Experts Exchange EE News November 2009

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November 11, 2009 >> Veteran's Day

What's New at Experts Exchange
News, A Savant and Geniuses, and Kudos

Editors' Choice Articles
The best of the best

Stuck in TRAFFIC: a fresh perspective
skirklan takes on web forums

Tips From the Moderators
Ease up on the Object button

ericpete won't be joining soon

More News and Notes
From the Just A Bit Creepy Department

Nata's Corner
Why your computer runs so slow

New Certificates
New certificate holders, through November 7

What's New at Experts Exchange

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Wanted: Writers
If you know a thing or two about the Motorola Droid, Windows 7 or Snow Leopard, share your knowledge with the Experts Exchange community! Write an article and earn a quick 500 points (or more)!

Breaking news: There were two events that represent significant milestones in the history of Experts Exchange.

For the first time, an Experts Exchange member was invited to work directly with an EE engineer on the code behind the firewall. AnnieMod, the Cleanup Administrator, sat down with buttonMASTER, one of EE's engineers, and fixed a pair of long-standing issues with the Cleanup system; she also identified several others. Our hat is off to Randy and his staff for taking the first of what we all hope will be a long and successful collaborative relationship.

The other milestone is that the first certificate for writing articles was awarded to DanRollins, whose 58 articles and 90,000+ points are far and away the most produced by anyone. Congratulations, Dan!

What's new: Experts Exchange has released a number of changes to systems in the past couple of weeks:

  • Newsletter archive: For those of us who have toiled over the newsletter -- a labor of love if ever there was one -- we have a new home. When we took over the job of producing this, we found to our dismay that there was no archive, so we created one, and housed it courtesy of the good folks at As of last week, we now have a new home at Experts Exchange: our own archive.
  • Attachments and snippets: The system for attaching files and images to questions and comments has been changed to more closely resemble the system used to produce articles. This is in preparation for allowing members to add more than one snippet or file to a comment.
  • Points for articles: The points for EE-Approved and Editor's Choice articles have been increased to 4,000 and 5,000 points respectively. Experts Exchange has also added a bonus to those articles that receive "Yes" votes from members. In addition to the 50 points added for an article for each yes vote, the author will receive a bonus of 500 points for each ten yes votes over and above the cumulative 500 it receives from readers.
  • Profiles: Certificates for writing articles are now distinguished from the certificates earned for answering questions.
  • Releases: Releases of new features, upgrades and so on will soon be made on Mondays (or the occasional Tuesday), with a follow-up release on Thursday to fix any minor issues.

Editor's Notes: Experts Exchange's addition to the newsletter last issue regarding Netminder's ten years as a member of EE prompted comments from several people who predate his registration, and it only seems appropriate to note their contributions over the past decade: harfang, lyonst (who, in one of life's perverse coincidences, both joined on the same day), stone5150, dew_associates, mplungjan, ahoffmann, and JDettman, and PaulHews, whose arrival was a day before Netminder's. There is no question that EE wouldn't be what it is without you all.

New Savant, Geniuses: This is an interesting week from the perspective of who received the high level certificates at Experts Exchange. First, CEHJ, who joined EE in August 1997, became the sixth member (and second in the Java zone) to reach the Savant level -- after hitting 10,000,000 points overall two weeks ago. At the same time, flubbster, who joined four days after CEHJ, picked up both his first 1,000,000 points and his first Genius certificate, in Windows XP. Then there were three members who each earned their third Genius certificates: oBdA in Active Directory, leew (another August 1997 registrant) in Small Business Server, and aneeshattingal, in SQL Query Syntax. And last, but definitely not least, mrjoltcola (our personal favorite for Best New Geek Name Of The Year) earned his first Genius certificate, in Oracle. Very nicely done, all!


Kudos: Every once in a while, the good folks who do Cleanup find gold. Such was the case with angelIII, who found a two-year-old question in which RobSampson spent three months writing code and testing processes. If there's ever been anyone who deserves the points in a question, it's Rob.

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Tips From the Moderators

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ModernMatt contributed this issue's Tip.

