KW1108 Protecting your Privacy at Work

With all the news lately about the risks to your online privacy and personal information knowing how to look after your data has become an essential skill. It’s not too difficult to do this at home where you have full control of your environment, but what do you do when you’re at work?

Links

Music

  • Борисов Евгений– Trance [Jamendo]

Credits

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Switch Week : Export your iWorks documents.

You might not know it, but one of the greatest ways to sell an application is not only by making it a very good application, but also by using an enclosed file format. Its funny, but the majority of decisions in small businesses of whether to migrate to a newer version of office, is fuelled by the argument that “other people use office an its needs to be compatible”. That way a commonly present, closed file format used by a certain number of users ..ensures long time sales of your product.

iWork

With Pages Numbers and Keynote, Apple chose their own file formats to use. That also creates kind of a “legacy” problem. Part of that problem is that you need to be able to open / share your documents with other iWork suite users and part of that is that you need the iWorks suite to be able to open your own documents. Being able to break free from that locked in loop gives you the flexibility not only to exchange documents with others who do NOT have the iWorks suite, but also to make sure you can open those documents on your other computers that aren’t macs.

How to do it.
iWorks documents don’t ‘slide’ very well across operating systems. iWorks suite is capable of opening .doc .xls .ppt .rtf and .txt formats from other programs like the Microsoft Office suite and Openoffice (beware : Open document format is NOT supported). The other way around is a lot harder : No applications outside the iWorks suite are capable of opening and editing Apples closed iWork suite file formats.

What is the workaround.

Luckily there are the EXPORT options that allow you to ‘export’ your iWorks spreadsheet, document or presentation to a more open file format so you can open them up with non-iWorks applications.
supported formats – suggested formats

Pages documents can be exported to.

  • PDF
  • DOC
  • RTF
  • TXT (not all versions of iWorks support this)

Depending on the file format you export to you will loose more functionalities and layout options. The PDF export gives you a document with all the layout but without the ability to edit, the other file formats have less and less of the .pages layout and markup options in favor of being able to edit the text.

Numbers spreadsheets can be exported to : 

  • PDF
  • XLS
  • CSV

The same is true here, the farther you go down the list the less functionalities you can export. PDF gives you a read only document, XLS gives you the ability to open and edit the document in applications like Excel, Google Drive and Open Office. You might still have your graphs and pie charts but they won’t look as nice. With CSV you export your spreadsheet to a flat file with all your data separated by comma’s.

Keynote presentations can be exported to : 

  • PDF
  • PPT
  • Quicktime
  • HTML (not all versions of Keynote support this)
  • Images

With Keynote you can export your presentation to static images, or a pdf document or to a Quicktime movie giving your viewers the total presentation experience. Only when you export to .ppt will you be able to edit your presentation slides. When you do the latter you will loose some of the mark-up or effects of your presentation.

You win some you loose some.
With an “export” you go down to the lowest common denominator of functionalities between the different applications. Whatever .pages can do with a document that Word cannot .. Will be lost. Most of the times your documents will still be editable but they need “touching up” after the exports. Other times you might find that certain transitions or effects that are unique to the iWorks suite are completely gone or do not work.

Be open in the choice of your applications.
So if you don’t want to go live in proprietary-file format-purgatory we suggest using “open” applications as much as possible. Openoffice and Google Docs are largely geared towards cross platform availability AND the ability to be compatible with many other ‘office like’ applications. If you have to share your documents with others, be polite and use “open” file formats like .pdf .doc .odf and even .rtf .html or .txt. This way you assure that the other party can read (and if needed, edit) your document without having to run to the store to buy iWorks (and quite possibly a new Mac). Using open filestandards shows “digital maturity” and ensures that you can still open that essay that you wrote on your old mac .. on your brand new Chromebook, Windows Tablet or Linux PC.

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The Sky is the limit with Skydrive and ‘office for free’.

You have heard us rave and rant about several “Office” alternatives on the Knightwise.com blog many, many times. To be honest, anything that could get us away from the highly OS-centered clusterf*ck that was called ‘Office’ was a good excuse for an article. We’ve taken you on journeys to the cloud and explore GoogleDocs, we have given you amazing alternatives like Openoffice and Libreoffice .. we have even herded you towards the command line to type out your contribution to this existential plain using a command line only application. Let’s face it  : Ever since that nosy paper clip told us like it “LOOKED” like we were writing a letter .. we have gone off the deep end. .

