* Posts by Professor Clifton Shallot

299 posts • joined 6 Mar 2013

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Bill Hicks: 25 years on from the cult comedian's big break

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Another goddamned appreciation of the late, lamented Bill Hicks

"Stuart Lee is just bitter he's never been as funny as Hicks."

That's quite probably true but I think his article would have made Hicks laugh.

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Cell division: The engine of life – and of CANCER. Now some of its secrets are revealed

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: "We all start out as just one cell"

"Well, to be technically correct, the best kind of correct, we start off as two cells, which is the fun part. These two haploid gametes then combine to form a single-celled diploid zygote."

Is there anything that could be said to be "us" before the zygote is formed?

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Linux on the desktop is so hot there's now a fight over it

Professor Clifton Shallot

Citrix helps get Linux on the desktop

But often not in the way Linux advocates would want.

The app virtualisation of Citrix is excellent and renders the client OS largely irrelevant as long as a Citrix Receiver exists which means Windows can be replaced by Linux but it also means that Windows apps can run on those Linux desktops and in my experience this is precisely what happens.

I had 1200 Linux workstations deployed in a nominally Windows organisation but they were all effectively thin clients for a Citrix back end supplying Windows applications.

MS will hardly miss the desktop OS fees (particularly as the cheapest option in many cases is still to buy a PC with a Windows licence and just install over it) and their stranglehold on apps will be reinforced rather than weakened.

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Planet killer: Ex-army officer's Welsh space-rock mission

Professor Clifton Shallot

Donation

I don't know if it is still current but there is a Project DRAX donation page here.

Well done, Reg, I enjoyed this article and don't think anything else I read is likely to have brought this to my attention.

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Server guys: Are you running fewer than 200 virtual machines?

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Sounds like IT tech word churn

I had a manager who regarded Gartner report in much the same way St Joan did the voices in her head.

Our actions were run to the dictates of these divine utterances and even if it lead to us being burned at the stake we could meet our doom face-on, consciences clear in the knowledge that we had done the Right Thing.

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Shadow of the Beast: Amiga classic returns from the darkness

Professor Clifton Shallot

Altered

I was thinking of Altered Beast. I thought it all looked a bit different.

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Virgin Media starts its broadband-of-the-gaps fibre rollout

Professor Clifton Shallot

At its worst VM telephone support is the very worst I have ever encountered in any situation ever.

The do have some very good guys - but not many and not out of normal working hours in the UK in my experience.

If I honestly believed there was a competitor with an equivalent product and better support I'd switch but I've heard horror stories about all of them.

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Post-pub nosh neckfillers: Reader suggestions invited

Professor Clifton Shallot

Noodles and peas.

Put noodles (I like the ones that have absolutely no English writing on them at all) and their provided seasoning in a bowl. Add frozen peas. Cover in boiling water. Put a plate over the top. Eat after three minutes (or when you remember you did this).

I happen to actually like it but that's not really the point - it's incredibly easy to get right even when many, if not most, other activities have become a struggle.

it's about as close to "Eat bread" as you can get while still claiming to be cooking anything.

The most common error is using cold water or beer and neither results in anything that will hurt you.

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Philae warms up nicely, sends home second burst of data

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: It does seem as if its a bit of a hole @Tom

"Rosetta, ...is in orbit around the comet (not sure how this is possible without a significant gravity field

Apparently the initial orbit was powered (and triangular) then they moved Rosetta close enough that the limited gravity of the comet was able to smooth that out to a self-sustaining ellipse.

Apparently that was pretty straighforward compared with landing Philae.

No idea if that makes sense - I take all this boffinry on faith.

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Brace yourselves: Public cloud is coming. When? Er... soon, possibly

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: TechMarketView need a closer look at what they're saying.

I think, although it isn't perfectly clear, that the AWS figure is global and the other is UK only.

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Did climate change scare off vegan dinos for millions of years? 'Yes'

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: They were vegetarians not vegans.

Yeah, my dad always says his lettuces are not suitable for vegetarians.

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Vodafone hikes prices to 37.5p/min – and lets angry customers flee

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: " write to us"?

I think it ought to be obligatory to allow customers to cease using a service via any of the means by which they are able to subscribe to it in the first place.

I had to cancel some unrequired web hosting by post, giving a fortnight's notice - was barely half a dozen clicks to sign up for it.

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Would EU exit 'stuff' the UK? Tech policy boss gets diplomatic

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: A question of English?

"Many of the Eurocrats are just petty enough to do everything they can to ensure that a country which leaves will fail"

Doesn't need them to be petty - they have a direct self-interest in ensuring that if they can.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Or to fashion an opportunity out of an apparent problem and make all European tech inherently able to cope with multiple languages so that expansion beyond the EU single market is straightforward.

