Archive | July 2007

Engineering with a Difference

The Relationship Between Kids, Youth and Digital Technology

Globally, the average young person connected to digital technology has 94 phone numbers in his or her mobile phone, 78 people on a messenger buddy list and 86 people in his or her social networking community. Yet despite their technological immersion, digi-kids are not geeks – 59% of 8-14 year-old kids still prefer their TV to their PCs and only 20% of 14-24 year-old young people globally admitted to being “interested” in technology. They are, however, expert multi-taskers and able to filter different channels of information.

These are just some of the findings from the largest-ever global study undertaken by MTV and Nickelodeon, in association with Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, into how kids and young people interact with digital technology. The Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground technology and lifestyle study challenges traditional assumptions about their relationships with digital technology, and examines the impact of culture, age and gender on technology use.

Bill Roedy, Vice Chairman of MTV Networks International, a unit of Viacom Inc. , said: “Digital technology is impacting every aspect of content creation across Nickelodeon and MTV channels. Our groundbreaking report highlights our commitment to engaging with kids and young people globally. It will help us build stronger and more innovative alliances with business partners across our 137 TV channels and 260 web and mobile services. We’re delighted to have joined forces with Microsoft on this major project.”

“Digital communications — from IM, SMS, social networking to email — have all revolutionized how young people communicate with their peers. We wanted to understand more deeply how young people interact with these technologies and consequently what this means for our advertising partners focused on reaching this highly engaged and influential audience. Working with MTV Networks globally on this study enabled us to do so,” said Chris Dobson, Vice President, Global Advertising Sales, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions.

Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground used both qualitative and quantitative methodology to talk to 18,000 “tech embracing” kids (8-14) and young people (14-24) in 16 countries: UK, Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. MTV Networks and Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions studied 21 technologies that impact on the lives of young people: internet, email, PC, TV, mobile, IM, cable and sat TV, DVD, MP3, stereo/hi-fi, digital cameras, social networks, on and offline video games, CDs, HD TV, VHS, webcams, MP4 players, DVR/PVRs, and hand-held games consoles.

The report found:
– Technology has enabled young people to have more and closer friendships thanks to constant connectivity.

– Friends influence each other as much as marketers do. Friends are as important as brands.

– Kids and young people don’t love the technology itself – they just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained.

– Digital communications such as IM, email, social networking sites and mobile/sms are complementary to, not competitive with, TV. TV is part of young peoples’ digital conversation.

– Despite the remarkable advances in communication technology, kid and youth culture looks surprisingly familiar, with almost all young people using technology to enhance rather than replace face-to-face interaction.

– Globally, the number of friends that young males have more than doubles between the ages of 13-14 and 14-17 — it jumps from 24 to 69.

– The age group and gender that claims the largest number of friends are not girls aged 14-17, but boys aged 18-21, who have on average 70 friends.

The study found that while many young people have access to similar digital technologies, they use them in very different ways. “Technology is adopted and adapted in different ways in different parts of the world – and that depends as much on local culture as on the technology itself,” said Colleen Fahey Rush, Executive Vice President of Research for MTV Networks.

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A Self-Made Failure

Acer: PC Industry ‘Disappointed’ with Vista
by: Jerry Liao

“The whole industry is disappointed with Windows Vista,” Acer President Gianfranco Lanci told the Financial Times Deutschland. Lanci added that the impact of a new Microsoft “operating system” has never been so weedy as with Vista. Acer, is the first major PC manufacturer to accuse the software titan of having failed to remove major flaws in its new operating system Vista.

The chief of the world’s fourth largest manufacturer of PCs went on to say that never before in the history of the PC manufacturing sector was the impact on sales of a version of Windows so small as that of Vista; and that state of affairs was unlikely to change in the next six months. Mr. Lanci further said in a statement: “I really don’t think that someone has bought a new PC specifically for Vista.” As a matter of fact Mr. Lanci added, most of Acer customers especially the business clients had asked Acer to install SP on their new machine rather than Vista. “Stability is certainly a problem,” Mr. Lanci stated.

