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Ericcson Re-commits Focus On Mobile Networks

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Ericsson has decided to squash its goal of winning more clients beyond the telecoms industry to refocus on selling networks to mobile phone firms in a move to cut costs and halt a dramatic fall in its share price.

The Swedish firm’s clients in its core business include Vodafone and Verizon but profits have plunged due to competition from Nokia and China’s Huawei and as telecoms companies make savings. Its shares have fallen 30 percent in two years.

Ericsson said in 2014 it would diversify so that by 2020 up to 25 percent of revenue would come from industries beyond telecoms, such as media, utilities and transport, from an estimated 10 percent in 2013.

But the plan has not worked and the company will drop the target as new chief executive Borje Ekholm repositions to focus on the core business of mobile networks.

“We will focus on telco clients and networks exclusively for now,” Ericsson’s new head of Digital Services Ulf Ewaldsson told Reuters in a recent interview.

The U-turn comes at a challenging time for Ekholm, who after only five months in the top job is being pressed by activist investor Cevian Capital, which has a $1 billion stake in the company, to make faster changes.

Ekholm unveiled a cost-cutting plan in March and announced up to $1.7 billion in provisions, writedowns and restructuring costs. He said this would include exploring options for its loss-making media arm and turning its managed services business around.

Investors welcomed the greater focus after years of disappointing investments from Ericsson, but they worry the new plan will not generate growth. Moody’s cut the company’s credit rating to junk in May, partly due to worries that the cost-cutting could hamper innovation.

Increasing dependence on telecoms operators could be risky as they are struggling to grow revenue due to fierce competition and so are unwilling to spend more on networks even as they prepare for 5G fifth-generation wireless broadband technology.

Ericsson has to prove it can remain relevant in an industry that has gone from over 10 major players to three in 20 years. Investors question whether it can do this under Ekholm who has been on the board for a decade while Ericsson lost ground.

Volvo Enlists Nvidia For Self-driving Car Technology

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Volvo Cars and Swedish car safety supplier Autoliv have team up with U.S. firm Nvidia Corp, best known for its graphics technology in computer games, to develop software systems for self-driving cars.

A joint venture between Volvo, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holdings, and Autoliv will work with NVIDIA to develop systems that use artificial intelligence to recognize objects around vehicles, anticipate threats and navigate safely.

The venture set up last year, called Zenuity, will provide Volvo Cars with self-driving software which Autoliv will also be able to sell to other carmakers.

Volvo said it aims to have almost fully autonomous cars for sale by 2021.

Volvo has been using Nvidia’s artificial intelligence systems in a pilot of semi-autonomous vehicles in its home town Gothenburg in southern Sweden since the start of the year.

Nvidia, which also has partnerships with carmakers Toyota, Audi and Mercedes, is among the more popular technology partners in the self-driving car race.

German carmaker BMW has joined forces with U.S. chipmaker Intel and Mobileye, the Israeli vision system and mapping expert, to develop a self-driving platform, which is targeted for production in 2021.

U.S. parts maker Delphi Automotive and tire maker Continental has since joined the tie-up.

In April, Germany’s Daimler formed a similar alliance with supplier Robert Bosch  to speed development of self-driving vehicles.

Was The iPhone Originally Suppose To Copy An Android Features?

June 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Steve Jobs wanted the iPhone to be more like Android and have a back button in addition to a home button, however the designers over ruled him.

Brian Merchant’s new book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, said that if Jobs’ designers had managed to pull it off, it would have meant that the iPhone would have the same look and feel of the Android products which replaced it as the number one operating system.

Much has been made skipped over by the Apple Press about how super-cool and wonderful the iPhone is because it does not need a back-button and only has a single home button, but apparently this idea went against what Jobs wanted.

The book names Imran Chaudhri, a veteran Apple designer who spent 19 years working on Apple’s Human Interface Team.

Jobs’ original vision was to have two buttons as he correctly felt that users would need a back button for navigation.

However, the designers were less practical and argued that it was all about generating trust and predictability. If you have a back button it means that you do not really trust where the operating system is taking you.

In other words, they wanted Apple users to believe that the phone could not make mistakes. Having a back button implied that you could do that and end up in the wrong place. The back button would be too complex to factor in.

“Part of the problem with other phones was the features were buried in menus, they were too complex. A back button could complicate matters too, he told Jobs

Apparently, Jobs backed down and agreed that the design concept based around “we know what we are doing” was far more important that what users would actually need.

Courtesy-Fud

Anthem Agrees To Pay $115M Over Data Breach

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Anthem, the behemoth health insurance company, has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million.

