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Updated: 6 hours 23 min ago

Hamish Taylor: A call to “standardised user account requirements” arms

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

We need to have a standard for management of user accounts.

Given the number of high profile companies that have been cracked into lately, I have been going through the process of closing accounts for services I no longer use.

Many of these accounts were established when I was more trusting and included real data. However now, unless I am legally required to, I no longer use my real name or real data.

But I have been bitterly disappointed by the inability of some companies to shut down old accounts. For example, one service told me that “At this time, we do not directly delete user accounts…”. I also couldn’t change my username. Another service emailed my credentials in plain text.

To protect the privacy and security of all users, an enforceable standard needs to be established covering management of user accounts. It needs to be applied across the board to all systems connected to the internet. I know how ridiculous this sounds, and that many sites wouldn’t use it, but high profile services should be able to support something like this.

Included in the standard should be:

  • the ability to completely delete accounts (unless there’s some kind of legislative requirement to keep, and then they should only retain the data that is absolutely necessary)
  • the ability to change all details including usernames
  • a requirement to encrypt and salt the password (that covers the credentials in plain text issue noted above)
  • determine the minimum practicable data set that you need to maintain an account and only ask for that. If there’s no need to retain particular account details, don’t collect them. For example, I’ve never been contacted by phone by any of these companies so why was I forced to enter a phone number?

This is a short list from my frustrations today. Please comment to help me flesh this out with other things that should be done on a properly supported user account management system.

And please let me know of your experiences with companies that were unable to properly protect your privacy and security.

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: The woeful state of communications in Australia’s capital city

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

For those who may not know, I recently moved from Melbourne, Victoria to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and am now living in a house in the inner north-west. Of course, being a geek, I wanted to get the internet connected as soon as possible! After such a smooth transition I’d expected some problems and this is where they all cropped up.

In Melbourne I had an Internode ADSL connection and before I moved I called them up to relocate this service. This, of course, relied on getting an active Telstra line at the new house. I knew it would take a bit of time to relocate the service, so in the interim I bought a Telstra wi-fi internet device. This is actually a ZTE MF30 and supports up to 5 connections via wi-fi, so I can get both my iPhone and laptop on at the same time. Quite simply, this device is brilliant at what it does and I couldn’t be happier with it.

So, at the moment I’m online via the Telstra device, which is just as well really, as I soon encounter communication issue number 1: Optus.

It appears that Optus have a woeful network in Canberra. I have an iPhone 3GS, which I know can only use 850MHz and 2100MHz 3G networks. Optus uses 900MHz and 2100MHz for their 3G, so the iPhone will only work in Optus 2100MHz coverage. In Melbourne I never had a problem getting on the internet at good speeds.

When I looked at the Optus overage maps for ACT and click on “3G Single band” (the 2100MHz network coverage), it shows the inner north-west being well covered. It really isn’t. Both from home and at work in Belconnen, I can barely get two bars of GSM phone signal. The connectivity is so bad that I can barely make phone calls and send SMSs. Occasionally, I get the “Searching…” message which tells me that it has completely lost GSM connectivity. This never happened in Melbourne, where I had 4-5 bars of signal pretty much all the time.

The 3G connection drops in and out so often that I have to be standing in exactly the right location to be able to access the internet on my iPhone. Even this afternoon in Kingston in the inner south, I wasn’t able to get onto the internet and post to Twitter. I had to use the Telstra device, which hasn’t missed a beat in any location for network connectivity, to establish a connection. This really isn’t good enough for the middle of Canberra. I am seriously considering calling Optus, lodging a complaint and trying to get out of my 2 year contract (which has another 10 months to run), so I can switch over to Telstra. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually want to use a Telstra service!!!

Communications issue number 2: TransACT. From what I can find out TransACT have a cable TV network which also has telephone and internet capabilities. When this network was established about a decade ago, it was revolutionary and competitive. Today the network has been expanded to support ADSL connections, but there is no ability to get a naked service as all connections require an active phone service. Additionally, as a quick look at some of the internet connectivity plans show, after factoring in the required phone service, it is a costly service for below average download allowances.

