I Spilled Coffee on My Laptop!

It’s the fear of laptop owners everywhere.  You’ve staked out your teeny spot at the local coffee shop.  You’ve finished your first latte and head up for your next one.  Heading back to your seat you trip and quickly regain your balance.  But not quickly enough.  Your cry rings through the shop: “I spilled coffee on my laptop!”

The next few minutes are really important.

First:

Turn off your machine and pull the power cord out.

I spilled coffee on my laptop!
I spilled coffee on my laptop!

Second:

Turn the machine upside down.  Stop the flow of the liquid into your machine immediately.

Third:

Remove your battery and place it in a container covered with rice.

Fourth:

Remove any peripherals: USB devices, Memory Cards, etc.

Fifth:

Clean the liquid from the surface of your machine with a cloth or Q-tips.  Chris thinks paper towels and napkins are best, because they are immediately absorbent.

Last:

Let it sit upside down for 24-48 hours before plugging it back in. If it still doesn’t work, it’s time to call in a professional.

Words of Wisdom from Chris:

  • Spilled coffee on your laptop can be worse than dropping it, because it’s hard to tell where the liquid has gone, and different kinds of liquid have a worse effect than others.
  • The volume of the liquid is important.
    • If it’s a small volume of liquid (1-2 ounces), quickly wipe the top of the surface with a paper towel or napkin to get most of the liquid off the surface, then grab the computer firmly by the sides, and try shake any liquid that may have made it inside off and out for 5-10 seconds. Open the computer lid to about 30 degrees, and stand the computer up on it’s side with the hot air vent at the top.  Leave the computer alone for a day, and retry the computer the next day.
    • Spilling a pint glass of water is worse than “clutzing” a small spill as you move your glass over the keyboard.  If you do the “pint glass” kind of spill, Remove the battery, and disconnect any connected wall power from the computer.  Stand up immediately, grasp the computer firmly with your hands on the right and left side of the keyboard, extend your arms outward to lock your elbows, and firmly sweep the computer from up to down many times as you use centrifugal force to eject the liquid from the computer.
  • Electronic connectors do not like liquid, because it causes “short circuits” and promotes corrosion.  Plain coffee and plain water are the most benign of all liquids because they don’t have sugars or salts mixed in.  Sugar in a liquid is worse because the sugar will make keys stick later, and will attract additional dust later – which will make your keys more sticky as the humidity goes up.  Milk will have a less sticky effect than sugar, but is still conductive and will attract dust later.  Soda is the worst because it has sugar and salt, making the liquid very conductive, very sticky, and tends to get in many different places inside your computer.  Beer is good, except when mixed with electronics, then it is bad.

An Ounce of Prevention:

Keep your drink away from your computer, eg: near a wall and away from people traffic – but where you can easily look at it.  If a Server approaches with your beverage, make eye contact and offer to receive it with your hands using a path that is away from your computer.  Note: professional Servers tend to have excellent grip strength and dexterity, so if they insist on their placement, consider putting your hands under the drink as it moves across the table (to catch a drip should one occur), rather than try to forcibly snatch it from their hands.  Being able to keep an eye on your beverage is good, because you might tip it over when you adjust the angle of the computer lid or when you push the computer away from you.

Reminder: Keep your data backed up so that problems like this don’t turn into business disasters!  Most cloud based backup systems will automatically back up files as you save them.  That means your data loss could be minimal.  I use Dropbox  (You’ll get 500mb free with this link.)

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Keeping your WordPress website safe

Hacking Your WordPress Website

Do you have a WordPress website? I’ve recently noticed an uptick in the number of attempts to access our website from random IP addresses from around the globe.  I’m pretty confident that our site is secure, but I’ve been wondering how secure YOUR website is.  Many times when we set up a new site on WordPress, we use the login “admin” because it seems easy.  The problem is that someone who might be trying to hack into your account will try that first.  If you have a less-than-secure password, BOOM, they are in!

