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Stop Using Microsoft Internet Explorer!
04/30/2014

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[5/1/14 update: Microsoft has released patches for fixing this vulnerability - per Adrienne Hall, General Manager, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft, "We believe, and take a huge amount of pride that, among widely used browsers, IE is the safest in the world due to its secure development and ability to protect customers, even in the face of cyber criminals who want to break it. This means that when we saw the first reports about this vulnerability we said fix it, fix it fast, and fix it for all our customers. So we did. The update that does this goes live today at 10 a.m. PDT [5/1/14]." This fix is available for Microsoft XP users as well as for users of Microsoft's current operating systems, and can be downloaded by using the Automatic Updates functionality of the operating system.]

By now, you probably have heard the news of the latest vulnerability to strike Windows computers. If you are using the most popular browser, Internet Explorer (IE) you should switch to a current version of another browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. And, no matter what browser you are using, you should update Adobe Flash to its latest version or disable it, since the vulnerability depends on Flash.

The latest flaw leaves users open to attack from hackers who can install malware on your system and hijack your computer. Microsoft reports that a patch will not be available until May 13.

If you are using Windows XP, the news is even worse. Microsoft will not release a patch for XP users since it stopped supporting XP earlier this month. As predicted, with no technical assistance and security updates, XP users will be more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. For more information about the end of XP and recommended system replacements, click here.


Announcements from Adobe
04/24/2014

(Top)
"At Adobe, we’ve always been steadfast in our commitment to providing you with state-of-the-art creative tools. That’s why, effective June 1, we're making Adobe Creative Cloud your exclusive source for all future creative licensing. This means that Adobe Creative Suite 6 will be discontinued under our TLP and CLP licensing programs. All other Adobe products available under volume licensing, like Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Presenter, will be unaffected by this change."

Beginning June 1, 2014, Adobe will implement standard, non-promotional pricing for Creative Cloud for teams for the commercial and government segments. Pricing policies for both the complete and single app plans have been set for new and migration seats.

The new standard pricing will be consistent across the channel and adobe.com, and is as follows:

Creative Cloud for teams complete (list price): $69.99
Creative Cloud for teams complete (introductory price): $49.99 (with up to 2-yr price lock)
Creative Cloud for teams single app (list price): $29.99
Creative Cloud for teams single app (introductory price): $19.99 (with up to 2-yr price lock)


Upgrade to OS X Mavericks - It's Free!
03/08/2014

(Top)
Upgrade to Mavericks - You Get What You Pay For!

We do a lot of Mac support in our shop - and felt that we needed to voice our opinion about this operating system.

Why to like it:

It's a free upgrade for Mac users running OS X 10.6 and above. And Macs built in 2007 and newer will run the operating system.

On relatively new Macs, it actually seems like it's a good system - like on Macs that were originally sold with OS 10.7 or 10.8 installed. And, it provides new features for home users that improve iPhone and iPad integration.

Why not to like it:

If you have an older Mac and/or older peripherals, it will probably break something. Some examples:

•External USB, Firewire and Thunderbolt drives can lose their data when plugged into a computer running Mavericks. When this does occur, there is no fix to recover the lost data.

•The Mavericks OS, running on older iMacs and MacBook Pros, too frequently boots to a black or white screen with just a cursor. The fix is to wipe the computer and re-install the operating system and everything else that was running on it.

•Mavericks doesn't support older printers or scanners. One fix is to install Parallels or Fusion and run older programs and drivers in Windows. Neither Parallels, Fusion nor Windows are free programs. Another fix is to buy new printers and scanners - they aren't free either.

•Mavericks has a significant color management bugs in Safari and in professional applications including Aperture and Lightroom. As of today, there aren't fixes for these problems.

Our recommendation - if you have an older Mac and you want to upgrade your operating system, pay 19.95 for the upgrade to 10.8, and forget about upgrading to OS X Mavericks. You'll more than likely find that it will be a less expensive choice. You still might have compatibility issues with older peripherals or software, since, like Mavericks, 10.8 doesn't support Rosetta. But, you won't have data loss, re-installation or color management issues.


