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11.10.08

“Ubuntu? I’m Going to Learn Ubuntu?”

Posted in Humour, Ubuntu, Videos, Windows at 9:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Report: Bill Gates Becoming Patent Troll Like Nathan Myhrvold

Posted in Bill Gates, Microsoft, Patents at 5:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nathan Myhrvold

“Intellectual property is the next software.”

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft patent troll

THE story of Myhrvold and Gates was told here before [1, 2]. They are partners in so-called patent-trolling because Gates is investing in Myrholvd’s patent-trolling firm. And yes, this pair conceived Intellectual Ventures, which has already begun extortion against large companies and it receives licensing fees for patents it possesses.

Gates’ obsession with patents is nothing new and a few weeks ago we suspected that Gates was creating another patent troll in his home state. Our far-fetched speculation at the time seems likely to have just become a correct one because Mike Masnick unearthed the following.

Plenty of folks have been wondering just what Bill Gates is up to now that he’s left his full-time position at Microsoft. Longtime rabble-rouser theodp has alerted us to one thing that Bill Gates is spending at least some of his time on: a bunch of patent applications for a company named “Searete LLC” — including this one for rewarding influencers and another for a method to inject fluids into animals.

So, what’s Searete? Well, it appears (warning: pdf file) that it’s one of the many ultra secret shell front companies for Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures, a company that unabashedly plans to be a huge patent tollbooth on just about any kind of innovation. We’ve already noted that he’s been setting up shell companies as part of the operation’s secrecy.

The Register has an article about this too (citing Mike).

TechDirt has uncovered that Bill Gates is named as an inventor on nine patents registered with a company called Searete since he stepped down from day-to-day responsibilities with Microsoft. Gates is also named on a further two Searete patents pre-dating his Microsoft departure.

Searete is one of a clutch of companies operated by Myrholvd’s Intellectual Ventures (IV). Myhrvold holds 241 named patents in Searete, whose catalogue goes back to November 200

Further down it says some things about “Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP),” stressing that “concerns remain that Microsoft can unilaterally update the terms.”

We warned about the OSP many times before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

What to do when a company is sinking and its software is worth about $0? Use intellectual monopolies to loot the industry, only months after a so-called 'departure' in pursuit of "philanthropy". It’s too early to say too much about “Searete”, though. This is likely to become important.

Ashley Highfield to Finally Get Paid by His Masters

Posted in Deception, DRM, FUD, Microsoft, Windows at 3:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Pulling a Galli’

T

HIS is a very significant new chapter in a long saga involving the BBC, which sold out to Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15] and discriminated against Microsoft’s rivals as a result.

Ashley Highfield was one of the main people responsible for this fiasco, which began some time around 2006 when a word came out about BBC conceding Real and going with just Microsoft media formats. That was before iPlayer emerged.

Companies are — truthfully speaking — just a set of people and it’s inevitable that people will be named here. Highfield did his damage inside the BBC, had a former Microsoft employee (Erik Huggers) inherit control and now he moves on to picking up his ‘reward’ — so to speak — from the convicted monopolist.

This is very reminiscent of the story about Peter Galli and The Register had enough integrity to give a balanced article that contains criticism.

As director of future media and technology, Highfield cut a controversial figure at the BBC. Reg sources blamed him for the culture of commitees and waste that saw iPlayer development take several years and run millions over-budget. In the last months of his reign a new management team was brought in to rapidly develop a streaming version that has proved much more successful than the unwieldy P2P client he oversaw.

Open source advocates also accused him of being too close to Microsoft…

More Microsoft employees seem to be getting channeled into positions of authority inside the BBC. This is something that’s widely acknowledged by various independent sources, so there is hardly a point in denying it. Glyn Moody writes:

Erik Huggers goes from Microsoft to the BBC, and Highfield goes from the BBC to Microsoft, via Kangaroo. Let’s keep it cosy, eh?

Media distortion is a dreadful thing.

“We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5 per cent of those [use Macs] and around 400 to 600 are Linux users.”

