Running the standard Android Drifta app on non-standard phones

Posted on September 27, 2011

Before the hacked version of the DStv mobile application surfaced people were looking for ways to get the standard application to work on devices other than those supported, as well as on rooted devices. That playing around stopped with the hacked version. Now that DStv has taken to asserting their copyrights to the application a lot of people have not been able to get hold of the hacked application. The same outcome can be achieved without needing to infringe DStv’s copyright. Below is the short and more detailed version of this :

  • If your device is not supported, you can change your device’s identity so that it looks like a supported device.
  • If your device is rooted, you can temporarily unroot it using OTA Rootkeeper.

That’s it. Simple, yes?

Below is Johan’s feedback and instructions (edited a little with links added to make your lives easier).

Read the rest of this entry »

Designed to fail – when things that should work just don’t #dstvmobile #fail #android

Posted on September 21, 2011

In some ways this could be considered a followup post to the one I did last week on “A week with the DStv mobile Android application, the good and the bad” (link here).

Let’s start with the purpose of the DStv service, the Drifta and the supporting applications. At it’s most basic level, the purpose is to let us (the consumer) watch tv, and to let DStv earn revenue from providing us with that service.

Our obligation is to pay the initial fee for the device, and to pay the monthly service fee. DStv’s obligation is to provide a working service that allows us to watch the broadcast when we choose to do so, in the advertised areas of coverage, on the advertised devices.

This morning, that service failed me. How? Well, I have my paid for Drifta, have paid my monthly subs, and have the DStv mobile application loaded on a legitimate (non rooted, supported) device.

I turned on the Drifta, it connected to the DVB-H signal. I turned on my HTC Desire, connected to the Internet, loaded up the application. Up came the “authenticating” message, which then stayed on screen for a while before a message came up to the effect that the authentication server was unavailable, please try again later.

I tried many times over the next few minutes, each time with the same result. All the while the game I was wanting to watch was carrying on, without me watching. In frustration I tweeted out “Aargh. Drifta has DVB-H signal and is connected. HTC desire says Unable to reach authentication server try in few minutes. #norugby #fail“.

A colleague has an iPhone, which also has the application loaded on it. He came over to my desk and we tried to connect it to my Drifta. It first tried to connect to the last Drifta it had been used with, when that didn’t work it did a re-scan and connected to mine. It worked. First time, no problem, and the game came up. I got to see around five minutes for the second half before he needed to leave, and sent out a second tweet “Any Android users managing to watch Drifta? Authentication server wl.dstvmobile.com seems to be down. Working fine on colleagues iphone :(“

I received a reply shortly after “@jjza The Android Auth server ISP is experiencing connectivity issues. Techs working on the problem. Will keep you updated. #Drifta. Replied “thanks Neil. Not happy but appreciate the feedback.” and two hours later received the update “@jjza #Drifta #Android Auth server connection should be back up. Please try again.” An hour later I tried again, it worked, and I replied to that effect.

Fine, it was working again, but I had missed the game. DStv had failed to deliver the service I was paying for. #fail

I am unhappy with this situation. Not because DStv messed up and didn’t provide the service. We all mess up from time to time and nobody can expect 100% perfect service. However, why should it work on one device and not another. There is no mention of this in any of the advertising or product documentation.

In introducing the Android application, DStv mobile have, by design, introduced an added level of complexity, and an additional point of failure, which can (and does) seem to fail often. Why is it that an iPhone can use the service without needing to authenticate (every time) to the DStv servers yet Android cannot have this same luxury. What possible reason is there for punishing Android users in this manner?

The only reason given is that the application is authorised (by DStv mobile) to work on certain Android devices (and not others – the logic behind that we will leave for another time). So whenever we load the application it checks to see whether it is “allowed” to use the application. This seems like a reasonable step, but is it really?

The idea behind this was to allow DStv to control the Android devices on which the application will work, and allow additional devices to be added without needing to release a new version of the application each time. The authentication information is anonymous, so of course it is not being collected and being used for any purposed other than authentication (such as usage statistics, device usage patterns etc) as that would be unethical, and quite possibly in terms of the upcoming Protection of Personal Information Act would be illegal too.

One can safely assume also that if a device is added to the “white list” of supported devices that it would then be allowed to used on that device and that privilege would not be revoked.