The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem isn’t admitting any wrongdoing or that “any individuals were harmed as a result of the cyberattack.”

“Nevertheless, we are pleased to be putting this litigation behind us, and to be providing additional substantial benefits to individuals whose data was or may have been involved in the cyberattack and who will now be members of the settlement class,” an Anthem spokeswoman said in a statement confirming the settlement.

Assuming it’s approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who first announced the agreement Friday.

The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for “information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls,” the plaintiff attorneys said.

The 2015 breach resulted in the exposure and theft of nearly 80 million records, including client names, dates of birth, physical and email addresses, medical IDs and Social Security numbers. Using a stolen password, hackers were able to break into a database that contained information of former and current customers.

Although a mammoth breach at the time, the Anthem hack doesn’t compare in scale to breaches Yahoo has since reported. One of them, which occurred in 2014 and was revealed in September, affected 500 million user accounts. Then three months later, the company disclosed an even bigger breach that happened in 2013 and affected a billion user accounts.

Yahoo is facing its own data breach-related lawsuits. But for now, Anthem’s appears to be the most costly to date for a US company in terms of litigation payouts. In May, for example, Target agreed to pay $18.5 million to 47 states to settle claims stemming from a 2013 breach of credit card data. And Home Depot agreed to pay $19.5 million last year to settle a breach-related class action suit.

Facebook Looks To Enter Original Content TV Market

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Inc is holding discussions with Hollywood studios about producing scripted, TV-quality shows, with an aim of launching original programming by late summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The social networking giant has indicated that it was willing to commit to production budgets as high as $3 million per episode, in meetings with Hollywood talent agencies, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Facebook is hoping to target audiences from ages 13 to 34, with a focus on the 17 to 30 range. The company has already lined up “Strangers”, a relationship drama, and a game show, “Last State Standing”, the report said.

Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.

The company is expected to release episodes in a traditional manner, instead of dropping an entire season in one go like Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc, WSJ reported.

The company is also willing to share its viewership data with Hollywood, the report said.

Apple Inc hired co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, earlier this month, to lead its video-programming efforts.

Apple began its long-awaited move into original television series last week, with a reality show called “Planet of the Apps”, an unscripted show about developers trying to interest celebrity mentors with a 60-second pitch on an escalator.

The company’s future programming plans include an adaptation of comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” segment from his CBS Corp  show that will begin airing in August.

 

Facebook Teach Chatbots To Negotiate

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Chatbots are being taught how to drive a hard bargain in a new AI experiment carried out by Facebook’s Labs.

According to New Scientist, the research could lead to more effective personal assistants able to negotiate on our behalf, sorting out calendar clashes and the like.

French website Julie Desk is already offering this kind of AI diary management, but now Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon, looking at perhaps getting you a good deal on your next holiday, according to Mike Lewis from the social network’s boffin division.

The team trained bots on a database of over 5,000 text conversations between people playing a game where they had to divvy up an inventory of “things”. Each “thing” was assigned a value, with the values unique to each player and each item. So, for example, a ball might be worth four to one player, but only two to another.

The object of the game, as in most games, is to score the most points, by acquiring the most objects with the highest personal value.

After learning, the bots were further trained with more matches, some against each other, some against humans. Working in natural language often led to a crappy deal. Working in totally selfish terms often led to a great deal, but often one made in utter gobbledegook.

The trick, therefore, was to find a way of combining techniques to produce something that would allow the bots to communicate with humans in a real world scenario. The result was a good (but not brilliant) negotiator who can work with humans on their terms.

Beyond doing work for you, a bot might be able to give you useful tips when doing a deal that perhaps you don’t want to hand over. Say you’re negotiating a house price, it could be able to tell you how much of your hand to play and what not to say.

Oliver Lemon at Heriot-Watt University explained that the use of natural language was essential as a user would need to be able to go back to a deal and work out why it did what it did – in other words, justification is important when you’re a bot.

Late last year we reported on UCLA students who had created a Judge Rinderbot.

Courtesy-TheInq

Young Star Helps Astronomers Solve Stellar Mystery

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Astronomers using the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have precisely measured the rotating fountains of gas flowing out from a massive newborn star, revealing the complex interplay between the star’s magnetism and centrifugal forces.

Astronomers are still puzzled by the way massive stars form in interstellar space, the new study’s researchers said in a statement. When a massive rotating cloud of gas collapses under gravity, stellar fusion becomes possible, and a baby star is born. As angular momentum is conserved while the cloud shrinks, the resulting baby star should be spinning very fast, according to the laws of physics. 