So to be consistent we are going to do something completely different today. We are going to chase you back into the cloud towards the plains of Redmont to get the most out of you free skydrive. Yes, that magical place in the cloud where you can store your favorite cartoons of Bill and Balmer dancing in pink tutu’s, that place where you store those “pie in the sky”-charts away from the wretched claws of your dying harddrive .. that place .. that you have hardly visited after opening up an account 6 months ago. However .. that is about to change because we are about to tell you some cool things you can do .. with your skydrive (aside from storing documents in the cloud .. of course) 

Create documents : The coolest feature that Microsoft would like you to not know about is that you can create and edit documents in your skydrive for free using the web based versions of Office.  This is a pretty spiffy alternative for those among you who don’t want to spend the 100 dollars a year on Microsofts new SUBSCRIPTION based model of office, but still won’t go that far as to use GoogleDocs or another product.

Share and collaborate with others : Just like Google Docs skydrive gives you the ability to work together with others as you are writing the next Twilight-killer novel. Because you still want a Social life you can use some granular security settings to define who you want to be able to access those documents.

Access files on your home computer : For this one your computer needs to be ON and needs to be a Windows machine running the skydrive client. You can log into the skydrive web interface and rummage around on your home harddrive without ever having to leave wherever you are at that very moment. (That IS the whole point of working remotely.)

So you ready to get started ? Get your skydrive account here and dive into this PCWORLD article on “Getting started with Skydrive” and embrace the power of clippy once more.

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Save money and gain focus using the linux command line as a wordprocessor.

For the life of me I cannot remember the link (nor find back the episode) to a Hacker Public Radio podcast episode that inspired me to do this post. The speaker in this little podcast talked about the way we use word processors. He mentioned a study where they compared several groups of students that were working on a paper. One of the groups used the latest version of MS Word, the other one used Libreoffice and another group used Wordperfect (The black and white command line version). When they judged the actual papers afterwards, the QUALITY of the CONTENT was the highest with the students who used … Wordperfect. It turns out, the FEWER distractions we have regarding to layout like ribbons and talking paperclips, the more our brains focus on CONTENT. The talk is highly recommended and whoever finds the link and posts it in the comments section gets extra geek points !

So, why not make our OWN version of Wordperfect using the command line interface on Linux.

Fire up a terminal and start using your favorite text editor like NANO or VIM.

When using Nano just start out by typing

nano yourfilenamehere.txt

Start typing and hit CTRL-X to save. Pretty easy. There are of course a lot more keyboard shortcuts you can use. I have linked to some posts here and here that give you all the fancy features in Nano.

If you are somebody that likes to use VIM (I’m sorry, I don’t use VIM a lot) but I have been told that VIM users are considered the Jedi among command line interface text editor users. (Now THERE is a title) You can learn the ways of the VIM-force here and here 

Spell checking !

Ok, you’ve made your document but, like me, you do tend to make the occasional typo. My excuse is I’m not a native English speaker .. whats yours ?  You can solve the problem by installing ‘ispell’

sudo apt-get install ispell  

Next up just point ispell to your textfile

ispell yourfilename.txt

Diction.

Lets say your spelling is ok, but when you write stuff, you sound like master Yoda. You need diction control

sudo apt-get install diction

and point it at your file  with diction yourfilename.txt

These are just a couple of very basic tools to get things done, but when you really want a distraction free interface, this might just help. I’ve tried this on an old Pentium1 laptop with just a command line linux install … and its a horribly effective experience. There is NO internet to distract you, no tweets, no other apps. Just you and your textfile. Great for focus or for punishing your child and making it DO its homework WITH a computer but without any distractions. 

What is YOUR take on this ? What wordprocessor do YOU use and how to YOU make it work for you ? Tell us, in the Comments section.

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Saynonara mr Desktop

Sometimes being a geek means taking risks, trying things out and experimenting with new gadgets, technologies and trends that arrive on the shores between real and Cyberspace. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been noticing such a “looming trend” in my techno-ecosphere and decided to bite the bullet and go head on into it .. 

