Nick Denton Predicts ‘The Good Internet’ Will Rise Again

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Gawker founder Nick Denton argued today that the future will be rooted in sites like Reddit which involve their reader community — even if there’s only a handful of subtopics each user is interested in. “There’s a vitality to it and there’s a model for what [media] could be,” he told an audience at the South by Southwest festival.

But when it comes to other social media sites, “Facebook makes me despise many of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world,” Denton said. And he attempted to address America’s politically-charged atmosphere where professional news organizations struggled to pay their bills while still producing quality journalism. An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld:
The internet played a huge role in this crisis, but despite it all, Denton thinks the web can be the solution to the problems it created. “On Google Hangouts chats or iMessage you can exchange quotes, links, stories, media,” he said. “That’s a delightful, engaging media experience. The next phase of media is going to come out of the idea of authentic, chill conversation about things that matter. Even if we’re full of despair over what the internet has become, it’s good to remind yourself when you’re falling down some Wikipedia hole or having a great conversation with somebody online — it’s an amazing thing. In the habits that we enjoy, there are the seeds for the future. That’s where the good internet will rise up again.”

To show his support for news institutions, Denton has also purchased a paid subscription to the New York Times’ site.

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Australian Farmers Switch To Diesel Power As Electricity Prices Soar

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“As power prices rise, some farmers have been forced to turn off the pumps,” reports the Australian Broadcast Corporation. Long-time Slashdot reader connect4 shared their report from the coast of Queensland, where the price of pumping water to sugarcane fields has doubled.

Local irrigators council representative, Dale Hollis, says right now, irrigators have two options. “They have to switch off the pumps and go back to dryland [cropping], and that impacts upon the productivity of the region and impacts on jobs” he said. “The second option is to go off the grid and look at alternatives.” Another option is solar and there are plenty of farmers installing panels, but many growers irrigate at night and can’t afford the millions of dollars it could take to buy battery storage. That’s pushing many of them back to a dirtier option. “Right now, diesel stacks up,” Mr Hollis said.

The head of farm operations for a sugar producer says it’s now 30% cheaper to pump water with diesel than electricity, even before you count the subsidy from the federal government, and they expect to save even more money as energy prices go up.

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New ‘USG’ Firewalls Protect USB Drives From Malicious Attacks

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A developer has created the USG, “a small, portable hardware USB firewall…to prevent malicious USB sticks and devices laden with malware from infecting your computer.” An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet:
The problem is that most computers automatically trust every USB device that’s plugged in, which means malicious code can run without warning… Cars, cash registers, and some ATMs also come with USB ports, all of which can be vulnerable to cyberattacks from a single USB stick. That’s where the USG firewall comes in…a simple hardware serial link that only accepts a very few select number of safe commands, which prevents the device from executing system commands or intercepting network traffic. That means the data can flow from the USB device, but [it] effectively blocks other USB exploits.
The firmware has been open sourced, and the technical specifications have also been released online “to allow anyone to build their own from readily available development boards.”

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Jeff Bezos’ Spaceflight Company Blue Origin Gets Its First Paying Customer

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Long-time Slashdot reader nickovs writes: Blue Origin was started as a “moon shot” company by Jeff Bezos and recently claimed that it would be offering an “Amazon-like” delivery service to the moon by 2020. In the mean time it seems their customers will be slightly closer to Earth: this week they announced that they now have a paying customer in the form of the satellite TV company Eutelsat. While this isn’t a huge technical milestone, it is a major business milestone, turning Blue Origin from a hobby business into one which might eventually make a profit. According to a New York Times article, “The commercial partnership brings Blue Origin closer in line with SpaceX, created by Elon Musk, which has been launching satellites and taking NASA cargo to the International Space Station for several years.”

Meanwhile, SpaceX announced last week that two space tourists have already put down “a significant deposit” for a week-long trip around the moon at the end of 2018, adding “Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow.”

