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BobRobertson

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Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« on: May 15, 2009, 04:52:13 PM »

The issue of Linux came up last night, and I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions.

1) Viruses, spyware, malware.

The caller was absolutely correct, it is simply not an issue, because of the way the Linux system functions. There have been Linux viruses, but only in labs as tests. I know of no Linux viruses "in the wild" in the entire time I've used it, 14 years.

The "UNIX" design from its very core inception is a "multi-user" system, with complete separation between every user and that includes the system itself. Every program the user runs runs as that user. So the most effective vector for a virus is stopped cold: you can't "accidentally" run a program that gets into any other user's stuff, or the system itself. Whoever came up with the Windows Registry idea should be tarred and feathered and run out of Redmond on a rail.

The original "virus", the Internet Worm of 1989, did effect UNIX systems, but it attacked through a flaw in a single program, "sendmail". Sendmail was fixed within hours, the fix was in place everywhere in a few days, and the process has only gotten faster since then.

Compare this to the opaque nature of "security" in proprietary software: First, the company doesn't want people to think their products are flawed, so they have a disincentive to report any problems in the first place. They are the only people who have the source code and can make changes, so even if a problem is found by a competent programmer that programmer cannot help them fix it. That was the original impetus for Richard Stallman to propose Free Software in the first place: a broken printer driver he wasn't allowed to fix.

The Linux distributions each test, pre-package and certify thousands if not tens of thousands of applications and put them in dedicated repositories, signed with encryption keys for authentication. That's kind of the definition of "distribution". So there is far less opportunity for malware to be installed on your system. If someone tells you to "try this program!", just install it from your distributions repository, or get it from the people who wrote the program. This is the greatest benefit of non-proprietary software, you can be a perfectly "legal" user of every application you want to try without putting yourself in the poor house. No Warez, no black-market or grey-market for malware to pollute.

No software piracy, or pirates, because there's no prohibition on copying the software. The same principles and effects that apply in the prohibition of alcohol, drugs, prostitution, whatever, also apply to software. Human nature.

If you want virus scanning, ClamAV runs on Windows and Linux, and http://Housecall.TrendMicro.com/ works with Linux too.

2) "Have you tried it recently?"

When you have a commercial product to sell to people, it has to be "finished". People aren't going to spend money on something that isn't done cooking. It is a product.

Free/OpenSourceSoftware {F/OSS} are projects. So when someone says, "Have you tried it recently?", they are not being glib. F/OSS projects evolve at rates impossible for proprietary software.

Here's a talk about the rate of change in just one of those projects, the Linux kernel itself:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2SED6sewRw

And before you worry about software and data becoming obsolete, it was Microsoft that made their own Office software incapable of opening "old" Word documents in an effort to force people to pay for upgrades. There is no such motivation in F/OSS, and backward compatibility is simply not an issue.

The "Linux" system is built of tens of thousands of different F/OSS projects. Open, published standards are critical to having all those different projects work together. Whether it's networking RFCs or the OpenDocumentFormat, everyone knows exactly how to work with everyone else.

Compare that to Microsoft periodically changing their network protocols and file formats to try to defeat reverse-engineering, which is why Ian's DOC files didn't render perfectly in OpenOffice when he tried it a few years ago.

3) Security and "bug" fixes.

Tens of thousands of individual projects, hundreds of "distributions", millions of users and developers. When a problem is found, communication is instantaneous, fixes are made and tested, and the new software made available to anyone who wants it.

The above "rate of change" video is talking about one single project, the Linux kernel. Imagine that every program and project, from a command-line MP3 player to the command interpreter itself, benefits from exactly the same environment of instant feedback and active reporting of problems and user's wishlists.

A bug fix to that mp3 player, to a graphical window manager, to a CD writer, whatever, can be made and released without any concerns about other projects. So a fix can be made as quickly as a fix CAN be made! No waiting for the next version of Windows to see if they fixed it yet or broke something else, as those who dealt with the nightmare of WinXP SP-2 will fully understand.

4) Learning curve.

