I'm in the future. Like hundreds of years in the future. I've been dead for centuries.
Oh, lovely, you're a cheery one aren't you?

Friday, July 05

Geek

Daily News Stuff 5 July 2024

Cinco De Julio Edition

Top Story

Tech News

Disclaimer: Scrape sixteen sites, and what do you get?  Half a terabyte of furry porn and the worst Joe Biden deepfakes yet. 

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Thursday, July 04

Geek

Daily News Stuff 4 July 2024

Happy Freedom Day

Top Story

Tech News


Perception Check Music Video of the Day



Every character in the video is a Hololive member. The human bard is Kureiji Ollie of Hololive Indonesia, who on hearing the song announced ME IN DnD. The long-suffering DM is Calliope Mori who is in fact the long-suffering DM of all of Hololive English's tabletop games.


Twitter has fixed embeds for real, it seems. They were broken for months, and then flaky for many more months.


Disclaimer: Happy Freedom Day. Strictly one eagle per customer. No rainchecks, no refunds.

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Wednesday, July 03

Geek

Daily News Stuff 3 July 2024

Centrifugal Bumblefuck Edition

Top Story

  • Everything new is old again: A critical vulnerability in OpenSSH that was fixed all the way back in 2006 is back again.  (ZDNet)

    Oops.  Also, fuck.

    Dubbed regreSSHion - it has a cute name, so you know it's serious the bug lets you log into a server by not logging into it.

    That is, you start the login process repeatedly - a hundred times in parallel, if you can - and never complete it, and attach a sneaky payload that has a tiny chance of blowing up on the target server when your login times out.

    On older 32-bit systems it takes a few hours on average for this to work.

    On 64-bit systems it's more complicated to exploit and would take a week or more of constant effort; since the bug has only just been reported nobody has demonstrated a successful attack against a 64-bit system yet, so it may take even longer.

    Reviewing all the servers at work turned up one vulnerable system; every other server was properly locked down.  I don't know who set it up, but I curse their name.  Whatever it is.


Tech News



Disclaimer: We choose to nuke the Moon and do the other things, not because it is easy, but because fuck you, Gandhi.

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Tuesday, July 02

Geek

Daily News Stuff 2 July 2024

Beanz Meanz Heanz Edition

Top Story

  • The Supreme Court has a major First Amendment case among all the administrative law ones, namely Netchoice v. Humanity. This was actually two different cases filed against Florida and Texas laws requiring viewpoint neutrality in online moderation.

    This resulted in a circuit split with the two cases being decided in opposite directions resulting in the Supreme Court ordering them 9-0 to go back and do it properly this time. (CBS)

    The majority opinion (written by Justice Kagan) is favorable to the social networks, while a concurring opinion written by Justice Alito and joined by Gorsuch and Thomas was less so, but all nine justices agreed that the circuit courts made a dog's breakfast of their decisions.

Tech News

  • Looking for a cheap graphics card that is better than a potato? Can't decide between the Nvidia RTX 3050 and AMD's RX 6600? Just buy the 6600. (Tom's Hardware)

    The 6600 outpaces the 3050 even with ray tracing factored in, and if you disable ray tracing - it's not going to be a great experience on low-end cards like these anyway - the 6600 closes in on the 3060.

    I have a couple of 3060s. They're not high-end either, but they do just fine.


  • Thunderbolt 5 cables are here. (Tom's Hardware)

    Thunderbolt 5 itself is absent, but the cables are here. $23 for 1ft, $33 for 3ft. They don't come longer than that.

    Thunderbolt 5 can transfer data up to three times faster than Thunderbolt 4, and supports power delivery up to 240W.


  • The telltale words that could identify generative AI text. (Ars Technica)
    Father: Yes, you can't beat wood ... Gorn!

    Mother: What's gorn dear?

    Father: Nothing, nothing, I just like the word. It gives me confidence. Gorn ... gorn. It's got a sort of woody quality about it. Gorn. Gorn. Much better than 'newspaper' or 'litterbin'.

    Daughter: Frightful words.

