Recent Gatto Speech

Here’s a nice blogpost about a recent (2009) Gatto speech. I wonder if there are any recordings…

Soundbites on free software business and culture

The idea that making free software is not a business model for an individual who is a talented programmer is not, I think, compatible with current data.

Eben Moglen, Part 2 of an interview from 2007 (part one here)

Microsoft still maintains strongly the view that its business model, which depends upon concealing source code from users, is a viable and important and necessary model. And as long as a company that sells a billion dollars a week in software is fundamentally still trying to [fight] the free way of doing things, Microsoft remains a very dangerous party. But Microsoft, too, has now fundamentally recognized that there is not another generation left in the proprietary software idea and [it is] trying to move to a world in which it can leverage the remaining value of its monopoly in a world of mixed free and unfree code. As Microsoft begins to move itself away from being the primary partisan of unfreedom, the second most important partisans of unfreedom slot into place and they are the owners of culture, the Disneys and the other major movie studios who have a great deal of image-making authority in the world — and a great deal to lose from the obliteration of their distribution mechanisms.

Eben Moglen, computerworld interview, 2007

The death of the newspaper industry in “a year or two”

Couple more nice pieces about the collapse of newspapers via the Backstage list:

Massive layoffs with no end in sight. Wave after wave of acquisitions and mergers fueled by the excesses of artificially cheap capital. Widespread fear that an entire industry and its contributions will stall or simply stop. This describes the news industry today, but it also described the high tech industry in the late eighties and early nineties. Read more…
There should have been a ten-year evolutionary process: the ecosystem steadily diversifying and establishing its complex relationships, the new business models evolving, the papers slowly transferring from print to digital, along with the advertisers. Instead, the financial meltdown – and some related over-leveraging by the newspaper companies themselves – has taken what should have been a decade-long process and crammed it down into a year or two. That is bad news for two reasons. First because it is going to inflict a lot of stress on people inside the industry who do great things, and who provide an important social good with their work. But it’s also bad news because it’s going to distract us from the long-term view; we’re going to spend so much time trying to figure out how to keep the old model on life support that we won’t be able to help invent a new model that actually might work better for everyone. Read more…

On the backstage list, the BBC has been proposed as a model for paying journalist’s wages, but it has been noted that there isn’t any other news organisation at the same scale anywhere else, ever. But I think there might be when the other large beehive organisations collapse in the depression, and popular support for the stomping jackboot evil emerges.

Anyway, to me, the solution for individuals looking to do journalism is, they get another job to keep the bills paid, learn how internet marketing really works (which ought not to be too hard for those already expert at writing), continue to do journalism about what they love, and work hard at being worth it.

They’ll have to accept that everyone else will call them a “blogger” “podcaster” or “video podcaster” or something else that fails to see past the media form to the actual activity, and will fail to pay the social dividend of “I work at Acme Media Corp.”

Plenty won’t like that social adjustment, and I expect they will also be the ones who have been recycling press releases instead of doing real investigation, and heaping scorn on their colleagues who were trying to keep up with the Internet. Like lawyers who got into law because they wanted to get rich, instead of believing in the rights of man, I won’t be sad to see them work another job and without continuing to do their “journalism.”

There have been plenty of professional bloggers during the last few years, and some were not lone individuals but small groups. Of all the ones I’ve paid for, my favourite was Gruber, who offered for money a full-text RSS feed with a T shirt. My hope is that we’ll get more stuff like MediaLens but outwards facing (who are also not traditionally funded, but who are indeed funded.)

My hope with the change is that we’ll get an answer to the questions MediaLens raise about the integrity of the profession.

“You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model.

In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the newspapers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. … “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” … Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke. … It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem. … “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model. Read more…

Clay Shirky is one of my favourite academics, and he has been making a habit of explaining why the newspaper industry is even more zombified than the car manufacturing industry. His latest piece in this series, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” is one of his best essays, I think - although my personal top favourite is still “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus.”

There will always be a need for people doing journalism, writing well-informed opinions, taking the right photos at the right time in the right place. But we don’t need other people to support us do these things any more. So as it gets harder to generate revenue from these activities, the people who support the activities and turn them into ‘work’ - which directly means, the organisations who support and employ the activity-participants - are collapsing in the vacuum.