To get a better idea of the conservation of angular (or rotational) momentum, imagine a spinning ice-skater. As ice-skaters spin with their arms outstretched, they spin slowly; when they bring their arms close to their bodies, they spin faster. Physics dictates that this concept should hold true for a shrinking cloud of star-forming gas: As it shrinks, it should spin faster.

But astronomers have found that stars in our galaxy spin much more slowly than the laws of physics predict they should. Therefore, there must be some mechanism that’s dissipating angular momentum from stars soon after they are born, the researchers said.

In the new work, published online June 12 in the journal Nature Astronomy, astronomers observed a massive newborn star called Orion KL Source I in the Orion Nebula and used ALMA to reveal the rotation of its powerful stellar winds. 

“We have clearly imaged the rotation of the outflow,” Tomoya Hirota, an assistant professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and SOKENDAI (the Graduate University for Advanced Studies) and lead author on the paper, said in the statement. “In addition, the result gives us important insight into the launching mechanism of the outflow.”

Hirota’s team noticed that the outflow of stellar gases is rotating in the same direction as the star and that it emanates from Source I’s hot gas disk, and not from the star itself. This finding agrees with a theoretical “magnetocentrifugal disk wind model,” the researchers said.

In this model, gas is ejected from the rotating disk and is forced to move outward. Like a spinning lawn sprinkler, propelled by centrifugal forces, the water spirals outward, away from the sprinkler head, siphoning some of the star’s angular momentum. But in the case of this star, the spinning gases leaving the disk are also directed up and down along magnetic-field lines to create the spinning outflows that ALMA has detected. And the researchers believe that these flows are dissipating rotational energy from the baby star, slowing down its rotation, and therefore possibly explaining why stars in our galaxy rotate more slowly than expected.

“In addition to high sensitivity and fidelity, high resolution submillimeter-wave observation is essential to our study, which ALMA made possible for the first time,” Hirota said. “Submillimeter waves are a unique diagnostic tool for the dense innermost region of the outflow, and at that exact place, we detected the rotation.

“ALMA’s resolution will become even higher in the future,” Hirota added. “We would like to observe other objects, to improve our understanding of the launching mechanism of outflows and the formation scenario of massive stars with the assistance of theoretical research.”

Courtesy-Space

Amazon Files Patent For ‘Drone Towers’ Delivery Facility

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

One can argue that Amazon has some lofty ideas for drone delivery.

The e-commerce giant has filed a patent application for a “multi-level fulfillment center” that would allow drones to deliver packages in urban areas. Basically, it sounds like a giant robot-powered tower that would make it easy for drones to zip in and out as they deliver packages around a city.

There’s a “growing need and desire to locate fulfillment centers within cities, such as in downtown districts and densely populated parts of the cities,” Amazon says in the patent application, published Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark Office along with several other drone-related applications by the company.

The other patent applications, which were earlier spotted by The Mercury News, cover things like drone performance and noise control. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of course, patents are no guarantee this drone tower will become a reality, but Amazon’s been pursuing drone deliveries in recent years. In March, the company’s drone delivery arm, Amazon Prime Air, shipped its first package out in public in the US. Amazon, UPS, Google and others are also developing drone delivery tech in hopes of bringing shipments to customers more quickly and cheaply.

Will Tesla Be Next To Join The Already Crowded Music Streaming Business?

June 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Move over, Spotify. Eat it, Apple. Later, Tidal. Tesla wants to join the club.

That’s at least the latest from Recode, which cites music industry sources saying Tesla has held talks with all the major labels about licensing for a proprietary music streaming service.

What isn’t clear is when and if Tesla will rev this effort up, so to speak, or how broad it will be. Will this be just for its cars or for anyone with a phone?

Tesla, in a statement, didn’t address the rumor directly, but instead said its goal is, “to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”

“We believe it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” the company said.

Sony Music Entertainment, one of the industry’s major record labels, declined to comment. Meanwhile Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Of course, Tesla has a long history of going it alone. The all-electric car company created special software and chargers, despite already existing options. The company even created its own software to manage its manufacturing centers.

Pokemon Go New Features Aims To Thwart Cheaters

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Niantic, the developer behind the wildly popular Pokemon Go game, has announced new features to help curb cheating in the game.

“Pokemon caught using third-party services that circumvent normal gameplay will appear marked with a slash in the inventory and may not behave as expected,” the company explained on the Silph Road subreddit.

While Niantic was not specific in the post about which third-party services are being targeted, tools such as GPS fakers that artificially place you in “busy” Pokemon areas or bots to catch Pokemon for you have already been identified as “cheats” in the game.

The company also was not clear about how ‘slashed’ Pokemon caught by cheating will behave, although various theories have been put forward by players in the subreddit, including “your moves will permanently become splash/struggle” or “it eats the pokemon around it in your inventory”.