But first let me explain : I live a very mobile lifestyle. Times where I am actually “in my home office” are quite sparse. I’m on the road a lot, I work abroad and the scarse moments that I AM home, I love to hang out with my beloved better half, our two dogs and our cat. Holing myself up in my office upstairs with the door shut .. is not an activity I favor so much. The result has been that my favorite “batcave” has been largely “unused” lately. The Dual screen I7 Mac Mini setup that I had setup was sparsely used (mostly as a server) and the i5 Linux desktop that sat along side it spent most of its time idling away or catching up on software and security update. Meanwhile I was either working from my Galaxy Nexus phone, reading stuff on my Nexus Tablet or iPad or punching away on the 11.6 inch Macbook Air that I drag around virtually anywhere. 

But when we look at the trends of technology, we are slowly seeing the processor powers of all of these different devices coming up to par with one another. My “Desktop machines” might sport a little more ram then my Laptops but overall, my laptop(s) have the power to haul what needs to be hauled. My phone / tablet enable me to communicate and consume content anywhere .. so the question came up : Why do I still NEED a desktop anyway ? To sit there ?

office

I bit the bullet 2 weeks ago when I disassembled my Mac Mini setup, and hooked the machine, together with a bunch of USB drives, up to our TV downstairs. The “Super Desktop” I had put together a couple of months ago, is no more. I have changed its roll from “production system” to “central home server”. Hooking it up to our tv and stereo system it serves up movies , tv shows and music when we want to, and uses its raw I7 power (and 16 gig of ram) to run multiple virtual machines. The machine is now almost constantly doing “Something” and gives me the power of a mediacenter and a small datacenter at my fingertips. Because all of the content is stored and backed up in a central location, I no longer need to worry about ‘what file is where’ since everything is stored right there on the server. With that I also alleviate one of the major hassles I had where some files would reside on desktop X and some files would reside on desktop Y … no more local files, period.  The i5 Linux desktop went out next. Whatever local data and settings still resided where either transferred to the downstairs sever or copies over to my Macbook air that is also running Linux.

So what am I left with.

So right now my ‘laptops’ have found their rightful place in my office. I’ve devided up the 24 inch Displays between my 13 inch Macbook pro running Mountain Lion and my 11.6 inch Macbook Air running Ubuntu Linux. I’ve given an nice “laptop stand ” to both and a comfortable keyboard. When I do ‘Arrive’ in the office, the laptop of choice can “land and charge” in its designated slot and the comfortable keyboard, mouse and screen give me the perfect “workstation”. (With an extra screen)

Simplicity, portability, elegance, 

In the end, Its not about the speed. If you would honestly ask me if I “miss” my desktops ? No. The impact on speed and disk space in negligible and the fact that I can now “carry around” my workstation everywhere offers me much more perks than downsides. By centralizing my storage and cpu load to the downstairs servers, I now have (with the additional use of Cloud solutions like Dropbox and Ubuntu one) everything I need on every system that I need. The last divide between home and mobile has hereby completely vanished.

What I have lost ? Nothing much actually. Since i’m not an avid gamer, my desktop(s) where no graphical powerhouses. When I do feel like Fragging something I either pop over to my game console or fire up Call of Duty on my Macbook pro (or any good game on Ubuntu, the ‘Air’ is able to hold its own there too)  When on the road I connect to my home shared using VPN tunnels and SSHFS mounts. Most of the file syncronisation is handled by Dropbox, Ubuntu one and my Google Apps environment.  Time to say “Sayonara” to the age of the desktop. The beige boxes, pimped powerhouses or multi-core mega-machines. They have lived long and prosper .. but its time to move on.

 So what about YOU ? Do you still have any desktops running ? Thinking of biting the bullet and dumping the “beige boxes” ? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Size doesn't matter : The 12-inch mobile office.

