KW1107 Let the Technology Work for You

Mar 22

We’re back! It’s the first episode of 2017. Knightwise reinforces the sliders ethos by kicking Linux to the curb — well sorta.

Links

Music

  • Lightning Traveler – Summer [Jamendo]

Credits

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The Many Faces of Reddit

Mar 05

On the Internet, we all have our “time sinks”; those big bad dark rabbit holes that suck up our attention for hours on end while real life (and productivity) passes us by.

For some of you that might be Facebook, Google+, Pinterest or even Wikipedia (in which case, bravo!). For me my time sink is Reddit. Yes that strange forum-place that has a “sub” for just about anything and is packed with comments, snarky remarks and all out flame wars. In short: the best and the worst the Internet has to offer.

I have personally selected a set of sub-reddits that interest me, from /r/chernobyl to /r/homeservers and from the intriguing /r/documentaries to the embarrassing /r/tifu. Reddit continues to be a source of entertainment and information for me that can keep me away from the mediocre rivers of sludge that we call Facebook or the “mainstream” media.

I interact with Reddit on a variety of platforms and locations. In short: If it has an Internet connection, I want to be able to check Reddit on it. I seldom stoop so low as to access Reddit via a regular browser (only if I have to) and prefer to use the following clients instead.

iOS: The ‘Official’ Reddit client
On my iPhone (and iPad) I have tried out several apps that let me have digital intercourse with the little alien guy (The Reddit icon) but I have settled on the standard Reddit client. Its not as highly configurable al some of the alternatives but its simplicity has its advantages when you are on the road. Commenting, browsing and searching through subreddits is easy and the apps is pretty fast. 4/5 stars!
Reddit for iOS (App Store)

Windows: Redditting
There are not a lot of cool apps in the Windows store, but Redditing is surely one of them. This great Windows clients lets you browse Reddit easily both on a “standard” desktop interface or on your Surface pro 4 using your stubby cheeto-covered fingers. I love using Redditting to browse through the wallpaper section of Reddit (/r/wallpapers or /r/starshipporn) and downloading all the cool wallpapers using the cool “download” button.
Redditting for Windows (Microsoft Store)

Linux: Rtv
On Linux (On my Raspberry Pi that is) the command line is your friend and RTV is probably one of the coolest and nerdiest applications out there. RTV gives you a nice color coded CLI interface to browse your favorite subs, do posts and make comments. Clicking a link opens a command line browser which makes /r/wallpapers a Sub that is a little … empty.
Rtv for Linux (Github)

MacOS: Reditr
Finally when I cuddle up behind my massive 15″ Macbook Pro I use Reditr to browse through Reddit. When it comes to look and feel its a lot like Redditting, minus the touch-friendly design. The great thing with Reditr is that it is fast and simple to work with, giving you a learning curve that a brain dead hamster could master in under 30 seconds.
RedditR (Mac App Store)

Android: Reddit is Fun
Reddit is Fun ‘makes’ reddit fun on Android tablets and smartphones. A true and capable competitor to the “official” Reddit app with the standard abilities to post, comment and up-vote but which also sports an easy to learn interface that lets you discover NEW reddit subs just by punching in the right search term. Now you can say you stumbled across your favorit /r/bronies completely BY ACCIDENT.
Reddit is Fun (Google Play Store)

Reddit is great and has a lot to offer. Thanks to these cool clients I’m able to get the most out of my time spent on the site. Up-votes, down-votes, comments, replies, fresh posts. I start them on one device and pick up where I left off on another… “Slider Style!”

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Windows on the Dell

Mar 03

A little more then a year ago I bought my very first laptop that came pre-packaged with Linux. My slick, cool, small and light Dell XPS 13 was probably the first laptop I bought that did not have the OEM stickers stuck to the palm rest, removed. Usually I peel off these lame “Windows” or “Intel” stickers, but in this case the shiny orange UBUNTU sticker stayed on as a badge of honor.

I have been using the machine quite frequently over the last year, mostly tinkering with it to get the “pre-installed” version of Ubuntu “just right”. Because quite frankly, as “compatible” as this machine ought to be with Linux, it wasn’t. After several hours spent scrolling through forums, chatting on IRC and posting on Reddit I had rolled back the bios version and edited a bunch of config files just to stop the keyboard from jumping to “aaaaaaaaaaatttttorrrrrrrrrepeat” (very annoying). But like the owner of an Alfa Romeo I enjoyed the process because I love to tinker.

