Mac News Review

Apple Ramps Up Distribution, Future of the Mac mini, a Fast and Free Word Processor, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2007.05.11

Apple is growing by leaps and bounds. While CompUSA is closing half its stores, each with an Apple store-within-a-store, Best Buy is adding Apple product to 200 locations.

Hardmac wonders about the Mac mini's future, since it's the only Mac that hasn't gone to an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, and VictorSystems has announced a ruggedized version of Apple's smallest desktop computer.

On the software front, we have Bean, a new freeware word processor that's fast and lean - and compatible with Word, RTF, HTML, text, and several other formats. Another intriguing new product is iFreeMem, which maximizes free memory for improved performance. We're looking forward to seeing some reviews of this one!

PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Products

iPod Accessories

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Ramps Up Distribution; Mac Shipments Expected to Soar

SeekingAlpha's Larry Dignan says:

"Wall Street analysts are making the rounds with Apple's management and gushing in research notes. Here's what's interesting about this love-in: While analysts can't shut up about the iPhone or Apple TV they also have big expectations for that old stalwart - the Mac....

"One interesting Mac nugget. Apple is ramping up its distribution.... Macs will be available in 8,000 purchase points, up from 5,800. That statistic includes 200 Best Buys by year end, up from 58 today. If this expansion is successful Mac market share could increase....

"In fiscal 2007, UBS is projecting Apple to ship 6,720,000 total Macintosh units, up from 5,302 in 2006...."

What Is the Mac mini's Future?

Hardmac's Lionel says:

"While all Mac hardware models are powered with a Core 2 Duo or a Dual or Quad Core Xeon, the Mac mini remains associated with the Core Duo, and Apple seems to have decided not to push further its development for the time being.

"So, we contacted our sources to get information regarding the reason behind the non-evolving Mac mini and three answers were provided:

  • Apple does not like this model, as it was designed under the pressure of shareholders willing to get a cheap entry level Mac hardware.
  • A Core 2 Duo-based Mac mini would compete with iMac and MacBook, models for which Apple has larger margins or sale volumes.
  • Last answer is probably the most interesting one: a Core 2 Duo Mac mini would kill Apple TV...."

NeoOffice Instead of Microsoft Office Saves Hundreds of Dollars

InformationWeek's Mitch Wagner says:

"In my transition from Windows to the Mac, I faced a real quandry [sic] with regard to Microsoft Office. I don't spend much time working in an office suite. I don't want to spend $300 for software I'm not spending much time with. But when I need an office suite, I need it badly, and I need it to be Microsoft Office-compatible. I don't want to mess around with an open-source alternative that might let me down when I need it most.

"My solution: Use the free, open source, NeoOffice port of OpenOffice.org for the Mac, and worry about whether to pay for Office if it turns out I need Office. I've been following that strategy for three months now; and so far I'm not missing Office."

Miglia Gives TVMax+ Software to Existing TVMax Customers

TVMax+PR: Miglia Technology, a leading manufacturer of digital media products, has announced that existing TVMax customers can upgrade to the New TVMax+ software for free. Anyone who bought a TVMax after January 19, 2007 can get the new software upgrade for free (with a proof of purchase) by emailing sales@miglia.com enclosing a scanned image of their TVMax receipt.

This software enables your TVMax or TVMax+ to capture and encode video in real time, in either MPEG2, MPEG4 or DivX, no more waiting, or long iPod export times in order to make your file iTunes ready. Record your video and at the end of the recordings the file is ready to be synched to either your iPod or Apple TV, it's that simple and quick.

The software is also available to purchase for a one off payment of £29, US$49, or €39 (incl. VAT) from the Miglia website as a software download to anyone who currently owns a TVMax.

Key New Software Features

  1. Quickest way to get content unto your iPod, iPhone or Apple TV
  2. Real-time MPEG-2, MPEG-4 or DivX capture
  3. Records all video content straight to your iPod and Apple TV (via iTunes)
  4. Digitize VHS tapes to DVD using real time MPEG2 compression
  5. Record your TV shows directly to iTunes.