Since we are doing some home renovation over at Casa del Knightwise for the moment, living space is at a premium. While our downstairs looks like its been raided by a group of angry drunken Constructicons, both @Niejana and I need to “flee” to my upstairs office to spend our evenings watching tv and doing stuff. The otherwise pristine (and organised) room is now packed with boxes, our tv, a couch, @Niejana’s desktop , 2 doggies and a cat. Needless to say : Space is scarce. That requirement comes at a convenient time, since I’ve just shrunk down my “Digital survival kit” to the size of a 12 inch messenger bag. Bigger is better ? Not always, let me show you.

What do I need : In order to digitally survive this era of grime and dust I need a mobile setup that allows me to do the three crucial things : Communicate , Consume media and compose content. An added “required factor” is that the setup has to be completely mobile and fit inside a bag that can be carried around ANYWHERE leisurely without yelling “This is a laptop bag, mug me now”

Setup

Bag : Finding the right bag is an art. Call me metro-sexual or just someone with a right balance between appreciating both practicality and esthetics : Finding the right bag is crucial. The trick is to find the sweet spot between ” Too small” Where you cannot get all the gear you want into the bag OR damadge your gear by cramming it in. Samsonite’s 12 inch horizontally slung messenger bag is ideal for this operation. It has all the compartments you need and comes with extra padding and a safety latch to keep whatever you need tucked in safely. With the “Horizontal” orientation the weight is distributed equally so the strap doesn’t wear into your shoulder. The extra “Handles” make it easy to grab and sling anywhere you need to while the whole formfactor is just big enough to encompass anything, but small enough to be casual and unobtrusive. 

Laptop : My newly purchased 11.6 inch Macbook Air is a dream here. Dual booting into both Linux and OSX the device offers me the 2 platforms that I need in my daily routines. OSX for content production, Ubuntu for advance geek stuff. The 128 gig SSD might be small but with the addition of cloud storage AND using storage on my home server over SSH connections, disk space is not THAT important. The Air is delightfully light, well built and has a great screen. It lacks the “Hussle” of consiously ” getting out your laptop”. With the size of an A4 piece of paper (or an iPad) it just pops on the table, gets the job done and slides back in the bag when i’m done. 

Phone :  The pinnacle of communications here is my smartphone. The 16Gig iPhone 4 might not be the top of the line model, but it does preform the tasks it needs to do. With the Hootsuite and the Google+ app most of my social media channels are covered. I’m tied in to my multiple email and calendar accounts via the mail app. Aside from the music, Downcast takes care of my podcast subscriptions and the Webbased interface of Google Reader together with the Buffer and the WordPress app let me do most daily chores for the website. Crucial here is the presence of headphones (so I can “Zone Out” anywhere) and the “Hotspot” functionality turns it into a crucial component to “connect” the entire setup while on the road.

Tablet : The Google Nexus 7 proves to be invaluable when it comes to this “Compact but Crispy” setup. It’s 7 inch size and relatively long battery size help me get through the day with ease. Reading books, Doing my “communications” on a bigger screen and watching the downloaded Video Podcasts are just cut out for the Nexus. An extra “slide right in” protection sleeve and the vertical orientation of the tablet in the bag, make it great to “grab and check” your device in a tricorder style. The only downside is the smaller ‘diskspace’ (8 gig) and the absence of 3G. But the latter is easily overcome by using my iPhone as a hotspot.

Cables and chargers : The trick here is to have the smallest amount of cables with you, while still covering all the bases.

  • Macbook air Charger (with just the plug connector, not the long cable)
  • Apple iPhone/iPad cable : Used to charge the iPhone using the Macbooks usb port.
  • Usb Microsim cable : Used to charge the Nexus (from the Macbooks usb port.)
  • Usb charger : Small usb charging plug to wallcharge the iPhone / Nexus 
  • 16 gig Usb stick : Small and compact but packing 5 extra “Live” linux Cd’s to have any OS I want at my portable disposal.
  • iPhone Tripod : A little tripod to make sure I can use my iPhone as a one man camera crew in a pinch.
  • In the car : The trick of such a compact setup is to make sure you have some “extra’s” nearby. So in the car I have a small bag with a longer powercord, a Usb to Ethernet adapter, a network cable and an iPhone / iPad charger just in case.
 
