Tuesday, 28-Feb-06 13:53
Quick note...

...saying that mitvit is again extremely right (well, not politically). I agree with everything he says, including the part in which he scorns me and others (and I'm taking this personally) for not saying anything about the Muhammed-cartoon-thingy. I agree, having spoken openly against the new copyright legislation and defending (or at least blabbing incoherently about) the freedom of speech, I should've said something strong and to the point about the matter.

But what to say? I feel like everything has already been said. All I can do is give my own, personal, little support by saying that mitvit is right, and that violence is simply stupid, and in reality the whole shebang has very little to do with the pictures and a lot about a camel which has been burdened by stupid, arrogant and greedy westerners for a long time, and whose back is close to a snapping point.

This is an issue which is too big, too deep, and too complicated to approach lightly. Defending online freedom and deconstructing stupid laws is easy. Trying to say something right about a conflict that spans hundreds of years is a heck of a lot more difficult.

Throughout this crisis I have been reading The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad, which is a story of a family living in Kabul, Afghanistan. It would probably be one of the best fantasy books ever written, if it wasn't about real people. Most science fiction novels I've read don't create such a feeling of alienness - things that you just simply cannot wrap your brain around - but I guess that just tells how reality is sometimes stranger than fantasy.

I cannot shake this feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I understand that people are afraid, and would like to silence those who might call harm upon this country. But all my instincts are saying that this is the wrong solution. It won't go away if we pretend that it's not there. There are billions of people who think in a way that our specialized western brain, living in the specialized western world does not understand. This is a wake-up call, and it's up to us to answer it and start talking. Or the next thing we see is that the billions are knocking on our doorstep.

We don't need to sacrifice liberties or traditions or religions to talk. Nor do we need to sacrifice lives. We may have to sacrifice our pride, though.

Caving in and acting like a bunch of scared bunnies (yes, that's you, mr. Prime Minister) won't help in the long run. To make a geeky and bad software analogy: this is a deep design fault which cannot be simply patched or ignored. We need to redesign the architecture from scratch and see what can be reused.

Saturday, 25-Feb-06 23:04
Roma!

Ah, Rome! Where all the roads lead - and I'm finally here.

Pizza is good, ice cream is fabulous, tourists are everywhere, as are shoe stores, the night is warm, my hotel room has more decoration than actual wall area, and for some reason, Italian men look - on the average - better to me than Italian women. Great.

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Friday, 24-Feb-06 17:59
Why more features is good and Word is actually a good program

The following hit me yesterday evening... This will sound strange, but hear me out.

Almost everyone I know (including myself) thinks that the modern software is too complex. Most people think that cell phones are too complex, too, with bells and widgets they never use. People feel at loss in the face of all this complexity, and wonder, why they need to pay for the 80% of the features that they just don't need. Companies use massive amounts of money to usability design, and still fail to produce things that everyone could immediately use without leafing through manuals. This disease of adding more and more functionality is called "featuritis", and Microsoft Word is often the most touted example of it: why does a word processor have so many features nobody ever uses?

I think - and this is admittedly a slightly absurd leap - the fundamental reason lies with the Long Tail (i.e. the concept of "something for everyone").

The Long Tail is based on the idea that there is a lot of value in addressing the niches. Traditionally, business revolves around "hits" - the top 500 companies, or the most-selling books, or the most common demographics of the viewers, or the most common sports, or the most common brands of dishwashers, or the most common operating system. You want to address the majority of the market, because trying to address everyone is more trouble than it's worth.

However, with the internet, when you don't have to consider limited storage space that much anymore, you can start to address even the smallest niches. You can go to CafePress and sell T-shirts with your own face. Google is very good at finding niche stuff, and less good at finding just generic fluff. Amazon has over ten times the catalog size of your average book shop. Even the most obscure song in iTunes still sells a copy or two each month, making money. On IMDB, it does not really matter whether a movie is popular or not: everything gets treated the same. These companies are taking advantage in the value of serving the niches - and for them, it's not any more expensive as doing anything else.