Technical TVMax+ Specifications

  • Host Interface - USB 2.0
  • Host Connector Type - USB B Type
  • TV Tuner - Analog Tuner, Cable TV ready, Up to 125 Channels
  • Resolution - Standard definition (PAL/NTSC or Pal/SECAM)
  • Antenna Connection - Antenna or cable
  • Recording Formats - iPod Better, iPod Best, Apple TV, DVD ready MPEG-2, iMovie ready MPEG-4, DivX. Hardware compression
  • Power - External Power Supply
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 165 mm
    • Width: 165 mm
    • Height: 30 mm
  • Weight 400 gr
  • Warranty - 2 year warranty (return to base)

For more information, visit:

Compatibility:

  • Mac only
  • Mac with USB 2.0 connectivity
  • PowerPC G4/500 processor and higher
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • Mac OS X 10.4.x and higher

TVMax+ is available now from Miglia's distribution partners or Miglia's online store for £149, €199, $249 incl. VAT. All units carry a full 2 year RTB warranty. A list of distributors and resellers is available on Miglia's website.

Launch of 1394-Equipped Blu-ray Optical Products Shows FireWire's Major Role in High-Definition Revolution

PR: The introduction of 1394-equipped Blu-ray Disc products this year represents a significant new milestone for the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) standard, the 1394 Trade Association said today.

Consumer electronics leaders including Samsung Electronics, Sharp Electronics and LaCie have introduced HD-capable 1394-equipped Blu-ray disc technology. Other World Computing also is offering a new Blu-ray drive, and other companies will soon follow. Consumers will be able to use 1394 to transfer high-definition video to HDTVs or computers as Blu-ray drives record them from video and digital broadcasting sources.

"Blu-ray is becoming an important piece of the high-definition architecture - and so is FireWire," said James Snider, executive director of the 1394 Trade Association. "There is no better way to move large volumes of high quality audio and video than by using 1394's superior quality of service, reliability and high bandwidth. The new 1394-equipped Blu-ray products deliver optimal recording and connectivity for the consumer, and they provide another excellent example of FireWire's enduring benefits."

Sharp Electronics in February introduced a $1,260 Blu-ray recorder equipped with 1394 connectivity that uses the tuner on Sharp televisions to record high-definition TV programs, which eliminates the cost of adding separate tuner on the device. Sharp BD-HP1's hybrid recording function works with the 1394 connections on Sharp Aquos LCD TVs and Aquos HD Recorders.

Also launched was the 1394-equipped LaCie d2 Blu-ray drive, with 50 GB storage, a DVD/CD writer in a single drive. Compatible with both Windows and Mac, the d2 Blu-ray Drive comes with Roxio burning software and FireWire connectivity.

In late March, Samsung Electronics introduced the SE-B046, an external burner with a 1394 port designed to record from 1394-enabled set-top boxes or computers. The drive writes BD-R discs at 4X and BD-RE at 2x. It uses a second laser to handle DVD and CD burning. Also, Other World Computing released the 1394-equipped Mercury Pro 2x Blu-ray Panasonic SW-5582 external drive that also holds 50 GB of data or high-definition video per disc.

Many of the new Blu-ray products are not immediately available but will be moving to the market later this year.

The Blu-ray Disc records high-definition images from video software and digital broadcasting sources and delivers high-definition, high-resolution images and high sound quality. Blu-ray offers up to 50 GB of storage capacity and enables playback, recording and rewriting of HD in all of the HD resolutions including 1080p. The format also supports HD audio formats and lossless audio. In addition to the greater video and audio quality, the extra storage capacity means there is room for additional content and special features.

The Blu-ray format has won support from leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers worldwide, including Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Pioneer, Sharp, JVC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, TDK, Thomson, LG, Apple, HP and Dell. Content providers are also very supportive - major movie studios such as Warner, Paramount, Fox, Disney, Sony, MGM and Lionsgate have announced titles for Blu-ray. And the format will be available in the next-generation PlayStation 3 (PS3) video game console.