Wordpress Website Login ScreenCommon User ID’s

Here is a list of User ID’s which you should change:

  • Admin
  • Root
  • Test
  • Guest
  • Info
  • Adm
  • User

 Secure Passwords

I’ve talked about using secure passwords before.  Most recently I provided some tips to create a really strong password. But, WordPress goes one better, giving you an option to let them create a really strong password for you.  Use their tool!  Then write it down, or save it in a secure file.

Backup Your site

You spent a lot of time creating your website.  What would happen if your site was hacked? Remember to back it up so that if the worst happens, you spend minimal downtime. This article reviews the seven best WordPress backup plugins

Let’s keep safe out there!!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Year End Technology Tips

It’s the end of the year.  Here are some Technology Tips of things that you should be doing!Technology Tips - Check your wifi speed

Check Your WiFi Speed

Are you getting what you’re paying for? First, using your smartphone or on your computer, head over to SpeedTest. Then click on “Begin Test”. Have you signed up for the 10 Mbps plan but you’re only getting 6?   Plug your computer directly to your router, then check it again.  Sometimes there is a degradation of speed through the walls of your home.  If it’s still below your threshold, check it again over the next few days, keeping a log.  If your WiFi speed is consistently under your contracted speed (while plugged into the router), call your ISP. Tell them about your findings, then ask them to fix the issue AND request a refund for the time when they weren’t providing you with the contracted bandwidth.

Back Up Your Data

Yes, you probably should be doing this monthly.  So, make the geeks happy and at least do it at the end of the year.  As a result, if your hard drive happens to crash, you’ll at least have the one backup.

Change Your Password

First of all, take the time to change your password on all of your banking sites. Then, change the password on your social media sites. Finally, change the password on all of the other sites that you regularly log in to. I recently wrote a blog on creating a good secure password.  You can find that here. (But, yes, you probably should be changing your passwords more frequently than once a year!)

Organize Your Files

Organize your photos by year and month.  First of all, under your “My Photos” or “Camera Uploads” file, create a new folder for 2016.  Then under that folder, create twelve more folders, one for each month.  Next, select all the photos you took last January, drag and drop them into the January folder.  Then, do that for each month.  If you’re on a roll, or have time to kill, do the same for photos you took in 2015, 2014, and so on.  It makes it much easier to look for the photos of your vacation in the June 2015 folder, than to search through one massive folder for those photos. For more info on organizing your files, check this blog I wrote last year.

Were these Technology Tips helpful? What else do you do at the end of the year?

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I will try the Kindle lending library next. Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Ransomware

Chris has seen several Ransom Ware infections in the past 18 months or so.  Ransomware is just about the worst of the malwares the “bad guys” have thought up. Essentially, once you get infected, the ransomware installs a nifty little program which encrypts all of your data.  Then, they’ll give you a pop-up letting you know that you have so much time to pay a ransom to receive the encryption key.

Here is a screen shot of one of the ransom notes Chris has seen.

HELP_DECRYPT - ransom ware - modified

I’ve asked Chris to tell you what ransomware looks like, what you can do if you’re infected, and how to protect yourself.

I’ve seen three actual instances of ransomware in the past few years.

The first instance occurred about two years ago at a customer site.  I found that their personal and business files were all encrypted.  Since they had a fairly recent backup of their data, the thought process was relatively quick: remove the old hard drive, install a new one, rebuild their server, and restore their data.  This took several hours to complete, but it was successful and very little data was lost.

