automatically once they received it.
  • Delivered at your door at no extra fee.
  • If you plan to ship a TV, for a fee you can request to have it powered on once it arrives(to prevent dead on arrival units).
  • You can purchase additional insurance.

Cons:

  • Slow, specially on busy season(Black Friday sale, Christmas – expect 6-8 weeks.
  • Manual system for payment(bank deposits), PayPal has extra charge
  • Recent news of pilferage by US Customs

Sample Tracking:

So Forex is the mother company of PoBox as far as I know. Their shipping address looks similar(could be adjacent buildings), so I would presume this is owned by the same family or so.

Anyway, to make this short Forex > Pobox. In all aspect of the customer experience, Forex delivered better than Pobox. Forex’s online portal is way better than Pobox in terms of feature and its updated almost in real time. I inputted my items immediately after ordering and the entries were updated the same day they received my parcel. The portal also sends email notifications.  Another thing is that their customer service in PH is quite good. They respond to email updates within 24 hours and when you call them up, there’s no long waiting time.

My box departed US Nov 22 and arrived in PH Dec 23, with all 32 items(~$1000 worth) accounted for(I paid less than Php 3500, with extra insurance). I can’t wait to order my next box, yes from Forex from this time on.

 

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Romoss Sailing 5 13000mah External Battery Unboxing and Review

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I got myself a Romoss power brick this morning from a Sulit seller. I’ve been hunting for a good deal for an external battery online for the past 2 days and found Anker at Amazon, unfortunately, I have to have something before the weekend as I’m travelling to the province.

It’s the first time I heard of the company, but since the seller offered 6months warranty, compared with 1 month warranty for Yoobao, I took the chance and ordered their 13000mah model.  Here are some unboxing photos. Stay tuned for the review, as I needed time to test the product. This costs Php 2,000.

Name
sailing 5
Capacity
13000mAh
Model
PH50
ID
PH50-301
Weight
296g/10.44ozs
Size
138*62*21.5mm/5.43*2.44*0.85in.
Input
DC5V 2.1A
Output
1.DC5V 1A  2.DC5V 2.1A
Power
15W
Charging Time
~8 hrs (2.1A adapter)

image_1

Box Contents: The power brick, a USB cable and a user manual.

image_2

image_3

Sorry for the watermark. The input port is micro USB, there’s a button to check the power level and there’s 4 LED to show the battery status.

image_42 Output Ports – 2.1A and 1A.

image_5

Here’s the power brick side by side with a Galaxy S3.

image_6

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iPad Warranty Experience – Power Mac Center

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More than a month ago, my iPad 4’s screen started to show a 2 inch vertical band across its screen. The band actually intermittently appears, but most of the time it manifests itself after around 30 minutes of continuous use(I figure it might be heat induced). I thought it was because of the upgrade to IOS 7, so I immediately restored the iPad to default to no avail. I also reverted to IOS 6 without any improvement and the problem seems to worsen. The band seems to stick now and is very noticeable if you use a dark screensaver. So I thought, well this is not just a software issue, it’s a faulty screen.

I have an iPad 1, which is up to now(more than 3 years old now) works flawlessly without any protection and this iPad 4 on its Otterbox case is not more than a year old and have this screen issue. Anyway, fortunately, it’s still under warranty.

So I brought my iPad in their Greenhills service center. It’s in the the Northeast Square building along Connecticut St. It’s around 100-200m from the Greenhills Shopping Center.

The service center is kinda small but their staff are all accommodating and courteous. I was there before lunch and it probably took me less than 20 minutes to have the iPad processed for service. The white band did not appear at first, but luckily after playing some videos and changing the wallpaper, then rebooting, the tech said that its a hardware issue. They did not ask for a receipt, they just check the serial number. They will examine your iPad for scratches, dents etc, but since mine is fully covered and look like its fresh from the box, it didn’t took long and the tech processed the paper works.

Upon leaving, I was told that the replacement should be expected in 2-4 weeks, or even up to a month. I personally think this is too long for a company like Apple.

One thing I liked is that they periodically send updates via SMS. In my case, I received 4 SMS, the first one on the day I brought my iPad, the second one was when they said that the replacement was approved and then the 3rd and 4th one was when they said that it arrived and ready for pick up.