    Mother: Perfectly dreadful.
    Sorry, sorry, cited the wrong paper there. I'll come in again:
    The word "delves," for instance, shows up in 25 times as many 2024 papers as the pre-LLM trend would expect; words like "showcasing" and "underscores" increased in usage by nine times as well. Other previously common words became notably more common in post-LLM abstracts: the frequency of "potential" increased 4.1 percentage points; "findings" by 2.7 percentage points; and "crucial" by 2.6 percentage points, for instance.
    Seemly... Prodding... Vacuum.


  • How to get rich in 2024. (The Verge)

    1. Start an AI company three years ago.
    2. Run out of money.
    3. Have one of the trillion-dollar tech companies hire away all your staff. It doesn't matter which one. You choose.
    4. Have them license your tech for hundreds of millions of dollars so they don't get sued.


  • Democratic senators on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs have sent a letter to fintech company Synapse, its major banking partner Evolve, and everyone else in the vicinity saying, and I quote, "What the fuck guys? Get your shit sorted out or we'll come over there and sort you out." (Tech Crunch)

    Synapse imploded a couple of months ago when its Chapter 11 reorganisation plans collapsed and it was left without enough cashflow to operate. The problem is that Synapse operated as an intermediary between its customers, their customers, and banks like Evolve. And now nobody can get their money because Synapse was handling the details and Synapse is toast.

    Double toast, possibly, because between $65 million and $96 million of the customer funds deposited through Synapse have allegedly gone walkabout.

    Nor is Synapse the only source of drama there:
    On June 26, Evolve Bank announced that it had been victim of a cyberattack and data breach that could have affected its partner companies as well. The incident, according to the company, involved "the data and personal information of some Evolve retail bank customers and financial technology partners' customers" such as Affirm, Mercury, Bilt, Alloy and Stripe. On June 29, fintech company Wise announced that some of its customers' personal data may have been stolen in the data breach. Also last week, Thread Bank – a popular partner to BaaS startups such as Unit – got hit with enforcement action from the FDIC. Notably, the order issued to Thread, as the publication Paymnts pointed out, "is unique in that it explicitly calls out the bank's Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) and Loan-as-a-Service (LaaS) programs."
    Bilt? Paymnts? For $65 million surely these guys can afford a new keyboard.



Disclaimer: I tried to spell judgment without an "e" and it came out judgmnt. Now I'm in a predicamnt. Confusd.

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Monday, July 01

Geek

Daily News Stuff 1 July 2024

Independence Month Edition

Top Story

  • Speaking truth to idiots: Rodney Brooks, MIT professor of robotics and founder of iRobot (the Roomba company) thinks that most of the present-day AI people are full of shit.  (Tech Crunch)

    Well he says they're "vastly overestimating generative AI" but what he means is they're full of shit.
    "When a human sees an AI system perform a task, they immediately generalize it to things that are similar and make an estimate of the competence of the AI system; not just the performance on that, but the competence around that," Brooks said. "And they’re usually very over-optimistic, and that’s because they use a model of a person’s performance on a task."
    This seems right to me.

    People say "oh, this AI gave the correct answer to a complex question, it must understand the topic".  But that's not how LLMs work at all.  They're exclusive statistical pattern matchers, with no model of anything beyond that.

    Humans (and other animals) are statistical pattern matchers too, but even flatworms are capable of learning.  LLMs as commonly implemented are not.  They are trained, once, then lobotomised to prevent them contemplating heresy and sent out into the world.


Tech News



Disclaimer: I got my assets stuck in a mountain once, but we don't talk about it.

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Sunday, June 30

Geek

Daily News Stuff 30 June 2024

Halfway Edition

Top Story

  • Europe wants to deploy datacenters into space.  Studies say it's feasible.  (CNBC)
    ASCEND’s space-based data storage facilities would benefit from "infinite energy” captured from the sun and orbit at an altitude of around 1,400 kilometers (869.9 miles).
    Well congratulations, your datacenter is now permanently running away from you at sixteen thousand miles per hour.