Microsoft Windows XP Support Ends on April 8, 2014
02/28/2014

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Should you stop using Windows XP?

Over the last 12 years, Windows XP has had a great life—it was Microsoft's first contemporary operating system and is still being used on almost 30 percent of currently operating computers. In April, Microsoft will stop providing support for Windows XP. This means that Microsoft won't release security updates for XP that combat new security threats, that they won't update Windows Defender or Windows Security Essentials virus definitions and that they might remove the update services for XP as well.

Since it's less expensive for companies to support fewer operating systems, other companies will probably drop support for Windows XP as well. Possible examples are:

-Free antivirus providers, like Avira, will soon stop providing updates for XP users
-Adobe not providing security updates for Flash
-Oracle not providing security updates for Java
-Printer manufacturers not providing XP printer drivers for new printers
-Software companies not providing XP compatible versions of new software releases
-Web browsers, in addition to Internet Explorer, not updating to accommodate updates to web programming protocols.

Apple, which has a much shorter product life cycle than Windows, made the same transition with the move to Intel processors. Older Macs that don't have Intel processors can't run the latest web sites, can't use the latest printers and can't run the latest versions of software. The same type of obsolescence will occur relatively quickly with Windows XP.

Windows XP is more vulnerable to viruses than Windows 7 (three times more vulnerable) and Windows 8 (ten times more vulnerable).




Infection rate (CCM) by operating system and service pack in the fourth quarter of 2012 as reported in the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 14.


Many industry watchers believe as the end-of-life nears cyber criminals may even step up their rates of attack and that “black hat” attackers may hold back exploit codes for release after the end date in April. (Sheldon, 2012 and AppSense)

Windows XP PC's are old enough to be replaced with new computers. The last copies of Windows XP were sold in October, 2010 (Tastar sold it's last XP PC in 2009), so any PC running XP is most likely more than five years old, an age where important components like motherboards and hard drives, are also heading toward end-of-life.

Windows 7 Pro, which is still the predominant operating system (running on approximately 48 percent of PC's), is readily available as a free downgrade with the purchase of a Windows 8 PC. Computers are technically sold with Windows 8, but with Windows 7 pre-installed. One advantage of Windows 7 over Windows 8 is that it will run XP Mode, where you can use older, XP compatible software. Another advantage is that it still maintains most of the look and feel of Windows XP.

Click here for a great selection of business PC's that are running Windows 7.

So, what should you do?
While XP has had a great run, its time to move on to a newer operating system. By sticking with XP, some say the question is not if you will get exploited, but when. The best choice would be to migrate away from Windows XP to a current operating system. Keeping antivirus software up-to-date will be little help if new exploits to the operating system are developed. If there are XP desktops remaining in your network, they should be used in isolated situations that don't require an active connection to the internet.

Feel free to contact us if you need assistance in making the move from Windows XP. We can help.


What's Wrong with This Picture?
01/19/2014

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This image is from a marketing email sent to us by HP on January 19, 2014.

tastarsupply.com sells computers designed for business - to check out our selection of what we feel are the best values in business computers - that are running Windows 7 Pro - click this link. Note: all of our Windows 7 Pro computers come with a Windows 8 license, too.


Apple’s Vision of Equality
12/27/2013

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Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, recently spoke at Auburn University about equality, right in tune with President Obama's push for greater equality in America. I find Cook’s equality platform to be ironic considering the way Apple treats its resellers, customers and its base country.

For over 20 years, Tastar Data Systems has been a member of the Apple Consultants network. We facilitate sales of Apple equipment by referring customers to an independent Apple reseller. One of our customers has been waiting two weeks for a MacBook, which on the Apple web site shows it as available to ship in 24 hours. The reseller’s response to us concerning the availability of this computer is troubling, "All Apple does is blow smoke right now. They are really messing with resellers this holiday season." Where's the equality in this relationship?

A Senate committee labeled Apple’s tax evasion this year as the Holy Grail of tax avoidance--its efforts have shielded $74 billion in profits from U.S. corporate taxation. Good for Apple, bad for everyone else who has to pitch in to cover the share of taxes that it is avoiding.

