Posted by: Tim | January 10, 2011

My CES 2011 Round-Up: Part 1

Last week the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place in Las Vegas.  CES is a technology-related trade show.  Basically this is one of the places companies come to preview and announce their new products.  It’s also a place where concepts are shown and ideas/initiatives are announced.  It is not open to the public, so unfortunately I will probably never get to go.  However with the wonderful blogging of Engadget and Boy Genius Report, I at least got to follow along.  There were tons of interesting things revealed, more than I could possibly discuss, in fact, more than I could even keep track of.  So I’ll share a little glimpse of what I found interesting at CES 2011.  So much information, it’s hard to figure out where to even begin.  So let’s just dive in.

Phones, Phones and more Phones

CES isn’t traditionally a huge mobile event.  Mobile announcements are usually saved for the Mobile World Congress (Feb 14-17) and CTIA Wireless (March 22-24), but this year was different.  Both carriers and manufacturers were on hand to reveal new phones.  I’m sure this is just the beginning too.  MWC and CTIA will have major announcements as well, I’m sure.  So let’s cover some phones.  I will by no means cover all of the phones announced, but I’ll cover a couple of the ones I find interesting.

We’ll start with the HTC Thunderbolt for Verizon’s LTE network.  It looks similar to the EVO and seems to be based on the Desire HD’s hardware.  I’ve been looking forward to this phone’s announcement for a while and was happy to read that it was speedy and the screen was excellent.  However I was disappointed that it doesn’t have an HDMI port.  Here are the specs:

  • Networks: Verizon LTE
  • Operating system: Android 2.2 + HTC Sense 2.0
  • Display: 4.3″ Super LCD
  • Camera: 8MP with autofocus, LED Flash (2x LED), 1.3MP front facing camera
  • Memory: 8GB Internal, Preinstalled 32 GB microSD
  • WLAN: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 2.1 with EDR (3.0 when available)
  • Battery: 1400 mAh
  • Special features: Dual mics with noise cancellation, Surround sound, Compass sensor, G-Sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor, 3.5mm audio jack, MicroUSB, FM radio, LTE SIM slot, Skype Mobile, HD Video Recording, Wireless DLNA capability
  • Chipset: 1Ghz Snapdragon Processor

The Motorola DROID Bionic 4G is a Verizon LTE phone featuring a dual-core 1GHz processor.  It supposedly feels like a lighter Droid 2.  From what I’ve read it is said to be blazing fast and to have great screen quality and viewing angles.

  • Networks: Verizon LTE
  • Operating system: Android 2.2
  • Display: 4.3″ HD quality screen
  • Camera: 8MP rear camera, VGA  front facing camera
  • Memory: ??
  • WLAN: 8??
  • Bluetooth: ??
  • GPS: ??
  • Battery: ??
  • Special features: HDMI connectivity, 512 DDR2 RAM, Mirror Mode which lets you simultaneous stream video to the TV and on the device, Multiplayer gaming capability
  • Chipset: Dual-core 1Ghz Processor

I look forward to finding out more about this phone, though I wish they would have upped the megapixels of the front facing camera.

The Atrix 4G has some pretty amazing specs.  The display gives the Apple iPhone 4 a run for its money with pixel density.  It has a dual-core 1GHz processor.  The stats alone put this up there as a standout phone, but there’s more.

  • Networks: AT&T
  • Operating system: Android 2.2 w/ Motoblur
  • Display: 4.0″ QHD (960×540)
  • Camera: 5 MP autofocus with Dual LED flash and VGA front-facing camera
  • Memory: 16 GB internal memory, up to 32 GB external memory
  • WLAN: 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: 2.1+EDR with stereo
  • GPS: ??
  • Battery: 1930 mAh (which dwarfs the average smartphone’s 1300-1500 mAH)
  • Special features: HDMI Connectivity, 1GB of  RAM, Fingerprint Login Security, 2-Microphone Noise Reduction Technology, Laptop Dock & Multimedia Dock (not included), Two Web Browsers (Standard WebKit browser on device and full HTML tabbed Firefox® Web browser in webtop mode)
  • Chipset: Dual-core 1Ghz NVIDIA Tegra Processor