Ashley Highfield, BBC at the time (2007)

Microsoft BBC

Links 10/11/2008: Linus Makes #1, Fedora 10 Previews

Posted in News Roundup at 2:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

GNU/Linux

Sun

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Leftovers

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Dan Gillmor, creator of the phrase, “Distributed Journalism” 15 (2005)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Novell Helps Microsoft’s Fight Against Ajax, Web Standards, SVG

Posted in Java, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 12:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

THIS SHORT post touches on a subject that was covered here before. Novell is helping [1, 2] Microsoft’s plot to turn the Web into the 'Microsoft Web' and as we pointed out 2 months ago, possible victims include SVG and JavaScript. Penguin Pete has just unleashed a post that complements past explanations of this problem, which jeopardises the Web and (free-of-charge) GNU/Linux at the same time. The most relevant part states:

Point three: Silverlight, as noted in its Wikipedia page, is also intended as an SVG-killer. This isn’t just bad news; it’s a tragedy. All modern web browsers except Microsoft Internet Explorer support and render SVG markup directly. If SVG was supported cross-platform, you’d see a new, beautiful web begin to form, where AJAX combines with SVG to create a Flash replacement. You’d see as much of a leap in web design with SVG as we saw with AJAX. Score: 2 bad, 1 good.

Point four: As the Adobe dictatorship benevolently tolerates FOSS development tools like SWFTools, Microsoft is temporarily tolerating the development of Moonlight, the FOSS equivalent of Silverlight. Tied score.

Point five: Of course, they’re doing this because they possessed the soul of SUSE Linux, so they’re still reselling Novell SUSE Linux licenses and whaddaya know, Novell sponsors Mono from which Moonlight is derived. This shows a huge breech of the Open Source fortress by Microsoft. One more step upstream, and they’ll hop from SUSE to my own Slackware and I’ll have the Microsoft Sound playing when my Slackware starts up and every man page will point me to a weblink to a useless MSN.net documentation page that’s been moved five times since the distribution released. Then they’ll just sneak into my house at night and graffiti a Windows logo on my wall or something. I dunno. Point 3-2 evil/good.

The best thing to do is to avoid Moonlight (Fedora already does) and protest against Silverlight. Moonlight is not just an enemy to Free software (‘free’ but Microsoft-patents-encumbered); it’s also threatening the Internet and it’s assisted by Novell, whose Web site comprises mostly binaries. Novell doesn’t care about freedom and it probably never will.

Silverlight puke, barf

Criminal Acta

Posted in DRM, Europe at 11:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CRIMINAL ACTS of secrecy and policy-making which involve no-one among the public is an outrageous thing. The following is a press release from FFII.

EU Council refuses to release secret ACTA documents

Brussels, 10th November 2008 – The EU Council of Ministers refuses to release secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) documents. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) had requested these documents to make public and parliamentary scrutiny possible. After the Council’s refusal, the FFII sent in a confirmatory application, for the EU Council to review its position, as allowed by Article 7(2) of the regulation dealing with public access to such documents.

ACTA’s secrecy fuels concerns that the treaty may give patent trolls the means to extort companies, undermine access to low-cost generic medicines, lead to monitoring all citizens’ Internet communications and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing.

The EU Council refuses to release the secret documents stating that disclosure of this information could impede the proper conduct of the negotiations, would weaken the position of the European Union in these negotiations and might affect relations with the third parties concerned.

The FFII reaffirms its application stating that the legislative process in the EU has to be open. If the agreement will only be made public once all parties have already agreed to it, none of the EU’s national parliaments nor the European Parliament will have been able to scrutinise its contents in any meaningful way. To prevent this from happening, it may be necessary to renegotiate ACTA’s transparency.

The FFII’s confirmatory application letter questions ACTA’s secrecy in no uncertain terms: “The argument that public transparency regarding ‘trade negotiations’ can be ignored if it would weaken the EU’s negotiation position is particularly painful. At which point exactly do negotiations over trade issues become more important than democratic law making? At 200 million euro? At 500 million euro? At 1 billion euro? What is the price of our democracy?”

