I can see it might be worth doing something with an RPN HP, but it's not even worth putting batteries in a TI, let alone a new firmware.
Lawyers for Texas Instruments are taking aim at a group of calculator enthusiasts who posted the cryptographic keys used to modify the devices so they run custom-designed software. Over the past few weeks, TI has sent webmasters letters invoking the DMCA, or US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PDF), and demanding they remove …
I can see it might be worth doing something with an RPN HP, but it's not even worth putting batteries in a TI, let alone a new firmware.
But it should be breakable. Another failed business who has a product and refuses to look at all the things that it can do. what a waste.
This sort of thing highlights why the DMCA is evil and iniquitous. The keys are needed if you want to load your own software that you have written to your own calculator that you have paid for. There is no legitimate reason why a company should be able to prevent you doing that.
The Lexmark decision should apply here, it was found to be OK to reverse engineer the printer cartridges. The trouble is the hobbyists and students involved probably can't afford to tackle a big company head on.
Better off with HP calculators anyways. Those TI toys are garbage. It can be a nuisance sometimes not using what everyone else uses though.
Ti just joined the (not so select) club of openly criminal organisation, wiith members such as: apple (illegal iphone/ipod lockout), RIAA/MPAA (those have simply no legal reason to exist) and Sony (massive world wide virus infection).
TI as now lost all credibility and should not even be in business.
no company have any right to dictate what i can do or not with a product that i OWN PERIOD.
thos key should be publish on every single webpage on the net (like the DVD key) to show TI that they simply cannot prevent peoples from using a product paid for PERIOD.
This is really no different to publishing the keys to the Wii, XBox, PS3 etc... Try that and see how long you last !!! :)
Just because it is a calculator doesn't mean the same software protections aren't afforded.
Sure, it is yours to do as you wish with, but don't publish the keys.
It's not different and neither should these keys be a problem, if you reverse-engineered the system to be able to deduce the keys IMO it's fair game (of course in some places reverse engineering byt itself is illegal...)
Now if you had gotten the keys into your posession by for example breaking and entering the offices, then there's some argument about this. If you had received keys under NDA then it's simply NDA violation and standard remedies apply.
Of course since there are huge interests at play even if they can't legallty force you to unpublish the keys they can simply say that do it or we'll make sure your life becomes incredibly difficult (nuisance lawsuits, ask the gov to do extra tax audits: dig deep enough and you'll always find irregularities, etcetc). This of course is highly immoral and for some parts illegal but it hasn't stopped it in the past.
Besides the signing keys don't really facilitiate much in the way of actual copyright infringement:
1. The original copyrighted software could be read all along, the signing key is just to verify it's not been tampered with, doing 1:1 copy was already possible.
2. Large scale pirates copy games already signed, the "disk key" systems are nothing but a minor speedbump when we talk about manufacturing (they're designed to stop only casual between friends copying anyway).
The only case where the signing keys could be used to "faciliate" copyright infringement is by making a modified OS that does not check game/disk signatures. But since the OS itself was already copyrighted distributing this modified version is already illegal, the keys are immaterial to this (also it's possible that there are implementation errors which would allow the OS to be patched while still matching the original signatures and thus this could again be possible without the signing keys).
So basically it's about platforn control, copyright has nothing to do with it but since it has "software" the overly draconian copyright laws can be twisted to slap those who do not have huge funds to waste on principles (or have something to lose) back into their proper place as serfs. This won't stop untill the corporations and their lawyers personally start to get heavily penalized for misusing the copyright arguments for something that doesn't really have anything to do with it.
This is not for the purpose of being able to play pirated games. This is so that people can run their homebrew apps on the calculators they own. What would they bootleg from the TI calculators by cracking them? The same crappy firmware that they want to get AWAY from?
It's also a bit rubbish to just say to "use an HP instead." What makes HPs so supposedly superior? Software that doesn't suck. This is so that people can install whatever software they want.
They really shouldn't try anything like this. It's hilariously sad.
Never owned a TI calculator and never want to after this. I own a perfectly good casio with so many functions I seriously have no clue what I would need a TI for... Granted doesn't do graphs but more or less everything else under the sun. Casio FX-991W. It's an older model(pre 2k iirc) but is a great device. And still running on original batteries.
Give me my trusty ol' HP48 any day...