When I moved into the house, the process of relocating the Internode ADSL service from Melbourne to Canberra triggered a visit from a Telstra technician. However, he wasn’t able to find a physical Telstra line into the house. Being an older suburb of Canberra, this house will have a Telstra cable. Or rather will have had as apparently it is not unknown for TransACT installers to cut the Telstra cables out as “You won’t need THAT anymore!”

So now I have to pay for a new cable to be installed from the house to the “Telstra network boundary” (presumably the street or nearest light pole where it can be connected to Telstra’s infrastructure). Then we have to pay again for a new Telstra connection at a cost of $299. Considering that if the Telstra cable had been left in place, the connection cost would be $55, this is turning into quite an expensive proposition just to get a naked DSL service.

All in all I am not impressed with the state of communications in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. All I can say is please, please, please bring on the National Broadband Network (NBN)!

 

 

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: In an ideal world … how to change my address

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

Recently I moved house.

I  hate moving. Not just for the having to pack everything into boxes at one end then then unpack everything at the destination (which for this move I didn’t have to do!), but mostly because I have to go through the pain that is changing my address.

It turns out that I interact with a lot of organisations, from finance institutions (banks, credit card companies, car insurance, house insurance, health insurance, etc), to official organisations (driver licencing, Medicare, electoral, organ donor register, etc), to community (Red Cross blood donor, 3RRRFM, etc) and mundane organisations (Costco, etc). And that’s just a fraction of them.

I was thinking that, rather than having to fill in what feels like a million forms and waste time that could be spent being a productive public servant or dad for my kid, why isn’t there a central contact details database that I update once? I’m sure that smarter minds than mine have considered this, but I think an opportunity exists for some organisation (government or private) to do this. In the day and age of ‘over-sharing’, are people still averse to putting their address, phone number and email details into a central database? Login security could be addressed using two-factor authentication, such as used by Google Authenticator, or sending a one-time code via SMS or email.

Many services, such as Twitter and Facebook, are set up to authorise other apps to access them. An example of this is when I used my Facebook account to sign up for Freecycle which operates as a Yahoo Group.  I ‘authorised’ Facebook to talk to Yahoo. I’ve also authorised Twicca on my Android smartphone to talk to my Twitter account.

In the same way, in this theoretical single contact details database, I could let the various companies and organisations that I interact with, access my updated contact details. Maybe they could poll this database once a week to look for updated details. I understand they’d have many different backend CRM systems so there may be some manipulation required, but nothing that’s too hard to fix with a bit of scripting.

I could also remove their access when I cease using their services. If I’m not longer banking with Bank A, then I revoke their access so they can’t find out how to contact me.

Does this sound sensible or silly? If sensible why hasn’t Google or someone done this already?

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: My new laptop!

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

In May 2010, I posted about what I thought were some pretty underwhelming specifications for laptops.

I have bitten the bullet and upgraded to a laptop with 1366×768 display resolution anyway.

But on a 13.3 inch screen. So it actually works pretty well.

It is a system worth about $2500 that I got for around $700. And no, it didn’t fall off the back of a truck! It fell off the back of the Dell Outlet Store.

Specs:

  • Dell Latitude E6320
  • Core i5-2520M
  • 4GB RAM (although as an ‘Enterprise’ system, it came with Windows 7 32-bit, so only 3.2GB is visible to Windows. Fixed that by dual-booting Ubuntu 64-bit)
  • 250GB HDD
  • Wi-fi
  • Bluetooth (which I personally think is next to useless)
  • Backlit keyboard (which I think is the BEST thing ever!)
  • 6 cell battery

It’s also mil-spec hardened (or something) which means that it’s almost child-proof!

It does 1080p video and with 4 cores (2 physical and 2 virtual ‘hyper-threading’) video editing works well. Really well.

I want to post up a full review at some stage, but it may not be soon.