Screenshot_2013-10-31-12-58-02

Screenshot_2013-10-31-12-58-32

Screenshot_2013-10-31-12-58-43

Screenshot_2013-10-31-12-58-53

Pros:

  • Power Mac’s service center is easily accessible. There are no long lines and the staff are all courteous. There’s a sales office right beside the service center if you want to purchase Mac products
  • Sends SMS notifications when there’s an update on your Apple product. When I checked their website, there’s a work on progress page where supposedly you can use to query your device status.

Cons:

  • It took 32 days to replace my iPad. In fairness to Power Mac, when I followed up via phone 4 weeks after I brought in mine, they said that the replacement actually arrived October 8, which is roughly 10 days after they accepted the uni. The person on the phone told me that their shipment is stuck in customs for 2 weeks! When i picked up the replacement(they replaced the entire unit by the way), I asked them if they could extend the warranty since they ate 1/12th of the warranty period. They said no, and told me its “normal” to get the replacement in 1 month.
  • They don’t answer email inquiries for follow up(at least on my experience). Before I called I sent an email and when I didn’t receive any reply just called. Phone experience was not that bad though.
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PLDT Upgrade 2013 Official Email

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PLDT started sending upgrading notifications via email. I blogged here about my upgrade experience around 4 months ago and I guess they’ve “officially” upgraded my subscription. Below is the email I received this morning.

A couple of points:

  1. I’ve been enjoying the upgrade since June, and
  2. My speed is actually close to 10Mbps, not 8Mbps.

So, I’m not complaining. :-)

2013-10-26 09.16.46 am

 

 

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How to benchmark your DSL speed?

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“What’s the best way to measure my DSL speed? Am I getting the speed I paid for? These questions are being asked to me a lot of times so I decided to write something about it. Note that i’ve made a few references to PLDT because it is my current provider, but technically these tests will apply to any ISP.

There are a couple of Internet speed measurement websites around. I primarily use 2, SpeedTest and TestMyNet.  I use SpeedTest most of the time since it supports local speed tests, which I will explain shortly. I only use TestMyNet to troubleshoot some issues I have with my connection. To measure true Internet speed, I use a mix of regular download and torrent download.

There are 2 speeds you have to be aware of  with regards to your residential Itnernet connection. First is the speed from your home, to your ISP’s data center. I call this “local speed” and my own personal criteria is that these should be close by a margin of -5%(low) to +15%(high) from your DSL plan speed. Example: You are on PLDT Plan 1299(2Mbps, 2013), you should be getting 1.7Mbps-2.1Mbps local speed.  Speedtest.net have local servers for most of the major PH ISPs. A local server is a speedtest server hosted by your ISP. Speedtest allows ISPs to host their own server so their subscribers can measure the speed from their home to their data center.  So if you open speedtest.net, pick the server of your ISP. Below is my local speed at Plan 3000 using a server hosted by Smart(PLDT), this goes from 8Mbps to 9.9Mbps depending on the time of day.

3037915292

 

 

 

 

Now, what’s affects local speed? Primarily, DSL signal degrades over distance. The farther you are from the ISP, the lower your DSL signal is and proportionally, the higher your DSL signal noise. Also, if you have worn out and rusted cables, grounded lines and the likes, this will affect your local speed. From inside your home, this is something that you can check and verify. Check the PLDT drop lines outside your home, is it properly grounded? Check the junction box – are the contacts free from rust? Check the splitters etc.  So before calling your ISP to bitch and moan that you aren’t getting your speed, make sure you have those items checked.

The second type of speed you need to be aware of is your actual “Internet speed”. This is the speed you get when you download files off the Internet. Compared with local speed, the files you’re getting to test Internet speed is beyond your ISP’s data center.

There are 2 ways to check your Internet speed, see below. I primarily use Linux disk images(from centos.org) as downloads since they’re hosted on large data centers

1. Use a download manager(I use the one from freedownloadmanager.org) and download a file from a good source. A download manager creates multiple connections to a site to download the file. Here’s my average download using a download manager at my speed:

downloadmanger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This translates to roughly 9.1Mbps, which is pretty close to my “local speed” from speedtest.