Changing versions of Windows has a learning curve. So does swapping between Windows and Mac. Yet people tend to ignore these and just dive in and try things out. I think it's because they've been told there is a learning curve in this one case: Linux.

Mark was saying that he liked Win98. I liked Win95, and used it until it completely crapped out on me (my fault, really) in the summer of 2000. I changed to Linux at that point, because I'd seen WinME. That same circa 1998 laptop, 128M 350MHz, ran the latest Linux and F/OSS applications just fine until last summer when I finally scrapped it. See Hardware below.

There are many different GUI styles that run on Linux. GNOME (the default in Ubuntu) tries to make things as easy as possible. KDE (the default in PCLinuxOS and Mandriva) tries to make things as configurable as possible. Others try to stay out of your way so that the maximum system resources are available to your applications. Debian still maintains the same window manager I used when I first learned UNIX on SunOS in 1992, OpenLookWindowManager.

The fact is that if you like what Win98 looked like, you can make your machine look like that today. I'm sure it's been done by someone, that's what Google is good for.

Linux has one thing Windows cannot match: the Live CD. Boot Linux from the CD, never touch your HD unless you want to try accessing your files to see if they can be read correctly. Surf the 'Net, edit files, tweak the "look and feel", watch YouTube, whatever. When you're done, eject the CD, reboot, and there is Windows just the way you left it.

Knoppix, PCLinuxOS, Debian, Ubuntu, SuSE and many other distributions create LiveCDs of their current packages so you can "try before you buy". Oh, but since Linux is both free as in freedom and free as in free beer, it's really "try before you install".

5) Hardware.

Yes indeed, there will always be some hardware for which Linux does not have a driver. Just like Windows. Macs don't have that problem, because they are a sole-source company. But as Mises pointed out, they also charge "monopoly prices" for their monopoly (Linux runs really well on Macs, BTW). I note that Dale mentioned that his hardware was far better supported in Linux than in VISTA, an experience I have heard of many times.

I have a friend who in 2003 bought a Sony VAIO, but he wanted Win2K. No drivers for Win2K, since what came on it was XP. He had to use a KNOPPIX Linux LiveCD, which worked perfectly, to detect what the hardware was in order to hunt down drivers from the manufacturers. Win2K and WinXP could not give him the information he needed to identify the hardware well enough, and he's no rookie.

However, in the opposite direction, the device story is very different. For example, the SoundBlaster sound-card-mounted CD-ROM drive that I bought in 1991 is still fully supported in Linux. I don't think there's been a Windows driver for it since Win95.

If you think your hardware is "obsolete", has gotten just too slow to be happy using, put Linux on it. It will feel like a whole new machine. Don't throw it away! Make it work better and give it to a friend who needs one.

6) But I have to run XXX on Windows!

So do I. In Windows, I can print borderless 4x6 photo-quality pictures on my HP PSC2210. On Linux, no such luck. While HP has sponsored software for Linux, it doesn't do borderless prints. So I, too, have a "need" for Windows.

There are four answers to this "problem":

  • Find an alternative for XXX in F/OSS: OpenOffice, Firefox, the GIMP, Kino, Cinellera, XINE, Audacity, and the list goes on and on. Odds are, you're already using F/OSS which will look, and work, on Linux exactly the way it does on Windows. So much for that "learning curve".
  • WINE: The "Wine Is Not an Emulator" project, to create a set of F/OSS wrappers and libraries that make a Windows application run seamlessly on Unix/Linux/Mac/Solaris/BSD/Whatever. Because of the higher efficiency of Linux hardware interaction, some programs run faster with WINE than they do on Windows. However, not every application will run with WINE, since it's having to be built entirely by reverse engineering.
  • Virtual Machine: Install your legal copy of Windows (they're cheap if you don't want VISTA, see eBay) into a virtual machine and have your cake and eat it too. VMWare, VirtualBox (what I use), the Kernel Virtual Machine, QEMU and others are creating some exceedingly interesting opportunities. Using VirtualBox gives me flexibility I never thought I'd have, and runs perfectly even on a machine that's 6 years old with 512M of RAM. What it will be like on a multi-core system with gigs of RAM I can only daydream about.
  • Dual Boot: This is what Ian mentioned on the show that he tried, and I put it last because it's my least favorite answer. Switching between one system and the other takes a reboot, and while Linux can read Windows partitions, Windows cannot read Linux file systems so much flexibility is lost. Some people have lots of empty disk space and still want Windows, so it remains an option.