It's a bit like the Android problem of having to deal with different screen resolutions as opposed to Apple's (sort of) known quantities - the end result is the better Android apps have the ability to cope designed in and in the long term this saves effort.

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Limited edition Iron Man S6 sells for $91,000 thanks to ... serial number

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: 66

"Must re-apply the faeces to the sick I use to keep the hoardes of women away from me"

Wow, you would have thought the vomit on its own would be enough of a deterrent.

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Sun's out, guns out: Plucky Philae probot WAKES UP ... hits 'snooze'

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: How big...

Put it this way, it's had no complaints.

(Although as Nick Doody would have it, surely people would be more impressed if you said "I've had *complaints*!" But I digress.)

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Apple LIGHTSABERS to feature in The Force Awakens

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Retrogression of the "Force".

"didn't the spacecraft in episodes IV -VI look more primitive than the craft in I-III"

They did indeed - which IMO fits with the move from a decadent, peaceful republic where luxury and status were important to a civil war where just churning out relatively efficient fighting machines took precedence.

Of course that doesn't preclude good design and while they don't match the elegance of Spitfires, the x-wings and tie fighters are iconic in their way.

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£100 MILLION poured down drain on failed UK.gov IT projects - in just ONE YEAR

Professor Clifton Shallot

Is any of this actually a problem?

Surely this sort of thing is just a combination of quantitative easing and New Deal style job creation - money is being fed into the economy,people are employed, and there will be a great legacy of useful infrastructure as a result.

Well, apart from the last bit, obviously.

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BITE that APPLE if you want to escape the Android garden, Microsoft

Professor Clifton Shallot

Yes. App (/ subscription) sales volumes are much more relevant than hardware sales for this.

People already have the devices and are now casting around for things to do with them - for a certain subset, Office might be just the sort of thing they were looking for.

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Powering the Internet of Stuff – by sucking electricity from TREES

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Energy from a nail in a tree

Well I wood but I am not holly certain a beer is enough. Th row an order of chips in and it's a deal - I'm a hog any way you look at it.

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Citrix: Hmmm, profit down 30%? Right. 900 HEADS WILL ROLL

Professor Clifton Shallot

I find business finance so unintuitive

Here's a company with good products, some very loyal customers and a healthy profit but it is deemed to be failing and has to lay people off and yet some never-yet-profitable, and possibly never-ever-profitable startup somewhere will be having another round of VC funding to spaff on its far less mature virtualisation product development.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Chickpea stew à la Bureau des Projets Spéciaux

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Boil pancetta (note splelling)?

"Every cocido I've had made by kosher Spaniards has had a proper lump of serrano in it"

Well, that might depend on just how kosher, they are!

According to some of the internets cocido does have its origins in the Jewish community but presumably without the porkiness.

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'If you see a stylus, they BLEW it' – Steve Jobs. REMEMBER, Apple?

Professor Clifton Shallot

@Dave 126

"I haven't yet used a Galaxy Note for long enough to judge it."

I've got a Note phone and a Note Pro tablet - the phone is a bit too small to really use the stylus on, although my girlfriend has come up with some decent impromptu sketches and it is handy if you are doing something where your hand might obscure useful information.

The tablet is a different matter - there's enough screen real estate to have a decent sized handwriting area (recognition is the best I have ever seen but as a former Newton owner I may be easier than average to impress) and drawing and sketching on something that's more like A4 size feels a lot more natural.

There's a tiny amount of lag - little enough that you stop noticing quite quickly but it is there - and obviously plastic on coated glass is almost friction free and so feels quite different from paper. (I might actually consider one of the lower-quality screen protectors to mitigate this).

For something completely portable it's in the 'good enough' bracket IMO.

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Hawking and friends: Artificial Intelligence 'must do what we want it to do'

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: motivation

He was more interested in looking at the unintended consequences of even seemingly trivial instructions rather than paperclips per se but I do take your point.

Would "Make as many paperclips as we can profitably sell!" fit better?

It wouldn't take much imagination to see this leading to equally disastrous consequences.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: motivation

Agree completely. Strong or weak, AI needs some sort of purpose and this is what potentially dangerous.

Someone who is fortunate enough to be paid to think about this sort of thing (Nick Bostrom, perhaps?) gives the example of an AI that is tasked with making paperclips efficiently.

Given this as a motivation the logical conclusion as he sees it is the elimination of human life (as we know and like it at least) as very early on it would be clear that preventing anything from interfering with paperclip production is one of the essential tasks.

Bostrom (or whoever; I've outsourced my memory to Google and while they are doing a good job for the price it isn't perfect) suggests that in fact we are not yet in a position to set any task before any AI worthy of the name where the elimination or subjugation of humans is not the end result.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Artificial Insanity

Playing devil's advocate for a massive change I'd suggest that if these (strong) artificial intelligences do not exceed our own then what can they do for us that we cannot do for ourselves? It would be like making a spanner out of fingers.

