Author: Mardi Boettcher

My Mission is to teach adults how to enjoy the many benefits of computer technology and make it simple, easy and fun.

Backups Don’t Have to Be Hard or Confusing

diagram of cloud and mobile devices

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I love articles by How To Geek because they often cover basic information that my clients should know.  The articles are written very clearly but sometimes I make them even simpler by providing a shorter version and definitions of technical terminology.

I’ve talked about backups many times, so I think most of you will be able to understand this article as it is:  What’s the Best Way to Back Up My

If you know me at all, you will know that I recommend Chromebooks and Google Drive as the best solution for most people.  My second choice for simple and secure would be an Apple iPad and iCloud backup.

As they say in the article: “Everyone loses data at some point in their lives. Your computer’s hard drive could fail tomorrow, ransomware could hold your files hostage, or a software bug could delete your important files. If you’re not regularly backing up your computer, you could lose those files forever.  Backups don’t have to be hard or confusing.”

Please just make a decision and do it!  And check monthly to be sure it’s working.

If you need help, you can make an appointment here or call 760-348-8867.

Let us know what you use for backups in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and for sharing with others. 🙂

Enjoy!

Mardi

 

 

The New iPad Air – Power For The Rest of Us

image of the new iPad AirIn addition to the new iPad Mini, Apple has announced a new iPad Air.

If you’ve been wanting an iPad Pro but weren’t willing to pay the price, you may be excited about the iPad Air. It provides most of the features of the Pro for a much lower price.

The two iPads are really very similar except the Pro 10.5” has “Promotion Technology” (That means the screen refresh rate is 120 MHz refresh rate while the iPad Air refreshes at 60 MHz.) If you’re not a serious gamer or video editor, you don’t care. For more about refresh rates see this article at livewire.com https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-refresh-rate-2625984

Additionally, the main camera on the iPad Pro is 12 megapixels instead of the 8 megapixels on the iPad Air.

I imagine you can live comfortably with those two compromises for the much lower price of $499.

The iPad Air supports the smart keyboard (available separately for $159), has a more powerful processor than the iPad Pro 10.5 inch, has pencil support (the old pencil, not the newer second-generation pencil), TrueTone (True Tone allows the display to adjust its color temperature based on the light of its surroundings so images appear more natural. True Tone was introduced with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in 2016 and has since slowly made its way to all Apple’s mobile devices.) and wide color gamut support, the same resolution as the old iPad Pro 10.5 inch model and it weighs slightly less, at just one pound.

Apple’s goal is to provide “more of our most powerful technologies to more people than ever” by offering a bigger iPad that’s not quite at the “Pro” level but still more powerful than the smaller 9.7-inch iPad.

This model fits in the iPad lineup between the larger iPad and the iPad Pro models. You can see the whole product line here https://www.apple.com/ipad/ 

Apple says the new iPads can be ordered today and will be in the stores next week.

I think iPads or Chromebooks are the best options for most people and I love it when the products keep getting better and more affordable like this.

Are you going to buy a new iPad Pro 10.5? I’d love to know what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for being here!
Mardi

A New and Improved iPad Mini is Here

image of iPad MiniAfter almost four years, Apple has updated the iPad Mini and, at the same time, managed to keep the prices down.

The processor has been updated from an A8 to a A12.  (These numbers reveal how outdated it had become.) This processor should speed up the performance substantially.

In addition, the display is brighter and picks up True Tone.  (True Tone allows the display to adjust its color temperature based on the light of its surroundings so images appear more natural. True Tone was introduced with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro in 2016 and has since slowly made its way to all Apple’s mobile devices.)

The front-facing camera now has 7 megapixels instead of 1.2 megapixels.  There’s no Face ID support yet.

They’ve added Pencil support too. I think that might appeal to a lot of you for taking notes or creative doodling.

Apple managed to hold down the entry-level price to $399 by reducing the storage from 128 GB to 64 GB.  For $549 you can increase that storage to 256 GB.

I personally don’t see the advantage of a mini tablet because the screen is small and it doesn’t have a phone in it.  I’d rather have a larger iPad or a Chromebook, but I know some of you like the mini.