I'm not trying to "sell" Linux. It's easy to follow the group, to stay with what came on the machine, to just "use what works". And I am perfectly fine with that. Some of my best friends are Windows users.

But I cannot leave alone the misconceptions that I heard in last night's show.

I hope I've been some help to the discussion.

Bob-
« Last Edit: May 15, 2009, 05:08:24 PM by BobRobertson »
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"I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, April 26th 1820

BobRobertson

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2009, 05:24:14 PM »

From http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/28796/

"With Windows, the BSA chooses YOU!"
 
 ------------
 
 I thought the "Peace, Love, Linux" meme was really good. Running with that, we get John Lennon singing "Imagine there's no copyright...", "Please Copy That Floppy!", "Where do you want to go ... tomorrow?"
 
 ------------
 
 A raid at a Starbucks full of laptop-using yuppies (obfuscated of course, to not infringe copyright, maybe "goddess coffees"), the black-tactical-clad officers with BSA in big yellow letters (or again some obfuscation) on their backs block the exits. Some lawyer-looking types follow as the stormtroopers start checking everyone's computers.
 
 "Sir! The Scan shows that this laptop has a pirated OS.", "Sir! The Scan shows this laptop has illegal copies of word processing and video creation software.", etc.
 
 After a while, the boss sees one of his stormtroopers looking dumbly at his scanner next to a laptop with TUX on it somewhere. "Robertson! You haven't fulfilled your quota! What did The Scan find?"
 
 "Sir, I... I... this computer has no pirated software on it at all."
 
 The room goes still. Everyone, especially the laptop owners in handcuffs, looks over and listens carefully.
 
 "But, how can that be? YOU! Answer the question!"
 
 "I run Linux."
 
 As the Linux user closes his laptop and walks out free, the camera cuts to Robertson, sitting in the vacated Linux user's chair and starting to cry, as his boss leans over and says, "You're fired!"
 
 Linux: Free, as in Freedom.
 
 -------------
 
 How about a commercial with an entire office of screaming white-collar types, screen after screen showing some awful virus, and one lone cubicle at peace, maybe saving a spreadsheet, and when the application closes has a TUX picture as its desktop graphic with LINUX in big letters: "Use your computer, when everyone around you is losing theirs."
 
 --------------
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"I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, April 26th 1820

Alex Libman 14

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2009, 05:53:33 PM »

Never fear!  The Microsoft-certified troll is here!   :lol:

[...]  Viruses, spyware, malware  [...]

  • Windows is disproportionally targeted because it has a much, much higher market share, with around 90% of the desktop market, with Macs being about 8%, and the rest split between various often incompatible flavors of UNIX.

  • Windows is disproportionally targeted because an average Windows machine is a more valuable zombie than an average Linux machine.  This is because Linux users tend to be younger college students who don't play high-end games, thus less CPU resources can be stolen from their inferior computers.  Windows users are also more likely to shop online, thus greater hope of credit card theft.

  • And Windows is disproportionally targeted for ideological reasons.  Many virus writers are very anti-capitalist.

  • Windows is easier to use, thus more n00bs use it, and they screw up by downloading viruses.  Linux requires an even greater level of user know-how to keep from screwing up.  People who know what they're doing don't have this problem on Windows.

  • The greatest reason why installing software on Linux is more secure is centralized package management (i.e. apt, yum, portage, etc).  The same cannot be done on Windows because Windows software is decentralized.  If Microsoft had made it as easy to install free software on Windows as it is on Linux, the Anti-Trust communists would have a field day...


  • I'm not a n00b, so why should I care?


[...]  "Have you tried it recently?"  [...]

