Archive for Sept 2004


XML as a Native Data Type

Jon Udell talks about E4X, a version of Javascript that has the ability to work with XML natively. In the same way you can say things like foo = "Hello" you can also say bar = <people>...</people> Jon gives some examples and they're compelling. I agree with Jon that once XML as a native data type catches on, its likely to be a feature that you can't live without.
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Kodak Standards Adopted

I wrote a while ago about Kodak's changing business model. Part of Kodak's strategy was to create standards for digital printing. Yesterday, six printer manufacturers announced that they will support Kodak's standard.
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Municipal Wi-Fi in OK

Dave Fletcher points out that Oklahoma City is building a 400 square mile Wi-Fi network at the cost of $78 million. As Dave says "Wow!" What's sad is that this is just for public safety--no citizen access as far as I can tell. Even if it were, they' still wouldn't be able to do any interesting broadband projects that involve significant bandwidth, such as video. Utopia opponents were always saying "Wi-Fi is cheaper and will obsolete fiber." This proves them wrong.
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PODCasting: Delivering Audio to MP3 Players Like the iPod

Over at Doc Searl's IT Garage, he's discussing PODCasting which, of course, has reference to the iPod, but Doc has coined an acronym "Personal Option Digital" casting to be clear we're talking about a new way for users to hear what they want, not just one company's product. This is an interesting phenomenon, which will likely change how many of us listen to any audio that is time insensitive. This is generating a lot of buzz right now: PODCasting arguably started with Doug Kaye's IT Conversations, at least that's where I first started seeing enough interesting programs that I'd
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LiveServer Preview

My preview of LiveServer has been published at InfoWorld. I'm working on a full-blown review now.
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Perl Programmers Wanted

I've had two different companies approach me in the last week and ask me if I knew where they could find good Perl programmers. Both are paying gigs with people I trust. If you know Perl and you're looking for a new opportunity, let me know.
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New My Yahoo! Beta

Yahoo! has a new beta of their My Yahoo! service available (thanks to Jeremy Zawodny for the link). To use it, just click on the "try new beta" link at the top of your My Yahoo! page. Not only does it incorporate the RSS reading features that have been in beta since January, but the layout is better and the tools cleaner. One thing I really like is that the stories (RSS or otherwise) will display a short summary in addition to the headline so that you can tell if you want to click out or not. As Jeremy
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Explaining RSS

I find myself explaining RSS a lot these days. When I spoke at the IT Seminar last week only a handful of the hundred or so students who were there raised their hand when I asked if they knew what RSS was. The problem is that its like trying to explain HTML, rather than the WWW. Rafe Needleman of c|net News has a video that explains RSS along with some other resources. I've added it to my RSS resources page.
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Technorati Outages and the Importance of Product Engineers

Dave Sifry gives some details about the Technorati outage this past weekend. Seems an electrical fire in the data center their co-lo at was the culprit. Running a 24/7 Web application reliably isn't easy and it isn't cheap. It took us several years of problems and study to hit on a solution at iMALL. We finally did figure it out and that was a real lightening of my load. One of the answers is product engineers, an engineer on the operations side whose job it is to make the product (not just the server) work. Properly incented, a product
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CTO Breakfast Report: Local Exchanges

The topic for Friday's CTO Breakfast was local exchanges. We had a great discussion and several new people Hope to see you there next month. Don't know what an exchange is or why its important? Keep reading. In the days of railroad, dead end rail lines, called spurs, were built to connect small communities to the main rail line. This allowed farmers to ship their wares to market and small businesses to more easily get supplies. If you were a big business with lots of shipping needs, you didn't locate at the end of a spur, you located in
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eVoting Round-Up

Here's a round-up of some eVoting articles from the last few days: First, the Deseret News has an article about the press conference on eVoting held at the Univ. of Utah last week. Its short, but gets the main point across: "paperless voting are insecure." An opinion piece from the Christian Science Monitor discusses the first use of electronic voting machines with a paper trail in Nevada's primary this month. Perhaps inadvertently, Nevada's success will help squash much of the controversy over the reliability of electronic voting machines. Though states are moving toward e-voting - approximately one-third of voters
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Linux Savior or Sellout?