The internet is changing the demand for “high quality content,” because it is changing the definition. “Sharable” and “modifiable” are now crucial parts of what make up “high quality,” and “HD quality broadcast footage” is facing stiff competition from “HD quality off-my-pocket-camera.”

The way to generate revenue is obvious, if you study the way the free software business community generates revenue :-)

(Via Sean Daly)

How Indiana Jones was thought up

A complete transcript of a intensive five 9-hour day meeting between George Lucas, Speilberg and the screenwriter has found its way onto the web.


Robothon reports

There’s a good set of links to reports on the Robothon over on Typophile

No change, I can believe it.

Obama is expanding the secret military-industrial-complex budget. Surprise.

Wikileaks to the rescue, though :-)

Android @font-face complex script support

Android uses Skia as a raster rendering engine, and like every other free software graphic program, for text display it uses FreeType2 for blitting pixels to screens.

Back in 2007 the Skia sourcecode was accidentally published, and “kickass type rendering” was one of the features mentioned. But I couldn’t find much more information about how Android text rendering work, other than it uses Freetype through Skia. So I posted a vague query on the skia-discuss mailing list, and was happy to get a great reply from the project lead, Mike Reed:

More android fonts would be excellent. Currently android does not enable the truetype instructions in freetype, as there are patent issues around that. Fortunately, the autohinter has done a good job for us when used a UI sizes. The browser is a special case, as it needs to have fractional positioning (for zoom). In that case we don’t hint in the horizontal direction at all (but do some light hinting in Y). This lets us draw the glyphs at subpixel positions in X. Complex script support is coming. We are looking at several libraries (pango, ICU layout, etc.). We intend to take advantage of opentype tables for shaping and cool ligature formation.

Which is excellent to know, especially about complex script support :-)

I read a nice interview with Mike a few months ago when I was researching Android, but I now can’t find it; it was quite funny though, he projected the Google vibe quite well, it was something like “Q, what are you working on next? A, Just simple engineering.” Shame I can’t find it now, but he is “a device software guru” and worked on the ill-fated QuickDraw GX and on font technology at Apple.

(This blog post explains to Android application developers how to use random fonts installed in an Android system.)

Best summary of peak oil

I think this is the shortest, sharpest summary of peak oil I’ve seen yet:

The Peak Oil story was never about running out of oil. It was about the collapse of complex systems in a world economy faced by the prospect of no further oil-fueled growth. It was something of a shock to many that the first complex system to fail would be banking, but the process is obvious: no more growth means no more ability to pay interest on credit.

@font-face on Android

@font-face on Android

Since the Koolu Android beta for OpenMoko FreeRunner, and NITDroid for Nokia N810 both have broken @font-face support, and I am behind on my studies and can not wait for these things to be fixed, I bought a HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 handset on eBay for £205. After a bit of hacking, I have got rid of the Tivoisation - got full root access - and @font-face works great! See the photos.

It arrived this weekend, reset to factory settings, and so when it was turned on it required registration with Google using a Google Account. The kindly eBay seller included a T-Mobile PAYG SIM with 8p credit, so I had to top that up to £10.08, and then it registered fine. Well, at the cost of £1, which is the per-day cost of unlimited 3G data on T-Mobile PAYG; 11p for the first 14kb and then 89p for anything more than that, and because Android assumes an unlimited data plan (like the iPhone) then each day you turn the phone on, it rings out 11p (and perhaps more if you get a lot of email…) There are no free software data-connection-blockers.

It is possible to register using the wifi, but I had the RC8 version, so the RC7 “hidden root console” feature of the registration program had been removed.

Fortunately, its possible to downgrade the G1 to enable root access, thanks to the XDA-Developers Wiki (and the nicely photographed Gizmodo page about rooting a G1 is good to read too, as it this short summary.)

