Google Will Soon Let You Locate, Ring and Remote Wipe Your Android Phone From Its Upcoming Web-Based Device Manager

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Apple users have long been able to use iOS’s built-in device locator and remote wiping features, but Android users had to resort to third-party applications. That’s changing soon. Google today announced that it’ll launch a new Android Device Manager later this month that will allow you to locate and ring your misplaced (or stolen) device and perform a remote wipe so your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

The service, Google says, will be available on devices running Android 2.2 or up and judging from today’s announcement, the Android Device Manager site will feature a dedicated area for pinging your lost device. It’s not clear what else users will be able to do on the new Device Manager site, however.

Overall, of course, this new service looks a lot like Apple’s Find My iPhone feature. You’ll be able to make your phone ring at maximum volume (just in case it’s stuck between your couch cushions), for example. The locator feature will highlight your phone’s location on a map (no surprise there) and remote wiping just takes a few clicks. Unlike on Apple’s platform, though, it doesn’t look like users will be able to send messages to their lost phones or use something akin to Apple’s remote lock tool.

There is nothing really new here, of course, and some OEMs already offered some of these features on their Android phone, but Android users will sure be happy to hear that Google is finally making its own tool available to its users.

Chromecast Is a Cord Cutter’s Dream for $35, and I Want More

Every night, it’s the same situation. My wife and I are on the couch, TV off, immersed in our respective computing devices, when she breaks the silence: “Let’s watch something.”

chromecastathome

From there, it’s a process. I look for the Xbox 360 controller and twiddle my thumbs while it boots, or if it’s out of reach, maybe I get up and turn on our media PC instead. I return to my comfy seat and fumble with one remote or another, none of them really ideal for shuffling through vast menus of video content. By the time we’re actually watching something, 10 minutes have passed.

This is the life of a cord cutter. We save insane amounts of money every month by not subscribing to cable TV, but the alternative of watching Internet video sometimes feels like a chore. I’m really hoping Chromecast is the solution.

Chromecast is a $35 dongle that plugs into an HDMI slot on your television, and its main purpose is to reduce the amount of time between wanting to watch a video on Netflix or YouTube and actually doing it.

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Netflix

The big assumption with Chromecast is that when you’re on the couch, you already have a phone or tablet in your hands. Instead of reaching for a remote, all you have to do is open your Netflix or YouTube app, find the video you want to watch, and press a little “Cast” button to send the video to your television.

Chromecast is supposed to handle the rest. Over Wi-Fi, your phone tells the dongle what to watch. The dongle automatically turns on your television, switches to the appropriate input and begins streaming the video you’ve chosen.

It’s a subtle but important distinction from AirPlay, the method Apple uses to beam videos to an Apple TV. With AirPlay, the video gets streamed directly from your iOS device or Mac. Chromecast streams straight from the Internet; your phone or tablet merely sends the instructions to the dongle. Because the phone or tablet isn’t actively sending data the entire time with Chromecast, you’re not wasting battery life, and you’re free to do other things on your phone or tablet while the video plays on your TV.

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Netflix

Chromecast has another big advantage: It supports Android as well as iOS devices. I bounce between both platforms, so the fact that AirPlay only works with Apple products was the main thing holding me back from Apple TV.

In my experience, Chromecast isn’t quite as magical as Google makes it seem. While setting up the device, I got an error message saying I needed to tinker with my router settings to get the Wi-Fi connection working. But then I just tried to connect again, and everything worked.

One other nitpick: The dongle itself connects through HDMI, but it’s powered by USB, and not all TVs have powered USB jacks on them. If your TV has a “service” USB port, it won’t work. The only other option is to plug the dongle into a wall outlet, which detracts from its overall slickness.

I also had to adjust my television’s settings to get Chromecast to automatically turn on my TV and switch inputs. As GigaOM’s Janko Roettgers explains, Chromecast uses a little-known technology called HDMI-CEC to control your television, but every TV maker refers to this technology differently. To get the controls working on my Sharp TV, I had to find the “Aquos Link” menu and toggle the setting for “Auto Power On.”

chromecastcast

Jared Newman for TIME

After getting those issues straightened out, Chromecast worked flawlessly. When you open Netflix or YouTube on an iOS or Android device, the app recognizes that there’s a Chromecast in the house, and presents the option to send videos to your television. You can start controlling Chromecast playback on one phone, then switch to another and pick up the controls from there.