Surely then this authentication could be a one-off process. You download the app from the store, it is a “virgin app”. It phones home, sends through the device (not user, network, location and other) details, confirms it is allowed to work, and then is permanently activated. If the device is not on the white list, and error message can be displayed and the software remain inactive. The user can then try again in a week or two. If the application was really smart, it could then even do a push notification when the device was finally whitelisted, but let us not over complicate the situation.

So what would the benefits of this be?

  • Activation would be one-off
  • No internet connection would be needed every time you wanted to load the application
  • No dependency would be created on an ISP to make sure the authentication server is up
  • No dependency would be created on the cellular service provider to make sure their service is working
  • You would not have to check both the DStv and Cell provider websites for coverage to see whether you can use your device
  • No nagging suspicion would  be created that just maybe DStv are collecting more information than they say, more often than they say
  • I would have been able to watch the game

Let me repeat that last line, I would have been able to watch the game that I paid to watch.

So the ISP let DStv down. What was their Business Continuity Plan to make sure that this newly introduced (just for Android users) point of failure had redundant controls? There are so many more questions that could be asked here, the answers of which could affect whether their product offering complies with the Consumer Protection Act. Instead let us just ask, what is the solution.

In my mind, it is quite simple. Fix the application. Allow the authentication to be one-off (monthly if you must). And while you are at it, remove the Drifta BIOS update from the application, we don’t have to carry that around on the phone with us all the time, space is precious, and a bloated application double the necessary size is not welcome.

DStv, I really like the idea of the service, I recommend it to lots of people, in person and on twitter. I am an evangelist for your product, but I am also honest and a realist. Your Android application sucks, but is easily fixable. I can no longer recommend to anyone that they purchase your service to use on an Android device, you have designed it to fail. Please fix that so I can enjoy the product as it should work, and let your customers get the service they pay for (or would pay for).

A week with the DStv mobile Android application, the good and the bad

Posted on September 15, 2011

I gave now spent just over a week with the DStv mobile application, had some time to play with it and get my thoughts together around it.

Firstly, I am very grateful to have the application. After more than 5 months of waiting (impatiently) I was starting to lose hope. On reflection, it is sad that I am grateful to an organisation for providing me with a service which I paid for, and was paying for while it wasn’t being delivered. Still, I do like to be able to watch the sports channels while on the move.

There are some good and bad points. Let me start with the bad.

  1. The application is huge. The largest application I have installed on my phone at almost 20 Meg. My phone (HTC Desire) has limited memory, so in order to install the DStv mobile application I had to uninstall Google Plus, the Google Maps updates, Facebook updates and the 360 Panorama tool. That really burns, I have now lost a whole lot of functionality on my phone to have this application. After some poking around I discovered that the entire Drifta update ROM/BIOS is stored in the application, and this takes up more than half of the space. Whoever came up with that idea was clearly not thinking straight. It is a one-off upgrade  I would happily have done via my PC now I have to give up so much Android space and functionality (10 Meg).
  2. The application doesn’t allow itself to be move to the SD card, or for any part of it to be moved (as App2SD and similar tools do).  I am not sure what changes need to be made to the app to let it move to SD, but do it guys. Either that or remove the Drifta BIOS from the application. If 15 Meg of that 20 Meg could be stored on the SD card I would be smiling.
  3. It works on very limited devices still. I include this one because of all of the complaints I receive daily, not because it affects me anymore.
  4. The application authenticates to the server EVERY TIME you load it. What a pain. Sometimes I have perfect DVB-H (Drifta) signal but lose Cell phone signal (one client I work at has really really bad Cell C signal) and then I can’t watch the mobile TV. Throw the device over the desk divider to a mate with an iPhone and he seems to be able to use it just fine, no authentication. Why the discrimination against Android users? I don’t know. This again seems to be a badly thought out ploy. Let the thing authenticate weekly or monthly if need be, but please for the sake of all things good cut out this nonsense of having to start from scratch every time. Not only that, but when I bought the device it was made clear that NO internet connection was needed to use it. To introduce these unnecessary additional steps at this late stage of the game is really unacceptable. It would probably fall foul of the Consumer Protection Act if I hadn’t bought it in December last year.
  5. The application is unstable! How unstable? Well during the USA vs Russia game this morning it crashed twice and on a third occasion rebooted my phone. That really isn’t good enough. The game was tight so I didn’t miss any key scoring moments, but still. It could have been a minute or two downtime at a crucial moment.
  6. Ok this is a repeat (in a way) of point 4. Every time I load the application I have to first make sure wi-fi is off (otherwise it automatically connects to the Drifta) or the Drifta is off (so it can’t connect). Then load the application, let it authenticate to the internet (if available) and then go into system settings to turn wi-fi back on again, then click re-scan, then let it connect. When the application is quit, it switches wi-fi off regardless of whether wi-fi was on or off before the application was started. I find this whole process cumbersome and painful, needing to switch backward and forward between the system settings and the application just to get it to work.
  7. The picture isn’t full screen, it puts some bars down the sides. Sure this keeps the aspect ratio correct, but there could have been an optional zoom to fill the screen.
  8. There is conflicting information as to whether the anonymous authentication is really anonymous or not depending on who I speak to (this is still to be cleared up). My view, collecting / sending unique information back to the server while displaying a message saying it is an anonymous authentication is dishonest, bad business practice and potentially will be illegal when the Protection of Personal Information Bill is promulgated, and is probably also falling foul of the Consumer Protection Act.  (I am not a lawyer, so I cannot give anything but an informed lay man’s view on that).