Coat [enter] take
Why not just move the website to somewhere outside the US, under control of a non-US chappie (I'm sure they could find someone), and then see how far they get with their DMCA thingie.
Or is that just WAY too obvious?
Wow, what an efficient way to completely alienate the most enthusiastic section of your customer base. Along with their fan driven websites, forums and freely offered support. You might as well just hand them over to their competitors on a plate, what complete idiots.
The only business reason I can see for this is if they want people to buy "updated" products that include features that can easily be added to existing kit for free.
Christ on an AT-AT, Ti, seriously, how about updating your crabby firmware yourselves instead of punishing people who, just out of curiosity discovered they could do a bit more with their calcs than you thought possible.
I mean, if Ti were that bothered about this then perhaps using stronger cryptographic measures would have been a better option.
Heres a thought, Ti, why not offer these people the option to present their home brew and if its better than the factory stock, then implement it!!!
Heres another thought Ti, go have sex with someone and release your stress.
Paris cos she'd be amazd that if you type in 58008 and turn ya calc upside down it spells a rudey word.
Who cares if they want to change the way the calculator works, it's just a calculator.
It's not like stealing their code to put into another product, they just improving the damn thing...
They might finally get the answer to 42
Hobbyist: These TI calculators are great look what I got mine to do. You should all get one.
TI: Don't mess with my stuff.
Hobbyist: But can't you see this is helping you.
TI: Don't mess with my stuff.
Hobbyist: I'm popularising your products and if you want to you can use this stuff yourself.
TI: Don't mess with my stuff.
Hobbyist: I can't even charge you if you want to sell this as part of an upgrade or in new models.
TI: Don't mess with my stuff.
Hobbyist : You're making yourselves look like idiots and pissing off your customer base.
TI: but I'm bigger than you. (with fingers in its corporate ears) La la la la ... ad nauseum.
That people are still aloud to use these for exams. Your not alowed them in MEng exams, so anyone lower than that has no need.
I was not aware these people existed and I am now a little scared.
the number 7! thats my key for modifying my home-brew blog.
Were the copying TI firmware? No, they were overwriting it.
Were they copying TI trade secrets? No, see above.
Were they making the calculators unstable and trying to commit fraud? Err...nope.
Were they doing anything wrong? No.
Are TI acting like a bunch of dicks? Yes.
TI have IMHO really shot themselves in the foot. Who knows what weird/cool things this lot might magic up that TI could make use of in the future? How many people would buy TI calculators because they CAN be modded? I bought my MP3 player precisely because it could be hacked to out-cool an iPod.
Mashiara - you're right, distributing hacked proprietary code would be illegal; but is distributing the instructions on how to hack it illegal? I don't think it should be. If it was, logically speaking passing on instructions that could facilitate any crime should also be illegal and if that was the case, then we're all guilty!
TI can join the ranks of Apple and other corporate dicks who just don't get it.
Its a calculator, not a supercomputer.
Instead of getting the lawyers in they should have a hacking competition, that would increase sales - this will decrease sales!! Idiots.. Unless they think they can extract lots of money by suing.
So this basically boils down to 'Calculator manufacturer asks that copyrighted number be removed from website'? This is a very worrying trend, are they going to clame copyright over other numbers, perhaps smaller, more frequently used numbers? Will certain sums nolonger yeild a result but merely a request for royalties??
This is yet another example of why the DMCA need to be declared illegal and taken off of the books.
The DMCA seems to be a big business charter aimed at turning consumer purchase into rental agreements.
You buy a DVD and you want to play it on your portable media player. You can't because it's encrypted and the DMCA won't let you decrypt.
You buy a CD for your kid and find out that it has a curse word in it, and you want to bleep it out before they put it on thier iPod. You cant for the same reason.
You have an Xbox and you want to load to homebrew it for a hobby, you can't because the DMCA won't let you modify a circuit board on something that you paid good money for.
The DMCA even forbids you from doing things such as making backups(which is a legally protected consumer right under Copyright law.
It'd like very much to see it declared unconstitutional. Though I doubt that it would happen.
They should organise a mass calculator burning event, then buy themselves linux powered netbook thingys. Then they could program any sort of calculator functions whilst watching region free DVDs!
Oh yes, and print out the results via bluetooth. That *is* handy.
What the hell else are you going to use a calculator for?