The announcement comes shortly after Niantic’s unveiling of the largest update to the game so far, which brings multiplayer “raid battles” to Pokemon’s Gyms.

Nissan-Renault Planning Driverless Ride-hailing Service

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Renault SA alliance plan to launch driverless ride-hailing and ride-sharing services in coming years, as the car makers place their focus beyond making and selling cars to survive an industry being quickly transformed by new services.

Automakers are leveraging expertise in automated driving functions for mass-market cars to develop mobility services, as they compete with tech firms such as Alphabet Inc and Uber Technologies Inc  in the fast-growing “pay-per-ride” market which threatens to hit demand for car ownership.

Ogi Redzic, head of Nissan-Renault’s Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services division, said the alliance would begin self-driving services based on its electric cars “certainly within 10 years,” though not likely before 2020.

“We think that the big opportunity for us is in automation, electric vehicles and ride-sharing and hailing together,” Redzic said in an interview on Thursday.

Nissan and Renault join a small group of automakers aiming to enter the ride-hailing market, which Goldman Sachs last month estimated would grow eightfold by 2030 to be five times the size of the taxi market.

Redzic said the Japanese and French partners were testing self-driving vehicles, and that any service would run on pre-mapped courses with predetermined pick-up and drop-off points.

The two automakers are developing the system with Japanese game software maker DeNA Co Ltd and French public transport operator Transdev SA.

German rival BMW AG is also testing autonomous vehicles for use in ride-hailing services, while Uber has been developing self-driving technology.

U.S. tech firm nuTonomy Inc and ride services company Lyft Inc, which counts General Motors Co as a major shareholder, this month announced they would begin piloting an autonomous vehicle ride-hailing service in Boston.

Redzic said to market a self-driving service, regulations need to change to allow driverless cars on roads. At the moment, most global jurisdictions do not expressly authorise vehicles to operate on regular roads without a driver.

“It doesn’t just depend on us,” he said. “To become fully driverless you need laws to change.”

Is Google Poaching From Apple To Help The Pixel Phone

June 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has reportedly scooped up veteran chip architect Manu Gulati from Apple, fuelling speculation that the firm is designing custom silicon for its Pixel smartphones. 

Gulati has confirmed his move to Google on his recently updated LinkedIn profile, where he’s now listed as ‘Lead SoC Architect’ at the Mountain View firm.

His profile doesn’t give much else away, but Variety reports that Google has roped in Gulati to help it build custom chips for its future Pixel smartphones, as it looks to ditch Qualcomm in a bid to better take on the iPhone. 

Gulati certainly has the experience, having been instrumental in Apple’s efforts in building custom chips for the iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV, from the single-core A4 chip found inside the original iPad to the six-core A10X Fusion processor powering the new iPad Pro. 

What’s more, prior to joining Apple, Gulati worked for almost 15 years at chip makers AMD and Broadcom, giving him a total of 27 years of experience in the industry.

Coinciding with Gulati’s hire, Google has posted a number of job advertisements for chip design-related positions, including one for a ‘Mobile SoC CPU Architect’ and a ‘Mobile SoC Architect,’ who will “help define the architecture of future generations of phone and tablet chips.”

As well as shifting to custom silicon for its homegrown smartphones, Google is shifting OEM partners, according to 9to5Google. It reports that HTC has been binned in favour of LG, which has been roped in to build the next-generation Pixel XL, codenamed ‘Taimen’. 

It’s unclear why Google has ditched HTC in favour of LG, but the report notes that firm was perhaps dissatisfied with HTC’s manufacturing scale, given that both the Pixel and Pixel XL experienced severe shipping delays.

Courtesy-Fud

Electronics Makers Scrambling For Memory Chips As iPhone 8 Looms

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Global electronics makers are making a last dash to secure a stock memory chips to keep production lines running as Apple Inc’s  new iPhone 8 launch later this year threatens to worsen a global squeeze on supply.

While heavyweights such as Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd- which is also the world’s top memory chip maker – will not be seriously hit, industry sources and analysts say some electronics makers are paying a premium to lock into longer-term contracts.

Others are placing orders earlier than before to ensure their perilously low inventories do no dry up completely.

“After the supply shortages emerged we brought forward our procurement decisions … to ensure a stable supply,” smartphone and personal computer maker LG Electronics Inc said in a statement, adding it had pushed up quarterly purchase decisions by about a month.

Chip manufacturing technologies are growing increasingly complex, raising investment costs yet providing less output growth as some suppliers struggle to improve yields. This has caused some chip prices to double or triple from a year earlier.