Acer was not alone in expressing its disappointment with Vista. Jonney Shih, chairman of Asustek said his company is disappointed in sales of Vista and people are still bothered about software compatibility of Microsoft products. Mr. Shih added that people still want Windows XP.

Harris Poll, an American market research company that specializes in public opinion research using both telephone and online surveys on online panels revealed that a poll of 2,223 US online adults in early March found that 87 per cent knew that Vista existed. But only 12 per cent of the Vista-aware respondents were intending to upgrade in the next 12 months. 39 percent also said that they will shift over to Vista when their computer explodes or they get a new one that met the requirements. The same poll conducted in December said that 20 per cent would upgrade to Vista in the coming year.

The survey also indicated that the release of the Vista has affected the timing of the purchase of a new computer for 40% of the respondents who were aware of Vista: one in five said they had delayed the purchase of a new computer, and one in five said they would bring forward the purchase of a new computer.

If we are going to look at the other side of the fence, Microsoft is seeing things differently. Upon presenting its income statement for the fourth quarter of Microsoft’s fiscal year 2007 – Microsoft had declared that the company had also managed to post gains because of the popularity of Vista. Microsoft’s quarterly sales grew in quarter-on-quarter terms to 13.4 billion US dollars from 11.8 billion US dollars, net earnings went up to 3.04 billion US dollars from 2.83 billion US dollars. The Client division (all Windows operating systems for desktop computers) was able to boost its sales to 3.808 billion US dollars from 3.347 billion US dollars, while its operating profit rose to 2.818 billion US dollars from 2.546 billion US dollars. Microsoft did not specify how much of this revenue is attributed to Vista; at the end of March the company had however already celebrated the shipping of 20 million Vista licenses.

One of the major problem of adopting Vista is the hardware requirement: It should be a modern, Intel Pentium – or AMD Athlon-based with a dedicated graphics card featuring DirectX 9.0 support, 512 MB or more of RAM, a graphics processor that will support Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM), and at least 1.5 gigabytes of hard disk space. Of course its more of more RAM than the 512MB – 2GB is more like it. Incompatibility issues with other hardware and software is another headache.

Other problem includes: lack of available drivers, security feature often flags existing applications as suspicious and interrupts service, few applications take advantage of user account control, Internet Explorer 7, ActiveX, security and others.

Most analysts think that Vista will not start to be seen in businesses until 2008, which is a pretty long time in software terms. As I have said before, Whether Vista will be successful is a question only Vista can answer – PERFORMANCE will be key.

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The Paradigm Shift of Public Relations

by: Jerry Liao

THE INTERNET has changed the way people communicate and interact with each other, be it personal or professional. Under the old rules, press releases can only be published if it was picked up by the media. With the Internet, companies have turned themselves into publishers — by creating their own corporate websites and doing their own publishing using their own press releases.

The popular Spiderman phrase “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” can be applied with the newfound power brought about by the Internet. Companies should put more emphasis on Transparency, Honesty, Integrity, Reputation and Dignity (THIRD) in delivering their news. They cannot just publish any information they want – users nowadays are more informed and more knowledgeable and they are also given the same power that is provided corporations. Users can easily set up their own blogs and publish their own stories about certain products as well.

Take this for example: A PR company along with its client (an ICT company) has been providing this columnist with their products for review. I make it a point to write what I really think about the product. Since most of their products are good, of course the articles that are coming out are good as well. This PR firm and the ICT company will make it a point to invite me in all their events and press conferences. And as they say, some good things never last.

One day, this PR firm provided me a product of this ICT company which I must say is one of the worst products in the market. As per my principle, I will write a review based on what I really think about the product — my loyalty is with my readers and no one else To cut the story short, the PR firm and ICT company didn’t like my article about their product. From that day on — they’ve stopped sending me their products for review and I was no longer invited to any of their events. Worst, it has been two years and this PR firm and ICT company are still acting like kids — never realizing that I was only doing my job.

The reason why I am relating this story to you is because when you visit the company’s website, the product I reviewed came with all praises. But if you visit other websites that make reviews and user blogs, most if not all had something not so nice to say about the product — both local and international websites. The product simply sucks.