The Canadian government released documents under the Access to Information Act that provide additional insights into the secretive nature of the negotiations.

If the EU Council again refuses to release the secret documents, the FFII can take the case to the European Court of Justice. An earlier case on transparency of EU legislation took 6 years. By that time ACTA may long have entered into force.

Ante Wessels, FFII analyst, says: “We do not have so much time. The only solution we see is that the parliaments of Europe force the Council to publish the texts by making Parliamentary scrutiny reservations.”

Links

Note FFII’s confirmatory application letter is attached below.

Contact

Benjamin Henrion
FFII Brussels
+32-2-414 84 03
+32-484-566109
bhenrion@ffii.org

(French/English)

Ante Wessels
+31-6-100 99 063
ante@ffii.org
(Dutch/English)

FFII confirmatory application letter

Thank you for your reply informing us of the inability of the General Secretariat to grant access to the following documents:

  • Documents 12875/08, 13448/08 and 13750/08: working documents from the Commission Services concerning the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
  • Documents 13382/08 and 13949/08: notes from the Presidency to Delegations concerning the Plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
  • Document 13637/08 (RESTREINT UE): an outcome of the consultation of the Justice and Home Affairs Counsellors on 26 September 2008 concerning the Plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – 3rd negotiating session 8-10 October 2008, Tokyo, Japan.

The given reason is that “Release of these documents would weaken the position of the European Union in these negotiations and might affect relations with the third parties concerned.”

Please find our confirmatory application herewith. We would appreciate if it could be made fully public in the Council’s Register of documents.

The European Union and its member states are built on the concept of a representative democracy. As the European Court of Justice ruled in the recent Turco case (joined cases C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P) on public access to legislative proposals and preparatory texts:

“Openness in that respect contributes to strengthening democracy by allowing citizens to scrutinise all the information which has formed the basis of a legislative act. The possibility for citizens to find out the considerations underpinning legislative action is a precondition for the effective exercise of their democratic rights.”

The ACTA is a so-called “trade agreement”. While technically it is therefore not a legislative proposal, its acceptance will nonetheless lead to legislative and executive obligations for the undersigning parties. Hence, indirectly it will have the same effect as a legislative proposal. Simply calling it differently and using different negotiation procedures cannot be used as an excuse in a democratic society to get around all transparency principles and requirements of said society.

If, as currently planned, the agreement will only be made public once all parties have already agreed to it, none of the EU’s national parliaments nor the European Parliament will have been able to scrutinize its contents in any meaningful way. We believe this to be a gross violation of the basic democratic principles the EU is supposed to stand for. The argument that public transparency regarding “trade negotiations” can be ignored if it would weaken the EU’s negotiation position is particularly painful. At which point exactly do negotiations over trade issues become more important than democratic law making? At 200 million euro? At 500 million euro? At 1 billion euro? What is the price of our democracy?

And when exactly do relations with third parties become more important than the relations with the EU’s own citizens? Only when there is no upcoming referendum on a Constitutional Treaty? Are we only useful as a large consumer base that can be used as trading goods during trade negotiations in other times?

Heaven forbid that these consumers turn out to be also citizens that want to have a say in what their buying power is being exchanged for. After all, they might think that criminalising themselves in case they put a home movie of their children dancing to Britney Spears’ latest song on Youtube might not be such a good idea. Paying higher subscription fees for Internet access so that Internet Service Providers can install filtering devices resulting in lower speeds and censored web access may not sound very attractive either. And neither does giving patent trolls free reign, with compliments of the various governments.

In short: which overriding trade interests justify the complete and utter disdain for direct public and parliamentary scrutiny over the negotiations at hand? And at which point exactly do trade interests start taking precedence over democratic and transparent law making?

