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back to article Socket to 'em: It's the HomeGrid vs HomePlug powerline prizefight

“Two standards, both alike in dignity, In fair Vegas, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” The backers of rival next-generation in-home mains power networking standards may not have come to physical blows in defence of their favoured technologies, but …

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Ok so it took me ages to realise that the odd tweet-counter-looking thing was a link to the comments. Enough with the secret sauce, guys!

The phasing issue the first illustration highlights is uniquely american. It's extremely rare for a domestic supply to have two phases and a neutral to the breaker box. You will see blocks of flats and apartments getting two phases but the individual breaker boxes all have a single phase. Even a lot of commercial isntallations will only have one phase.

Am I the only one that thinks using the CPC as a signalling wire is asking for serious trouble? The whole point of protective conductor is that it only carries current if you have a fault condition in order protect the installation and facilitate ending that fault condition. Quite apart from the possibility of tripping breakers for "no reason", sending signals down the CPC is deliberately introducing a fault current into all the exposed metalwork in the entire installation. A system like that will kill people sooner or later. I don't care if they're saying there's some limit on the current - it only takes one overcurrent at the right time.

And of course the liability for that falls not on the owner, or even the person who sold them the plug, but on whoever installed and inspected the installation.

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Anonymous Coward

"Ok so it took me ages to realise that the odd tweet-counter-looking thing was a link to the comments. Enough with the secret sauce, guys!"

Took me the time it takes to hover the mouse pointer over the graphic.

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Anonymous Coward

? Functional earth ? Used everywhere. Most earth wires carry unwanted current which can kill.

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The reason I mentioned the circuit protective conductor specifically and not just "the earth" is because the illustration shows the CPC being used as a signalling bus, which introduces a fault current, which potentially triggers fuses and RCDs and makes the system dangerous in the process. Functional earth isn't connected to the circuit protective conductor and nor should it be - and neither is a functional earth used to protect circuits or prevent the living of exposed metal parts. It's completely irrelevant to what I said because I was talking about protective earthing. And if you can show me a protective conductor that's carrying current in allegedly non-fault conditions I'll be very surprised, because it's both highly illegal and extremely dangerous.

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Now for the fun bit!

The USA and other places with similar electrical codes are the only place you could use Neutral/CPC like this.

However, many local US jurisdictions now require 5mA GFCI (RCD) circuit breakers in domestic properties - which will definitely trip if a device did this!

(We use 30mA here)

In other words, the only place you could use this - you can't!

The diagram shown is indeed uniquely American. Most would call it bi-phase - the two Lives are 180 deg apart, each 120VAC to Neutral and thus 240VAC from each other. It's done with a centre-tapped transformer, usually very close to the house.

It's also common to have few domestic appliances using both phases - eg tumble driers, ovens.

There are more crazy things over there - "wild-leg" 3-phase is probably the most insane...

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Split phase

I'm looking at that and shaking my head. It's not two phase but split phase which is single phase. Connect the two hots and you get 220 single phase.

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Anonymous Coward

Noise

This will inject noise into the ground of most American houses. I would not advise having audio equipment any were near this stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

new role as embedded networking in ‘smart’ devices.

I think I would base my choice of tech on the TV manufactures choice. Once I had chosen a so called smart tv, I would then purchase my fridge microwave etc etc on the tech in the TV.

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FAIL

FprEN50561-1:2012 is not a standard!

FprEN50561-1:2012 is not a standard, it is still a draft that fails to meet the 'essential requirements' of the EMC Directive. It will not be adopted by the European Commission until it does meet the requirements. In the meantime, EN55022 Part B (residential usage) is still the applicable testing-standard for PLT. Of course, PLT manufacturers will continue to lie on their 'Declarations of Conformity' and claim compliance to incorrect testing-standards (EN55022 Part A - Industrial use only, not for domestic usage!) and non-existent "standards".

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Re: FprEN50561-1:2012 is not a standard!

By definition it will never meet EMC standards, but a suitably subsantial bung to offcom will deal with that.

