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07.31.14

Is Microsoft Being Raided Not Just for Anti-Competitive Reasons but for Bribes and Back Doors?

Posted in Apple, Fraud, Microsoft, Security at 2:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Great Wall of China

Summary: News about raids in Microsoft China mostly lacking when it comes to background, context, and information about Microsoft’s crimes in China

THE WORLD is moving away from Microsoft. It starts with countries like China, which makes its own hardware (as well as much of the world’s), and then there’s Russia, which abandoned x86 (Wintel) and will make its own chips on which only GNU/Linux will neatly fit. We covered all that earlier this year and it’s clearly not just rhetoric; these things are already happening as the wheels are in motion. Microsoft is desperate to keep up with the changes, but Wintel is like an order of magnitude more expensive than Linux with ARM. It’s game over. Android is dominating many areas, along with its derivatives or other Linux-based operating systems.

The other day there was plenty of press coverage (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]) about Microsoft being raided by Chinese authorities. “Chinese regulators swarm Microsoft offices over antitrust concerns,” said some headlines (focusing on competition issues, not back doors), but most reports were a lot more vague with claims [1, 2, 3] ranging from nationalism to concerns about Office tie-up. The plutocrats’ media tried to blame it on China and make the Chinese government look irrational (watch what Microsoft boosters say, another one that’s Gates-washing it, and ludicrous claims that “China steps up the arms race in the digital cold war”). The English-speaking Chinese press says that 4 Microsoft offices were visited in the raid. One summary says that “[r]egulators claim Office, Windows illegally tied” while mostly, instead of speaking about recent success stories with Linux, including Android, the article looks backwards and says: “While there have been several attempts to get Chinese punters to switch to Linux – including Red Flag Linux and the unimaginatively named China Operating System – none have been particularly successful at shaking off Windows’ dominance.”

Now, remember that Microsoft was raided in other countries before (e.g. Hungary) and in 2013 the “US probe[d] Microsoft China bribery claim”, as we covered at the time. There is a criminal element to Microsoft’s conduct in China. One of our readers asked, “pressing for more bribes, discounts and backdoors?” Watch China demonised in Western media for protecting itself from espionage (terms like “Microsoft Chinese burn riddle” don’t help).

As Charlie Demerjian reminded us a short while ago, Microsoft is now extorting Windows users:

Microsoft decided to extort Windows 7 users too

Not content to blow both feet off with a shotgun, Microsoft is going for the kneecaps now by blackmailing it’s customers. If you are still dumb enough to use Windows, you are about have your wallet shaken down by Microsoft in a familiar yet still unwelcome way.

We don’t feel the need to sugarcoat this much because the company’s behavior is so blatant and uncaring it is almost staggering. Worse yet the victims, that would be almost all Windows users, have only themselves to blame because the pattern has been well laid out for years now. Microsoft has been unapologetically blackmailing users for years, anyone who bought one of their products in the last few years should have known better.

China has an issue like this; even in the UK the NHS has faced similar issues and is constantly being pressured by Microsoft, as we showed some weeks ago. Office (online) and Windows (the platform for Office on the desktop) are both banned by the Chinese government now.

Leading Chinese media, the New York Times (trend-setting in the US) and BBC (trend-setting in the UK) covered this and have ended coverage by now, so we saw no urgency to point out the news immediately (unlike some bloggers), only to add some background information which has been omitted by the media. A year after Microsoft came under investigation in the US (over allegations that had bribed Chinese officials) it got a visit from Feds, so what is the likelihood that these raids are at least partly related to criminal activity? Microsoft bribery in China is nothing new; it’s how Microsoft does business and the investigation dealt with numerous countries in which Microsoft was alleged to have bribed officials. The BBC says:

Microsoft has confirmed that officials from China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce – the body responsible for enforcing business laws – have visited some of its offices.

It sounds like bribes would fall under this category. This comes amid shrinkage of Microsoft’s presence in China:

Microsoft Corp’s biggest reduction in company history could cost China more than 1,000 jobs, analysts warned on Friday.