The previous instance occurred last summer, to a customer I hadn’t served in many years.  I forget the nature of the problem which motivated the service call, but I soon discovered that their personal data was unreadable.  I turned off the computer and removed the hard drive, so that I could see what customer data was there without allowing the infection to proceed if it was still active. Turns out the customer already had a secondary infection which had been running for the past six months.  This created a huge volume of temporary files and greatly delayed my getting permission to access to their data. Somewhat fortunately, every personal folder which had been encrypted had had a text file and an HTML file added, which contained a document from the ransomware software.  The document indicated that the data was encrypted, and if you wanted to get it back you had pay a fee in BitCoin at one of 4 different IP addresses.  Note that only one IP address was responsive.  The ransom cost started at some amount, and would increase as time went on.  To prove that they were indeed the ones which encrypted the data, they offered to decrypt one file immediately and at no charge.  In talking with the customer, they identified the one file that was the most critical, and this one file was successfully and promptly decrypyted. Eventually, the customer decided to pay the ransom, which was about $700.  It it took a long time for the customer to get the BitCoin payment into a spendable account, and then the payment could not be given because none of those IP addresses were accessible.  We were ultimately declined access to provide the ransom payment because their servers were too busy to receive another connection.  Apparently their servers were being crushed with activity from their own success.

The most recent occurred a few months ago at a business I frequent.  The symptom to them was that the computers which run their business management application displayed an error message saying that the database was corrupt.  Since I was there at the time this happened, my recommendation was that they turn off all of their computers. Turns out they received an encrypting infection called “Locky”, because the customer files are encrypted and renamed to have a “.Locky” extension.  But there was no opportunity to pay a ransom to get the data back.  Another problem was that there was no backup of their data for several years.  The solution was to replace the old hard drive with a new drive in the server computer, reinstall and update the operating system, and coordinate with the manufacturer to reinstall the application and look for old data.  Fortunately, a copy of the database that was 6 months old was found; so there was a 6 month gap in time, but at least they had not lost 20 years of customer data.  Also, a good antivirus was installed on all of their computers, which they did not have before.  They did not understand that they needed a good antivirus installed.  This was actually a problem that was waiting to happen.  It could have been avoided if their usual “IT Guy” had taken the initiative to see what they did and did not have, rather than just doing a technical task they were called in to do.  They are hopefully in the process of getting a backup procedure, because hindsight showed that having a 6 month gap in customer data could have been avoided if their usual “IT Guy” had implemented backups of their data.

There are lessons to be learned from these experiences.

  1. Have a good antivirus on all of your technology.  Note that there is no antivirus on the planet that can protect you from all things all the time.
  2. Have your computer prepped by a competent IT person.
  3. Make backups of your data.  Backups never go out of style.  It can be to an external hard drive, or a USB thumb drive, or to a cloud based backup service like Dropbox.
  4. Know the completion status of that backup.  I’ve lost count of the number of customers who believe that they have been backing up for long time, but turns out that their data is actually old because the backup has not worked for years.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Backing Up Your Data and The Cloud

It’s time again for my reminder about backing up your data!  For many people, when you travel, your laptop could get banged up at the airport or in the camper.  For others, summer is the season for extreme weather.  It could be fires or floods or tornadoes or hurricanes, but there is always the chance that your home could be damaged, and your computer as well.

That’s why it is so important to make sure your data back up is current.  The most convenient way to keep your data backed up is to use one of the Cloud backup services.  I’ve had many people ask what “the Cloud” is and how it might affect them.  The Cloud is a term used to describe using another company’s servers to store your data or to provide off-site computing.

Here’s a better definition from wiki:

Cloud computing, also known as on-the-line computing, is a kind of Internet-based computing that provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services), which can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in third-party data centers.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

There are a many companies that provide cloud storage.  I’ve been using Dropbox for a number of years and like the simplicity of it.  (Disclaimer: if you use that link to sign up for backing up your data, you’ll get 500 mb for free, and I’ll receive 1g as a thank you from Dropbox.)   https://db.tt/0ZRkMXZ

backing up your data

I like Dropbox for a number of reasons:

  • It will automatically upload a file to the cloud every time I make a change to it.
  • I’ve set it up so that it uploads photos I take on my phone to my account.
  • I can open files on my iPhone and iPad when I’m away from my computer.
  • Dropbox stores data for several weeks.  If I get a bad virus, I can ask them to restore my data to a particular date.

All of this enthusiasm about cloud storage for backups aside, it’s also important to keep a physical copy of your data.  About once a month, I backup my data to an external hard drive.  Chris has set me up with the Seagate Backup 2TB Portable External Hard Drive which is convenient and easy to use.

