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Category: Tech

Neat stuff roundup

October 13th, 2014 — 5:13pm

Here’s a bunch of random stuff that I want to share:

Zenmate — a free browser extension which can mask your location and encrypt your traffic. Say, for instance, you lived in the US but you were addicted to UK tv shows. You could, in theory, install Zenmate, tell it you’re in London, and watch the BBC’s iPlayer until your eyeballs bled. If you got tired of non-commercial British TV, you could also watch the ITV player and 4 on Demand and enjoy the not-quite-American commercials and freaky reality shows. And Downton Abbey, which has definitely jumped the shark but has such lovely costumes…

Star Trek sound effects: A dizzying assortment just waiting to be made into ringtones and alarm sounds.

Fans of The Great British Bake Off — do you know about Stuck-In-A-Book’s hilarious snarky-but-affectionate episode recaps? Here’s a link to his recap for the finale of Series 5. Dig around and read all the others. They’re priceless. I got to the point where I look forward to reading his recaps almost as much as watching the show.

(And congratulations to our Nancy! Well done, you!)

If, like me, you get your TV shows from various sources (including but not limited to Netflix and HBOGO), you might sometimes find it hard to remember which episodes you’ve seen, which shows are about to start, what airs on Thursday, etc. It’s a lot more complicated than back when we had three networks and all shows started in the exact same week of Fall. Have I got an online tool for you!!!

TV Calendar:

Make an account. Click “Settings” and adjust the timezone (important). Click the “Shows A-Z” button. Add your favorite shows, or shows that you haven’t seen yet but want to be reminded about. Scroll to the bottom for shows that aren’t currently airing (very handy for if you’re doing a re-watch of some old show and want to keep track of where you are). Now the front page will show your personal TV Calendar! Tick the box after you watch an episode and it’ll go dim. Green is the first ep of a new season, red is the last.

Never again will we forget which Only Connects and Colbert Reports we’ve seen! And we’ve been doing a re-watch of Boardwalk Empire from the beginning (well, re-watch for me, first time for Henry), so I’m ticking off the episodes as we go. Every show’s page has a complete list of episodes and, as you tick them off, it will even tell you how many hours of your life you’ve wasted watching that particular show. Sigh.

(Only Connect wasn’t in the list when I made my account, but I requested it via the twitter account and the guy added it! :)

I’ve been reading a German translation of Marian Keyes’s “Last Chance Saloon” (in German it’s “Pusteblume” (Dandelion) for some reason) on my Paperwhite Kindle. I installed a German-English dictionary a long time ago, but I just realized that if I press an unknown word my Kindle will look it up for me! Astonishingly helpful. After I’ve looked up a word, I highlight it — so I can glance back through later and see if I remember the new words. Some words are too slangy for the dictionary, so if I’m really mystified I highlight the whole sentence and hit “translate” — and google (I assume) figures it out for me — if not WELL, at least to the point where I know what on earth is going on. Remarkable.

2 comments » | Blog, Tech

Nov 19, 2012: How to change from iCloud as default save location

November 19th, 2012 — 10:54am

After I upgraded to Mountain Lion, I noticed that the save dialogue in Pages and TextEdit defaulted to iCloud every single time. I don’t use iCloud so this behavior was driving me completely insane. (It doesn’t take much to drive me completely insane, I guess.) Anyway, this morning I finally snapped and googled for a solution and there is one and it is easy and it works!

Here’s the link:

In case the link breaks and you’re going to commit suicide if Mountain Lion wants to save to iCloud ONE MORE TIME, here are the instructions:

Launch Terminal and type or paste the following command in (My blog is showing it on two lines. You might want to paste it into a text document first and get rid of the carriage return if there is one):

defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSDocumentSaveNewDocumentsToCloud -bool false

Quit whatever app is pissing you off, run it again, and try saving something. Voila.

You’re welcome.

1 comment » | Blog, Tech

custom iPhone alarm/ringtone

February 3rd, 2011 — 6:39pm

Every time I want to make a custom alarm for my iPhone, I need to google the process all over again. So, just thought I’d note it down here to make it easier next time. Of course, the same process makes alarms and ringtones.