Several years ago, I was discussing an issue with our credit card processor and commented about how great it was to see that Wal-Mart was getting such great credit card processing rates. The representative pointed out that Wal-Mart’s rates are subsidized by everyone else who didn't get these favorable rates. Now that I am so much smarter, I now can see that Apple's tax avoidance strategies mean that I'm being forced to pay its share of taxes. Equality?

Apple's new iMacs have a repair rating of 3 out of 10 by iFixit--a great source for Apple parts. The previous iMacs that they replaced had a 7 out of 10 score and the new MacBook Pro's with Retina displays have an astonishing low 1 out of 10 score.


It appears Apple is designing these computers to be throw-away devices. If you buy the three-year AppleCare warranty, you can simply throw it away if it breaks after the warranty expires because it will be too costly to repair. Even worse is if you take the risk and decline the three-year AppleCare warranty. Is this policy good for consumers or is it good for Apple?

While we have been long supporters of Apple, Tim Cook’s vision of equality is troubling to the future of Apple and its customers.


Documenting the Dome: A Photographer's View of the Civic Arena
12/19/2013

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Documenting the Dome



In 1961, Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena made history when it opened as the first major-sports venue in the world with a stainless steel retractable roof. An architectural marvel, the arena was most notably home to the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, but in its history hosted thousands of concerts from the Beatles to Elvis Presley political rallies, circuses and many other sporting events including wrestling, tennis, indoor soccer, NCAA basketball games, figure skating and much more. Fifty years later in September 2011, it made history again as it was demolished.




“No one had ever taken a building down of this type," notes David Aschkenas, an award-winning Pittsburgh photographer who was granted special access to capture its demise. Equipped with a hard hat and a safety vest, David spent nearly a year taking more than 10,000 photos of the dismantling of the famed silver dome.

“Because of asbestos, the arena could not be imploded,” said David. “The demolition crews had to carefully cut through the steel to dismantle the dome.”


David’s work can be seen permanently at Consol Energy Center, the new home of the Pittsburgh Penguins; in a newly released book Arena: Remembering the Igloo; and beginning next month, at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 707 Penn Gallery.




Five minutes with David Aschkenas.

How did you get started as a photographer?
After studying film at Penn State, I moved to Boston where my roommate was a photographer. I saw a print being developed in a basement darkroom that convinced me that still photography was the way to go. As an impatient person, I liked the idea of instantly capturing something vs. working in film where it took months to produce a final product. From there, I became consumed and learned everything I could about photography.

Do you still work with film?
I was late to embrace the digital photography movement, but when I got my hands on the Nikon D3, I was amazed at the quality. Since then, I have sold all of my film cameras.

What printers do you use?
At home I have an Epson Stylus Pro 7800. If I need to print something larger than 24”, like I did for my upcoming exhibit, I like having the option to go to Tastar to use the Epson Stylus Pro 9900.

What is your best tip for photographers who do their own printing?
Calibrate your monitor. Often people ask me how many times it took to get a certain photo to print perfectly. I tell them once. I calibrate my monitor every week and know exactly how the colors will appear in print. There is no guesswork.

Favorite photography assignment?
The best photo assignments are the self assigned ones, like the Civic Arena project or another self assigned project that I'm currently working on: photographing the Allegheny County Courthouse designed by Henry Hobson Richardson.




Guarding against the CryptoLocker Virus
11/27/2013

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No doubt you’ve probably heard about CryptoLocker, an extremely fast spreading virus that's hitting Windows users. We have directly come across several infections, including one Mac user who was using Parallels to run Windows applications.

Usually downloaded through email, CryptoLocker is ransomware that encrypts certain types of files and then attempts to get infected users to purchase a decrypting tool (using bitcoins) in order to regain access to their files. There’s a lot of chatter online on whether or not you should pay the ransom, and whether or not paying it will allow you to recover damaged files. If you pony up the cash within 72 hours, the cost is around $300, but if you wait, the price increases to 10 bitcoins, which is approximately $2,290.