Enough griping, now for the good.

  1. The application works (mostly)
  2. I get to watch mobile tv on the move as I should have been able to since the start (when I have Cell phone signal)
  3. The interface is easy to use and the picture quality is nice on the small screen
  4. I am getting to see some of the Rugby World Cup I wouldn’t have otherwise
  5. Coverage is fairly good and stable. This morning I drove from home (Dawncliffe, Westville) to the office (La Lucia Ridge past gateway) and there was no signal drop on the entire trip. I was listening rather than watching so can’t be sure picture didn’t freeze but audio was stable. The application crashed when I drove into the parking lot, but otherwise was all good. (Added 16/9/2011 based on a Twitter question posed by @Mateewis)
  6. The subscription is relatively cheap (R36/month)

In conclusion, I am very happy to have the application and be able to watch some of the Rugby World Cup, but the size of it, the lack of stability and the ridiculous authentication system is significantly dampening my enthusiasm for it. 

Please share your thoughts and experiences, I am particularly interested in hearing the views of people who have used both the iPhone and Android applications.

Guest review : Using the Nokia DVB-H adapter with the E7

Posted on September 11, 2011

Johan posted this fairly lengthy comment in response to my post “A most interesting hour with DStv mobile team” . It makes good reading and deserves better exposure than languishing within the comments, so with his permission, a mostly unedited version is presented below. I have included a few of my own comments (all italicised). 

I am using the Nokia DVB-H adapter with my Nokia E7 and must say I am really happy just carrying 1 device with the benefit of “using” Internet on the device (when you switch to the mobile TV app it does stop, but downloads are not interrupted in the background when watching DSTV). For all Nokia’s “faults”, true multitasking and excellent hardware have kept me on the platform. My N900 did unfortunately pack up, but the E7 has been a worthy replacement (for me at least).

The wifi drifta is however a more “versatile” device. It can now be used with PC, iOS, “Android” (currently 6 devices) and hopefully soon OSX (although the Drifta allows only one device to connect at a time).

In terms of the Nokia Mobile TV software it does have some benefits over the Drifta software. A really nice feature is the REMINDERS functionality (only for the next 18 hours for which the EPG is displayed for). Once set, the reminder pops up even if you do not have the dvb-h headset connected. 1 click and you can watch the program (once you connect the headset).

My main gripes are (mostly Nokia specific – I don’t have a Drifta)

  1. The E7 can only be charged via USB, but the dvb-h adaptor takes that spot – so you can’t charge and watch at the same time. But I have watched about 4.5 hours on a full charge. The older N8 can be used for longer (has older charger plug allowing charge and view) but the “pop-up” screen of the E7 does make it easier to view…
  2. You HAVE to “subscribe” via 3G / Wifi EVERY month (only takes 5 mins, but it is a pain)
  3. SuperSport 4 just would NOT want to work. Says loading but nothing. Lots of fiddling and then SS4 now working (after resetting Mobile TV from within the app). It then re-scans for channels. You have to then “purchase” again, but it remembers that you already have a subscription and within a minute you can watch the channels again.
  4. Could for the life of me not get it to work in Strand, Stellenbosch, Blauwberg, SomersetWest end last month. Just kept saying no signal… But when I landed back in Gauteng worked instantly… (Coverage across the broader Western Cape does seem a bit spotty. This is reflected on the DStv Mobile coverage map on their site.)

