* Posts by Harry

425 posts • joined 17 May 2007


Brussels declares war on web virgins


"60 per cent of attempted cross-border transactions fail ..."

... " due to non-acceptance of credit cards or legal restrictions."

Hmmm, Germany is the only country I know of where sellers are reluctant to accept credit cards ... and even there, I haven't come across an online retailer that won't accept either a credit card or paypal.

As for legal restrictions, almost the only online sellers that won't ship outside their native country are in the USA not in Europe.

Mechanic drove three miles with angry bloke on bonnet


Its time the police used some common sense

A good start would be an intelligence test for all recruits and senior officers.

But though the judge showed common sense in dismissing the case, he did less than he could. A better judge would have insisted that the officer responding to the call was barred from public service for life and his seniors formally reprimanded for allowing an incompetent person to be employed.

Grow-lamps roast Yorkshire dope farmer in his sleep


So now we know ...

... what those estate agents really mean when they advertise "this is a hot property".

German Wi-Fi networks liable for 3rd party piracy


"If i lived over in germany still "

... "i wouldn't be able to share my wireless with my neighbours"

I think you would ... provided your network had a password.

There's nothing in the article to say that you can't give the password to a neighbour, and though they might still try to hold you partially responsible for any infringement by the neighbour, it wouldn't be quite so risky as leaving the network open to all and sundry.

BT expands fibre rollout


"theoretically capable of up to 40Mbit/s downstream "

It would be nicer if BT or one of its competitors could upgrade some of its exchanges to be "actually capable" of something instead of just theoretically capable of it.

And when they've achieved some sort of "actual" capability, how about some HONEST advertising that states only the GUARANTEED "23/364" capability and ignores the theoretical capability altogether.

I say 23/364 because we all know that 24/365 is theoretically impossible to guarantee. But a 23/365 figure (allowing only one hour per day when the throughput is less than advertised and one day per year when the advertised throughput is not met for at least 23 hours that day) ought to be entirely possible and a fully realistic measurement of what the customer is actually buying.

Of course, the 23/364 figure will be a *LOT* lower than the theoretical capability -- and is precisely WHY the law needs to require it to be the *ONLY* figure allowed to be advertised.

High Court rules software liability clause not 'reasonable'

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This makes perfect sense.

Read any advert, no matter whether its for software or not, and you'll usually find that the person who wrote it knew exactly what the person reading it wanted to buy, but had no idea whatsoever about the product it was trying to sell.

As a perfect and incontrovertible example, we have companies advertising internet access described as "unlimited" when the companies concerned know full well that the product is not by any stretch of the imagination unlimited.

Of course, its incompetents like the ASA and Ofcom that we really have to thank for that particular bit of nonsense, because either of them if they actually did their job could insist that the inappropriate misrepresentation be discontinued. But as the judge proves, "unlimited" is just the tip of the "deliberate misrepresentation" iceberg and there's a lot more than just that which needs to be forcefully stamped out.

EU Parliament calls for internet rights charter


Please add ...

a) Information collected must be for the use of the collecting site only -- it cannot be sold or given to a third party, including an associated company.

b) No links diverted through third party sites such as doubleclick,

c) No program may install toolbars or third party content either as a condition of use or as default.

d) Adverts are permitted only on sites which have no income whatsoever, other than from that advertising.

e) If a page contains animation or other annoyances or uses scripts, it must be possible to disable those annoyances or scripts without losing any essential part of the site's functionality

Sony sued for dropping Linux from PS3


Re "Take them to small claims court."

Reasonable idea, but not quite correct. If the buyer is in the UK, it is only the SELLER, not Sony, that you might have a legal claim against.

But the seller might reasonably be able to claim that the device *did* have the capability when he sold it and I'm not sure you can hold the seller responsible for the unexpected subsequent action of a third party (Sony).

Nevertheless, the buyer only has a contract with the seller and not with Sony. So unless you bought the item direct from Sony the UK small claims court probably isn't a viable option.

Johnson: ID cards will pay for themselves

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"will be recouped through charging the public"

That's completely the opposite of "paying for itself".