If you need help backing up your data, let us know!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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Experts say computers won’t last as long as you think

We have several customers with very old machines and they generally ask us how much longer they can expect their machine to last. We’re talking ten plus years! Remember Windows ME? Yup, we’re still seeing customers with that Microsoft Operating System!

It’s true that the machines that were built prior to 2010, for example, are likely to last five or so years. Some people have gotten them to last longer by taking special care of them. For example, we’re still happily using our 2008 iMac. Eight years later, it still performs very well. However, machines built in the last couple of years were only made to last three to six years.

I talked with Chris about computers in general and how long we can expect them to last.

“Computer technology doubles every three to four years and computers tend to last about four years. The better (more expensive) computers tend to last much longer than the cheaper ones will.”

Other experts around the internet chime in:

“…we use the 3-4-5 theory.  Plan on three years, hope for four, and don’t push past five years.”

“If you’re looking at the computer as a whole, with no interest in upgrading or replacing parts, expect to get at least three years out of the average desktop computer.”

“As a general rule of thumb, I expect laptops to last two to five years. Desktops may last three to seven years.”

“…a good timeframe to consider upgrading is around every three to four years.”

What can you do to help your machine last longer and keep it humming along?

  • Keeping the insides free of dust and pet hair.
  • If a machine is short on RAM, adding more will help it to run faster.
  • Too many protective software programs will make a machine run slower.
  • When the hard drive is more than 50% full, it will begin to run slower.
  • Viruses will tend to make your machine run slower. If you think you may have a virus, run your virus scanner to remove them.
  • Things get bigger and more computationally intense over time, so there are lags.

Remember, even if your machine is running perfectly, to keep your machine backed up regularly. Backups never go out of style and you never know when that hard drive might fail!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area

 

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WHEN Should I Back-up My Data?

We’ve been doing a LOT of data recovery work lately. Hard Drives are crashing. Computers are getting really bad viruses. It’s stressful and can get to be pretty expensive. So, please, please, back up your data!

When? Here’s a handy chart:

20150831 When should I back up my data Infographic jpeg revised

If you need help setting up your backup system, just let us know.  We can help you backup to an external hard drive, to the cloud, or both!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.

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Protecting Your Pictures, Music, and Other Important Data

It’s summer and time for the weather to act up!  Before the next ___Insert Disaster Here (Flood/ Fire/ Tornado/ Hail Damage/ etc.)____ occurs at your house, there are a few things you should take care of right away.

FIRST:
Back up your data to the “cloud”.  We use Dropbox which I find very easy to use.  There’s also Google Drive, iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, and others.  (Here’s a link to a review of 13 different options for you.)  Make sure you choose a solution that backs up continuously, and is accessible from all the computers, SmartPhones, and Tablets that you commonly use.

SECOND:
Because Ransom-ware is a bigger problem I also recommend that you have a hard copy of your backup.  Ransom-ware is a new type of malware.  The hacker gets into your system and locks you out of it unless you pay a ransom.  This also affects data you’ve backed up to the cloud.

At least once a month, back up your data to a physical source – an external hard drive, DVD’s, etc.  Then store them in a location outside of your home.

WHY DO BOTH?
To protect your data, you really only need a hard copy back up.  But you’d need to do it very frequently in order to capture any changes to any of your files.  In my experience, people are just not that disciplined!  Plus, you have to remember to take it with you if you have the luxury of packing for an evacuation.  Better to upload file changes automatically to the cloud and take a physical backup once a month, or after you’ve finished a big project.

ALSO:
Put your important stuff in an area that’s easy to access in case your home is evacuated because of an emergency.   Things to include are family photos, family herilooms, tent, sleeping bags, extra clothing, water, food & other supplies for your pets, etc.

If you need help setting up your cloud account or learning how to back up your data to a physical source, give us a call!

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Repair vs. Replace: Time to Get a New Mac?