Some analysts say device makers could be forced to cut down on the amount of DRAM chips, which help devices perform multiple tasks at once, or NAND chips that are used for long-term data storage, on new products if the cannot get enough chips.

A chip supplier source told Reuters a handful of clients have moved to 6-month supply agreements, accepting higher prices than the customary quarterly or monthly deals, to make sure they get enough memory chips for their products.

“The problem will be more acute for the NAND market, where the iPhone remains a critical source of demand given the huge sales volumes and recent moves to increase storage capacity on the device,” said the source, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Uber Reverses Course, Adds Tipping Feature To App

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber has finally decided to allow drivers to collect tips through its smartphone app, an about-face from previous company policy, as part of the ride-services firm’s broader effort to improve an often-contentious relationship.

San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc had for years opposed adding a tipping feature to its app despite drivers’ arguments the extra money would help compensate for decreasing wages. The issue had been a longstanding source of disagreement between Uber and its drivers.

Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and lack paid sick leave and vacation, and must pay for car maintenance and other costs.

Beginning on Tuesday, drivers in Houston, Minneapolis and Seattle can collect tips, Uber said. The feature will be available to all drivers in the U.S. by the end of July.

Uber also rolled out other changes on Tuesday, including paying drivers while they wait for passengers and reducing the time passengers have to cancel a ride, as it begins a six-month push to improve drivers’ working conditions. The privately held company is valued by investors at $68 billion.

An Uber spokesman declined to say why the company reversed its tipping policy, though he pointed to a company blog post that called the change “long overdue.”

Lyft Inc, which is Uber’s chief ride-services competitor in the U.S., has long allowed drivers to collect tips through its app. Lyft said on Monday its drivers have collected a total of $250 million in tips during the company’s lifetime, $50 million of which was collected in the last couple of months.

Uber was already facing pressure to allow tipping in New York City. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in April said it was planning to propose a rule no later than July that would require Uber to add a tipping feature to its app.

In March, Uber executives outlined a series of improvements for drivers, including a new navigation system and fairer approach to reviewing driver performance, in response to years of complaints by drivers about their pay and treatment.

The changes come as Uber works to repair the damage to its reputation following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and other employee concerns. Uber earlier this month fired 20 employees, including executives, for their behavior. Last week, Chief Executive Travis Kalanick announced he was taking a leave of absence for an unspecified length of time.

Ransomware-as-a-Service Now Targeting Macs

June 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Security researchers have found the first evidence of ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) affecting Apple machines, dubbed ‘MacRansom.’

Fortinet’s security research team, FortiGuard Labs, uncovered the tool, which uses a web portal hosted in a TOR network (an anonymous network that bounces the signal around a relay of volunteer computers, to conceal the source); an increasingly-popular form of attack. The variant is not readily available through the portal, and instead, buyers must contact the author(s) directly to build the ransomware.

MacRansom uses a basic delivery vector, in that the owner of the machine must agree to run a programme from an unidentified developer before the infection takes place, or have it physically installed from an external drive. If they do so, the ransomware will check two things: if it is being run in a non-Mac environment, and if it is being debugged. If either condition is not met, it will terminate.

The next step is to create a launch point (the file name purposefully mimics a legitimate file). The ransomware will run on every start up and encrypts on a specified trigger time. When that time comes, the ransomware begins to encrypt files on the computer – in what FortiGuard notes is a slightly unusual but still effective method. A maximum of 128 files will be locked.

FortiGuard was looking for any RSA-crypto routines; however, like the delivery vector, the ransomware itself is not very sophisticated and instead uses a symmetric encryption with a hardcoded key. Two sets of keys are used: ReadmeKey (0x3127DE5F0F9BA796), which decrypts the ransom notes and instructions, and TargetFileKey (0x39A622DDB50B49E9), which performs the encrypt/decrypt on the user’s files.

TargetFileKey is altered with a random number generator: the encrypted files cannot be decrypted once the malware has terminated, in other words. It also has no function to communicate with the command and control server, so there is no readily-available copy of the key to use. While recovery of the TargetFileKey is still technically possible using a brute force attack, FortiGuard is ‘sceptical’ of the author’s claim to be able to decrypt the hijacked files.

Users are instructed to contact a specific email address and send some of their encrypted files, which will be decrypted as proof. The author asks for 0.25 Bitcoin (about £540) to unlock all of the files.

Ransomware is still not common on Mac computers, and most found there today is significantly less advanced than that targeting Windows. However, MacRansom can still capably encrypt files.

FortiGuard believes that MacRansom is being developed by copycats, as it contains code and ideas that appear to have been taken from previous ransomware targeting OS X.

Courtesy-TheInq

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