HOSTING Monitoring Insights

An API Marketplace Primer for Mobile, Web and IoT

Pick up any e-commerce web or mobile app today, and you’ll be holding a mashup of interconnected applications and services from a variety of different providers. For instance, when you connect to Amazon’s e-commerce app, cookies, tags and pixels that are monitored by solutions like Exact Target, BazaarVoice, Bing, Shopzilla, Liveramp and Google Tag Manager track every action you take. You’re presented with special offers and coupons based on your viewing and buying patterns. If you find something you want for your birthday, a third party manages your wish list, which you can share through multiple social- media outlets or email to a friend. When you select something to buy, you find yourself presented with similar items as kind suggestions. And when you finally check out, you’re offered the ability to pay with promo codes, gifts cards, PayPal or a variety of credit cards.

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Original author: James Gray
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NETGEAR, Inc.'s GSS108EPP and GS408EPP Switches

Two new NETGEAR, Inc., Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE) switches feature a novel "Virtually Anywhere" mounting system that delivers modern high-power PoE+ to devices that others cannot. The mounting system on the two models—the ProSAFE 8-port Gigabit Ethernet Web Managed PoE+ Click Switch (GSS108EPP) and the ProSAFE Easy-Mount 8-port Gigabit Ethernet PoE+ Web Managed Switch (GS408EPP)—offers ultimate flexibility in placement so that PoE+ ports are available exactly where needed to power WAPs, VoIP phones, IP surveillance cameras and IoT devices.

In any orientation, they can be mounted on a wall, strapped to a pole or tucked under a desk or tabletop. In addition, the GS408EPP's unique design allows for two switches to be mounted in a single 1U rack slot, saving valuable rack space while allowing for future expansion. Both switches also provide configurable, advanced Layer 2 network features.

Original author: James Gray
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Plex Cloud: Now Available to all Plex Pass Subscribers!

It’s been an incredible ride these last few months, with the Cloud team working across four continents to get things finalized for our public launch. Plex Cloud is the easiest way to get started with your own Plex server in seconds, and given the response we’ve seen (and the massive pool of people requesting invites to our beta program), we’re thrilled to announce that all Plex Pass users can now take advantage of this amazing service.

The amount of technology behind this launch is quite awesome. It’s definitely not a trivial thing to take the best media server on the planet and make it work seamlessly as a scalable cloud service, load-balanced and clustered across multiple geographic regions. It turns out a lot can go wrong. Sometimes the hamsters that powered our innovative cloud transcoder got tired, hopped off their wheels, and went looking for alfalfa. On more than one occasion, our elaborate system of smoke signals that we use to communicate between regions was taken out by solar flares and more exotic threats like a light drizzle. Suffice to say that the Cloud team has been iterating rapidly, pushing dozens of updates throughout the beta, radiation hardening our hamsters, issuing Plex-chevron-emblazoned ponchos to our official smoke signalers, and managing to add support for Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive (personal) as cloud storage options along the way.

Believe it or not, we unveiled Plex Pass almost five years ago. Since then we’ve worked tirelessly to make sure our subscribers have gotten their money’s worth, and Plex Cloud represents another giant addition to the Plex Pass package. If you’re already a member, go ahead and check out Plex Cloud today. If you’ve been waiting to free your media with a zero-maintenance, always-on, cloud-based media server, now’s the time to subscribe!

Here’s a photo of clouds:
A photo of clouds
Here’s a photo of Barkley staring at clouds:
A photo of Barkley staring at clouds

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Original author: Kevin
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Visual Studio Code Extension Packs

March 07, 2017 Wade Anderson, @waderyan_

If you have followed our blog for the last year, you'll notice I write an Extension Roundup blog once a month. I like to write these blogs to let you know about the cool extensions being created in the community and to inspire you to create your own. I often put a theme around the Roundup blog: something like JavaScript extensions or CodeLens extensions (last month).

Creating a theme for this blog is a natural fit for a relatively new part of the extension API, Extension Packs. Last month I created my first Extension Pack to bring together all of my favorite CodeLens extensions. In this month's Roundup, I want to teach you how to make your own pack and give you some examples of why you would want to.

Tip Refer to the Extension Pack documentation for more details.

How do I make an Extension Pack?

It is very easy to make your own Extension Pack. Follow the instructions on installing the Yeoman VS Code extension generator.

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The Problem with "Content"

Back in the early '00s, John Perry Barlow said "I didn't start hearing about 'content' until the container business felt threatened." Linux Journal was one of those containers—so was every other magazine, newspaper and broadcast station. Today, those containers are bobbing around in an ocean of "content" on the internet. Worse, the stuff inside the containers, which we used to call "editorial", is now a breed of "content" too.