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: Fun with JavaScript!

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

Hoping someone can help me with this JavaScript problem. I’m trying to pass an array to a getElementById with the purpose of making multiple cells in the table take the class. I can get it working with one array location but not with more than one. Please help!

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<title>Title</title>
<script>
function changecolors(redsarray,yellowsarray,greensarray,graysarray)
{

var redsarray = new Array();
redsarray[0]=’r1_c1′;
//redsarray[1]=’r1_c2′;

var yellowsarray = new Array();
yellowsarray[0]=’r2_c1′;
//yellowsarray[1]=’r2_c2′;

var greensarray = new Array();
greensarray[0]=’r3_c1′;
//greensarray[1]=’r3_c2′;

var graysarray = new Array();
graysarray[0]=’r4_c1′;
//graysarray[1]=’r4_c2′;

document.getElementById(redsarray).className=’red’;
document.getElementById(yellowsarray).className=’yellow’;
document.getElementById(greensarray).className=’green’;
document.getElementById(graysarray).className=’gray’;
}
</script>
<style type=”text/css”>
.red {background-color:red;}
.yellow {background-color:yellow;}
.green {background-color:green;}
.gray {background-color:gray;]
</style>
</head>
<body>
Content …
<table border=”1″>
<tr>
<td id=”r1_c1″>
r1_c1
</td>
<td id=”r1_c2″>
r1_c2
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td id=”r2_c1″>
r2_c1
</td>
<td id=”r2_c2″>
r2_c2
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td id=”r3_c1″>
r3_c1
</td>
<td id=”r3_c2″>
r3_c2
</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td id=”r4_c1″>
r4_c1
</td>
<td id=”r4_c2″>
r4_c2
</td>
</table>

<button type=”button” onclick=”changecolors()”;>Button</button>

</body>

</html>

 

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: Back to WordPress!

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

I’ve given up on Blogger and returned to WordPress. I’ll update the look and feel from the defaults and try to update it a bit more often!

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: Stupidity with passwords

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

We all know and understand how important passwords are. We all know that we should be using strong passwords.

What’s a strong password? Something that uses:

  • lower case characters
  • UPPER CASE CHARACTERS
  • punctuation, such as !@#$%^&*()<>?”:{}+_
  • and should be 8 characters or longer

So, to put it mildly, it really annoys me when I come across services that don’t allow me to use strong passwords. If I possibly could, I’d boycott these services, but sometimes that’s just not possible.

For example, my internet banking is limited to a password of between 6-8 characters. WTF?! This is hardly a secure password policy!

Another financial service I use is limited to 15 characters and doesn’t allow most of the punctuation set. Why? Is it too difficult to extend your database validation rules to cover all of the character set?

Ironically, I didn’t have a problem with Posterous, Facebook or Twitter (and others) in using properly secure passwords. So, these free services give me a decent level of security, but Australian financial services companies can’t. It’s stupidity in the extreme.

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: Idea from BarCamp Canberra #barcampcbr

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

Yesterday I went to the second half of BarCamp Canberra 2012 (I was busy in the morning and couldn’t make it).

As per usual for a BarCamp there were many great ideas being discussed. Someone (Craig?) suggested that we all go home and write blog posts about our own great ideas.  So here goes …

My ideas is this: to build a website to facilitate the transfer of mobile phone credit from people who have a surplus to people who need it.

My wife and I are currently using Telstra pre-paid and every so often when it gets near the expiry date, if there’s any unused credit we transfer some (or all) of that to the other account. Telstra call this ‘CreditMe2U’ and my understanding is that it can be used on any post- or pre-paid accounts. There’s a few limitations, such a maximum of $10 per day and some limit per month.

I see the site facilitating someone posting up that they need, say $5 credit. Anyone should be able to do this for any reason. The request could be as little as just a phone number and an amount.

Someone else, who has surplus credit, would transfer them some credit from their account, and then mark that the transaction has happened. This ensures that the requester doesn’t get flooded with credit transfers and multiple people who have surplus credit don’t end up  helping just one person. The requester would also not be able to make another request for 24 hours (based on phone number).