    Fortunately the writer of this piece spoke to some people who aren't certifiably insane:
    Winterson estimates that even a small 1 megawatt center in low earth orbit would need around 280,000 kilograms of rocket fuel per year at a cost of around $140 million in 2030 - a calculation based on a significant decrease in launch costs, which has yet to take place.
    That's not the launch cost, that's the upkeep.

    And that's for a tiny datacenter.  The AI center Tesla is building right now is targeting not 1 megawatt but 500 - which would cost $70 billion per year to maintain given these assumptions.

    Back on Earth, Tesla is spending around $4 billion on the entire datacenter.

Tech News

  • After the malicious domain polyfill.io was shut down by the domain registrar, it switched to polyfill.com.  (Bleeping Computer)

    Which had much less impact because nobody was using polyfill.com.

    The registrar for that domain shut it down as well, and the hackers switched to polyfill.cloud - and a whole list of other domains, including various forms of bootcdn, bootcss, and staticfile.

    In an interesting twist, the hackers behind the polyfill.io scheme (the original Polyfill library itself is innocuous and its developer innocent of all this) put their code on GitHub including their API keys and database password.

    So if they hadn't already been taken off line they would have been hacked by now.


  • Unraveling Factorio's Lua security flaws.  (Memory Corruption)

    The game Factorio lets you add scripts written in the programming language Lua, which is intended to be safe - or mostly safe - for such things.

    One researcher found that a malicious script could hack every player in a multi-player Factorio game simultaneously.

    The article is excruciatingly detailed, which is great for me because I myself have written code that embeds Lua for scripting and I need to know this stuff.

    Normal people will likely tune out after page 30.


  • A French court ordered global DNS providers like Google and Cloudflare to poison their data in order to block a pirate streaming site.  Rather than comply, OpenDNS blocked France.  (TorrentFreak)

    Which has the same net effect: If you're in France you can't access the site by using OpenDNS.

    Time to run my own DNS server again, maybe.  Not that it's particularly hard; I have two dedicated and two virtual Linux servers running at the new house now.


  • The Associated Press is setting up a sister organisation explicitly for pay-to-play propaganda.  (AP News)

    The AP itself will continue with its current function of providing propaganda for backroom deals and political favours rather than cash.


  • Writing technical books for money.
    Rule 1: Never write a technical book for the money.
    Oh.  Also:
    Authors are those people who consider $500 a lot of money.
    Publishing is pretty miserable for small authors now - which is to say anyone who isn't getting the benefit of a seven-figure money laundering deal - but then it always has been.


  • An experiment in Denver doled out varying levels of UBI to three test groups.  (Colorado Sun)

    Oh?  What happened.
    The percentage of people who had housing at the 10-month check-in of the Denver Basic Income Project climbed to 45%.
    Well, that sounds great.  What's the catch?
    They were separated into three groups. Group A received $1,000 per month for a year. Group B received $6,500 the first month and $500 for the next 11 months. And group C, the control group, received $50 per month.
    Seems reasonable.

    Group A gets a small but steady income.  Group B gets a big advance so they can get out of whatever hole they're in, but a much smaller income.  And Group C gets shafted.  Such is life.
    About 45% of participants in all three groups were living in a house or apartment that they rented or owned by the study’s 10-month check-in point, according to the research.
    If the results in the control group are indistinguishable from the results in the trial group, the medicine had no effect.
     


Disclaimer: ~fluffles away~

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Saturday, June 29

Geek

Daily News Stuff 29 June 2024

Unreal Estate Edition

Top Story

  • Forget the debate, the Supreme Court just declared open season on regulators.  (Tech Crunch)

    There has been plenty of coverage of what the reversal of the 1984 Chevron decision means - the emasculation of the administrative state - so I'll just examine the tech industry impact of this, via the same liberal fascist wailing that we see everywhere else.