Apple too is laying off employees, 200 people in fact, so let’s not treat Microsoft alone as the problem. Moreover, based on today’s (and yesterday’s) news [1-7], Russia may be close to banning or kicking out Apple and SAP, due to the fact that their software is secret (proprietary) and thus cannot be trusted.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Russia wants Apple and SAP to prove that their software isn’t used for spying
  2. Russia: Apple, SAP to share source codes to combat spying

    Russia has suggested that IT-giants Apple and SAP disclose their source codes to Russian state specialists in order to clear up information security issues after the chain of spy scandals undermined trust in foreign products.

  3. Russia Wants Apple and SAP’s Source Code to Check Spying Activities
  4. Quick Note: Russia Requests Apple, SAP’s Source Code to Prevent Spying

    Russia has made a bold request for both Apple and SAP’s source code to make sure that neither company’s software contains any sort of spy tools.

  5. Russia Asks Source Codes from Apple, SAP
  6. Russia wants Apple and SAP to prove that their software isn’t used for spying
  7. Sorry Russia, Apple and SAP aren’t revealing their source code

    To ensure that SAP and Apple products aren’t vulnerable to spying, Russia suggested last Tuesday that the companies give Russia access to their source code, Reuters reports.

07.27.14

Apple and Microsoft Are Proprietary Software Companies and the Media Should Stop Openwashing Them

Posted in Apple, Deception, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 6:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hardware

Summary: New examples where proprietary software giants are characterised as FOSS-embracing and FOSS-friendly by gullible or dishonest ‘journalists’

Apple has made many headlines recently because of its back doors and Microsoft has made many headlines recently because of its massive round of layoffs (almost 20% of the staff). Both companies are proprietary software companies and they have a lot in common.

Techrights is disturbed to have found continued distortion of the facts. “Microsoft might finally be committing to open source” is a new article (reprinted here) which says: “Microsoft is known for keeping its programming secrets to itself. But under CEO Satya Nadella, the maker of proprietary behemoths like Windows and Microsoft Office is starting to show up in the world of open-source software, whose code is public for anyone to see, borrow from and tinker with.”

No, this is fiction. This is the fairly recent PR strategy that tries to associate the new CEO with FOSS, even though he continues using patents to attack FOSS and is running blatantly dishonest attack ads against FOSS products, especially Google’s. If Microsoft brings proprietary software to Android, for instance, this has nothing to do with FOSS. Quite the contrary in fact; it is about contaminating FOSS with proprietary spyware. The puff piece continues: “Late last year Microsoft finally made itself an account on Github, now the de-facto platform that software writers use for sharing and working on open-source code. “Microsoft has changed as a company and is becoming more open in the way that we collaborate with others,” the account’s description reads.”

Wow! Microsoft “made itself an account on Github”! Imagine the heroic act! I already have two accounts on Github, one for my job and one for my personal projects. The article goes on and makes all sorts of softball claims, pretending to be giving Microsoft the sceptical treatment.

Here is another silly new article, pretending that a proprietary NSA-accessible platform called Azure has “Open Source Partnerships”. It then cites the Microsoft proxy/mole “Microsoft Open Tech” by saying: “Microsoft Open Tech (MS Open Tech), a wholly owned subsidiary of Microsoft, has added two new partnerships under its belt. Announced during the ongoing O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in Oregon, they have teamed up with Packer.io and OpenNebula.”

This proxy has done nothing FOSS-like. It just wants to devour FOSS by putting it under a proprietary platform with surveillance. OSCON and O’Reilly have once again shown themselves to be soft on Microsoft. Based on the amount of press coverage this has received [1, 2], one might say that Tim O’Reilly keeps giving Microsoft an effective propaganda platform. Microsoft has paid him for this, ensuring that a proprietary surveillance platform gets coverage in a supposedly FOSS-centric conference.