I was in Borders yesterday looking around and saw Miguel de Icaza staring at me. No, he wasn't in the bookstore, but he's on the cover of the September issue of Technology Review. The article was entitled "Linux Sellout or Savior?" and they played up that angle a bit too much for my taste, but it was still interesting to see the story. I'm sure its some version of reality. :-) Matt Asay was quoted in the article as well: Matt Asay, Novell's Linux Business Office Director, concedes that it tool Novell employees a while to get used to
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Slides from IT Seminar

I felt like my talk at the IT seminary went fairly well. There were a lot of people there. As promised, here are my slides. Warning: the file is large and there's not much text (mostly pictures) so they may not mean much if you weren't at the talk.
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Speaking at IT Seminar

I'll be speaking at the weekly IT seminar tomorrow in the Crabtree building (BYU) at 11am. I'll be speaking on the topic of "connected computing." I'll post slides here later for anyone who's interested.
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Presidential Candidate Website Smackdown

Brian Sweeting has a smackdown comparing the Bush and Kerry Web sites. If the technical merits of a Web site are any indication, Kerry sweeps it according to Brian.
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Data Center Consolidation

California is pushing data center consolidation among other things. Meanwhile Utah has its own data center consolidation issues. People continue to talk about it but until the legislature decides its time to stop allocating money for new data centers, they'll keep getting built. The Dept. of Corrections is building one in Gunnison, just up the road from the State's back-up data center in Richfield. Dave Fletcher, who runs the Richfield data center, is working hard to make it an attractive alternative for State agencies so that they won't build their own, but apparently that's somewhat threatenting to some Dept.
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Manipulating Feeds

Have you ever interrupted an HTTP download and then restarted it later and had it pick up where it left off? That little bit of magic is the result of RFC3229: Delta encoding in HTTP. This is useful for more than just resuming downloads. Jon Udell, for example, uses this trick to access a small part of an MP3 file and its also the secret sauce in mod_speedyfeed that I mentioned yesterday. This article by Bob Wyman that outlines the particulars. In an interesting adaptation, while RFC3229 has always been about byte ranges, but the mod_speedyfeed module uses RFC3229
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Authorize.net Getting Hammered

Authorize.net's recent woes have made Wired News. Authorize.net is a local outfit. In fact, iMall and Authorize.net had discussions about merging at one point. We had just bought PurePayment.net and had some great credit card gateway technology that eventually became the SurePay gateway. Authorize.net had lots of customers. We thought it was a match made in heaven, but it was not to be. At any rate, Authorize.net has been suffering from a DDoS attack lately and their 90,000 customers are starting to get antsy: "I'm losing four grand a day in revenue," said David Hoekje, president of PartsGuy.com, an
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Accountability is Cheaper than Access Control

Jon Udell writes about using accountability to augment access control. Jon is working from Dan Geer's script. Dan has said that accountability scales linearly while access control scales at least as the square. For many applications, simply being able to audit what's happened to a resource (who accessed it, where was it sent, etc.) is sufficient and that's a lot cheaper than trying to build access control lists for every resource in your enterprise.
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Cutting Atom Feeds Down to Size

Through Sam Ruby, a pointer to mod_speedyfeed, an Apache 2 module that allows feedreading clients to only download the entries that have changed since the last access instead of the entire RSS file. This could cut the transfer amount significantly for many syndication sources. For now, it just works for Atom, but I don't see anything about it that couldn't work for RSS as well. The module is triggered by a header that the he client adds to the request like so: GET /asdf/atom.xml HTTP/1.1 Host: asdf.blogs.com If-Modified-Since: Fri, 17 Sep 2004 00:18:36 GMT A-IM: feed
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Utah CTO Breakfast: Utah Exchange Point

September's CTO breakfast will be this Friday at the usual place and time (more information). Pete Kruckenberg of UEN has requested that we spend some time talking about how we can get a regional exchange point started in Utah including the technical hurdles, business benefit, and political realities. Pete's been working on this for a while. Maybe the timing's right now--especially with UTOPIA getting off the ground. I think that's a fascinating topic; come and add your thoughts and voice to the discussion.
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What the WWW Has Wrought: Mass Customization of M&Ms