Here’s the link I always use:

Here’s a quick version to remind myself:

iTunes preferences -> CD import settings -> AAC
Convert mp3 snippet to AAC
drag AAC version to desktop (or somewhere), throw away mp3 version, throw away AAC copy still in iTunes (if there is one)
rename from .m4a to .m4r

The alarm I just made is the “Somebody loves the MONARCH! Monarch speaking… WHAT?!??!” soundbite from The Venture Brothers. Cracks me up every time I hear it. Grab it if you want it. It’s only 7 seconds long.

5 comments » | Blog, Tech

fixed-width google docs – UGH

August 31st, 2010 — 1:08pm

I use googledocs a lot. Recently they changed the default format for new docs to a horrible fixed-width page layout:

chapter 7 - Google Docs

This wastes a ton of space and allows me to see far less text per screen. Also it’s ugly. I don’t need to see margins on a fake “page” when 99.99% of my documents will never be printed! And if I do want to see a page layout like this, I can just choose “view” -> “fixed-width page”.

I found a fix on this page of people complaining about this dreadful new “feature”:

1. Go to settings (upper right hand corner)
2. Select Editing
3. Uncheck: Create new text documents using the latest version of the document editor

Now, reload googledocs, or close all its tabs and start over. New documents should be the old-style full-width layout, so just copy the text out of one of your fixed-width docs, make a new doc, and paste it in. Voila!

7 Die Diamantenminen noch ein... - Google Docs

If google eventually decides to force everyone to always use fixed-width layouts, I guess I’ll have to find a new online text-editor.

3 comments » | Blog, Tech

iPhone app review: Flower Garden

April 27th, 2009 — 1:23pm

Flower Garden, $2.99 at the App Store

Developer website:

I’ve had my iPhone for about 6 weeks now, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing some software. There are a number of great apps that I use every day so it was a bit hard to choose which to review first, but Flower Garden is so pretty and fun that it wins the coveted first-iPhone-app-review-on-kayray’s-blog award!!

Flower Garden is a garden simulation app. It’s not the kind of thing you’ll play for an hour at a time, but you’ll find yourself checking your garden several times a day, especially when you unlock some of the more difficult-to-grow seeds. The graphics are very pretty and the outdoor sound effects, birdsong and a gentle breeze, are soothing. I feel happy every time I look at my Flower Garden.

My main Flower Garden page:


When you play for the first time you have twelve empty flowerpots and a small selection of seed packets. Tap a seed packet, tap the “plant” icon, and you’ll have a pot of seeds ready to care for. Water them as often as necessary to keep the slider in the green zone and your seeds will grow into lovely flowers. If you accidentally over-water and the slider goes into the yellow zone, the app plays a sad sound and your flowers droop a bit. Let them get too dry and the slider drops down into the red zone, the flowers droop even more, and the dirt looks dry. There will also be an alert icon on your main garden page to let you know you’d better water them. But don’t worry — your flowers won’t die! Just take better care of them and they’ll regain their health.

My seed packets, with some still remaining to unlock:


A packet of Sunflower seeds:


A pot of Tulips:


When you’ve got full-grown flowers you can cut them, assemble a pretty bouquet, and email it to someone special. Cut flowers go straight to the bouquet page. From there, you can remove any flowers that don’t suit the bouquet, rearrange them by shaking your phone, rotate horizontally with a finger-swipe, and even rotate them vertically with a two-finger swipe. You can zoom in and out and move the bouquet up and down. Choose from a small number of different-colored backgrounds; the developer says a color-picker is coming soon, which I’m happy about, since I need a mild yellow background my tulip bouquets. Tap the tag, which is draggable, and enter the recipient’s email address (or choose from your Contacts list) and a brief message. The email interface is perfect — you stay within the app instead of getting kicked out into your email program, and you’ll enter your own return address so your recipient knows it’s not spam. An emailed bouquet looks like this: Mail - Re: Flowers For You -

Over time you will unlock more and more seed packets. Eventually you will see a little padlock at the bottom of the seed packet page, which lets you enter an unlock code for super-special flowers. Try entering “snappytouch” or “theappera” or “theportablegamer” or “touchofgaming” or “iphonegamesnetwork” or “fingergaming” or “appcraver”, and let me know if you figure out any others. :) May 2011: Note: you no longer need to enter unlock codes. All of these flowers are in the Bonus Seed Pack.