  • We all know that Linux is supposed to become great someday, but KDE 4 and other recent "Microsoft killer" component releases have been a major disappointment.

  • In the meantime, Microsoft isn't standing still.  Have you tried Windows 7, Office 2010, Visual Studio 2010, Silverlight 3, etc...


[...] OpenOffice, Firefox, the GIMP, Kino, Cinellera, XINE, Audacity [...]

  • All of those run on Windows as well, in some cases even faster (i.e. Firefox)..

  • There is a far longer list of great software that only runs on Windows..


Virtual Machine  [...]  Dual Boot

  • Doesn't it make more sense to run the OS that supports your hardware better and runs more programs natively (i.e. Windows) as the host, and Linux as a guest?.

  • Windows can run an X server, which means all Linux GUI apps render very well.  Running Windows apps under Linux is far more problematic..


I'm a big fan of Linux on the server, but it still sucks for every-day desktop use.
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blackie

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2009, 06:04:19 PM »

Who cares?
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Jetfire

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2009, 06:08:51 PM »

*raises hand*

Everyone will have there preference regardless.
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blackie

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2009, 06:10:34 PM »

Everyone will have there preference regardless.
I am pretty much OS agnostic.
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BobRobertson

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2009, 08:29:27 PM »

Never fear!  The Microsoft-certified troll is here!   :lol:

Ok, let's see.

Quote
  • Windows is disproportionally targeted because it has a much, much higher market share, with around 90% of the desktop market, with Macs being about 8%, and the rest split between various often incompatible flavors of UNIX.

The vast majority of web servers run Linux, including all of Google. The Apache web server, which is F/OSS, runs on a substantial number of the Windows servers, too.

If those aren't "targets of opportunity", I can't imagine what you think is.

Quote
  • Windows is easier to use, thus more n00bs use it, and they screw up by downloading viruses.  Linux requires an even greater level of user know-how to keep from screwing up.  People who know what they're doing don't have this problem on Windows.

"Easier" is a red herring. If Windows weren't pre-installed, it wouldn't even be a herring. It would be red mulch.

Quote
  • Linux is a Johnny-come-lately to the desktop scene.

So the fact that Linux was running on desktops and servers before Win95 means Windows is an even more recent system?

Or are you counting DOS and Win1,2,3? If so, then it's perfectly reasonable to count UNIX and 1969 in the Linux column.

Unless, of course, you're saying that Microsoft is still using the same software stack as DOS, which I do not consider to be a very good argument in its favor.

Quote
  • In the meantime, Microsoft isn't standing still.  Have you tried Windows 7, Office 2010, Visual Studio 2010, Silverlight 3, etc...

I'm not Bill Gates, I cannot afford all that. That you can, and still choose Windows, says a lot.

Quote
  • All of those run on Windows as well, in some cases even faster (i.e. Firefox)..

Faster? Hahahaha. But yes, you have reinforced a point I was making about the so-called "learning curve". There is no need to learn new applications if you're already using F/OSS.

Quote
  • There is a far longer list of great software that only runs on Windows..

That's funny. We have very different meanings of the word "great".

Your point about market penetration is applicable, however, with games. Most new games are produced with Windows variants, an excellent reason to use Windows. However, just as I can't afford $200 for a spreadsheet program, I can't afford $50 for a new game every few months.

Quote
  • Doesn't it make more sense to run the OS that supports your hardware better and runs more programs natively (i.e. Windows) as the host, and Linux as a guest?.

Since hardware support is better under Linux and I run more Linux native programs, then no.

I run Windows as a band-aid for the one application I haven't found better in F/OSS. But no worries, I won't be buying an HP again because of it.

Quote
I'm a big fan of Linux on the server, but it still sucks for every-day desktop use.

Then I'm left to wonder how I'm writing this note on my every-day desktop. But, as I said, please do not run Linux if you don't want to.
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"I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, April 26th 1820

Alex Libman 14

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2009, 08:59:01 PM »

Your "can't afford" (non)argument reminded me of another fact:

Microsoft skills bring a higher salary boost, we're talking $5-15K on average.  :mrgreen:
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BobRobertson

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2009, 06:23:28 PM »

Your "can't afford" (non)argument

So your great answer to the price of proprietary software is copyright violation?