Now, if you head over to the standard application space, and imagine that you would like to sell a word processor for the niches - a word processor to address the Long Tail, if you please - I think the end result would be something like Word. Each feature of Word is important to some minority somewhere, be it even as small as a single person. And this is what makes it so successful, yet so universally disliked. Maybe how the Word presents all these features is not optimal, but it's doing that well enough to be extremely successful (document format lock-in and deals with the OEMs do not hurt either).

So, to me, it seems that featuritis (and the apparent complexity) is an unmanaged attempt to address the Long Tail. I am sure Google's and Amazon's servers (with personal recommendations) are incredibly complex, but this is not something that is apparent to the user. Their featuritis is managed, and could be simply labelled as "good service".

I think that the most important lesson of the Long Tail is not that it's there - because we all know that it exists; people just choose to disregard it when making business decisions - but that if you want to address it, you must think about it in advance in order to not get flooded by featuritis. Think about how you will scale, and how you will offer new features to users in such a way that does not overwhelm them.

It's not inherently evil to make something that is complex and has a lot of features. You just need to plan for it.

Thursday, 23-Feb-06 18:55
IP quickies

I'm listing a few oddities I've encountered lately on the wonderful world of Intellectual Property (garnered from BoingBoing and elsewhere:

  • Mozilla foundation "makes it impossible to enforce UK anti-copying legislation". Every week I meet people who just don't get the difference between "free" and "free" - but it's that disrupting...?
  • WIPO just does not get the idea of Public Domain. Poor countries: shut up, go create your own stuff and stop whining about public domain. We'll keep our toys, and you can have your toys, that's fair, isn't it?
  • Japan bans resales of electronics that are over five years old and don't have a permission. Some alarmist reactions here and less alarmist here. However, no matter what the reason, it will make it quite difficult for small second-hand shops to circulate old stuff. This will give an advantage to big companies selling new stuff (who are probably happy as Larry - however happy he is - about this). Expect a flood of old, but good, Japanese stuff flowing abroad (exports are not forbidden).
  • The head of US Copyright Office says: "We've certainly lengthened the term [of copyright] perhaps -- I won't even say perhaps -- too long a term. I think it is too long. I think that was probably a big mistake, but one that Congress can make." Yeah, and when you sneeze, the rest of the world gets sick, too.
  • Microsoft says that the purpose of DRM is to lock out small players: "The intention is to reduce the number of licensors to a manageable level, to lock out "hobbyists" and other entities that Microsoft doesn't want to have to trouble itself with." So what happened to the idea that DRM was supposed to protect the small guys from starving? Oh, I see, it's only when the small guy signs up his soul with the largest corporations in the world. Well, that's fair.
  • And, finally Helsinki catches up with the rest of the world when some rich guy gets pissed off at corporations and decides to open his own free WiFi network in downtown Helsinki. The rest of the world yawns, and keeps sipping the latte and reading blogs. No, seriously, I'm happy about this.
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Thursday, 23-Feb-06 11:07
To IV or not to IV, that is the question

I seem to have gone all linky in the past few days. No worries, it's bound to end once I get back into mine "oh, the internet is full of shit and nothing of it is worth seeing" -phase. But until then, geeky links for all to enjoy.

Ever wondered why clocks sometimes have IV and sometimes IIII to represent number four? Well, really, me neither. But in case you would like to know, here is an extensive discussion on the subject. Grrreat!

(Via This is broken, a blog that lists things which are broken, except in this case, since it turns out that using "IIII" is not broken, but standard convention.)

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Thursday, 23-Feb-06 01:28
Have we changed the world?

Yes, we have. Maybe it's time we started to think about what we want to change it to. I don't know the people behind this, but at least the video is pretty cool.

Worldchanging shows us a different world - the future we could create. A bright green future, a sustainable, prosperous, dynamic future for all. On a planet full of problems, Worldchanging calls attention to solutions, illuminating tools, models and ideas for building that future.

We have a choice to make. We can build a future of green products and industry, renewable energy and leapfrogging technologies, clean water and fresh air, livable cities and healthy children. Or we can have the kind of world Ed Burtynsky shows us.

http://www.worldchanging.com/campaign/

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Wednesday, 22-Feb-06 20:57
Quantum computer works best if it's off

That is, a quantum computer does actually produce results even if it does not run. The headaches and illogicalities of quantum mechanics is probably why I quit university physics after delving head-first into the wonderful world that is, may be, or might not be, depending on where you are looking, who you are, and what you had for breakfast.