In the old days, editorial lived on one side of a "Chinese wall" between itself and the publishing side of a newspaper or magazine. The same went for the programming and advertising sides of a commercial broadcast station or network. The wall was transparent, meaning it was possible for a writer, a photographer, a newscaster or a performing artist to see what funded the operation, but the ethical thing was to ignore what happened on the other side of that wall. Which was easy to do, because everything on the other side of that wall was somebody else's job.

Today that wall has been destroyed by the imperatives of "content production", which is the new job of journalists and everybody else devoted to "generating content" in maximum volumes, all the better to attract "programmatic" advertising.

You can see the wreckage of one such wall in a January 2017 The New York Times story titled "In New Jersey, Only a Few Media Watchdogs Are Left", by David Chen. In it he writes, "The Star-Ledger, which almost halved its newsroom eight years ago, has mutated into a digital media company requiring most reporters to reach an ever-increasing quota of page views as part of their compensation."

As I explained in my January 2016 article "What We Can Do with Ad Blocking's Leverage", the advertising we're talking about here isn't the old Madison Avenue kind that lived on the other side of journalism's Chinese wall. It's a new all-digital kind called adtech. While adtech is called advertising, and looks like advertising, it is actually a breed of direct marketing, a cousin of spam descended from junk mail.

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Visual Studio Code at Build 2016

April 5, 2016 by Wade Anderson, @waderyan_

This year's Build 2016 conference in San Francisco was very exciting and Visual Studio Code was happy to be a part of it. VS Code featured prominently as the editor of choice in many talks and demos and there were several presentations dedicated to VS Code.

Tips and Tricks

Don't miss this well attended session on Best of VS Code: Tips and Tricks. You'll start by learning the basics of VS Code and quickly become a power user through useful Tips and Tricks. The talk finishes with a working "To Do" list sample written in JavaScript, Node.js and React/JSX.

What's New in TypeScript

TypeScript architect Anders Hejlsberg's talk on What's New in TypeScript? used VS Code throughout his demos. This talk is also a great way to understand the TypeScript/JavaScript improvements in VS Code when we adopted the new TypeScript language service, codename "Salsa".

The Future of C#

There's a nice section on VS Code integration and C# debugging later in The Future of C# starting at minute 39 (but you'll want to watch the entire entertaining talk).

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Flash ROMs with a Raspberry Pi

I previously wrote a series of articles about my experience flashing a ThinkPad X60 laptop with Libreboot. After that, the Libreboot project expanded its hardware support to include the ThinkPad X200 series, so I decided to upgrade. The main challenge with switching over to the X200 was that unlike the X60, you can't perform the initial Libreboot flash with software. Instead, you actually need to disassemble the laptop to expose the BIOS chip, clip a special clip called a Pomona clip to it that's wired to some device that can flash chips, cross your fingers and flash.

I'm not generally a hardware hacker, so I didn't have any of the special-purpose hardware-flashing tools that you typically would use to do this right. I did, however, have a Raspberry Pi (well, many Raspberry Pis if I'm being honest), and it turns out that both it and the Beaglebone Black are platforms that have been used with flashrom successfully. So in this article, I describe the steps I performed to turn a regular Raspberry Pi running Raspbian into a BIOS-flashing machine.

The Hardware

To hardware-flash a BIOS chip, you need two main pieces of hardware: a Raspberry Pi and the appropriate Pomona clip for your chip. The Pomona clip actually clips over the top of your chip and has little teeth that make connections with each of the chip's pins. You then can wire up the other end of the clip to your hardware-flashing device, and it allows you to reprogram the chip without having to remove it. In my case, my BIOS chip had 16 pins (although some X200s use 8-pin BIOS chips), so I ordered a 16-pin Pomona clip on-line at almost the same price as a Raspberry Pi!

There is actually a really good guide on-line for flashing a number of different ThinkPads using a Raspberry Pi and the NOOBS distribution; see Resources if you want more details. Unfortunately, that guide didn't exist when I first wanted to do this, so instead I had to piece together what to do (specifically which GPIO pins to connect to which pins on the clip) by combining a general-purpose article on using flashrom on a Raspberry Pi with an article on flashing an X200 with a Beaglebone Black. So although the guide I link to at the end of this article goes into more depth and looks correct, I can't directly vouch for it since I haven't followed its steps. The steps I list here are what worked for me.

Pomona Clip Pinouts

The guide I link to in the Resources section has a great graphic that goes into detail about the various pinouts you may need to use for various chips. Not all pins on the clip actually need to be connected for the X200. In my case, the simplified form is shown in Table 1 for my 16-pin Pomona clip.

