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Comments

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Preferred smartphone screen size?

Solandri Re:Phones getting too big .. (258 comments)

As someone with great big manly hands, I still want my phone small, for the simple purpose of using it as a phone. Holding a 6.5x3in wall up to the side of my head works great for blocking the sun, not so great for trying to talk to someone.

Obviously your hands are not big and manly enough.

3 days ago
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Law Lets IRS Seize Accounts On Suspicion, No Crime Required

Solandri Re:How this is even considered legal (422 comments)

When they seized the assets of drug dealers, I did not speak out because I was not a drug dealer.
When they seized the assets of the drug users, I did not speak out because I was not a drug user.
When they seized boats from boat owners, I did not speak out because I was not a boat owner.
etc...

It was a violation of the Constitution in the 1980s when boat owners were complaining about losing their boats because (unbeknownst to them) a passenger had a joint in their pocket. But the public was more interested in hearing that a pothead had been caught and punished, before turning the channel so they could watch the season finale of Dallas. As with all things, government expands until it feels pushback from the public, and we're only just getting to that point.

It is an object lesson on why laws must be judged based on the principles they follow, not on the type of people that are being targeted. Why before they're convincted we should treat terrorist suspects as if they're innocent.

4 days ago
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Apple A8X IPad Air 2 Processor Packs Triple-Core CPU, Hefty Graphics Punch

Solandri Re: I don't really see the point. (129 comments)

I've been an advocate for tablets and PDAs long before the iPad or iPhone came out. After using computers for 3 decades, it's pretty obvious what's happening. First the computer you used was the size of a desk. Then the size of a suitcase, Then the size of what we call a desktop computer. Then the size of a 2" laptop. Then the size of a 1" notebook. Now they're a 0.5" ultrabook.

Extrapolate and it's pretty obvious the PC you use for everyday computing tasks is going to become small enough to fit in a tablet, then in your phone, then in a watch, then in a ring. At first these smaller devices are considered toys (just as laptops were once considered toys unsuitable for real work), but eventually they'll become mainstream. The last "desktop" I bought for a business had a desktop-sized case; but inside was a half-height slim PSU, and micro-ATX motherboard which was mostly empty (a lot of green on the PCB) except CPU and memory and 3 expansion slots. It looked more like the inside of a laptop than it did a desktop, but they put it into a huge desktop case because that's what businesses expect to buy.

The main impediment to shrinking computers has been input and display. The keyboard input limit went away with touchscreens and wireless keyboards (and eventually voice recognition). The display size limit will probably go away with short-range wireless displays. Use your 5" phone screen every day. If you're going on vacation, pack a 11"-15" wireless screen (and wireless keyboard/mouse), pair it with your phone, and you've got your "laptop".

4 days ago
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Rite Aid and CVS Block Apple Pay and Google Wallet

Solandri Re:DOA due to Liability shift to consumer... (554 comments)

It appears that CurrentC moves liability exposure almost entirely onto the consumer, whereas Visa limits consumer exposure to $50 that most banks waive in actual fraud.

They are two sides of the same coin. One shifts liability from the merchants to the consumer, the other shifts liability from the consumer to the merchants.

If we really want security in the electronic transaction system, liability has fall upon the organization(s) operating the transaction system - Visa, the banks, etc. If they don't pay a financial cost for fraud, they have no incentive to improve the system to prevent fraud. Penalizing consumers just drives them to use cash. Penalizing merchants just drives them to stop accepting cards and electronic payment. It's only when you penalize the folks who control the electronic transaction systems that you'll see improvements to said system.

4 days ago
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Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business"

Solandri People in glass houses (275 comments)

According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show.

Er, yeah. You know what else originally made no money? Surface, Xbox, Bing, Zune, Windows Mobile/Phone, Internet Explorer, Office, Windows.