What do you think?  I’d love to know if the new iPad Mini appeals to you.  Let me know what you think by posing in the comments below.

 

Thanks for being here!

Smart TV’s are Stupid!

Do you use a Smart TV or are you thinking about buying one?

Here is some important information you should know.

If you would prefer a video version of article, click here

First, What exactly is a “Smart” TV?

A smart TV is a TV that can connect to the Internet and has built-in apps for playing videos from services like Netflix and YouTube,
apps for social networking like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn,
games like Angry Birds,
and a web browser.

In theory this is great because you wouldn’t need a separate device (like Roku, Chromecast or Apple TV).  You get a web browser and everything else you’d want to use, all integrated into the TV, saving you money and eliminating the clutter of additional boxes and cables.

However…

App displayed on a monitorThe software is not very user friendly

The software interface (the way you interact with an application) can be very confusing and it requires you to use a remote controller to select buttons and images.  It’s not simple like using apps on smartphones and tablets. The process can be very slow and frustrating!

It’s estimated that only 10 percent of smart TV owners have used the web browser on their smart TV and about only 15 percent have listened to music from online services. However, the majority have used apps, to watch Netflix on their TV without plugging in additional boxes.

They Collect Data On You to Sell to Advertisers

Not only are Smart TVs not very smart, but they collect data on your viewing habits to sell to advertisers.  Since everything on your home network is using the same router, you could be watching a particular program on TV and then start seeing ads on your smartphone, tablet, or PC, for a product or service related to the program.

If you use the always on voice controls feature, your TV can send data about what you watch, to third parties.

Nielsen gets permission to monitor what people watch.  Did your TV ask you for permission?

Don’t people buy a Smart TV so they won’t have to watch all those commercials on regular TV?

The manufacturers do provide an option to turn off the tracking — you can go to the Menu and then into Settings and find “Smart Interactivity” and turn it off — but how many people can do that?

On most TVs, this setting is enabled by default because no one would enable it if they had a choice.  And they call it “Smart Interactivity” to make it sound like something you would want.

Cartoon of frustrated TV user with remote controller“Smart” TVs Get Dumber

Smart TVs will become dumber over time because their operating systems may not receive updates from the manufacturer and the apps and services won’t continue to work.

Providing “Smart TVs” with better interfaces and making them more easily upgradable would cost the TV manufacturers more money and their profit margins are already very thin.  Thin profit margins are the reason they are pitching ads to you.

image of a padlock and keyHere’s Your Solution…

Ignore the smart features

 

Buy a TV based on your budget, the size and quality of the screen and buy an external device which will have more “smarts.”  When you get home, don’t even hook up the TV to your Wifi network.

If you already own a smart TV, just turn off it’s Wi-Fi so it can’t send your viewing data anywhere and then go get an external device.

image of Apple TV interfaceExternal Device Options

There are a variety of external devices and they are relatively inexpensive. The manufacturers are invested in the user having a good experience. These devices will have more polished interfaces, good mobile apps that you can control from your smartphone or tablet, more streaming services, and will receive updates for a longer period of time.

For details about the various devices see my Techie Tip from December, Do I Need A Streaming Device?

screenshot of Wirecutter webpage

These devices aren’t above tracking you for advertisers. For details about the privacy policies of these devices see this excellent article by The Wirecutter,  Your Privacy, Your Devices and You

You should also be aware that the content you stream, any websites you access, any apps you download, or any games you play may also have ways of collecting—and possibly distributing—information about you and what you do.  It’s no different than the privacy considerations when using your computer. Just be aware of it and use reputable sources.

In summary…

Forget about smart TVs

Their software is just not very good.  It’s better to pick up a streaming device and use it.

A few years from now, it will still be getting updates while your TV will have been forgotten by its manufacturer.

Even if the box becomes outdated, it can be replaced for a lot less money than it would take to replace your TV set.

Need Help?

Devices like Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast are fairly easy to install if you have the patience to follow the instructions and, of course, it helps to understand how they work with your WiFi and your TV.

If you’d like help, you can set up an appointment on my calendar here or

Call 760-348-8867

Please share this Techie Tip with your friends and encourage them to get help from me if needed, so they can experience technology made simple, easy and fun too.  Thanks!