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US Army Unveils 3D-Printed Grenade Launcher Called RAMBO

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New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: The U.S. Military has a new firearm in its itinerary: Meet RAMBO, the 3D printed grenade launcher that could revolutionize the way soldiers are equipped for battle. RAMBO, or the Rapid Additively Manufactured Ballistics Ordnance to give it its proper name, is based on the U.S. Army’s M203 underslung grenade launcher for firearms including the M16 and M4A1 carbine. But RAMBO is unique in that all of its parts save for the springs and fasteners have been produced by 3D printing — and that includes the grenades themselves. The breech-loaded grenade launcher consists of 50 individual parts, the majority of which were developed through the additive manufacturing process. Additive manufacturing is a form of 3D printing whereby layers of material, commonly photopolymer resin, are printed on top of each other to create a 3D object. During testing, RAMBO successfully fired 15 shots without showing any sign of deterioration. The ammunition itself was also 3D printed, based on the M781 40mm training round. U.S. Army researchers selected this particular round because it doesn’t require any explosive propellants, the use of which are have not been proved safe with 3D printed objects.

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Samsung Pay Could Come To More Non-Premium Smartphones

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Gordon Gottsegen, writing for CNET: Samsung Pay could end up on even more devices, starting with the Galaxy J series phones in India, Mashable reports. Samsung Pay lets you save credit cards, gift cards, and other payment methods onto your smartphone and then use it when paying. Your phone mimics your cards right down to the magnetic signal, so it works in most places that accept credit cards thanks to Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) and Near Field Communication (NFC). Just tap your device against the payment terminal and you’re generally good to go. But only if you’ve owned a premium smartphone. Samsung Pay generally only features in pricier phones like the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy s7 Edge, though it has also come to the Galaxy A line and Samsung Gear S watches. Now, according to Mashable’s sources, Samsung has quietly been adding the technology to cheaper phones too, and plans to experiment with the idea in India — where Samsung Pay recently launched — in the next few months. Makes perfect sense. In places such as India, the vast majority of card terminals (PoS) don’t support NFC, and it is very difficult to convince a merchant to upgrade their terminals. There are two reasons for this: first, not a lot of payments services require NFC. For all they care, their existing PoS devices support credit cards and debit cards. Second is, payment terminals with NFC are expensive. Also, smart of Samsung to trickle this feature into its lower-end smartphones.

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New Bill Would Allow Employers To Demand Genetic Testing From Workers

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capedgirardeau quotes a report from Business Insider: A little-noticed bill moving through the U.S. Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. Giving employers such power is now prohibited by U.S. law, including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program. The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. The 2008 genetic law prohibits a group health plan — the kind employers have — from asking, let alone requiring, someone to undergo a genetic test. It also prohibits that specifically for “underwriting purposes,” which is where wellness programs come in. “Underwriting purposes” includes basing insurance deductibles, rebates, rewards, or other financial incentives on completing a health risk assessment or health screenings. In addition, any genetic information can be provided to the employer only in a de-identified, aggregated form, rather than in a way that reveals which individual has which genetic profile. There is a big exception, however: As long as employers make providing genetic information “voluntary,” they can ask employees for it. Under the House bill, none of the protections for health and genetic information provided by GINA or the disabilities law would apply to workplace wellness programs as long as they complied with the ACA’s very limited requirements for the programs. As a result, employers could demand that employees undergo genetic testing and health screenings.

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Scientists Create ‘Designer Yeast’ In Major Step Toward Synthetic Life

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: In a significant advance toward creating the first “designer” complex cell, scientists say they are one-third of the way to synthesizing the complete genome of baker’s yeast. In seven studies published Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they built six of the 16 chromosomes required for the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, altering the genetic material to edit out some genes and write in new characteristics. The chromosomes generated this time represent the largest amount of genetic material ever synthesized, and the new Sc2.0 cells are substantially different from their natural, or “wild type,” relatives. Among the most significant of these new features is a program the scientists called “SCRaMbLE,” or “Synthetic Chromosome Recombination and Modification by LoxP-mediated Evolution” (scientists are congenitally disposed toward convoluted acronyms). The program allows scientists to rearrange elements within the genome to generate new and potentially useful permutations. Whereas many of Boeke’s peers labor for years in the lab trying to genetically modify organisms, the SCRaMbLE system “lets the yeast do the work and lets the yeast teach us new biology,” Jef Boeke, director of New York University Langone’s Institute for Systems Genetics and an organizer of the project, said. It’s like a version of the lottery in which you can continuously and instantaneously roll new numbers until you get a result you want. Other innovations in the Sc2.0 genome include the removal of duplicate bits of genetic code and the addition of short genetic sequences that distinguish synthetic chromosomes from their natural counterparts. Unlike other synthetic organisms, the engineered yeast is a eukaryote — a complex cell with diverse internal structures, just like the cells in the human body. It has more genetic material than the bacteria synthesized by the Venter Institute and Harvard projects.