5 days ago
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Italian Supreme Court Bans the 'Microsoft Tax'

Solandri Re:And so therefor it follows and I quote (350 comments)

The analogy fails but still gives insight into what causes the current situation.

Using the original analogy, what's essentially happened is that only cheeseburgers are sold. There are no hamburgers for sale. It's cheaper/more efficient for the fast food joints to only pre-make and keep warm cheeseburgers, than to have separate lines for cheseburgers and hamburgers.

"But that's silly! Cheeseburgers have an extra component so are more expensive to make than hamburgers. Why would a restaurant only make cheeseburgers rather than only hamburgers?" Ah, now you've picked up on the insidious reversal of market forces which causes this pricing inversion. It costs money to put cheese on every hamburger. It costs virtually nothing to install Windows on every PC. So the fact that most people want cheeseburgers / Windows on their PC wins out.

That's right. Software costs almost nothing to duplicate. While it costs money to develop software, the cost to duplicate it is essentially zero. It's like if you had to feed a cow, milk it, and process the milk to make that first slice of cheese. But every slice of cheese thereafter could be replicated Star Trek-style for virtually zero cost.

So why are we paying $100+ for copies of something that costs Microsoft virtually nothing to duplicate. Because of an inherent flaw in Copyright law which basically eliminates market forces on prices. With manufactured products, prices decrease the more the product sells. You can amortize development costs over more sales, production lines become more efficient, raw materials costs decrease because you can contract to buy larger volumes. That's why the first DVD players cost nearly $200, but today you can pick up a cheap one for $20.

Current copyright law subverts this process. By giving the content creator absolute control over distribution over a unique product, there's no incentive for them to lower prices. What needs to happen is for copyright protection to somehow scale with volume. e.g. Your copyright lasts for life+70 years, or 50 million copies sold, whichever occurs first. Or a sliding scale for pricing. If you initially release a CD at $20 for the first million sales, the price must drop to $10 thereafter. After 10 million sales the price must drop to $5. $2 after 50 million. $1 after 100 million.

This would restore much of the original intent of Copyright which has been subverted by ridiculously long copyright terms - encouraging artists to create new works, rather than allowing them and their children (and their grandchildren) to live off the proceeds from a single highly successful work. In terms of software, it would encourage companies like Microsoft to constantly seek out new ways to improve their software rather than resting secure in the knowledge that people will "buy it anyway". And by keeping pricing more proportional to amortized development costs (sale price drops after development has been paid off), it'll discourage the ridiculous behavior where a company will use profit from one software title to sustain an unprofitable title for years in an attempt to gain a foothold in the market. That'll help new software companies break into the market (they won't be competing against a product that's being subsidized by unrelated software sales), and bring more diversity and dynamics to the marketplace.

I'm all for open source on widely-used software (e.g. the OS, TCP/IP stack, web server, etc). But going completely open source eliminates the market forces which allow users to tell developers what they want in the software. What you end up with is a tyranny by the developers which is very slow to respond to user likes/dislikes (VLC eventually let users change the mouse wheel function). Modifying copyright as I've suggested results in more of a middle ground, where market forces are preserved, but pricing control is not completely up to the content creator.

5 days ago
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Italian Supreme Court Bans the 'Microsoft Tax'

Solandri Re:And so therefor it follows and I quote (350 comments)

Apple gives away its software free. It's the hardware itself that's pricey.

Great! Can you point me to a download link so I can install OS X on my hackintosh?

5 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: LTE Hotspot As Sole Cellular Connection?

Solandri I'm doing that right now (106 comments)

I just moved into a new house and haven't yet started Internet service because I have lots of construction going on and am not sure where the cable modem will eventually go (part of the construction is networking the house, and I haven't decided where the network cabinet will go). So in the meantime I'm using the hotspot feature on my Nexus 5 for LTE internet. I get about 5-10 Mbps down, 3-5 Mbps up at this location (500 feet further uphill at the sandwich shop it's 30/9 Mbps, sigh).

