A trio of plaintiffs has filed a class action suit against Apple, charging that although the company's much-touted MagSafe Adapter may be mag(netic), safe it ain't. The complaint, filed in the US District Court in San José - a stone's throw from Apple's Cupertino campus - alleges that both the 85 watt (for the MacBook Pro) and …
As I'm sure someone else has already pointed out...
...the 45 watt MacBook Air adaptor has a much more substantial connector at the laptop end, with a better cord grip. It probably hasn't had the same problems as the MacBook one.
On a personal note, while the MacBook power lead is very thin, I've had no problems with mine over two and a half years. A friend of mine has had theirs replaced twice in the same time frame, but they aren't half rough with it! (And everything else they own, for that matter.) I guess it's how you treat it - my MacBook rarely leaves the desk.
I have a MBP which I bought in April 2006. It is still on its original magsafe power supply. My only complaint is that the thing is enourmous compared with the one that comes with current machines. However, there are no signs of the cable fraying despite the machine being used every day since I bought it. These people must be very rough either in how they handle the cable, or how they wrap it up. The cable on my previous Windows laptop (Toshiba) rapidly fell apart because they didn't provide the nice hooks to wrap the cable around as Apple does with theirs.
Of course, if they recall the power supply, I won't complain and will happily take the smaller (safer?) replacement.
this is good...
maybe it will add some chlorine to the appletard gene pool
Paris - more style over substance for you appletards
I've been saying this forever...
... Apple tends to cut corners engineering-wise for the sake of looks. For instance, a given wattage power supply will generate a certain amount of heat, regardless of whether Dell, HP, or Apple makes the thing. That's because there just isn't that much you can do with efficiency of the hardware, and the lost power ends up as heat in the device. For a given amount of heat dissipation, you end up with a very consistant size for the outside surface of a power supply brick, and the only way to really change it is to mess with the safety factor, which accounts for less than ideal conditions (say the brick is laying on carpet or bedding material and doesn't get ideal air flow around it.)
So Apple is fudging that safety factor in order to make a 65W power supply that's smaller than a Dell or HP 65W power supply. And that's the sort of thing that leads to people needing to call the fire department. I know my circle of aquaintances doesn't represent a decent sample by any measure, but I know two people that've had Apple power supplies light on fire and cause damage. And I don't know anyone that's had any other computer part ever ignite by accident. Like I said, that's not stastically significant, but it is a bit worrying.
What on earth are these people doing to induce "dangerously frays, sparks, and prematurely fails to work." failures?
Yes, the cable frays if you run over it with a vacuum cleaner or any other physically-hostile device.
Sparks? What, between the connector on the device and the adaptor end? I assume the plantiff is referring to that very odd natural behaviour of electricity to flow to earth via the path of least resistance - and any video evidence would involve teasing the adaptor towards the unit...
If an adaptor becomes seriously hot enough to induce melting of its component parts without shutting down, that indicates that something is drawing too much current into the device itself, and therefore not tripping any fuses within the device. Have you perhaps tried lifting it off the bed and unblocking the ventilation?
Of course, Apple have many billions of dollars. How many users have common sense?
It's been my experience
That cable fraying tends to come from user negligence rather than engineering issues. The clip on the cable is provided precisely so that the cable does not get frayed. By using the clip, you can avoid placing the stress of the bent cable on the point where the cable meets the magnetic head which is the most likely cause for fraying. Also, I've never had experience with the cable even being slightly warm on the end where the cable attaches to the macbook, and I would suggest that if it were to get hot, particularly if it gets hot to the point of melting the cable that perhaps it's partly the heat from the laptop itself being transferred and you need better air circulation, perhaps a laptop stand, or something that would lift the back of the laptop slightly.
Way back in August last year.
"Whether your product is in or out-of-warranty, you can take your adapter to an Apple-Authorized Service Provider or Apple Retail Store for evaluation and replacement if necessary. You may be eligible for a replacement adapter free of charge provided there are no signs of accidental damage."
It's been revised a few times now. Apple keeps mum about things like this I guess.
Design not fit for purpose.
This problem goes a very long way back. It isn't an issue with the design of the power supply as such. The problem comes from two simple design issues.