Depending on your situation, this may not be ideal. Letting any phone or tablet control Chromecast could lead to a power struggle in your living room. And if you have a lot of people over, choosing a video on your phone might not be as fun as letting everyone see their options on the big screen. But even then, Chromecast could still be great for those moments when you suddenly want to share a YouTube video with everyone in the room.

The bigger drawback for Chromecast is that it only works with a handful of apps: YouTube, Netflix, Google Play Music and Google Play Video. Pandora support is coming soon, and other developers are free to add Chromecast support to their apps, but it’s too early to assume that the Chromecast ecosystem is going to boom.

Chromecast also lets you send any browser tab to the big screen from Chrome on a Windows PC, Mac or Chromebook. But right now, Google’s calling this a beta feature, and it’s easy to see why. In my experience on both a Chromebook and a powerful Windows desktop, streaming video regularly fell out of sync with the audio. And unlike the video streaming from a phone or tablet, you must leave the current tab open for it to stream on the television. That puts a strain on your computer’s battery life and prevents you from doing other things at the same time. The Chrome-based streaming is a fine feature for viewing online photos or other static web pages, but I would not recommend getting a Chromecast for the sole purpose of sending video from a laptop to your television.

Those issues haven’t prevented me from buying a Chromecast for myself. (The one I’m using now is on loan from Google.) Netflix streaming alone accounts for the vast majority of my video-watching at home, and $35 is well worth the convenience of being able to select and watch videos faster than I have before. If more developers end up supporting Chromecast, it’ll just be icing.

On that note, some critics see the lack of a dedicated remote and TV interface as a problem for Chromecast. I see it as an opportunity. It allows app developers to support Chromecast without the extra work of creating separate television apps, which they largely haven’t done for the perpetually-flailing Google TV. And as someone who gave up clunky cable remotes a long time ago, I’m ready for those button-laden monstrosities to be replaced by phones and tablets. Chromecast is the first device that envisions the touch screen as your primary remote control. It probably won’t be the last.

Apple Confirms That Its Dev Center Has Been Breached By Hackers

apple-breachAfter 3 days of silence as to why the iOS Developer Center has been down, Apple has just confirmed that they are investigating a security breach.

Developers just began receiving the email below; Apple has confirmed to us that the e-mail is legitimate.

According to the email, Apple detected a security breach on its Dev Center servers on Thursday. While most of the information on the servers was encrypted and Apple claims it’s safe, they do say that the hacker(s) may have accessed developer’s names, addresses, and email addresses.

Though we’ve yet to hear any reports of any individual accounts being used maliciously, it seems the intruders might already be attempting to use the accessed data to their advantage; since the developer center went down on Thursday, we’ve heard dozens of reports of developers receiving unsolicited password reset requests. A quick search on Twitter turns up dozens more.

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Update — Just got off the phone with an Apple rep, who confirmed a bit more:

  • The hack only affected developer accounts; standard iTunes accounts were not compromised
  • Credit card data was not compromised
  • They waited three days to alert developers because they were trying to figure out exactly what data was exposed
  • There is no time table yet for when the Dev Center will return

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Nokia Lumia 1020 camera compared to a Canon 60D DSLR, comes out on top

A lot of people were asking how the new Nokia Lumia 1020 stacks up against a DSLR. Unfortunately, the software on the 1020 isn’t fully complete yet so Nokia doesn’t allow samples to be published, so it’s early for a proper comparison. But it doesn’t hurt to take a peek – a quick comparison of photos on the device itself gives a preliminary answer.

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After the unveiling, Nokia had set up a small lab with resolution charts so MyNokiaBlog was able to do the comparison of Lumia 1020 against a Canon 60D.

Two photos were snapped from the same distance – one with the 1020 and one with the 60D. The resolution lines on the Lumia 1020 photo started to converge around the 16 mark, while the lines in 60D photos converge around 12-13.