Now if you have a corporate website saying their product is good, and you have hundreds of sites all over saying the product sucks — who do you think users would believe? Not only will the reviews spell the downfall of the product but users will also wonder and question the goal of such companies — are they out to provide quality products and services to their customers, or are they simply out there to make a sale. This is the great responsibility that comes with great power we are talking about. Remember THIRD — Transparency, Honesty, Integrity, Reputation and Dignity.

How about the actions of this PR firm and the ICT company? Well it seems they are friends only with the members of the media who they can control and manipulate and be enemies to those who go against their will in the name of truth. I am glad that we are on the other side of the fence doing what we are tasked to do: To educate and provide factual information to our readers.

In the next edition of TechAdvisor, we will continue discussing the paradigm shift of public relations and this time we will be focusing on public relations companies and how to develop content that will drive action for you.

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Top Priority

Philippines cited as One of the Top Shared Services and Outsourcing Destination

Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, launched a study on Global Shared Services and Outsourcing (SSO) at the Frost & Sullivan Global Sourcing Asia Pacific Summit. According to the study, the global SSO market was estimated to be worth US$930 billion in 2006 and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 15 percent (2006-2009) to reach a market size of US$1,430 billion by end-2009.

The study outlines the global SSO activity across seven major industry verticals based on a survey of Fortune 500 and Forbes 2000 companies. The top three verticals by SSO spending in 2006 were the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector at US$273 billion, technology/ICT sector at US$233 billion, and the healthcare industry with an estimated SSO spending of US$130 billion. BFSI together with the technology vertical constitute over 50 percent of the total spend on SSO.

The other verticals covered include transportation and logistics (US$113 billion), energy (US$84 billion), fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG – US$59 billion), and media and entertainment (US$39 billion).

The key drivers for SSO continue to be cost benefits through standardization, leveraging benefits of scale, and cost arbitrage. The study also observes that SSO operations, which is an integral part of business architecture, needs to adapt to vertical specialization models for businesses to achieve higher productivity and profitability.

Verticals such as transportation and logistics, energy, FMCG, and media and entertainment, for example, have developed effective SSO operating models for non-core functions such as IT services, finance and accounting, HR services, procurement, customer support and call centers. Sectors like healthcare, today, even outsource core research and development (R&D) functions, and this is likely to continue for a few years as healthcare companies try to find new drugs and reduce operating costs. Telecom companies in countries like India have outsourced network management, a function considered core for telecom operators.

The global SSO study reveals that India remains the top destination for SSO operations across these seven verticals, followed by China, Ireland, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Czech Republic, Poland, the Philippines and Canada. Emerging destinations for specialized functions are also developing, such as Russia for high end software development, and Dubai for BFSI services.

Key factors in determining choice of location include costs, availability of skills and IP regulations. Inherent factors such as low labor costs and abundant supply of skilled manpower have ensured India as a prominent top-of-the-mind location for SSO investments. India’s SSO market is now experiencing consolidation and SSO providers are maturing and moving up the value chain, expanding their onshore presence to strengthen their global delivery capabilities.

Beleaguered however with high attrition rates, poor infrastructure, rising wages, and the appreciation of the Indian Rupee against the US dollar, India is faced with increasing threat from China which is fast emerging as an attractive location for outsourcing IT, R&D and procurement services.

A stable country coupled with excellent infrastructure and low attrition rates, Malaysia makes for an ideal SSO hub that is still not leveraged by many. A strong player in the BFSI, transportation and logistics, and energy verticals, Malaysia is also developing into a hub for technology companies with recent SSO investments by the likes of Dell, Satyam and IBM.

The Philippines, which is another preferred location for SSO activity, specializes in back-office operations for IT and IT services. The country is home to over 60 BPO service providers with an estimated 22,500 full-time employees involved in back-office services, raking-in revenues of US$180 million in 2005 from this segment alone. Several notable SSO centers in the Philippines include HSBC’s BPO delivery center, Citigroup’s Shared Services Center (SSC), Dell’s SSC, Safeway’s SSC and Global eXchange SSC. Several companies like IBM and Sykes have moved their SSO operations out of India to the Philippines.