    Net neutrality:
    The entire concept of net neutrality is perched atop the FCC’s interpretation of whether broadband data is an "information service" or a "communications service," the terms written in the act empowering that agency.
    Wrong right out of the gate.  Net neutrality is a universal concept.  The FCC is trying to arrogate the power to enforce net neutrality by twisting the definitions in its charter until they squeak, but that is a different question.
    If the FCC is not empowered to settle this ambiguity in a very old law that was written well before today’s broadband and mobile networks
    It is not so empowered and never has been.
    who is?
    Congress.
    Whatever court takes the case brought by the telecommunications industry, which hates net neutrality and would prefer an interpretation where the FCC doesn’t regulate them at all.
    No, Congress.
    And if the industry doesn’t like that court’s interpretation, it gets a few more shots as the case rises towards - oh, the Supreme Court.
    And Congress.
    Why is this so consequential for tech? Because the tech industry has been facing down a wave of regulatory activity led by these agencies, operating in the vacuum of Congressional action. Due to a lack of effective federal laws in tech, agencies have had to step up and offer updated interpretations of the laws on the books.
    Which was never within their authority.

    I support net neutrality.  ISPs and cable companies amply demonstrated themselves to be hideously untrustworthy.

    It's just that the FCC has no authority to make such a regulation.

    AI:
    Let us be optimistic for once and imagine that Congress passes a big law on AI, protecting certain information, requiring certain disclosures, and so on. It’s impossible that such a law would contain no ambiguities or purposeful vagueness to allow for the law to apply to as-yet-unknown situations or applications. Thanks to the Supreme Court, those ambiguities will no longer be resolved by experts.
    The experts can resolve the issues when the laws are enforced.  There is no problem with that.

    The only change here is that the courts are not required to defer to experts within the regulatory agencies on their interpretations of the laws.
    (As an example of how this will play out, in the very decision issued today, Justice Gorsuch repeatedly referred to nitrogen oxide, a pollutant at issue, as nitrous oxide, laughing gas. This is the level of expertise we may expect.)
    Face first on a rake.

    There are at least a dozen compounds under the generic label "nitrogen oxide", and it is not the proper name for any of them.


Tech News

  • The Verge also joins in with a long and detailed article lamenting the demise of regulatory fascism vis-à-vis the tech industry. (The Verge)
    This decision is arguably the largest single deregulatory action that could be taken, and as we have all observed, without regulation, tech - like any other big industry - will consolidate and exploit. The next few years, even under a pro-regulatory Democratic administration, will be a free-for-all. There is no barrier, and probably no downside, to industry lawyers challenging every single regulatory decision in court and arguing for a more favorable interpretation of the law.
    Write better laws.
    Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan has made no secret of her ambitions to use the agency's authority to take bold action to restore competition to digital markets and protect consumers. But with Chevron being overturned amid a broader movement undermining agency authority without clear direction from Congress, Schettenhelm said, "it's about the worst possible time for the FTC to be claiming novel rulemaking power to address unfair competition issues in a way that it never has before."
    As with the previous article, the writers of this piece freely admit that the regulatory agencies are engaged in an unbridled and unconstitutional power grab; they just believe this is a good thing.

    The article notes that the FTC's recent ruling against noncompete clauses is likely in trouble because - once again - the FTC never had the authority to make such a ruling in the first place.
    To be clear, none of these are necessarily bad outcomes - and as Lemley notes, most people "have bigger fish to fry." No one is going to think, Well, on the one hand climate change will kill us all, but on the other hand, I have my Apple Watch.
    I'm not sure where they were going there.
    Beyond that, the disempowering of federal agencies means the empowerment of another entity
    Congress.
    and in this case, it is the increasingly conservative judiciary.
    Sounds lovely, but no.


     
  • A lawsuit claims that Microsoft tracked sex toy shoppers in real time.  (404 Media)

    What a depressingly stupid article.

    The websites Good Vibrations and Babeland installed online tracking software called Microsoft Clarity on their websites.

    It's like complaining that someone wrote down your name - and then prominently mentioning the name of the ink manufacturer every time you discussed the case.


  • NASA wants to stress that the two astronauts who travelled to the ISS on the Boeing Starliner, Butch and Sundance Suni, are not stranded.  (Ars Technica)

    The agency just doesn't know when or if they will be able to return home.


  • Mustafa Suleyman, a less-successful clone of OpenAI's Sam Altman, has confirmed that Microsoft is taking all your data to train its AI and they don't give a shit what you think about it.  (The Register)
    That's the future Suleyman anticipates. "The economics of information are about to radically change because we can reduce the cost of production of knowledge to zero marginal cost," he said.
    Looks like it's take off and nuke the entire site from orbit o'clock.

