Ubuntu 13.04

I upgraded to Ubuntu 13.04 last month on the day it came out.  I’ve been running it since then, and I figured I should do a little write-up here because I usually do when the new one comes out.

Anyway, when I upgraded, I found that everything… worked.  This, literally, was the easiest Ubuntu upgrade I’ve done.  I usually do a reinstall when I change versions, but I didn’t this time.  I just ran my updater and let it go.  It took very little time to download the packages, and before I knew it, my computer was running 13.04.

I looked around and noticed some of the polish that Canonical has added to Ubuntu.  I also noticed that the upgrade didn’t muck with my already installed apps like Banshee; it didn’t install Rhythmbox and then force me to remove it later.  Same with Pidgin!  Kudos!  The OS has been improved speed-wise, the dash is much more responsive, and I find that apps load a little quicker than they did in 12.10.

Gwibber was replaced by Friends.  I had to install Friends, and I must say that it’s working pretty well.  I also installed Turpial, Polly, and Birdie, just so I could play with different Twitter clients.  Friends is good but has a ways to go yet; I would recommend adding a “@-replies” tab so I can see who’s replied to my messages on my social networks.  Oh, and the messaging menu works better with Thunderbird and it works with Pidgin now (again!).  Another thing I noticed was better support for my Razor DeathAdder mouse.  In 12.10, I noticed that I couldn’t change the speed and it would zoom all over the place if I looked at it wrong.  Now I can change the speed in the mouse settings and it seems to work a lot better now.  I’d just gotten used to the super-fast mouse acceleration, but being able to turn it down is a great thing.  Now, if my new iPod Nano would work…

This release seems to be polishing up the OS.  It’s not a huge mega update, but it seems to “just work” and with the announcements of Ubuntu phone and tablet and the work that’s been done to reduce resting RAM usage, I see it only getting better.

I’m not sure if I’ll run an Ubuntu tablet or phone in the near future (I love Android) but having a unified system is a grand idea; one which Apple and Microsoft are trying and I’m not sure if they’re going to be successful.

I’m still digging Unity.  It’s still got some niggles (I have to change its size as soon as I update) but I like the keyboard shortcuts and how elegant it looks.

All-in-all, this is a great update.  Polish, speed, and simplicity.  Also, the whole upgrade process had no issues for me and my hardware.

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Desktop

Ubuntu Quantal Quetzal 12.10 with an old-timey Mario wallpaper.

So I did it.

I went back to Ubuntu after a two-month long foray into Linux Mint.  I did like Linux Mint, but there were some small niggles that I could not wrap my head around.  Anyway, I’d gotten used to Unity and the way things were handled in the shell.  I like many of the programs that are included by default in both Ubuntu and Mint, but I think that Ubuntu is a better fit for me at this time, although Mint has come a long way.

What bugged me about Mint partly was its release schedule.  They adhered to a “when it’s done, it’s done” model, and I tend to like a specific date of release so I can anticipate it and participate in the beta and release candidates.  Mint doesn’t seem to have this.

Anyway, I had to do some modifications, as usual, to get my desktop the way I wanted it.  Namely, it involved installing Gimp, Banshee, Spotify, Pithos, VLC, gpodder, Chromium, Dropbox, NixNote, Pidgin, and the restricted-extras packages.

There’s something about Ubuntu and Unity that keeps bringing me back, and I’m not sure what it is.  Simplicity?  Community?  Speed?  Good design?  I don’t know, but Ubuntu was my first distro and I tend to like it regardless of what it does.  I don’t particularly like the shopping lens, but I think with the outcry from the community, they will be scaling that back quite a bit in the next version, which is a great thing.

Anyway, if I want a more “Mint” experience, I can install Cinnamon, which I had installed before I went to Mint.  I think I’ll install it again; it was a good desktop.

Apple Macbook Air 11″, and why I decided to get one

I said I’d never get a Mac.

I swore I’d never get a Mac.

I thought people who had Macs were pretentious.  I thought people who had Macs had more money than sense.  Linux worked just fine for me and I was also pleased with Windows 7.