The Global SSO study was launched in conjunction with the Frost & Sullivan Global Sourcing Asia Pacific 2007 Summit where some of the region’s thought leaders on outsourcing and offshoring converged to discuss the SSO industry. The summit gave both the macro- and micro-economic perspective of SSO to business owners, and in-depth evaluation of the best SSO models and hubs for various industry sectors.

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The Solution

Comparing Real-World Performance of Anti-Spam Technologies
by: Jerry Liao

Just to give you an idea how spam is fast becoming a major problem for the enterprise – 12.4 billion spam emails are sent everyday. Converted to monetary value, the loss for corporation is about $9 billion and for non-corporate Internet users, it’s about $255 million.

What is spam? Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages. And spam’s direct effects include the consumption of computer and network resources, and the cost in human time and attention of dismissing unwanted messages.

There has been a lot of anti-spam technologies and techniques being offered in the market today but how come spamming is still on the rise?

Brockmann & Company, a research and consulting firm, released findings from its independent, self-funded “Spam Index Report– Comparing Real-World Performance of Anti-Spam Technologies.” The study evaluated eight anti-spam technologies from the three main technology classes – filters, real-time black list services and challenge- response servers. The technologies were evaluated using the Spam Index, a new method in anti-spam performance measurement that leverages users’ real-world experiences.

When evaluating technologies with the Spam Index, lower scores represent the best performing technologies. The report finds that the best performing anti-spam technology is challenge-response, based on that technology’s lowest average Spam Index score of 160. The 160 score is 50% less than the next lowest average score of 316 achieved by hosted services, indicating that challenge response is twice as effective as hosted services for prevention of spam. The worst performing technology was filter-based ISP solutions, with a Spam Index of 442.

The study evaluated eight anti-spam technologies:

1. Challenge-Response-(Spam Index: 160)
This technology allows email from known senders to pass directly to protected users. In some cases, outbound email is monitored to add those addressees to the known sender list. First time senders, which include virtually all spam, are challenged with a reply email requesting that the sender reply to the message in order to assure the original email is delivered. Vendors in this category include Sendio and SpamArrest.

2. Filter – Hosted service-(Spam Index: 316)
Hosted email filtering services use the readily available processing power of Internet data centers. Vendors in this category include AppRiver, MessageLabs, MXLogic and Google/Postini, among others.

3. Filter – Appliance-(Spam Index: 349)
This class integrates software with a hardware appliance, tuning the package for optimal processing performance. Vendors in this category include Barracuda, Borderware, McAfee and Secure Computing, among others.

4. Filter – Commercial software-(Spam Index: 366)
This class tends to be virus filtering software with extended anti-spam functionality. Vendors that offer this class of anti-spam software include McAfee, Symantec and TrendMicro, among others.

5. Real-time Black Lists-(Spam Index: 367)
These reputation-based systems collect feedback from users to manage a ‘black list’ of known spammer IP addresses and domains. Vendors in this category include Commtouch, IronPort and Spamhaus, among others.

6. Filter – PC Email Client-(Spam Index: 386)
This spam filter is a feature of most email clients. Users can train their client spam filters to move or delete mail meeting certain conditions. Vendors in this category include Apple, IBM Lotus and Microsoft, among others.

7. Filter – Open Source software-(Spam Index: 388)
This technology is frequently configured to work in conjunction with PC email client filters. The server adds ****SPAM**** to the subject line so that the client filter can move the message into the junk folder. This class of software includes projects such as ASSP, Mail Washer and SpamAssassin, among others.

8. Filter – ISP-based-(Spam Index: 442)
Offered by most email hosting service providers, this anti-spam technology provides some form of anti virus and anti-spam filtering for hosted domains. The study showed that this was the least effective solution.