But let’s not focus only on Microsoft. Misreporting is often seen when it comes to Apple, the most hyped-up company in the world. It’s all about perception and branding. One author’s bias (he is a “Mac”-branded PC user) can be found in this supposedly FOSS-centric site. He says that “Apple is a beloved company in the open source community,” but based on our experiences, this is patently false. There is other promotional language there, including: “Despite being one of the most well run technology companies ever, Apple has a surprisingly complicated relationship with open source. Ironically, Apple is a beloved company in the open source community, but, now more than ever, it needs to hear the call to become more open. I’ve also always noted here on OStatic that many open source enthusiasts favor the Mac over Windows systems. That’s no surprise. Apple’s culture closely aligns with many open source principles, though its culture certainly isn’t totally open.”

What?!

“Apple’s culture closely aligns with many open source principles”?

In what universe?

There are other large companies that try to openwash themselves these days. We recently covered HP’s publicity stunts and here we have another, pretending that defanging one’s software patents is somehow an act of becoming “Open Source” (Tesla uses this type of propaganda).

A man from HP, speaking about OpenStack, says that “just as we indemnified Linux 15 years ago, we are doing exactly the same thing now.” Well, indemnification does not achieve much. Why acquire software patents in the first place? Why has HP been so hostile towards GNU/Linux, including in Munich? Why is HP hiring so many executives from Microsoft? Why is HP lobbying for software patents?

The bottom line is that many companies (if not all) want to be seen as “open”, but most of them are faking it. For the press to play along with their marketing/PR ambitious is worse than irresponsible; it is reckless.

07.14.14

White House Backs Away From Appointing Patents Zealot to Top USPTO Position

Posted in Apple, Law, Patents at 5:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Obama's top contributors

Obama’s top contributors in 2012 election. Source: opensecrets.org

Summary: Philip Johnson is no longer poised to become the Director of the USPTO, which is basically an establishment that provides protectionism to primarily US-based corporations

THE USPTO, like much of the US government, is effectively run by corporations that fund it (campaign ‘contributions’, patent applications, and so on). We previously showed how Apple had been receiving special treatment from the USPTO and other pseudo-Federal branches of government. It’s all protectionism. Money calls the shots.

The other day The Mukt covered “Apple fil[ing] Auto-Unlock Patent although already available on Android” and since the USPTO has been approving almost all applications (92% of them) irrespective of prior art and quality, this too might pass. It’s just Apple’s arrogance, pretending that it invented everything under the Sun when it in fact imitates a lot of companies, as Steve Jobs himself once admitted to the camera.“Early Apple Employees Said They Would Never Work With Steve Jobs Again” is a new article that should be read by Apple fans, reminding them or even teaching them that Jobs is more of a con artist than an artist.

Now, given the inherent corruption in the USPTO (serving corporations, not public interests) we were not too shocked to see Philip Johnson almost becoming its new head. It’s the outcry from some corporations — not from the public — that must have stopped his appointment. It’s corporations that still call all the shots and some hypothesise that resistance to him came from the technology/high-tech sector as opposed to pharmaceutical giants. They vote with their money in the White House (e.g. withdrawing funds or bribing politicians under the guise of campaign ‘contributions’). Previously, a man from IBM, David Kappos, ran the USPTO and unsurprisingly promoted software patents (IBM lobbies for them even in Europe and New Zealand).

Kamdar from the EFF says why Philip Johnson oughtn’t have been nominated for USPTO Director:

Philip Johnson is Chief Intellectual Property Counsel of Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. He is also a representative member of the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, the leading trade group opposing patent reform this past year.

And now he’s rumored to be next in line to be the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

[...]

What we need is someone who understands the problems with patent law, especially when it comes to software patents. Some are pointing to the fact that David Kappos, the previous director of the Patent Office, was from the tech industry, so the next one has to come from pharma or biotech. This push does a great job of highlighting the fact that one single patent system shouldn’t apply to technologies as different as pharmaceuticals and software. In any event, the nominee to head the Patent Office shouldn’t be the face of opposition to patent reform that was championed by the White House, passed by a majority of the House, and supported by a considerable proportion of Senators.

Thankfully, as Ars Technica put it, “The White House has reportedly put its chosen nomination for head of the US Patent and Trademark Office on ice.”