Read the article at The New Scientist.

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Wednesday, 22-Feb-06 11:50
Is a T-shirt a T-shirt?

During our move, I realized how many T-shirts I actually have. I have both staff and regular T-shirts from Ropecon from every year (bar one or two), and I have been buying T-shirts as mementos from all over the world. So, I have about three shelves full of T-shirts these days, most of which I don't use, but which I don't really want to throw away either. They have meaning to me. That's giving up to you...

Anyway, SmartMobs links to a story from CNET:

If you find yourself wearing clothes from a new company called Edoc Laundry, beware: Strangers may walk up to you on the street to examine the intricacies of your shirt's patterns.

That's because Edoc Laundry's first line, expected to launch March 1, literally weaves an episodic, multimedia game into the fabric of the garments. The Seattle-based company is believed to be the first to attempt such a fashion feat. Edoc line

The idea is an extension of so-called alternate-reality games, or ARGs, in which people try to solve puzzles that are propagated online but require players to team up to find clues in the real world. Usually, the games are promotional vehicles for other products, including video games and movies.

Exploration of T-shirtiness is good. A T-shirt is not just something you wear.

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Wednesday, 22-Feb-06 00:47
"Simple" projects for geeks

IPSwap is an interesting place. If you have a small programming/hacking job, you can list it there, along with a fee you are willing to pay, and hopefully someone will take the job. The stuff ranges from "10 bucks for a small game" to "2000 USD for making a phone exchange".

One of the most difficult things a programmer has to wrestle with is the specification phase: Mostly, the client has no clue whatsoever on what he really needs, some clue to what he really wants, no intention on sticking with it, and they are quite incapable of writing it down. Looking at some of the projects at IPSwap, I feel that in this case, the people are not quite aware of what they're really asking for... Thirty dollars for an Open Source library in PHP to interface with the infamously closed-source Skype? Ugh.

But still - it makes for slightly amusing browsing. If you're a hardcore geek, that is.

(Been feeling quite under the weather today. I feel feverish, yet I have no major fever. My stomach is on the verge of doing something unpleasant, but hasn't quite erupted in any spectacular ways. I feel very tired, but not sleepy. Strange. Hope it goes away.)

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Monday, 20-Feb-06 15:51
The Only True Sport

Today, a Canadian friend emailed me congratulating on Finland winning Canada in the Olympic games. I guess it says something about by involvement in sports that it was news to me... Anyway, for a long time I've maintained that there are only two winter sports worth following: curling and ice dancing. The latter, because it's just so beautiful; and the former because the slow pace of the game hides the incredibly hard battle masked below the surface. Curling is probably the closest sport to board games, which, I guess, explains a lot of my interest.

Since I haven't seen these anywhere else, here are some collected anecdotes of Markku Uusipaavalniemi, the head of the Finnish Curling team (sorry, these are in Finnish, but you can go to chucknorrisfacts.com to get the idea... Uusis rules.

(Kiitos Terolle ja Pialle.)

Markku Uusipaavalniemi - jäätävä kurling-mies

Kun Uusis määrää, kiviäkin alkaa kiinnostaa.

Uusiksen kivet ovat graniittia.

Päälause on alisteinen sivulauseelle, jos sivulauseessa lukee Uusis.

Kun muut pojat lennätti leijaa, Uusis lennätti graniittikiveä.

Vuosina 90-91 Uusis rakensi Wille Mäkelän, tarvikkeinaan ainoastaan vanhat videot ja nippusiteitä.

Elokuvan Alien versus Predator alkuperäinen nimi oli Alien and Predator versus Uusipaavalniemi. Se peruutettiin ennen kuvausten alkamista koska kukaan ei maksaisi nähdäkseen 14 sekuntia kestävän elokuvan.

Kun Uusis oli pieni, hän laittoi äitinsä syömään vihanneksensa.