I cant really decide if having 2 different standards of stupid is a step forward or back

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Re: FprEN50561-1:2012 is not a standard!

It's a step. That's all that matters.

Celebrate progress! Another step! Onwards to the bright future! It's different!

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Stop

Re: FprEN50561-1:2012 is not a standard!

Moving towards an inadequately regulated electromagnetic environment in the home where things can no longer be near guaranteed to coexist in harmony doesn't seem very wise to me. Throwing RF around unbalanced and unscreened cables is a wholly flawed idea, requiring an equally flawed specification. Has anyone seem adaptive notching in a product? No? I didn't think so because the cost of implentation would be too high.

What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If I was in the business of manufacturing LED lighting, SMPSU wall-warts etc, I'd be clapping my hands because I would design to EMC levels laid down in prEN50561 and argue that it is just as relevant to my products as PLT and save a shedload of cash by not fitting supression components. The upshot? No more EMC.

People can navel-gaze and whitter on about EMC and PLT being a problem for radio amateurs, but they fail to understand the real scenario. These things have been demonstrated to knock out FM and DAB radio and are of concern to the CAA and GCHQ. A colleague had an issue with LED lighting killing his DAB radio and in the early days of BT's peddling of PLT, they were seen to knock out their own users 27MHz wireless keyboards!

I have had to replace a number of switching PSU's supplied with equipment for linear ones because of interference to HF. Set Top Box PSU's are particularly awful. This is the tip of the iceberg and I am watching with great interest, waiting to hear the whines of fail from people whose radios, TV's or whatever begin to suddenly stop working.

Caveat emptor :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: FprEN50561-1:2012 is not a standard!

Can it ever meet RF requirements demanded of "normal" equipment? By design it's a transmitter with a dirty great big aerial.

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Meh

MIMO over Earth.

That'll go down like a lead balloon in much of Europe.

In many countries, even fairly recent build houses commonly have two pin sockets. Those sockets that do offer an earth connection are often earthed to the nearest available water pipe or to a ground pin immediatly outside the nearest exterior wall, rather than there being a contiguous earth circuit around the house.

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Meh

Re: MIMO over Earth.

In many countries, that neutral line eventually connects to earth as well. If that connection is far enough away it might work, but in Oz that is often at the pole down the street - especially in the outback.

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Re: MIMO over Earth.

How would this effect Voltage Operated Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers (VOELCB)?

These devices were mainly used with overhead supplies with TT earthing (an earth rod in the ground as opposed to having earth supplied by your power supply company), and although they are not installed any more there are still plenty of them in service - most of the house with overhead power around here have them.

They detect a voltage on the earth wire and if present will switch off the supply. They need to be fairly sensitive to work quickly enough to be safe.

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I've often wondered about the security of powerline devices.

How do you firewall you mains incomer? What stops your neighbours (the ones on the same phase as you) connecting to your network?

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Re: I've often wondered about the security of powerline devices.

AES pairing between devices and being on a separate electrical circuit usually does the trick

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Re: I've often wondered about the security of powerline devices.

Normally the powerline devices will pair with the first two devices, once you add more I've had to press the button or tell the atheos software to pair additional ones (Solwise ones I use)

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Re: I've often wondered about the security of powerline devices.

The most effective thing to do is to insert an isolating transformer between your installation and the public grid. Another method is to wrap the incomer around a metal toroid which will block the higher frequency components.

Non-obviously it is possible to couple from one set of cables to another, so your neighbour could put a transmitter on their side of the wall and turn the power up...

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Re: I've often wondered about the security of powerline devices.

The most effective thing to do is to insert an isolating transformer between your installation and the public grid. Another method is to wrap the incomer around a metal toroid which will block the higher frequency components.

You do realise that a common-mode choke rated at 100A would be the size of a fridge and require a sturdy concrete base? That will be the only way to stop conducted emissions from PLT in other houses!

Non-obviously it is possible to couple from one set of cables to another, so your neighbour could put a transmitter on their side of the wall and turn the power up...