Are these fancy calulators that can be reprogrammed to run Strategic Air Command like the fabled Iraqi daisy-chained PlayStations?
Couldn't the Reg have told us what type of calculators these are? Do they do graphs? or are they mummy shopping pocket-calculators? It would have been nice to know what they're reprogramming them to do that they couldn't do otherwise.
Of course it's interesting to know HOW they did it, but I'd also like to know why.
Just post it under the header of "this is is the factorization of X" on a blog and stick it to the Texas Retards.
You could go into an office and reload a trojan calculator-ware that gives everyone a pay-rise.
"12.5 512-bit integers" - boy that's a really big number. Amazing the things these distributed computing resources can do these days ...
When I was a student I used to own a programmable calculator. As calculators go it was pretty nifty, I could sit down and figure out a program that would work out simple little equations, like quadratic equations for instance. I could input my values in about the same time as it would have taken me to work it out with a pen and paper, fun but pointless. I wrote several programs for it before I got bored and continued to view it as just a calculator again.
TI are flexing their muscles to no end, their company is not being compromised in any way, national security is not being compromised and at the end of the day their hardware is simply being used as a toy by people with too much time on their hands, who like to tinker.
TI should climb back in their box and stop behaving like the school bully. MS and Apple have a lot to answer for, they made it seem ok for large companies to behave like 2 year olds fighting over who owns a brightly coloured bit of paper, that will not even be a memory in the morning.
But since they do and Ti has a group of users loyal enough to support their product, when they don't seem to, perhaps they might take a leaf out of other companies books and support them, not stomp them.
From a marketing point of view. Ti, stop digging.
Then again maybe they have a bunch of lawyers on short time with nothing better to bill against. Texas does seem to be popular for iffy software copyright infringement claims.
Another neat piece of the DCMA (according to Jerry Pournelle) is that if a company makes a digital recording of a performance, they hold the default copyright, not the artist. This I gather is different from the normal artist/recording company arrangement. The Capitol Hill staffer responsible has been suitably rewarded by the industry for such strong support for their cause.
and they're like, it's better than yours
damn right, it's better than yours
I can show you, but I have to keep my identity secret
@john70: It's the question to 42...as I recall...
Unfortunately for your curious world view criminality is not judged by own personal opinion, but by the application of the law. The law does not seem to be in any hurry to find these organisations guilty of any criminal offences, so I think we can assume that they are not criminal.
If of course you want to discuss morality then that may well be a different matter. many would agree that this carry on is indeed immoral. The thing is, however, that morality and legality do not necessarily coincide. Your personal philosophy may judge morality very simply, but I'm sure there would be many differences between that definition of morality and that defined by other religions and philosophies. In the end there is no court of morality.
Taoists seem to have the best idea. Essentially working with the world the way it is rather than spending your whole time kicking against the pricks.
The only way I could imagine these keys being used to infringe TI's copyrights is if they differentiate some models purely by the firmware loaded on them.
If they wanted the devices to be firmware upgradeable but prevent owners of the cheaper models installing the firmware from the more expensive model, then using different signing keys for the different devices would be one way to achieve this.
If those signing keys were reverse engineered, then it would be possible to re-sign the advanced firmware for the cheaper device in order to use it contrary to TI's license.
Now of course this has no benefit to the customer, but is the type of thing the anti-circumvention provisions in the DMCA were designed to protect.
"TI has the educational market squarely nailed down and they don't have anything to worry about so long as they make sure their calculators can be trusted to be resettable," Smith told The Register. "They've got all the (test) administrators knowing the TI calculators are trustworthy, and they don't want that to be undermined."
The graphing calculator market is pretty massive; TI couldn't care less if people modified their firmware in other circumstances. If kids can modify their calculators, they can use them to cheat on standardized tests.
That said, the way these tests are designed is pretty fail. Kids should only need a pencil and a sharp mind.
Hardly one of the above posts are spelt and structured correctly!
I can assume by the veracity of your collected fuming over Texas Instruments that you 'hail from the far side of the pond'
For a conglomeration of people so enthused by calculators, I would've thought you'd produce a higher class of drivel!
Yes, I’ve gone for the Troll, but he is a Troll of conviction!.....
In the article a very critical point was made, and it seems totally missed by all the usual freetards.