Uusis on niin kylmäverinen jätkä, että kun hän poistui Suomesta, ilman lämpötila nousi kahdella asteella.

Ei ole olemassa liian pahoja poistoja. On vain kiviä, joita Uusis ei halua poistaa.

Uusis harjaa aina tilanteissa, missä oma heitto lähtee virheellisesti kohti pesää. Tälläistä ei ole vain vielä tapahtunut.

On tilanteita, missä normaali-ihminen näkisi Uusiksen epäonnistuvan. Oikeasti näissä tilanteissa Uusis haluaa vain hakea hieman lisähaastetta viimeiselle kivellä.

Joskus normaali-ihminen luulee, että Uusiksella olisi paikka tuplapoistolle. Uusis heittää tahallaan ohi, ja dominoi viimeisellä kivellä TRIPLANIITIN.

Uusis ei lue kirjoja. Uusis tuijottaa kirjaa kunnes kirja kertoo mitä Uusis haluaa tietää.

Uusiksen tuijotus on saanut sokean ihmisen kääntämään katseensa pois.

Uusis ei omista yhtään peiliä. Tuijotuskilpailu kestäisi loppuelämän.

Uusis vihaa kättelyjä kesken pelin. Niin paljon, että antaa tahallaan vastustajalle ryöstön tai kaksi. Tosi pelit lopetetaan jatkopäissä.

Uusiksella on 2.0 näkö molemmissa silmissä. Silmälasit ovat pakolliset, ja ne vähentävät kuolettavan tuijotuksen vaikutusta.

Uusis ei omista kaukosäädintä. Uusis vain tuijottaa haluamansa kanavan esille.

Uusis ei tarvitse onnea. Onni tarvitsee Uusista.

Uusis pääsee aina halutessaan pesälle. Uusiksen vaimo ei aina vain hyväksy sitä, joten Uusis jättää jotkut heitot tahalleen lyhyeksi.

Kolmannen pään jälkeen Wille ja Uusis keskustelee:
"Mä voin kohta ruveta jo pelaa"
"Niin mäkin"
"On tässä jo lämmitelty"

Wille kivelle: "Istu!"

Sävel: "Tshingis Khan":

Hän ogelista lensi Torinoon, harjoineen. Ha, hu, ha.
Ja vastustaja joutui heti paniikkiin, joukkoineen! Ha, hu, ha!
Kanukitkin kysyy, tää oikeinko on
ja Uusis siihen vastaa: "saan nautinnon"
kun määris taasen nänniin napsahtaa!

Paa, paa paavali! Curlingkivien hirveä kolistaja!
Paa, paa paavali! Muiden maiden hirveä alistaja!
Määristä hän käytti - ha, ha, ha haa!
Taas närhen munat näytti - ho, ho, ho hoo!
ja taasen kivi liukuu keskustaan!


(En tiedä, mistä alkuperäiset tulivat; ovatpahan niitä juttuja, jotka kiertävät netissä.)

Monday, 20-Feb-06 12:21
Soft music from Softys

And finally, don’t take it too seriously. You’re free to like it or dislike it, it’s just art. --Niko
Softys.net is the brainchild of Niko Nyman, providing Creative Commons -licensed chillout-music (with remix tracks and flash animation), using the internet for promotion, and trying "free" as a business model.

Only one song (and animation) so far, but I like his music. Check it out, and spread the word, if you dig it.

Monday, 20-Feb-06 11:00
Blogs, popularity, A-lists, and more

There's a nice article over at New York Metro on the so-called A-list of bloggers, people who make millions blogging, how the whole popularity seems "fixed" and the difficulty of the C-listers to get to the A-list. You know, the usual stuff.

The article also discusses on why advertisers love blogs, because they can reach to smaller, more focused niches through them - and this is what creates the value, and in my opinion also explains why AOL paid 25 million USD on Weblogs.inc. It's premiere web estate for advertising.