Do you use a “Smart TV” or an external device?  Was this Techie Tip helpful?  Please let us know in the comments below...

Enjoy!
Mardi

This article is based on an article by How to Geek. Their website is a great source for technology education and “how to” information.

You Don’t Need A New Galaxy S10 Phone

image of Galaxy new S10 PhoneI just read a review of the new Galaxy S10 and S10+ by Engadget and was absolutely amazed that it was described as “a superb phone” in spite of an “inconsistent fingerprint sensor and a subpar digital assistant.”

If you like technology simple, easy and fun like I do, you’re probably wondering…

  • Why in the world would anyone spend $1000 for a phone?
  • Do I need an amazing screen to check email, text messages and use Google maps?
  • Am I watching YouTube videos and movies on my phone?
  • The only reason  to have a big screen is to have larger keys on the keyboard for typing and with a good voice assistant and predictive text, I don’t even need to use the keyboard very much.

And speaking of typing, it’s critically important to me that a phone’s digital assistant can understand me and type accurately.  I’ve found Google assistant to be much better at this than Siri.  Samsung may have improved it’s Bixby assistant but I wouldn’t even consider paying $1,000 for second-rate voice to text.

Another huge priority for me is a digital assistant that can find answers for me and deliver them verbally.  Apple’s Siri doesn’t understand me and she isn’t very smart.  The Google assistant (I call her Google Girl) is much more capable.  Whereas Siri (if she can find anything at all) will display a search results page, Google Girl will usually tell me verbally what I want to know.  This is particularly important when I’m driving my car.

The other most important feature to me, is a quick and reliable way to unlock my phone.  I’ve grudgingly accepted the fact that we need to keep our phones locked but it’s a big nuisance.

The fingerprint sensor on my iPhone 6 Plus is not only inconsistent but it forgets the fingerprints over time and I have had to go into the settings and set them up again.

I don’t bother with fingerprints anymore.  I just use my 5 digit passcode. It’s quicker and it always works the first time.

There are android phones for $250 that will do everything I need and that’s what I’ll be getting as soon as my iPhone 6 Plus (a gift from my wonderful son) dies or is rendered obsolete.

If you’d like to simplify your techie life in this way and want recommendations for purchasing a new phone or help with setup and learning how to use it, you can schedule an appointment here or call 760-348-8867.

What kind of phone do you have?  What do you like and dislike about it?  Let us know in the comments below so we can all benefit from your experience.

 

 

Google Password Checkup is Such Great News!

With the frequent news about security breaches, are you concerned that your passwords might be compromised?

Have you registered with https://haveibeenpwned.com/?

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

I’ve got great news for you!
Google Chrome Can Tell You if your passwords have been compromised!

Google has created an extension (software program) for its Chrome web browser that will alert you if a username and password is known to be unsafe.

The extension is called Password Checkup and it checks a database of 4 billion credentials that have been compromised (stolen and exposed) in various data breaches.

When the extension detects an insecure password, it will display a big red dialogue box telling you to immediately change your username or password.

Of course, allowing an extension to read all your usernames and passwords raises concerns about privacy.

Google is well aware of this and has designed an encryption system to keep all your information private and anonymous:

“We built Password Checkup so that no one, including Google, can learn your account details. To do this, we developed privacy-protecting techniques with the help of cryptography researchers at both Google and Stanford University. For a more technical description of these innovations, check out our security blog post.”

Here’s a short video tutorial on How to Install Password Checkup

Or follow these steps:

Click on the 3 stacked dots (upper right)
Hover over “More Tools”
Click “Extensions”
Click on the menu icon (upper left corner)
Click on “Open Chrome Web Store (lower left corner)
In the “search the store” box, type “password checkup”
Click on Install
Click the X to close the confirmation window

If Password Checkup lets you know that a password you use is unsafe:

Sign in to the account with the unsafe password.
Create a new, strong password for the account and any other accounts that use the same password.
If the site offers another security measure, like Two-Step Verification, consider setting it up.

Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below

If you need help, you can schedule an appointment on my calendar here

I’m so excited to have a simple solution for keeping your passwords safe!
I hope you will forward share this tip with everyone you know.

Enjoy!
Mardi

P.S. I try to use as little Geek speak as possible, but you do need to understand a few terms.
I highlight them in bold so you can check yourself and look up the ones you don’t know.

Here’s a little self-test for you. How many do you know?
What is a web browser?
What is a browser extension?
Why does it matter if your account is taken over?
What is a dialogue box?
What does “account credentials” mean?
What does “compromised password” mean?

How To Make Your Technology Less Frustrating and More Fun This Year

“It’s that holiday time of year again, and that means it’s over the river and through the woods to…well, fix my family’s Wi-Fi and other tech problems.”  From: The Complete Guide to Giving Better Family Tech Support  by Jason Fitzpatrick
family-dinner-3407701_1280
Do you have someone in your family who takes care of your techie problems for you?

I was that person for my mother. In fact, she was the one who suggested that I start this tutoring business to help other retirement-age adults.

I often laugh and tell people, “I’m your person, when you don’t have access to any techie relatives or you don’t want to impose. ; )

I recently read a fun article by How to Geek. The Complete Guide to Giving Better Family Tech Support  and I realized that it’s time to remind you that, “a few times a year someone needs to make sure computers are up to date,photos are backed up, and the tech is humming along as it should, so you won’t be in a in a position to have people exploit your computers, lose your photos to a hard drive crash, or otherwise be miserable because you just didn’t know any better.  After all, you aren’t out there keeping up on all the tech news and reading how-to guides.”

image of computer with 2019 on the screenAnd, there’s another great article for the New Year… Lock Down Your Tech With These New Year’s Resolutions by Justin Pot.  It urges people to:

  • “Use a freaking password manager
  • Lock Down Important Accounts With Two-Factor Authentication
  • Backup Your Computer (Seriously)
  • Update (or Upgrade) Your Router
  • Clean Out Your Browser Extensions
  • Remove Unused Third-Party App Access From Google, Facebook, and Other Accounts
  • Encrypt Your Computers and Phone”

As I often say, “using technology is like driving cars, they need check ups from time to time, and you have to know the rules of the road for your safety and security.

sparkler-839831_1280No Worries…There Are Easy Ways To Get It All Done:

  • Read the two articles and follow their very clear instructions or
  • Send these tips to your “Family Tech Guru” so he or she can do it or
  • Hire me to teach you how to do it or
  • Hire me do it for you

Whatever you decide is fine, but  please make a decision and “get ‘er done” so you can have less frustration and more fun.

Wishing you a very happy new year and may your techie world be simple, easy and fun this year!

Enjoy!

Mardi

P. S. Please share this with your loved ones so they can get the help they need too.  Thanks!

Holiday Photo Tips and Tricks

Are you capturing lots of great memories with photos this holiday season?  Here are some great techie tips about photos from my news feed.

sample1

Remove the background from photos for free

From Beth Zensies, Your Nerdy Best Friend   “Just upload a pic to remove.bg and the site instantly removes the background. Where was this all my life??? It takes less than 5 seconds, instead of an hour with me in a cheap Photoshop alternative.”

Making digital Photo Collages

(Some of you have used Picasa in the past but Google is not supporting it anymore and it may stop working soon.)  From How To Geek:  How to make a digital photo collage

An Alternative to Photoshop That Runs in Your Web Browser

icon256

From Kim Komando Photopea

Best Photo Editing Apps for Android

From Kim Komando:  Best Photo Editing Apps for Android

How to Make Your iPhone Photos look better

From Kim Komando:  How to Make Your iPhone Photos Look Better

images

Snapseed for Chromebooks

Chromebooks support Android apps now and Leo Laporte, an avid photographer, has found the Snapseed app to be just as capable as Photoshop.

An Amazing photo presentation that gives us a different perspective on life

Screenshot 2018-12-21 at 12.54.51 PM

Shared by a fun client: Smile from Cosmic Eye by Dan Apps

Websites for sending free ecards

From How To Geek: Websites for sending free ecards

And a goofy Merry Christmas video…

Screenshot 2018-12-21 at 12.51.37 PM

My Merry Christmas Video courtesy of Office Depot

You can make one too at https://www.elfyourself.com/

Please share these techie tips with your loved ones.