First run these two commands to get Android nicely detected on GNU/Linux:

echo 'SUBSYSTEM=="usb", SYSFS{idVendor}=="0bb4", MODE="0666"' | sudo tee /etc/udev/rules.d/50-android.rules;
sudo chmod a+rx /etc/udev/rules.d/50-android.rules;

Then connect phone to computer via USB, on phone bring down status menu from top of screen and click USB message and click “mount”. It should then be mounted automatically by GNU/Linux. Then download the 43Mb file and copy it to the SD card. Use “df -h” to see what /dev file the card has, in my case, /dev/sde

df -h;
umount /dev/sde;
sudo mkfs.vfat -Iv /dev/sde;
sudo mount /dev/sde /mnt;
cp DREAIMG.NBH /mnt/;
sudo umount /mnt;

Turn the G1 off, plug it into the charger, then hold Camera button and turn on. The bootloader mode start, with instructions to flash the phone with the update on the SD card. The scrollbar went across to 100% for me, and then paused there for ages, and then the text menu has “OK” appear for each line, and then it said to restart the phone. To do this, hit the trackball button and then press Call, Menu and End simultaneously.

When the phone boots up normally, to see the special root console, tap the desktop and type

    [enter] [enter] reboot [enter]

Ignore the address book that pops up; the phone will magically reboot :-)

Next up is to install a unrestricted boot loader to “de-tivoize” the phone, so it can be upgraded with any OS image.

Plug in the USB cable and let GNU/Linux mount the SDCard. Then grab and copy these files to the disk:

cp recovery.img /media/disk/;

Then eject the SD Disk, and reboot the phone. Then when it starts, tap the desktop and type

    [enter] [enter] telnetd [enter]

Then set up the Wifi, go to the market, and search for telnet, and install it. Then connect to “localhost” server and see the root prompt, “#” and then type these 5 commands:

mount -o remount,rw /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system;
cd /system;
cat /sdcard/recovery.img > recovery.img;
flash_image recovery recovery.img;

When the phone boots, shut down again, and then start up holding the Home button along with Power. Press Alt-L to see the menu, then Alt-S to apply the update, then Home and Back to reboot. The phone boots a couple times and comes up normally.

Now that’s done, the task is to find a nice version of Android to run. The JesusFreke releases seem well regarded on the forums, and I must keep an eye out for new releases on the forum - remember that the RC33 is for the USA and the RC8 is UK. Plug in the computer USB cable:

rm /media/disk/*;
cp /media/disk/;

Then turn off the phone, turn on holding home + power, see the yellow arrow icon, and then press alt+l to see the menu and alt+s to install the new OS.

When it boots, you’ll find a multitouch-zooming webbrowser and a Terminal application in which you can ‘su’ to get root access.

With this installed you can then install and use a “tethering” tool to connect to the net via 3G and then set up the phone’s wifi as a basestation for laptops and other computers to access the net over wifi. Installing programs is done with the “adb” tool:

chmod +x adb;
./adb install signed_andTether_0_90.apk;

Here are the free software Android tools I’ve installed so far:


Also, note that the above doesn’t unlock the SIM, so the handset is restricted to use on the T-Mobile network only. To unlock it, one needs to put in a different network SIM card and enter an unlocking code. is the cheapest I could see, providing unlock codes for USD$20; was next at USD$25. There are some rumours going around that this is discriminated against by network operators or Google, but they seem unsubstantiated. To use these services, just read the IMEA from under the battery, or via the Menu, Settings, About, Status page. I got mine after about 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon, and it worked perfectly. However, once the phone is SIM-unlocked, and using a different network, it needs to know the APN settings to access the net. UPDATE: mymodgphone has a worldwide list, but its settings were incorrect, and the correct ones are very simple.

To connect a unlocked G1 Android phone to Orange Internet, just enter these 4 settings from “Home Menu, Settings, Wireless Controls, Mobile Networks, Access Point Names, menu key, add new button”:

APN: orangeinternet

port:9201 MCC:234 MNC:33

Note that MMS won’t work, but I’ve used that about 3 times in my life, ever.