We've recently noticed many members being a little overzealous with their objections to the closure of abandoned questions. We'd like to take this opportunity to remind you when it is appropriate to object, and when complaining simply isn't going to help.

In many cases, questions are abandoned long before they reach a solution. Whatever the circumstances, the Moderators will never intentionally reward only effort; points will only be awarded when a valid, working solution has been provided by the Experts. In many questions, particularly those lacking a final response from the Author, it is impossible for us, the ZAs and the CVs to determine if the problem was solved using the advice given. Thus, your links to the first 5 entries in a Google Search, or a list of troubleshooting steps unacknowledged by the author, aren't ever going to be awarded points.

As a question author, you too are obliged to maintain a clean slate which is free from abandoned questions. Waiting for the cleanup process to start before you respond to the experts or before you ask for more help from the Moderators isn't going to work. The Experts lose interest and we'll simply delete your question. When you post a question, you should respond to the experts trying to help you and close or delete the question before it becomes abandoned.

The CVs are human, and from time-to-time, they do make mistakes. However, every objection takes time and resources for the Moderators to process, and more often than not, the original recommendation from the CV stands. Before making an objection, we'd ask you simply take a moment to consider the situation and evaluate the comments provided. If you were an outsider with the same issue, would the steps provided actually answer the question asked? If they won't, or there's a sense of ambiguity and uncertainty, the chances are your objection won't be worth the bytes it's stored on.

First Editors' Choice Articles

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The following articles have been designated as Editors' Choice by the Page Editors. For additional information on Articles and making sure your masterpiece is up to EE's publishing standards, check out the Article Guidelines and Article Tips zone.

A Crash Course in Email: SMTP, by gr8gonzo:

The most common mistakes I hear or read about email usually begin with people talking about POP3 and IMAP, so let's clear those off the table: POP3 and IMAP have absolutely nothing to do with sending or receiving email, so get that notion out of your head (if it's in there). Email is sent and received using SMTP, which stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol.

It's a good name, because getting email from one place to another really IS simple, and it works a lot like sending a snail mail letter in real life:

Why you shouldn't use PST files, by tigermatt:

They have been around for years and for thousands of Microsoft Outlook users and email administrators out there, they'd be lost without them: Personal Storage Table (PST) files. If you've worked with Outlook for very long, the name will immediately ring a bell; if you've ever administered Outlook, you may already know about the problems associated with this notorious file format.

In any corporate environment - or, for that matter, any environment with an Exchange Server - the use of PST files as a permanent solution to an email administrator's problems should be banned. Let's find out why.

Affordable Web Design: Adding Video to Your Site, by jason1178:

The broadband era has fundamentally changed the way we consume media. As little as five years ago, video on a web site was reserved for a select few with access to unlimited bandwidth and disk space and no small amount of technical know-how. Things have really changed. There are a ton of resources available for novice and expert designers to quickly and cheaply add video. This guide is aimed at web designers who are unfamiliar with embedding video on a web site and will introduce you to concepts and tools to quickly and inexpensively get you started.

16 Tips to Improve Email Delivery, by gr8gonzo:

Many recipients get so much mail that they only read e-mail that:
Criteria #1: Seems to have a legitimate subject and source, and...
Criteria #2: Is convenient (meaning they didn't have to do any extra work to get your message).

It's the marketer's constant battle to meet both of these, and most of the battle is involved in criteria #2 and getting past those sometimes-overzealous spam filters. With so many different types of spam filters, you can improve your chances of reaching your target audience using a variety of different techniques. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned over the years to help navigate legitimate marketing messages past the filters and into the inboxes.

Excel Tips & Tricks: The Camera Tool, by harfang:

Back in the years when I was teaching Excel 4 (yes, version 4, when .xls meant "worksheet" and not "workbook"), I had a couple of recreational exercises to use when the class was getting tired, after the afternoon break. One of them was the "Camera Tool".

It's one of these things that the original development crew of Excel -- an excellent team by all standards -- added quite possibly only because it's fun. However, although it's still there, it seems that Microsoft never wanted to publicize it, probably because it would put too much strain on the help lines. Indeed, the tool comes with a special kind of potential problems, some of which are impossible to troubleshoot over the phone.