There is no such point. The Institutions know that the legislative process in the EU has to be open. Our negotiation partners know this too, or should have been informed. If our negotiation partners are uninformed about it, if openness could impede the proper conduct of the negotiations, the negotiation mandate is fundamentally wrong. However painful, the secrecy has to be renegotiated first. It has to go out.

That should not be a problem. The Commission asserted that it would not go beyond the status quo, the content should be uncontroversial. And international intellectual property agreements have traditionally been conducted in a more open and transparent manner. A rollback of democracy is not needed nor acceptable.

Sincerely yours,

Ante Wessels
FFII IPRED2 / ACTA workgroup

About the FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over fifty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 850 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

Why Microsoft Doomed Exchange… and E-mail Too

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Mail, Microsoft at 11:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Anti-competitive ‘traits’ of Microsoft Exchange are nothing new to us [1, 2] and I’ve had my share of complaints too.

One reader got in touch with us (privately) after yesterday's post about the White House. He wanted to express and share an opinion: “So the Whitehouse is clubbing Microsoft Exchange into the place where a mail server should be used instead. My first reaction is that is a way of helping to ensure that any subsequent investigations are hampered and that evidence is destroyed.

“At the top levels of politics I can see how the plausible deniability that the catastrophic failure of Microsoft gimmicks bring.”

“Additionally, Microsoft is often blamed for SPAM, which is caused by its many compromised ‘deployments’ (about 320 million zombie PCs).”We thought it would be useful to group together references that show why GNU/Linux and/or Free software servers beat Microsoft Exchange [1-9], as well as bring to light fairly recent incidents (from the past year or two) of Exchange disasters [10, 11]. There are several other important issues, e.g. [12, 13], so people don’t rush to adopt Exchange [14], to say the very least.

Microsoft is, in general, risky to one’s E-mail resilience, as demonstrated in [15-19]. Additionally, Microsoft is often blamed for SPAM [20, 21], which is caused by its many compromised ‘deployments’ (about 320 million zombie PCs). This has a negative effect on ISPs, overall reliability, and cost of services that we all pay for [22].

Large amounts of SPAM render E-mail next to useless [23, 24] and Hotmail — deservedly enough (for its proprietor’s sin) — takes the toll [25, 26].

It’s all a big mess [27] and Microsoft has just rebuilt Hotmail [28] to discriminate against GNU/Linux users and annoy its existing clientèle.

_____
[1] R.I.P. Exchange?

Over the years, many of Microsoft monopolies have been successfully attacked by open source: Linux on the server; Apache for Web servers; Firefox for Web browsers; and so on.

[...]

Cisco is buying PostPath, and that is going to kick Exchange in the head. You see, is an open-source based server program that doesn’t just do e-mail and groupware, it actually has reverse-engineered Microsoft Exchange’s protocols. Result: To someone sitting at a desk looking at your copy of Outlook, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

[2] Open source could doom Exchange, one IT pro believes

The following post is a guest blog from new Google Subnet blogger Garett Kopczynski who this week launched Network World’s Google Watcher blog. Kopczynski is an IT professional for the city of Keene, N.H., and has been involved in the transformation of the IT group as it increasingly explores cloud computing and Google Apps. He writes: I am seeing the evidence of a fundamental shift to open source. The clunkiness of the IT world I have experience with brings to mind the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and mammals waited in the wings. As people are exposed to the possibilities of server side applications and program alternatives, I think they will feel less obliged to go with the current standard. AOL, for instance, was the easiest option for Internet in the 1990′s, and yet it is no longer an indomitable presence. Open source could spell extinction for the current IT standards.

[3] Microsoft Exchange dumped for Linux-based clone

After conducting an evaluation of alternatives, the hospital decided not to upgrade to a newer version of Exchange. Instead, it went with a Linux-based Exchange clone that it felt could meet the needs of its 700 users without forcing them and IT to learn a whole new system.

[5] Why Exchange could be in trouble

Because Exchange is a whole other world, and, even with the large Exchange community, I find it equally opaque at times.