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Intel Security Releases Detection Tool For EFI Rootkits After CIA Leak

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After WikiLeaks revealed data exposing information about the CIA’s arsenal of hacking tools, Intel Security has released a tool that allows users to check if their computer’s low-level system firmware has been modified and contains unauthorized code. PCWorld reports: The release comes after CIA documents leaked Tuesday revealed that the agency has developed EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) rootkits for Apple’s Macbooks. The documents from CIA’s Embedded Development Branch (EDB) mention an OS X “implant” called DerStarke that includes a kernel code injection module dubbed Bokor and an EFI persistence module called DarkMatter. In addition to DarkMatter, there is a second project in the CIA EDB documents called QuarkMatter that is also described as a “Mac OS X EFI implant which uses an EFI driver stored on the EFI system partition to provide persistence to an arbitrary kernel implant.” The Advanced Threat Research team at Intel Security has created a new module for its existing CHIPSEC open-source framework to detect rogue EFI binaries. CHIPSEC consists of a set of command-line tools that use low-level interfaces to analyze a system’s hardware, firmware, and platform components. It can be run from Windows, Linux, macOS, and even from an EFI shell. The new CHIPSEC module allows the user to take a clean EFI image from the computer manufacturer, extract its contents and build a whitelist of the binary files inside. It can then compare that list against the system’s current EFI or against an EFI image previously extracted from a system.

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Google Launches Official Gmail Add-On Program

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Google is making it possible for developers to bring their services into Gmail using new integrations called Add-ons. From a report on PCWorld: It’s built so that developers can write one set of code in Google’s Apps Script language and have their integration run in Gmail on the web, as well as inside Google’s Android and iOS apps for the service. For example, a QuickBooks add-on would let users easily send invoices to people who they’re emailing. Google already offers Add-ons for its Docs word processing and Sheets spreadsheet software. This sort of system could be useful for users because it helps them get work done without leaving Gmail. It also helps draw users into Google’s official email app, rather than use one of the many other clients that can access the service, including Microsoft Outlook.

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Chrome 57 Arrives With CSS Grid Layout and API Improvements

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Google has launched Chrome 57 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. From a report on VentureBeat: Among the additions is CSS Grid Layout, API improvements, and other new features for developers. You can update to the latest version now using the browser’s built-in silent updater, or download it directly from google.com/chrome. Chrome is arguably more than a browser: With over 1 billion users, it’s a major platform that web developers have to consider. In fact, with Chrome’s regular additions and changes, developers have to keep up to ensure they are taking advantage of everything available. Chrome 57 implements CSS Grid Layout, a two-dimensional grid-based layout system for responsive user interface design. Elements within the grid can be specified to span multiple columns or rows, plus they can also be named so that layout code is easier to understand. The goal is to give developers more granular control, especially as websites are increasingly accessed on various screen sizes, so they can slowly move away from complex code that is difficult to maintain.

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Stunning Close-up of Saturn’s Moon, Pan, Reveals a Space Empanada

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sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Astronomers have long known that Pan, one of Saturn’s innermost moons, has an odd look. Based on images taken from a distance, researchers have said it looks like a walnut or a flying saucer. But now, NASA’s Cassini probe has delivered stunning close-ups of the 35-kilometer-wide icy moon, and it might be better called a pan-fried dumpling or an empanada. Pan orbits Saturn in a gap in the planet’s rings and pulls material from them, so the ridge around it likely started accumulating soon after the moon formed, researchers say. If material in the ridge is still loose, rather than somehow fused together, the ridge can maintain its steepness only because the moon’s gravity is so low. The latest pictures were obtained as Cassini conducts its final (and riskiest) flybys past Saturn’s moons and rings before it blazes into the planet’s atmosphere later this year.