But overall I think it is a great service (yes “better” channels would be nice, but for R36 per month you get SS1 and SS2 “always” with you.

Thanks Johan. Great to get some insight into other options. You certainly seem to be getting a better battery life than what I get with my wifi Drifta, or my HTC Desire. And between them they have two batteries (which both have to be charged). The reminders feature is one that is sorely missing from the Drifta.

 The all in one option of the E7 with headset seems like a great alternate, especially if you have a compatible cell phone. 

 

Guest review : What is Minecraft ? (1.7.3)

Posted on September 10, 2011

Minecraft is a sandbox type game where there is no purpose but just to experiment (and survive) to build and advance your world as far as you can. The basics are that you start on an island, find some trees, make a temporary (or permanent) shelter and then find some coal to make torches to light up your home. There are 4 difficulty modes:

  • peaceful, where no mobs (enemies) will spawn that will attack you,
  •  easy, where all the mobs spawn but they have less health and deal less damage then the other difficulties,
  • normal, the average mode  where the mobs are have slightly more health and damage then in easy, and of course
  • hard mode where the mobs are the most difficult to kill (deal the most damage and have the most health).

 

There is no actual storyline or anything that you are trying to do besides survive and advance to higher technologies such as pistons and mine carts.

Read the rest of this entry »

DSTV Mobile Channel Update : SS4 added

Posted on September 09, 2011

Just heard this evening that Supersport 4 has been added and that Big Brother Amplified has been dropped. Since DStv Mobile users are mostly sports lovers, this can only be a good move. I haven’t seen any official announcement but can guess that it is related to the Rugby World Cup. More coverage for all of us :)

Thanks Melosi Baloyi Lesega (@melosib) for bringing this to my attention.

Android Drifta app 1.1.19 updates Drifta firmware to 2.1.312

Posted on September 09, 2011

Out of interest, the launch application for Android (1.1.19) requires an update to the Drifta firmware.

Unpacking the .APK file and extracting the firmware binary shows the version as Tivit(DVB-H) 2.1.312 2011/06/23-19:41:55

Information has been added to the FAQ.

The OFFICIAL DStv Drifta app now compatible with many more Android Devices

Posted on September 09, 2011

Update 2 : Confirmed for 3 HTC devices, the Desire, Desire HD and Wildfire S.

Other devices appear to be able to download but not run the application.

Update : The app downloads and install but fails the whitelist authentication test. I hope DStv fixes that this morning otherwise I see many of us going with the unofficial application (see here)

As of this morning, despite the Android Market place description of the software saying otherwise, the official DStv Drifta app from the marketplace is now compatible with a number of new devices.

Currently the following are confirmed :

  • Sony Ericsson X10
  • HTC Desire
Please add more compatible devices in the comments once you get yours working.

The DSTV Drifta application for Android has already been hacked to work on “non supported” devices

Posted on September 08, 2011

Update (9/9/2011) : As of this morning many more devices are supported. The application description still only lists the initial Galaxy devices but if you have an HTC, Sony Ericsson (and maybe others) the Market Place now shows up the app for your phone whereas before it was listed as incompatible. Try the official application before any of the hacked ones!!

For those who are still desperate:

There have been a number of posts around the net with users expressing their annoyance and dismay at the limited number of Android devices that are supported by DStv mobile.

It didn’t take long for users to start making their phones look like a Samsung Galaxy S to get the software to run, which worked quite well but required some modification of the phone (rooting it and changing property files).

Some kind soul (anonymously known as PeterJoe) then hacked the install file to allow it to run on rooted devices as well as fake the check to make it work on any phone (posted to MyBroadband.co.za).  This doesn’t work on every device but many are supported. Sadly the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 doesn’t seem to be one of them.