There are a lot of great android resources out there, so the wikis tend to have the best stuff from forums all collated together. in one place. Nice ones are and

Soros says current situation similar to demise of the Soviet Union

The Bank of England is finally recognising that things are worse than it thought, Taleb is saying the economic collapse will be worse than the Great Depression, and now according to Reuters so is George Soros who goes a step further:

turbulence is more severe than during the Great Depression, comparing the current situation to the demise of the Soviet Union

Which adds a grain of authority to Orlov’s thesis, that he’s been publishing since June 2005. It is no surprise he is building up quite an audience at his recent speeches, and I think best summary so far was his “5 stages of collapse” slides.

5 stages

Gold, riots, Microsoft and type design.

I’m in two minds about what the important news is this week.

On the one hand, the economic collapse continues to be riveting. Mexico is becoming a failed state (this is especially noteworthy for me because the Guardian headline “Mexico in free fall” is no surprise to me as I read about that over a month ago on Mike Ruppert’s blog, with much better analysis - whole police departments walking off the job on strike, the head of police’s head turning up in a freezer box, and the USA trooping up the border - no doubt exacerbated by the old peak oil news about Cantaell’s oil production going off a cliff multiplying the loss of the state’s income from the temporarily collapsed oil price); Eastern Europe is collapsing quick enough to make the “soft landing for Europe” thesis questionable, with the Latvian government collapsing first; British expats are fleeing early/temporary social collapse; the gold price pushed $1,000/ounce again, and record £684 highs (I’m sad I wasn’t more confident in my financial research in November/December, but I reckon with this high there’ll be a selloff down to $850 or so, and if so there will be a chance to buy in more before there is a run on fiat money - or at least, sterling.); and China’s peak oil endgame starting to play out.

On the other hand, Microsoft sued TomTom over software idea patents. TomTom is a mobile computing developer and semi-free software business; semi-free as they use GNU/Linux and GPL software as a base for a proprietary mapping application. Larry Augustin makes a good case for treating this like GIF (via Linux Elitists mailing list); boycotting the patent-lumbered format from now on, which for GIF resulted in the excellent PNG.

This lawsuit, if TomTom looses, will effect Android, the free software operating system for mobile phones that I am aiming my typeface design at. It will also mean that plugging in portable music players and digital cameras is likely to stop working “out of the box” on free software systems, just like the MP3 audio format: The best software in the world for dealing with the format is free software, but the patents mean it is effectively censored. I hope this attack will only add momentum to the campaign to end software patents.

This is important because it has reminded me about my I’m studying type design and font software, and helped me to de-rivet from rubber-necking the collapse. It is wrong for a state to assert total control and power over people (even in the name of terrorism) and, similarly, it is wrong when proprietary software developers assert total power and control over the users of software. Especially when that power is neglected. There was an inspiring lecture today about the 230 million people who write the Bengali script with zero OpenType fonts available…

Building a basic and robust Transition infrastructure, freely

Nice to see another company making the cultural-freedom business model work for non-software-program stuff - in this case, making local fabrication machinery suitable for the transition economy:

…how do we get the work funded? The collaborative microfunding is perhaps the right idea. The Core Teams develop technical details. Then we fund prototypes, optimization, and the building of optimal production facilities. Why should low product cost be feasible? Because we have a lean operation with little overhead, and if funded, we have low-cost production capacity that can match even slave goods and mass production. The new economic age is here. We are not talking of many hundreds of thousands of capitalization requirements for similar enterprise. We are talking of open-source-fed production facilities that will cost on the order of $10k to build. There is cascading cost reduction, for example as we use our CEB to build the facility, or the solar turbine to power it. As such, ‘capitalization costs’ are ‘zero’- fundraising covers the cost. So far, we’ve operated 100% on voluntary contributions. R&D costs are zero - they are distributed collaboratively. All the costs are zero zero zero, outside of materials and labor. We capture the value of labor - but even if we charge $100/hour for the CEB - with optimized fabrication time predicted to be 20 hours per machine - that is still $3500 for a machine - factor 8 lower than the competition, as you can check for yourself. That $100/hour is very well worth it - if it’s not being dissipated in wasteful production ergonomics and wasteful product design. Moreover, all proceeds are used to fund further open product development. (Read more…)

Dutch say that disobeying copyright is good for the economy

While the ACTA treaty is cooking up a nasty scheme to make sharing with friends illegal, some good news from Holland:

The study concludes that the effects [of disobeying copyright] are strongly positive because consumers get to enjoy desirable content and also get to keep their cash to buy other things. Because the consumers save much more money than the producers lose, the net economic effects are positive. The report also reinforces the truth that unpaid downloads do not translate into lost sales in anything close to a one-to-one ratio.

