China

China Joins the Growing Movement To Ban Gasoline, Diesel Cars (arstechnica.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: China has become the latest country to publicly discuss plans to ban the production and sale of gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles. In July, both France and the UK published plans to phase out sales of conventionally powered vehicles by 2040. China will now add another nail to the coffin of the internal combustion engine. However, unlike the French or British plans, in this case there's no target date -- yet. The news comes from an automotive policy forum in Tianjin. China's vice minister of industry and information technology, Xin Guobin, said that his ministry has begun work on a timetable to phase out fossil fueled vehicles. The Xinhua news agency also reports that Xin told automakers they need to begin to "readjust their strategies" accordingly. For foreign car companies hoping to sell EVs in China, that will mean investing in the country, as imported vehicles come with stiff import duties attached.
Google

Google Accused of Trying To Patent Public Domain Technology (bleepingcomputer.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares a report: A Polish academic is accusing Google of trying to patent technology he invented and that he purposely released into the public domain so companies like Google couldn't trap it inside restrictive licenses. The technology's name is Asymmetric Numeral Systems (ANS), a family of entropy coding methods that Polish assistant professor Jarosaw (Jarek) Duda developed in the early 2000s, and which is now hot tech at companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, mostly because it can improve data compression from 3 to 30 times. Duda says that Google is now trying to register a patent that includes most of the ANS basic principles. Ironically, most of the technology described in the patent, Duda said he explained to Google engineers in a Google Groups discussion from 2014. The researcher already filed a complaint, to which WIPO ISA responded by calling out Google for not coming up with "an inventive contribution over the prior art, because it is no more than a straightforward application of known coding algorithms." A Google spokesperson refused to comment, and the mystery remains surrounding Google's decision to patent something that's in the public domain since 2014.
Businesses

Apple Suffers 'Major iPhone X Leak' 114

Details of new iPhones and other forthcoming Apple devices have been revealed via an apparent leak. From a report: Two news sites were given access to an as-yet-unreleased version of the iOS operating system. The code refers to an iPhone X in addition to two new iPhone 8 handsets. It also details facial recognition tech that acts both as an ID system and maps users' expressions onto emojis. One tech writer said it was the biggest leak of its kind to hit the firm. [...] "As best I've been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses]," wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple. "Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I'm nearly certain this wasn't a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee." Neither Mr Gruber nor the two Apple-related news sites have disclosed their sources. However, the BBC has independently confirmed that an anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11's golden master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple's own computer servers. It's a big blow to Apple, which uses surprise as a key element at its events. The leak could take some wind out of its sails as it looks to wow consumers. In 2012, Tim Cook had said the company was planning to "double down on secrecy." At the quarterly earnings call, he blamed the leaks about the upcoming iPhone models as one of the reasons that slowed down the sales of current generation iPhone models. However, an analysis published over the weekend found that Apple itself has been the source of several of these leaks in the years since. Earlier this year, the company held a meeting to boast about its internal progress to curb leaks. The hour-long recording of the meeting ironically got leaked. Nearly all details, except the final press renders of the new iPhone models, have leaked. In a subsequent post, Gruber wrote: The BBC doesn't say definitively that the leak was sent by an Apple employee, but I can state with nearly 100 percent certainty that it was. I also think there's a good chance Apple is going to figure out who it was. [...] That person should be ashamed of themselves, and should be very worried when their phone next rings. Moments ago, 9to5Mac reported about a new tvOS firmware leak, which appeared "to be out in the wild today" that details the upcoming features of the next generation Apple TV streaming device.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Avant-garde Have Turned To LSD in a Bid To Increase Their Productivity (1843magazine.com) 302