That was before I heard about the new ultrabooks that actually came out earlier this year.  I seriously looked at them at Best Buy early in June; the Dell XPS ultrabook looked really nice, but I read some hassles about Ubuntu and there was absolutely no guarantee about battery life (they were advertising almost eight hours of battery life under Windows 7).  I asked some questions, then wandered over to the Apple desk.  I played with both 11″ and 13″ Airs, and was impressed.

(This is long, so we’ll go under a cut.)

Continue reading “Apple Macbook Air 11″, and why I decided to get one”

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free: iFixit

How One Teacher Built a Computer Lab for Free iFixit.

The problem? An underfunded school needed computers for the classroom. Budget? $0. Staff involved? Just one: Robert Litt, a sixth-grade teacher.

Robert teaches at ASCEND, a small arts K-8 school in the Alameda County School District. He’s a fan of technology and believes that it’s an important part of K-12 education. Yet ASCEND had no computer lab and no computers in classrooms. So in 2007, Robert acquired 18 donated computers. But these computers were less help than he’d anticipated. The operating systems were slow. Some computers had viruses or malware. Students became frustrated.

Brilliant.  I would really like to see this happen more often in public school systems; so many times they’re stuck in the Windows or Apple money spiral that they can’t get out.

I’m not opposed to paying for software, but many schools aren’t in the position to pay for a lot of software or operating systems to run that software.

Glad to see Ubuntu being put to good use on donated school computers.  Fewer viruses, less malware, and a decent experience for the students.  And they can learn something about an alternative to Windows and Apple.

Steve Jobs, Successful CEO. Also, evil.

From Gawker: What Everyone is too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs.

In the days after Steve Jobs’ death, friends and colleagues have, in customary fashion, been sharing their fondest memories of the Apple co-founder. He’s been hailed as “a genius” and “the greatest CEO of his generation” by pundits and tech journalists. But a great man’s reputation can withstand a full accounting. And, truth be told, Jobs could be terrible to people, and his impact on the world was not uniformly positive.

We mentioned much of the good Jobs did during his career earlier. His accomplishments were far-reaching and impossible to easily summarize. But here’s one way of looking at the scope of his achievement: It’s the dream of any entrepreneur to affect change in one industry. Jobs transformed half a dozen of them forever, from personal computers to phones to animation to music to publishing to video games. He was a polymath, a skilled motivator, a decisive judge, a farsighted tastemaker, an excellent showman, and a gifted strategist.

One thing he wasn’t, though, was perfect. Indeed there were things Jobs did while at Apple that were deeply disturbing. Rude, dismissive, hostile, spiteful: Apple employees—the ones not bound by confidentiality agreements—have had a different story to tell over the years about Jobs and the bullying, manipulation and fear that followed him around Apple. Jobs contributed to global problems, too. Apple’s success has been built literally on the backs of Chinese workers, many of them children and all of them enduring long shifts and the specter of brutal penalties for mistakes. And, for all his talk of enabling individual expression, Jobs imposed paranoid rules that centralized control of who could say what on his devices and in his company.

It’s particularly important to take stock of Jobs’ flaws right now. His successor, Tim Cook, has the opportunity to set a new course for the company, and to establish his own style of leadership. And, thanks to Apple’s success, students of Jobs’ approach to leadership have never been so numerous in Silicon Valley. He was worshipped and emulated plenty when he was alive; in death, Jobs will be even more of an icon.

This is a powerful piece of journalism.  I can’t get over how Jobs treated people.  Telling an engineer or design lead that their design/widget was “shit” and resorting to public humiliation to motivate employees is not the way to run a company.  I’m not saying it doesn’t happen in other companies, but my point is that it should never happen.  

Say what you will about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, but they’re at least donating their money to charity.  Jobs never did, unless he’s going to posthumously or he did anonomously while he was still alive.

Apple has censored apps from their app store.  Apple has censored and intimidated journalists and bloggers.  Apple makes locked-down computers and operating systems.  It’s very difficult to install Linux onto a Mac.

Apple has taken BSD for its’ own use and changed it into OSX.  A free OS should still be free, in my opinion.  I have no problem selling it, but the code should be free for people to look at.  I’m not sure how the version of BSD that OSX is based on was licensed, but I still feel that the source code should be open.