Affordable Web Design: Adding Video to Your Site, by jason1178:

The broadband era has fundamentally changed the way we consume media. As little as five years ago, video on a web site was reserved for a select few with access to unlimited bandwidth and disk space and no small amount of technical know-how. Things have really changed. There are a ton of resources available for novice and expert designers to quickly and cheaply add video. This guide is aimed at web designers who are unfamiliar with embedding video on a web site and will introduce you to concepts and tools to quickly and inexpensively get you started.

C++ Q & A / Interview Practice Questions, by evilrix:

How good is your C++? Below is a collection of questions that I have built up over time that test how well someone who claims to know C++ actually does. Knowing the answers to these questions will probably help you avoid making a lot of the mistakes made by less experienced C++ programmers that can lead to some rather hard to isolate defects. It's also worth noting that a lot of these questions are typical interview questions, so if you are currently career searching it would pay you well to use this article to bring your skills up to speed.

Stuck in TRAFFIC: a fresh perspective

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skirklan is a designer whose articles for this newsletter and on her own blog almost always generate some kind of dust-up with someone. Her last post (on another website) was deleted for reasons that prompted the article below.

Sometimes the difference between a good and bad illustration is viewpoint. Try that with traffic building but without all kinds of best practices in SEO mechanics, rely instead on user experience. Try this "patterns and systems" overview of the world towards increased web traffic and consequently improved ad revenues.

Academia has always lumped arts and sciences together so let's make that work for us. The universe is based on various systems with checks and balances similar to the subtle relationships of elemental design. José Sarukhán* sums it up nicely in this scientific abstract: "Ecologists have delineated many mechanisms that can, in principle, favor species coexistence and hence maintain biodiversity."

You're thinking "what the hell does this have to do with the world wide web?" Think of "the mechanisms" as SEO, "species coexistence" as user experience and "biodiversity" as the unqualified multitudes generating a constant flow of ad dollars.

Mr. Sarukhán titled his work "Functional tradeoffs determine species coexistence" which oddly enough, also applies to some online commercial relationships. Like any environment, the world wide web hosts a variety of "species" jockeying to achieve homeostasis. Income generated by ad revenues makes a steady flow of traffic sacrosanct.

The key component is content; and not just any content, either, but constantly updated, expert content only generated after years of studying, learning, and working in a given field. Innovative parturition by independent thinkers is the ideal. Quality content drives people to a target site. The problem, as Sarukhán notes, is the "functional tradeoff". How are you going to pay your content producers without breaking the bank?

For example, Experts Exchange uses the reward system. Points are awarded and grades given to Experts when they share their expertise. Mysteries are solved, questions are answered and traffic is increased driving revenues upward. To revert back to our scientific analogy and quote Mr. Sarukhán again, "Most such coexistence mechanisms require or imply tradeoffs between different aspects of species performance." Back in the world wide web wild west, the tradeoff is exposure among ones peers, achieving minor celebrity and professional acknowledgment of expertise -- right, the proverbial pat on the back. Hey, it feels good to be an expert. Remove that and you have removed a producer's incentive.

The feel-good factor is requisite for both visitors and contributors. If they feel put off by slow loaders, condescending verbiage, or enforced exaction for site experience, you will lose repeat traffic. If your site only works with all the latest versions or upgrades, that serves as a sorting filter limiting visitors. Sites that require forms and registration without a free taste will lose repeat traffic.

Likewise, forum monitors who remove expert commentary, credentials or referral URLs in favor of controlling site exits, not only limit the scope of content, but also burn the bridge with your expert. Experts donate time to mentor; don't deny them their just due. Without a few kind-hearted experts who know what they're talking about, answers will start "I don't really know but I think..." which only serves to confuse people seeking advice. They will go elsewhere and your forum will end up a small clique that puts nothing in the bank.