The Mukt called Philip Johnson “patent extremist” and added: “The Obama administration was about to repeat the mistake it made by picking Tom Wheeler as the head of FCC. The administration was planning to hand over USPTO to Phil Johnson, a Johnson & Johnson executive who is a strong opponent of any patent reform in the country. Johnson actually played a pivotal role in the death of the patent reform bill this May.”

We still don’t know who will fill the seat formerly occupied by the software patents booster. Just because one patent extremist is not approved by the White House does not mean that a different patent extremist can’t take this place. We need to keep watching and praising/criticising, as appropriate, the decisions made by the White House. Corporations that sank billions of dollars in campaign ‘contributions’ (bribes) have a much louder voice than ours (collectively). They also get privileged access into private meetings in the White House, offering their ‘consultation’ (lobbying).

06.22.14

With Help From Corrupt Legal System, Apple is Patenting the Competition’s Products, Then Copying Them, Then Banning Them

Posted in Apple, Patents, Samsung at 11:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Apple continues to misuse patents as a tool of competitive advantage, relying in part on a biased US corporations-run system (USPTO and ITC) or courts (CAFC)

AS WE SHOWED earlier this month, the US patent office has been exceptionally friendly towards Apple, not the Korean giant, Samsung. The USPTO (and by extension ITC) is one of those pseudo-public institutions that are run by US corporations, not impartial actors. Those are are friendly towards Apple have financial reasons to be like that.

It was very recently reported that Apple patents ideas that relate to stuff which already exists from Samsung but not from Apple. Since the patent system checks what’s already filed rather than what exists in the world/market, this type of abuse is allowed. Apple is basically allowed to patent what the rivals have (and have not patented), then copy the rivals and block their products (e.g. ITC embargo on imports). Watch this ITC war that Apple started. It’s failing badly, but it is still unjust. “Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.,” says this report, “on Friday agreed to drop their appeals of a patent-infringement case at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) that resulted in an import ban on some older model Samsung phones. Samsung has been seeking to overturn the ban, while Apple was trying to revive other patent claims it had lost. The import ban will remain in effect, according to a filing with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Last month both companies blamed each other for their inability to reach a global settlement. Appeals of district court cases between Apple and Samsung are still pending.”

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is a corrupt sham. It should cease to have any impact on law and it is highly predicable (barely surprising) that it let Apple make all this mess. As one respectable site put it, Apple’s patent wars may in fact be “a Marketing Strategy”, pretending that Apple invented everything despite its founder’s admission that it copies a lot from other companies. To quote the analysis: “The latest battle in the three-year long Apple-Samsung patent saga concluded few weeks ago. In contrast to previous litigation between the two tech-giants—which revolved on the overall look of the phones—this case focused around autocomplete, tap-from-search and slide-to-unlock software. Despite the technical nature of these innovations, there are a few broad managerial lessons that have emerged from this prominent patent case.”

Further down it says: “The Apple-Samsung patent war illustrates how patent litigation has impacts that go far beyond stopping a specific firm from copying a particular technology. This narrow view overlooks the effect it has on brands, and on other competitors not named in the suits. In considering their own IP strategy and in responding to litigation, managers can benefit from thinking more broadly about patent wars and recognizing their multiple effects.”

Apple is a shameful embargo company that copies others, then tries to ban them. Apple relies on an inherently corrupt and biased legal system in the US. Those who have not yet chosen to boycott Apple should think about what Apple does to innovation and fair competition. Remember that all those devices that Apple fights against are based on Linux.

“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Steve Jobs

06.12.14

Apple Hopes to Enjoy Inherent Corruption in the Patent System and the Legal System

Posted in Apple, Patents, Samsung at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Apple

Summary: Apple is reportedly trying to start a new wave of patent attacks on Android/Linux — a plan which failed after misconduct at the legal system had been made publicly known

The USPTO not only lost the ability to protect its reputation; this long-lost reputation or credibility loss is bound to get worse because scope is expanding and the number of approved patents is rising, to the point where almost every application is successful at one point or another (e.g. after resubmission). Recent numbers showed just how bad it was getting all around.