Fast forward about a year and my life is a little bit different. With a full time consultancy gig at one of my clients and quite a few business projects on the side, I don’t have as much free time as I used to have. As a result, the little Dell got started to get left out. Since I needed some business applications like Office, Visio and Outlook (for the gig at the client) I did not get a chance to play around with the Ubuntu sporting Dell as often as I wanted to.

Several times I’ve tried to switch over my workflow to be as “cross platform compatible” as I could, but when you need to send Visio or Word files back and forth, Open Office might be found lacking at times. The other point of sheer frustration was that I could not (neither with my own skills or those of the bluetooth stack developer) get a bluetooth mouse to work under linux. Result ? The XPS started collecting dust in favor of my Surface Pro 4 that went to work with me every day.

So this week I said “no more”. I was fed up with having an expensive laptop just sitting there because it’s OS doesn’t fit into my workflow and I don’t have the time to adjust my workflow. So I wiped it and installed Windows 10 on it gasp!

Have I betrayed my Linux roots? Have I forsaken my sliders promise? No. I have not.

I am still running Linux on it! 🙂 A fast, snappy and dark-themed version of Linux Mint is what i’m using right now, in a VM! Thats right I’ve decided to stop letting hardware issues and workflow incompatibly interfere with my chance to run Linux. Now I just run Linux on all my machines… in Virtual Machines! Along with whatever core OS (Windows, MacOS) sits on top of the hardware.

I’ll write about my experiences more later this week (don’t want to bore you with a mega long post) but suffice to say that thanks to modern day processors and snappy VM apps like VirtualBox, there is no noticeable difference between running Linux in a VM and running Linux natively on the hardware. Aside from the fact that everything just works! And I can just “slide” my mouse across to my second screen and finish up that Visio drawing, using my bluetooth mouse!

In the end everyone wins. I get to have Linux at my fingertips, I still have the power to use “work” related apps whenever I need to and my little Dell XPS 13 is living up to be a good investment because now I finally use it some more. I ended up dual-booting Linux years ago to go native. I’ve not given up running Linux natively; I just want to “slide” from OS to OS and with these VM’s that works just fine.

Image Credit: Pierre Lecourt on Flickr

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No excuse: Just do it

Mar 01

If you take a look at all the devices we have these days, over-connected and filled with apps and what-have-you’s, the excuse of not ‘getting around’ to producing content just is pathetic. Right now I’m on my phone, using a lull between two meetings. When my battery indicator prompts me to plug in my charger, I disconnect only to pick up this text file again on my desktop since I’ve magically synced it using the cloud. You see, the problem with being creative is not the convenience or even the lack of time, it’s the lack of focus.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been inundated with work. A ton of projects coming my way, demanding my attention and taking focus away from all the other things. Regardless of where I was or how much time I had to spare, there was always something that yanked at my attention, keeping me away from doing something useful with a blinking cursor on an empty screen.

I thought for a long time that connectivity is the enemy of creativity. The ability to get distracted by hundreds of pings and doo-dah’s coming from a myriad of applications and sources is indeed horrible if you are trying to write something. When you are just about to start off on writing the next Hamlet your time and focus gets stolen by watching cute cat video’s instead.

time break, I’ve been away for 4 minutes and 38 seconds watching a random cat video

But in the end it is me who is responsible for procrastinating and not creating my next podcast episode, my next blogpost, my next creative outlet. Instead, whenever I’m not buried in work, I procrastinate by doing other things. Tinkering with apps and computers to get things ‘setup just right’ is one of them. My delusional self has somehow been convinced that I need “the perfect setup” of hardware/software in order to get things done. Mucking around for hours with applications, operating systems, network and storage setups seems to have become a quest worthy of a couple of Hobbits a Dwarf and an Elf lately. And for what? To reach that one holy point where everything is “just right” to start doing something creative?

Well, guess what? It never will be. The starting point of your creativity is not on the horizon of some hardware or software project you are working on. Creativity is not going to “start to flow” when you buy “that new machine” or master this new app. It just… won’t.

The point is creativity (and productivity) starts now. Even if you have a hand-me-down five year old netbook with a wonky screen and strange stains of you-don’t-want-to-know-what on the touchpad you can start writing the next bestseller today. No extra hardware (or software) required. You only need to stop procrastinating, focus and start doing whatever you want to get done now.

For me that means that I need to stop chasing the ultimate hardware/software Walhalla, and cease to wait for that one perfect moment where ‘I will have the time’ to do whatever I want to do. Instead I’ll just hold that one video from Shia Labeouf in my mind that says… “Just DO IT”.