TI have a very specific market for these calculators - they are currently allowed in schools and are accredited for use in exams. It the ability to load them with a new OS becomes widespread there will be no choice but to remove this accreditation. At this point the entire market for the calculators evaporates, and TI will probably simply stop making them. This would be a bad outcome. I have some sympathy for the teachers trying to avoid a classroom full of kids with calculators loaded with cheat sheets. (I have even more sympathy for banning any calculator, even a four function from exams, but that is another argument.)
It is simply life. There is no right answer here. A bunch hobbyist geeks spend vastly too much time breaking the key, and as a result risk destroying the product. You can argue all you like about the ins and outs of the legality, but in the end it is going to be all about what the actual effect is.
Only a few people seemd to have twigged that the copyright is not over the software, it is over the key. The key was obtained by essentially the equivalent of breaking the encryption, and thus probably is subject to the DMCA. And yes, all it is is a number. And, no you can't copyright a number. But you probably can copyright the expression of the key.
If the calculators were dropped from the authorised list for exams, and TI lost a significant market (which I suspect they would) TI would certainly be in a position to sue for damages. And for once, I think they would be in the right to do so.
@Francis Vaughan: Calculators loaded with cheat sheets - Give me a break. With lateral thinking that was possible 20 years ago on calculators without cracking the OS. Plus any exam that can be passed with cheat sheets is fundamentally flawed because if it can be passed this way, its based way to heavily on showing just Rote Learning which isn't demonstrating the capacity to reason with data, its just testing for a capacity to store data. So its a badly designed exam and not the fault of which calculators are used.
TI want control of their calculators its as simple as that.
Thank you, thank you, thank you - you saved me having to type all of that.
Spot on, and a shame that so many on El Reg give a typical freetard knee-jerk reaction - "On NOES, you can't limit anything in any way, you big evil, fail, corporation", rather than actually look at the issues.
If these calculators are broken and lose accrediation, then TI will simply have to update all of them to a newer OS with stronger encryption of the keys, and EVERY existing calculator that students have bought will be worthless to the students, as they will be dis-allowed in tests.
If anything, TI gets to sell more calculators, after they get the new ones accredited. This makes me believe that the only losers here would be the millions of students that have bought TI calculators that would be banned.
So, far from TI being evil and nasty, and far from the DMCA being used to enforce the power of corporations over freedom loving hackers - er, this seems to be about ensuring that the millions of kids that have bought TI graphing calculators get to keep using them without buying new ones. So...this is bad in what way???
N.B. - I also have to question the rational for the original breaking of the OS - writing your own calculator firmware really isn't that rewarding - it's not like you are going to develop a new sin algorithm that is faster. No, I highly suspect the whole reason for the cracks WAS to enable the use of cheat sheets on the calculators in the first place...
But you can already load the calculators with cheat sheets, in fact you are given one at the start of your exam! (Or at least you were a few years ago)
Thank fuck someone else gets it. If I owned one of these calculators so that I could use it in tests, because it had been approved, I'd be pretty pissed off at the nerds that hacked it and got it dropped off the approval list.
I know you can argue about freedom to do what you want with what you own, but you have to take into consideration the effect of your use on others.
that knowledge of the key allows the software to be modified, and thus allow potential cheating in exams, and the loss of accreditation by TI. I say, 'tough titties'.
If someone were to publish a modified firmware on the internet, presumably this would be based upon TI's own, at which point, they would be quite justified in crying foul, the keys required to do this should not be, and probably are not, covered in the same way by the DMCA.
On the other hand, if someone where to write their own firmware, install it onto their calculator and use it to cheat in an exam, a) it would probably be unneccessary for them to do so, as this task is prpbably harder than passing the exam in the first place and b) It is the job of the invigilator to catch that person using their calculator to cheat. I would have thought that it would be a bit of a give-away if that person was constantly referring to their calculator, whilst other students were using them only occasionally?
I can, however, see why TI would be scared about losing accreditation but I think it is unlikely this would happen unless there were a number of recorded cases of people using ther calculators to cheat in this way. Whilst there is a theoretical loophole, I can't imagine it being exploited to any great degree.
If TI's devices weer to lose their accreditation, then it can only be considered TI's fault, and their problem. They used weak cryptography to sign their firmware, they shall reap what they sow. If they cannot prove that it is not modified, it may be an embarrassment to them, but it should should not prevent people from legally doing so. After all, the precedent has been set with the unlocking of mobile phones.