Every three days Nathan (not his real name), a 27-year-old venture capitalist in San Francisco, ingests 15 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide (commonly known as LSD or acid). From a story on 1843 Magazine: From the start, a small but significant crossover existed between those who were experimenting with drugs and the burgeoning tech community in San Francisco. "There were a group of engineers who believed there was a causal connection between creativity and LSD," recalls John Markoff, whose 2005 book, "What the Dormouse Said", traces the development of the personal-computer industry through 1960s counterculture. At one research centre in Menlo Park over 350 people -- particularly scientists, engineers and architects -- took part in experiments with psychedelics to see how the drugs affected their work. Tim Scully, a mathematician who, with the chemist Nick Sand, produced 3.6m tabs of LSD in the 1960s, worked at a computer company after being released from his ten-year prison sentence for supplying drugs. "Working in tech, it was more of a plus than a minus that I worked with LSD," he says. No one would turn up to work stoned or high but "people in technology, a lot of them, understood that psychedelics are an extremely good way of teaching you how to think outside the box." San Francisco appears to be at the epicentre of the new trend, just as it was during the original craze five decades ago. Tim Ferriss, an angel investor and author, claimed in 2015 in an interview with CNN that "the billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis." Few billionaires are as open about their usage as Ferriss suggests. Steve Jobs was an exception: he spoke frequently about how "taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life." In Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography, the Apple CEO is quoted as joking that Microsoft would be a more original company if Bill Gates, its founder, had experienced psychedelics. As Silicon Valley is a place full of people whose most fervent desire is to be Steve Jobs, individuals are gradually opening up about their usage -- or talking about trying LSD for the first time.
Google

Google Challenges Record EU Antitrust Fine in Court (reuters.com) 52

Google appealed on Monday against a record 2.4-billion-euro ($2.9 billion) EU antitrust fine, with its chances of success boosted by Intel's partial victory last week against another EU sanction. From a report: The world's most popular Internet search engine, a unit of the U.S. firm Alphabet, launched its appeal two months after it was fined by the European Commission for abusing its dominance in Europe by giving prominent placement in searches to its comparison shopping service and demoting rival offerings.
Iphone

Leaks Reveal New Features In Apple's Next iPhone 224

Though Apple officially unveils their newest iPhone on Tuesday, information is already leaking on the internet.
  • Mashable: "Physically, it's expected to be about the same size as an iPhone 7, but with an edge-to-edge OLED display that's bigger than what is currently on the iPhone 7 Plus. It won't have a home button or Touch ID, and will likely use some kind of facial recognition tech to unlock."
  • MacRumors cites a report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting facial recognition may just be one feature of a complex front camera with 3D sensing hardware, including a proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and a structured light transmitter (using a surface-emitting laser) and receiver.
  • Fortune: "Apple's iPhone line is expected to catch up with Android phones in the area of wireless charging this year... just lay the phone down on a compatible charger mat or base or dock, and watch the battery fill up."
  • 9to5Mac: "We've found a brand new feature called 'Animoji', which uses the 3D face sensors to create custom 3D animated emoji based on the expressions you make into the camera. Users will be able to make Animoji of unicorns, robots, pigs, pile of poo and many more."
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What Can You Do With An Old Windows Phone? 169

Slashdot reader unixisc writes: While it's always been well known that Windows phones in the market have floundered, one saving grace has always been that one could at least use it for the barest minimum of apps, even if updates have stopped... Aside from a door stop or a hand me down to someone who'll use it like a dumb phone, what are your suggested uses for this phone? A music player (if the songs are on an SD card)? Games? As far as phones go, I have what I need, so for this, anything it's good for?
The original submission suggests problems connecting to wi-ifi -- something partially corroborated by complaints at Windows Central -- though Microsoft's site says they're still supporting wifi connections.

Slashdot reader thegreatbob suggested "shuffleboard puck" -- then added, "Snark aside, if you're into writing custom applications and such for them, there's probably a bootloader/root solution for you out there."

Leave your own best suggestions in the comments. What can you do with an old Windows Phone?
Government

Should Congress Force Social Media To Investigate Foreign Propaganda Trolls? (politico.com) 266

"I fought foreign propaganda for the FBI," writes a former special agent from its Counterintelligence Division. Now an associate dean at Yale Law School, he's warning that "the tools we had won't work anymore." An anonymous reader quotes Politico: The bureau is now faced with huge private companies, like Facebook and Twitter, which are ostensibly neutral and have no professional or ethical obligation to vet the material they distribute. Further, foreign intelligence service propaganda agents are no longer human operatives on American soil -- they are invisible "trolls," often operating from a foreign country and behind social media accounts that make them impossible for the FBI to approach directly. Or, in the case of so-called bots -- software programs designed to simulate humans -- they might not even be people at all... [S]ocial media platforms can reach an almost limitless audience, often within days or hours, more or less for free: Russia's Facebook ads alone reached between 23 million and 70 million viewers.