So what about you? What has been holding back your creativity? What has been stopping you from creating the next blogpost/podcast/screencast/digital-masterpiece? Is it the gear? Is it the time? Or is it… you? Tell us in the comments 🙂

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KW1106 PodSafe Tunnels

Nov 14

What happens when Knightwise and KD get to chatting during an early morning commute? Episode KW1106: PodSafe Tunnels.

Links

Music

Credits

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Fight Your Digital Redundancy

Nov 13

How About “Just” the iPad?

Whenever I have been pack my bag for my morning commute I get annoyed with the sheer redundancy of the stuff I take with me. Here I am packing not one, but three or four “computer capable” devices into a bag to haul off to some office somewhere.

Not only am I carrying around more devices then I could possibly operate at one time, the software on these devices is redundant as well. For some reason I cannot fathom I have 3 different versions of Microsoft Word on my person. One on my PC, One on my smartphone and one on my tablet. It is possible to dream up a situation in which I might be required to use said trifecta of Microsoft’s favorite text-blender simultaneously… but that would involve an alien invasion and myself in the unlikely role of the geek that saves the world with a bulleted list.

Blame the Lizard Brain

So why do we (still) cling to this redundancy? The answer is simple: because it feels safe. After 7 years in the tablet era we still have not come to “trust” these devices in a way we trust our beloved PC’s (which by now are seriously starting to mimmic our tablets in both appearance and behavior). God knows its not because the tablet apps are by some means sub-standard or don’t offer what we need. The one major hurdle the tablet haters could never get over was the lack of an ‘actual’ filesystem on iOS or Android. Sandboxed applications drove them insane. Yet what do we see today? PC based operating systems are – out of sheer self-preservation – starting to move in a very similar direction. Windows 10 supports installation of unified apps from its app store (in essence a sandbox) and Linux is embracing a more contained approach to applications with their container-oriented Snap packages. With the average smartphone having enough RAM and CPU power to put a PC from 2013 to shame and even the most low-end tablet having a screen resolution that matches the TV in the living room, technical shortcomings are no excuse either. Then what is it that turns us into digital packrats?

The real answer is in the fact that we only think we are carrying around redundant devices because we make them redundant.

We install Word on our phone, our tablet and our laptop because we can. We try to read a spreadsheet on our phone because we can. We even try to edit family photos on a 7 inch laptop using nothing but our stubby fingers. All because we can. Certainly not because we have to.

Somehow with the overabundant availability of identical software on different devices we have started to think that we have to click on “install” everywhere. No wonder it feels redundant.

Specialization is the Key

If we truly where to look at the real strength of each device, we would figure out what do do where pretty quickly. Short messages and communication? Phone. Watching video’s on the go or browsing through news articles while sitting on the train? Tablet. Full blown posture friendly photo editing? PC/Laptop.

You see? No more redundancy. Instead you have a sense that your devices are complementary, depending on the task you do and the situation you are in.

Don’t do a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle with chopsticks. Don’t use a lawnmower to trim your nails. Stay away from the firehose when you want to water that delicate orchid in the living room. Each device has its use, its purpose and its strength (just like you btw). So remember that next time you feel tempted to install Powerpoint on your smartphone: (to quote commander Scott in Star Trek V) “Use the right tool for the right job!” So ask yourself: “is this really the right device for the job? And if it’s not, do it somewhere else.

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (part 3)

Nov 10

If you haven’t read part 1, or part 2 we highly suggest you check them out!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. Our final installment is “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar.”

Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar

We cannot finish off the list without talking about “Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar” an independent Star Trek fan production (We cannot call this a fan-fic) that has JJ Abrams and the CBS bosses lying awake at night. The show cuts in during the first “Four Year war” and the legendary battle of Axanar. It features the upcoming heroics of Garth of Izar, later featured in one of the TOS episodes as the main character. What makes the show great is not only an all star cast and a fantastic production quality but it is also depicts a very dark version of Star Trek.

Stories and episodes

No episodes have been aired yet, the only thing the world has gotten are 2 short “documentary like” vignettes (first, second) featuring an interview with the main characters in the form of a historical documentary. What might sound like a boring discovery-channel episode is actually something brilliant. The 21 minute “Prelude to Axanar” will have you turn blue from holding your breath in pure anticipation of what is to come.

Acting. The acting is top notch, this due to the fact that all of the actors are professionals who have real world experience in science fiction franchises like “Star Trek” and “Battlestar Galactica”.

Richard Hatch (Appollo in the original series of BSG), Kate Vernon (from the BSG Reboot), Tony Todd, Gary Graham and of course J.G. ‘Martok’ Hertzler. All of them are top of the line actors will manage to grab your attention and whatever geek-DNA you have like pitbull returning from a weight-watchers class.