"This support from the consumer electronics manufacturers and studios makes Blu-ray a truly universal standard, and now we are seeing 1394-equipped products that can read and write CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs using a BD/DVD/CD compatible optical head," Snider said. "Both Blu-ray and 1394 are pivotal parts of the HD equation."

The 1394 Trade Association will feature its latest home networking demonstrations at WinHEC 2007 at the Los Angeles Convention Center May 14-15 in booth 632. The 1394 Trade Association is a worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement and enhancement of the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) standard.

Apple Updates

Mac OS X Keyboard Shortcuts

An updated Apple Knowledge Base article says:

Learn about common Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts.

keyboard shortcuts

About the Macintel Firmware Restoration CD

An updated Apple Knowledge Base article says:

The Firmware Restoration CD can restore the firmware of an Intel-based Macintosh computer.

Note: Restoring your firmware will reset some of your computer's preferences to defaults.

You can only use this to restore the firmware after an interrupted or failed update. If your computer is already in this state, you'll need to download the software and create the CD on another Macintosh computer, or you can take your computer to an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider to restore your firmware. This CD can be created on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macintosh computers.

Note: This CD cannot be used to return an Intel-based Macintosh computer's firmware to a previous version if a successful update has already been performed.

You can locate the software for the Firmware Restoration CD at Apple Downloads.

Products

Ruggedized Mac mini Previewed

Ruggedized Mac mini systemPR: VictorSystems, a new startup, has previewed its first Mac OS ruggedized system based on the Apple Mac mini computer. The company is focusing on providing ruggedized commercial and industrial products for demanding Mil/Aero applications.

This demonstration system provides a full set of ruggedized peripherals that allows OS X compatible applications to be used in places that were not possible before. "There are many die-hard Apple users that have been wanting to dump their Wintel systems, but could not find a rugged OS X system until now", states Vic Cohen, VictorSystems owner.

The Rugged Mini Computer System presented on the VictorSystems website illustrates how the Mac mini can be packaged for ground support application. This system can be reconfigured for use in other hostile environments. "One cooling method or packaging method will not fit all", says Cohen, as he intends upon offering product variants and extensions as demands dictate.

VictorSystems's missions statement is: "To provide the Mil/Aero community with commercial and industrial electronics hardened to withstand the harshest usage and environments, without the need for new PCB layouts, while minimizing recurring costs and schedule impact."

Ruggedized Mac miniThe demonstration system shown on their Website is provided to illustrate a typical ruggedized computer system and to generate a discussion on what can be done with ruggedized commercial and industrial products. This system is based upon an Apple Mac mini Computer with peripherals that have been ruggedized for ground support use.

All of the products save for the Rugged Mouse, are packaged in enclosures manufactured from aircraft grade aluminum alloys.

The Mini Computer is supported by an aluminum space frame made from extruded rails and finned heat sinks. Covers are made from wrought plates. These parts are fastened and bonded using electrically conductive epoxy. For the purpose of creating a demonstrator, the space frame was simply designed and installed over the Mini enclosure. Uniquely designed systems can be sized-down to reduce package size to meet specific application requirements.

The company says many application specific changes from the design shown are expected and suggestions from potential customers and other interested parties are encouraged.

No word yet on price or availability.

OWC Announces 2 TB RAID Solution

2 TB RAIDPR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced the new OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual 2.0 TB RAID solution, the highest capacity 2-drive array on the market. Based on the award-winning OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro line of RAID drive solutions, the OWC 2.0 TB RAID solution is A/V rated, specifically designed to meet the high-performance demands of audio and video production with data transfer rates of over 80 Mbytes per second.

The OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual 2.0 TB RAID solution is a high-performance 7200 RPM, 64 MB RAID 0 Striped SATA-Equipped Drive Solution. The highest capacity top performance external drive available of its kind, the new OWC 2.0 TB RAID solution features Plug & Play simplicity through FireWire 800, FireWire 400, and USB 2.0 interfaces via OWC's custom Oxford 924-based bridge solution. Data accessibility is completely transparent via the different supported interfaces, even when moved between different computers.