Many thanks to Noel of SnappyTouch for this charming iPhone pastime, and thanks to Chris Hughes for recommending it to me!

Flower Garden on Facebook (check here for more unlock codes)

(By the way — any review you see here will most likely be positive. I’d rather write nice things about fun and useful iPhone apps than gripe about the bad ones.)

22 comments » | Blog, Reviews, Tech

How to listen to KPBS on a mac

December 17th, 2008 — 9:15am

I used to listen to KPBS’s radio stream all the time, but it stopped working a while back. I don’t have a radio in my house, and I really missed my KPBS. Their stream didn’t work at all in Windows Media Player, which is what you’re supposed to use, but which of course is a piece of crap. When I tried to use VLC I was able to hear the little commercial they play before you get to hear the radio broadcast, but then it stopped and that was it. I finally reached Skot Norton, a very helpful (and Mac-savvy!!) fellow at the station who provided me with a special link: .

Want to listen to KPBS? Got a Mac? First, install VLC. It’s free, and very useful for watching or listening to all sorts of media. Run it, then choose File -> Open File and paste that special KBPS link into the box. Hit the Ok button, wait a moment while it buffers, and enjoy! I’ve got Morning Edition on right now, and last night I listened to BBC news, and then at 7 there was the Writers’ Almanac (it was Jane Austen’s birthday!) and then they switched to classical music, as usual, and there was lots of Beethoven ’cause it was (probably) his birthday too.

Hooray for KPBS!

1 comment » | Blog, Tech

Mii Posting Plaza

August 29th, 2008 — 10:08am

This morning Henry and I made a Dr. Horrible Mii and a Captain Hammer Mii. I just posted them to the Mii Posting Plaza. Here are their numbers, so you can find them and import them to your own Mii plaza if you want to, and perhaps vote them up. I think they’re pretty good!

Dr. Horrible: 5143-7259-7185 (Yes, I know it says he’s female. We did that to make it look like he’s wearing a lab coat)
Captain Hammer: 1634-5717-6203

We’re working on Penny but she’s not quite right yet.

Comment » | Blog, Tech

Two useful things

August 26th, 2008 — 7:57pm

First Useful Thing:

How often do you use your capslock button intentionally? If you’re like me, you hit it by accident now and then, look up to find you’ve typed a WHOLE SENTENCE IN SHOUTY CAPS, swear a little, delete, and re-type. I recently read a tip somewhere telling how to turn off the the darn caps lock button on your mac! Here’s a little tutorial for you:

1. Open System Preferences. The easiest thing to do is click the little apple up in the top left-hand corner of the screen:


2. Once you’re in System Preferences, click “Keyboard and Mouse”:

System Preferences

3. On the “Keyboard” tab, click the “Modifier Keys” button:

Keyboard & Mouse

4. Now set Caps Lock Key to “No Action” in the drop-down box, and hit “OK”:

System Preferences

Now sing and dance, ’cause you’ll never type an accidental string of shouty caps again!

Second Useful Thing:

Did you notice all those nifty little screenshots up above? I made those with a wonderful new little program called Skitch for OS X. It’s a free beta right now. It’s hard to describe how useful it is, but I’ll give it a shot.

So, you run the program and you get a little empty window, surrounded by a frame with a few familiar tools on it — pencil, eraser, color choices, text, paint bucket, etc.


There’s a “Snap” button on the frame. Click it, and you get crosshairs, and the Skitch window disappears so you can take a screenshot of whatever window is now on top. You can click to take a picture of the whole window, or click and drag the crosshairs for a selection. There’s a timer option too. Once you’ve taken your screenshot, Skitch pops back up with your shot in its frame. Now you can manipulate the little image however you want — draw on it, drag the lower right corner of the window to enlarge or reduce the whole image, drag inside the window to crop, add text, select and drag elements you’ve added, whatever. When you’re done fiddling, hit the “webpost” button at the bottom of the frame and Skitch uploads your little image to your own “Skitch” page. Every image has this little box on the right side of its page:

System Preferences

The “copy” buttons copy whichever url you choose to your clipboard, and then you can go paste it in to your email or your blog post or your forum post or whatever. The default privacy setting is “secret” but you can change that.