You and your neighbour are likely to be connected to the same phase and neutral from the 3-phase in the street. It is only a matter of time before someone engages in a little neighbourly social-engineering and connects their PLT devices to their neighbour's. People do not understand how to secure their Wi-Fi or their routers, so PLT will be an easy target, AES256, or not!

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Re: I've often wondered about the security of powerline devices.

I have used Devolo devices for a number of years.

When I lived in a block of flats, I secured the devices using Devolo's bundled utilities, one of which allows you to secure all of your devices and prevent others from using your network.

I have no idea if I actually needed to do this, but I do know from experience that others using Devolo devices were not able to use my Internet connection (my next-door neighbor).

I dont know if it is safe to assume that other vendors devices also use the same type of security.

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Unhappy

Earth-Neutral bonded

Some installations in the UK have the earth wire bonded to neutral at the point of entry to the premises. So to get any signal down the earth wire is going to need an appreciable amount of power. So these things will be hotter (more wasted energy) and more noisy.

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Crud generators.

It doesn't matter which system they use - ALL homeplug/PLT devices work by injecting large amounts of radio frequency noise onto the domestic wiring, and ALL cause large-area radio interference. It's only about a year since my hobby (amateur radio) was completely stopped by just one pair of these devices installed along the road. Luckily, the fellow was genuinely horrified when I demonstrated what his PLT's were doing and he stopped using them. These things need banning, and quick.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Crud generators.

Which "hobby" is more deserving?

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Mushroom

Re: Crud generators.

Which "hobby" is more deserving?

The one that requires considerable technical study and examinations in order to obtain a licence from the government; plus the ability to set-up emergency communication-links during local/national/international disasters. My radios and aerials can cover anything from 20km around my home, to 2000km away in another country. Can your precious PLT answer the call for help?

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Mushroom

Re: Crud generators.

Well no, but by the same token it won't sit there smelling of unwashed crusty radio HAM and talking about the finer points of Klingon etiquette in the 99.999999999% of time that emergencies aren't happening.

How many lives have you saved?

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Re: Crud generators.

The difference is that PLT devices prevent innocent radio amateurs and short wave listeners from persuing their hobby, but short wave listeners and radio amateurs don't stop computer users from enjoying their activities. PLT is by definition destructive and selfish. A kind of 'I'm alright Jack' device.

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Re: Crud generators.

These PLT crap RFI "terror"-generators needs to be removed from the market because they create a huge amount of RFI-problems for all radio users, including blocking DAB and FM. They are basically illegal devices that do not meet the essential requirements of the EMC-directive. Also, they do not comply with EN55022 class B limits. Regarding amateur radio as a hobby (as some like to point out as a reason that makes it less important than streaming data or watching a RFI generating Plasma-TV etc.) does not mean that the essential requirements of the EMC directive 2004/108/EC is cancelled. All electronic devices must follow responsible EMC design and meet the essential requiremets of the EMC-directive. And using a CAT-5/6 (preferably shielded) for your "hobby" data-network will solve the problem with RFI on HF completely. PLT is a totally unnecessary device creating nothing but troble (same story with Plasma-TV's). The final decision for FprEn50561-1 is held back by the EU commission EMC-expert that refuses to approv it, because it allows higher levels of RFI than any earlier standard. FprEN50561-1 is basically a flawed proposal that wants to allow 1000 times higher levels of RFI on HF. I say remove PLT from the market permanently ! We dont need it.

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Flame

Re: Crud generators.

Five so far. Coming across auto accidents in areas where there was no cell coverage. One was a rollover accident where 4 of the 5 passengers were ejected. Resulted in 1 fatality and 3 airlifted to the hospital. The other was a head on collision with 1 fatality and 2 severely injured. In both cases ham radio cut the medical response time by 20-30 minutes. Look up "golden hour" to see how effective that can be.

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Meh

Re: Crud generators.

What, is a 999 call from a landline too easy for you?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Crud generators.

How do you reach your landline when you are stuck up a mountain with two broken ankles and no mobile phone signal? You had better hope the local Mountain Rescue radios are working, and not wiped out by non-EMC compliant junk electronics!

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Stop

Re: Crud generators.