Without any direct way to investigate and identify the source of the private accounts that generate this "fake news," there's literally nothing the FBI can do to stop a propaganda operation that can occur on such a massive scale... But Congress could pass legislation that requires social media companies to cooperate with counterintelligence in the same ways they do with law enforcement. For example, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act requires telecommunications companies to design their digital networks in such a way that would permit wiretaps for criminal cases. Similarly, requiring social media platforms to develop ways to vet and authenticate foreign users and proactively report potential bots to the FBI would enable the FBI to identify perception management operations as they are occurring. In addition to monitoring these specific FIS-based accounts, the FBI could publicly expose the source of particular accounts, ads or news...

"At this point, we have no choice: It's clear that our current counterintelligence strategy hasn't caught up to the age of asymmetrical information warfare," the former counterintelligence agent concludes. "Until it does, we'll be silently allowing our freedoms to be manipulated...."
Social Networks

Why It's So Hard To Trust Facebook (cnn.com) 139

Brian Stelter, writing for CNN: Why won't Facebook show the public the propagandistic ads that a so-called Russian troll farm bought last year to target American voters? That lack of transparency is troubling to many observers. "Show us the ads Zuck!" Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jason Calacanis wrote on Twitter when The Washington Post reported on the surreptitious ad buys on Wednesday. Calacanis said Facebook was "profiting off fake news," echoing a widely held criticism of the social network. It was only the latest example of Facebook's credibility problem. For a business based on the concept of friendship, it's proving to be a hard company to trust. On the business side, Facebook's metrics for advertisers have been error-prone, to say the least. Analysts and reporters have repeatedly uncovered evidence of faulty data and measurement mistakes. Facebook's opaqueness has also engendered mistrust in the political arena. Conservative activists have accused the company of censoring right-wing voices and stories. Liberal activists have raised alarms about its exploitation of personal information to target ads. And the news business is worried about the spread of bogus stories and hoaxes on the site. Some critics have even taken to calling Facebook a "surveillance company," seeking to reframe the business the social network is in -- not networking but ad targeting based on monitoring of users. Over at The Verge, Casey Newton documents inconsistencies in Facebook's public remarks over its role in the outcome of the presidential election last year. Newton says Facebook's shifting Russian ads stories and unwillingness to disclose information citing laws (which seem to imply otherwise) are damaging its credibility.
Facebook

Fake Facebook 'Like' Networks Exploited Code Flaw To Create Millions of Bogus 'Likes' (usatoday.com) 34

A thriving ecosystem of websites that allow users to automatically generate millions of fake "likes" and comments on Facebook has been documented by researchers at the University of Iowa. From a report: Working with a computer scientist at Facebook and one in Lahore, Pakistan, the team found more than 50 sites offering free, fake "likes" for users' posts in exchange for access to their accounts, which were used to falsely "like" other sites in turn. The scientists found that these "collusion networks" run by spammers have managed to harness the power of one million Facebook accounts, producing as many as 100 million fake "likes" on the systems between 2015 and 2016. A large number of "likes" can push a posting up in Facebook's algorithm, making it more likely the post will be seen by more people and also making it seem more legitimate.
Businesses