We’re often asked when a customer should repair their current computer vs. just getting a new one. It’s a hard decision to make. If we’re able to fix it in a reasonable amount of time, we’ll always recommend not replacing. But “reasonable amount of time” varies from person to person.

Chris Eddy adds: “My standard recommendation is to keep the machine, until it fails to serve well as a tool, or is too expensive to repair. “

Here’s a case study for a recent customer considering a new Mac.

The customer had an older (2008) MacBook and wanted to know whether to upgrade it or replace it.  It generally worked fine and performed adequately for most tasks, but the customer was encountering more times when they would be waiting for things to complete, and they were concerned about whether it would be adequate for installing and using SketchUp in the future.

General Findings:

  • Cosmetically, the machine was in beautiful condition.  A backlit keyboard was not available at the time the machine was made and it’s a nice touch to have in a darkened room, but not the only reason to consider a new machine.
  • The hard drive still had about 80% of free space on it, so free disk space wasn’t a problem.  I tested the hard drive, and no errors were found within 5 minutes, which is a good sign that the machine was probably not in danger of immediate detonation.
  • The machine had 4GB of RAM in it, which is the physical maximum amount of RAM that the machine can use.
  • Current Ram usage was at about 50%, which should support SketchUp Ram-wise. Any current performance difficulties the machine currently has will not be improved by the addition  of SketchUp.

Monitor:

  • The customer wants to use a larger monitor than the 13″ display that this notebook machine has.   It’s a nice screen, but it’s not enough screen real-estate for future use.
  • The customer could be served by a new Apple notebook computer with an external monitor.
  • The current Macbook Air can come with an 11″ or 13″ screen size, and the current Macbook Pro can come with a 13″ or 15″ screen size.
  • Another option for this customer is to possibly get an iMac, which is an all-in-one desktop computer that can come with a monitor size of 22″ or 27″.  Both monitors are large and beautiful.
  • The choice of external monitor could be either an Apple monitor, which will be beautiful – but expensive because the Apple “Premium” is alive and well.  A large monitor from a different manufacturer could be gotten from the open market, at a lower cost and still be good quality.  Dell makes some absolutely beautiful monitors, especially the “U” line of monitors, and we get 30% discounts from Dell – which we pass on directly to our customers.

Keeping your old machine once you get a new one:

There is value in having one machine rather than two, because this is a major “life simplification”; all of your programs and your data is in one place rather than two, and you don’t have to worry about synchronizing the two machines.  If something does go wrong you can focus on one machine rather than two.  Sometimes people just want to keep their “old” machines as a backup. Or they want to keep the old machine to access old data, or keep the old hard drive to keep an archival copy of the historical record of your old data. My standard recommendation is to not keep the old machine, but do keep the old hard drive for at least a few months.  Migrate to the new machine, and enjoy it. You probably won’t ever go back to the old machine.  (If you do, you’ll soon remember why you replaced it!)

SSD:

Regardless of which machine you get, always upgrade to a Solid State Drive. The SSD performs /much/ faster than a physical hard drive, and even the Fusion drive will start to slow down soon after the machine is brought home.  The SSD will provide the most consistent good performance over time, however it will be more expensive – remember the “Apple Premium”.

The new MacPro:

One possible option is the new MacPro. This is Apple’s new “Desktop” computer. (…and it looks like a small trash can!)    The MacPro is a very quick computer and can be ordered with features that will make it outrageously fast – but remember the “Apple Premium”.Mac Pro screen capture

Buying Strategy:

If you do decide it’s time for a new Mac, head to the Apple store. BUT, go there with the specific intent of /not/ buying today.  I’ve found that there is a reality distortion field within the store that has subtle influences to motivate you to want to buy a new machine right there and right now.

If you find something you like, fine, but buy it tomorrow – not today.  This is going to be an expensive purchase of a new tool, and you are going to have it for a long time. It’s in your best interests to let the thinking of this new tool “Marinate” in your brain for at least 24 hours before actually pulling the trigger and getting the tool.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years.  His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver /  Boulder /  Front Range area.  They can provide remote service throughout North America.

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