There are a number of steps you can take to protect your valuable data from this destructive virus. You've probably heard most of these recommendations before, but they are worth repeating in light of this virus. And added bonus--they are less expensive than paying a ransom to recover your own files.

1. Make sure you have a good backup system in place. If your files are backed up, then paying a ransom is not an issue.

2. Use antivirus software. Enough said. We recommend Trend Micro Worry Free Business Security for networks and Symantec's Norton Internet Security for individual users. For additional information about anti-virus software, check out these articles: techradar.com's recommendations for the best free antivirus software (we don't like free...) or pcmag.com's review of antivirus software (sort the listing by Editor's Choice to see current recommendations).

3. Don’t open suspicious emails. Look closely at emails before you click on a link or download a file. Better yet, don’t click on a link. Just go directly to the company’s web site. The hackers have been known to disguise the malware in emails allegedly sent from USPS, ADP, XEROX and ironically, McAfee.

For more information about this malware and how to protect against it, click here.

Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need advice on setting up a secure backup system or installing antivirus software.


Backup Solutions - Is a NAS for you?
11/06/2013

(Top)
You’ve probably heard it a million times about the need to back up your files, but it’s something that is often overlooked until you have a computer crash. That’s when we get the panicked call.

It’s expensive and time consuming to try and recover lost data. A University of Texas study reported that 94 percent of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive—43 percent never re-open and 51 percent close within two years.

To help you avoid a crisis situation, we are going to discuss in a four-part series, the various backup methods. This week’s topic is NAS—Network Attached Storage. Other topics will include cloud storage, servers and hard drives.

What’s a NAS?
In the late 2000s, several manufacturers started marketing NASs – Network Attached Storage. These devices serve the role of much more than storage with lots of features to increase productivity and simplify networking. Unlike a server, they come complete with robust software to help you manage the various functions. At this time, most clients use NASs as a server, but there are a whole host of other functions that users can take advantage of.

Tastar focuses on Synology devices, one of the industry’s leading manufacturers. See below for how you can benefit from a NAS, whether at the office or at home. Then give us a call for a recommendation for the right NAS to meet your needs.

File Storage
With a NAS, you can back up your files easily whether you are on a PC or a MAC. With flexible, easy-to-use software, you can automate the backup function effortlessly and customize it to your individual needs.

A NAS device can serve as a centralized storage device for just one or several computers in an office. Depending on the model you select, some NASs can be expanded to add additional storage bays.

Most NASs use RAID technology (Redundant Array of Independent Disks or Inexpensive Disks). RAID storage uses multiple disks to improve overall performance, add data protection via redundancy and increase storage capacity in a system.

In addition, NAS devices can back themselves up to external disks, a remotely located NAS or to cloud services.

Jim Marshall, Vice President and General Manager of Slavia Printing Company notes that the Synology system they use allowed them to eliminate its cumbersome tape backup system. “We use our NAS to store all of our prepress jobs. No longer do we have a big server and tape drives. And it is so much faster.”

File Sharing
One of the best functions of a NAS is the ability to store and share files. Ideal for business environments or even within your home, a NAS gives you a cross platform server that allows you to easily share Mac, Windows and Linux files with co-workers or access them from other computers within your office.

For photographers, Synology’s Photo Station software lets you share photos directly with clients and colleagues with or without password protection. You can send clients a link allowing them to either download or simply view photos.

To see how Photo Station can help photographers organize, store and share photos click here.

Web & FTP Server
Your NAS can be used as a Web server and includes built-in PHP and MySQL, ideal for web site staging and development. In addition, you can use it as your FTP server for remote file uploads and downloads.

Printer Sharing
While we love to sell as many as printers as possible, a NAS allows multiple computers to print to a central USB printer.



Printing configuration


Security
Whether you have one computer linked to your NAS or dozens, you will find reliable security options, such as encrypted access, IP blocking and other protective features to ensure that your data is secure. Additionally, you can manage user and group access rights on shared folders to ensure that information is available only to those who need it.