A thought on Jono’s Menu Discoverability in Ubuntu 11.10

Jono writes on his blog:

My thesis as to why is pretty simple: people learn by exploration. Let’s do a quick exercise. Write down on a piece of paper the last three devices that you purchased. They might televisions, cell phones, kitchen appliances, games consoles, or whatever else. Every one of these devices comes with it’s own interface to operate it. Now, how many of those devices did you sit down and read the instructions for? I am willing to bet it was close to none.

You learned those devices by poking around, trying things out, clicking, pressing, pushing, and otherwise playing with and exploring it. Many of these devices will have had entirely new interfaces to you which you had not used before, yet you figured them out. Some elements of the interfaces will have been obvious (e.g. buttons protruded to indicate that they can be pressed) and some elements less-so.

Now, I don’t disagree with Jono, but I can see how confusing it could be for a new user to not have the close, minimize and maximize buttons up on the top where they are visible.  I was not taken by surprise when I upgraded the netbook, since I new the change was coming.  I can see that if someone wasn’t expecting the change, they’d have a problem, but the new interface isn’t really that different from the old interface.

I got to know Ubuntu by playing with it.  Matter-of-fact, I just installed Ubuntu to a friend’s laptop; I’m hoping she will play with it and learn how things are done.  I think the interface is pretty easy to use, and I hope she will as well.

This experiment would prove to me that anyone can use Ubuntu.  She’s not a computer whiz at all, but I think trying a different OS will help her overcome her fear of “breaking” something.  Seriously; I’ve set up her laptop wtih all the programs she needs, and she can easily find other programs in the software center… Updates won’t be a problem, since I’ve set up her password and automatic updates.

We’ll see.  This project just came into my hands because she hated Vista and I can’t see making her drop $200 for Win7, especially if she just uses email and browsing and some light games.  This way she won’t be stuck with a virus or something.

Yay for spreading the open-source love.



I Got a Free Spotify Account!!!

But I can’t use it.

Unless I’m willing to use Wine (I don’t want that cruft on my machine) and I can’t use the native Linux application.

I started it up today and got this error: “Use of this device is not enabled for your account”.

Exactly what the everloving fuck does that mean?  Well, it means that you have to buy a subscription to the service before you can use it.  It means I have to fork over money before I can figure out if this will have the music I want to listen to.  It means I have to buy something sight unseen (or rather, unheard) so I can test it out.

There are a bunch of Linux users on Get Satisfaction here that are expressing their frustration and downright anger that they can’t use something without paying for it.  Yes, yes, you can argue that you need to pay for the program and the service, but they offer a free tier that is supported by ads.  This is fine and I’d use it, but I want something that’s native to my desktop.

There are plenty of good programs and services that are worth paying for; I just want to test out Spotify before I pay for it… I want to see if it’ll work for my needs.

In the meantime, you can find me on Pandora and Last.fm.

Podcast Review: Linux Outlaws


I’ve saved this one for awhile because I haven’t listened in awhile (oops) but I finally hit the live show today.  The best way to listen to Linux Outlaws is live, if you can.

Firstly, on getting the live show:

Be online on Mondays at about 2pm ET, and point your browser to Ustream here.  To get on irc, grab Xchat (or another irc program) and get in the chatroom at irc.freenode.org, room #sixgun.  Just chill and wait and see what’s happening, and enter into the conversation whenever you feel like it.  (For those not in the know, IRC is a way to chat with people online; I should probably write a little blog post about it.)  You can see some more information about listening live here at the live page for Sixgun.

If you can’t be online, grab the podcast.  It’s here, on feedburner.

I try to listen to all of the episodes.  I say try, but I usually fail; Dan and Fab put out a podcast a week (except during the World Cup, hah), sometimes two.  Like last week, they put out the Jaffa Cakes episode and a special about Bitcoins.  I still have to listen to both.

The podcast covers the linux world.  News, distro reviews (Dan did a great review of Ubuntu 11.04), distro releases, Microsoft and Apple bashing, and Beer of the Week.

I love the banter and (sometimes) arguments that come out of this show.

Fab is a Fedora fanatic, and Dan switches distros often, so there’s plenty of new linux information.

This podcast is good for people who’ve been using linux for a little while, but if you’re a newbie, I wouldn’t discourage you from listening to it.  There are plenty of great information and podcasts out there; this is just one of them.  Ubuntu UK Podcast and MintCast are also (supposed to be) great.  I listen to Ubuntu UK, but not MintCast as I’m currently being consumed by podcasts and can’t keep up with them.