The report makes a number of recommendations that file sharers will be able to live with, such as supporting the development of new economic models for rights holders, not criminalizing file sharing for personal use, and so on. (Read more)

This is via RMS, who explains how the ACTA play works:

This is the standard procedure by which governments use trade treaties to attack their citizens. First they draw up a treaty by which they all promise to do so. Then they say, “We have to agree to every provision of we won’t get the business benefit of the treaty.” Then people surrender their freedom. The whole scheme is evil from the first step to the last. It is a sign of a government that is a toady for business, and the enemy of its own citizens.

It remains hard to say how this will play out, but I think that if ACTA (or whatever) succeeds at oppressing people, this will only fuel authors, artists and designers who make money with permissive or copyleft cultural business models.

But I wonder, as the new depression gets bigger, if businesses will stifle competitors in the same way that the UK government criminalises any kind of public protest.

Interesting times.

AutoKey is getting good!

AutoKey is picking up steam, and I hope this is going to be as good as its Windows counterpart, AutoHotKey.

There are no packages yet, just python source, but this is an essential tool for any automative designer.

Snippets is a similar tool, written in Ruby.

And I’m happy to see that pyGTK has been used to make gDevilsPie, a nice and tidy little GUI for the most excellent Devils Pie window-placement tool.

The Four Stages of Free Software Adoption

Dave Neary also recently posted a really excellent article about what I summarise as the four stages of free software adoption:

It is madness to include a component in one of your products and exert no influence with upstream projects. To have influence, you must understand how the community around a project works. Someone within the team must become an active, trusted member of the community. … You are building products that you will be selling, supporting, and hopefully profiting from. In this situation, does it really make sense not to have the developer’s ear?

How to make money with free software

Dave Neary has recently published a series (one two three) of very excellent posts about free software business models (the third one is the best). Here’s the skinny:

  • Base your business model on a complement to the free software you work with.
  • Figure out who will be influencing buying decisions, who will be doing the buying, and who will be doing the paying, and figure out how to build credibility with each of them
  • Price your services based on the value you give to the company, while keeping an eye on how much you get paid at the end of the month. Estimate value based on the market price of substitutes for your services

This post about the 4 stages of free software adoption is also great.

How copyright extension in sound recordings actually works

If you live in the UK, please donate money to the Open Right Group, who made this video.

Peak Oil: Simmons says, “The Future Could Be Crazy”

“The future could be crazy.” - Matt Simmons, investment banker.

Bad news: Free software project contributions tumbling

Peak everything seems to include peak free software: Ohloh’s chart of lines of code contributed to free software projects (split by programming language) mirrors the charts for pretty much everything else these days (except gold, hurrah!)

Starting and sustaining free software businesses

Ian Lynch posted CC-BY-SA slides from a recent Manchester Free Software meeting. Lucy Bridges explained that “Ian spoke about The Learning Machine Ltd (TLM), an awarding body for the INGOTs accreditation. The INGOTs are an innovative award that teaches children about IT while also making money using and promoting free software. In the talk itself Ian spoke of the ways to create a business involved in FOSS and how using FOSS can advantageously disrupt the status-quo.”

Mish Shedlock: “Microsoft, An Aging Gorilla”

Some good news:

Shares of Microsoft (MSFT) fell to a new 52 week low after an unexpected earnings miss. Let’s take a look at the headline news followed by a discussion.

Reuters is reporting Microsoft stuns with profit miss, to cut up to 5,000 jobs

Microsoft Corp stunned Wall Street with disappointing results that included plans to slash up to 5,000 jobs and a warning that profit and revenue will almost certainly drop over the next two quarters.