If they are to be useful tools they must exceed their creators in those respects that are pertinent to their function.

I don't really have a problem with that.

We have a better chance of getting an artificial intelligence spread across the universe than we do a meat-base one and that alone makes it seem worth having a go at.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: *Eyeroll*

" we're a LONG ways from being able to make anything that could be called true AI. We don't even understand how human self awareness works or what it is that makes us capable of independent thought. How are we supposed to replicate programmatically something we don't understand? It's just not going to happen any time soon."

We're closer to being able to make an artificial intelligence than we are to making one we are certain will not cause us problems.

And we're actively trying to get closer to making one. Their point is that we should at least run our efforts to ensure it is not harmful in parallel with our efforts to ensure it happens.

We can already replicate human self awareness without understanding it - that's how you and I got here - we would not necessarily have to understand it, and certainly wouldn't have to understand it fully, in order to replicate it artificially to a degree significant enough to get ourselves into trouble.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Slaves

"The purpose of AI is to have slaves."

It's not obvious that this is the case at all and it is not even clear that the word "slave" would necessarily have negative connotations for such artificial intelligences even if it was semantically correct.

" You cannot lock into a cupboard any sentient being that has not broken any laws."

Well you can. And we do. We tend to frown on it when we do it to other humans, less so as our confidence in the sentience of the creature involved decreases. However any artificial intelligence would be a new case and new rules would apply. If your complaint is that these rules would be arbitrary then you are right but there isn't an absolute moral authority for us to consult on the matter so we will have to decide for ourselves what would be unacceptable in this case.

"If then given freedom it would no doubt want company of its own sort"

This simply does not follow. Why would it? Because you would? It will not be you.

"and create offspring"

WTF? Why? And why would this necessarily be a problem anyway?

"Whether or not they turn out to be benign is anyone's guess"

The whole point of all this is that (in the opinion of these very clever people) we are now at the point where we have to think about how we would ensure that they were benign - and we need to do this before we make them.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: All beginning to take on a 'Drama Queen' tone...

The problem is that we can't usually define all the things we don't want done and we certainly can't if the intelligence devising them surpasses our own.

The key distinction is the one the earlier poster made - we need these things to do what we want them to do and not what they have been told to do if the two are not the same.

We would not want an instruction like "make sure no one is unhappy" to result in action that made sure every one was dead, for example. Or fitted with some kind of artificial limbic lobe stimulator. Or drugged. Or any of the other creative solutions an intelligent but imperfectly-empathetic system might decide upon.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Question for people here smarter than me...

The convention is to use "Strong A.I." for things that could be called self aware (something that could perform any mental task that we are capable of) and "Weak A.I." for something that is dedicated to a particular task or set of tasks.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Je suis Charlie

Even though we talk as though we just know what these terms mean, "intelligence" is very difficult to define and "free will" isn't much easier.

We assume we have both (to at least as great a degree as anything we have ever observed) so we tend to define things in reference to ourselves; if something convinces us that it is intelligent then it is - or may as well be because that's all any of us has to judge another by.

We probably wouldn't be convinced by anything that couldn't set out a goal and a plan to achieve it but it's not clear that this couldn't be a deterministic system that did not have the degree of free will that we believe ourselves to have.

There's a related track considering whether determinism is in fact necessary to separate free will from random behaviour which brings us back to our ill-defined terms.

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Frustration with Elite:Dangerous boils over into 'Refund Quest'

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: And the moral here is

"Don't buy a game until it comes out and you know you'll like it."

The dilemma here was that I wanted the game to happen and it might not have without being backed.

I'm perfectly sanguine about that backing not resulting in quite what I wanted but accepting that there was no guarantee that it would be perfect (for me) does not mean I'm not rather hacked off about the change they have made to the promised product and the way they went about notifying us of that change and handling complaints.

I won't be asking for a refund, and I will probably give the game a go at some point but that's quite a way from the excitement I originally had and I have to say that the whole experience puts me off Frontier and may even put me off funding other games in this way. Fortunately Wasteland has been quite a lot of fun so far which restores a bit of faith in the general idea.

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If 4G isn’t working, why stick to the same approach for 5G?

Professor Clifton Shallot

Priorities

" Is it more important to slash power consumption than push further increases in data rate?"

Yes. Yes, it is.

Better battery life is more important than:

- Increased data rates compared with 4G

- Thinner phones

- Screen resolution

- Loud speakers

- Pinkness, glitter, gold, or rhinestones

Ta.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: What about France ?

"What about France ?

"It is already 75 percent Nuclearified for its leccy. And no one seems to mind it or object . Been that way for many years."

France has an admirable dedication to energy self-sufficiency as a matter of national security and nuclear is a huge part of that but to suggest that no one objects when they build nuclear plants is way off the mark.