These are programmable Z80 or 68K-based graphical calculators. The following applies to the Z80-based TI-83+, I'm not too familair with the other models: user-installable Flash applications (so-called as they reside in flash ROM) need to be signed with a key to be accepted by the calculator. TI have released the "freeware" key so this has not been an issue so far. The operating system also needs to be signed to be installed, but TI has not released the key for this so any third-party operating systems have to be forced onto the hardware in a rather hacky manner (eg pulling out the batteries at the right time during an OS upgrade). By factoring the keys, a third-party operating system can be signed properly and can be installed easily to the calculator without any special hacks.
Even before we factored the signing keys, the seven Flash-able models of the TI-Z80 and TI-68k series were, for years, programmable way more than enough for the purpose of adding loads of cheat sheets and cheat programs and using them in standardized tests.
(that is, unless the RAM + Flash of all calculators were forcefully reset before the test, which is far from being done 100% of the time, AFAIK).
All that was needed is the use of assembly programs and FlashApps, all of which can take advantage of officially-documented OS-level hooks TI put in their OS. There's been a while since someone made a program that catches, upon the pressing of ENTER, the commands entered by the user, and returns garbage answers to the user (e.g 2 + 2 [ENTER] gives 123).
Therefore, if cheating is /truly/ a concern of the standardized tests' regulation bodies, they should *never* have allowed programmable calculators in the first place (and TI calculators even less than most other, less-moddable models). They'd be full of fail if, in the light of the factoring of TI's public keys (and therefore, the deduction of TI's private keys), they decided to ban TI calculators, and only TI calculators.
All nine keys of TI-68k calculators, and all seven keys of TI-Z80 calculators (one key is common to both families), can be obtained as *clear text* (let me re-state that: we *didn't* break into any encrypted content), from e.g. OS upgrades, boot code dumps and developer certificates. The factors of one of the keys were released by TI themselves as part of the TI-Z80 SDK.
Developer certificates were formerly sent by TI to people who wanted to program FlashApps and test them on their own real calculators. TI's support going silent for a long while, both for developer certificate and FlashApp signing requests, thereby preventing progress, was one of the main reasons behind the factoring of the 4 TI-68k and 3 TI-Z80 FlashApp keys.
@Robert Hill: the algorithms in TI's OS are not necessarily good, and the toolchain they use to compile them sucks a lot. Plain and simple. Reimplementing various core OS functions can yield massive performance improvements: the "next_expression_index" routine of the TI-68k OS (get address of the next expression in the RPN stack of data) was reimplemented to be 3 to 4 times faster; the "DrawStr" routine (guess what, draw a string onto a plane) can be made *an order of magnitude* faster for the common case. Et caetera.
@Ed Blackshaw: +1, except that there exist decent third-party OS which are based on TI's copyrighted OS at all (even if they aim at be compatible). For TI-68k calculators, there's PedroM: http://www.ticalc.org/pub/89/os/ , featured on Slashdot years ago. PedroM 0.82, sporting a vastly expanded CAS (which handles arbitrary-precision arithmetic, unlike the builtin CAS - but the builtin CAS also can do things that PedroM cannot), should be released soon. The author posted screenshots at http://www.yaronet.com/posts.php?sl=&s=122534&p=1&h=13#13 .
TI should be grateful that people care enough to bother doing this... Why are companies so short sighted that they alienate customers this way? Makes me wonder how far the Star Trek franchise would have gotten if they'd fought Star Trek conventions.
Surely there's a way to tell if the calculator's been modified. Or provide standard "loaners" for tests.
...I have used TI calculators for a long time because I like them, and this is exactly the sort of attitude that says "don't use TI stuff anymore." So I won't. TI may or may not "have a point," as has been discussed above, and of course, they're certainly well within their rights to decide that one demographic (people who use calculators on standardized tests carefully designed to test only how well one can perform on standardized tests) over another (hobbyists who like modifying things). But as a member of the latter, I suppose I'll just go elsewhere. Not, as I said, that TI will likely care.
Mine's the one with the linux installer disc and etherkiller in the pockets.
Most of the exams I have had which allowed the use of calculators were of a problem solving nature.