So where is the iPad : To be honest, my 64 gig iPad ALSO fits into this bag (it adds another layer of protection to the Macbook) but altough its filled with Tv shows and content I like to watch, my iPad is becoming more and more “domesticated” Getting its fair amount of use around the house but, due to weight and size , doesn’t accompany me on the road every day. When I touchdown at home though it makes a perfect “second screen” to this setup that I often use to play movies or keep track of social feeds and stuff.
 
In the end : This setup is no powerhouse, but that’s not what it is supposed to be. For that I have my desktop at home with its big screens. The mobility here trumps the muscle-power the gear has to offer. I can easily dock the Macbook to a second screen and slide in a keyboard and a mouse and transform it into a more “domestic” setup if I want to. And it is THAT combination : Light and flexible to use on the road, but easily transformable into a “home setup” that I absolutely love about my new tiny setup.
 

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Learn Office (and open office) essentials "in pictures".

” Darn dude ! You slow or something ? Do I NEED to draw you a Picture ? ? ? ” If the answer to the first question is Yes .. I’ll try to type more slowly. If the answer to the SECOND question is yes .. then we have a solution for you. The downside in not regularly using office applications is that you forget how to do things. But of course you can always go and read the manual. The manual ! Yes .. like you have the “dummies guide to excel” at the corner of your desk. Who has time to READ all that stuff. We all know that visual information is a lot easier to comprehend and faster to get through ?

Enter “Inpics.net” a great site with “screen by screen” howto’s on how to do things in Office, Openoffice and some web coding lingo’s too. The tutorials are horribly easy to comprehend and give you a blow-by-blow guide on helping you out. Although the latest versions of Microsoft Office are not included, its not all that bad. A subtraction is a subtraction after all.

Now we can replace RTFM* (Read the fabulous manual) with JGWTP* ( ‘Just go watch the pictures ‘ )  and visit Inpics.net

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The Office 2.0

livingYes yes , its the time of the year(s) again that the Knights in the Knightcastle get a little uneasy with the colors they painted on the walls , get bored with the arrangement of furniture and get overdosed by all the 'home improvement' programs on the tv. We dash out to the DIY store and go looking for paint. Now I must say I'm blessed with the fact that Nyana has excellent taste in colors. She picks out two shades of gray (that to me are not even different colors) and says.. 'This will go good together. ' As we left the store I remember grumbling and fretting that we did not go for some cappuccino like shades, and turning the room into one big Starbucks.  But when the paint went on .. the result was amazing.The rooms we did so far are the bedroom and the office / small living room upstairs. Now in our bedroom we obviously sleep. (get your brains out of the gutter). But the office / living room is a different matter. This room used to be my office. But because I had room to spare we shoved in an extra couch and a tv so Nyana could hang out while I was behind my beloved workspace. It worked out so well that we spend the most part of the winter upstairs. Nice and cocoon-y. The wife in front of the tube, the resident geek on you-tube.  But the mutter was in the clutter. Soon enough Mr geek thought it was needed to overstock the room with computer books, extra systems, a sound-mixer, microphone, main boards and cables lying around etc. To be honest , it sometimes looked like the lovechild of an overturned dumpster truck and a main board factory. This was neither relaxing nor efficient. Thus : The new office. Or could I say : The office 2.0.

 

office

 

We started out with a ruthless philosophy. This place had to be clutter free. Asides from the absolute essentials this room would have to breath out calm and efficient vibes. In order to achieve a TV-room / loungeroom / workspace we made sure to check some markers.

cables

  • Relaxing colors. Shades of gray replaced the beige and blue on the walls. The colors of the room should reflect calm-and-easy and by far attract any attention to themselves.
  • Furniture : As little as possible. My big office (the biggest one Ikea had) was sized down to its smallest by removing some extentions. Every bit of furniture is color coordinated .. well thats more something of a coincidence since we buy everything at Ikea and it matches nicely.
  • Cables : The lovely misses had an absolute zero tolerance policy for ANY cabling that was exposed to the naked eye. Also : NONE of the cables , power plugs or power supply's was allowed to hit the floor. A downpour of black power cables in front of an exposed office ? No way. Don't get me wrong. The girl is as geeky as can be .. But the place should not look like a fishing trawlers , nets included.
  • No clutter : Books, ornaments and what-have-you's that where otherwise crammed in our cabinets where removed. Just a little plant here, and a model of my  Enterprise NCC 1701 there. (and some nice starship diagrams nicely framed on the wall).Division bell ! : But probably the most important redesign was dividing the OFFICE (where you work) from the Lab / Studio / library part of a geeks room. Now 10 years of research have given us the conclusion that you cannot keep the geek out of the living room. And you cannot keep the clutter out of the geeks setup. So unless you want a TV room / IT-ground-zero.. You have to seperate the working geek , from the tinkering geek.  Our conclusion ? Move the books / spare parts / lab equiptment of the resident geek to the hobby room upstairs. This meant that podcasting- studio setup went upstairs and is now safely out of direct sight.