If the scheme really did "pay for itself" then there would be no need for a CHARGE.

Clearly, the scheme doesn't pay for itself in any "meaningful" way, shape or form and the false pretence that it does is just the sort of bogus rubbish that you expect from incompetent government officials.

Google tool ranks gov appetite for your private data


But UK would be worse than USA if ...

... if the data was more logically expressed, eg as a percentage of the population -- which makes more sense, because clearly more people means more of them doing things which might give reasons for governments to invade their privacy.

For example, though USA requests are more than three times those of the UK, the USA population is about *five* times larger. Re-express that in percentage terms and the UK would truthfully show as much worse than USA.

Of course, you'll have to do all the figures to see how other smaller countries affect the figures, but clearly USA and Brazil aren't actually the worst two.

UK IT job outfit punts 491 private email addys


"while such disclaimers had no actual legal value, they looked professional"

I disagree.

Any disclaimer, no matter whatever it says or whatever circumstances it is used, serves only to make the perpetrator look incompetent.

If you need a disclaimer, then you're either trying to cheat somebody of something that they are legally entitled to, or you're not confident of your own competence.

It's like the old "Errors and Omissions Expected" note that used to appear on old fashioned invoices. Totally pointless.

McAfee sued over third-party pop-up pitches


Charging for a *TRIAL* is totally DISHONEST

And if the circumstances described in the article happened, then there's absolutely NO WAY that I will ever buy, or even try, a McAfee product.

Has McA really failed to notice all those previous occasions where people have boycotted a company because that company did something incredibly stupid or incompetent, and then instead of promptly fixing it (by an apology, a swift refund and preferably some decent compensation for the inconvenience) dug its heals in to guarantee it would lose more than it would gain.

If your customer service is so bad that your users have to take you to court to get a refund for something that should never have happened in the first place, the company is going to lose far far more than the refund it failed to make.

Real-time ad targeting violates privacy, say US pressure groups


"don't use untrustworthy businesses"

That becomes rather difficult when companies such as BT, which as a major national institution might otherwise have been expected to be one of the most trustworthy, nevertheless wrongly thought it was perfectly OK to let phorm see what its customers were doing.

There's a simple answer -- rewrite the Data Protection laws so that companies are required by law to keep all third party information confidential. Information gathered must be only for the company's own internal use and must not be given or sold to any other organisation.

Take mailing lists, for example. There's a "good way" and a "bad way".

The good way says that if company A wants to allow company B to write to the small subset of its customers that have agreed to receiving third party information, it is sent *by* company A with a covering letter bearing company A's logo and confirming that company B has not been given addresses or any other personal data.

The bad way says that company A simply hands over its mailing list and perhaps other information too, leaving the recipient with no way of knowing who leaked the data or who else it has been given to.


"At no point is there a distinction that it was John Smith"

That is not relevant.

As soon as John Smith requests a page and the advertising system recognises that he has done so, the advertiser has de-facto "identified" the user.

Whether the advertising system identifies him as a particular John Smith or as "123456" or some other pseudo-identity makes no difference. The system has nevertheless *identified* the user.

How a Tory gov will be the most tech-savvy in history

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"Laws should be defined by _flowchart_."

I'd be happy with that -- provided that the flowchart worked strictly on normal "yes/no" principles where the criteria for "yes/no" at each stage is properly definitive and there is no "maybe" branch.

Example: Suppose the draft of a law states that something must be done "within a reasonable time". MPs vote in favour, despite some of them thinking 1 month would be reasonable and others thinking 1 year would be more appropriate. A government department subsequently suggests people should assume 6 months -- but warns that it is not a definitive answer and a court might decide otherwise. Result -- laws which nobody can be SURE they are complying with.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. MPs should be required to amend the draft to a specific time -- one, three, six, twelve months -- doesn't much matter, as long as they AGREE on the answer and it is the value that they agree on which becomes law, not something that unelected people can argue about subsequently.

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"we'll throw open democracy too by introducing a technology enabled Public Reading Stage"

Good idea. But you'll need to do MUCH more than just that.