Microsoft’s shares dropped 9 percent, adding to a 40 percent decline in the past year. It blamed the miss on the weakness of the PC market and the popularity of low-cost netbook computers, which have combined to badly undercut sales of its dominant Windows operating system.

The market has become so volatile, Microsoft cautioned, that it has decided against issuing earnings or revenue forecasts for the rest of its fiscal year ending June 30, 2009 — other than to predict both will very likely be lower.

“The fact that they are withdrawing guidance is really bad. It adds to uncertainty. It is pretty bad when things are deteriorating so fast that even the largest companies in the world don’t know how rapidly it is happening,” said Jefferies analyst Katherine Egbert.

Microsoft posted a profit of $4.17 billion, or 47 cents per share, in its fiscal second quarter ended December 31, versus a profit of $4.71 billion, or 50 cents, a year earlier. Analysts were looking for earnings per share of 49 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Microsoft said it will eliminate up to 5,000 jobs in research and development, marketing, sales, finance, legal, human resources and information technology over the next 18 months, including 1,400 jobs on Thursday. That amounts to about 5 percent of its estimated 96,000 work force, the biggest ever cuts by the software maker.

As bad as this result was, imagine the carnage had Microsoft bought Yahoo for its offer of $44.6 billion ($31 per share) back in February. Microsoft got lucky when Yahoo rejected the offer, demanding $40 per share. See Yahoo to Reject Microsoft Bid for details.

Yahoo is currently trading at $11.44 and Microsoft would have been without a monstrous pile of badly needed cash.

Microsoft, An Aging Gorilla

Microsoft is an aging Gorilla facing many battles. The first is declining PC sales as discussed above. A second more serious problem is that it’s products are too expensive and too buggy. A third problem of Microsoft is a shift to web-based services.

Free versions of word processors and spreadsheets by OpenOffice (OO) have cut off growth of Microsoft’s flagship Word and to a lesser degree Excel. Corporations use Microsoft products predominantly because they are used to using them. There is no fundamental reason to do when it comes to word processors.

As for Excel, Micosoft has an advantage in graphics, but most can easily do without. Over time, OO spreadsheets will improve, negating, perhaps even reversing that advantage. As for right now, why should corporations pay for Excel for everyone, when perhaps only a small percentage of users need the extra features of Excel? A better business decision for corporations would be to provide OO for everyone, and on a case by case basis provide Excel to those who really need it.

Finally, there is a fundamental shift in the industry to web-based services by Google and other providers. These products are also free. This too is eating into the demand for Microsoft products.

The day of reckoning is at hand for Microsoft. Many US corporations currently married to Microsoft software will start looking long and hard at its products, from multiple angles. That Microsoft could not provide forward guidance is proof enough that its products are simply too expensive for this deflationary environment where every penny counts.

OO is the epitome of deflation. You can’t beat free.

Film Maker Makes More Money With Free Culture

Recently Miguel Sousa left a comment here that questioned “why voluntary payments are the most profitable way business can be done for artists” and here is more evidence: Nina Paley is a film maker who is making her film free to make more money:

Audience, I trust you … First I must decriminalize it to the tune of about $50,000 [plus] many strings: a “step deal.” … promotional copies are traditionally exempted from step deals … I will place promotional files of the entire film - at all resolutions, including broadcast-quality, HD, and film-quality image sequences - online at and as many mirror hosts as volunteer to share it. I will license it … Creative Commons Share-Alike or … the GNU/Linux license [to] prevent it and any derivative works from ever being [restricted] by anyone, [except] the songs … “But Nina, how will you make money?” The way artists always make money: donations, commissions, grants, patrons, speaking fees. … In the Digital Age, distributors function primarily as a barrier between artists and audiences, prohibiting access rather than facilitating it. I’m betting that you, audience, can find me more money - and certainly wider distribution - than a commercial distributor could. Here are [six] ways I imagine copylefting Sita could generate some income for me…

(Via RMS)

Nifty Corners

Nifty corners. Heh.

Gas crisis continues

The gas crisis continues: “States of emergency declared across Europe over gas … 12 countries received no Russian gas at all yesterday: Austria, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. France, Italy, Germany and Poland reported that their supplies from Russia were markedly down.”

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