So, for now at least, we went to the tried and true Postfix+Courier-IMAP solution that is ever so common in UNIX shops, companies that are open to using Linux, and ISPs.

[6] Open source email is the future – Synaq

“We continue to receive very positive feedback from clients that have committed to a migration from traditional email platforms, Exchange and other messaging infrastructure. Clearly, there is an association between Linux-based technology and benefits such as improved operational efficiency, higher levels of infrastructure management and control, as well as lower total cost of ownership,” he adds.

[7] Multifunction Open-Source Solutions

For example, 23% of the nearly 1,000 IT managers and C-level executives who responded to the survey said they planned to migrate from Microsoft’s Exchange Server (www.microsoft.com) and replace it with a Linux (www.linux.org) or open-source messaging platform in the next 12 to 18 months.

[8] Small Player Scores Big Open-Source Win

In the scrappy open-source software world–where software is developed in the open, rather than within the confines of corporate patents–successes are hard-won and often come in small chunks. Typically it’s a few thousand government employees in Munich, Brasilia, or Amsterdam who begin using the Linux operating system or the Open Office suite of business programs, shunning comparable offerings from the likes of Microsoft.

But a deal announced Feb. 26 was on an entirely different scale. 1&1 Internet, the world’s largest Web hosting company, said it will roll out 1 million e-mail accounts this year running on Open-Xchange’s open-source software.

[9] A Hybrid Approach to E-Mail: The Best of Both Worlds

Given corporations’ existing investments and their potential need to support additional Microsoft Exchange-compatible applications in the future, this hybrid open/proprietary approach will only work if it allows users to drop in an e-mail server without making changes to desktops or infrastructure.

[...]

A better approach employs a product that is compatible at the network-protocol level with the existing infrastructure. Outlook on the desktop will “think” it is talking to Exchange when it is really talking to the new Linux e-mail server, and end users do not know they are on a different server. IT professionals get a Linux e-mail server with higher performance, that uses lower-cost storage, and that works with existing datacenter applications such as Active Directory.

[10] Virgin Media taps Microsoft in lengthy email outage

A mysterious configuration problem was identified on one of VM’s eight email server clusters last Wednesday. Microsft engineers have struggled to identify the cause, forcing several reboots.

[11] [Australia:] WA infrastructure dept close to e-mail disaster

Western Australia’s Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DPI) has revealed its Microsoft Exchange-based e-mail system is suffering frequent outages that are creating a risk of embarrassing public data loss.

[12] Read the Exchange 2007 small print

Hmmm. Simplification? Sounds more like a way for Microsoft to wring more dollars from customers, to me.

[13] Exchange 2007 facing integration issues with other Microsoft software

In a nutshell, Exchange 2007 can’t run on Microsoft’s most current virtualization software, Exchange’s management tools won’t run on the just released Vista desktop operating system and the 64-bit messaging server is not compatible with Microsoft’s forthcoming 64-bit server operating system called Longhorn.

[...]

In any case, users are already reacting, especially in regards to virtualization, which has become a hot bed of networking activity, as well as, a major area of competition for Microsoft with VMWare and open source Xen on Linux platforms

[14] Users, analysts: No rush to adopt Exchange 2007

Windows Vista isn’t the only recently released Microsoft software that will give users headaches when they upgrade their systems. Corporate users, partners, and analysts said upgrading to Exchange Server 2007 from previous versions also may be a lengthy and painful process for companies, which may want to take a wait-and-see approach to the new software.

[15] Microsoft shipped OneCare unfinished?

Since shipping in May, OneCare has failed industry tests and exposed users to attack because of a security flaw in the antivirus engine. The application also incorrectly flagged Gmail as a virus and in some cases quarantined or even deleted complete in-boxes when a single e-mail was laden with a virus.

[16] Microsoft quietly patches Windows Live OneCare to fix Outlook problems

As noted by various Microsoft watchers, the OneCare-Outlook problems are not new. A number of customers have been reporting “OneCare ate my e-mail” problems since late January.