Here is a good new example of patent scope gone awry, even expanding to software (IBM to blame here). Here is another new example from
Apple, which enjoys support from the USPTO (it grants Apple patent monopolies on almost everything Apple wishes).

Apple continues using patents as a weapon against Android/Linux, seeking to tax and eliminate features. Apple pretty much lost the case, with just under a dollar charged per phone from Samsung, so any additional patent the USPTO grants Apple will almost certainly pose a threat to Free software. Apple wants billions from Samsung’s sales of Android devices, and that’s just from Samsung alone. Apple is pursuing patents on all sorts of exotic ideas that Samsung is not pursuing for aggressive purposes like Apple does. In pro-Apple sites one can find the expected bias (portraying Samsung as some kind of thief) as a new trial is expected, this time perhaps without a foreman conflict of interest (only corrupt trials have worked in Apple’s favour).

There is a good new article where a conflict of interest has led to a judge stepping down, proving perhaps that in the area of patents we rely on people in gown ideologically deciding on stuff with their dogma and vested interests.

The USPTO’s conflicts of interest (e.g. profit from patents) and conflicts of interest in the courtroom (e.g. Jury moles) may be beneficial to Apple at one stage or another, but if justice prevails one way or another (eventually), then Apple’s war on Android will always fail miserably at the end.

05.28.14

Apple Debacle a Timely Reminder That Any So-called ‘Kill Switch’ is a Dangerous Back Door

Posted in Apple, Security at 9:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Smartphone kill switches, which by definition require remote control of systems, turn out to be Trojan horses that reduce security by facilitating crackers (not just government-sanctioned crackers)

AMID lots of advocacy and inane promotion of kill switches (claiming that they were “against theft”) we repeatedly called them back doors, which is technically what they are.

Now that “Apple”-branded phones get hijacked by crackers we are reminded that these back doors (incorporated by design) are nothing but trouble and for Apple iPhone ‘users’ who don’t know it yet, Snowden released evidence to show that iPhone (more than other phones) has NSA back doors. It’s no coincidence that Obama was barred from using iPhone. Back doors (and so-called “kill switches”) are now being exploited by crackers who try to use ransom for profit. Microsoft’s NSA back doors are equally problematic, but in this post we will focus just on Apple. As iPhones are being “frozen” by crackers demanding ransom we should again ask ourselves, is it really safe to let so-called ‘security’ agencies acquire back doors? Should anyone other than the physical user have access granted to the system and subsystems? These are the questions which motivated the Free Software Foundation to battle against DRM, proprietary software, and for privacy, freedom, etc.

According to the corporate press: “It appears that the hacker [sic] … has managed to exploit the Find My iPhone feature which can track and remotely lock stolen devices. Users have been told to send ransoms of between $50 and $100 Australian dollars (up to £55) to a PayPal account in order to have their devices unlocked.”

Watch CBS (which Apple pays) trying to relay the Apple ‘damage control’. Apple tells users to change passwords as if back doors can be circumvented by choice of passwords. Apple should apologise to (and compensate) users for helping to build back doors that are now falling into the hands of non-government crackers. The kill switch is the ultimate weapon against people whose phones have back doors. It’s not about thieves and security; it’s the ability to destroy/switch off phones at protests and other venues, of course in the interests of “national security”. So much for security, eh?

05.22.14

Apple is Abandoning Steve Jobs’ Thermonuclear War on Linux/Android

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents, Samsung at 10:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Apple is reportedly folding and moving away from the counterproductive war that Steve Jobs started before his death

There are indications in the media (both large and small outlets) that after vicious attacks against HTC Apple may end litigation against Samsung, quite similarly. As one person put it: “The long and drawn out battle between Samsung Electronics and Apple over the ownership of various intellectual properties may be coming to a close.”