2. Second way to test is to download a file using bit torrent. Bit torrent is a file sharing protocol(when you download a chunk of a file, you also upload a chunk of it to others), thus, the more people downloading a file, the faster your download speed will be. It’s like using test #1 but this time you’ll have multiple download sources(see below, i’m downloading from 56 sources!), thus your speed is highly maximized. Here’s my torrent speed – roughly 9.9Mbps.

centos

 

 

 

So to sum up:

  • Use speedtest.net to get an overall view of your speed(local speed). When you encounter sluggish internet, go to speedtest.net first and check if your speed is down from the usual readings. If it does, it might be a physical issue or a local downtime perhaps. If it doesn’t, it might be a DNS issue or the site is having problems. Register for an account on speedtest.net so you can have a history of all your speedtests.
  • To measure your real internet speed, download a file using a download manager or using bit torrent. This is what matters most since this is the speed you are paying for.
  • In any troubleshooting task, isolation is the key. Make sure you have reliable local speed when testing Internet stability. When measuring actual throughput, rely on your Internet speed more than local speed.
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Windows 8.1 and Lenovo Thinkpad T410 Sleep Issues

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I just installed the GM version of Windows 8.1 from my MSDN subscription on my 3 year old Lenovo T410 and decided to revert back to Windows 7(Yes, I skipped 8.0). The most pressing issue I encountered is that the laptop won’t wake up from sleep. When you close the laptop to put it in sleep mode, it won’t wake up after you open the screen. The laptop seems to initiate very few IO, then decide to just sit there idle(no screen display, no disk activity). You have to power cycle the laptop to get it working again.

This is a big flaw for me. I don’t shutdown my computer and basically just put it in sleep when I don’t use it. I am in front of my computer mostly throughout the day and it makes no sense shutting it down as it slows me down. I only reboot/shutdown when i’m on vacation or installing some patches.

I’ve tried everything from updating the BIOS to installing the latest power management driver from Lenovo. I will update this post when I find a solution to this issue. Stay tuned.

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Access your Android phone’s SMS from your Android tablet and PC

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mt_2a

Since the first tablets arrived circa 2010, my daily phone usage(on the aspect of using the none phone features) has gone down. I mostly use it now only for SMS and calls and do the rest of the stuff on my tablet(browsing, movies, music, reading etc). The release of a special class of devices called phablets bridged the gap but in my case, I don’t really like its form factor. I feel it’s too big of a phone and too small of a tablet.

At home, my Nexus 7 is always with me more than my phone. The phone stays in my room, while the the Nexus goes with me in the Living Room, Bedroom, Dining Room, Comfort room, you name it. The problem is, having all my attention on my tablet, I miss SMS and calls from the phone since it’s out of physical reach.

And then I found MightyText. This is a free solution that allows you to send and receive SMS/MMS from your Android tablet and PC/Mac. Just install the Android app and use your google account to register. Install the Chrome plugin and you will be able to do the same from your PC/Mac using the browser. You can also view photos that you took on your phone(optional, and disabled by default).

The app requires Internet access to work, though it would be nice if it could also support bluetooth as a backup. The app communicates to a cloud server using your Google account which in turn notifies all your connected devices when an SMS/call is received. Sending SMS basically works the opposite way, your device send the message to the cloud, then the app in your phone receives it and send it via SMS using your carrier.

It’s a perfect app for me, but one of my concern is privacy. Since your SMS/call information/contacts and even photos is routed to their server, they have access to your private information. I’m still considering if I will use it full time. I just hope they offer a paid service where my data is encrypted using my key on their servers. This will make me use their service more.

 

 

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How to order Nexus 7 2nd Gen from Amazon US to Philippines

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Amazon: $269 for the 32GB version + $18.83 Sales Tax(New Jersey) = Php 12827

Johnny Air Cargo: Php 849.52

Total Cost: Php 13,677

nexus7fhd

Disclaimer: Alright, I just want to be clear here, I know this price is around Php 2000 cheaper than what most stores in PH sell the 32GB 2nd generation of Nexus 7. However, the shipping charge from JAC could change depending on how Amazon or the online shop where you purchased the tablet packed it.