[17] Vista: What To Do When You Cannot Delete a Message in Windows Mail

A number of users are experiencing problems with Windows Mail and deleting messages from the Inbox and Outbox. The message will first become unviewable in the reading pane and will then generate an error when you try to delete it.

[18] Microsoft looking into Hotmail, Messenger problems

Microsoft engineers were looking into problems with Windows Live Hotmail and Live Messenger on Thursday after users reported problems getting onto the services.

[19] Vista: What To Do When You Cannot Delete a Message in Windows Mail

A number of users are experiencing problems with Windows Mail and deleting messages from the Inbox and Outbox. The message will first become unviewable in the reading pane and will then generate an error when you try to delete it.

[20] Full circle: How Microsoft is trying to eradicate email

There are millions of these systems out there, according to an article from USA Today. Millions.

The mainstream media consistently use the term “computers” when they make forays into this realm. Yes, they are computers, but they’re not just any computer — they are all running Windows. All of them. Let’s not mince words here: Botnets are comprised of compromised Windows systems. Thus, Microsoft’s massive security failures are at the very core of the spam problem.

[21] Microsoft is the world’s biggest cause of zombie remailers

In China, it would take about one and one-half years wages (for the average Chinese) to buy a legitimate copy of Windows Vista. If you could find it here.

Microsoft is the biggest cause of zombie remailers in the world, because they make noises, but do not do anything to address the real digital inequities in the world.

[22] Comcast starts blocking email willy-nilly

After much shouting Comcast has lifted the block on the IP range. But this seems to be a problem with several US ISPs. For example, one ISP in Florida and another in California are convinced that every email from Bulgaria must be spam and is refusing to receive mail with a .bg ending.

[23] It’s ME vs. MICROSOFT – Who Will Win ?

Now, the only problem with #1 is that IT DOES NOT WORK. When Microsoft blackholes your email, or bounces it with “550 Your e-mail was rejected for policy reasons on this gateway.“, no amount of client whitelisting is going to help (I tried it). This leaves me with option #2 – well I say “F-You Microsoft, I’m not paying for YOUR STUPID MISTAKES!”

[24] If Intent Can Be Proven, Microsoft Could Face Millions Of Mail Fraud Charges

The final results bore out the “conventional wisdom.” If emails were donuts, Hotmail would be HomerSimpsonMail. I don’t need to reiterate the figures, there they are in blue and red. But for a Hotmail account to destroy up to 81% of all emails with attachments prior to their delivery to a “generic” ISP email account is nothing short of absurd, as these Hotmail accounts were not the free variety, but the fully paid ones. Compare those figures to the ones where the generic ISP email accounts exchanged emails with attachments and you will clearly see the difference. The worst performance was in making 2% Vanish.

[25] Hotmail’s antispam measures snuff out legit emails, too

Hotmail users and email server admins, beware: you may be unknowingly caught in the crossfire of Microsoft’s war on spam. Unintended casualties include legitimate emails from domains with well-established reputations, which are systematically blocked with absolutely no notice and little recourse.

[26] Hotmail still riddled with spam

Microsoft has admitted that up to 98 per cent of messages sent to Hotmail addresses are spam.

[...]

The findings will disappoint Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who predicted at the 2004 Davos World Economic Forum that spam would be “eliminated” within two years.

[27] Botnet army’ behind tenfold rise in ‘attachment’ spam

“No one but the spam group knows how many PCs they can control with this spambot, it is assumed to be a high five figure number. If each of the PCs is instructed to send 200-300 spam messages containing a PDF attachment the spammers can send hundreds or millions of spam messages in a day – equivalent to 25 percent of all spam sent on a given day.”

[28] Hotmail engine overhaul

The redesign effort, even its more ambitious aspects, is not a total wash, however.

[...]

With Hotmail, Microsoft was at the end of its development rope. Every new feature basically had to be “hacked” into the code.

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: November 9th, 2008

Posted in IRC Logs at 10:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Enter the IRC channel now

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