I would be reluctant to require people to register for accounts, as I think that would kill it entirely. It should be able to be truly anonymous. I would also be really keen to see that the site is not indexed in any way (robots.txt, archive.org exclusions, etc), so that numbers can’t be linked with requests.

I’m not sure if carriers other than Telstra have this option, but it’s worth investigating.

While there would be obvious ways to ‘game’ this system, and it’s not a fully thought through idea, it could become so with some feedback. So, what do you all think?

Categories: thinktime

Hamish Taylor: Three Ubuntu 11.10 annoyances

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

A while back I posted up a few of the issues I was having with Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”.

I’m now using the latest version (for the next few weeks), Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneric Ocelot”. And while it works well on my new laptop, it suffers from three pretty annoying issues.

  1. IPv6 and Network Manager. I am experiencing regular wireless drop outs when I enable IPv6 on my router. When I disable IPv6 on Network Manager it is perfectly stable again.
  2. For most USB keys, write speeds are really slow. And I mean excruciatingly slow. USB HDDs seems to be OK. The issue seems to be in the way that Ubuntu deals with caching.
  3. Sandy Bridge power draining. This is a well known and documented issue, with fixes that have been issued (to be incorporated into the 3.3.x kernel). They are not being integrated into the current version of Ubuntu (which uses the 3.0.x kernel), but are being backported into the next version, 12.04 (which will use the 3.2.x kernel).

These things are quite frustrating, and while I am pretty confident that the power issues will be resolved, I really hope that the other problems are addressed for the next version which is due 26 April 2012. From those bug reports and blog posts, it looks like they will be, which is heartening.

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: Eric Allman to be keynote speaker at lca2011

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

The second confirmed keynote speaker for lca2011 is the original author of Sendmail, co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sendmail, Inc., and co-author of Sendmail, published by O’Reilly and Associates.  lca2011 gives a hearty welcome to Eric Allman. We know that his work has had a profound effect on how  people across the globe have communicated and there is no doubt that this is going to be another great keynote not to be missed.  For the media release please see http://lca2011.linux.org.au/media/news/56

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: What about lca2011 registrations?

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

Wow – what a week!  I often forget  just how much work is involved in organising a conference and how important it is  to have a dedicated and committed organising team to make things happen.  As the lead organiser for linux.conf.au 2011 I am very lucky to have such a great team that will work such long hours in their own time to ensure that the conference will be a success.  Over the last few days, weeks and months there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make lca2011 a conference to remember.  We had intended to open registrations a couple of weeks ago, however due to some added functionality and some really cool changes to the conference we have had to change a few things (which were not trivial) this year which has taken a little more preparation time.  Having said that though, we really are only a few days away from making the registrations live.  I know there are many people waiting on this and wanting to plan all sorts of things in preparation for the conference.

I know that without the team I am working with, I really would be lost and want to acknowledge all the hard work and long hours they are putting into the conference.  I hope to release a number of media statements over the next week or two which I know will excite quite a few people.  More updates very very soon and to all those students out there in the community, I think you will also be very happy with what we have done in terms of costs for the conference.

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: Geoff Huston to be keynote speaker at lca2011

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

The third confirmed keynote speaker for lca2011 is the Chief Scientist at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the Regional Internet Registry serving the Asia Pacific region. He is an author and researcher who has been closely involved with the development of the Internet for many years, particularly in Australia, where he is known for the initial build of the Internet within the Australian academic and research sector with the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet).  lca2011 gives a hearty welcome to Geoff Huston.

Please see the full media release at http://lca2011.linux.org.au/media/news/58

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: Dr Vint Cerf to be keynote speaker at lca2011

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

Some great news – Dr Vint Cerf is to be a keynote speaker at lca2011 – http://linux.conf.au.  Widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet.  For more information please see the oficial announcement on the lca2011 web site – http://lca2011.linux.org.au/media/news/70

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: linux.conf.au 2011 was a real blast!