These marks show the vertical resolution (divided by 100), so around 1,600 lines for the Lumia and 1,300 lines for the Canon. This is meant to measure resolved detail, which is different from the raw pixels due to noise and other considerations.

That shouldn’t come as such a surprise – the Nokia Lumia 1020 packs a lot more pixels than the 60D (18MP APS-C sensor) and the black and white lines of the ISO chart are very easy to resolve (compared to a real-life scene).

Note that the Lumia 1020 image above is a screenshot from the video of the phone displaying the image – far from perfect, as you can imagine. Still, it’s an interesting first taste, until Nokia finishes up tuning the software.

Here’s how the test was done:

And one more test, showing how much of a PowerPoint-looking presentation the Nokia Lumia 1020 can capture from a distance.

 

You can learn more about the Nokia Lumia 1020 and its camera in our preview.

Source

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Debunking Some Myths About Native And HTML5 Hybrid Apps

ipadgoogleplusAn elegant iPad app is like a fine yacht. Built the right way, the app can have a sense of elegance that provides the customer with an optimal experience. The Google+ iPad app has that beauty and usability. Flipboard provides a similar experience. But even more so, an iPad app moves the work experience from the desktop to the mobile arena.

According to Wall Street & Technology, that apparently also includes retail trading, where iPads are fast replacing the desktop. Several companies have abandoned HTML5 for pure native app development. LinkedIn made the switch to native apps, as did Xero, the successful online accounting SaaS provider. But the move toward HTML5 with iOS wrappers is certainly growing.

For the uninitiated, a hybrid is written with web technologies that run inside a native app container. For example, a hybrid iPad app would be written in HTML5 with Javascript and CSS. Developer frameworks to build these new types of apps include PhoneGap and  appMobi,  now part of Intel. Icenium is another example of this new kind of framework. Salesforce.com has its own offering. Conduit have morphed into a framework provider from its roots in providing community toolbars.

tradeMonster is an HTML5 app that is contained in an iOS wrapper, which does two things: It gives the app the status and usefulness of being on the iPad and the practicality of having the code on the server. The goal is to make the iPad as powerful as its desktop counterpart with the security and easy access that comes with having access to the code.

TradeMonster shows how hybrid mobile apps can be viable in the most demanding of environments. It’s really not about one being better than the other. TradeMonster illustrates how leveraging both iOS and HTML5 can make for a first-rate app experience and can serve as a model for replacing the desktop.

For TradeMonster, standard frameworks were not sufficient for its needs. The leading retail trader needed an app that can stream 8 billion stock quotes and a host of features such as watch lists and options strategies. It had to suit the heavy trader who needs to handle multiple orders on the app itself. The app can handle up to four accounts simultaneously, the layout can be changed, and the customer’s balance and portfolio can be seen in real time.

But due to the performance requirements of retail trading, the TradeMonster platform is designed to stream across its own proprietary architecture. For example, that allows the customer to view trades anywhere on any device where the app is running.

It’s true that HTML5 works across different platforms, but getting an app to function properly across such a fragmented landscape is a different story. TradeMonster addressed several issues in HTML5 in order to have a universal footprint across any device:

Scrolling: TradeMonster developers wrote their own components to deal with the rendering issues inherent in browser scrolling. They also wrote their own home-grown slider.
Requests: To optimize the pulling of the data, TradeMonster used a combination of methods to detect a user’s bandwidth and latency.
Animation: To make the transition between screens fluid, TradeMonster wrote its own menu component and combined them with some intelligent loading of screens, optimized to the user’s bandwidth and other factors.
Memory footprint: With a hybrid approach, the memory footprint is higher. To remedy this, TradeMonster had to write some optimization code for memory usage.
Event handling: Several events are fired for updates. For example, market data or an order might come in. In that case, the screen should update or request for updated data. Also, when someone does a trade or action on the desktop, it is also delivered for the iPad to update, as well.