In what I consider a perfect example of how the WWW opens up new business opportunities, for established as well as new companies, M&Ms can now be purchased in custom color mixes and with custom messages written on them. If you were a Mars Candy product manager in 1993 and had this idea, it would have been impossible to imagine how you could reach your customers with the offer and get their information effectively. Now, that's the easy part. The Web has allowed companies like M&Ms to build relationships with customers where before they simply pushed product through a
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First Snow

Y Mountain with a light dusting of snow. The mountains had snow on them down to about 5500 feetthis morning. That's only about 1000 feet above the valley floor. The picture on the right is Y Mountain that I took this morning. You can just see a light dusting of snow in this picure. The heavier stuff is behind clouds. Y Mountain, just east of BYU, is actually something of a foothill, Provo Peak (11,068 ft) sits right behind it, but is obscured from view in this picture.
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More on eVoting

Jay Lepreau (CS, Univ. of Utah) and I had an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday on the dangers of eVoting. Some how the online version is missing the paragraph breaks which makes it somewhat hard to read. Jay's posted a text version with breaks included. The conclusion: We applaud the state's goal of improving our voting systems. However, the result must really be an improvement. Voting equipment, costs, standards, laws, judicial rulings, and public opinion are all changing fast. Delaying the acquisition by just a single year would definitely reduce the state's ╩ risks and likely its
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Locks and Security

Seems that round barrel locks that are the staple of bike protection (Kryptonite) and laptop security are able to be opened in seconds using the barrel of a Bic pen. Here's some coverage on the net: Wired news story Freedom to Tinker NY TImes Security.org It seems that this information is not really new. Thieves have known about it for a while. What's new is that someone decided to publicize it. I'm glad they did. I'll think twice before securing my laptop or bike using one of these locks. I just spent $250 on Kensington MicroSaver locks for my
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Firefox Support for RSS

The latest version of the Firefox browser autodiscovers the RSS feeds of sites that you visit and puts an RSS badge in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Clicking on the badge let's you add the feed to your bookmarks folder. Then, clicking on the bookmark folder gives a list of the most recent posts on that site. At this point, I'd say "good start." Here's why: The great thing about this little innovation is that it turns certain bookmarks into dynamic, rather than static links. Rather than linking to a site, I get a dynamic folder full
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State Networks Cracked

Utah State technology workers have apparently had their hands full the last few days dealing with people cracking the State's network. Here's a short blurb from the Deseret News and here's a different one from KSL. Apparently the attacks have been going on since 9/11. The State says that their systems are well protected, but its nearly impossible in a system as large and uncoordinated as the State's network to batten down every hatch. For example, there are all kinds of computers with public IP numbers simply sitting under people's desks. Likely as not, these systems are running operating
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Directory to RSS Feed

Andrew Grumet has a handy little Perl script for creating an RSS feed, with enclosures, of the contents of a directory. Cool.
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The Rumors of Sender ID's Demise Are Exaggerated

In a piece entitled The Rumors of Sender ID's Demise Are Exaggerated, Yakov Shafranovich explains the recent IETF decision on SenderID. His conclusion is that SenderID in its current form is dead, but there are compromise solutions that are not.
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Public Fiber Projects

When I saw this puff-piece for the monopoly telecom providers in Wired a few days ago, I didn't bother to point it out because I'm frankly tired of debating the issue. Doc's done a nice job however: "It isn't just competition, dudes. It's service. Here's what we want from that service, in addition to speed: Symmetry, and lack of restrictions. No port 80 and port 25 blockages, for example. We want anybody to be able to set up a business, or do whatever business they already have." Indeed.
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Changing Business Models: Will Kodak Make It?

A while back Kodak bought Ofoto, an online picture album site whose business model was making money from providing prints of the terabytes of images that it store for free. Unfortunately, there's one small problem: most people don't print digital photos. The heart of Kodak's digital strategy for serving the everyday snapshot artist has been Ofoto.com, an online company that Kodak acquired in June 2001 for $58 million. The service, which stores photos for free forever and then charges for making and mailing out prints, had 1.2 million customers when Kodak bought it; that has surged to 13 million
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Is SenderID Dead or Just Not a Standard?