See how to do this in the FAQ : http://j-j.co.za/faq/getting-the-drifta-software-to-work-on-unsupported-devices/

Enjoy the World Cup.

HTC and Drifta, a few tweeted tidbits

Posted on September 07, 2011

With DStv Mobile having released the Android app for some Samsung Galaxy devices it looks as though HTC are feeling rather left out and wanting to get their share of the action. Some interesting tweets today.

First up was @Regardt van der Berg, “I do PR, Communications, and Social Media for HTC and I’m a lazy photographer” from http://www.htcblog.co.za  commenting that support is coming to HTC soon and they are working with the Devs to get the app approved on HTC.

Nico @Zandberg picked up that the screenshots present on the Android App Store are actually taken from an HTC and not a Samsung.  Mybroadband picked up on the press release mailed out by DStv mobile and put up a story.

I contacted Regardt and put some questions to him, which were partially answered with a non-committal “We are working with Multichoice” but an offer to correspond further by email, which I took him up on and sent a mail asking a few questions.

Will feed back when I get a response. An interesting day for HTC users none-the-less.

NB : The tweets below were collated together using editor software, but can be validated back to Twitter.

 

Drifta for Android is here, now, ahead of the World Cup, for Galaxy S, SII and Tab P1000

Posted on September 06, 2011

DStv have delivered on the hopes of many and delivered their Android client for a small range of popular Android devices. Those lucky enough to have a Samsung Galaxy S, SII or the P1000 Tablet are going to have the pleasure of watching the World Cup on their devices. Thanks to David for the heads up this morning. David has downloaded it already and says it works beautifully.

Well done DStv Mobile!

The software is 28M in size which places it on the larger end of applications, not yet sure whether the majority of the application can be moved over to the SD card. It runs on Android 1.6 and up, which should cover all incantations of the supported devices and gives hope for many more devices being rolled out soon. As expected it will NOT run on rooted devices.

The reviews on the market place are very divided. Those who have compatible devices are giving it 4’s and 5’s, those who have devices on which it doesn’t work are pretty scathing.

The good :

  • Well done and in time for the rwc. (Kobus, 4 stars)
  • Its way over due. Lets c if it works bt heck im really happy … Its way over due. Lets c if it works bt heck im really happy that it came b4 the RWC. (Bafana, 5 stars)
  • Good app, pity it needs internet authentication to run (Corsa, 4 stars)
The so so :
  • Size .. The size of the app is huge (Danzel, 3 stars)
  • Unable to authenticate the mobile device?!?!?!? I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S 2!!!! (Danie, 3 stars)

The bad:

  • Samsung only devices… What a joke! We have waited over 6 months for this Android App only for it to be available for 3, yes, THREE Android devices. This is a complete and utter joke! (Nick, 1 star)
  • Why Samsung only? Can’t dstv do anything properly? Luckily I saw this before giving … Why Samsung only? Can’t dstv do anything properly? Luckily I saw this before giving more hard earned money to multichoice. Pathetic IMO. (Anonymous, 1 star)
  • Root .. Non rooted phones (Alru, 1 star)

I can understand the frustrations but having spoken in detail with the DStv guys, know where they are coming from too. Read some more about that over here (A most interesting hour with the DStv mobile team).

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t forget if you have a 3DS you can get your 10 free games now

Posted on September 03, 2011

If you registered as one of the 3DS ambassadors (semi automatically – by accessing the store before the cutoff date) then you will be able to get your games. Just go into the eShop, select the menu (top left icon), scroll down to and select “Settings/Other”, scroll down to and select “Titles You’ve Downloaded”. Select the game you want, click “Redownload” and then click the download button.

It is a little tedious, and you need to do this for each of the 10 games. Still, you then have ten shiny new (old) games to play on your 3DS. Each game takes around 35-40 blocks and is saved to your SD card. They each download in 2-3 minutes (via wifi on a 4 meg ADSL line).

For those that missed it, the game list is :

  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Metroid
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Wrecking Crew
  • NES Open Tournament Golf
  • Donkey Kong Jr
  • Balloon Fight
  • Ice Climber
  • Zelda II : The Adventure of Link
  • Mario and Yoshi
  • and lastly, your Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Certificate.

A nice gesture to make up for the drop in price after we bought our 3DS, and worth accepting. 10 more games to come later in the year. Happy playing.