CTO Sanjib Sahoo will be the first to tell you that the approach they have taken with TradeMonster was done to fit their own needs. What they have is not a universal answer for enterprise mobile developers. Their method is complicated by the custom code requirements that they have which are necessary to serve retail traders. They also have the advantage of their own proprietary streaming architecture, also needed for its retail trading customer base.

But regardless, their experience shows the viability of hybrid apps. If an HTML5 app can excel in retail trading, then it’s clear its uses are fairly broad across the market.

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Bing As A Platform Will Allow Microsoft To Compete With Google For Developer Cred

bing_logoMicrosoft knows how to build platforms, so when it announces a new one, it’s worth taking a closer look. Until last week, Microsoft mostly wanted you to think of Bing as a search engine that could compete with Google. At its Build developer conference, however, the company made a surprise announcement: Bing is now also a developer platform. Microsoft is opening up tools like Bing’s Entity API, speech capabilities, optical character recognition, translation and a number of other tools for developers of third-party apps. It’s also bringing its existing Maps API under the Bing Services umbrella.

Microsoft describes these services as “an intelligent fabric” that it uses to build products “to help people interact with the world’s knowledge and their surroundings in a more human way.” Microsoft already uses some of these capabilities internally, but it’s now opening them up to others, as well.

The Entity API is the highlight of the Bing services. If Microsoft plays this smart, it could establish Bing as the go-to platform for developers who need easy access to information about the real world for their apps. While not everything from Bing’s advanced Satori Entity engine — Microsoft’s version of Google’s Knowledge Graph — will soon be available through the Entity API (Microsoft has not announced a launch date for the Entity API yet), the company believes it will allow developers “to build scenarios that augment users’ abilities to discover and interact with their world faster and more easily than they can do today.”

As Microsoft’s Director of Search Stefan Weitz told me during a brief chat after Microsoft announced the new Bing developer services, there had been some discussion inside the company about making these tools available to developers outside of the company. It’s a very good sign that those in favor of opening the platform up to outsiders won this fight.

The limitation right now is that some of these new Bing services will at least for now only be available for Microsoft’s own platforms, including Windows 8, 8.1 and Xbox One. Given Microsoft’s push to get more and better applications onto the Windows 8 platform (in the form of more “metro” apps), this move makes sense in the short-term, but if Microsoft really wants to turn Bing into a developer platform, it will have to open all of these services to developers on all platforms.

Microsoft knows that it’s competing for developers’ attention and mind share. Google already offers a plethora of services for developers, and Microsoft, despite its investment in Azure, Visual Studio, Team Foundation and the ecosystem around them, was never the go-to company for most developers who were looking for API-based services like maps, speech recognition or search tools.

If the company continues to invest in Bing as a platform and can demonstrate its commitment to these tools, it has a real chance to attract many developers who otherwise would have never considered using its tools or building for its platforms.

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IE11 Gives Microsoft A Shot At Browser Redemption

ie-logo2Internet Explorer is a hard product to love. It was so bad for so long and Microsoft abused its position of having the dominant browser for so many years that even today, with a few solid releases under its belt, IE still feels like the browser you should hate. But with IE11, which just launched with the Windows 8.1 Preview, Microsoft is finally stepping up its game to the point where there’s a reason to take IE seriously again. And it deserves another look from both developers and users.

Microsoft didn’t go into all that much depth when it discussed IE11 during its Build keynotes, but during an IE-focused press briefing, the company opened up a bit more about the state of its browser. The main takeaway from that session, at least for me, was that Microsoft believes that the fact that it only has to focus on one platform allows it to build a superior browser. Other browsers, the message was, have to work on so many platforms and that means the developers have to make too many compromises.

With being fully focused on Windows and Windows RT, Microsoft argues, it can include fast hardware-accelerated features like WebGL and even significantly faster font rendering. It’s not just 3D content where IE is now competitive (and often ahead of the competition). While Microsoft often shied away from putting standard JavaScript benchmarks on it screen and argued that “real world” performance was more important, it now proudly put the usual Kraken, Octane and SunSpider numbers on the screen. The results are indeed impressive. I repeated some of these benchmarks myself and IE11 always easily beat Chrome and Firefox in all of these (arguably unscientific) tests.