The IETF rejected Microsoft's SenderID proposal for dealing with Spam because of concerns over intellectual property.
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Digital ID World Schedule

The schedule of sessions for Digital ID World is out. There are some interesting talks and some good people. Looks like the conference will live up to its reputation.
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Why Working for Equity Can Be a Good Deal

A while ago, I sent a notice out asking if any developers were interested in working for equity on a Java-base P2P commerce system which I'm serving as an advisor on. Among some notes indicating interest, I received the following question: So, if the business plan is good enough that the equity isn't worthless, why isn't there enough funding to pay a single developer's salary? I can think of several reasons: Usually, before investors will put money into a deal, they want to see something, even a prototype, working. So, the business plan may be sound, but there could
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Internet Application Performance

One of the topics I try to discuss throughout the semester in my Engineering Large-Scale Internet Applications course is performance. It can be a difficult subject to discuss because of differences in terminology. I've put together a page on Internet application performance to serve as a resource on the topic. I'll be adding to it from time to time.
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Dave Barry on eVoting

Dave Barry's piece this week was on eVoting: Inside the voting booth you'll find a ''touchscreen,'' which is a computer screen coated with a thin, invisible layer of germs left by all the people who voted ahead of you, many of whom use the sacred sanctity of the voting booth to pick their noses. When you touch this screen, tiny pieces of electricity called ''electrons'' go shooting into your finger, through your arm and into your brain, where they whiz around until they locate the name of the candidate you wish to vote for; they then transmit this information
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OSCON 2004 Photos (Finally) Posted

Mt Hood on the flight into Portland. My pictures from OSCON are finally on my gallery. The reason why its taken more than a month to do it is a tale of the kinds of niggling little computer configuration problems we all love. Right before OSCON, I moved my gallery to another server. Everything seemed to be working fine but then when I went to upload pictures (from OSCON) it failed. I used iPhoto on my Mac and use Zach Wiley's great little export plugin for iPhoto. So, my first suspicion was that that had failed. I played with
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RSS is Eating Me Alive (Almost)

Robert Scoble talks about bandwidth costs of RSS and cites it as a reason more and more sites are not giving full text RSS feeds. I was wondering what it cost me, so I looked at my server logs for yesterday. I have about 800 unique IP addresses grabbing my RSS feed each day. That amounted to about 6000 GETs of which roughly 4200 returned a 304 (not modified). So, around 2/3rds of the hits to my feed return 0 bytes. I don't return a full text feed, so its only around 25K. That works out to over 1GB
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The Great IDE Debate

Chad Dickerson's column in InfoWorld is about the great IDE debate got me thinking. I've never seriously used an IDE, unless you count Emacs. I'm generally someone who loves new tools and count myself as an early adopter. Still, I never saw the trade-off as worthwhile. I've often thought of it as a generational thing--younger programmers used IDEs--but I'm not sure that's really true. Its certainly true, that whether or not you use an IDE depends a great deal on the language you use. I suspect that there are not nearly as many Perl or Python programmers who use
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SMS Appointment Reminders

My dentists sends me reminders of my appointments using SMS. They're generated automatically from his appointments software. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but I thought this was a good example of the right message on the right medium.
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Tony Scott on Enterprise Architecture

CIO Magazine has an interview with Tony Scott on Enterprise Architecture. One of the things Tony does is make sure none of his peers hear the term "enterprise architecture." In the end, this is all about simplifying IT infrastructures and processes by creating a context and structure within which IT operates. For it to work, that context must be based on the business. Tony talks about simplicity and gives an example from OnStar: We don't ever want IT to be the thing that holds GM back. And to the extent that you have complexity in your IT environment, you
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MindShare: Real-time Monitoring and Reporting on Customer Interactions

Last Friday I had a chance to catch up with some old friends. I first met Rich Hanks and John Sperry when they were the management team for MyAssociation.com (later BlueStep). I also served on the Board of Directors for UITA with Rich. I have a lot of respect for the way Rich and John can build a Web-based product that works and scales. They've got a new gig now and it seems that they've applied all the lessons from their past to create a very interesting business. Their company, MindShare provides customer survey data to companies in various
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How I'm Using Del.icio.us