Back to José and some scientific fact, "It remains unknown whether simple functional tradeoffs underlie coexistence mechanisms in diverse natural systems." It may remain unknown in diverse natural systems, but online, there's no doubt that the tradeoff exists. When there is no tradeoff, you'll end up alone and content with your own content.

But will your audience abide? The Dude always abides, but probably not the rest of the world in the constant competition for time and attention. Or as Sarukhán details it, "We show that functional tradeoffs explain species differences in long-term population dynamics that are associated with recovery from low density (and hence coexistence) for a community." The world wide web is a community with long-term population dynamics, so not playing by the tradeoff rules is virtually grabbing your ball, quitting the game and going home. Remember: Fun and feel good vibes make ad sales go through the roof.

Hey, I'm in advertising.

*José Sarukhán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico D.F., Mexico, April 28, 2009


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An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by some cosmic practical joke, ericpete puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange.

Our better half pointed us to an item in the Washington Post that suggests that Facebook is finally getting around to clamping down on the scams that show up in the ads the site runs. The gist of the article is that a) Facebook was slow to follow the practices of its competitors in the "social gaming" world -- MySpace, Zynga and RockYou -- and b) that there's a very good reason Facebook took its time: money.

Now, we're not going to say that all Internet advertising, or even all the advertising that appears on gaming sites, is a scam; far from it. But if the comments from Zynga are any indication, at least a third of the revenue these sites take in is some kind of scam. So there's no real incentive for Facebook (or anyone else) to put a stop to them. After all, it's not Facebook's fault if your Aunt Susie clicks on a link that winds up costing her a ton of money to fix a trojan downloaded from some scam site, or she gets stuck in some AOL-like uncancelable subscription to a horoscope feed.

The advertising revenue model has always been a haven for scams -- even for people who publish little rural weekly newspapers. You get an order from what appears to be a legitimate agency, and you send out the bill that gets paid by a check that doesn't bounce -- and three months later you find out that the whole thing was a scam. Those "work from home" ads you see in the classifieds? It's a good bet they're a scam. Given that the class ads are generally the most profitable section of the paper (they're usually paid in advance, and have minimal costs of production), it shouldn't be any wonder that oversight and double-checking for efficacy aren't part of the equation.

But that costs the scammer a few bucks to do, and it's worse because in order to get any volume, he'll have to send out literally thousands of mails, with thousands of checks. Not so when your targets are online; one order to Facebook (or anyone else), and millions of people are going to see that ad, and you only need to get your hand a little wet to make -- well, scam -- a lot of money. It isn't really that much different from the spam we all see in our inboxes.

And to complete the loop, now we're getting emails "from Facebook" telling us how they've updated their terms of service -- presumably to combat the scams, right? -- and how we should run this nice little program that's attached to update our account. They must really want us to do that, because over the past three hours they've sent it to me eight times.

Enough griping. On the other hand, we note that Facebook was recently awarded $711 million when a federal court ruled against spammer Sanford Wallace. (We still don't know why nobody has sent him to Colorado.) We are even willing to believe that Facebook sincerely wants to keep its members from being spammed, because some of those people make annoying phone calls to Facebook complaining about it, and they have other issues they're going to have to deal with.

But we don't see the company pouring a lot of resources into protecting its members; anyone who has read Wallace's biography on Wikipedia knows that no one has ever been able to get blood out of a turnip. So there has to be a reason: Wallace wasn't sharing the wealth, and those who do, by buying large volumes of advertising on Facebook's pages, get a wink, a nod, and a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

That, in our view, makes Facebook at best complicit, and at worst a co-conspirator. Who says crime doesn't pay?

More News and Notes

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Just A Bit Creepy Department: So the other day, Mom calls and wonders why she's seeing certain kinds of ads in her Gmail account -- so we told her. Good thing, too, because now Google has released its "Dashboard" that tells you what kinds of sites you've visited when no one was at your end of the cubicle row. Just remember that back when AOL had search data leaked, it didn't take long for people to identify AOL members from the data -- even if the data was sanitized. While Google may not ever have that kind of nightmare, it might not be a good idea to leave your Google password as the name of your dog. Oh, and don't forget -- Google has to remember what you have deleted.