Have you tried any of these?  I’d love to read your comments below.  Thanks!

In joy!
Mardi

Do I Need A Streaming Device?

Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick…Do You Need One?   

Are you considering buying one of these devices or are you wondering if you need one?

These devices are designed for streaming content.  In this article I’m going to give you some basic information about how they work and and make some recommendations.

TV menu for streaming services showing Netflix and Hulu

What Is Streaming?

Streaming is a method of transmitting or receiving data (especially video and audio material) over a computer network as a steady, continuous flow.  It allows playback to proceed while subsequent data is being received.

In other words, instead of downloading a movie or song and then playing it from your device, (computer, smartphone, or tablet) you watch it as it’s being transmitted over the internet from someone else’s server. (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.)

Here’s a good analogy:  when someone talks to you, information travels toward you in the form of a sound wave. Your ears and brain decode this information, allowing you to understand it.

  • Streaming video and audio, is a stream of data from a server.
  • The decoder is a stand-alone player like a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick or a plugin (program) that works as part of a Web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari).
  • The server data stream and the decoder work together to show live (sports events, concerts) or prerecorded (movies, songs) broadcasts.

What Does Buffering Mean?

Buffering is the process of creating a buffer which is some data stored in the memory for playing back soon.  When your video stops or lags and you see “buffering,” that means the download has not happened fast enough and you’ve viewed more than was able to be downloaded.  This situation occurs when the internet connection is not fast enough.  After a few minutes the download catches up and the video starts again.

Who Streams and Why?

image of a smoking cable cord and the amazon, hulu and netflix logos

According to Hub Entertainment Research’s Conquering Content Report, 52 percent of people now watch streaming video and more than 48 percent of those use set-top boxes. (like Roku and Apple TV)

Two-thirds of them subscribe to at least one of the big three streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. More than a third subscribe to two or more services.

According to another Hub study, Decoding the Default, 78 percent of people are still subscribing to cable or satellite, but 70 percent of those subscribers are also subscribing to a streaming service. It appears people aren’t “cutting the cord” but rather, adding streaming networks.

One of the reasons is that watching popular shows like Stranger Things (Netflix), The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), or The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime), requires a subscription to their streaming services.

In addition, traditional over-the-air (OTA) networks, such as CBS are also moving to streaming. Star Trek: Discovery, is only available on CBS’s streaming service: CBS All Access.

Do I Need A Streaming Device?

Most newer TVs have streaming capability (The LG OLEDB8P or LG OLEDC7P, are considered some of the best).  If you only watch shows from the big three streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime), you may not need a separate set-top streaming gadget.

Apple TV

Picture of a TV with Apple TV menu

Do you love Apple gadgets? Do you buy and rent videos from the iTunes store? Do you use iTunes for your personal media library? Then you’ll enjoy Apple TV.  The latest Apple TV is The Apple TV 4K. The starting price is $179 and you will need a 4K TV to benefit fully benefit from the 4K resolution but it will work on older TV’s.  (Be aware that if you upgrade your TV to 4K, you will need to upgrade any other devices you have, like DVD players. It’s a seemingly never ending cycle of consumerism. LOL

In addition to letting you buy or rent content from the Apple Store or your own iTunes library, the new Apple TV supports more third-party streaming services than it used to, but it still doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video.  It has some cool apps of it’s own like slideshows of the history of art, famous places around the world. And your personal  photos.

Other advantages to Apple TV is that, unlike other streaming devices, Apple TV 4K also supports HDR10 video, Dolby Vision HDR, Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi‑Fi connectivity.

A big plus in my book is the Apple TV interface and remote controller because they are so simple and easy to use.  

Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice   Picture of a TV screen with the Amazon order page for instant videos

If you’re an Amazon Echo user or a subscriber to Amazon Prime Video, you might want the Amazon streaming gadget – the new Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice. You can use it’s remote controller or any nearby Alexa device, to start showing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and other Amazon videos.  It also supports most of the other popular streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. At $39.99, it’s an affordable, high-quality streaming gadget.