Start by getting rid of all legal jargon and insisting that the law be written in plain English.

Require the law to say what it means -- exactly -- instead of being written in meaningless shades of grey that allow confusion and misunderstanding about what is and is not legal. If the law is unclear, then don't waste time arguing about what the existing law means. Scrap it and write a new law that DOES say exactly what it means.

Firefox plans fix for decade-old browsing history leak


"it's getting harder and harder to do anything online without Javascript."

Yes indeed.

It's high time that it was made a legal requirement for ALL web pages to retain basic functionality with javascript, flash, animations of all types and externally hosted code disabled.

Booby-trapping PDF files: A new how-to


NO, do NOT print web documents!

That's the crux of the problem.

Web documents should be for READING, not for printing. And that's why most web documents should be done in HTML not PDF.

You mention the problems that happen when exporting printed documents to HTML but: that's because the HTML converter is trying to resemble the printed layout instead of creating the most easily-read document.

Documents generally start simple. The originator of the text probably didn't use multiple columns or a tent fold layout. They almost always began as standard single-column paragraphs, until somebody decided to reformat them for printing.

So, go BACK to the originator's simple manuscript which will be ten times easier to convert to simple single-column HTML. That's the document that should be put on the web, NOT the PDF.


"What else can I use to make life easy"

How about plain, simple, scriptless HTML -- viewable in any browser and, with intelligent layout, will adapt itself to the size of the user's window instead of requiring the user to adapt their window to the document.

By far the worst characteristic of PDF for document distribution is that the document usually looks like a printed document instead of a document intended for screen display. Thus we have user-hostile multi-column layouts -- because the original document was intended to be folded and the document's owner was too bone idle to reformat it into a single column for distribution.

Hmm, I've even come across documents intended for tent-fold printing, where part of the document displays UPSIDE DOWN on screen.

PDF is appropriate for sending documents from originator to printing company, but that's ALL it should be used for.

Ofcom lays out £400m plans for 2010


"why do I need to get a voice line"

Yes, why indeed.

Of course, you have to have the *line* (unless you're getting wireless broadband) but there's no reason (apart from why you should compulsorily have to pay for the *voice* part.

Lines cost money to provide and maintain, so the rental cost isn't going to go away, indeed I get the impression it has gone up more than should be necessary over the last few years. *BUT* there is absolutely no reason why the user shouldn't have the *choice* between free bundled calls and a free basic broadband service.

I reckon if Ofcom was competent and insisted on giving proper choice, we could choose a limited 12Gb/year broadband service (enough for email and occasional web browsing) as an optional alternative to having free outgoing calls on the line.

ZigBee searches for a new home


"only the network operator can distribute SIMs"

Really? I'm sure I've come across sim-only products and in principle, anyone could buy them in bulk and distribute them.

The problem may be that certain phones are locked to certain networks, but then Ofcom could (again, in principle), dictate that networks must enable them for new sales and provide free unlocking codes for phones more than a year old.

A quarter of underage children have social networking profiles


"How can a child be underage anyway"

Children are people aged 0 to about 14.

By definition therefore, "under-age children" can ONLY be those who are yet to be born.

And they must be pretty clever to get themselves a profile on facebook or similar, unless somebody who HAS already been born has helped them to do it.

Behavioural targeting works, claims US study

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"converting 6.8 per cent of viewers into ...

6.8% seems like a high figure, but ...

Any persistent targeted contact is far far more likely to be seen as deliberate harassment, thereby convert the *other* 93.2% of viewers into dedicated NON-customers who will avoid that company's products at all costs.

You win some, you lose some -- and you probably lose a LOT more than you win, but of course the researchers never reveal the statistics that don't stand in the favour of whoever commissioned the statistics.

GSMA trials spam snitch scheme


Reporting isn't the answer (yet)

What's needed first is international technical and logistical measures that can ensure the true origin of any call or message can be reliably and undisputably determined. For example, the sending telco could be required to positively validate their customers and embed a unique ID identifying both the sending telco and the individual call. The receiving telco should then be required to exchange a further data packet with the claimed sender's telco, to double check that the claimed and actual sending telco are both the same, before connecting or delivering to the final recipient. Only then may they connect to the intended recipient

Next is needed international agreement to exempt the receiving telco from the obligation to connect or deliver calls where a statistically significant number of complaints have been received against calls using that ID (or, in extreme cases, where the sending telco appears to be allowing a sender to spam using plural IDs).