But having a popular blog seems to be really hard work. Here's a quote from John Battelle:

What’s more, a blog is like a shark: If it stops moving, it dies. Without fresh postings every day—hell, every few minutes—even the most well-linked blog will quickly lose its audience. The A-listers cannot rest on their laurels. Federated Media owner John Battelle recently published a book on Google, and while on the book tour, he neglected his own well-trafficked blog (No. 81 on Technorati’s rankings) for several days. “And suddenly I was getting all these e-mails going, ‘If you don’t get your shit together, I’m out of here,’ ” he recalls. He stayed up late that night frantically adding posts. “If you start sucking,” he says, “it’s through.”

Which brings me to the subject of newspapers and mainstream media: one thing that they have going for them is that they can rely on brand and their editorial machinery to keep running. A blogger needs to be able to produce good quality content on his own constantly to keep up in the race - a newspaper can draw on the collective of its staff to produce their content - if an individual screws up, then that's not too bad. If he screws up several times in a row, you can fire him - but a blogger's blog would just die.

The other thing that the article points out is that many of the top blogs are these days backed by corporations, and written for by professional writers. The same is visible here: Blogs from Helsingin Sanomat, the largest newspaper in Finland, are quite popular. I don't find it particularly surprising: well-connected, professional writers backed by a corporation, screened by an editor... Why wouldn't they be popular?

The power law says that being social means being inequal. Maybe the way to full equality is to become totally antisocial?

(Via Uberkuul. Read also this ZDNet article on the economic impact of blogs.)

Thursday, 16-Feb-06 18:21
Skype on Nokia cell phones

Apparently, Skype has been demoing Skype on Nokia S60 phones at 3GSM...

Nice.

(Via Tommi.)

As an aside: I've been using Pandora for some time now. Unfortunately, it keeps feeding me Britney Spears and Whitney Houston... I am not quite sure which one is broken: the software or my taste in music.

Thursday, 16-Feb-06 12:42
I predict that in twenty years, people will still argue over emacs and vi

Well, that's an easy one. But in the 1990s, the internet was new and wonderful, and a lot of people didn't quite know what to make of it. The Imagining the Internet project by Elon University and Pew Internet has been collecting quotes from the early 90s about what this shiny new Internet might become. Some of these predictions are off the mark, some of them are wildly off the mark, and some of them are spot-on. But they're certainly interesting to read now, 15 years later.

The site is chock full of information, including predictions for the next 150 years, a searchable database, a kids section and videos; check it out.

(Via ITConversations.)

Tuesday, 14-Feb-06 13:42
Real-life transformer

This video of a working, walking, driving transformer robot is the coolest thing I've seen all day.

Well, for the past ten minutes anyway.

(Via... I can't remember anymore.)

Monday, 13-Feb-06 15:23
Bloggers, the next public menace?

From MSN Money:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government concluded its "Cyber Storm" wargame Friday, its biggest-ever exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.

Nice to be in such a good crowd.

(Via Blog Herald.)

Friday, 10-Feb-06 10:03
Moving day!

All is packed, and of course, the Internet is the last thing to go. The moving men are supposed to arrive right now, so I'm pulling the plug and timing how fast I can get back online after things are settled at the other end. Geeky? Perhaps a bit... Addicted? No, surely not!

23:08. Finally I had a bit of time to log on. The actual internet connection was down for perhaps three hours, but I didn't have time to open a computer until now. The apartment is now filled with boxes that need unpacking, a bunch of black plastic bags with all our clothes, and all our furniture in a million pieces waiting to be put together again. It's a daunting task.

We started off by filling the fridge, putting the bed back together, and turning on our wireless internet. One must have priorities.

Thursday, 09-Feb-06 10:27
"Isn't that just fantastic?"

Amnesty International has created an ad campaign against the unchecked arms trade which is going on throughout the world. What if you could buy AK-47's from TV shop? Only UKP 474.99! If you call within the hour, you get free ammunition for one year!

(Via Übercool.)