Apple use simple coax for the power cable. They clearly use it to manage EMI emmissions. But rather than use a shielded teisted pair, they use a single conductor with braided shield. The whole failure occurs when over time the braid frays. The cable they use simply isn't designed to be repeatedly bent. Further the pathetic flexible relief on the ends of the cable (not just the plug into the laptop, the exit from the brick suffers from exactly the same failure) is not fit for purpose. The moulding fractures over time and ceases to provide any protection to the cable. Even when new it is barely able to control the radius of the bend.
The sparking come about when the braid frays to the point where only one or two strands are left intact, and they then overheat, melting the insulating sheath, and then exposing sparking connections when those last few strands fracture.
I have had a number of Apple laptops that have exhibited this failure, right back to the old frizbee design. The little clip on current power supplies isn't intended to to ameliorate the flexing, it is intended to clip the cable when it is wound onto the brick.
The solution is to use a proper connector design, and to select a cable that is fit for purpose. It isn't as if these are new issues in the annals of electronics design. Talk to the nice guys at Belden about the correct specification of cable (for instance shielded twisted pair, and a shield that isn't braided) and design a connector with real flex control at entry. It isn't hard. Professional level connectors in many industries have been doing it for the best part of a century. Sadly this is a clear case of Apple leaving an industrial design job that requires experience and engineering knowledge to the crayon brigade.
I've never seen this on a Mac, I have seen it on a Dell though. The cable frayed and sparked on my girlfriends old Dell laptop power supply. I didn't sue though because it was wear from her picking it up by the cable repeatedly for 2 years.
RE: Design not fit for purpose.
I disagree, and I point you to this statement:
"I have had a number of Apple laptops that have exhibited this failure, right back to the old frizbee design."
Unless you stole them, or were given them by Apple, then the design works just as intended -- it sells laptops.
While people continue to choose inferior products then inferior products will be made.
Not just Apple
My Dell 65W adapter did the same thing - the cable failed at the adapter end and shorted between the core and shield. There were sparks but no fire because it detected the short and correctly shut down. Unfortunately you can't repair them as the plastic case is glued not screwed.
The root problem was that the co-ax power cable didn't like the repeated small-radius bending it got when the cable was stowed twice a day - a function of the industrial design of the adapter.
Colour me stupid...
...but my xBox controllers have a little plug to accomplish a similar thing. It cannot be beyond Apple's ken to have a similar device that sends a small test current down one wire and ONLY if that makes a circuit, pump full juice down.
No need for magnets or bending.
My xBox is an auld black one and those wires have been wrapped/bent more times than I care to think off and it's still fine.
I guess this just another example of MS delivery better quality than Apple. :oP
@ The Defenders
This is a design flaw. It's no good blaming users when products fail unless they deliberately set out to damage something. Over the life of a notebook the PSU will be plugged, unplugged, chucked in bags, trodden on, yanked out of bags wrapped around something else and not generally treated with kid gloves. The design has to consider and incorporate such behaviour - especially as these are premium products. It especially has to be designed to fail safe if it's abused enough to break it.
Good design is more than just making something look nice.
...and this doesn't happen to other power blocks?
As far as I can tell this is nothing to do with the MagSafe component but end user treatment of the power block. If the users pack their laptop and power block back and forth every day then you can reasonably expect the power-cord to get abused.
Personally I've had users return power blocks from all manufacturers that I wouldn't plug-in, and would only unplug wearing rubber soles.
Most road users treat the power block as if it is a bobbin, by the time they've packed it up 2-3 times a day for a year or so it resembles an old-fashioned phone cord stretched to its elastic limit.
(You can reduce the wear and tear by buying 2 blocks per machine so they never pack the one at home - just don't expect to get more than one back.)
@Nexox and Francis
"So Apple is fudging that safety factor in order to make a 65W power supply that's smaller than a Dell or HP 65W power supply. And that's the sort of thing that leads to people needing to call the fire department..."
Well if this is true, then why is my 90 watt HP laptop adapter smaller than my wife's 85 watt Macbook Pro adapter?
"The solution is to use a proper connector design, and to select a cable that is fit for purpose. It isn't as if these are new issues in the annals of electronics design. Talk to the nice guys at Belden about the correct specification of cable (for instance shielded twisted pair, and a shield that isn't braided) and design a connector with real flex control at entry."