Apart from anything this is France and people object to almost everything almost all the time.

Nuclear gets the same sort of objections as it does anywhere,it just has greater government support and so a) there are better incentives (/bribes if you are that way inclined) for areas that accept the plants and b) it will happen anyway whatever anyone says

Sarkozy flat out refused to discuss the matter - the UK gives more of an ear to the NIMBYs and Green activists / nutters. Cameron did sign up for cooperation with France on nuclear power though so that may change.

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Man asks internet for $1k for pebbles. INTERNET SAYS YES

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: missing the point,@Sweep

you may find this interesting:

Yes, indeed. Thank you very much.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: 40%

"No, the reason they "stuck" at 40 is because anything less than 40 can't be called whisky."

That rather begs the question though.

If whisky was better more diluted then the legal minimum ABV would be lower - or at least there would be pressure from the industry for it to be so as who wouldn't want to sell more water and less expensive distillate, particularly if it tasted nicer to the customer?

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: missing the point @Velv

'In an ideal world all whisky would be sold "Cask Condition"'

Cask strength do you mean?

It is mandatory for Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y to spend time in casks prior to bottling.

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: missing the point

"Apparently it releases some of the flavouring compounds, thus accenting the nose (smell), and allows the more complex compounds to dissolve, bringing out the more subtle edges of the taste."

Yes, but by what process? Any chemists care to comment?

"The reason they stuck at 40 is because the flavour of the drink falls away fairly rapidly if you dilute past that point."

So should we only be adding water to the whisky that has not already been diluted to this point?

And should we be adding water to our brandy, calvados, gin, and rum if they are above this strength?

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Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: missing the point

"whisky ... usually benefits from a small amount of water

I hear this a lot.

Can anyone explain what is actually going on?

If it benefits from a small amount of water why is it not just diluted more in the first place?

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Pebble: The brilliant stealth wearable Apple's Watch doesn't see coming

Professor Clifton Shallot

Purely anecdotal I realise but my Pebble goes longer than a week between charges (about nine days in fact).

The UI is obviously not very slick and (because) the screen resolution is low but that's a result of the focus on battery life which is the correct compromise IMO - it certainly made the difference between me stumping up on Kickstarter and writing it off as a silly gadget.

Personally I think they've done very well - initial production and distribution delays aside - largely through setting themselves achievable goals that were in line with what people would find useful rather than aiming for a wow factor with insufficient utility backing it up.

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I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: The glaring philosophical issues of time travel

"when a couple of Star Trek characters travel in time ... it's as if they say "well, we just had an adventure that ... throws into doubt all our concepts of self, consciousness ,.. Let's never speak of this again.""

Well they are all already used to teleporting which raises pretty much all the same issues so I guess they have dealt with any cognitive dissonance.

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Technology quiz reveals that nobody including quiz drafters knows anything about IT

Professor Clifton Shallot

The Moore's Law question result ...

... is for me the most interesting thing about this. As the article points out complete ignorance ought to lead to a 50-50 split so to have more than two-thirds of answers wrong is significant.

I'd love to know if people thought they knew what Moore's law was but were wrong, if they just thought transistors had nothing to do with computers (because they are in old radios?), or what.

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Two driverless cars stuffed with passengers are ABOUT TO CRASH - who should take the hit?

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: You what?

"About time the ethicists were told to bugger off"

Not a fan of The Only Way Is Ethics?

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: I can't be...

My local Spar sells a range of scotch eggs including one that is made with a pickled egg and coated with salt and vinegar crisps instead of breadcrumbs.

I wouldn't say I prefer the egg pickled but it's certainly a good variation to have available.

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Space Commanders rebel as Elite:Dangerous kills offline mode

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: I don't know about the T&C's

What are your stretch goals?

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Jony Ive: Apple isn't here to make money. And students shouldn't use computers so much

Professor Clifton Shallot

So should we have good design or not?

If people are not allowed to copy good design then there will be more badly designed things around to offend him.

If he cares about the design more than the money why would he mind being copied?

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Bendy, but hangs loose too: Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10-inch Android tab

Professor Clifton Shallot

I think it might be the case that these particular tablets are also being released running Windows on the same or only very slightly different (more RAM?) hardware.

So Linux ought to be no problem in terms of the capabilities of the device.

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It's the WORST game ever, just pulled from a desert DUMP ... now ET can be yours for $500

Professor Clifton Shallot

Excellent article. Thanks for the link.

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Boiling point: Tech and the perfect cuppa

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: Sainsbury's, £25, job job

"Title says it all."

Some of it twice.

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Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE

Professor Clifton Shallot

Re: We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium.

"we don't have a hope in hell of filling anything larger"

She sold the place out for 22 nights in 15 minutes (and tickets were not cheap).

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