Priced at $1,099.99, the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro Dual 2.0 TB RAID solution is available through OWC and major retailers. 320 GB to 1.5 TB OWC models are also available from $249.99. For more information, see:

OWC Offers 77% Savings for Memory vs. Factory Installed

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced OWC memory module savings of up to 77% vs. paying for the same memory to be factory installed for all Apple and other laptops that utilize a Core Duo/Core 2 Duo processor. Users will love the opportunity for improved performance for their audio/video, photo, 3D modeling, and other applications where the extra memory really makes a difference in their computer's performance.

OWC high-quality memory is backed by a 30 day money-back guarantee and a lifetime advance replacement warranty (vs. other manufacturer's limited 1 year warranty). OWC memory is easily user installable with a free online video installation guide. Consumers can also get trade-in rebates of up to $25 per module on their existing factory memory (PC5300 DDR2 SO-DIMM).

OWC Memory Pricing:

  • 512 MB memory modules, $29.99
  • 1.0 GB memory modules, $57.95
  • 2.0 GB memory modules, $169.99

"It's never been a better time to make sure you've got enough memory for your Intel Core Duo or Core 2 Duo laptop computer," said Lawrence O'Connor, CEO, OWC. "With over half a million memory modules sold since 1988 and thousands of new computers upgraded each month, OWC memory is built to the highest standards."

Software

Bean: A Lean, Fast Word-Processor

PR: Freeware word-processor reads and saves Word and RTF documents

Bean word processor

Bean is a small, easy-to-use word processor that features:

  • a live word count
  • a Get Info panel for in-depth statistics
  • a zoom-slider to easily change the view scale
  • an Inspector panel with lots of sliders
  • date-stamped backups
  • autosaving
  • a page layout mode
  • an alternate colors option (e.g., white text on blue)
  • an option to show invisible characters (tabs, returns, spaces)
  • selection of text by text style, paragraph style, color, etc.
  • a floating windows option (like Stickies has)
  • easy to use menus
  • remembers cursor position (excluding .txt, .html, .webarchive formats)
  • all of Cocoa's good stuff (dictionary, word completion, etc.)

Why use Bean?

Bean is lean, fast, and uncluttered. If you get depressed at the thought of firing up MS Word or OpenOffice, try Bean.

If you use Text Edit but have to jump through hoops just to get a word count or change the margins, try Bean.

If you're pining away for Write Now-esque simplicity or just want a low-pressure writing environment, try Bean.

File Formats

Bean natively reads and writes these file formats:

  • .rtf format (rich text)
  • .rtfd format (rich text with graphics)
  • .bean format (identical to .rtfd)
  • .txt format (Unicode and legacy)
  • .html format (as source code)
  • .webarchive format (Apple's web archive format)

Bean transparently imports and exports these formats:

  • .doc format (MS Word '97, minus images, margins, and page size)
  • .xml format (MS Word 2003 XML, minus images)

Bean can export all of the above formats to this format:

  • .html (web page format, minus images)

What Bean doesn't do

Bean doesn't do footnotes, customized headers and footers, columns, predefined text styles, floating graphics (but it does do inline graphics).

System Requirements

  • A Mac with a PPC or Intel processor running OS X version 10.4.0 or later.
  • Bean has not been tested with Leopard, the upcoming OS X release.

Bean is provided at no monetary cost and is released under under the Gnu General Public License.

Bean is open source. The source code is located on the installation disk image.

Bean comes with no warranty; you assume all the risk of using it (see the Gnu GPL for details).

New in version 0.9.2g:

  • Fixed problem where uneven margins would cause printer output to be shifted too much
  • Fixed problem where firstTextView was not always initialFirstResponder (you typed and app did nothing)

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

System Support: PPC/Intel

Free

PowerLogix CPU Director Updated for OS X 10.4.9

PR: CPU Director allows you to view and configure the cache and processor clock speed settings on your PowerLogix upgrade card. The included utilities allow you to enable or disable the cache "on the fly", change the speed at which your backside cache operates and automatically enable the cache at this speed at boot time. If your upgrade uses an IBM 750FX or 750GX processor, you can also change the processor clock speed "on the fly" as well as the speed at which to set the processor when rebooting. There are also options to disable speculative access (a problem with OldWorld machines that originally did not ship with a G3 or G4 processor) and enable dynamic power management. Finally, if your upgrade uses multiple-processors, and you are running Mac OS X, you can view and change these settings on a per-processor basis.