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NVIDIA Lifts Veil On GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Performance Reviews, Which Show Faster Speeds Than Titan X

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MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA is officially launching its most powerful gaming graphics card today, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It was announced last week at the Game Developers Conference and pre-orders began shortly thereafter. However, the cards will begin shipping today and NVIDIA has lifted the veil on performance reviews. Though its memory complement and a few blocks within the GPU are reduced versus NVIDIA’s previous top-end card, the Titan X, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes up for its shortcomings with a combination of refinement and the brute force of higher memory clocks, based on new and improved Micron GDDR5X memory, faster core clocks and an improved cooler. For gamers, the good news is, the 1080 Ti retails for $699, versus $1200 for the Titan X, and it is in fact faster, for the most part. Throughout a battery of game tests and benchmarks, regardless of the resolution or settings used, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performed on par with or slightly faster than the NVIDIA Titan X and roughly 30-35% better than the standard GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. Versus AMD’s current flagship GPU, the Radeon R9 Fury X, there is no competition; the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was nearly 2x faster than the Fury X in some cases.

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Google’s reCAPTCHA Turns ‘Invisible,’ Will Separate Bots From People Without Challenges

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Google is making CAPTCHAs invisible using “a combination of machine learning and advanced risk analysis that adapts to new and emerging threats.” Ars Technica reports: The old reCAPTCHA system was pretty easy — just a simple “I’m not a robot” checkbox would get people through your sign-up page. The new version is even simpler, and it doesn’t use a challenge or checkbox. It works invisibly in the background, somehow, to identify bots from humans. Google doesn’t go into much detail on how it works, only saying that the system uses “a combination of machine learning and advanced risk analysis that adapts to new and emerging threats.” More detailed information on how the system works would probably also help bot-makers crack it, so don’t expect details to pop up any time soon. When sites switch over to the invisible CAPTCHA system, most users won’t see CAPTCHAs at all, not even the “I’m not a robot” checkbox. If you are flagged as “suspicious” by the system, then it will display the usual challenges.

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The Promise of Blockchain Is a World Without Middlemen

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dryriver writes: The Harvard Business Review has an interesting article about how Blockchain technology may bring down the cost of business transactions and enable new ways of doing things: “Consider the problem that small manufacturers have dealing with giants like Wal-Mart. To keep transaction costs and the costs of carrying each product line down, large companies generally only buy from companies that can service a substantial percentage of their customers. But if the cost of carrying a new product was tiny, a much larger number of small manufacturers might be included in the value network. Amazon carries this approach a long way, with enormous numbers of small vendors selling through the same platform, but the idea carried to its limit is eBay and Craigslist, which bring business right down to the individual level. While it’s hard to imagine a Wal-Mart with the diversity of products offered by Amazon or even eBay, that is the kind of future we are moving into.” “Decentralization” is the idea that a database works like a network “that’s shared with everybody in the world, where anyone and anything can connect to it,” writes Vinay Gupta for Harvard Business Review. “Decentralization offers the promise of nearly friction-free cooperation between members of complex networks that can add value to each other by enabling collaboration without central authorities and middle men.” The proposition ultimately makes things “more efficient in unexpected ways.” For example, “a 1% transaction fee may not seem like much, but down a 15-step supply chain, it adds up. […] The decentralization that blockchain provides would change that, which could have huge possible impacts for economies in the developing world,” writes Gupta.