The results.

 
cablessWhat can I say : The results are great. Allthough  reluctant to give up my 'matrix style' surroundings of screens and keyboards piled up together. i'm honestly impressed by this new approach. My main desk now consists of my Macbook (docked) and one 19'' widescreen display. When in need of dual screen work , i just flip it open and am able to use my isight camera and more. Instead of using speakers and amplifiers I just routed the audio to either my headphones or the internal speakers of the monitor and thus having less clutter around.  Next to this setup resides my Ubuntu machine hooked up to another 19” display. Because the resolution matches up to the resolutions of two other systems I have around the house (my TV computer and my test system) it can run remote desktop sessions to these machines full screen. Its like having them around.. Without having them around.  Next , instead of using yet another computer to run Windows , i've opted to use virtual machine to emulate and run any other system I required. This all works fine on my AMD XP 3200 machine that has enough ram to run a nice little Windows XP either in Vmware  Player or Paralells. So you see : More machines at my fingertips without taking up space.

 

And then there is the matter of the home server / media TV machine.

http://static.flickr.com/57/254610991_919af0e7d5.jpg?v=1159416879Instead of having a big ass tv in our little office/loungeroom we use a mac mini with a 19” screen and a TV tunercard. This whole setup (along with the main router) is compactly crammed into the little TV cabinet that we use. Having all that gear installed in that little space and just one cable leaving the setup makes up for serenity and no clutter whatsoever. To be on the safe side I did mount a smokedetector INSIDE the cabinet. Since the server keeps running at night, I want to be sure we are alerted should anything go wrong. This is a tip I give to all of you geeks who have machines running at night. Smokedetectors are cheap so , mount them over your “beyond midnight” machines.Epilogue.Allthough I did not expect it … the results are quite fab. Keeping the clutter out of the room has given us a very relaxing inviting room to be in. The screens are still the main focalpoints of attention, but due to the lack of crap around them, it works out just great.  My main desk is this minimalistic fortress occupied only by 2 screens and two sets of keyboards. I thought this was going to bugg me. No extra stuff to twiddle and fiddle with seamed cumbersome. No pheripherals piled up around the setup was something to get used to . But imagine my surprise when I actually found out that I was much more focussed on my systems and could work in a concentraded manner. Also the lack of phisical devices makes one use the virtual possibilities of ones computer more. Less craptime = more screentime. The wife is very happy with all this having a couch strategicly posted in the middle of the room , facing the tv. I can look over her shoulder and peer along to the mainstream mayhem withouth having to leave my chair.  All in all .. its a match in heaven.

 

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The Knightcast Episode 34 : Captain Command Line.

ShownotesDirect link to the show:

http://www.knightwise.com/podcasts/kc_1082006.mp3

Show Summary.

Join us for episode 34 of the Knightcast. After a long hiatus where we took some time of for rest and relaxation (and to get married) we are back once again with an action packed show. In episode 34 : An interview with captain command line we have an in depth interview with Daniel Turner , a 16 year old Linux user extra-ordinaire. We talk about the social implications of a life in linux between peers and peers of Windows users, the open document format, the linux distribution of Daniels choice and more. With fantastic music from Delphinium Blue and some audio comments from the QCF, we top it of with his views on Vista and what the future will bring. Its full of laughs, fun and information packed. Your medicine on the edge of real and cyberspace :  The Knightcast.

 

Shownotes

Download your shownotes HERE. (pdf reader required).

 

 

 

 

 

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