Only then does a reporting code become useful -- and the processing mechanism should be able to block such calls within a matter of hours or even minutes of receiving sufficient reports against messages from the same origin.

Tesco Internet Phone rings off the hook


"main impact has been to drive down the price of phone calls for everyone else"

Do you have evidence for that?

I can't remember the year, but BT used to do a 6 minute local call for 3 *old* pence. Now you can't make a call for much less than 11 new pence from BT (the stealthily introduced connection charge of 9p ensures that), and the others aren't significantly better unless you use VOIP with unpredictable results. Line rental has increased too -- only partially disguised by figures now being quoted monthly rather than quarterly.

Yes, there's inflation to consider -- but the cost of telephony equipment has FALLEN not risen so there ought to be no need for price increases.

Competition possibly means that cost of calls and line rental have risen "less slowly in real terms" than it otherwise might, but it has certainly not kept prices down to the level that technological economy and proper regulation OUGHT to have made possible.

Biometric harvest network can handle just 700k a year


So Why Not ...

Firstly, even if the PO gets the contract, I'm not convinced that "34 biometric enrolment offices across the UK" means you'll be able to go to any post office. That would surely just mean that they identify one in each of the 34 prescribed areas, and you can go to any one of those 34.

But on the assumption that I'm wrong and that the 34 refers to just processing centres rather than access points ...

"I suppose Public Libraries, Camelot and Pay Point are the only other organisations with a branch network that could cope"

It seems to me that the optimum would be to licence several or perhaps even all of these as long as they could provide the necessary service -- giving users the advantage of competition and the possibility that the plural organisations might actually compete, both on price and providing a decent service.

The post office, for example, isn't generally noted for its absence of queues -- at least in the main offices -- so would have to compete vigorously on price to stand a chance of getting any custom.

'Smart roof' coating made of old takeaway fryer oil

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Do we want ...

Fries with that ?

Dell order status website suffers second server meltdown


"it was putting processes in place"

Probably loosely translated as ...

"We have ordered a backup server, but they're on backorder at the moment".

And conveniently forget to mention that maybe they ought to have thought about getting a backup server long before the problem arose.

End government pre-snoop on stats


"so often they don't fit in with people's own experience"

Possibly because they don't properly understand the statistics. And that's partly because the media and the politicians have chosen to misinterpret them, or interpret them selectively according to their own benefit.

How many times have we seen a headline such as "xxx is falling" only to look at the figures and see that xxx is not actually falling, it is simply rising more slowly than it previously did.

Police National Database will have audit trail


"exported information should be anonymised by the removal of information ..."

So, instead of getting a printout saying "Joe Bloggs was suspected of ... " it will say "The suspect was suspected of ..."

Great, that will sure keep his information private.

For all of ten minutes while it sits in the printer tray, maybe. And then, the person who created the report will add the handwritten caption "Joe Bloggs" and circle it because its important.

But Joe Bloggs' privacy will be ensured, because he isn't mentioned *IN* the report.

Google Apps punts kill-Microsoft-Exchange-now tool

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Most of us will be glad ...

... to see Exchange banished from the planet, or preferably from the whole universe.

There can't be many people who haven't at some time received a mysterious "winmail.dat" that displays nothing whatsoever on good, standards-compliant mail readers.

Once again, it was that arrogant Microsoft trying to foist its "sub-standards compliant" rubbishware on a community where it was never welcome. If Google can replace microsoft email (with, I presume, standards-compliant mail messages) then well done to Google and lets have some more of microsoft's gates well and truly lowered.

IE9 - the big questions and Microsoft's half answers


"If there is a move away from plug-ins ..."

Yes please. Sites shouldn't need plugins to work.

"... for rich internet applications"

Hmmm, what's actually needed, on MOST web sites, is LESS "richness" and more functionality.