Anyway, this is definitely a 5/5 star podcast.  I can’t remember if I’ve applied star ratings to these in the past, but I’m going to here.  It’s worth your time and effort to listen/watch live, as the IRC chat is amazing fun.

Unity: 3 Rants And A Tip | Linux Journal

A rebuttal:

  1. The launcher auto-hides when you have windows maximized or over the launcher.
  2. I find it so much easier to find things in the unity dashboard as opposed to menus.
  3. The global menu is more consistant, but it’s probably the thing that took the most getting used to.

Overall?  I like Natty.  It’s gotten more stable since I installed the beta several weeks ago.

I’ll be doing a longer write-up about other features and whatnot over the next couple of days, but I wanted to share this video and my thoughts with everyone.

Unity environment in good shape, on track for Ubuntu 11.04



Please read the full article on Ars (linked under the picture).

I do think Unity is a neat way to work with the desktop, and most of the bugs I dealt with upon installation have been fixed. I will continue to report bugs when things crash. That’s one of the reasons I run the beta.

This is shaping up to be the most ambitious release yet. I hope it brings in some new users and impresses the old users. It’s impressed me with the way it’s changed since I installed it a couple weeks ago. And I’m seriously impressed in the changes since Maverick Netbook Edition.


Ubuntu Natty, First Impressions

This release of Ubuntu is probably the most ambitious release of Ubuntu.  Ever.  This release represents the roll-out of Unity to the regular desktop user.  It also is the merging of the Netbook and Desktop environments, so there’s only one distribution of Ubuntu.

I installed beta 1 last night and was unable to actually use it until this morning.  There are bad and good things about it, and most of these problems will be fixed by the full release.  This is the first beta, and is not really fit for standard consumption.

That said, here are the issues I have:

  • Compiz crashes.  About 3 times, mostly when doing alt-tab or trying to deal with windows.
  • Gwibber crashed twice.  Not sure if this is related to me running Natty or running the daily build of gwibber.
  • Empathy crashes.  Seems to crash mostly when I’m trying to interact with the program via the indicator-applet.  It’s segfaulting for some odd reason.
  • No clock.  I think this was a problem with the install, as I had to install indicator-datetime after the upgrade.
  • No weather applet.  I installed weather-indicator and I’m good.  It crashed once.
  • Having a second monitor makes it wonky to work with the launcher.  It’s hard to explain, but I run the second monitor to the left of my main laptop, and the launcher is on the left of the screen.  I have to try to hit a certain spot on the main monitor to get the launcher to show.  This is because of the way I use my monitors, I’m sure.

I’ve filed three bug reports already, and that’s the reason I’m running the beta.  They need all the help they can use to get this working properly.  I’d rather have a couple of issues (which DID NOT bring down my machine, by the way) and help make Natty an awesome release.

Note that two of my issues were taken care of after installing two packages.

Now, the totally awesome things:

  • Clean.  This desktop is devoid of any clutter.  I like having an auto-hide launcher.  I should have done this with Docky.
  • Speedy.  They’ve improved Unity enormously from Maverick netbook.  I really really really see the speed improvements.  Some are from using Compiz, I’m sure, but some are from squashing bugs.
  • Indicators.  I love them.  ‘Nuff said.
  • LibreOffice.  Finally.  I’ve turned so many people onto this software package, it’s insane.  They’re all like “it’s free?!?” and I’m like, “yes!!”  Then we install it and it opens almost everything under the sun.  It’s awesome.
  • I really love the way you switch desktops.  It’s a little bit different from what I’m used to, but, it’s very slick.  It looks really cool.
  • I love the auto-hiding of the launcher.  Oh, I mentioned this already?  I really love it.
  • I’m loving the global menu.  Yeah, I might be crazy, but I do like it.  I didn’t think I would like it.
  • The blue envelope icon for new messages is different, and I think I like it.
  • Compiz settings.  There’s a default setting that allows for the window snapping like you get with Windows Aero.  Now, I’m sure Ubuntu will be accused of copying, but hot damn, that’s one of the most awesome things from Windows 7, and I’m quite pleased that it’s default in Ubuntu now.
  • Firefox 4.  It. Is. Awesome.  (Though I’m still using Chromium; I go back and forth.)
  • Network Manager Applet has gotten a revamp and it looks great.