Mountain Rescue != Radio HAMs.

But nice try.

Basically, if you can set up a full HAM kit somewhere then you've got power. If you've got power, a landline isn't surprising. If you can't have a landline you'll probably have a satellite phone.

What you won't do is spend weeks upon weeks listening to static and truckers and growing a beard you could lose a goat in.

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Boffin

Re: Crud generators.

The amateur bands are provided via international treaties, new allocations are made on a fairly frequent basis, it isn't just about saving lives (although that has happened quite frequently) it's about encouraging people to learn about technology in a way that benefits the whole human race.

There are alternatives for high speed networking, eventually this will be wired into every property from the time its built. Spewing unwanted hash across the RF spectrum is not an acceptable method of bridging the gap until PLC is no longer needed, if the density of the devices goes up then it will become apparent that it isn't just the HF bands that are badly affected.

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Re: Crud generators.

You might want to look at NVIS communications - Near Vertical Incident Skywave. It 's a propagation mode where you mount an antenna at near ground level and you launch your power vertically towards the ionosphere. The signal is then propagated back to earth and it's rather like an umbrella effect. Using a decent digital transmission mode (such as Olivia) you can resolve signals -13dB below the noise floor.

From my home in the Midlands, I can reliably communicate with other amateurs across the UK using these propagation and modulation modes and at low powers - sub 10W very easily. I have had contacts at nearly 1000km using 100mW.

I can very easily set up a full "HAM " kit anywhere. I don't need an external source of power and everything I need including a Toughbook computer, transceiver, antennas, modem, poles etc all fit in a bog-standard rucksack.

In deepest Wales where your phone is as much use as a one-legged man at an arse kicking competition and I have my kit with me, I will have comms where you don't.

The comments that you make about listening to static and truckers are so passe. We have heard it all before and just smacks of ignorance.

You might want to listen to this:

http://www.g7ltt.com/audio-files/911r4.mp3

It is about the work that amateurs did 9/11 when emergency comms went off line.

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FAIL

Re: Crud generators.

"How many lives have you saved?"

A Ham with emergency broadcast capabilities is much like a spare tyre. Doesn't do anything useful to you for that 99.9'% of the time, but when you need it....thank god it's there.

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Re: Crud generators.

"Basically, if you can set up a full HAM kit somewhere then you've got power."

Yeah, could be a Gennie, could be a lead-acid. Could be plugged into the lighter socket...

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@heyrick Re: Crud generators.

You mean you don't have a landline trailed out behind your car wherever you go?

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Re: Crud generators.

You do realize how hard it is to run CAT 5/6 in a lot of older buildings, right? That is the huge advantage PLT has over ethernet.

I completely disagree with you on Plasma TVs. They are superior to LCD TVs (and the so-called "LED" TVs) and I will continue buying them until something better comes along (hopefully OLED will show up one of these days and blow everything else away). I have not seen any radio interference from the Plasma (admittedly I also don't listen to FM much or operate a ham). Most microwaves put out far more interference than a Plasma TV.

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Stop

Re: Crud generators.

Running CAT5 in older buildings is not impossible and can be done if you must. It may take drilling a few holes in a wall or two, but that is easy even in concrete walls. An electrician will do this easily, and the installation will look professional. Besides, CAT5 outperforms PLT so you will have a much faster network. Introduction of noisy RFI generators like PLT is not justified because of the terrible radio interference they create to nearby radio users/listeners. But of course, it is easy to dump the shit on someone innocent like your neighbour who might be a radio user, and then ignore the problem. A very decent way to behave......

Plasma-TV may have a better picture (regarding black levels, which is very black), but in the last few years the OLED or LED TV's have excellent picture quality, so now they outperforms Plasma-TV's. Take a look at the new Samsung 46" ES8005 LED series which is excellent. And they have no RFI problems and uses only 82w (very power efficient). Plasma-TV's uses twice that or more.

Plasma-TV's have huge problems with RFI, especially in the LW-MW and low HF frequency range.