Developed by Brockmann & Company, the Spam Index is based on the number of spam messages that users receive in their inboxes, messages that need to be resent and good messages trapped by the anti spam system (false positives). Most distinctly, the Spam Index takes into account the time users spend managing spam including deleting junk messages, scanning anti-spam folders and investigating the authenticity of messages that appear legitimate.

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Forget About It

Brain May Be Able to Suppress Memories
by: Jerry Liao

A new University of Colorado at Boulder study shows people have the ability to suppress emotional memories with practice, which has implications for those suffering from conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression.

The study, which measured brain activity in test subjects who were trained to suppress memories of negative images, indicated two mechanisms in the prefrontal region of the brain were at work, said CU-Boulder doctoral candidate Brendan Depue, lead study author. The study may help clinicians develop new therapies for those unable to suppress emotionally distressing memories associated with disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive syndrome, he said.

“We have shown in this study that individuals have the ability to suppress specific memories at a particular moment in time through repeated practice,” Depue said. “We think we now have a grasp of the neural mechanisms at work, and hope the new findings and future research will lead to new therapeutic and pharmacological approaches to treating a variety of emotional disorders.”

During the training phase of the study, subjects were asked to learn 40 different pairs of pictures, each pair consisting of a “neutral” human face and a disturbing picture such as a car crash, a wounded soldier, a violent crime scene or an electric chair, Depue said. After memorizing each associated pair, the subjects were fitted with special viewing goggles and placed in MRI scanners at CU’s Health Sciences Center in Denver. Subjects were shown only the face images and asked to either think about, or not think about, the disturbing image previously associated with each face, he said.

The functional brain imaging scans taken during the study indicated the coordination for memory suppression occurred in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, considered by neuroscientists to be the “seat of cognitive control,” he said. The team found that two specific regions of the prefrontal cortex appear to work in tandem to suppress particular posterior brain regions like the visual cortex, the hippocampus and amygdala, which are involved in tasks like visual recall, memory encoding and retrieval, and emotional output, he said.

“These results indicate memory suppression does occur, and, at least in nonpsychiatric populations, is under the control of prefrontal regions,” the researchers wrote in Science. The most anterior portion of the prefrontal cortex highlighted in the study is a relatively recent feature in brain evolution and is greatly enlarged in humans when compared to great apes, said Depue.

The study showed the subjects were able to “exert some control over their emotional memories,” said Depue. “By essentially shutting down specific portions of the brain, they were able to stop the retrieval process of particular memories.” Depue speculated that memory suppression could be a positive evolutionary trait, using the example of a Stone Age hunter narrowly escaping from a lion while hunting antelope. “If the hunter became so beleaguered by memories of that incident that he stopped hunting, then he would have starved to death.”

It is not clear to what extent an extremely traumatic emotional memory, like a violent battlefield incident or a crippling car accident, manifests itself in the human brain, said Depue. “In cases like this, a person could need thousands of repetitions of training to suppress such memories. We just don’t know yet.”

Originated by psychologist Sigmund Freud more than a century ago, the concept of repressed memories is extremely controversial, said Depue. There is considerable debate today over whether repressed memories and suppressed memories are interchangeable terms, and even as to whether repressed memories exist at all, he said.

“The debate over repressed memories probably won’t be resolved in my lifetime,” said Depue. “I think the important thing here is that we have identified neural mechanisms with potential for helping the clinical community develop new therapeutic and pharmaceutical approaches for people suffering from emotional disorders.”

The study was funded with support from CU-Boulder’s Graduate School, vice chancellor for research and the university’s Institute for Cognitive Sciences.

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The Lawsuit : Oracle vs SAP

SAP Responds to Oracle Complaint
by: Jerry Liao

A couple of months back, I wrote about the lawsuit filed by Oracle Corporation against SAP. Oracle has accused SAP of hacking in to its computers and stealing vital product nformation. Oracle has accused SAP of “corporate theft on a grand scale” by gaining illegal access to one of its customer support websites. SAP and Oracle are fierce rivals in the business software segment.