Not nearly as creepy, and also made available from Google is their javascript library. Have fun...

Just in case you thought we'd forgotten: It's been a while since we harped on the foolishness that is the entertainment industry, specifically that part of it that only distributes and doesn't really create anything, and its ongoing mission to purchase 34 cents worth of plastic for $15.99 or pay $9.50 to spend two hours in a dark room with sticky, crunchy carpeting, uncomfortable seats and dozens of stinky strangers, one of whom always forgets to turn off his cell phone. We're all in favor of anyone who yanks their chain.

Well, we haven't forgotten them. First, as one might expect, the people in the recording industry were none too pleased by a report to the UK parliament that it -- the recording industry -- was more at fault for illegal downloading than P2P software because it hasn't given its customers what they want. Doh! For the movie folks, the news is worse; one of their own experimented successfully with releasing a couple of movies over video-on-demand before releasing the DVD versions, which has the movie trade group in a horrible tizzy, because it means they don't really need the government to block analog outputs to television sets. Oh, my! And to complete the trifecta, one of the top copyright attorneys in the US wrote a little book in which he called the DMCA "the 21st-century equivalent of letting copyright owners put a chastity belt on someone else's wife." Ouch! Nonetheless, the beat goes on...

Ted Stevens' Corner: Okay, we'll admit it. There is no greater perk for a news guy than watching politicians say and do things that are downright silly:

  • Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) is now a meme.
  • Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-California) -- widow of the former Mr. Cher, and now wife of the grandson of baseball Hall of Famer Connie Mack -- has a bill that will make it "unlawful" to use any software to "transfer files" unless the user goes through a "notice-and-consent" system every time it runs.
  • On the same subject, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) doesn't seem to have a problem understanding P2P software, which makes sense since she represents Silicon Valley, but the same can't be said for Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Florida), who called the accidental release of an Ethics committee investigation an "isolated incident".
  • And lest anyone think we can't pick on the Democrats, the White House announced that it is using Drupal to manage its website content -- and did so with a release full of inaccuracies about what "open source" really means.
  • Finally, a prediction (that might not be so bad): By next summer, someone will have a law on the books that makes it illegal to twit while driving.

From the Audio-Visual Department: A tech product launch (thanks, Peter!) and some advice on computer maintenance (thanks, Joanne!)

We have some good news and we have some bad news: The good news is that sometime next year, you will be able to use your new Droid to tether your laptop to Verizon's network. The bad news is that if you want to cancel, it will cost you both arms and a leg.

Wasn't Halloween just a week or so ago? "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." Consider this a promise: we will have no holiday shopping list until after Thanksgiving.

Crime doesn't pay as well as politics... but getting fired does. Carly Fiorina, formerly the CEO of Hewlett-Packard until the board of directors realized what a fiasco the Compaq acquisition turned out to be, has announced she is running for the US Senate, while another ex-CEO (though she wasn't forced out), Meg Whitman of eBay, is looking to take over the California Governor's office. The problem both have: they don't vote very often. Maybe we'll get an iPhone app for that, if not one for the Blackberry.

We told you to go outside! Apparently, it's not safe for children under the age of ten to play around computers. We just thought you'd want to know.

The only honest pitchman politician is the one who stays bought: Fortunately, celebrites like Jerry Seinfeld -- he of the Microsoft commercials with Bill Gates -- don't have to worry about such things. Seinfeld -- who was paid $10 million for the Microsoft gig -- has dumped his PC (maybe he saw the new Mac commercials) in favor of a MacBook Pro.

Don't blame me; I'm only the messenger: Our buddy Jason sent us a link to the most stressful jobs which was kind of yada-yada until we got to Page Two, when his reference to the stage at the last last Core conference began to make sense.

Oracle calling EU's bluff: Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems is running into an antitrust inquiry by the European Union, even though it has already been cleared by the US department of justice. One possible solution has been suggested: sell off MySQL.

Ooops: BusinessWeek had a little item about how, despite being banned from the iPhone, Google Voice still has about 1.4 million users -- but we're not supposed to know that. We do because someone at Google didn't format a PDF correctly.