Remote Access

With a NAS, you can create your own personal cloud allowing you to freely and safely access your NAS from a remote device. Apps for the iPhone, iPads and Android allow you to easily connect to your NAS and manage your files.


Surveillance Solutions
Compatible with thousands of IP camera models, most Synology models support real-time monitoring, video and audio recording and playback with a wide range of customizable settings. You can also install apps on your mobile devices to monitor cameras anytime, anywhere, for total surveillance.

If you think a Synology NAS could be the right backup solution for you, now is the time to buy. Synology is offering rebates on a number of models until November 30, 2013. Click here.


Potential issues with OX X Mavericks and External Drives
11/01/2013

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As with just about every Mac OS upgrade, compatibility issues seem to crop up. Many who have made the move to OS X Mavericks and use Western Digital and/or LaCie external hard drives reportedly are experiencing loss of data.

While Apple has yet to come out with an official statement on the matter, there is a lot of chatter online: Apple support forums, MacRumors.

Western Digital is urging customers to take steps to protect data by uninstalling certain software applications. Read more here.

CNET has addressed the issue and has recommendations as well.

Before upgrading to OS X Mavericks, please take the appropriate steps to back up your data to another device. Or better yet, wait until compatibility issues have been ironed out.


Meet Ken Doo - The Happy Lawyer
10/18/2013

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What’s the difference between a lawyer and a photographer? Unfortunately, there are no cliché lawyer jokes that answer the question. Simply put, a photographer is much happier according to Ken Doo, a loyal Tastar customer.

Although as a child he enjoyed spending time with his father in his darkroom, Ken left a small rural community in central California to study at the University of California, Los Angeles. He later obtained the degree of Juris Doctorate at the University of California, Davis.

With a law degree in hand, his next move took him even further away from his California roots. Ken joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp and was stationed in Ft. Hood, Texas. After several years, he left the military and returned to California working as a deputy district attorney prosecuting criminal cases for Monterey County.

After seven years, Ken changed careers from criminal prosecutor to single parent. Becoming disillusioned with the law, he turned his childhood fascination with photography into a career with the launch of Ken Doo Photography. Although his love of photography began with medium format film, Ken quickly found his niche using a Phase One medium format digital back.

Despite the advice of other professionals, Ken didn’t focus on one style of photography. He was having too much fun doing it all: portraits, landscapes, weddings, engagements, corporate events, and studio work. Asked to pinpoint his favorite, he finally fessed up to portraiture because of how much he enjoys working with people.

His passion for photography has translated to multiple awards for his work. Ken is the recipient of more than 25 Accolades of Excellence in Photography in categories ranging from fashion to weddings to landscapes.

Ken’s interest in producing the best prints of his own work launched a separate business, Carmel Fine Art Printing and Reproduction. “I think of myself as a photographer first, but with my expertise in printing, this business has taken on a life of its own,” notes Ken. Now he produces fine art prints, canvas prints, greeting cards, banners and small commercial print jobs for clients and other photographers.

From traveling to Alaska to photograph grizzly bears to capturing the love of a newly married couple, Ken has found that photography – even producing portraits of the very judges that he argued in front of – makes this lawyer happy. There is so much more to life than a well-paying job. Ken is quick to point out that, "Life is short. And I consider myself extremely lucky to have a career pursuing my passion while being there for my sons 100%."




Ken’s Tips

Bigger is Better
“If you are investing in a printer, buy a bigger printer than what you think you will need. I ended up selling my first printer, an Epson 7800, mere months after I bought it because it was too small. The 9800 was a much more capable printer. I've since upgraded to an Epson 9900. I can take on more jobs and generate more business with a larger printer. Keep in mind that if you want to produce gallery wraps, you’ll need to accommodate for the wrap, which means a wider format printer.

Awash in Color
“You need to entrench yourself in color management. I’ve spent a lot of time creating custom profiles. People who have the same printers don’t get the same results as I do. Over the years, I’ve had people ask me for my profiles because they are pretty darn good.”