CPU Director is officially supported only for users of PowerLogix G4/7447/7448 Upgrades and PowerLogix G3/700 MHz & Faster Upgrades.

CPU Director is compatible with both Mac OS 9.x and Mac OS X 10.2 or higher. Note: DFS and Power Management functions require Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later, and require a PowerLogix 7447A or 7448 CPU card. If you purchased a PowerLogix 7447A CPU card prior to July 27, 2005 your card requires CPU Compatibility Updater, which will be sent to existing customers. If you have a PowerLogix 7447A CPU card and the thermal pane does not appear in CPU Director, or Processor Performance does not appear in the Energy Saver System Preference, you need the CPU Director Compatibility Updater which is located on your installation CD.

CPU Director is not compatible with earlier versions of Mac OS X. If you are running a version of Mac OS X below 10.2, you should upgrade using the "Software Update" System Preference panel.

Caution: To prevent compatibility issues, please discontinue use of and remove applications such as 'CHUD' or custom scripts that affect processor operation. These applications or scripts are not supported for use with CPU Director 2.3.b3. Further, after removing/disabling such applications/scripts, you will need to reset your PRAM prior to installing the new CPU Director 2.3b3. Failure to do so could result system errors from conflicting NVRAM settings. Since the PRAM reset will remove OS 9 boot compatibility, you will need to use your original included PowerLogix CD to reinstall and re-enable this support if you require it.

New in version 2.3b6:

  • Support for Mac OS X 10.4.9

System requirements:

2 versions of CPU Director are available:

  • For Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and up (10.4.0 - 10.4.9)
  • For Mac OS 9, and Mac OS 10.3.9 and prior

System Support: PPC

Free

iFreeMem 1.5: The Memory Optimizer for Mac OS X

PR: Free system memory for better application performance. A quick and easy alternative to either a reboot or RAM upgrade to get defragmented free memory.

Why would you use iFreeMem?

If you are in the middle of using an application and the system becomes unresponsive for several seconds it could be the memory manager working and claiming back some of the Inactive memory for your application to use, if you wish to avoid this then iFreeMem may be for you.

Some scenarios where iFreeMem can be useful:

  • You have been busy on your laptop preparing for a presentation meeting and you would rather not have the system become unresponsive in the middle of your demo, might be worth running iFreeMem shortly before the meeting.
  • You are a musician or DJ, about to do a live performance or session using your Mac, you want to ensure everything will run smoothly and on cue.
  • You have just closed down a whole load of applications as you are just about to start a new task with different applications, you might want to use iFreeMem here.
  • You are about to run some memory hungry applications, such as graphic design software packages (Photoshop, Flash etc.)
  • Your CPU is not working hard at all, yet you are convinced your Mac used to run a little quicker when you first got it, could it be that the activity of your startup items cause Inactive memory to fill-up when you log-in, and your memory hungry applications are having to grab Inactive memory back fairly soon, making them appear to run much slower?
  • You have low 'Free' memory and high 'Inactive' memory and you want to test if your applications performs better with more 'Free' memory.
  • You just have a specific application you wish to run as fast as possible without memory manager interruptions.
  • Ideally, you would like to buy more memory, but its too expensive. This app might be a solution for a performance degradation you could have been experiencing when Free memory gets very low?

iFreeMem can improve your Mac's performance by maximizing Free memory and reducing Inactive memory!

How can this bold statement be so?

Well, firstly lets look at Apple's official description of four types of random-access memory (RAM)

  • Wired memory: This information can't be cached to disk, so it must stay in RAM. The amount depends on what applications you are using.
  • Active memory: This information is currently in RAM and actively being used.
  • Inactive memory: This information is no longer being used and has been cached to disk, but it will remain in RAM until another application needs the space. Leaving this information in RAM is to your advantage if you (or a client of your computer) come back to it later.
  • Free memory: This memory is not being used.