Some answer.

But seriously, what makes you think I don't have "microsoft" skills? Is it so impossible, in your mind, that I might find the reasons for using F/OSS compelling in of themselves?
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"I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, April 26th 1820

orion

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2009, 06:31:29 PM »

Linux sucks, Mac sucks more, Windows sucks the most.

FreeBSD for the win.
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rabidfurby

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2009, 06:52:42 PM »

Step 1 - use whatever the hell you want.
Step 2 - realize that no one but you cares what you use.
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Elitist Bitch

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2009, 11:16:44 PM »

Step 1 - use whatever the hell you want.
Step 2 - realize that no one but you cares what you use.

Emphatically this.  Except now that people mostly see my computer running Linux, no one really wants to borrow or use it. Windows users all.
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Sometimes, you have to roll a hard six.

JWI

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2009, 11:19:55 PM »

I like computers that just plain work.  I don't care what they're running or if other nerds approve.
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Alex Libman 14

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2009, 12:41:38 AM »

So your great answer to the price of proprietary software is copyright violation?

Like many other Anarcho-Capitalists, I don't believe in implicit "intellectual property rights", which are a government construct and are backed by its violence, but I believe companies like Microsoft could still make a profit by providing software as a service, and by putting people in a position where they would benefit from an explicit contract with Microsoft that would create the obligation to pay for licenses.


But seriously, what makes you think I don't have "microsoft" skills? Is it so impossible, in your mind, that I might find the reasons for using F/OSS compelling in of themselves?

It's not just a matter of having those skills, it's being willing to keep them current and work with them on regular basis.  I'm in the same position of sharing my skill-set between the Microsoft and UNIX paradigms.  (And some may call Java to be a third paradigm.)  The difference is that I recognize the value of all those skills, and don't choose one over the other for ideological reasons that border on anti-capitalism.


FreeBSD for the win.

I largely agree.  BSD has been more stable on servers for a long time, and the BSD license is much preferable to (L)GPL.  But desktop / laptop hardware support is inferior, and, well...  Peer pressure.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2009, 12:47:13 AM by Alex Libman 16 »
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BobRobertson

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Re: Linux in the 2009-05-14 show
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2009, 02:13:58 PM »

Step 2 - realize that no one but you cares what you use.

My point remains to counter the misconceptions, not convert people. There was a lot of misinformation in the show, several "I don't think so" where it was actually true, and such things like that there. Dale was right on top of most of it.

Regardless of one's choice (Buick or Honda? Who cares!), the truth is important all by itself regardless of what it is.

Linux sucks, Mac sucks more, Windows sucks the most.

It certainly will be interesting to see what comes next. I'm looking forward to it. Whatever it will be, it has one heck of a paradigm to overcome.

Quote
FreeBSD for the win.

Could very well be. Competition is wonderful, everyone benefits.

Edit:

Just finished listening to the 2009-05-16 show.

One factual error: Windows programs that run under WINE run just as fast, if not faster, than they do on Windows. It varies, just like everything else.

The error was because WINE isn't "running a copy of Windows" at all. The application makes a library or hardware call, and that call utilizes the WINE libraries just as it would have utilized the native Windows libraries.

Here are some test results: http://wine-reviews.net/archive.html#catid54

Disk-intensive applications can run faster if for no other reason than Linux's disk access is generally more efficient than Windows. And even I know that someone whose decision matrix consists of serious Windows games is better off simply running Windows.

Please don't get me wrong here. I'm not trying to convert anyone. I am just trying to keep the facts straight.

If someone popped up with the usual statist propaganda like "without taxes no one will build roads" or " firing the government police will just lead to people eating their neighbors!", you wouldn't be surprised if Ian or Mark or anyone else jumped in to correct them.

Same here.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2009, 04:17:58 PM by BobRobertson »
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"I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776 to acquire self-government and happiness to their country is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it."
-- Thomas Jefferson, April 26th 1820
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