So this one little app lets you easily take screenshots, edit them, upload them, and share them. I need to take a lot of screenshots to explain things to LibriVox volunteers, and boy oh boy does Skitch make it easier! It’s got lots more fun and/or useful features — for instance, you can take a snap via photobooth (or a webcam?) and give yourself a fancy hat and a moustache and a bow tie and some party balloons:


Go install Skitch! What are you waiting for?

4 comments » | Blog, Tech

This is his hair!

August 3rd, 2008 — 5:01pm

First of all, did you know that you can still watch all three acts of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on And, although hulu usually lets you view their programming only if you live in the states, I hear you can watch Dr. Horrible from anywhere in the world! Hope that’s true. We can hardly wait until the dvd comes out!

So they say he saved her life
They say she works with the homeless
and doesn’t eat meat
We have a problem with her
(This is his hair!)

Yesterday Bob and Chloe came over in the evening and we had the best time talking and hanging out! We played with the new Check Mii Out channel on the Wii — voted on some contests and made a Surfer Dude to enter in the Surfer Dude contest. And we watched a few episodes of Spaced, and all of Dr. Horrible (which I enjoyed even more the second time through).

Today I poked around around at the new Nintendo Channel, watched a ton of game previews and downloaded a couple of demos for the DS. Crosswords DS was fun — but even “hard” wasn’t very hard, kinda like a NYT Monday puzzle, and there were a lot of stupid clues. Not sure if the full game has a more challenging level. The interface rocks, though. I’m pretty excited about WiiWare, but I want to read a few more reviews before I decide on a game to buy :) Magnetica looks fun (I love Zuma) and the Dr. Mario Online one looks great too, and maybe My Life as a King, LostWinds, Toki Tori, and of course Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People (which is supposed to be released in this month). Any opinions, fellow Wii-owners?

Edit: I just did a little research and found that there are two different Crosswords games for DS – “Crosswords DS“, the one I tried today, and also “The New York Times Crosswords”. Yep. That’s the one I want to try next!!

5 comments » | Blog, Tech


July 3rd, 2008 — 7:18pm

Arghhhh is down, and (an exciting new open-platform microblogging thing that just went live yesterday) is down. I’ve been beta-testing for a while and doubted that it was sturdy enough to go live already, and now half the people I encouraged to try it will be frustrated and give up. Sigh. Poor I’m sure it will be back soon and then everyone should try it. The plan is, someday, that it will read stuff from twitter and all the other microblogs so you don’t have to convince your friends to switch. You can find me on both twitter and — I’m “kayray” of course.

So anyway, since all my microblogs are down:

So tired.

Off to drop Henry at Kung Fu. Was planning to shop tonight but will put it off till tomorrow or Saturday.

Watched two episodes of Nova on with Henry today — one about reconstructing an ancient Chinese bridge and one about trying to erect an Easter Island statue to see how it was done. (oooh more than 140 characters there!)

Anyway. Come back, microblogs!

Comment » | Blog, Tech

How to explain Twitter?

April 9th, 2008 — 1:21pm

How do you explain Twitter to a non-Twitterer? It’s really hard! Roogles just mentioned this excellent video: Twitter in Plain English.

Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but show it to your non-Twittering friends and maybe they’ll finally understand.

Comment » | Blog, Tech

Wikihistory – hilarious short story!

March 19th, 2008 — 7:15am

I just found Wikihistory, a hilarious short story by Desmond Warzel. It’s in the form of a wikipedia-type message board for time travelers. The noobs keep on killing Hitler…

It’s very short and extremely funny! Go read. I especially enjoyed BarracksRoomLawyer’s contributions to the discussion ;-)

2 comments » | Blog, Tech

Pandora’s on twitter!

March 3rd, 2008 — 5:51pm

Yay, now you can follow Pandora on twitter!

(Pandora is one of the greatest things ever invented. Period.)

Spent the day working on the brown and cream mittens (Top-down with a really fabulous thumb! Photos soon!) and watching the third season of The Office with Henry. He’s feeling a lot better, no more temperature and just a slight cough, but he’s definitely still recuperating and is still droopy and tired. But his appetite is coming back!