I agree about the strain relief troubles with Apple adapters. I've had more than two adapters fail from this same problem. However, I will disagree with your comments that braided shielding is inappropriate. As an audio technician, we've always been trained to use cables with braided shields when the cable will be moved frequently. This is because the solid foil shielding (the only alternative that I'm aware of) breaks down very quickly when it is moved, whereas the braided shielding tends to fare much better. My personal experience has verified this claim. We've had foil shielding fail after the cable was only lightly moved once or twice, but we have braided shielded cables that have been in use for many years without any failures yet.
However, the point that the shielding should not be supporting the electrical load is well taken. In my (non-electrical professional) opinion, it would be best if the shielding was grounded, but with a separate ground/common wire running within the shielding to carry actual electric load.
Don't get yourself in a tizzy
Are you surprised? Do we not already know that Macs are designed to look 'nice' at the expense of rudimentary engineering and functionality. Appletards like to take the design high ground and look down on the pc using oiks. Unfortunately, Mac sales figures speak for themselves. But I suppose that makes Appletards either the elite or a misguided cult.
Do Macs burn in a more aesthetically pleasing way?
No problems here...
On a 2 year old Macbook Pro and a year old Macbook.
What I see a lot though is people disconnecting them by yanking on the cable which (as with any cable) is a stupid idea. Its magnetic to save your pricey laptop if you trip over it etc. not to save 1/3 of a second when you're packing up...
So basically (in most cases) - user error... suck it up...
Well, I've had Mac Laptops for 10 years, I have 4 of the current MacBook adapters and I've not had a single problem with any of them.
The MagSafe predates the MBP... I've had a variety of its incarnations over the years and never had a single problem. The advice is fairly obvious: don't let your cat chew it, and don't leave it switched on permanently / unnecessarily. This is fairly solid advice for any electrical device.
Apple computers are far more advanced than generic PCs; it seems the same is not necessarily true of their users.
Francis Vaughan's post
Read Francis Vaughan's post.
It's exactly the kind of thing I would say if I knew what I was talking about.
Let me guess
Becasue of the advertised "safe" aspects, e.g. the power lead will disconnect if yanked without taking the laptop with it, these users have developed the habit of just yanking the cable when they want to unplug it? I've seen many folks in the US "unplug" their flimsy 110v mains plugs from wall sockets in the same way
Unsurprisngly that will put unexpected strain on the lead, which starts to fracture, then frays and breaks.
Predictable, if Apple had thought through the consequences of advertising this 'feature" instead of just quietly leaving it as a convenience in the case of accidents.
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RE:Design not fit for purpose.
"Sadly this is a clear case of Apple leaving an industrial design job that requires experience and engineering knowledge to the crayon brigade."
Na. They employ the type of designers that only use Macs. The uber hip ones who can make somthing look good, but would be reaching for a dictionary when they got to coax in your post.
i've had to buy 3 macbook power supplies over the last few years and 2 macbook pro ones which have failed for the same reason.. fraying of the cord. yes maybe i could have treated them a bit better but generally i am in a rush, throw the power supply in a bag and want to go. I don't want to stand there folding it into a neat bundle every time. the replacement cost for each out of warranty can vary from about 55-70UKP and although apple were replacing some power supplies about a year ago for free I was told by an apple reseller I would have to let them have the old one for up to a week whilst the photo of the fraying was sent to apple to verify an replacement could be given... net result i would not be able to charge my laptop for a week and therefore earn money so i had to put up with the minor small volt electrocutions from the cord every time my wrist touched it until i reluctantly paid for another new one. .. its very poorly designed and although i buy a lot of apple products it is an example of some of the style over substance design choices apple makes sometimes that makes it difficult to justify the premium pricing
There's several people here stating that users must have been very rough with their magsafe adaptors to suffer these problems just because they haven't had a problem. it's not so, some adaptors seem to be better than others. My macbook pro rarely leaves my lounge, and it sits on a little lapdesk most of the time too. it doesn't get handled roughly or even travel all that much. when it does travel, it's in a dedicated laptop bag and the PSU is wrapped up neatly but I had the problem. Basically the plug itself started to get very hot and over time, the plastic sheath of the wire, near the plug actually melted and the metal wires underneath were exposed. it also started to not charge the laptop anymore.