Sets and Special Effects

Lighting and sets (from what we have seen) are top notch. Makeup, costumes are all pro-grade . The CGI is straight out of a primetime TV show like BSG or “The Expanse”. Although its quite clear that this show runs in the original TOS timeline, the ships do resemble those in the Star Trek Reboot, known to fans as the “Kelvin” timeline. They are larger, more complex and love to blow up in a ball of spectacular fireworks.

Will it ever air

“Axanar” has the potential to be so good that CBS (who have the rights to the Star Trek TV shows) may be getting worried. So much so that at the end of 2015 “Axanar” hit with a lawsuit to stop the show from ever airing. The reason? It might steal some of “Star Trek Discovey’s” thunder. CBS’s new Star Trek Show (also a prequel to TNG) will be airing in 2017. I think I could write up a 14 page article on the ins and outs of the lawsuit but suffice to say the judge has declined CBS’s original claim that they own all things Star Trek. Fingers crossed (in the Vulcan salute)

Epilogue

Aside from these three shows there are many many Star Trek Fan-shows on Youtube. While some are of dubious quality when it comes to sets, makeup or acting, you should not be quick to judge. Each Star Trek Production, from the Primetime to B-movie quality is done by fans of the genre paying tribute to the show they love. Together with the viewers they keep the genre alive. So be nice before you post a snarky comment on their Youtube channel and remember how much time and effort they put into this. Star Trek fandom is IDIC 🙂 Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, there is no good and bad .. there is only Trek Love.

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (part 2)

Nov 07

If you haven’t read part 1, we highly suggest you check it out!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. Up next: “Star Trek: New Voyages.”

Star Trek: New Voyages

In our second installment we take a look at “Star Trek: New Voyages”, also known as “Star Trek: Phase II”. Like “Star Trek Continues” this show is also set in the Original series timeline of the Star Trek Franchise. “Star Trek: Phase II” was in fact the name of the never-aired sequel to the original series that Roddenberry wanted to produce. It featured the voyages of the Enterprise after her first 5-year mission during TOS. The show never got aired but some sets and character ideas were re-worked for “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and some of the story ideas were used during the production of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. The fan show Star Trek Continues/Phase II, picks up at that point.

Number of episodes

First aired in 2004, Star Trek Phase II has so far produced 11 full episodes and a couple of shorter vignettes.

Stories

The show does start out as a little over-zealous fan-tribute show that tries to cram as much ‘trek’ into one episode as possible with about as much finesse as cramming tribbles into a Klingon’s underpants. During the first episodes the number of tributes and cameo’s are a little overwhelming. But as the show matures the stories get better and better. Two episodes “The Child” and “Kitumba” are actually based on the original un-produced scripts for the never aired Phase II series. “The Child” was eventually re-worked for the second season opener of TNG.

Acting

Star Trek: New Voyages has had several cast changes during its run. All the main characters (Spock, Kirk, Mccoy etc) are portrayed by at least different actors. The first actor to portray Kirk, James Cawly, gives us a solid idea of what would have happened if Kirk had been an Elvis fan. Brian Gross, depicting Kirk after episode 9 gives us a younger, more naïve version of Kirk. But what the “core cast” might lack in acting skills is made up by the guest stars. From Walter Koeing to George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney to Denise Crosby, the original Star Trek Giants come by to pay tribute and pitch in.

Sets and Visual Effects

As is the case with most fan-created shows (and most of the original Trek series), the production quality improves along the way. The sets and costumes are great, but what makes STNV stand out is the excellent CGI. The shots of the (partly refit) Enterprise are drop-dead gorgeous and stand out far beyond anything Paramount ever produced, even in the production of shows like “Star Trek: Voyager” or “Enterprise”.

Conclusion

A little rough around the edges, “New Voyages” sometimes borders on a cheezy fan show. But this is more then made up for by great stories and the all-star guest cast that pops by from time to time.

[6]:

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Three Can’t Miss Star Trek Fan-Fics (Part 1)

Nov 04

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and that is a milestone for every geek. Perhaps you are a die hard fan from the early days watching Kirk and Spock trod around on wobbly sound stages trying to get it on with green aliens. Perhaps you jumped in during Voyager and still long for the moment that Seven of Nine tells you she wants to be your ‘friend with benefits’. It doesn’t matter what kind of Trekkie you are, there is never enough content to watch. The upcoming show “Star Trek: Discovery” won’t air until 2017, so what do you do in the meantime? How about diving into the world of fan fiction with some shows produced by loving fans of the Star Trek universe? There are many of them out there, in various forms of quality ranging from horrible B-movie material to tantalizing TV. We hit up YouTube and picked our top three. First up is “Star Trek Continues.”