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

linux.conf.au 2011 is now over  and its time to catch up on a few hundred hours of sleep (after a little packing up and cleaning).  It is amazing how much work still has to be done after the conference has finished, but I am hopeful (perhaps skeptical) that I will have most of it out of the way before I officially go back to work in a weeks time.

The conference was awesome,  given the many challenges the team had to endure before, during and after the event.  lca2011 will truly be a conference the   whole team (and many others) will remember for a long time to come.  While we were unable to deliver everything we had hoped for (time and financial constraints due to floods), the majority of the feedback has been extremely positive.  There were a few interesting requests during the conference that added extra challenges (such as tethering a helium balloon 100m above the university oval) and the rocketry miniconf near the NOC kept us fairly high on paint fumes for many of the days they were constructing their rockets.

Reflecting back on the event – we had a venue (eventually), we had great speakers and delegates, supportive sponsors, a working network with Internet prior to the conference (even with a little IPv6 thrown in here and there) and great food.  The PDNS at the Maritime museum saw fine weather and a relaxed environment (even with some food left over from the catering) with a few fireworks thrown in across the river.  Interestingly, we also managed to have many video’s uploaded to http://linuxconfau.blip.tv/ during the conference which was a credit to our AV team and the many hours of planning and training that they undertook.  Once encoding is finished all the video’s will be available at the Linux Australia Mirror (as per usual).  The speakers dinner was a real drumming event where everyone was able to get in to the rhythm and hit drums as hard as they could – an event that received continual praise from many speakers during the week.  The penguin dinner was relaxed and perhaps a little slow to kick off the fund raising activities – however a total of $23 239 was raised for the Qld Flood Appeals and another $5000 for the Glenleighden School at Fig Tree Pocket in Brisbane ($28 239 in total).

Open Day seemed to attract a good crowd of people during the morning while the final day of conference activities was the launch of the Rockets built during the Rocketry miniconf (thanks to Bdale, Keith, AJ and Clinton for their efforts here).  A few of the pics from the rocket launch day can be found at http://fishtank.kangawallafox.com/index.php/linux-conf-au/rockets-lca2011

lca2011 rocket launch day

Rockets, Rockets and Rockets

preparing for the flight

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: 2 more sleeps to an awesome lca2011

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

For most people they will know that there is only 2 more sleeps till an awesome linux.conf.au (lca2011) in Brisbane, at the Qld. University of Technology – Kelvin Grove Campus.

As most people will know from identi.ca, twitter, email and website updates – the lead up to the conference has been fraught with many challenges, but the team has been working hard to ensure that they can provide the very best linux.conf.au experience that they can for all attendee’s while also trying to help friends and family affected by the recent Brisbane floods.  As a consequence of the floods we have also had to move the entire conference venue location as well as deal with the logistics of this and changing many of the events and plans we have been making since we found out about our successful bid 13  mths ago.  Essentially – we have had to change most of our plans (as well as many kool things we had wanted to do) and then achieve it all in about 10 days.

Most of the team has had very little sleep and some of them even seem to be showing signs of being slightly stressed (uncontrollable twitching or twittering, changed vocabulary, poor dress sense and an innate desire to play on loop “Death is not the End” by Nick cave while drinking from enhanced frozen coke. So, if you see one of these creatures floating around the venue, please be kind and smile at them.  If you find something that is not working or not up to the standard you expect – then please go to the registration desk and let us know.  We want this to be a great experience for everyone.

Now – the very special experience we are giving to everyone delegate at this years conference is the opportunity to actually use the switches that Jared and myself rescued from the Brisbane floods while helping clean up. Some of them did need a little tlc but we are confident that this will just enhance the experience for all

…really looking forward to seeing everyone at the conference on Monday morning – especially when we give out the first computer in the welcome talk.  Here are a few pics!

clean boys with cisco switches for lca2011

Saturday night switch config for Urbanest and other area's

AP config for urbanest

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: Early Bird registrations nearly sold out for linux.conf.au

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

With just over 24hrs to go till registrations close for lca2011 we only have a few early bird registrations left to sell which means it is very likely that they could close before midnight on the 8th November. If you are keen to grab one of these discounted registrations then please make sure you visit the registration page as soon as possible and register and pay (you must pay to get the early bird rate).  For those of you also looking for the volunteer form please also see the volunteer page.