SPI Pin Name 3.3V CS# S0/SIO1 GND S1/SIO0 SCLK
Pomona Clip Pin # 2 7 8 10 15 16
Raspberry Pi GPIO Pin # 1 (17*) 24 21 25 19 23
Original author: Kyle Rankin
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Visual Studio Code 1.0 Release

April 14, 2016 by The VS Code Team, @code

header graphic

Today we’re very proud to release version 1.0 of Visual Studio Code. Since our initial launch one year ago, 2 million developers have installed VS Code. Today, we’re excited to report that more than 500,000 developers actively use VS Code each month.

What started as an experiment to build a production quality editor using modern web technologies has blossomed into a new kind of cross-platform development tool, one that focuses on core developer productivity by centering the product on rich code editing and debugging experiences. Visual Studio Code brings the industry-leading experiences of Visual Studio to a streamlined development workflow, that can be a core part of the tool set of every developer, building any kind of application.

Getting to "1.0" over the last few months has been about more than features. We have worked with the community to further improve stability, fixing hundreds of bugs. And we’ve pushed hard on getting the best performance we can out of the editing experience.

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SSH Communications Security's Universal SSH Key Manager

Today's IAM solutions, warns enterprise cybersecurity expert SSH Communications Security, fail to address fully the requirements of trusted access. Organizations lack an efficient way to manage and govern trusted access credentials and have no visibility into the activities that occur within the secure channels that are created for trusted access operations.

Leading the charge to fix the issue once and for all, SSH Communications Security announced significant enhancements to its Universal SSH Key Manager (UKM) solution. UKM helps organizations more effectively manage SSH user key-based and encrypted access, control privileged access and enforce defined compliance policies. In addition, UKM helps customers discover, monitor, lockdown, remediate and automate the lifecycle of SSH user key-based access for interactive and machine-to-machine trusts without disrupting existing processes or the need to deploy agents. Updates include application-level policy management, status and compliance reporting and a new SSH Risk Assessment Tool.

Original author: James Gray
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Plex, Cloudflare, and You: An Important Security Update

Ahoy beautiful people of Plex! I’m here with a quick update about the recently-disclosed security incident over at Cloudflare, a web proxy service that we use extensively for several parts of our infrastructure. In some rare circumstances, data passing through Cloudflare may have been exposed.

tl;dr: Sensitive Plex user data like passwords and billing information do not pass through Cloudflare and are not affected by this issue. However, our www.plex.tv site and our forums, which are backed by Cloudflare, use automatically-generated “tokens” behind the scenes to sign you in. User authentication and login services are provided by plex.tv, which does not use CloudFlare. These tokens do pass through Cloudflare, so we’ve taken the precaution of invalidating them. You probably won’t notice, since we can usually automatically issue new tokens from information stored in your browser, but in some cases you may be prompted to sign in again.

If you’ve never heard of Cloudflare before, it’s because they generally go about powering large portions of the internet quietly and with remarkable efficiency. We’re huge Cloudflare fans here at Plex; lots of stuff from that beautiful artwork in your media library to Media Server downloads to this very blog are delivered around the world in no time thanks to them. We’d like to thank the good folks at Cloudflare as well as the top notch security team from Project Zero for handling this swiftly and professionally.

And it wouldn’t be a security post without a gentle reminder to pick strong, unique passwords everywhere, and in this case, keep an eye out for updates from sites that were affected and change those passwords. It’s still a harsh internet out there, stay safe!

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Original author: Kevin
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Visual Studio Code Extensions Roundup May 2016

May 4, 2016 by Wade Anderson, @waderyan_

The Visual Studio Code Extension Marketplace does a great job of highlighting Featured, Most Popular and Newly Added extensions and we encourage you to browse the site to see what's new and what plug-ins other developers are using. In our extension roundups, we like to call out extensions that we've found interesting and useful.

If you are new to VS Code extensions, check out the docs for instructions on finding and installing new extensions.

Debugger for Edge by Microsoft JS Diagnostics

Install: From within Visual Studio Code, you can use Quick Open (⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+P)) and paste ext install debugger-for-edge then press Enter.

The same folks who created the very popular Debugger for Chrome extension have published Debugger for Edge for the Microsoft Edge browser. They were able to reuse the same debugger using the Chrome Debugger protocol. You can learn more about the details in their recent blog post.

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Visual Studio April 2016 Release

May 9, 2016 by The VS Code Team, @code

Today we are releasing the April 2016 build of Visual Studio Code. This is our first monthly release after our 1.0 announcement last month and we really appreciate your support and feedback.