You can't make this stuff up: Sorry, country music fans, but Billy Ray Cyrus was a one hit wonder, unless you count the cash cow he found in his daughter, Miley, whose soul he sold to Disney for the television show Hannah Montana -- beloved by pre-teen girls everywhere. But enough about Dad. Miley used to use Twitter a lot until she quit cold turkey -- except that like many teenaged girls, she's apparently still obsessed: "Because people, like, honestly, like, I mean people wanna know why, like, you're, like, unhealthy, and, like, you need, like, get out and do stuff and, like, be in the world instead of being like this (pretends to be hunched over a keyboard) all the time. And, like, all I did was, like, lay in bed all the time." But enough about Miley. The real story is, like, a cat is going to, like, DIE if Miley doesn't start "twiting" again. (Note to Dd: Now you know why I call them twits.)

Whine of the Apocalypse: AT&T doesn't like Verizon's commercials.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureYou could say that the first mistake was buying a new computer for someone who can't get broadband -- at least without paying an arm and a leg. Now it looks like we'll be spending at least some of our holiday cleaning up some malware on it, courtesy of someone clicking on the wrong links. How do I know -- even though I'm halfway across the country -- that someone did something she shouldn't have?

To be honest, I don't really. I'm just very suspicious because she has three of the five most common symptoms of an infected computer.

  • If your computer suddenly slows down -- not just while on the Internet, but even when you're not -- then you probably have something wrong. Viruses and malware use up tons of resources; for example, when you're on line, they will busily send out tons of email, and they will try to even if you're disconnected. They can also destroy files, and your system will spin its wheels trying to find them.
  • Your browser -- especially if you use Internet Explorer -- will crash or just stop working. Since most viruses and malware use the Internet to spread themselves, you would think those guys would be more careful, since a browser that has crashed can't send the bad stuff out, but they don't care.
  • Your email starts filling up with bounced emails, and when you check, they were sent from your computer. Most people use Outlook Express (now called Windows Mail), Outlook or Thunderbird, and because of that, they're targets for the virus writers. If you start getting messages that say "message undeliverable" or some such, you had better start checking for viruses.
  • You start seeing error messages when you start your computer. Malware can make changes to your system, sometimes destroying (or at least changing) some of the programs your system uses while you work. When those programs change, other programs that depend on them won't run -- and you'll see the error.
  • Something doesn't look right. Maybe it's a new icon on your desktop, or something isn't in your start menu, or there's a new little something in your task bar -- but whatever it is, computers don't go changing themselves on their own; something has to tell them to do it. If you have a piece of spyware or a trojan, it could be showing up in something not being where it's supposed to be.

None of these things means that you absolutely have a virus -- but it does mean that you might have something you need to look at. Almost every major antivirus company offers online scanning, including TrendMicro, Kapersky, Symantec, BitDefender, McAfee, Panda and F-Secure.

And while I'm making lists, I came across one from the Washington Post about upgrading your computer from Windows XP to Windows 7 (are you listening?):

  1. Don't try. Do a clean install; you'll save a lot of time and anguish.
  2. If you're not going to pay attention to #1, then get a copy of Vista and upgrade from XP first. You're not going to be using it, so don't worry about the legalities, but you're still better off just doing a clean install. Don't say I didn't warn you.
  3. If you're using an old video card, printer or other peripheral (hear that, sweetheart?), make sure you download and run the Windows tool that checks your hardware to make sure there are drivers available.
  4. Microsoft also has a tool that makes keeping your data intact a lot easier. Run it (don't say I didn't warn you!)

You're probably going to have to also get new versions of your antivirus and security software, because the Windows 7 kernel is quite a bit different from XP's, so your old software might not work. You might even find that Microsoft's will work for you. I have Vista on my laptop, XP on my desktop, not even going to attempt it. I'm going to let my S.O.P. handle the dirty work for me.

And now that the world knows this, I'm off the hook, if it crashes ----> he did it!

Now, where was that Black Friday list... (honey, grab the keys -- you're driving!)

New Certificates

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