I'm really starting to like Del.icio.us which advertises itself as a social bookmarking site. The idea is simple, you click on a bookmarklet anytime you want to bookmark a page, up pops a Web page with the page's title and description. You can edit those field and enter an extended description or comment and free-form keywords. Each of those keywords becomes its own bookmark list, complete with RSS feed. I've been using it exclusively instead of traditional bookmarks because I like its flexibility. I can store something easily and in more than one place. I can create custom bookmark
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eBay's Infrastructure

eWeek has an interesting article on eBay's infrastructure that gives some tantalizing clues as to how they solve some of the most immense scaling problems on the Internet. Like most articles in this space, the article focuses on physical architecture issues with a few logical architecture tidbits thrown in (and not necessarily well identified as such). They've taken an interesting route with respect to geographic redundancy: We've taken a unique approach with respect to our infrastructure. In a typical disaster recovery scenario, you have to have 200 percent of your capacity¸100 percent in one location, 100 percent in another
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Spam and Open Source Software

Yakov Shafranovich has a two part article (part 1, part 2) at CircleID on the collision between Microsoft's proposals regarding Spam, intellectual property concerns, and open source software. The point of the article is that Microsoft is asserting IP rights regarding some proposals on Spam and trying to make everyone feel better by freely licensing it. That's not really going to cut it for most people. I don't blame Microsoft for looking for IP, that's what many companies do, but it seems that this is an unusual place to do so.
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RSS for Blackboard

Dan Olsen extolls the virtues of RSS in his latest entry comparing Blogs with Blackboard (a course management system). There's a subtle point in what Dan says. If I were working for Blackboard and read Dan's comments, my first reaction might be to say "let's create a customizable student dashboard that shows all the course information at one shot." Not a bad idea, but its still proprietary and leaves out other solutions. If Blackboard merely added RSS, their product would integrate nicely in a feedreader along with RSS information from other sources as well. The browser showed us the
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John Terpstra on Intellectual Property

John Terpstra, one of the founders of the Samba open source project, author of some really helpful books on Samba, and a friend, has written an article on GROKLAW called Reflections on Intellectual Property Rights. He was also
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The New iMacs Would Make Neat Digital Picture Frames

Speaking of Apple's new iMac, Robert Scoble says: I don't get it, though. Even if you hate Microsoft, why would you buy a computer that ties you down to one place? I have a desktop at work (and an old one at home). If you held a gun to my head and said "choose" I'd hand you the desktop computers everytime. Portability is just so much more useful. But, now I'm sure I'll hear from all the video game freaks who remind me that you need the latest ATI video card. Geesh, just get an Xbox. Heh. From Scobleizer:
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Personal Message Deflection

I've been thinking since I got home from a ten day vacation and had to process 2100 email messages about how much of my life is lived in my inbox. Of the 2100, almost 1700 of them were Spam and I'm not too concerned about those. SpamAssassin did a pretty good job and I have a feeling it or other technologies will eventually solve the Spam problem. What interests me are the 400 messages that were not Spam. At least 75% of those were messages that didn't really require my attention or could safely be ignored. Even of the
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Ernest Miller on Induce

O'Reilly's Policy DevCenter has an interview with Ernest Miller on Orrin Hatch's proposed INDUCE act. I wish I knew what Orrin was thinking here, because I think its bad public policy.
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O'Reilly to Publish My Digital Identity Book

O'Reilly will be publishing my book on digital identity. I plan to be done writing the end of November. I don't know when it will actually be out. I'm looking forward to working closely with the folks at O'Reilly.
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Speaking at Digital ID World

I'll be giving a tutorial on digital identity the first day of Digital ID World (Oct 25-28 in Denver). I really love this conference and have always had interesting discussions with other attendees in addition to some super sessions. Digital ID World has offered readers of this blog a $200 discount on the conference fee. Just enter show code WIND0200 when you register. Meanwhile if you have thoughts about what a tutorial on digital identity just has to have in it, let me know.
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