You do that by going back to plain HTML, making them less flashy, cutting out most of the unnecessary animation and distraction and concentrating on content rather than presentation.

Richness shouldn't be part of the intention. Just make sure they work -- without spyware going via third party sites or unnecessary annoyances.

US broadband seeks ISP speed stickers

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"the FCC wants to make sure it's advertised honestly."

That would *NEVER* work here.

Neither ASA or Ofcom understands what honesty means, and therefore almost *ALL* advertising (broadband or otherwise) is unnecessarily but intentionally dishonest.

We have, for example. headlines such as "broadband for only £7 per month" and its only when you read all the small print that you find it doesn't include compulsory line rental (even though it's a criminal offence to show a misleading price to a consumer) and worse still, its only an introductory offer, and it's conditional on a contract which lasts for far more than the offer period, so in practice its not possible to get it at the advertised price.

Which is of course why both ASA and Oftel need to be replaced by properly elected ordinary people with the mandate to put their feet firmly down and absolutely prevent all misleading headline prices.

Nominet to release super-short domain names

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"ought to be a clause added to the sale conditions"

That rule OUGHT to be applied to ALL domains.

Domains ought to be registerable only on a plausible "need to have" basis, and once that need ends the domain should revert to nominet for sale, not held as ransomware to make bogus profit for somebody who probably should never have been allowed to register the domain in the first place.

'Health and safety killjoys' kill cheese-rolling race


Theree's gotta be a caption there ...

Like Cheesed Off by Big Cheeses.

UK shoppers ignorant of online rights

Jobs Horns

Its not just the buyers

Many sellers, especially business sellers on ebay, don't know their legal obligations and have blatantly illegal terms and conditions.

OFT and Trading standards aren't helping a lot here. They do try to inform buyers of their *additional* rights to return unwanted goods, but explain that the seller can (if they make the right statements) require return carriage to be paid.

What they fail to adequately state is that Sale of Goods Act rights apply too, and that a seller cannot make the buyer pay return postage of DEFECTIVE OR INCORRECT goods, even if they have said they will for the return of purely-unwanted goods. The buyer can instead notify rejection of the goods, and the seller is entitled to collect if they wish, but the seller has to refund whether or not they collect the goods.

Nor can they make the buyer responsible for loss or damage in transit, Sellers are 100% responsible for loss or damage of goods in transit to a consumer.

Ebay of course takes no notice of reports, but there's no legal obligation on ebay to ensure its sellers don't make unlawful statements in their listings. Its Trading Standards not ebay that needs to be enforcing UK law.

A good start would be for OFT to set up a web site where buyers could report web sites with unlawful restrictions such as the above. Prosecution shouldn't usually be necessary. Instead, enforcers should check the site contains the stated phrase, confirm that the phrase is unlawful and notify the site owner of the problem -- initially by email, with a follow-up by recorded delivery if the offending content hasn't been removed. A sample of persistent offenders would need to be prosecuted as a deterrent to others, but in the common case (that the seller doesn't understand the law) it would achieve its aim with just a few minutes of the enforcer's time.

Y2.01K hits Garmin satnav


Very highly tuned clock

"the receiver must have a very highly tuned clock to know the difference between the time signals broadcast by the satellites."

No, a time *DIFFERENCE* is exactly the same regardless of the base line you choose to use to measure the two points from. Add a day, a month or a year or decade into the equation and it makes no difference because what you add you also subtract too.

In any case, I suspect that the device receives a correct date from the satellites, but in a coded form and it is the decoding of the date data (purely for display and logging purposes) where the error occurs.

Pixel Qi sunlight-readable colour e-paper inbound


Its a colour screen but ...

... they promote it with a MONOchrome (blue and white) illustration ... ???

Mozilla lays foundation for web's next 100 years

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"work to devise legal agreements we can actually read "

That shouldn't really be the aim at all. The aim should be not to NEED a legal agreement in the first place.