At Burning Man While Your Startup Burns (techcrunch.com) 199

There's a difference between clearing your head, and ditching your dying startup to do drugs in the desert. From a report: Whether you're going to Burning Man, Ibiza, SXSW, or some big international tech conference, the message you send is the same. If your startup isn't succeeding, you're skipping out on the dirty work while hoping some miracle revelation or networking connection will save you. And it probably won't. For those less familiar, Burning Man is when 70,000 people build a temporary city of tents and RVs in the Nevada desert where no money is exchanged, and instead everyone seeks to gift strangers with giant art installations, workshops, food, drinks, and celebrations. But I get a sinking feeling when I notice or hear about the leaders of a struggling startup trying to dance or dose away their troubles. Being out of a contact for several days to a week since there's no reliable cellular connection and a stigma against phone use creates a decision-making bottleneck that can slow down your company. Ex-Oculus founder Palmer Luckey here points out how juice presser startup Juicero's founder Doug Evans took off to Burning Man for week. That's despite the company recently admitting it needed to lower prices after Bloomberg reporters revealed you could simply squeeze Juicero juice packs by hand without the $400 machine. In the middle of that week Evans was at Burning Man, Juicero announced it would suspend sales of its juicer and juice packs as it desperately tries to find an acquirer. While Evans handed over the CEO title to former Coca-Cola exec Jeff Dunn late last year, the company told TechCrunch "Evans is Juicero's full time Founder and Chairman of the Board and very active within the company."
Businesses

Google Is Apparently Ready To Buy Smartphone Maker HTC (cnbc.com) 102

According to a Taiwanese news outlet called Commercial Times, Google is in the final stages of acquiring all or part of smartphone maker HTC. CNBC reports: The report seems fishy, since Google has already been down this road, but there's a reason why Google might be interested in HTC. The Taiwanese company builds the Google Pixel, which means it could be a good fit for Google as it continues to cater to consumers with its "Pixel" smartphone brand. Here's where it sounds off base: Google acquired Motorola Mobility and then sold it off just a couple of years later. Why repeat that move? Commercial Times said HTC's poor financial position and Google's desire to "perfect [the] integration of software, content, hardware, network, cloud, [and] AI," is the driving force behind Google's interest. The news outlet said Google may make a "strategic investment" or "buy HTC's smartphone R&D team" which suggests that the VR team would exist as its own.
The Courts

Judge Dismisses 'Inventor of Email' Lawsuit Against Techdirt (arstechnica.com) 127

A federal judge in Massachusetts has dismissed a libel lawsuit filed earlier this year against tech news website Techdirt. From a report: The claim was brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, who has controversially claimed that he invented e-mail in the late 1970s. Techdirt (and its founder and CEO, Mike Masnick) has been a longtime critic of Ayyadurai and institutions that have bought into his claims. "How The Guy Who Didn't Invent Email Got Memorialized In The Press & The Smithsonian As The Inventor Of Email," reads one Techdirt headline from 2012. One of Techdirt's commenters dubbed Ayyadurai a "liar" and a "charlatan," which partially fueled Ayyadurai's January 2017 libel lawsuit. In the Wednesday ruling, US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor found that because it is impossible to define precisely and specifically what e-mail is, Ayyadurai's "claim is incapable of being proved true or false."
Iphone

How One Writer Is Battling Tech-Induced Attention Disorder (wired.com) 195

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Katie Hafner has spent the last 23 days in rehab. Not for alcoholism or gambling, but for a self-inflicted case of episodic partial attention thanks to her iPhone. On Backchannel, Hafner writes about the detrimental effect the constant stream of pings has had on her, and how her life has come to resemble a computer screen. "I sense a constant agitation when I'm doing something," she says, "as if there is something else out there, beckoning -- demanding -- my attention. And nothing needs to be deferred." "I blame electronics for my affliction," writes Hafner, who says the devices in her life "teem with squirrels." "If I pick up my iPhone to send a text, damned if I don't get knocked off task within a couple of seconds by an alert about Trump's latest tweet. And my guess is that if you have allowed your mind to be as tyrannized by the demands of your devices as I have, you too suffer to some degree from this condition."