1 comment » | Blog, Tech

compare and contrast

January 24th, 2008 — 8:05pm

Let’s compare and contrast games from two software companies, shall we? Both sell games for OS X, though GrubbyGames also offers their games for PC and Linux. Yes, LINUX! :)

Company A, offers a demo version of their 6-game suite, Big Bang Brain Games. The demo works for one hour; that’s one hour total for all six games. Yeah, um, right. That’s ten minutes to try each game, theoretically, if you move fast, but the clock keeps ticking down even while you’re in menu screens or waiting for slow-talking AIs to STFU. I like to play in a window, but when the game goes non-fullscreen the menu options are cut off at the bottom of the screen. The full suite costs $30, which isn’t too bad for six games but I only had time try two of the games, and one of them was lame. Both had pretty graphics but annoying music and AI characters. I had to turn down the volume completely. Sorry, freeverse, two thumbs down.

Company B, sells three games at $20 each. Their demos are extremely generous, allowing you to access all features and play a very good number of levels. There’s no time limit at all, just a level limit. I don’t like to feel rushed, so this system makes me happy! All three of the GrubbyGames games are adorable, clever, and unique, with charming graphics, sounds, and music. Playing in a window works as it should. Each has “kid” levels as well, which are very nice when you’re feeling easily frustrated :) I bought FizzBall last year, and it was worth every penny. It’s given us all hours of fun! I asked if I would be able to run the game on my two macs and Henry’s PC, and they said it was fine to download as many copies as I needed for my family. Of course, since they were so generous and trusting, I’ll never violate that trust by downloading more copies than we need or sharing them illegally. (Note to other companies: don’t assume your customers are criminals.) Thanks, GrubbyGames, two thumbs up for you!

Comment » | Blog, Tech

Earideas – great new site for worth-while audio

January 4th, 2008 — 8:25am

Hugh, founder of LibriVox and all-around great guy, has come up with a fantastic new site:

From their front page:

Earideas is a collection of the best thoughtful audio available on the web. We’ve got shows from public and other broadcasters, magazines, newspapers, museums, as well as individuals. You can find it all here (to subscribe, download, or listen on our site), updated daily with the latest shows, organized by category.

There’s a lot of high-quality, interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking audio out there on the net, but it can be hard to find. And although I know of a lot of great podcasts, I don’t tend to subscribe to them because I get overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff I end up with and feel like I ought to listen to. Earideas is pure genius. They’ve selected the cream of the podcast crop and organized it by category in a nice clean interface. There’s a download link for every episode that they list but if you want to listen online there’s an easy to use flash player, too. That’s what I use, so I don’t have to remember to delete anything from my hard drive!

I subscribe to their “Featured Shows” rss feed, and I just let the hundreds of items stack up in my feed reader until I’m in the mood for some listening. Then I scroll down through their feed, and always find something that catches my interest, whether it’s Fresh Air, NPR movie reviews, an episode of The Onion news, or some other random thing I never would have found otherwise. Last night, for instance, I bumped into an Australian book review podcast and heard an interview with the author of “Queen of Fashion“, which I then found in my library system and had sent to my local branch. You can also follow earideas on twitter. Cool!

4 comments » | Blog, Tech


January 3rd, 2008 — 10:13pm

Forgot to mention!

Everyday in January, there will be a prompt that will prompt you to take a picture. It may be a prompt to take a picture of a your next meal or a tree. It’s your job to make it interesting. If it goes well, we’ll keep going.

You can also follow @photogamer on twitter to get your assignments.

Here are my contributions so far, but you’ll want to look at the entire flickr pool to get a better idea.

Fun! Yesterday I helped Henry make a flickr account so he could play, too.

2 comments » | Blog, Tech

Geek Quiz

November 11th, 2007 — 7:58pm

Take the Geek Quiz:

I scored 31.75542% which ranks me as a “Total Geek”, but only a few points away from “Major Geek” (highest is Dysfunctional Geek at >75%)

i am a total geek

4 comments » | Blog, Tech

Free Rice Vocabulary Game

November 4th, 2007 — 2:23pm

My lovely sister pointed me to the Free Rice Vocabulary Game. Lots of fun! Their FAQ explains how the game works.

FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level of vocabulary. It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.

There are 50 levels in all, but it is rare for people to get above level 48.

Here’s a screenshot of me hitting level 50:


I did not cheat, by the way, though I did have to guess quite a few, or use my deductive powers. It helps if you’ve read a lot of really old books. Trilby? Caleche? No problem.

Murrain means plague, in case you care. I stayed at 50 for a while, then missed a couple, then got back up to 50. I rarely drop below 48. Some of the definitions are odd. I would not, for instance, say that “colobus” means “monkey”. It’s a type of monkey. But whatever :)

5 comments » | Blog, Tech

sshfs works in Leopard!!!

October 30th, 2007 — 1:17pm

Got Leopard? It took a few days for the google coders to bring sshfs and macfuse up to speed, but it works now! I’ll just paste my instructions from a few months ago. They’re all the same but the Finder in Leopard does not show mounted servers in the sidebar automatically anymore. I thought sshfs wasn’t even working! The solution is to go into Finder preferences and tell it to show connected servers on the desktop. Then drag the server from the desktop to the Devices area in the Finder sidebar. Drop it when you see a nice blue line and wait a few seconds for it to show up. Voila!

How to install sshfs on your mac:

Do you have a mac? Do you use ssh, scp, or ftp frequently, perhaps to and from your personal server? If so, you’ve got to try MacFUSE:

MacFUSE implements a mechanism that makes it possible to implement a fully functional file system in a user-space program on Mac OS X (10.4 and above).

Ok, I know that sounds pretty dry, but stay with me. When Dan first told me about MacFUSE I was not particularly interested. It doesn’t sound nearly as useful as it is! He installed it, and sshfs, on my Macbook and I started using it and fell in love. If I need to copy a recording over to my webspace, I just drag it over in Finder. When I need to update a podcast feed, rather than ssh in and use vi to edit (or worse, to ftp the file back and forth), I just double-click the file in Finder and it opens in my local texteditor (SMULTRON). (And next time I can just Open Recent from the File menu!) I can’t tell you how useful it is. Today I installed it on my iMac, and, though it may sound a bit daunting, it’s easy — anyone can do it.

Go to Download the MacFUSE Core Installer Package dmg and the sshfs filesystem dmg. Install the MacFUSE core first, and then sshfs. Run sshfs. It’ll ask you for a server and a username, and then a password. Once you’ve connected to your server, it’ll show up as a drive in Finder, just as if you had an external hard drive plugged in. You can quit sshfs now. Now you can use your mounted server just as if it were a local box!

17 comments » | Blog, Tech

Leopard is coming!

October 21st, 2007 — 1:05pm

Dan’s been talking about Leopard, the soon-to-be-released update for Mac OS X, for quite a while. Last week he showed me the page which lists 300+ new features, and some of them seemed really neat! For instance,

Quick Look:

Look inside any document without launching an application. Use Quick Look with documents, images, songs, and movies and get a large-size preview of the file. Flip through multipage documents, preview movies, even add images to iPhoto. You can use Quick Look in Finder, Mail, and Time Machine.


Organize your activities into separate spaces and easily switch from one to another. Make a space for work or play. Choose from a number of convenient options that make moving from space to space fast and easy.

(I haven’t had proper workspaces since I ran linux)

Scroll Non-Active Windows:

Scroll any open window, even if it’s not active. Simply position your mouse over the target window and scroll.

Path Bar:

See the path of a file when you view it in the Finder. Just choose Show Path Bar from the View menu and the path is visible at the bottom of the Finder window. You can also drag files to any location in the Path Bar.

So I got a little more excited about Leopard. And then, a few days ago, Dan downloaded the Guided Tour and we watched it together, and my head exploded and I became a rabid fangirl and now I can’t WAIT for LEOPARD! LEOPARD LEOPARD LEOPARD!!! Features that didn’t seem that interesting in print (stacks, time machine, new Finder layout, search shared Macs, etc.) look fantastic in use.

Only 5 days to Leopard! Yay Apple!

2 comments » | Blog, Tech

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