My service is with Sprint which typically has spotty LTE service, but fortunately my new home is well covered. Sprint also teamed up with Google so my Sprint number is also my Google Voice number. This means I can make Google Voice calls over LTE via the Hangouts app (Google moved Voice to Hangouts a couple months ago). The app still needs a lot of work (e.g. doesn't integrate with the contacts directory yet) but call quality has been stellar - nearly indistinguishable from when I'm on wifi. I'm actually surprised how well it works considering it's going over a cellular data connection. I mention all this because Sprint is the network most MVNOs use by a huge margin. Since their LTE network is certainly capable of VoIP, any problems you encounter with it are likely to be due to the MVNO blocking VoIP.

Latency has been pretty good too. Speedtest.net reports my ping times between 40-45 ms. I occasionally play GW2 over this connection, and generally I haven't noticed any more lag than on a wired connection. Occasionally there's a hiccup like you'll sometimes get over wifi, but its infrequent enough that it hasn't degraded the gaming experience. Overall it's been pretty indistinguishable from FIOS (what I had before the move), and better than the cable internet (I had Time Warner before FIOS, with 150-250 ms ping times).

I'm on an unlimited data plan, so conceivably I could go on doing this forever. The main issue I'm running into (one you shouldn't encounter with a dedicated hotspot) is that my LTE disconnects when there's an incoming call. There's some obscure reason I don't recall at the moment for Sprint and Verizon's phones not being able to do voice calls and LTE simultaneously, even though they could do it in theory. Voice calls go over the CDMA radio while LTE goes over the LTE radio. Unfortunately since my phone is designed to be, well, a phone, I haven't figured out a way to disable CDMA so I can receive the incoming calls over Google Voice. The regular phone dialier and Hangouts both ring when I get an incoming call, but the regular phone dialer locks out the phone preventing me from switching to answer the call via Hangouts (I'm not even sure that would work since it seems to disconnect LTE the moment the phone rings).

If you plan to do this with a hotspot, make sure you can cancel the contract if there's poor service at your house. A tenant at the building I manage opted for LTE Internet (because Verizon DSL there sucks). The building is within their LTE coverage area, and I get a good LTE signal from the roof. But at ground level his hotspot defaults back to 3G and he gets terrible Internet speeds. Unfortunately he got excited and ordered this a month before he moved in, so was outside the cancellation period by the time he moved in and discovered this problem. But I would check first to see if you can use your phone as a hotspot and just beef up the data on your plan.

about two weeks ago
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Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

Solandri Helvetica pre-dates the space program (370 comments)

Both Apple and Microsoft have been using ripoffs of Helvetica for decades as their default font. That was what all the cool kids did back in the 1980s - if you didn't want to pay for a font, you paid some graphics artist to design one which looked a lot like it but was slightly different. Adobe bought licenses for the real fonts, and if you were in the printing industry and needed the real Helvetica you could buy Adobe Type Manager (originally for Mac, later for WIndows).

All this announcement means is that Apple has finally decided to pay whomever has the copyright on Helvetica for the rights to use it as their default system font. The bit about "tomorrow" is just marketing spin to make it sound like some awesome new thing, when the font itself was made in 1957.

And yes Apple abandons old tech and adopts new tech sooner than the rest of the industry meaning they're often at the forefront of tech which later becomes commonplace among PCs. You can cherry pick some of their successes (e.g. 3.5" floppy, abandoning optical drives) to make them seem brilliant. Or you could list some of their failures (e.g. firewire, lightning thus far, SCSI on the desktop, PowerPC which they abandoned for Intel) to make them seem like bumbling idiots. Apple isn't a prognosticator. They're making guesses about the future just like everyone else. For some reason people are less likely to remember their failures than with other companies.

about two weeks ago
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Court Rules Parents May Be Liable For What Their Kids Post On Facebook

Solandri Re:The Actual Issue (323 comments)

These types of cases put Facebook between a rock and a hard place. You have to consider other possible scenarios under which such deletion requests might occur, not just the scenario in this case. What if the girl really had a Facebook page, and the culprits submitted a fake deletion request to Facebook? If FB took it down, then they'd be liable for wrongly disabling/deleting a legitimate account.