If I go to a cafe and buy a bacon sandwich, I'm not required to read and sign a legal agreement waving the supplier's legal obligation not to give me food poisoning. And even if I did, it would be null and void because the law prohibits unfair contract terms. Nor is my purchase conditional on not reselling it, not looking inside to see what ingredients it contains or subject to the requirement I must eat it in a designated place that shows adverts for cheese and tomato sandwiches.

That's exactly the way it should be with software too. Subject only to standard law that prevents sellers imposing their own conditions, permits the company to use my contact details for support but not marketing and prevents it from being given to others (including parent and sibling companies) at all, regardless of any claim to "agreement".

Google Research head dubs holy PageRank 'over-hyped'

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A nice idea. But better still if google could incorporate the idea into its own searches and let you right click on a result and say "omit this host from future search results".

It does currently have that "show me less shopping sites" option but shopping sites are easily recognised and probably less than half the problem. The real timewasters are spam sites that have tricked google into indexing pages of little more than keywords and no real content.

Not only that, but google could spot when a significant number of people have opted out of a particular domain, and have a look to see if it merits global demoting.


"Perhaps US patents are different..."

They certainly are.

US patents are completely worthless ... to anybody *except* US lawyers, that is.

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"google!! remove all price comparison sites please!!!!"

Yes, and even more important, remove those rubbish pages that consist of saved search results of umpteen prescanned keywords -- and especially those which say "We didn't find any results for" whatever keyword you were searching for.

Ofcom wades into UK 'Net Neutrality' row


"Traffic management policies need to be very clearly explained"

Right, you should start by making two things VERY clear ...

a) Companies that want to use words like "unlimited" must be required to consult a dictionary, and use the word only if their service is genuinely both capable and permissive of unlimited traffic, and

b) Companies that want to use meaningless phrases like "up to" must also, in the same breath and with equal prominence, state their guaranteed MINIMUM value.

Until such time as Ofcom proves it can get its head round enforcing the above two elementary concepts, we cannot believably give Ofcom any credibility in getting its head round other, more advanced concepts.

IBM closer to chips with frickin' laser beams


"won't happen for five to ten years"

Sounds a bit slow for an avalanche.

And no doubt by then, microsoft and the like will have managed to produce even more bloated bloatware, so it will *STILL* take more than five seconds for a PC to boot up.

BBC to cull radio stations, halve websites in painful biz review


Somebody tell him the old joke ...

"director-general Mark Thompson will admit in March that the Corporation is bloated"

INTERVIEWER: So, can you tell us how many people actually work for the BBC ?

DG: I don't have an exact figure, but I'd guess its about half of them.

Adobe squishes code execution bug in download manager


"That was quick"

Somewhat quicker, I suspect, than it would have been had there not been major publicity.

"... how to download something from Adobe *without* using the download manager."

Delete "from Adobe" in the sentence and you improve your chances dramatically.

Foxit reader seems pretty good so far -- and unlike adobe's version, I can actually display two PDFs at the same time with it. Adobe Reader was displaying random garbage from another file whenever I double clicked on a PDF while another PDF was open.

"Why does it need JavaScript support in the first place?"

Probably so that it can implement its own spyware. The whole focus of software and communications these days seems to be how much spyware it can get away with while still claiming not to have broken the law.

Dell's order status website wobbles at knees


There's something seriously wrong ...

... when a computer company can't make even its OWN computer services work properly.

ODF's doomed mission to break into Microsoft Office

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"An ever increasing number ...

" ... of local, regional and national governments are in the process of switching to ODF "

Glad to hear it.

Now, its high time that all colleges and other educational establishments instructed their students and staff to create documents only in ODF format. Maybe that means they should be working in Open Office too, maybe not -- but if they use a MS product they should at the very least be checking that their documents are "proper" ODF with nothing missing.

Otherwise, we perpetuate exactly the problem that we had in the days of IE4, with webmasters creating sites that only worked properly *in* IE4.

OFT requests T-Orange investigation


How about Orange Tea ?

I'll drink to that.

The myth of Britain's manufacturing decline


Nobody seems to be answering the BIG question ...

*IS* that graph taking inflation into account?

And if not, can somebody *please* urgently revise it so that it DOES !!!



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