I recall them being particularly fiendish and evil and the main problem I would have would not have been a lack of 'rote' knowledge in which a cheat sheet would have helped.
Rather, I found running out of time before all questions could be answered a more dangerous reality...
Above, my "there exist decent third-party OS which are based on TI's copyrighted OS at all (even if they aim at be compatible)." should read "there exist decent third-party OS which are *NOT* based on TI's copyrighted OS at all (even if they aim at be compatible).", of course.
There's also "Punix OS" ( http://sourceforge.net/projects/punix/ ), but that one doesn't aim at being (mostly) compatible with TI's OS.
Previewing posts isn't enough for me, it seems :P
when TI would throw reams of highly detailed info at you on almost all their products.
"Is this progress?" I ask myself.
This legal action is an attempt at outright control of the way the calculators are being used. They don't want open calculators. They want to charge people for features and they don't want open competition. TI's core need for control is the same default behavior found in many corporations, which is seeking some form of control in whatever industry they are in and then seeking to exploit that control for profit. e.g. Phone companies control networks, Windows (say no more), Supermarkets control the distribution of a lot of products (and can make or break supplier companies), ISPs also show this same need of control (and show people seeking such a position to control so they can then dictate terms to us all) and so on. Even control of basic raw resources and materials is at its core that same common business need of seeking some control. e.g. Oil, Electricity, Gas, Water. When they control something others want, they have some power over others to dictate how much others pay them for what they want.
These kinds of controlling people don't want an open world where people share knowledge and data because they want to be the people to charge others for knowledge and data. I think its fascinating how the Internet is opening up a growing divide between the vast majority of people who show they wish to share and a small but powerful minority who wish to control for their own profit and then seek to get the law changed to maintain their control and profit. So the law isn't representing what society as a whole wants, its representing the wishes of only a powerful minority in near total opposition to the wishes of the vast majority of people. Its highlighting the law is being used to oppose the majority of people. So its not what society wants at all, its only what the rich powerful minority elite want ... which is as usual control to keep their rich powerful lifestyle, while the rest of us are exploited by them for their personal gain and profit.
Its the same controlling behavior with the music industry (and look at the trouble this lot are causing the Internet and freely sharing information). Musicians can earn a living from performances (*as they have done for centuries*) but the music *publishers and distributors* tell us MP3 is virtually the death of the music industry. Its not the death of the industry, its the death of their control over the music industry. Musicians will be ever more able to bypass all distribution and go direct to their customers yet the controllers of that industry seek extremely powerful law changes that affect us all, just so they can hold on to control. As usual their goal of seeking control is the real reason behind their endless FUD about the end of the music industry. As usual the need to control behind it all.
Big Brother Icon because central to George Orwell's book is the endless need for a minority in power to hold onto power to control others. After all even money is power because the more of it someone has the more they can use it to dictate terms to others who need money. Such powerful people wouldn't want an open world where knowledge and resources become fairly shared out because in such a world they wouldn't have power over others.
So TI's behavior like so many corporations all boils down to a need to control, so they can profit from control and they fear the loss of control. Their kind don't want an open world, but the vast majority of people keep showing they do want an open world, so the control freaks are fearful they are loosing out and so are seeking to control and silence the Internet (with law changes to gain power over the Internet (again showing their need to control)). Its why we all need to push for ever more openness and businesses that support openness will thrive while the control freaks will die out. The sooner the better (before the control freaks create law changes to control the Internet and in doing so, control, punish and fine us all ever more which is what is happening now).
So sadly this is becoming a battle for freedom from ever growing control over us all. Once you see all big business and politics from the position of control, all their true goals become clear. Its why Orwell warned about ever growing control and why he was even able to foresee what is happening these days. Its about how a minority relentlessly seek to control us all and just as the Internet shows how it can connect people, the Internet is bring us all closer to having to face up to the desires of the people in power. The Internet is making their need for power and control over us ever more direct and evident. Its why we all need to fight for openness because its a fight for freedom away from the control freaks otherwise we will loose the Internet as we know it and in doing so loose ever more freedom which is what is happening now. It seems the Internet's ability to connect is forcing us all to face up to the attitudes of others, including the ever more powerful minority of control freaks. But then every control creates a pressure for change away from that control so the more they seek to control us the more they create a pressure against them. No wonder they want to control the Internet.
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