"But Facebook could do this only after receiving some sort of official notice!" What if the culprits were friends with an adult in the school administration or stole paper with the school's letterhead, and drafted an official-sounding letter requesting the deletion?

"But the court could have ordered Facebook to take it down!" Well, the court didn't.

Remember, if you create a method to delete/disable accounts, said method can and will be abused to send fake delete/disable requests. FB's policy probably just tries to keep things as simple as possible. Only the account creator can delete/disable it, unless they get a court order to do so. The only fault I can see on FB's part is that they need to make clear exactly what legal hoops you need to jump through to compel them to take down an account. I'm not sure the parents of the girl even knew that requesting the court to order FB to delete the account was even an option.

about two weeks ago
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Positive Ebola Test In Second Texas Health Worker

Solandri Re:Just tell me (463 comments)

In case anyone doubts this: ratio of "normal" patients vs. infected healthworkers
third world: ~ 10:1
Texas: 1:2

These things are evolutionary. The initial rate of patients to infected healthcare workers is much higher. The current 10:1 ratio in Africa is after all the healthcare workers using poor infectious disease protocols have been killed off by ebola. It's purely survival of the fittest.

Same reason Cuba weathers hurricanes better than Louisiana did after Katrina. Cuba gets hit by several hurricanes every year, so any buildings which would been blown away, dams which would have failed, etc. have already done so long ago. The ones still standing remain because they are strong enough to survive a hurricane. Any government officials who were incompetent at post-hurricane recovery have long been filtered out. OTOH the previous major hurricane to hit Louisiana before Katrina was some 30 years ago. A lot of bad structures and incompetent officials can build up over 30 years.

about two weeks ago
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Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

Solandri Re:Awesome quote (232 comments)

No, it is not. They aren't keeping anyone else from competing, they've just made a reasonable business decision that it would not be profitable for one of them to compete with the other in an already built area, or to try building out at the same time.

There's no "business decision" involved in this. In most of the U.S., it's the municipal government (usually city, sometimes county) which awards exclusive cable TV service rights to a single company. Usually it was in exchange for a guarantee that lower income areas would get service (i.e. we'll give you a monopoly, but in exchange you have to provide service to 99.5% of the residences, including lower income areas). But in the last city I lived in it was a straight payola deal. The city let the cable companies bid on how much they'd pay the city per residence hooked up, and the highest bidder got the monopoly.

In the few areas with two or more cable companies, the second cable company usually had to butter up the local politicians ("donate" to their campaigns, aka pay bribes) or even file lawsuits to get rights to provide service. Some courts have ruled that the monopoly contracts the city entered are binding. Others have ruled that the city had no business granting a monopoly, and allowed other cable companies to provide service (that happened in the city I lived in prior to the one getting payola - the existing cable company dropped their prices $10/mo across the board the moment the second cable company announced they would begin providing service).

See, that's the dark side of Net Neutrality, and why free market types (conservatives, liberterians) generally oppose it. It's more government regulation to fix a problem caused by government regulation in the first place. If you're going to award monopolies to cable companies, then you need Net Neutrality. But if like most of the rest of the world you just let multiple cable companies compete freely with each other, you don't need Net Neutrality. Any ISP deliberately slowing down Netflix to try to get Netflix to pay them is shooting themselves in the foot - their customers will flee to other ISPs who don't slow down Netflix.

On a meta level, you initially want competition for cable service. Yes it's wasteful to have multiple hookups, but when the technology first rolls out, nobody is really which which implementation is the best (both in terms of cost and bandwidth). This is the sort of problem markets solve really well. So you want lots of cable companies competing to provide service, so that the ones with the best technology filter up to the top. Once the technology matures though, you want to treat it like a utility. One company is awarded a monopoly for rolling out the cables. But they're prohibited from providing service themselves - instead they must sell at a fixed rate to companies which provide the service.