As my laptop was well out of warranty, i went into the store to buy a replacement adapter. I told the guy there what had happened and I was asked to bring my old PSU back in. when I did they replaced it for a brand new one free of charge, no questions asked. That sounds to me like it's a known issue to me, rather than a one off, or rough behaviour.
It doesn't need experience... no-one in their right mind would use CoAx for anything that's being repeatedly flexed. It's clearly not going to like it. And how come everyone else gets along just fine with the two-stranded-cores type power cables?
Oh, wait- right mind / Apple. Yeah.
How you treat it?
Surely a power cable should be designed to be treated in the way that most users treat them - winding it up and unravelling it every day, and the ocasional yank where someone trips over it. If it can't stand up to that usage, then it needs to be a stronger design.
Those who don't have this problem because their laptoprarely leaves their desk - Isn't the whole point of a laptop to be able to take it (and the power supply) with you?
As a user of multiple Macs and PCs,
I have never had a problem with engineering on a Mac. The things compare favourable to other manufacturers. I've had to use their warranty support service once with a stuck column on a screen and they turned it around in about 3 days which is better than IBM or HP.
Those above complaining about pretty over engineering are talking rubbish. A decent box should have both, as any decent manufacturer will tell you: one should reflect the other.
Grades of plastic?
Apple cables are noticeably thinner and bendier than many other manufacturers'; this lets the cables lie more tidily on the desk, and makes them easier to thread through small spaces, but I imagine it also lets a given force bend them in tighter radii than other manufacturers' cables, so allowing more damage to the innards. So I wouldn't be terribly surprised by this story; it's a side-effect of designing for prettiness.
It's a mobile device innit?
Having been involved in bodging the old style plug-in supplies for the two G4 ibooks in the house I can tell you that it is due to rough and negligent handling. The angles I have seen the cable stretched with no thought beggar belief only in the sense that is remarkable these things don't fail more often.
Watch for the followup suit where the same people discover that the way they have abused their power supply has had consequences for their batteries. It's amazing, how much do these cost and then people treat them like they are disposable.
1 in 3 failed for me
Three Macbooks for nearly 3 years, one failed at the connector after 18months, other two are fine. Probably 'student abuse' by my daughter who has also managed to write off 3 phones, a TV, a DVD player and a car in the same timescale!
On the other hand replacing the adapter was much less hassle than getting earlier Toshibas repaired after the power receptacle broke off the motherboard - another common known fault, apparently.
"However, I will disagree with your comments that braided shielding is inappropriate. As an audio technician, we've always been trained to use cables with braided shields when the cable will be moved frequently. This is because the solid foil shielding (the only alternative that I'm aware of) breaks down very quickly when it is moved,"
I agree that foil is even less fit for purpose. However a tight cross braided shield is only suitable when, as you put it, "when the cable will be moved frequently". This isn't the same as "continually bent under tension with a radius significantly less than the diameter of the cable" which is what happens with the poor design of the flex relief. A compromise is to use a shiled that is not braided but is a unidirectional spiral layer of conductors. It does not have the same coverage and ultimate EMI protection as a proper braid, but it is close, and it will survive much harsher treatment. In audio cables, those used for headsets are a good example. Use of a twisted pair for the power conductors would reduce EMI vastly anyway, to the point where using such a simple shield would still confer better protection than the current cable design.
None the less, the most critical design flaw is the pathetic moulded flex relief on both the brick and the plug. If this were sorted it is likely that the choice of coax for the wire would not be an issue.
El Reg spreading lies!
And heresy! I thought that nothing that the Church of St Jobs does can ever be wrong?
Seriously though - trawl the old articles on exploding Sony batteries and so on, and users are happy to blame the manufacturer, but once it is Apple, then the zealots come out on their crusade! You people need to get a frikkin' life. It's a machine. It has faults. Deal with it.
"...this is a clear case of Apple leaving an industrial design job that requires experience and engineering knowledge to the crayon brigade."
Heh. This raised a smile. Thanks for that!
"Fair wear and tear"
I think you'll find that phrase in every manufacturers T&C's.
Over the past 15 years I've handled hundreds of laptops. I've also witnessed individuals using their laptops. I've been amazed at how some of them treat equipment worth a couple of [insert currency] grand. Picked up by screens, dragged across table tops by the power lead, power lead yanked out by the cable, unattended pets chewing cables (always a good one...), cables knotted so bad you can't/daren't untangle them, cables caught in drawers, damaged and repaired with Sellotape.... This list goes on and on.
