posted 5 days ago on ars technica
On Tuesday Apple announced that ten new banks have agreed to work with Apple Pay to offer credit card support. With those additions, plus the recent additions of SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA banks, Apple Pay now accepts credit cards that represent about 90 percent of US credit card transaction volume, according to the New York Times. That number bodes well for Apple and its nascent mobile payment platform that launched in October of this year. The service lets users buy goods at NFC-enabled terminals in brick-and-mortar stores, as well as pay with a single tap in the iTunes store and in other compatible apps. The challenge for the adoption of mobile payments platforms like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, which debuted three years prior to Apple Pay’s announcement but failed to gain popular traction, is that the platform developers must build an entire ecosystem—from making sure banks will support the platform and let their users upload cards to it, to making sure that NFC-enabled terminals are in enough retailer checkout counters to make it worthwhile for customers to remember to pull out their phones to pay rather than their credit cards. Apple Pay gained a lot from the groundwork that Google Wallet laid when it pushed mobile payments years ago, and Google gained a lot from the work that MasterCard did with PayPass. Still, even the most bullish analysts currently predict that by the end of 2015, only 25 percent of retail terminals in the US will be NFC-enabled. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Apple has ceased all online sales in Russia as the country has been unable to keep its currency from fluctuating dramatically. In the last month, Apple had already increased the price of its iPhone 6 in that country by 25 percent due to currency uncertainties. “Our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing,” Alan Hely, a spokesman for the Cupertino, California-based company, told Bloomberg. “We apologize to customers for any inconvenience.” It is uncertain when Apple will reinstate its operations in Russia. Bloomberg noted that the Ruble sank 19 percent today, "with a surprise interest-rate increase failing to stem a run on the currency.” At one point during the day, the ruble sank to 80 on the dollar. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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At 20:00 CT on December 14, an Internet intruder gained access to one of the Ars Web servers and spent the next hour attempting to get from the Web server to a more central machine. At 20:52, the attempt was successful thanks to information gleaned from a poorly located backup file. The next day, at 14:13, the hacker returned to the central server and replaced the main Ars webpage with a defacement page that streamed a song from the band Dual Core. That song, "All the Things," features the chorus: Drink all the booze, hack all the things! The hacker didn't have long to drink all the booze and hack all the things, fortunately; by 14:29, our technical team had removed the defaced page and restored normal Ars operations. We spent the afternoon changing all internal passwords and certificates and hardening server security even further. Log files show the hacker's movements through our servers and suggest that he or she had the opportunity to copy the user database. This database contains no payment information on Ars subscribers, but it does contain user e-mail addresses and passwords. Those passwords, however, are stored in an encrypted form (hashed using 2,048 iterations of the MD5 algorithm and salted with a random series of characters). Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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"A shadowy organization with ties to the Koch Brothers" spearheaded an anti-net neutrality form letter writing campaign that tipped the scales against net neutrality proponents, according to an analysis released today by the Sunlight Foundation. The first round of comments collected by the Federal Communications Commission were overwhelmingly in support of net neutrality rules. But a second round of "reply comments" that ended September 10 went the other way, with 60 percent opposing net neutrality, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The group describes itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to expand access to government records. The foundation used natural language processing techniques to analyze 1.6 million reply comments. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back with some holiday deals courtesy of our partners at TechBargains. The top deal today is a Dell Inspiron 15 laptop with a 2Ghz Intel Core i7-4510U processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and Windows 7 Pro for just $649.99. We've got that and a bunch more deals below. Featured Dell Inspiron 15 (5000) 4th-Gen Core i7 laptop with 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD, backlit keyboard and Windows 7 Pro for $649.99 (list price $1,084.99 - use coupon code ?73Z7R69RRG59K). Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Tuesday, the makers of indie couch-gaming collection Sportsfriends announced that the title, which launched on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 earlier this year, finally had a home-computer release date. This Friday, shoppers at Steam and Humble Store will be able to purchase the four-game collection for $15 on Mac, Linux, and Windows. However, the announcement came with an asterisk not normally seen in computer-game launches: the collection's most striking game, Johann Sebastian Joust, would not be part of the Windows build. According to the game's Kickstarter site, the computer build of Sportsfriends has been delayed by efforts to add computer compatibility to the motion-sensitive PlayStation Move wands used to control the game. The team reported "hairy Bluetooth technical issues" on all three platforms in a September update, which acknowledged progress on Mac and Linux builds thanks to workarounds, but much less progress in the Windows version. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A little more than 16 months ago, word emerged that the FBI exploited a recently patched Firefox vulnerability to unmask Tor users visiting a notorious child pornography site. It turns out that the feds had waged an even broader uncloaking campaign a year earlier by using a long-abandoned part of the open source Metasploit exploit framework to identify Tor-using suspects. According to Wired, "Operation Torpedo," as the FBI sting operation was dubbed, targeted users of three darknet child porn sites. It came to light only after Omaha defense attorney Joseph Gross challenged the accuracy of evidence it uncovered against a Rochester, New York-based IT worker who claims he was falsely implicated in the campaign. Operation Torpedo used the Metasploit Decloaking Engine to identify careless suspects who were hiding behind Tor, a free service used by good and bad guys alike to shield their point of entry to the Internet. The Decloaking Engine went live in 2006 and used five separate methods to break anonymization systems. One method was an Adobe Flash application that initiated a direct connection with the end user, bypassing Tor protections and giving up the user's IP address. Tor Project officials have long been aware of the vulnerability and strenuously advise against installing Flash. According to Wired: Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The group that attacked Sony Pictures Entertainment’s network posted the first entry of what it's calling its “Christmas presents” on Tuesday, along with a warning to anyone who plans on going to see the Sony Pictures film The Interview—the movie that appears to be at the root of the group’s motives for its attack and dissemination of the company’s data. The "present" is apparently the personal e-mail box of Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton. In a message posted to Pastebin and other text-sharing sites, someone claiming to be affiliated with the "Guardians of Peace" wrote: We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY. The leaked file has already been removed from a number of file sharing sites after legal demands from Sony. Meanwhile, Sony has retained attorney David Bois to fight the spread of the data stolen by the Guardians of Peace by confronting media companies over publication of the data. Bois has sent letters to a number of media companies insisting that they not publish material from the leaks. "We are writing to ensure that you are aware that SPE does not consent to your possession, review, copying, dissemination, publication, uploading, downloading, or making any use of the Stolen Information, and to request your cooperation in destroying the Stolen Information," the letter stated. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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An embattled Bitcoin miner manufacturer is set to find out exactly how it will be able to retake its corporate reins after having been placed under federal receivership. US District Court Judge Brian Wimes ordered the court-appointed receiver to "wind down" the procedures on Tuesday. In late September, the Federal Trade Commission filed a civil lawsuit against Butterfly Labs (BFL) alleging that the company engaged in fraudulent and deceptive practices. As a result, the federal judge in Missouri imposed tight controls over the company to prevent its executives from moving money around. But last week, the judge denied the FTC’s motion to extend that temporary receivership. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A federal judge on Monday tossed evidence that was gathered by a webcam—turned on for six weeks—that the authorities nailed to a utility pole 100 yards from a suspected drug dealer's rural Washington state house. The Justice Department contended that the webcam, with pan-and-zoom capabilities that were operated from afar—was no different from a police officer's observation from the public right-of-way. The government argued (PDF): Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Remember cell phone plans that "roll over" unused minutes to the next month? T-Mobile US is reviving that strategy for data, but with restrictions. With a new "Data Stash" program announced today, smartphone customers with postpaid Simple Choice plans can keep unused high-speed data after the month is over if they pay for at least 3GB per month. Tablet users get the same perk if they buy at least 1GB of data per month. The offer is not available for T-Mobile's $50-per-month 1GB Simple Choice plan. Smartphone users who subscribe to that plan will continue to be throttled after they exceed 1GB in any given month, under T-Mobile's policy of slowing data speeds down instead of charging overage fees. The 3GB plan costs $60 per month. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Los Angeles Police Department, the third-largest city police force in the United States, is set to deploy body-worn cameras, according to the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper noted that the cameras would be paid for through "private donations," not through public funds, and that Mayor Eric Garcetti is set to announce the program later on Tuesday. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. "With this program, LA will be a national leader in the use of these cameras," the mayor's office said in statement. "While events in Ferguson and President Obama's call have brought this issue recent national attention, Mayor Garcetti's administration has been moving forward on the use of on-body cameras for over one year." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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After just a few hours of deliberation, a jury of eight men and women threw out a long-running lawsuit against Apple that sought more than a billion dollars in damages. In a verdict handed down a few minutes ago in Oakland federal court, the jury found that Apple's iTunes 7.0 constituted a genuine product improvement. That means it's the end of the case for the plaintiffs, who represented a class of around eight million consumers, as well as iPod resellers like Best Buy and Walmart. The plaintiffs claimed that iTunes 7.0 included updates that were meant to push out Apple competitors like RealNetworks, which had a competing DRM system called "Harmony." After the 7.0 update, Real's competing DRM system wouldn't work with iPods. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Remember Amazon's Echo, the by-invitation-only, $199 tube that's part voice-driven digital assistant and part Bluetooth speaker? iFixit has gotten one and torn it apart, revealing the parts concealed within. The "computer" driving the Echo is quite modest, even more so than what you would find in a set top box like Amazon's Fire TV. The processor is a Texas Instruments DM3725, a single-core ARM Cortex A8 chip (think iPhone 4), and it's backed by 1GB of LPDDR1 RAM and 4GB of storage space. Connectivity is more important to the way the Echo operates than processor speeds, and to that end the tube includes dual-band 802.11n with speeds of up to 300Mbps and Bluetooth 4.0. Most of the space inside the Echo is devoted to its sound system—a tweeter and a woofer, and lots of different bits and pieces that amplify and improve the sounds produced by each. The Echo gets a 7 out of 10 repairability score, with points docked for use of adhesive in a couple places and the difficulty of reassembly. It's always easier to take something apart than it is to put it back together, but that's apparently especially true here. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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After about a year in semi-closed testing, Elite: Dangerous finally opened its doors to the public this morning. The release of the PC-only space combat and trading simulation comes two years after the game’s successful Kickstarter campaign, and it marks designer David Braben’s return after 19 years to the game universe he co-created with Ian Bell in 1984 with the original Elite. A lot has changed with Elite: Dangerous since we first plunked down our $150 to join the game’s "premium beta" phase back in June. Six months ago, the game allowed you to shoot players and shuttle cargo around in five star systems and gave you five possible ships of varying size and cost in which to do it. Now, there are fifteen ships and billions of systems (although, to be fair, the overwhelming majority of those systems are procedurally generated and unexplored). For the past month, Braben and his team at Frontier Development have been running the game in a pre-release "gamma" stage, activating more and more of the game’s big features and using the ever-growing pool of paying beta testers to stress-test them for stability. At launch, the game features a live, evolving economy of constantly shifting supply and demand, with both players and NPCs moving goods between the web of space stations in the inhabited portions of the galaxy. There’s also an overarching story taking place, with the galaxy’s three main political factions clashing in a struggle for power that players can participate in or ignore as they like. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Comcast has agreed to let its customers stream HBO and Showtime on Roku devices. It wasn't clear why Comcast blocked the HBO and Showtime apps on Roku boxes while allowing them on other hardware, such as the Apple TV. Roku complained about the situation to the Federal Communications Commission and was recently able to wring an agreement out of Comcast. Ater several months of negotiations, "Roku is pleased to inform the Commission that effective November 25, 2014, Roku and Comcast entered into an agreement pursuant to which Comcast has, among other things, agreed to authenticate the HBO GO and Showtime Anytime apps on Roku video streaming devices for Comcast's subscribers whose subscriptions entitle them to access the content and services made available through such apps," Roku wrote in an FCC filing yesterday. The filing was submitted for the FCC's proceeding on Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and its proceeding on net neutrality rules. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A bit over a week ago, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry posted an open letter declaring that "Deniers are not Skeptics." To the Committee, skepticism is central to its goals, and it defines the activity as a careful analysis of evidence. As such, the group has been rather annoyed that people who doubt climate change have labelled themselves as skeptics, even if they have never taken the time to come to grips with any evidence. The letter called for the news media to stop allowing doubters of climate change to use the label "skeptic" and instead label them deniers, based on the root "denial," which was defined as "the a priori rejection of ideas without objective consideration." In doing so, the Committee had the support of scientists and science communicators such as Bill Nye and Ann Druyan, the woman behind the latest version of Cosmos. There's no shortage of denial when it comes to climate change—the public proclamations of Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), which the letter cites, are classic examples. And there's also genuine skepticism of individual scientific claims, as we saw by the response to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on California's recent drought. But there are a whole host of things in between that make using any single label problematic. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.—A little over a year ago, I was lucky enough to take a short ride in a Folland Gnat trainer—a nimble little two-seat jet maintained by Rick Sharpe of Houston’s Vietnam War Flight Museum. I had a great time and learned a lot about how unsuited my inner ear is for aerobatic maneuvering, but what I wasn’t expecting was the e-mail that landed in my inbox the day after the story ran: Lee, Enjoy your articles and I saw the article on your recent flight in the Gnat. As I read what you wrote, it occurred to me that you might be interested in the large video game we run down here at NAS Oceana in the F/A-18 simulator. If that sounds like something Ars would be interested in, I could look into setting that up for you. Drop me a line if you are interested. Sparky CDR Matthew W. Smith CVW-7 Operations Officer My jaw dropped. I read and re-read what had to be a mis-sent invitation or a series of typos. Me? Jump into a modern fighter simulator? Something I’d be interested in? I nearly broke my fingers speed-typing my response. Hell yes, we were interested in an F/A-18 simulator! Who wouldn’t want to play what was essentially an awesome 360-degree video game in a high-fidelity fighter jet cockpit? Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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We were reluctant to get excited about Sony's inaugural PlayStation Experience event in Las Vegas last week, mostly because we've been to a few half-baked, not-quite-E3 video game expos before; these tend to either feature games we've already seen or way too many look-don't-touch teasers. But Sony didn't slack off in the slightest, making sure its show's thousands upon thousands of attendees had plenty of brand-new stuff to play. PSX hosted so much new content, in fact, that we have to split our impressions into two articles. We're starting with the show's bigger-ticket first-party fare, including two of PlayStation 4's biggest games coming in the first half of next year. Tune in later this week for a look at the expo's glut of indie and small-fry stunners. The Order: 1886: Players’ loss is Twitch's gain An official image from Sony's site, which we can confirm is how the game looks in real time. 4 more images in gallery The Order: 1886 should soundly end all debate among console fanboys about their favorite systems' specs and processing power. In that limited-yet-crucial regard, the PS4 has won. Twice now, I've lodged my eyeballs almost directly into a 50-inch screen while playing this game and come back with no qualms calling this the current generation's bona fide visual masterpiece. Camera angles, weather effects, and a striking steampunk aesthetic come together quite well, but it's the facial stuff—animations, scars, hair, beards, lips, all of it—that will stun avid gamers, let alone the grandmas and grandpas of the world who barely ever play with such confounded toys. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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It’s no secret that the possibility of life on Mars has tantalized us for a long time now. Even today, despite the knowledge that there are no intelligent Martians, the idea works its way into science fiction, as movies like John Carter, The Last Days on Mars, and the animated film Mars Needs Moms demonstrate. Even the character of Spock on Star Trek was originally conceived as a Martian! But the concept isn’t limited to science fiction; scientific interest in life on Mars continues. Scientists, of course, aren’t expecting to find any little green men, but it’s still an open question whether some form of microbial life could exist there, especially given Mars’ relatively Earth-like past and the presence of chemicals necessary for life as we know it. But is there a real possibility Mars could hold some sort of life? Is the planet’s apparent similarity to Earth really enough to allow for life to have formed? Perhaps most significantly, is the planet habitable to life today? Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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One of two lawyers pointed to as the organizer of "copyright troll" Prenda Law appears to have a new business model, and in some ways, it looks like his old business model. Minneapolis attorney Paul Hansmeier and his partner John Steele sued thousands of people, saying they illegally downloaded porn movies. The operation may have made millions, but Steele and Hansmeier ended up being repeatedly sanctioned by multiple federal judges throughout 2013 and 2014. They were ultimately ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to defendants. Some of their key cases are now awaiting decisions from appeals courts. Hansmeier is still demanding settlements from individuals over controversial claims, albeit in a different area of the law. He has filed more than two dozen lawsuits accusing Minnesota businesses of violating state and federal disability laws, according to a report in yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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This time of year puts a lot of people in an acquisitive mood, with holiday sales and advertisements beckoning us to get those little knick-knacks and gadgets we've been saving up for all year. For Ars readers at least, the holiday season also seems to have put you in a giving mood, as evidenced by donations to the ongoing Ars Charity Drive and giveaway sweepstakes so far. Since the drive launched 10 days ago, more than 250 Ars readers have given over $11,000 combined to Child's Play and the EFF. That's a great start, nearly half way to last year's charity fundraising total of over $23,000. We have a feeling we can beat that total this year, and we may even have a chance of surpassing our record annual haul of about $28,700 set back in 2012. If the prospect of showing up Ars readers of yesteryear isn't enough to get you to give, keep in mind that donating automatically puts your name in the running to win one of over 100 prizes we're giving away to readers, including an Xbox One (with Kinect), two pro racing wheel gaming controllers, and tons of gaming collectibles and clothing. Don't let some other jerk get a prize that could rightly go to you: enter today! Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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OAKLAND, Calif.—The long-running iTunes antitrust lawsuit against Apple has gone to a jury, which took the case after about three hours of closing arguments today. The jury will make an unusual split decision, deliberating first over the narrow issue of whether iTunes 7.0 was a true product improvement or an anti-competitive scheme to kick out Apple competitor RealNetworks. If the jury sees the "software and firmware updates" in iTunes 7.0 as a real improvement, the case will be over—a win for Apple. If it doesn't see it that way, the jurors will still have to decide if Apple broke competition laws and, if so, how much the company should pay in damages. Plaintiffs are asking for $351 million, and any award will be tripled under antitrust law. Plaintiffs representing a class of eight million consumers and resellers say Apple's behavior was anti-competitive, because the iTunes update stopped Real's competing DRM system from working correctly. Apple says Real should take responsibility for what was basically a hack of Apple DRM. When the company updated its security in iTunes 7.0, Real's reverse engineering, quite naturally, stopped working. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Researchers say they can compare body camera video footage to accurately identify a person wearing a body-mounted device in about four seconds, according to a recently published paper. The authors of the study looked at biometric characteristics like height, stride length, and walking speed to find the identity of the person shooting the footage. As they point out, this could have both positive and negative implications for civilians, law enforcement, and military actors if they're using body-mounted cameras. (It's important to note that this research paper, Egocentric Video Biometrics, was published in the arXiv repository. As such, it's not considered a final, peer-reviewed work.) Using static, mounted cameras to match a person's height and gait is a relatively common and well-researched vector for narrowing down the identity of people caught in videos. In this study, the authors said that to get an accurate read of the biometric data of the person wearing the body cam, the footage has to be from a camera secured to one point on a person's body (handheld cameras don't work), and it has to have at least four seconds of video of the camera-wearer walking. Despite these restrictions, the two researchers from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem noted that once the necessary information had been gathered, “the identity of the user can be determined quite reliably from a few seconds of video." “This is like a fingerprint," Shmuel Peleg, one of the paper's authors, told The Verge. "In order to find the person you have to have their fingerprint beforehand. But we can compare two people and say whether two videos were shot by the same person or not." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If we were to have you list the worldwide smartphone market share leaders, we bet nearly everyone would put Samsung at #1 and Apple at #2. But who's #3? LG? HTC? Sony? The correct answer would be "None of the above." Gartner recently released their smartphone market share numbers for Q3 2014, and the #3 spot is pretty much a three-way tie. Right behind the two leaders are a trio of Chinese companies: Huawei, Xiaomi, and Lenovo. The actual market share numbers for Q3 2014 break down to Samsung at 24.4 percent, Apple at 12.7 percent, Huawei at 5.3 percent, Xiaomi at 5.2 percent, and Lenovo at five percent. At this time last year, Gartner reported Xiaomi was only at 1.5 percent market share, so the company has experienced a 336 percent jump. The big loser of the group was Samsung, which dropped 7.7 percent from last year. The company is still coming back down to earth after a record 2013, and it expected a 60 percent profit drop in Q3. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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