This is pretty much how it was done with electricity. At first nobody was sure if AC or DC transmission would win out. So private companies implemented both types of systems (Edison backing DC, Westinghouse/Tesla backing AC). Eventually it became clear that AC was better for transmitting over long distances. Most municipalities grant the local power company a monopoly over providing and maintaining the electrical wires, but you can usually buy the electricity transmitted over those wires to your house from dozens of different energy providers. Gas and long distance telephone service works the same way. By this point I think it's pretty clear cable TV/internet is going to all end up with fiber to the home, and we need to transition it over to a utility model.

about two weeks ago
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Positive Ebola Test In Second Texas Health Worker

Solandri Re:their own fault (463 comments)

These workers came into contact with the patient's bodily fluids.

While that's literally true, what's far more likely to have happened is that the patient's bodily fluids came in contact with something that you normally wouldn't associate with bodily fluids, and these nurses came in contact with that (or with something else which came in contact with that). So until we learn exactly what the "breach of protocol" was, I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it was the nurses' own fault. For all we know some staffer may have accidentally used saline solution instead of bleach to fill a spray bottle used for disinfecting.

about two weeks ago
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If Your Cloud Vendor Goes Out of Business, Are You Ready?

Solandri Re:Local Backups (150 comments)

I don't see why cloud storage and local backups have to be mutually exclusive. You use cloud storage for devices and locations where you can't have a local backup. You also pick a site(s) where you can have a local backup, and use that to back up your cloud storage.

That's essentially what I do with the pics I take with my Android phone. New photos get backed up to Google+ automatically immediately after the photo is taken. Later I pull them off my phone (Google+ downsizes to 2048x2048 unless you pay) to my file server at home.

about two weeks ago
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Federal Government Removes 7 Americans From No-Fly List

Solandri Maybe we're going about this backwards (124 comments)

Rather than try to get people removed from the list, it'll probably be easier to fix this by getting ~15 million people added to the no-fly list. If 5% of the U.S. population were on the list, it'd be a significant enough impediment to free travel that they'd have to fix it or quit using it.

about two weeks ago
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Netflix Video Speed On FiOS Doubles After Netflix-Verizon Deal

Solandri Possible solution (204 comments)

As a Netflix subscriber whose ISP does not charge them for peered access, it is simply Wrong that part of my subscription fee is being used to pay Comcast, Verizon, etc. when I have no business relationship with them.

Netflix should revamp their billing structure. In addition to their monthly fee, there should be a separate line item for an ISP surcharge. If your ISP does not charge Netflix, then that surcharge is $0. If your ISP does charge them, then the surcharge is how much Netflix pays them divided by the number of Netflix customers on that ISP. Let the people using those ISPs eat the costs their ISPs are adding, and make it damn obvious that the ISP is the one responsible for the surcharge. Don't hide it in Netflix's regular bill and make the rest of us pay for it.

about two weeks ago
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Netflix Video Speed On FiOS Doubles After Netflix-Verizon Deal

Solandri Re:Isn't this what Netflix OpenConnect is for? (204 comments)

Could someone explain why all of this is an issue, when Netflix seems to be giving away their OpenConnect CDN boxes for free,

Netflix is being a good netizen by giving away those boxes for free.

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, TWC are being bad netizens by making Netfix pay them to accept the boxes, while simultaneously blaming Netflix for being a bandwidth hog and poor streaming service. How can you blame someone for a problem when they're giving away the solution for free, and you're just refusing to accept the solution unless they pay you.

about two weeks ago
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Google Rejects 58% of "Right To Be Forgotten" Requests

Solandri Re:Switzerland (144 comments)

Google doesn't want this either. They fought this tooth and nail up to the highest European Court, but the court decided to force them to remove requests under certain (but not clearly defined) circumstances.