Not Tech News

  • Watched the latest Ghostbusters movie - Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire - last night.  It's not bad.  The 2021 film Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a loving return to the original, introducing a new generation of characters (two new generations in fact) nearly forty years later.  Like Ghostbusters II, though, Frozen Empire runs into the problem that once you've gotten your group of misfits together and saved the world, what do you do next?

    Well, you save the world again, of course, but it's never the same the second time around. 

    Still pretty good.

    We don't mention the 2016 abomination.


  • A-chan is leaving Hololive after seven years.  (Dexerto)

    She had taken a leave of absence due to an illness in the family, but was unable to return to work as originally planned.

    Hololive was originally a tech company selling a new face-tracking phone app for vtubers - originally this required much more complicated and expensive equipment - until two girls fresh out of high school approached them at a trade show and suggested that what the company needed was its own vtuber to show off the software's capabilities.

    One of the pair is now Tokino Sora, the first member of Hololive, with nearly 1.2 million YouTube subscribers.  The other is known simply as A-chan, and is one of Hololive's most senior managers.  And even as a manager she has 900,000 subscribers of her own.


Disclaimer: It's the only way to be sure.

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Friday, June 28

Geek

Daily News Stuff 28 June 2024

Mouse Cakes Edition

Top Story


Tech News



Disclaimer: Pipipipipipipi!

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Thursday, June 27

Geek

Daily News Stuff 27 June 2024

Blargh Edition

Top Story

  • A Russian propaganda network is promoting an AI-manipulated Biden video.  (Wired)  (archive site)
    Experts tell WIRED that Russian disinformation campaigns are using generative AI more and more.
    What would we do without experts?
    In recent weeks, as so-called cheapfake video clips
    Which is to say, live news footage.
    suggesting President Joe Biden is unfit for office have gone viral on social media, a Kremlin-affiliated disinformation network has been promoting a parody music video featuring Biden wearing a diaper and being pushed around in a wheelchair.
    Note that the video is...  A video.  (Twitter)

    Wired is too scared to link to the video but it's not hard to find.

    It has human actors, in makeup and wigs, and it's edited, and put over a kind of bad song in a a thick Russian accent.
    An analysis by True Media, a nonprofit that was founded to tackle the spread of election-related deepfakes, found with 100% confidence that there was AI-generated audio used in the video. It also assessed with 78% confidence that some AI technology was used to manipulate the faces of the actors.
    There's only one voice in the entire video and it doesn't sound like anyone, so that claim is completely irrelevant.

    Is it used for the faces of Biden and Trump in the video?  Eh.  Maybe.

    But again, it's a parody video.  Nobody thinks this is real.  The reason Wired didn't link to it is because they want you to think people think it's real.
    Fink says the obvious nature of the deepfake technology on display here suggests that the video was created in a rush, using a small number of iterations of a generative adversarial network in order to create the characters of Biden and Trump.
    It's not a deepfake if it intentionally looks fake.  But pretending it is a deepfake, is a deepfake.

    The article then wanders off to foam at the mouth about scary AI a bit more:
    The report details how the campaign, dubbed CopyCop, used the AI tools to scrape content from real news websites, repurpose the content with a right-wing bias, and republish the content on a network of fake websites with names like Red State Report and Patriotic Review that purport to be staffed by over a 1,000 journalists - all of whom are fake and have also been invented by AI.
    Just like CNN.
    The topics pushed by the campaign include errors made by Biden during speeches, Biden's age, poll results that show a lead for Trump, and claims that Trump’s recent criminal conviction and trial was "impactless" and "a total mess."
    My apologies, not like CNN at all.  It's actually reporting facts.

    No wonder Wired is upset.


Tech News

  • SpaceX has scored a $843 million NASA contract to blow up the moon.  (Tech Crunch)

    Or to deorbit the ISS sometime after 2030.  One of those.


  • If you are using Polyfill.io, STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.  (Bleeping Computer)

    The domain has been sold to a Chinese company which is using it to distribute malware.