Africa’s Top Twits August 2011 edition now out

Posted on September 03, 2011

The latest edition of Africa’s Top Twits is now out. Read it here : http://j-j.co.za/toptwits/

There are once again more twitter users included who had been overlooked previously, with particular focus on users in other parts of Africa. This has had a significant impact on the top 100.

This month I include a little more commentary on the top 10, include some growth statistics for this special group, as well as lay down the start of a comparison we can do over the next few months for our 13 Bokke who are on twitter. The 13 can be found here (http://twitter.com/jjza/WorldCupBokke2011)

Once again, suggestions, comments, corrections all welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

The Springboks sendoff – A collage of pics tweeted by our boys

Posted on September 03, 2011

The power of Twitter as a reporting medium continues to grow. Through the afternoon of their departure our boys tweeted some really amazing photos.  This collage is created using Picassa from pictures tweeted through the afternoon by our boys grabbed from the Twitter List :  http://twitter.com/jjza/WorldCupBokke2011.

 

The full-sized image can be grabbed here.

Oops Vodacom, minor privacy violation occurred (updated, Vodacom response)

Posted on September 02, 2011

Tonight I picked up my Vodacom statement/invoices from the Post Office. A few weeks late, my delay not the post office. Inside were the statement and invoices for the 3 phones I have with Vodacom (all good) and the invoice and itemised billing for one Dear Doctor (name withheld). Oops.

So this (minor?) mistake gives me this (previously unknown to me) person’s name, address, phone number, and details of all the calls they have made in the last month. This most certainly constitutes a privacy breach as well as violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act (which is not yet law). It would be interesting to ask the good doctor how he/she feels about their information being disclosed to me.

This also gets me wondering, how often such “incidents” happen and what Vodacom (or any other services provider) does when these mistakes happen. If I tell them the details, will they at least be so kind as to let the good doctor know? Interesting question indeed.  If you have experienced similar incidents in the past, please share. I am curious as to how often this happens. In the 15 years of being a Vodacom customer this is the first time I have experienced this problem, so using some simple (and statistically unsound) extrapolation, 1 / (15*12) = 0.5555%.  I couldn’t find recent stats on how many customers, but found a figure of 1.4million in June 2004. Lets assume this has grown to 2 million by name (could be way more). Apply our disclosure percentage, then we have 11,111 (eleven thousand one hundred and eleven) subscribers information being accidentally disclosed every month. That’s rather scary.

Questions for Vodacom : 

1. What is the real number ?

2. What does Vodacom do when they mess up like this?

Care to provide us with some answers?

 

Dear Readers,

If this was your information that had been provided to me, what would you want me to do with it?

  1. Destroy the page and tell no-one?
  2. Report it to Vodacom and let them deal with it?
  3. Drop you a call/sms so you could take it up with them?
Please share your thoughts.
Update 3/9/2011 4pm: 
Vodacom picked up on the tweet of this article (@uyspj on the ball as usual) and tried to call me this afternoon. Unfortunately I missed the call and no return number was left. They then communicated via twitter, obtained an email address and we are trying to organise a time to talk on Monday.
The email indicated that this is an isolated incident and that no such incident has been reported before. Glad to see them taking this seriously.
Update 6/9/2011 8:30am: Vodacom responds

Vodacom was in regular contact with me yesterday, I provided the account number of the affected DR and they investigated the circumstances around the issue as well as contacted and apologised to the affected parties (according to them).

Per an email I received this morning, Vodacom explained the cause of the problem as follows :

” The miscellaneous error crept in due to the manual insertion of an Internet tariff brochure to some of our data customers which was a deviation from our normal automated billing run. Because some bills had to be picked out of the process and manually put into envelopes, this is where the problem occurred. Please be assured that this was an isolated incident and that this is certainly not a recurring problem.

We do thank you for alerting us to this particular incident and would like to apologise to you for it, as we will also do with Ms xxxxx (name removed by me).”

This explanation is believable given my original statement that as a Vodacom customer for around 15 years and this is the first incident that happened.  Good to see Vodacom responding so promptly, investigating, coming up with the answers and sharing with the affected parties.

Once again, @uspj is on the ball. I am really impressed by his commitment to customer service and keeping his finger on the pulse, and handling it personally.

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