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: lca2011 – prizes and more

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

A long time ago the lca2011 team decided to have a small competition to capture the ideas of what people wanted at the next linux.conf.au.  We received a lot of responses to this including some very very special requests for things like stickers and cup cakes.  However, while we all wanted to have a conference full of stickers and pretty cup cakes and take on board as many other suggestions as feasibly possible, there was one suggestion that the team decided should be taken on board – that was the inclusion of a poster type session.  Alec Clews having made this suggestion through the competition website has received a complimentary conference registration including penguin dinner.  Congratulations from the team Alec!

There is only 26 days to go till lca2011 officially kicks off!  Final decisions on numbers for  many of the different events will be made shortly so if you are intend to be a part of an awesome 2011 linux.conf.au please ensure that you have registered as soon as possible – time is now running out and there is a lot planned for lca2011 delegates.  A lot of  the plans for lca2011 are now falling into place and the team will be even busier in the next couple of weeks leading up to the conference. We have also received some really cool Loongson lemote mini computers which will be given away during the conference – a few more details on these shortly. Most of the goodies for the schwag bag have arrived and are awaiting being packed while we are also testing the  Internet connections to the main accommodation venue at Urbanest (straight across the river from the conference venue at South Brisbane).

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: lca2011 registrations are open

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

yippee! lca2011 registrations are now open – here is a direct link to the prices http://lca2011.linux.org.au/register/prices.  Please note that there have been a few changes to things this year, though we have tried to keep prices as low as possible for a the 5 day conference.  There is also a new miniconf this year which I am sure will excite a number of people in the community – this is the Rocket miniconf which will include a live launch of the rockets built during the miniconf.  There is an additional fee attached to this miniconf and places are limited to 24 so if this is something that interests you I would suggest registering as soon as possible so that you do not miss out.  More announcements soon – for now I need a lot of sleep

Categories: thinktime

Shaun Nykvist: linux.conf.au 2011 early bird closes in 10 days

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

The early bird tickets for linux.conf.au 2011 are selling quickly with over half of them sold.  It really looks as though they will sell out before the 8/11/2010 so if you are keen to take advantage of these discounted prices I would suggest that you act on this as soon as possible.  The conference is on target to be another great lca with an awesome line up of keynote speakers, and other conference speakers and activities.  The Rocket miniconf is also proving to be very popular  with numbers growing quickly.  There will be a launch of the rockets on the Sunday after the main conference finishes (30/01/2011) so this should also be a heap of fun – especially from some of the ideas I am hearing about what people want to build.

Categories: thinktime

Jonathan Adamczewski: What’s the difference between 0xffffffff and 0xffffffffu?

Wed 11th May 2016 13:05

In C++, what is the difference between 0xffffffff and 0xffffffffu?

This one’s pretty easy to answer with this information from the C++ standard:

The type of an integer literal is the first of the corresponding list in Table 6 in which its value can be represented.

0xffffffff is a hexadecimal constant, it’s too big to be represented in a (signed) int, so — by the terms of the standard — the type of 0xffffffff is unsigned int.

Furthermore, each of these hexadecimal literals will have a different type:

0x7fffffff // int 0xffffffff // unsigned int 0x1ffffffff // long int (or long long int) 0x1ffffffffu // unsigned long int (or unsigned long long int)

But to answer the original question, there is no difference between 0xffffffff and 0xffffffffu apart from this:

@twoscomplement One is a commonly used curse when the compiler screws up.

— Colin Riley (@domipheus) January 30, 2015

Categories: thinktime

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