If you want to see an impressive example of IE11 in action, try out Microsoft’s new Lawn Mark 2013 and Levitation demos.

There are other features that make IE11 interesting, too. The new pinned sites feature in the Start Menu, for example, allows any site to create an app-like experience on the Windows 8.1 desktop. Bookmarks are now synced over SkyDrive and the browser is integrated with the new Reading List feature in Windows 8.1 (though sadly, there is no Instapaper-like, distraction-free reading mode).

Microsoft is really focusing on touch in the browser, and with Pointer Events, it’s working to make this a W3C standard for all browsers.

All of this doesn’t mean IE11 is perfect, though. Far from it. While it now finally supports standards like WebGL and has support for SPDY (something Microsoft did not exactly highlight), WebRTC is still missing in action. The Metro/Windows 8-style version of IE is also still decoupled from the desktop version. It’s also still not clear whether IE11 will ever come to Windows 7, though Microsoft pretty clearly hinted at this during its Build press briefing.

Overall, IE11 gives Microsoft a shot at being taken seriously again in the browser game. Even though it’s not a dominant player anymore, it still owns a lot of market share around the world. And no matter how you feel about Microsoft, a better IE makes for a better web ecosystem for both developers and users.

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Rumors on Ivy Bridge-E: 3 SKUs, September Release?

A performance enthusiast always wants to know what is coming next.  This morning HardwareLuxx published a rather interesting and official looking Intel slide detailing information about the upcoming enthusiast platform, Ivy Bridge-E.  While we cannot confirm the legitimacy of the slide, it does follow several patterns we had been assuming for a while.

Firstly the launch date is a little surprising.  Initially we have all been discussing October/November, but this slide puts the launch squarely at the beginning of September, between the 4th and the 11th.  This is around the same date as IDF San Francisco, held on the 10-12th September.

As with previous launches, there will be a strict NDA date for media to publish results and demonstrations.  Judging by what is written there does not seem to be much room for an upgrade to new chipsets, meaning that X79 is still the platform of choice at this time.  I would not mind seeing an X89 with a full set of SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0 in the near future.ivy_bridge-e_launch

Alongside release details, CPU-World has posted information on the processor SKUs which are expected to be released.  The top SKU is to be an i7-4960X, featuring 6 cores (12 threads) at 3.6 GHz which turbos up to 4 GHz and a total of 15MB L3 cache.  This is going to be our top end SKU, which normally retails for $999-$1099.  Below this is the i7-4930K, also 6 cores (12 threads) but set at 3.4 GHz with turbo up to 3.9 GHz and 12MB L3 cache.  The final SKU should be the more interesting – the i7-4820K.  The –K moniker suggests this part is unlocked, but unfortunately it is only a quad core (8 threads) part with 10MB L3 cache.

Ivy Bridge-E SKUs (predicted)
SKU Cores / Threads Speed / Turbo L3 Cache TDP Memory
i7-4820K 4/8 3.7 GHz / 3.9 GHz 10 MB 130 W DDR3-1866
i7-4930K 6/12 3.4 GHz / 3.9 GHz 12 MB 130 W DDR3-1866
i7-4960X 6/12 3.6 GHz / 4.0 GHz 15 MB 130 W DDR3-1866

One of the main benefits of Nehalem but a big issue with Sandy Bridge-E was the lack of a cheap overclocking SKU – while the i7-920 had big success, the i7-3820 eventually came along but it was not enough.  This Ivy Bridge-E low end SKU is going to be directly compared with the i7-4770K Haswell SKU, and the only thing going for it is the quad channel memory support, as it loses at IPC.  All three IVB-E CPUs should come in at 130W TDP, and as an overclocker I am hoping that the Ivy Bridge overheating issues are sorted with the IVB-E processors.

Source: HardwareLUXX, CPU-World

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BitTorrent Would Really Like Everyone To Stop Suggesting It’s Being Used For Piracy

bittorrentAt this point, you’ve probably read about how popular Game of Thrones is on BitTorrent — and there’s at least one article calling the show “the once and future king of BitTorrent.” Well, it sounds like BitTorrent, the company developing the open source file-sharing protocol of the same name, is getting a bit tired of the coverage.