Hafner goes on to describe her symptoms of "episodic partial attention" and provide potential fixes for it: "There are the obvious fixes. Address the electronics first: Silence the phone as well as all alerts on your computer, and you automatically banish two squirrels. But how do you shut down the micro-distractions that dangle everywhere in your physical world, their bushy gray tails twitching seductively? My therapy, of my own devising, consists of serial mono-tasking with a big dose of mindful intent, or intentional mindfulness -- which is really just good, old-fashioned paying attention. At first, I took the tiniest of steps. I celebrated the buttoning of a blouse without stopping to apply the hand cream I spotted on the dresser as if I had gotten into Harvard. Each task I took on -- however mundane -- I had to first announce, quietly, to myself. I made myself vow that I would work on that task and only that task until it was finished. Like a stroke patient relearning how to move an arm, I told myself not that I was making the entire bed (too overwhelming), but that I had a series of steps to perform: first the top sheet, then the blankets, then the comforter, then the pillows. Emptying the dishwasher became my Waterloo. Putting dishes away takes time, and it's tedious. Perhaps the greatest challenge lies in the fact that the job requires repeated kitchen crossings. There are squirrels everywhere, none more treacherous than the siren song that is my iPhone."
Businesses

Only 13 Percent of Americans Are Scared Robots Will Take Their Jobs, Gallup Poll Shows (cnbc.com) 267

According to the results of a Gallup poll released mid-August, most employed U.S. adults aren't too worried about technology eliminating their jobs. Only 13 percent of Americans are fearful that tech will eradicate their work opportunities in the near future, according to the poll. Workers are relatively more concerned about immediate issues like wages and benefits. CNBC reports: This corresponds with another recent Gallup survey finding that about one in eight workers, or 13 percent of Americans, also believe it's likely they will lose their jobs due to new technology, automation, robots or AI in the next five years. While the survey reflects a generally confident American workforce, Monster career expert Vicki Salemi tells CNBC Make It that people should not become complacent.

"Employees need to think of themselves as replaceable in a way that propels them into action," Salemi says, "so they can focus on continuously learning and sharpening their skills." In the meantime, Americans can look to what the tech giants are saying. On the contrary, Salemi emphasizes that Americans shouldn't be paranoid and lose sleep every night. Rather, they should think about AI "from a place of power." "If your job does start to get automated, you'll already have a game plan and solid skill set to back you up for your next career move," she says. If you find yourself in the 13 percent of Americans worried about losing their jobs to robots, Salemi says you can "robot-proof" your job through networking. "Always be on top of your game, she says. "If your industry is becoming more digitally focused, get schooled on specific skills. Instead of being lax about your career, always stay ahead of the curve, keep your resume in circulation, ask yourself where the industry is headed and most importantly where you and your skills fit in."

Privacy

Two-Thirds of Tech Workers Now Use a VPN, Survey Finds (9to5mac.com) 87

An anonymous reader shares a report: According to a survey, 65% of U.S. tech sector workers now use a virtual private network (VPN) on either work devices, personal ones or both. While much of that usage will be because it's installed as standard on work devices, a growing number of people are choosing to use a VPN on their own devices in response to past and proposed legislative changes. The Wombat Security survey found that 41% of those surveyed use a VPN on their personal laptop, with 31% doing so on mobile devices.
Businesses

The Trump Administration Has Announced the End of DACA -- Unless Congress Can Act To Save It (recode.net) 817

The Trump administration said on Tuesday it plans to scrap a program that allows about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children to stay and work in the country, shrugging off criticism from within the president's own party and prominent business figures. From a report: The Trump administration is essentially leaving Congress a six-month window of time to try to save it. The legal shield is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and since its enactment in 2012, it has allowed roughly 800,000 undocumented young adults to live in the United States and obtain work authorizations every two years. [...] In practice, implementation is complicated. Those previously approved under DACA, with the permission to work in the United States, can continue to work without interruption until those approvals expire. And those who have already applied for protection or are seeking renewals will still have their applications considered by the U.S. government. For those whose permits are set to expire before March 5, 2018, though, the U.S. government will also allow them to renew their DACA status -- provided their applications are received before Oct. 5, 2017. Currently, there are about 201,000 young adults whose authorizations are set to expire this year, officials at the Department of Homeland Security explained Tuesday.

Tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google are no doubt going to blast the Trump administration's decision: Last week, those executives joined more than 400 other business leaders in calling on the president to preserve DACA. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who previously (and privately) pressed Trump on the issue, said on Sunday that 250 of his "co-workers" would be affected by the change. Microsoft indicated that about 27 workers spanning fields like finance and sales would be hurt from Trump's move.
Zuckerberg said, "This is a sad day for our country. The decision to end DACA is not just wrong. It is particularly cruel to offer young people the American Dream, encourage them to come out of the shadows and trust our government, and then punish them for it."
Businesses

Oracle Staff Report Big Layoffs Across Solaris, SPARC Teams (theregister.co.uk) 239

Simon Sharwood, reporting for the Register: Soon-to-be-former Oracle staff report that the company made hundreds of layoffs last Friday, as predicted by El Reg, with workers on teams covering the Solaris operating system, SPARC silicon, tape libraries and storage products shown the door. Oracle's media relations agency told The Register: "We decline comment." However, Big Red's staffers are having their say online, in tweets such as the one below. "For real. Oracle RIF'd most of Solaris (and others) today," an employee said. A "RIF" is a "reduction in force", Oracle-speak for making people redundant (IBM's equivalent is an "RA", or "resource action"). Tech industry observer Simon Phipps claims "~all" Solaris staff were laid off. "For those unaware, Oracle laid off ~ all Solaris tech staff yesterday in a classic silent EOL of the product."
Google

Creator of Opera Says Google Deliberately Undermined His New Vivaldi Web Browser (wired.co.uk) 247

The latest allegation against Google? Jon von Tetzchner, creator of the web browser Opera, says the search giant deliberately undermined his new browser, Vivaldi. Rowland Manthorpe, writing for Wired: In a blogpost titled, "My friends at Google: it is time to return to not being evil," von Tetzchner accuses the US firm of blocking Vivaldi's access to Google AdWords, the advertisements that run alongside search results, without warning or proper explanation. According to Von Tetzchner, the problem started in late May. Speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum, the Icelandic programmer criticised big tech companies' attitude toward personal data, calling for a ban on location tracking on Facebook and Google. Two days later, he suddenly found Vivaldi's Google AdWords campaigns had been suspended. "Was this just a coincidence?" he writes. "Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?" He concludes: "Timing spoke volumes." Von Tetzchner got in touch with Google to try and resolve the issue. The result? What he calls "a clarification masqueraded in the form of vague terms and conditions." The particular issue was the end-user license agreement (EULA), the legal contract between a software manufacturer and a user. Google wanted Vivaldi to add one to its website. So it did. But Google had further complaints. According to emails shown to WIRED, Google wanted Vivaldi to add an EULA "within the frame of every download button." The addition was small -- a link below the button directing people to "terms" -- but on the web, where every pixel matters, this was a potential competitive disadvantage. Most gallingly, Chrome, Google's own web browser, didn't display a EULA on its landing pages. Google also asked Vivaldi to add detailed information to help people uninstall it, with another link, also under the button.
Education

Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues (nytimes.com) 147

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States teaches third grade here at Mapleton Elementary, a public school with about 100 students in the sparsely populated plains west of Fargo. Her name is Kayla Delzer. Her third graders adore her. She teaches them to post daily on the class Twitter and Instagram accounts she set up. She remodeled her classroom based on Starbucks. And she uses apps like Seesaw, a student portfolio platform where teachers and parents may view and comment on a child's schoolwork. Ms. Delzer also has a second calling. She is a schoolteacher with her own brand, Top Dog Teaching. Education start-ups like Seesaw give her their premium classroom technology as well as swag like T-shirts or freebies for the teachers who attend her workshops. She agrees to use their products in her classroom and give the companies feedback. And she recommends their wares to thousands of teachers who follow her on social media. "I will embed it in my brand every day," Ms. Delzer said of Seesaw. "I get to make it better." Ms. Delzer is a member of a growing tribe of teacher influencers, many of whom promote classroom technology. They attract notice through their blogs, social media accounts and conference talks. And they are cultivated not only by start-ups like Seesaw, but by giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, to influence which tools are used to teach American schoolchildren.

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