And so early this month(August), I was looking for a way to source a Nexus 7 2nd generation as I needed it for a project. The tablet was released a few weeks earlier in the US and I am pretty sure the only way I can buy it is online. When I checked Amazon, the 32GB is on back order for 2 weeks, but based from previous experiences, I know that their shipping estimate is pretty conservative. And so I ordered the 32GB version and shipped it to JAC(NJ), and hopefully I’ll get it in more or less 3 weeks time.

4 days passed and I receive a shipping notification from Amazon that my ordered was shipped, and I thought I was right that they’ll be able to ship it earlier than expected.

Alright, then came the waiting game. Here’s the timeline on how much time it took from ordering to the time I received the tablet.

Aug 03 – Item ordered on Amazon(2-4 weeks shipping time)
Aug 07 – Amazon marked item: Shipped(2 day shipping)
Aug 09 – Fedex marked item: Delivered
Aug 12 – JAC marked item: Received
Aug 15 – In transit(probably on plane)
Aug 22 – JAC marked item: For Processing(Manila)
Aug 24 – AM: JAC sent me an SMS to pick it up
Aug 24 – PM: Picked up

Based on previous transit times using JAC, I normally get the item at the 8th working day starting the count from the day they receive the item. For this instance, it is 4 days delayed. The reason was there was a typhoon in Manila the week my item arrived. Customs was closed for approximately 2 days and so JAC told me that there are a lot of backlog inspections in Customs.

Now here’s the thing, this is the first time that I’ve received an item from Amazon that is not packed in a box. Amazon shipped my item on a pouch! I was really anxious to test the tablet as I don’t know how JAC handled the shipment and I’m afraid the bubble wrap inside the pouch offers very little protection to the tablet. When I opened the envelope, I examined the Nexus 7 box and luckily there are no bumps and the tablet was in pristine condition.

With a shipping weight of only 2lbs, I paid the minimum amount of Php 850, which is not bad. What confuses me is why JAC didn’t charge me an additional of $25 since it is a tablet. When I ordered a Kindle a while back, i paid close to Php 2000 I think. So I don’t know if they made a mistake or they removed this policy already.

The tablet was awesome! I liked it more than my iPad 4 because of its size and weight. I’ll make another post on my first day of using it(yes, I rooted the device on day one).  So stay tuned!

I am an early adopter, so I won’t mind spending a little bit more just to get a device earlier. I think PH will have a steady supply of this in the next few months. As of this date, the cheapest Nexus 7 2nd gen 32GB I know is around ~15K Php. If you decide to take my route and buy it from Amazon, here are some tips:

  1.  You can have free 2 day shipping in Amazon if you try Amazon Prime for 30 days.
  2. The same item can be sold by different sellers. I only buy if it is sold by Amazon, not other retailers. Make sure you check which seller you’re purchasing the item from. If it is not Amazon, make sure you check the feedback etc. Right now, its Out of Stock on Amazon, but as I’ve said it’s available from other sellers. Last week I saw that Amazon is shipping it 1-2months, now its Out of Stock. There’s too much demand for this tablet.
  3. I use JAC plus, not JAC Retail. I think these are 2 different sales group from within JAC. I don’t know, but I think JAC plus staff is much more efficient in terms of replying to questions via email. To send using JAC Plus, send your item to JETC/Your Name, JAC+, followed by the address. JAC has office in NJ and NY, I’m used to sending my items to NJ because they have no tax, but since mid this year they charge sales tax to Amazon already. It might be faster to ship out if its shipped to NY, but I can’t confirm it, maybe next time.
  4. Once Amazon/Fedex marked your item as delivered, wait for 1-2 days and send an email to JAC(find the email in their website). They’ll give you a tracking number and you can check it’s status at http://tracker.johnnyairplus.com.
  5. I was charged a little bit less because Amazon shipped the item in a pouch. You may have additional charge if it was packaged on a box(if it is a big box, sometimes this happen). But the tablet’s box is pretty compact, so if Amazon use the right box size, I think you will be charged the same. Also I was not charged of additional $25 for a tablet purchase.
  6. JAC sends SMS when the item is ready for pickup. The SMS will include the amount to pay. They do accept credit cards by the way. If you can’t pick the item personally, you can write an authorization letter for someone to pick it on your behalf.

 

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