Most of them does not comply with the essential requirements of the EMC directive 2004/108/EC.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rc6hNkjG9gE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOQ-IUSRr2E

Since there are no EMC-standard for RFI emitted directly from the Plasma screen below 30 MHz, the TV industry have ignored the problem, sending these RFI generators onto the market. Below 30 MHz there is only conducted emissions from the primary side of the TV power cable (AC mains), which is limited by EN55013 I believe. But in a test of RFI directly from the Plasma screen, most (if not all) plasma-TV's have strong RFI, even at 100 or 200 feet away from the TV. The videos abowe demonstrates a 47" Samsung plasma at 200 feet (60-70 meters) away from my wire antennas.

http://www.etsemc.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/EN55013.pdf

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Re: Crud generators.

Twilight, you're assuming that the wiring in your older building will be up to the required standard. Often it isn't. I could tell you horror stories about the wiring in ostensibly refurbished old buildings and I can tell you right now that none of them would have supported any sort of PLT installation. Wireless repeaters would be more reliable. Given the cost of having to strip and replace all the wiring to make PLT reliable you'd be as well to just install cat5/6 alongside anyway. You'd get a more reliable, higher bandwidth signal and more scope for modification in future if you leave in enough redundancy. Plus you can run phones down it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Crud generators.

I don't know of many people who would be installing homeplugs halfway up a mountain.

So I don't think you'll have any problems

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Re: Crud generators.

"You do realize how hard it is to run CAT 5/6 in a lot of older buildings, right?" - yes, like this place, installing wired ethernet is not the most viable idea. So I use WiFi. There are blackspots due to four-foot-thick stone walls, so I can't read El Reg on the bog; however WiFi repeaters/extenders, or sticking something in the loft would get around that a hell of a lot more simply than rigging up wires. I also get the portability that WiFi offers. Plus, the microwave interferes with WiFi...not the other way around.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Crud generators.

Interference from PLT can radiate up to 1km from the offending property, so yes, it can be a problem for all users of the radio spectrum!

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PME

Can't see this MIMO system working too well on TN-C and TN-C-S systems in use in the uk.

how well does data travel on a shorted pair of wires?

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Powerline Atmospheric Polution.

I wonder if many people, other than those immdiately affected by this polution , realise how much grief this causes to the radio fraternity. That does NOT mean just radio amateurs, but the new Digital Broadcasting on FM.Anyone doubting this should viist UKQRM, a siote run, not by nutters, but very knowledgable guys, some professionals in the field of wireless (used advisedly!) communications. Even those" professionals " employed by ofcom to supposedly regulate and enforce the theoretically draconian powers which such a regulator in theory has, lack very often either the knowledge or genitalia to do thier job! Thsi prob;lem is indeed universal, affecting most of europe and much of North and South America. The line is fast being approached where, if remedial action is not taken by ofcom or some other authority, lives may be lost or "corrective action" taken by those most affected by this scourge. Regards, Worried Pissed Off, UK

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R-J

Re: Powerline Atmospheric Polution.

These devices are illegal to use!

The draft standard CENELEC FprEN 50561-1 has not been approved yet!! The PLC lobby has been putting out false information claiming that it has. The European Commission will not list a harmonised standard based on the draft because of serious objections from no less than, the EMC consultant of the European Commission, and from others involved in radio communication. The EC EMC consultant maintains that the draft standard does not meet the EC's EMC directive's essential requirements, which were designed to give reasonable protection to the RF spectrum. So, there is a stumbling block whereupon using these devices will actually mean breaking the law, because the published standard EN 50522 has been deemed applicable to these devices and PLT system emissions greatly exceed the limits set down in EN 50522.

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FAIL

Your iambic pentameter is off

You've lost a syllable in the change from Verona to Vegas.

Shakespeare would be rolling in his grave.

I expect it's under a car park somewhere.

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Re: Your iambic pentameter is off

"Las Vegas" would have scanned but I suppose the Fa...Ve... semi-aliteration (or is it assonance? ) would have been broken up

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Angel

Re: Your iambic pentameter is off

To be fair, if the sub-ed had the skills of a Shakespeare s/he'd not be the sub-ed on El Reg.

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