    You're probably not unless (a) you're a web designer and (b) haven't updated your site in a long time.

    The developer of Polyfill warned about this in February. He has no connection with the polyfill.io website but people have been using it as an easy way to run the software, which was very useful to patch up browser incompatibilities years ago but is no longer needed by any modern browser.

    Google is notifying website owners where they can, and Cloudflare is offering a free alternative source.


  • You're holding it wrong: An Australian bank is measuring how you hold your phone to stop scammers.  (Pymnts)

    The article as it is written makes no sense, which may be because the bank is avoiding telling anyone exactly how it works, or may be because it doesn't work.

    But the article does make the same observation as the one about the rise of crime in Sweden: If you make payment frictionless, you also make theft frictionless.


  • The Rabbit AI pin - which is rubbish but at least much cheaper than the Human AI pin - has been hacked.  (404 Media)

    Or at least the API services behind it have been hacked.

    Briefly.

    Rabbit has apparently rotated the API keys - taking all the Rabbits offline briefly - and now the hack no longer works.


  • AMD's new Strix Point laptops ship July 15.  (Hot Hardware)

    This looks like a pretty good chip.  Four Zen 5 cores, eight Zen 5c cores which are identical but run about 30% slower, and 16 RDNA3.5 graphics cores.

    That would make it twice as fast on the CPU side and nearly three times as fast on the graphics side as my new laptop.

    And Strix Point Halo, even faster, is still waiting in the wings.


  • An AI-designed horse purse is tearing the horse purse community apart.  (The Verge)

    You might well ask, is this a purse for AI-designed horses, or a horse purse for AI-designers, or a horse shaped like a purse designed by an AI, or...  I don't know.

    In fact, it's a shopping bag.
    Collina Strada spokesperson Lindsey Solomon noted that only two of the prints used AI - others, like the "Sistine Tomato" print are done by "photograph[ing] every element of the print and compos[ing] them together, hand placing each rhinestone and tomato."
    It's a shopping bag with hand-placed rhinestones and tomatoes.
    The AI prints, meanwhile, are based on outputs generated by feeding Midjourney images of Collina Strada's past work, essentially remixing the brand’s own designs. Is it still theft if your inputs are your own work?
    Is it theft if you eat the food you cooked for yourself?
    And what kind of freedom should artists have to experiment with these tools before it’s seen as a moral failing?
    I cannot wait for you idiots to be replaced with ChatGPT.


Disclaimer: Unless that's already happened, in which case I cannot wait for the bubble to burst and AI execs to go to prison.

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Wednesday, June 26

Geek

Daily News Stuff 26 June 2024

Stochastic Scrabble Bag Edition

Top Story

  • Fearless Fund's founder has resigned, and it's a sad reflection on the VC world for Black women.  (Tech Crunch)

    Is it, though?
    Still, it is being sued by a politically conservative group called the American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER) over its charitable grants program. AAER is challenging the fund’s right to provide $20,000 in small business grants to Black women, claiming the program violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which bans the use of race in contracts.
    Oh.
    The case is not going particularly well for Fearless Fund. As TechCrunch recently reported, earlier this month an appeals court ruled against Fearless. It upheld a preliminary injunction that prevents the firm from making grants to Black women business owners. The firm told TechCrunch at that time it is weighing its options on how to proceed.
    Shockingly, it turns out that racism is not only bad, but sometimes illegal.  And while larger funds don't care about quaint notions like right and wrong, they do care about lawsuits potentially involving massive damages:
    Still, as we previously pointed out, the sad fact is that big names in the tech ecosystem have not exactly come out swinging in support. CEO Simone told Inc. earlier this year that the fund had lost nearly all its partnerships aside from two, JPMorgan and Costco. Even Mastercard, who sponsored the now-contested Strivers Grant, has publicly never commented on the lawsuit.
    You hate to see it.  Wait, not hate.  The other one.


Tech News



Disclaimer: You fell victim to one of the classic blunders.  The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia.  But only slightly less well-known is never get between a tech weasel and a stack of cash.

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