You'll notice I've not mentioned 'Mac' yet. That's because all these things happen to all laptops. In my experience the Apple power bricks offer a much better design than the generic bricks on others. You can change the input cable for a plug that slots directly on the brick, removing one cable. You can carry alternative plugs for different countries that safely connect. The output cable can be neatly and safely coiled up on the brick itself.
The commenter who didn't 'want to stand there folding it into a neat bundle'. Well, that's what you get for not treating stuff with respect. Maybe you don't have to pay for yours, so you don't care.
And as for all the AC's here berating Macs - FFS get a life and get a name.
The best thing that could happen to these plaintiffs is to be ordered by the court to never own a computer again as they're far too stupid to look after one, then fine them for wasting the courts time.
Computer says no.
The quality goes in when the label goes on
No matter what a Safety Agency says later!
"............Over the life of a notebook the PSU will be plugged, unplugged, chucked in bags, trodden on, yanked out of bags wrapped around something else and not generally treated with kid gloves.........."
Surely McBooks are placed upon an altar and revered, not treated in such a utilitarian manner?
On most laptops with some miss use the power connector in the laptop becomes damaged and its an expensive job to replace.
At least on a Macbook you only have to replace the power adapter a much cheaper (probably free from a Apple Store) option
FYI my first macbook adapter lasted 7 months before coming frayed at the connector and was replaced at the Apple store without any fuss
The macbook solution is much better than any I have seen on other brands of Laptop, suck it up
Cause Fires, get tangled in my..... errr where was I...
Any cable, properly selected, is rated to carry a particular current for its conditions of use. There are all sorts of regulations and calculations that, should, be done to ensure the wire is fit for purpose.
Ignoring isulation and other requirements. Having selected your bit of wire you also have to consider its mechanical properties. In particular minimum bend radius. This means that when the wire enters any fixed point it is adequately supported so that, under 'normal' use that minumum bend radius is not exceeded (under-exceeded?).
It also means that the overall insulation of the wire should be sufficient to support it such that, under normal use, the wire itself will not flex below the minimum bend radius for the conductors.
If you do not then the copper in the wire will work harden, become brittle and, eventually break. With stranded concuctors the failure is gradual. Individual strands will break over time leaving less and less conductor area intact to carry the design current. The result is that the wire will.... heat up at the point of failure.
That will be sufficient to melt insulation and in some cases the wire will behave like a miniature arc welder. Sparks are a possibility as well when, with movement, the frayed ends brush against each other.
Provision of that support or strain relief along the cable or at connector entry points should be inherent in the design and not rely on the end user having to dress the cable in any particular way or use additional methods to supply support. The most information the end user should have to be given is instructions about the minimum bend radius and not to exceed it.
I'd go as far as to be concerned about this 'magnasafe' concept. I don't know what it looks like but if, as I suspect, it involves simple 'flat' contacts with no positive positive mating/wiping of connector conductors the idea is bad in itself.
That might work for low current, <100mA, charging currents for low power battery operated devices, look at the charging connector on your mobile, but will run into problems for higher power, higher current devices. Going seriously technical if they limit themselves to 24V from the brick for the purposes of SELV, Safe Extra Low Voltage, requirements then for 100W you are looking at about 4A current draw..... not a 'good' idea.
Just don't use the clamp
If the clamp frays the power cord, isn't the solution to just not use the clamp?
"the exit from the brick suffers from exactly the same failure"
How can a hole suffer a failure?
The exit point is a nicely radiused (in all directions) 'funnel' on every Apple adapter I have seen in recent years.
And for the record, I have and iBook G3 and a PowerBook G4 adaptor (work out their age for yourselves) and no sign of any damage to either of them, despite sharing the same basic design as the magSafe ones.
Burnt through for me
I replaced it after I noticed scorching on one side of the cable, just before the magnetic end. Was a couple of years old so just bought another one - didn't think of sueing Apple, maybe I missed a trick there.
No obvious ill-treatment that I could remember, but then my 1 year old Macbook Pro is so warped the aluminium has cracked and broken off under the mousepad, so what would I know?
apple = crap hardware & m$ = crap software?