Oracle further claimed that TomorrowNow (TN) – a firm bought by SAP, had accessed Oracle’s computer network last year and illegally downloaded and assembled a storehouse of stolen Oracle intellectual property comprising copyrighted software and other material. During Oracle’s numerous acquisitions and takeovers, SAP offered Oracle customers a “safe passage” programs that would guarantee support for Oracle products with the help of companies like TomorrowNow. TN provides cut-rate maintenance services for products from PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards. For SAP, the aim was to pinch Oracle’s revenue streams and to capture some customers.

Back then, SAP said it would not comment until it had reviewed the 44-page lawsuit. Just a couple of weeks back, SAP issued its respond to the complaint filed by Oracle:

SAP AG, together with SAP America and its subsidiary TomorrowNow, filed its answer to a complaint originally filed by Oracle Corporation on March 22, 2007 and subsequently amended on June 1, 2007. The filing in U.S. District Court represents the first formal SAP response to Oracle’s complaint.

In the answer, SAP said TomorrowNow was authorized to download materials from Oracle’s Web site on behalf of TomorrowNow customers. At the same time, SAP acknowledged that some inappropriate downloads of fixes and support documents occurred at TomorrowNow. Importantly, SAP affirmed that what was downloaded at TomorrowNow stayed in that subsidiary’s separate systems. SAP did not have access to Oracle intellectual property via TomorrowNow.

The United States Department of Justice has requested that SAP and TomorrowNow provide certain documents. SAP and TomorrowNow intend to fully cooperate with the request. Even a single inappropriate download is unacceptable from my perspective. We regret very much that this occurred,” said Henning Kagermann, CEO, SAP AG. “I want to reassure our investors, customers, partners and employees that SAP takes any departure from the high standards we set for all of our businesses very seriously, regardless of where it occurred or how confined it may be. When I learned what happened, I promptly took action to strengthen operational oversight at TomorrowNow while assuring that we maintain excellent service for TomorrowNow’s customers going forward.”

SAP Did Not Have Access to Oracle Materials through TomorrowNow
SAP stated that it did not have access to Oracle materials downloaded by TomorrowNow. SAP explained that it intentionally created a business structure that maintained a firewall between TomorrowNow and SAP and that it was satisfied that SAP AG or SAP America did not access Oracle intellectual property via TomorrowNow.

Most Materials Downloaded Appropriately by TomorrowNow TomorrowNow often downloads support materials for and on behalf of its customers, who have chosen to seek third-party support for their legacy Oracle applications. Third-party maintenance providers like TomorrowNow depend on their customers in this instance, companies who use Oracle-provided software ­permitting the service provider access to support materials, through the customer’s password, to provide support and service for those customers’ Oracle applications. SAP acknowledged that some inappropriate downloads occurred at TomorrowNow.

Changes Announced at TomorrowNow In addition to announcing its filing with the Court, SAP also announced that it has instituted changes in TomorrowNow’s operational management to ensure compliance with appropriate business practices. These steps include:

• Appointment of SAP America Chief Operating Officer and former Chief Financial Officer Mark White as TomorrowNow’s Executive Chairman to manage TomorrowNow operations, including compliance programs. Andrew Nelson, TomorrowNow’s CEO, will report to Mark White;

• Enforcement of existing procedures and new policies;

• Renewed training for TomorrowNow employees to assure understanding of the policies and procedures.

What is my take on this issue? The actual damage to Oracle is very minimal – null even. Downloading materials from a competitors site is a common practice – they even use fake contact information to do this. The only problem here is TN downloaded thousand of documents from Oracle’s support site. And another problem is they are SAPs subsidiary – a company acquired to undercut Oracle’s major revenue stream. For the Philippines alone, SAP Philippines officials revealed that Alaska Corporation has dropped Oracle totally in favor of SAP applications.

Oracle simply wants publicity and to hurt SAPs image and reputation. I believe heads will roll at TomorrowNow and SAP should do a lot of explanation to its stakeholders—customers, employees, shareholders, and the community of analysts and market researchers. So far, SAP claimed TN downloaded only support materials, if Oracle will be able to prove that TN downloaded more than what SAP is claiming – then more damages will come to SAP.

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