Wednesday, 08-Feb-06 12:08
New study suggests copyright is too complex

"Tulevaisuuden elinvoimainen Suomi" - "The vibrant Finland of the future" -study (in Finnish, tho') lead by our PM Matti Vanhanen has some interesting conclusions[2], such as:

  • Copyright now belongs to the realm of industrial politics rather than cultural politics
  • The current copyright legislation is outdated, and needs to be redesigned as soon as possible
  • Digital distribution over multiple channels to a single person is not supported by current copyright legislation[1]
  • Copyright system is not flexible and is too complex for creation of commercial services
  • Copyright ownership is too concentrated to big, multinational corporations
  • Finland should start to push for copyright renewal in the EU
  • Government organizations should adopt Creative Commons -licenses as much as possible to speed up innovation. Things created using public funds should be available for as free dissemination as possible.

More discussion at Digitoday.

I think this shows how small streams create big effects: the discussion last year showed that there is more and more dissatisfaction at how copyright issues are currently being handled, and therefore it's easier to voice your opinions now. The different campaigns are having impact. Saying that the current copyright system does not work is no longer the sign of the lunatic - and people are starting to realize that you can speak against copyright monopolies and current practices, without opposing copyright in general. The climate may be shifting, though it will take a few years before the EU moves.

Now is the right time to start adding more steam to the discussion. Now would be a good time to start offering good, constructive ideas to MPs, now that they are beginning to be aware of what is really wrong. Now is the time to start to collect experiences, suggestions, ideas, and to be constructive instead of bitching and moaning how the copyright mafia and megacorporations trample over the little guys, using the artists as human shields to protect their enormous profits.

This report seems to be a good start.

[#1]: There's a big controversy around cell phone TV in Finland right now: the copyright levies are based on the amount of potential listeners. According to Gramex and other copyright organizations, this payment must be made separately for each new channel. Broadcasting corporations violently disagree, as they cannot reach more than the 5 million people, for which they are already paying anyway.

[#2]: Though, since this report was commissioned to Koulutuskeskus Dipoli, it should be noted that everyone involved was working for the government in one way or the other, with strong ties to the Helsinki University of Technology. This, of course, will be used against them - I'm pretty sure someone will shout that no copyright organizations were consulted in making of the whitepaper.

Monday, 06-Feb-06 15:30
We are sorry

From www.sorrynorwaydenmark.com:

In the middle of all the mayhem surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy, a group of Arab and Muslim youth have set up this website to express their honest opinion, as a small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs. We whole-heartedly apologize to the people of Denmark, Norway and all the European Union over the actions of a few, and we completely condemn all forms of vandalism and incitement to violence that the Arab and Muslim world have witnessed. We hope that this sad episode will not tarnish the great friendship that our peoples have fostered over decades.

The problem with media representation of such issues tends to be that the media only picks up the loudest voices, ignoring the rational ones that do not generate as much noise. Voices that seek tolerance, dialogue and understanding are always drowned out by the more sensationalist loud calls, giving viewers the impression that these views are representative of all the Arab public’s view. This website is a modest attempt at redressing this wrong. We would appreciate it if you could forward the word to as many of your friends as possible.

(In case you're living under the proverbial rock, Wikipedia has a good article, as usual.)

Update: Oops. This link came via Jani. I don't know where my brain was.

Monday, 06-Feb-06 00:10
Blogit - miksi minun ja yritykseni pitäisi välittää "nettipäiväkirjoista"?

Kävin puhumassa tiistaina yritysbloggaamisesta Hetkyn tilaisuudessa, ja lupasin laittaa esityksen julkisesti saataville.

Olkaa hyvät: Powerpoint(info) (Powerpoint, 3.8 MB)

(English summary: I gave a presentation on corporate blogging; here are the slides in Finnish.)

Friday, 03-Feb-06 22:40
On learning

There's a series of Finnish commercials from the 80's about a master painter and his apprentice. At the end of each ad, the master would say to the apprentice, in a vaguely surprised, yet proud tone: "Son... You're beginning to learn" ("Poika, sä alat oppia").

Every night this week, I've gone to our new apartment, cranked up the radio, changed my clothes, rolled up my sleeves, and started to paint the walls, and other things that happened to need painting. After having painted my new apartment entirely now twice (I'm slow), I can say that I feel that I'm beginning to learn.

I think I almost know by heart the playlists of most commercial radio stations in the capital area.

They all suck.


Private comments? Drop me an email. Or complain in a nearby pub - that'll help.



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