With this release, we're bringing many improvements to your development experience:

Developer Workflow

Quickly resize panes by double-clicking editor borders Reopen the last closed file using ⇧⌘T (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+T) Launch your favorite shell when opening a new Terminal from the Explorer or Command Palette

Debugging

Improved stepping performance when inspecting very large strings or arrays Support for deep call stacks Node.js improvements such as experimental "smart" code stepping, ES6 type support in Watch, Locals, etc.

Extension Authoring

Language Server protocol 2.0 is now consistent with core VS Code API Automated test support for authoring Debug Adapters New APIs for working with folders and JSON files

Please see our Release Notes for the full list of features and fixes.

If you have automatic updates turned on (OS X and Windows) then you'll get prompted soon. Otherwise, download VS Code today!

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Visual Studio Code Extensions using CodeLens

February 12, 2016 Wade Anderson, @waderyan_

CodeLens is a popular feature in Visual Studio Code. The essence of the feature is "actionable contextual information interspersed" in your source code. That's quite a mouthful. Let me break it down for you.

CodeLens are links in your code:

Actionable - You can click on the link and something happens. Contextual - The links are close to the code they are representing. Interspersed - The links located throughout your source code.

animation showing CodeLens

VS Code comes with CodeLens for TypeScript. You can enable it in User Settings with "typescript.referencesCodeLens.enabled": true.

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Natalie Rusk's Scratch Coding Cards (No Starch Press)

The phrase "Learn to Program One Card at a Time" plays the role of subtitle and friendly invitation from Scratch Coding Cards, a colorful collection of activities that introduce children to creative coding.

Developed by Natalie Rusk, research scientist in the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, the resource consists of illustrated activity cards that provide a playful entry point into Scratch, the graphical programming language used by millions of children around the world. The cards make it easy for kids to learn how to create a variety of interactive projects, such as a racing game, an animated interactive story, a virtual pet and much more.

Each card features step-by-step instructions for beginners to start coding. The front of the card shows an activity kids can do with Scratch, such as animating a character or keeping score in a game. The back shows how to snap together blocks of code to make the projects come to life. Along the way, kids learn key coding concepts, such as sequencing, conditionals and variables. Publisher No Starch Press recommends the coding activity cards for sharing among small groups in homes, schools and after-school programs.

Original author: James Gray
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Own Your DNS Data

I honestly think most people simply are unaware of how much personal data they leak on a daily basis as they use their computers. Even if they have some inkling along those lines, I still imagine many think of the data they leak only in terms of individual facts, such as their name or where they ate lunch. What many people don't realize is how revealing all of those individual, innocent facts are when they are combined, filtered and analyzed.

Cell-phone metadata (who you called, who called you, the length of the call and what time the call happened) falls under this category, as do all of the search queries you enter on the Internet.

For this article, I discuss a common but often overlooked source of data that is far too revealing: your DNS data. You see, although you may give an awful lot of personal marketing data to Google with every search query you type, that still doesn't capture all of the sites you visit outside Google searches either directly, via RSS readers or via links your friends send you. That's why the implementation of Google's free DNS service on 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 is so genius—search queries are revealing, but when you capture all of someone's DNS traffic, you get the complete picture of every site they visit on the Internet and beyond that, even every non-Web service (e-mail, FTP, P2P traffic and VoIP), provided that the service uses hostnames instead of IP addresses.

Let me back up a bit. DNS is one of the core services that runs on the Internet, and its job is to convert a hostname, like www.linuxjournal.com, into an IP address, such as 76.74.252.198. Without DNS, the Internet as we know it today would cease to function, because basically every site we visit in a Web browser, and indeed, just about every service we use on the Internet, we get to via its hostname and not its IP. That said, the only way we actually can reach a host on the Internet is via its IP address, so when you decide to visit a site, its hostname is converted into an IP address to which your browser then opens up a connection. Note that via DNS caching and TTL (Time To Live) settings, you may not have to send out a DNS query every time you visit a site. All the same, these days TTLs are short enough (often ranging between one minute to an hour or two—www.linuxjournal.com's TTL is 30 minutes) that if I captured all your DNS traffic for a day, I'd be able to tell you every Web site you visited along with the first time that day you visited it. If the TTL is short enough, I probably could tell you every time you went there.

Most people tend to use whatever DNS servers they have been provided. On a corporate network, you are likely to get a set of DNS servers over DHCP when you connect to the network. This is important because many corporate networks have internal resources and internal hostnames that you would be able to resolve only if you talked to an internal name server.