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Project Scorpio Next-Generation Xbox Gaming Console Debuts In Microsoft Store

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BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Microsoft’s next generation of video game console is currently called “Project Scorpio.” This will be a truly new console, although it will be backwards compatible with all Xbox One games — nice. In fact, you will even be able to use your Xbox One controllers and other accessories. While we do not have a definitive date of when it will go on sale, today the next Xbox console makes its debut in the Microsoft Store. We even get a slightly better idea of when it will be in stores. Microsoft reaffirms its prior stance that the console will launch in time for the 2017 Holiday season, giving us more confidence that it will launch then. Beyond that, we are none the wiser regarding a date. Heck, we don’t even know definitively if it will use the “Xbox” branding (although it probably will). One thing is for sure, though — simply putting the game system in the Microsoft Store is an important step leading up to the ability to pre-order. You can view Project Scorpio’s Microsoft Store page here.

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Google’s Compute Engine Now Offers Machines With Up To 64 CPU Cores, 416GB of RAM

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An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: Google is doubling the maximum number of CPU cores developers can use with a single virtual machine on its Compute Engine service from 32 to 64. These high-power machines are now available in beta across all of Google’s standard configurations and as custom machine types, which allow you to select exactly how many cores and memory you want. If you opt to use 64 cores in Google’s range of high-memory machine types, you’ll also get access to 416GB of RAM. That’s also twice as much memory as Compute Engine previously offered for a single machine and enough for running most memory-intensive applications, including high-end in-memory databases. Running your apps on this high-memory machine will set you back $3.7888 per hour (though you do get all of Google’s usual sustained-use discounts if you run it for longer, too).

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PlayStation 4.5 Update Brings HDD Support, PS4 Pro ‘Boost Mode’

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Sony has officially pushed out the PlayStation 4.5 System Update, codenamed “Susuke,” which brings a new Boost Mode for PS4 Pro owners and lets PS4 owners download and install games directly to USB 3.0 hard drives up to 8TB in size. The INQUIRER reports: PS4 Pro owners are also being treated to a new Boost Mode, will offer improved performance for PS4 games released before the Pro console. “This feature has been designed to provide better performance for select legacy titles that have not been patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro’s faster CPU and its faster and double-sized GPU,” Sony said in a blog post. “This can provide a noticeable frame rate boost to some games with variable frame rates, and can provide frame rate stability for games that are programmed to run at 30 Hz or 60 Hz.” The PS 4.5 update brings an improved 2D mode to owners of Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, which the firm claims will improve the resolution of the system screen displayed on your TV is significantly better when you’re out of VR mode. The resolution of Cinematic Mode on PlayStation VR is also getting a boost, with Sony noting “if your PS VR screen size is set to Small or Medium, the frame rate of content viewed in Cinematic Mode goes up from 90Hz to 120Hz with this update.” Other new features include added support for voice chat when using Remote Play on Windows, Mac or an Xperia device, an ‘Off Console’ icon that tells gamers when a friend is logged in but away from their device and updates to the PS Messages and PS Communities apps on iOS and Android.

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T-Mobile Raises Deprioritization Threshold To 30GB

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile’s new deprioritization threshold is 30GB of usage in a single billing cycle. While T-Mo didn’t make an official announcement about the change, you can see in this cached page that the network management policy says 28GB: “Based on network statistics for the most recent quarter, customers who use more than 28GB of data during a billing cycle will have their data usage prioritized below other customers’ data usage for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources.” Navigating to the webpage today now says 30GB. What this change means is that if you use more than 30GB of data in one billing cycle, your data usage will be prioritized below others for the remainder of that billing cycle. The only time that you’re likely to see the effects of that, though, is when you’re at a location on the network that is congested, during which time you may see slower speeds. Once you move to a different location or the congestion goes down, your speeds will likely go back up. And once the new billing cycle rolls around, your usage will be reset.

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Google Confirms Small Number of Pixel Phones Have Broken Microphones

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An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: Google says that a small number of Pixel phones have broken microphones that need to be sent back for replacement. The issue is seemingly not that widespread. Google claims the issue is present on less than 1 percent of devices — the company also announced that it would replace defective phones last month, and it went largely unnoticed until now. Google says the primary cause for Pixels having microphone issues is a “hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec,” which causes all three of the device’s mics to go out at once. The issue has apparently been known about for several months now. Google says it’s been “taking additional steps to reinforce the connection” since January and that phones built or refurbished since then should be fine.

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