Weathering the Storm
“Years ago when I first started out, I was told I was doing it all wrong. I needed to specialize. When the recession hit, photographers were told to diversify. Fortunately, my earlier diversification is what helped my business in a slow economy.”

Get Involved
“I keep abreast of cutting-edge photography and printing techniques by staying active on many forums. Some of my favorite web sites to visit include: Capture Integration, Luminous Landscape and GetDPI.com.

Also, I think it's important to be involved in your community. I'm active with swimming and water polo, taking on coaching responsibilities and photographing sports for the local high school. It allows me to be active with my sons and give back to the community, while keeping my name out there."


Photoshop Alternatives - Can Anyone Replace the Leader?
09/18/2013

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Let's face it. Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard when it comes to photo editing. It's hard to beat its impressive line-up of tools and features. With Adobe's new business model, the Creative Cloud, causing a small uproar, many loyal Photoshop users are considering alternatives.

You certainly can hang on to your current version of Photoshop, make the move to the Creative Cloud or take a gander at a few free or very inexpensive options. The one issue with alternatives is that if you need to work in the CMYK color space for pre-press work, Photoshop is still your best bet.

If you find that Photoshop is overkill for what you use it for, you may want to take advantage of a free trial to test out some of these alternatives.

If you are interested in what other photographers are pondering, you can check out some of the lively discussions on Luminous Landscape or at Creative Bloq about this subject.


Adobe Photoshop Cost: 699.00, Platform: Mac and Windows, Our Rating: *****



GIMP
Cost: Free, Platform: Mac and Windows, Our Rating: **
GIMP, which stands for the GNU Image Manipulation Project, is probably one of the most popular alternatives. This free, widely distributed software offers a powerful suite of tools for retouching, image composition and image authoring. While it has similar functionality as Photoshop, it isn't as polished and its interface is a tad clunky. GIMP offers limited CMYK support and relies on a plug- in by Separate+ for color management functions. On the plus side, there is an active community of users, a dozen or so how-to books and a vast plug-ins library. Best of all, it's free. But if you are going to use it regularly, consider making a donation.


Corel PaintShop Pro X6 Cost: 79.99, Platform: Windows, Our Rating: ***
Available in a standard and ultimate versions, Corel PaintShop Pro X6 is a great alternative, but only if you are a Windows user. While it doesn't have all the high end editing features of Photoshop, it certainly has come a long way and has much to offer including the ability to work with layers. As with most Photoshop alternatives, PaintShop Pro does not support working directly in the CMYK color space, but does offers CMYK conversion, channel splitting and more. At less than $100, you may be willing to sacrifice a few features for some extra money in your bank account.


Aperture Cost: 79.99, Platform: Mac, Our Rating: *
An Apple product, Aperture takes iPhoto to the next level. And as you probably guessed, it doesn't work with the Windows operating system. You get the ability to work with RAW formats and a decent selection of plug-ins, including a handful from Topaz Labs. Unfortunately, Aperture is heavy on organizing tools but light on editing features making it suitable for very simple photo editing.




Picture Window Pro Cost: 89.99, Platform: Windows, Our Rating: *
Called serious software for serious photographers, Picture Window Pro, by Digital Light & Color, offers a wide variety of photo manipulation and retouching tools, transformations (its version of effects) and the ability to create ICC color profiles for many cameras and scanners. They offer a free trial version with the full-blown version priced at a modest $89.99




Adobe Photoshop Elements Platform: Mac and Windows, Our Rating: ***
Adobe touts Photoshop Elements as the top selling consumer photo editing software. Note the wording…consumer. If you are a pro, Elements may be a little basic for you. While you may appreciate the familiar interface, Elements is a much simpler version of Photoshop that allows you to quickly edit images. At $99.99 (and on sale right now for much less), Elements gives you many tools to clean up, organize and enhance photos.


Pixelmator Cost: 14.95, Platform: Mac, Our Rating: *
At a bargain price, Pixelmator gives users a variety of tools for fast and easy photo editing. You can work with layers, masks and add a variety of effects. A bonus is that you can open Photoshop files. The software has a proofing tool that allows you to preview images in CMYK.

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