How about a screenshot?  Yes, I think that’s a good idea.


This is the whole screen including both of my monitors.  Notice the launcher in the middle.  It’s actually on the left on my laptop screen, but I have my second monitor off to the left.  This is a clean desktop.  I’m using the Radiance theme with the standard icons.  The art team has done an awesome job with the look of the main themes (Radiance and Ambience).  I love them both, and I go back and forth between them depending on what wallpaper I have.  The wallpaper is from SimpleDesktops.  I’m running the aforementioned weather-indicator, empathy, and gwibber.  I’m also running Tomboy Notes (which I cannot live without), as well as Chromium, gpodder, the movie player (I’m listening to podcasts), BOINC, and Xchat.  My panel has been extended across both of my monitors.  Not sure if I quite like that, but it makes it easy to deal with windows on each monitor.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The system settings have all been added to a “program” where you can get at everything.  See here:


Control Center.

Overall?  This release of Ubuntu is pretty exciting and different.  I would not advise using the beta right now, unless you’re interested in filing bugs.  If you want to upgrade, either go get an iso here or hit alt-F2 and type:

upgrade-manager -d

and let it run through the updates.

BE WARNED: I got an error after I upgraded to Natty when I ran:

sudo apt-get update

The error is:

GLib-GIO:ERROR:/build/buildd/glib2.0-2.28.4/./gio/gdbusconnection.c:2279:initable_init: assertion failed: (connection->initialization_error == NULL)



You’ll have to use the Software Center OR Synaptic to do updates.  I don’t know what this error means, but it’s documented here.  So, just be forewarned about that.

Go out and upgrade if you’re game.  Enjoy this release, and report some bugs!


Short Xubuntu Review

This is what my netbook looks like right now.  I’m running Xubuntu, along with Chromium, Wakoopa, Dropbox, and Gwibber.  I decided to go with Xubuntu because I wasn’t having a lot of luck with Ubuntu and it’s Unity interface on here.

How about a screenshot?


Screenshot.  I’ve got my An American in Paris wallpaper. If you haven’t been following my Tumblr, I like Gene Kelly.  I really like Gene Kelly.


I don’t really have any problems with this distro.  XFCE plays really well with GTK applications, and KDE applications.  That’s one of the things I love about it.

The biggest annoyance I’ve found is that some programs don’t pay attention to the browser I’ve set as my “preferred” browser (which is Chromium).  CloudSN will open gmail links in Firefox or straight up Chrome sometimes, and I can’t find a way to force it to be my main browser.

I’m also using Pidgin (though not signed in right now).  I’ve gotten used to Empathy, and I actually prefer it, but Pidgin works pretty well.  I just have to make sure I enable the tray icon.

Onto the tray!  I’ve gotten used to the indicator applets, and I’m thinking about installing a panel widget that’ll emulate the indicator applets.  They’re just so clean and easy to work with.  I see why Canonical decided to go wtih them.

I’ve got four workspaces, and I can easily split what I’m doing between them.  I usually have a browser up on desktop number one, Gwibber up on number two, chat (xchat and/or Pidgin) up on number three, and whatever else up on number four.  I don’t have Compiz installed, so I don’t have the neat composting going on like I do on my laptop, but ctl-alt-arrow works just fine for switching workspaces.  So does clicking on the needed workspace in my panel.

Overall, this is a great release.  I really like XFCE 4.8 (enabled via a PPA); it’s matured quite a bit from when I tried it awhile ago.

I would heartily recommend this distro for a netbook, or even a laptop or desktop.  It’s lighter than Ubuntu and Kubuntu, though not as light as something like Lubuntu or Crunchbang.,  Xubuntu has a great selection of applications (including Gimp!) that will give a user (almost) everything they need to sit down and use their computer right away after it’s installed.  And since it’s based on Ubuntu, users have access to the massive Ubuntu repository, and access to the powerful PPA system.

I’ll be testing out the Beta of Ubuntu soon enough, and it might make an appearance on my netbook.  I prefer Xubuntu, because I get the full width of my screen dedicated to what I’m doing, not being taken over by a launcher-bar.  That’s handy, but I hate horizontal scrolling with a passion.  I hear it’ll be hidden in Natty; I surely hope.