Like other devices, it supports 4K and HDR-10 but it also supports Dolby Vision, an HDR format alternative to the more popular HDR-10.  In theory, Dolby Vision HDR is superior to HDR10 because of its potential to display more colors but you may not be able to see the difference.

Roku

Picture of a TV screen with the Roku menu

If you have an older TV that doesn’t offer streaming, the Roku Express+ for $39.99 can bring it up to speed. This device has composite A/V ports that work with older TVs.

Roku builds outstanding streaming devices and they have a simple interface that’s easy to use.  This year’s top Roku device is the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. It’s a simple stick and it supports 4K video, High Dynamic Range Video 10 (HDR10) and 802.11ac WiFi for only $59.99.

Like all Roku devices, it supports many more streaming services than its competitors so people who want to explore the hundreds of video services available will want this one.

The new Roku Premiere+ available from Walmart for $49.99 has most of the Stick Plus features and a good voice interface with audio control built into the remote but it only supports 802.11n at 2.4GHz so if your WiFi isn’t strong, it may not work well for you.

Nvidia Shield TV  Picture of the Nvidia Shield console device for gaming and streaming movies

Are You A Gamer?

If you want to both stream video and play games, you have many good choices including Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro or the Xbox One X, but for streaming, the Nvidia Shield (2017) is much cheaper at $179.  It does a great job of showing 4K and HDR video and you can use it to stream many services including Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu.

It also supports Google Assistant (because it runs the Android TV operating system).  The current model comes with a microphone, so you won’t need to buy an accessory to use Google Assistant.  However, Google assistant devices are pretty inexpensive and very useful in their own right so you might want to get one anyway. (More about assistants in another article coming soon.)

Hope this puts you “in the know” and helps you decide what, if anything, to buy.  

What streaming services do you use?  Do you have a streaming device?  Will you buy one now?

Please share in the comments below.

Enjoy!

Mardi

What Happened to Your Windows 10 October Update?

screen shot of notice of issues on Microsoft's websiteMicrosoft has paused the roll-out of its October Update (version 1809) because it was causing numerous problems.  It’s been over a month and there hasn’t been any word as to when it will be re-released.

The new feature update will eventually download and install automatically, based on your Windows Update settings.  It may be some time before you get the update because Windows 10 is running on more than 700 million machines! (It took more than six weeks for the April 2018 Update to reach 250 million Windows 10 devices — about 36 percent, and that was a record pace.)

The October 2018 Update is officially version 1809, build 17763. You can check the version information on your PC by going to Settings > System > About, and looking under the Windows Specifications heading. There, you’ll see the details for the currently installed version and build. (The number after the build number indicates the most recent update version.)

This example shows a PC running the previous version 1803.

Screen shot of Settings Menu

If you are using Windows 10 Home edition, you don’t have an option to defer the update until bugs and compatibility issues are revealed and fixed, but you, as a home user, aren’t on the top of the list either.  This deferment actually protects you.  

People who run a business edition of Windows 10 can change some things in the settings to control when they allow updates, but I’m not going to go into all the details here because it’s not relevant for you.

In any case, I trust that you have heeded my previous warnings about OS updates.  You have a backup system in place, and you know your passwords, right?

I know all this negative news and confusion makes you nervous.  It’s been been very damaging to the credibility of the Microsoft brand too.  Tech news reporters have suggested that Microsoft’s development process is broken, and that they should focus on fundamentals rather than new features. 

Microsoft’s “broken development process” is hurting the entire PC industry.  It’s almost the holiday shopping season.  Computer manufacturers are having to ship computers without the latest version of Windows.  Consumers, troubled by all the negative news stories, are likely to consider Chromebooks, MacBooks, or the new iPads. Who wants to deal with all these problems unless they have to?

If you’re tired of dealing with Windows issues, or you need a new computer, or you’re planning to buy a computer for a loved one, you might want to consider other options too.  Most of computer problems and frustrations can be avoided by choosing the right computer in the first place and I want to help you keep your techie life simple, easy and fun!  I’ll be happy to answer your questions about the best choice for your unique needs, free of charge. 

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