That's the thing I find baffling about some of these EU court decisions.

EU: "Google is abusing its near-monopoly position in search. This needs to stop."
Google: "Ok, what exactly do you want us to stop doing?"
EU: "Um, we don't know. Why don't you come up with some suggestions and we'll tell you if it's agreeable?"
Google: "OK, how about this?"
EU: "Hmm, no, we want more."
Google: "How about this then?"
EU (to Google's competitors): "Do you think this is enough?"
Google's competitors (sensing an opportunity): "Hell no!"
EU: "No, something more."
Google: [exasperated sigh] "what about if we do this?"
etc.

EU: "You need to remove people from your search results if they have a legitimate reason."
Google: "Ok, just tell us what's a legitimate reason."
EU: "Um, we don't know. Why don't you decide and we'll tell you if you're doing it wrong."
Google: [exasperated sigh]

Methinks the EU court really, really badly needs to adopt the concept in the U.S. Constitution of the right of the defendant to know what crime they're being accused of.

The most destructive and demoralizing relationship I've had with the government was a health inspector who basically made up rules on the fly. Including one which the fire marshal later told us was a fire code violation. And another where the serving table manufacturer told us, "We sell this product to restaurants all over the country, and we have never had a health department request that modification." But there's nothing we could do about it because she had the power to shut down our restaurant that very day, leading to us being bankrupt within a couple months. We had to comply with her inane requests if we wanted to stay in business.

about two weeks ago
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Crowdsourced Remake "The Empire Strikes Back Uncut" Now Complete

Solandri Re:Funny and entertaining (55 comments)

The great thing is seeing the amount of creativity and artistic styles people can come up with.

As someone who plays classical piano, IMHO this is the most destructive effect of modern recording technology and the current copyright stance of Hollywood. Since the pieces I play are long out of copyright, there are literally as many interpretations of them as there are performers. Sometimes I spend an evening just listening to dozens of pianists' interpretations of the same piece. It's amazing the amount of creativity and different artistic styles people can imbue into what on paper is the same song. How a part I've always considered boring can suddenly turn surprising and entertaining when someone interprets it in a way I'd never thought of. If you've been to plays, you see much of the same thing. The actors each imbue their role with a unique interpretation. Some you may like and others dislike, but there's no end to the variety.

By contrast, modern movies, pre-recorded TV, and music are canned. Aside from the occasional remake, what you see is the same performance over and over again. With rare exceptions, there's no opportunity to explore possible different interpretations. The much ridiculed "Han shot first" controversy is a great example. When Han shot first in the original, it told you he was a ruthless smuggler who would do whatever it took to save his own skin. Which gave more meaning to his transformation into a hero who fought to save others. Lucas' edit to make him shoot in defense was a different interpretation, but a weaker one. Without both versions, people may have just watched that scene without realizing the importance of it. About the only way you can get interpretation in movies and TV today are if they're intentionally made vague enough to be open to multiple interpretations by the viewer. Inception, or the ending of Pan's Labyrinth are examples of such ambiguity, and I think both movies were rated so highly partly because they added that element of interpretation which is missing from so many other shows.

Right now, most copyright holders are scared to death to let others recreate their works or create derivative works, and thus use legal threats to squelch artistic reinterpretation of their work. I think society is lessened because of it. Kudos to Disney and Lucasfilm for allowing this one.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Students figure out how to unlock school-issued iPads

Solandri Solandri writes  |  about a year ago

Solandri (704621) writes "The Los Angeles Times reports that the LA Unified School District's plans to assign an iPad to every student in the district are on hold after students figured out how to unlock the iPads. Once unlocked, the iPads can be used for decidedly non-academic activities such as surfing the web and accessing social media sites. According to students, unlocking the devices is simple — just delete your personal profile info."

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