Is it me or are apple getting as much bad press about hardware as micrsoft do about software?!!! So much for the apple name!
These stupid idiots have broken the cable and the want to blame someone else, you can see that in the language they use. A thin wire 'almost burned him' what a stupid thing to say. I have been using these for years and don't treat them especially gently and they are as good as new. Other people at work who have the same are ham-fisted jackanapes with keyboards full of filth, crumbs, grease etc.. filthy screens, scratches all over the casing and they end up having to buy new PSUs etc... As thou sow, so shall that arst reap.
"How can a hole suffer a failure?
The exit point is a nicely radiused (in all directions) 'funnel' on every Apple adapter I have seen in recent years."
Fair point. I have not bought a Mac in a while - the machine I am writing this on is a 5 year old 17" Powerbook. The answer seems to be that Apple got the exit right in later bricks - taking the design away from the crayon brigate. Now why didn't they apply the same sense to the connector end?
More to the point - seeing that someone realised there was a clear problem with the design of the brick exit - and fixed it - why did they mess up the connector design? It seems that the overriding desire to continue Apples current iPodesque design motif into the connector overode any other consideration. Something that senior managment should not allow to happen. But this is Steve Jobs we are tallking about here. And for all his brilliance, he has a well documented failing in exactly this area.
Sparky, the Power Bricks...
I have another friend with an older sparky power brick from Dell. The cable which plugged into his brick was problematic, he replaced it (own funds), it still does not work quite right, but he just does not jiggle it. His brick sits on a desk.
I had a sparky power brick from Dell, the cable which plugged into the brick was problematic, they replaced a cable under warranty, I didn't sue them. Thank you customer service! This brick sat on a concrete floor.
I now use a replacement current Dell laptop power brick with no problems. This brick sits on a concrete floor.
I also have an Apple Mac Book Pro for 1.5 years with no problem with their power brick. This brick hangs off a wall socket, even though the cable sits on a carpeted floor.
Perhaps if people were in a dorm room, placed the brick off an extension cord on a carpeted floor, and dumped old dirty clothes on it for a week - they would all meltdown.
These things heat up, depending on the conditions, heat causes engineering failures. It is fairly common in the industry and people should not get so worked up over it.
Perhaps all vendors should add a thermal fuse? Allow for wrapping cords around the square form of the brick instead of the narrow rectangular form of a brick?
Sure, things can be done better, the next generation from all the vendors usually have tweeks from lessons learned, to reduce failure rates. Engineers are not perfect, they are human. Manufacturers are not perfect, they are human.
People just need to treat their engineered and manufactured equipment from any vendor with reasonable care and try to avoid stressing the components.
Re: Design for purpose
A good post.
I've not had any melting cables yet, but then I've only had my Macbook and Macbook Pro for going on three months.
That said, I haven't failed to notice the worrying kinking of the rubber sheath where the cable bends near the adapter - on both machines it has to bend based on the location of the laptops and the nearest power socket/extension.
I've had my Dell XPS Gen 2 for nearly five years now, and it has none of this, sporting a decent heavy duty power lead as it does.
Form over function again. It's easy to fix, but I bet Apple don't do it the proper way (provide good solid cables), as they're obsessed with size-zero everything.
[Misuse of the power supply/MacBook] Er, it's a laptop. Only a fool would design a laptop and its support devices so that they couldn't withstand the light pounding of being moved, used, put away, used on a train/plane etc. The description I've read here of the cable suggests it isn't suitable for application when it will be flexed a lot , which it will be if the MacBook is a working machine and not just a pretty-looking desktop with a small screen.
Once again, were this a Dell problem I doubt I'd see so many appologists at work defending the brand. One or two shorting power supplies might be a case of rough treatment (and does the thing come with any kind of warning sticker advising kid gloves?) but in these comments we're seeing more than that.
I'll take the engineer's line here: The braided outer sheath should NOT be current-carrying unless there is a problem, in which event it should do what it is supposed to and cause an immediate failure of the fuse. It does have one, doesn't it? The G4 power supply I had to replace for a friend didn't, which I found puzzling given the better design it was supposed to represent, but I'd have thought the need obvious.
~~~ Once again, were this a Dell problem I doubt I'd see so many appologists at work defending the brand
I saw at least a few Dell apologists in this list - I guess your doubts were unfounded.
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