Star Trek Continues

First Aired in 2013 this show is produced by a non-profit charity and takes you back to the good old days of The Original Series. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are all there, but just played by different actors.

Number of episodes

As of today, STC has 7 episodes under its belt and features some great guest stars. From Orion slave trader Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) to Chris Doohan filling in his father’s shoes as engineer Montgomery Scott.

Stories

The pilot episode “Pilgrim of Eternity” where Apollo (seen in the TOS episode “Who Mourns for Adonais”) returns to the Enterprise is spot on! The show entertains you but also makes you think about humanity, society and all the big issues Gene Roddenberry held most dear.

Acting

The cast delivers great original performances but still manage to pay homage to the original cast. Actor Vic Mignogna has a subtle way to portray all our favorite “Shatner-isms” in his portrayal of Captain Kirk. Michelle Specht plays Elise McKennah, a character that wasn’t in the original series cast, portrays a ship counsellor that puts Troi to shame.

Sets

“Star Trek Continues” built their sets from the original blueprints of the TOS sets. Therefore everything looks just like it came straight out of TOS, but stuff doesn’t wobble when they walk around (at least not much).

Visual Effects

The special effects in the show are pretty good and they have continued to progress as the series moves along. However the show focuses more on storyline and dialogue then on flashy special effects.

Conclusion

Star Trek Continues is surely worth the watch if you are a fan of the original series. It will take a little bit of getting used to seeing your favorite characters portrayed by different actors, but they will grown on you .. fast.

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5 Ways to Geek-Out Your Work Atmosphere

Oct 25

Chances are pretty high that you are an office drone. Every day you lug your beloved laptop to the office where you happily clickety-clack your keys until quitting time. Chances are even higher that said office is a landscape office that you need to share with other office drones doing the exact same thing. This would not be a problem if there was not some sadistic trend to take away all the walls in said office and sprinkle the acoustic mayhem with people who insist on constantly shouting into their phones. You need something to drown out that audio-anarchy and it needs to be geeky.

Sure, there are a lot of audio-stations you can listen to and Spotify might be the first thing that comes to mind. But for a hardcore geek like you, it might be a little too distracting. So, aside from the fact that Spotify is just a bit too mainstream-jock-hipster for to your taste, you might like something with more ‘atmosphere’ to help you focus.

1: SomaFM – Mission Control

For this one you need to install Clementine. A great open-source cross platform audio player that comes with all the bells and whistles you might need. It plays your entire MP3 collection (should you still have one) but also ties into all the major audio streaming services. SomaFM (a streaming radio network) is one of them. Amongst some cool channels you will find the “Mission Control” channel. Yes, that Mission Control. Take some cool chill music and sprinkle in some great radio communications from NASA. Before you know it you’ll chill out while listening to some guy in the background (with the heaviest Texas accent you can imagine) telling an astronaut to “try hitting it with a hammer”.

2: Youarelistening.to

This one is a little bit more along the same line, but youarelistening.to picks some great chill songs from Soundcloud and lets YOU mix that up with police chatter from all over the planet. So hear perps get arrested in South Africa or hear the tale of the “drunk and disorderly male caucasian” that has just fallen through the roof of his parents’ home. If you want to go beyond weird, try the ‘numbers station’ option and try to break the secret code.

3: Space sounds on YouTube

Youtube is a great place to find the strangest music. Just search for “space mix” and you will be presented with some awesome ambient mixes that will keep you entertained for hours. There are some instrumental masterpieces out there that will chill you out for 2 or 3 hours at a time.

4: 24 hours of Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Since we are on the topic of ambient sounds, let’s take it a step further and listen to 12 hours of the Starship Enterprise’s warp engines, or the engine sound of a passing snowspeeder? CrysKnife offers up some great ambient background sounds you can listen to as you code away. Weird? Yes! A great way to push out the sounds of the sales guy who is trying to peddle his grandma to an Ethiopian cow herder? Definitely.

5: Roll your own with Ambient Mixer

We close off with a great site that will cater to those who have not found anything to their liking. Ambient Mixer lets you MIX your own ambient atmosphere by playing with the dials and sliders of different sound sources to build your very own unique environment. How about a slice of Hogwarts or Hacking in the rain? Just try out one of the many atmospheric loops until you find something to your liking.

So pause that mainstream mix on Spotify and break that “panflute classic” cd into 5 razor sharp pieces. Connect to your inner geek and zone out!

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