Samsung and Apple have been in the courts for years (only lawyers won). Apple started it all because Apple is silly and it was headed by an arrogant man at the time. To quote HBR:

Look out across today’s ultra-competitive smartphone market and you’ll see something resembling the religious wars of the Middle Ages. This is no quaint summer-weekend reenactment. The weapons being brandished are devilishly constructed patents; the rules of engagement the arcane procedures of federal courts. And the havoc being wreaked — in higher prices, banned devices, and stifled innovation — is laying waste to the industry landscape.

The central battle pits Apple against everyone and everything involved with Android, Google’s open source operating system.

Android’s release, for Apple’s late founder and CEO Steve Jobs, was the ultimate heresy. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to,” Jobs is quoted as saying in a series of jeremiads, “and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40bn in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

And so Apple has. Between 2006 and 2012, the company was involved, sometimes as plaintiff and sometimes as defendant, in nearly 150 patent lawsuits around the world over various features of its iPhone — including hardware, software, and product design.

Like the religious wars of old, a complex web of alliances, side agreements, and mutual defense pacts have conspired to draw the entire industry into open warfare. Sony is suing LG. Nokia is suing HTC. Motorola (owned by Google since 2011) is suing and being sued by everyone.

Based on this other new report, Apple is close to giving up, having failed to tax Android in any significant way. Reuters says the following:

Apple Inc and Google Inc’s Motorola Mobility unit have agreed to settle all patent litigation between them over smartphone technology, ending one of the highest profile lawsuits in technology.

In a joint statement on Friday, the companies said the settlement does not include a cross license to their respective patents.

“Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform,” the statement said.

Apple and companies that make phones using Google’s Android software have filed dozens of such lawsuits against each other around the world to protect their technology. Apple argued that Android phones that use Google software copy its iPhones.

It is starting to look like Apple is admitting defeat and abandoning Jobs’ aggressive legacy. It is worth noting that Apple has launched no new major cases since Jobs died. It is a good sign because it may mean that Apple as an aggressor in the courtroom might be a dead legacy.

05.07.14

Apple’s Patent Plot a Failure, But It Still Hurts Free/Libre Software

Posted in Apple, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 3:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Further examination of the conclusion of that baseless Apple vs. Samsung case

RUMOURS are abound that Apple might sue Amazon using patents [1], as Amazon sells many devices with Android/Linux on them. If Apple was to embark on such a tactless journey, it would not gain much or anything at all. Recently, the biggest Apple patent case derived/extracted only small amount from the company that sells the lion’s share of Android devices (less than a dollar per device). As Alter Net put it: “Although the weekend’s headlines read that Apple was victorious in its latest patent suit against Samsung, nothing could be further from the truth. The $119.6 million Apple won for having two of its patents infringed upon was less than 10% of the $2.2 billion it was seeking. In addition, Apple had sought a $40 per-unit fee for each Samsung Android phone it said infringed on its patents. Some legal analysts are calling the latest legal showdown between the smartphone giants a victory for Samsung, saying that Apple likely spent close to the amount it won in legal fees.”

We wrote about this Apple case a few days ago, noting more or less the same thing. ‘For its part, Samsung claims the jury verdict is “unsupported by evidence,”‘ says this other report, stressing that the loser here is everyone other than Apple and Samsung:

The jury foreman in the latest round of the Apple v. Samsung patent showdown said Monday that the “consumer” was clearly the biggest loser following the conclusion of the month-long trial.

“Ultimately, the consumer is the loser in all this,” foreman Thomas Dunham, a retired IBM supervisor, told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’d like to see them find a way to settle. I hope this (verdict) in some way helps shape that future.”

Suffice to say, the ruling presents trouble for Free software. “Apple’s patent aggression against Android resulted in a loss for free software,” wrote Richard Stallman, “even though Apple did not get the big money or the injunction it sought.” Any kind of patent payment impedes free distribution. For that — although not exclusively for that — we need to shun Apple.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Will Apple sue Amazon for copying the iPhone?

    Let’s face it, Apple has never been shy about suing other companies that they think have infringed on their intellectual property. The recent legal fights with Samsung are a good example, but there have been others over the years. At one point Steve Jobs even vowed to use Apple’s billions to destroy Android in court because he regarded it as a stolen product.

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