Original author: Kyle Rankin
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Evolution of the Insiders Build

May 23, 2016 by Wade Anderson, @waderyan_

Today over five thousand developers use the Visual Studio Code Insiders Build for early access to new features and to validate bug fixes. We love the Insiders build because we get valuable feedback and usage insights prior to each Stable release. Thank you for your help!

Initially, we released an Insiders build once per month, a few days before the Stable release. Over time, we increased the frequency of Insiders builds and today we ship new Insiders builds roughly once a week.

value prop of insiders

Nightly Builds

Even with weekly Insiders builds, many users asked for access to our nightly builds.

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Bash Shell Script: Building a Better March Madness Bracket

Last year, I wrote an article for Linux Journal titled "Building Your March Madness Bracket" My article was timely, arriving just in time for the "March Madness" college basketball series. You see, I don't follow college basketball (or really, any sports at all), but I do like to participate in office pools. And every year, it seems my office likes to fill out the March Madness brackets to see who can best predict the outcomes.

Since I don't follow college basketball, I am not a good judge of which teams might perform better than others. But fortunately, the NCAA ranks the teams for you, so I wrote a Bash script that filled out my March Madness bracket for me. Since teams were ranked 1–16, I used a "D16" method borrowed from tabletop gaming. I thought this was an elegant method to predict the outcomes.

But, there's a bug in my script. Specifically, there's an error in a key assumption for the D16 algorithm, so I'd like to correct that with an improved March Madness script here.

Let's Review What Went Wrong

My Bash script predicted the outcome of a match by comparing the ranking of each team. So, you can throw a D16 "die" to determine if team A wins and another D16 "die" to determine if team B loses, or vice versa. If the two throws agree, you know the outcome of the game: team A wins and team B loses, or team A loses and team B wins.

I asserted that a #1 team should be a strong team, so I assumed the #1 team had 15 out of 16 "chances" to win, and one out of 16 "chances" to lose. Without any other inputs, the #1 ranked team would win if its D16 throw is two or greater, and the #1 team could lose only if the D16 value was one. With that assumption, I wrote this function:

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Optimizations in Syntax Highlighting, a Visual Studio Code Story

February 8, 2017 - Alexandru Dima

Visual Studio Code version 1.9 includes a cool performance improvement that we've been working on and I wanted to tell its story.

TL;DR TextMate themes will look more like their authors intended in VS Code 1.9, while being rendered faster and with less memory consumption.

Syntax Highlighting

Syntax Highlighting usually consists of two phases. Tokens are assigned to source code, and then they are targeted by a theme, assigned colors, and voilà, your source code is rendered with colors. It is the one feature that turns a text editor into a code editor.

Tokenization in VS Code (and in the Monaco Editor) runs line-by-line, from top to bottom, in a single pass. A tokenizer can store some state at the end of a tokenized line, which will be passed back when tokenizing the next line. This is a technique used by many tokenization engines, including TextMate grammars, that allows an editor to retokenize only a small subset of the lines when the user makes edits.

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Plex Customer Spotlight: One man’s quest to eradicate physical media.

Hello again, Plex fans and the Plex curious! In this edition of Plex Customer Spotlights, we meet Keith Harris, occasional DJ and Ubisoft Project Manager from San Francisco.

Plex users are as varied as snowflakes (no, not those!) and they all tweak their setups to match their specific needs. The hardware used, library configuration, sharing options, and specific Plex apps are all up for grabs within our user universe.

Plex is incredibly fortunate to have so many people supporting our mission to make all your media available to you no matter where you are. A huge thanks to all of you!

In this Customer Spotlight, Keith spins a tale of eliminating physical media, movie discovery and Plex portability. #PlexStories

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Original author: Jerry
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Nventify's Imagizer Cloud Engine

An API Marketplace Primer for Mobile, Web and IoT

Pick up any e-commerce web or mobile app today, and you’ll be holding a mashup of interconnected applications and services from a variety of different providers. For instance, when you connect to Amazon’s e-commerce app, cookies, tags and pixels that are monitored by solutions like Exact Target, BazaarVoice, Bing, Shopzilla, Liveramp and Google Tag Manager track every action you take. You’re presented with special offers and coupons based on your viewing and buying patterns. If you find something you want for your birthday, a third party manages your wish list, which you can share through multiple social- media outlets or email to a friend. When you select something to buy, you find yourself presented with similar items as kind suggestions. And when you finally check out, you’re offered the ability to pay with promo codes, gifts cards, PayPal or a variety of credit cards.

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Özgün yazar: James Gray
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Debug information
Total SQL queries executed by: 907
Before application load usage: 2MB
After application load usage: 14MB

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