What does all this mean?

This means you shouldn't worry when the Free memory is low. The only time Free memory should be high is right after the computer starts up. As you use applications or services, memory is used and transitions to Inactive. Applications that need more memory will take from the Inactive, but the Inactive is there just in case you need it again. If the combination of Free and Inactive is very low, then you might need more memory.

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20071011054433/http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107918

However....

There can be a performance hit when applications need to take from Inactive memory.

This can cause a very noticeable delay where the applications appear to have become temporarily unresponsive and this performance hit may not always be desirable for you, especially when you are in the middle of working with a memory hungry application or doing a presentation or even working with audio in a live recording session.

iFreeMem was created to avoid this particular performance hit happening mid-application by clearing out inactive memory in favor of maximum free memory.

This is a fully working copy of iFreeMem that you can try for 15 days. If you purchase this product you will receive free lifetime updates for future versions of iFreeMem, nobody gets left behind!

Especially useful for users of memory hungry applications, i.e.:

  • Musicians
  • DJ's
  • Graphic Designers
  • Final Cut Pro users
  • Photographers
  • Scientists
  • Parallels Desktop users

Rejuvenates old Machines and optimizes new machines.

New in version 1.5: Improved Localization.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.4 or later

System support: PPC/Intel

$8 Shareware

GPSy Advanced GPS Software for Mac

PR: Karen Nakamura's GPSy is a sophisticated Macintosh GPS communications and GIS mapping program. GPSy connects your Macintosh to a broad range of Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational units and has advanced mapping, logging, and data transfer features. GPSy has extensive support for USGS DRG topo maps, Internet DGPS-IP servers, GPSyLinks to Internet Map Servers, StreetAtlas 4, and IPC's MapFan II, as well as user-scanned maps, Magellan and Lowrance/Eagle data transfer protocols, Sony IPS protocol, Rockwell Zodiac/Tripmate binary protocol support, Trimble TSIP support and much more.

GPSy connects your Macintosh to a broad range of Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, Loran-C, DECCA, and OMEGA navigational units and displays your current coordinates, altitude, bearing, heading, speed over ground, velocity made good, distance to go, current waypoint, GPS satellite data, and more. GPSyTM can upload and download GPS system data (waypoints; routes; track; almanac) from a variety of GPS manufacturers including Ashtec, Garmin, Eagle, Lowrance, Magellan, Rockwell and Trimble. GPSy is also the only Macintosh program to support the new Internet DGPS-IP services, giving you meter accuracy in real-time through from free, online DGPS-IP servers.

If you are a boater and want support for BSB (NOAA/NDI) nautical charts, or you work with very large or complex map images, you may be interested in GPSy Pro, the big-sister version of GPSy.

GPSy is a full-featured Macintosh GPS communications software program. GPSy connects your Macintosh to virtually any data-output capable GPS unit on the market, collects the GPS system data, and displays your location, speed, heading, bearing, and other information in real-time.

New in version 3.40.2:

Enhancements

  • Added support for receiving the display from newer Garmin units.
  • Added support for certain USB serial devices, possibly including some Magellan eXplorist units.
  • When calibrating a map, GPSy now prompts with the text from the previous calibration point, which makes entering close data points much easier.
  • Improved data transfer support for various Garmin units.
  • Added an option to ignore GeoTiff data to allow manual calibration of corrupt GeoTiff files.
  • Set proper default NMEA-0183 baud rate.
  • Clearer error message when old GPSy license number is entered in GPSy X.
  • Bugs Fixed
  • Fixed NMEA issue which sometimes caused problems displaying speed and heading
  • Fixed problem loading GPSy map calibration files
  • Fixed bug in map calibration process that could trash memory
  • Fixed bug which caused some error message to say "".
  • Fixed memory trashing bug when load GeoTiff maps.
  • Fixed memory trashing bug rarely seen when closing map windows.

Known Issues

  • We're still working on support for Garmin USB-based units.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

System support : PPC/Intel

GPSy sells for $50 (demoware)

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