In a just-published blog post, the company’s vice president of marketing, Matt Mason (pictured), argues that it’s inaccurate to talk about a BitTorrent piracy record, because “piracy happens outside the BitTorrent ecosystem”:

We don’t host infringing content. We don’t point to it. It’s literally impossible to “illegally download something on BitTorrent.” To pirate stuff, you need more than a protocol. You need search, a pirate content site, and a content manager. We offer none of those things. If you’re using BitTorrent for piracy, you’re doing it wrong.

These so-called “records” are presumably based on numbers from pirate websites that have no affiliation with BitTorrent, Inc. If they’re corroborated using data from pirate websites, they’re “Internet Piracy Records”. They’re not “BitTorrent Piracy Records”.

I asked company spokesperson Christian Averill if the company is just trying to distinguish between BitTorrent the technology and BitTorrent the company. He said it’s more than that:

The piracy itself is happening outside of the protocol. The technology is exploited as part of [the] technology stack used for piracy. As such, it is only the pipes that content moves through. You can not rip a DVD with BitTorrent technology and there is no infringing content hosted on BitTorrent and pirated content is not promoted on BitTorrent.

Why is the company getting worked up about this? Probably because it’s increasing efforts to work with artists, labels, and other content companies on legal ways to promote and, eventually, monetize their work. (Last month we wrote about how the company is trying to “productize” these efforts through the BitTorrent Bundle.) Having its name constantly associated with piracy probably isn’t the most helpful thing for those discussions.

On that front, Mason notes that the show that’s supposed to have set the piracy record is the Game of Thrones season premiere, which was downloaded by 5.2 million people worldwide. (Actually, Mason refers to the finale, but I’m pretty sure he actually means the premiere.) However, he said that the show Epic Meal Time, which was shared legally on BitTorrent as a bundle, has been downloaded 8,626,987 times, making it “the real king of BitTorrent.”

Still, I’m guessing that changing the way people frame the discussion around piracy and BitTorrent is going to be a pretty steep uphill climb.

New iOS App Lets You Record What You Heard Five Minutes Ago

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Have you ever wished that you could record something that already happened? Your kid’s first words. That perfectly timed comeback. The email address your boss told you to have those important documents sent to within the next 10 minutes. If only there was a way to record the important bits of your life, without having to record all of it.

That’s the idea behind Heard, a new app for iOS. Heard constantly records the audio around you into an ephemeral, self-destructing buffer, saving only those fleeting moments that you deem worthy.

Once you open Heard, it immediately begins recording everything within earshot of the iPhone’s microphone. Rather than dumping all of that audio into one incredibly boring and incredibly long file, though, Heard records into a constantly rotating buffer. If something happens that you just have to save, you pop into the app and tap a single button — boom, it’s recorded. Do nothing, and the buffer is erased, that audio instantly disappearing into the digital ether.

Heard will continue to record audio even when running in the background, albeit with a big ol’ red “RECORDING” banner placed up at the top of your screen.

Once recorded, clips can be named, tagged, emailed, or shared on Facebook.

heard

Heard just launched late last week, and they’re testing a freemium model to begin with. Out of the box, the free app records up to 12 seconds of the past — not a whole lot, but enough to help you wrap your head around the concept. Pay $1.99 for the “Bigger Audio Buffer” in-app purchase, and you can bump the recording buffer up to 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 5 minutes.

Now, before you shout “OH MY GOD, SPY APP, NSA PRISM AGH!”, think about it: if someone is actively trying to record you saying something incriminating, this wouldn’t be a very good app for it. It would offer no advantage in that case over iOS’ built-in Voice Memo recorder — which, like this app, can record while running in the background — or even a cheapo tape recorder, but multiple disadvantages (the five minute limit, the need to tap the ‘save’ button without anyone noticing). Still, anyone using the app should always make sure everyone being recorded is fully aware; in some states, not doing so could get you into sticky legal situations.

You can find Heard in the app store, for free, here.

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