Podcasts and Podcast Software

I listen to a bunch of podcasts; thirty-two to be exact.

You can find them here if you want to see a whole list.

Some update more frequently than others, and you’ll see my notes on status.net related to what I’m listening to through the !Listening group on identi.ca.

You’ll notice if you go to the gpodder.org link above, that I listen to a lot of tech podcasts (GeekSpeak, LinuxOutlaws, Ubuntu Podcast, Diggnation, Linux Journal, LoCoCast), music podcasts (Canada Live, Liverpool Acoustic Spotlight, All Songs Considered, World Cafe Words and Music, World Cafe Next, The Clockwork Caberet, Rathole Radio, Triple J TV, TheCerebralRift, All Songs Considered Live Concerts, Hype Machine), humor (Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Vinyl Cafe, Life as a Comic, Dilbert, The Gloomers), science (Discovery Channel, TedTalks), gaming (Good Game, Good Game SP), and a general TV show (East of Everything).

I love podcasts because I can listen to shows when I want and how I want (on the computer or on my mobile device/mp3 player) and I can listen to shows from other countries (like the Canadian shows, the Australian shows, and shows from the UK). It’s a great way to get information that regular radio doesn’t cover. I listen to NPR a lot, but my local station doesn’t play GeekSpeak or have much in the way of computer shows. I get my "fix" through these podcasts.

Now on to software…

  • iTunes: Available for Mac and Windows, but seems to be a memory hog on Windows. I don’t use this software, as I prefer different podcast catchers, and I run Ubuntu.
  • Rhythmbox: Gnome’s kitchen-sink media player. I’ve used it for podcasts, but things get all mixed up in my regular music. I just use it for my music.
  • Amarok: I don’t use this personally. It’s KDE’s kitchen-sink medial player. I know there are peole who use Amarok for podcasting, but I’m not sure how well it works.
  • Mirro: I used Miro for a very long time, and loved it. It’s like a podcast catcher/listener/watcher and browser, as it has the ability to find podcasts you’re interested in, especially if you have a Miro account. You can rate podcasts, and you can also use Miro as a bittorrent catcher. It’s almost like an all-in-one computer-based TV solution. Great project.
  • gPodder: A great podcast catcher. This program works with the my.gpodder.org website and allows you to share what podcasts you’re listening to.

I use gPodder now as my main podcast catcher. I still have Miro, but I really like gPodder and how it stays out of my way.

Do check out what I’m listening to and post what you listen to in the comments. Podcast sharing is the best way to discover new ones.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix: Lucid Lynx

I’ve recently reinstalled Ubuntu on my netbook.  I went with the netbook remix because the full desktop seemed sluggish.

The updated netbook remix is very speedy and I’m quite happy with it. It comes with many of the same programs that standard Ubuntu comes with. It comes with OpenOffice, which I don’t feel is an appropriate addition to UNR; the devs should think about adding AbiWord and Gnumeric and removing OpenOffice.  I removed the whole OpenOffice suite and added AbiWord and Gnumeric.  I also did a install of Dropbox (yes, I know UbuntuOne is standard, but my Dropbox allows me to share with Windows as well, and also I’ve increased to almost 3gb through referrals) and Chromium.

Above, you can see the standard “Favorites” screen.  Not much has changed from Karmic, but it seems like the UNR team has done some updates with software (removing Gimp and the like) and increasing speed and startup time.  My nebook starts very quickly.

I mentioned Chromium above; here is a screenshot of it on UNR:

Simple, clean, fast.  It’s Chromium.

Gwibber is also standard with UNR.  I love this program, and I’m using the standard version (not the dev version) on my netbook.  Screenshot:

Not much has changed in gwibber since the new UI debuted.  I still think it’s a brilliant program and it’s great to keep up with what’s going on with twitter, status.net, facebook, and others.


This release of Ubuntu Netbook Remix is the best so far.  I think the team should replace Firefox with Chromium and OpenOffice with AbiWord and Gnumeric.  These changes would make UNR better and lighter, in my opinion.

We will see how long I keep this around; as my main beef with UNR is the fact that they only have one workspace.  I like to separate my tasks out by different workspaces, but a netbook is for internet use, not major work.

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