The Atrix 4G will be available with what they’re simply calling a laptop dock.  It’s a laptop dock that pairs up with an app on the phone (Webtop) which transforms the Atrix into a full-fledged smartbook.  All you do is dock the phone onto the back left edge of a larger chassis.  The chassis is 11.6-inch display with two USB ports, a chiclet keyboad and a trackpad.  The docked Atrix shows you a windowed UI on the chassis display, a Mac OS-X like application dock, full version of Firefox w/ Flash 10.1 support, a file manager and remote desktop support. Also apparently the state of the Webtop application is maintained between sessions, so you can undock at anytime.  Of course it will cost extra, but it seems brilliant.  It definitely makes this phone standout amongst the crowd.

Honorable Mentions

LG announced a couple phones at CES, but nothing I thought was revolutionary despite one of their phones being called LG Revolution.  Their revolutionary phone was actually announced in December, the LG Optimus 2X (T-Mobile).  It was the first dual-core smartphone to launch.  Since it wasn’t announced at CES, I’ll skip over it, but you can read more about it here.

The Verizon iPhone.  I didn’t include the iPhone because it was not announced at CES, in fact, it hasn’t actually been announced at all yet.  However, the ever vigilant rumor mill says tomorrow is the day Verizon announces it.  All the rumors seem to indicate that it’ll be the iPhone 4, but compatible with Verizon.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  You can join me and follow along with Engadget’s Live Blog of the event tomorrow.

Verizon announced an unnamed Samsung phone, but, in my opinion, it was nothing spectacular.  They also teased the Samsung Infuse 4G, with it’s 1.2 GHz Hummingbird processor and 4.5″ Super AMOLED Plus Screen, but they lose points because it was just a dummy unit and doesn’t have a hint of LTE, so not really 4G.  However, they really get included here because during their press conference they promised dual-core smartphones and new tablets on February 13th at the Mobile World Congress.  So I’m keeping my eye on you Samsung!

That’s All…For Now

That wraps up the phone portion of my round up.  If I was eligible for a phone upgrade now, it would be very difficult for me to choose between the HTC Thunderbolt and the Motorola Bionic, despite the fact that I was extremely anxious to see the release of the HTC Thunderbolt.  They both have their own unique and interesting qualities.  The Bionic has the dual-core processor, but not much more in the way of specs announced yet, but the Thunderbolt has more of its specs revealed, a better front facing camera, plus I like HTC Sense UI.  However, by far, the stand out in my mind is the Motorola Atrix.  If it was on Verizon LTE, I think I’d be sold despite having the same front facing camera as the Bionic.  My advice to anyone who is eligible would be to wait until around April, so you can see what develops with these phones and wait to hear what’s announced at the Mobile World Congress (Samsung made some promises) and the CTIA Wireless.

In the next parts, I’ll highlight some tablets and some minor (but interesting) announcements.

The Engadget and Boy Genius Report links I’ve posted above will take you to all of their CES 2011 coverage and the CES website has a link to videos of all the Keynotes from this year.  There’s a ton of stuff I haven’t and won’t be mentioning like 3D television, 3D cameras & video cameras, portable Blu-ray players, 3D glasses, glasses free 3D, 3D laptops (lots and lots of 3D), appliances and a million and a half other things, so go wade through the vast amounts of information on your own to find what interests you and stay tuned for my next posts: Part 2 & Part 3

Posted by: Tim | March 18, 2010

Marketing and Social Media

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

“Social Media puts the “public” into PR and the “market” into marketing.” – Chris Brogan

There is something unique that draws me to marketing.  Maybe it’s because I’m a TV junkie or the point of marketing is to draw people in and I’m just susceptible or maybe they’re really good at their jobs, but I find myself intrigued.  It must be a wonderful and amazing time to be involved in this field, though I am sure that every generation has said that same thing.  The advent of radio was a great time, the advent of television and of real commercials and the of the internet were all great and amazing times as well.  And today, it is social media that makes this field so interesting.  So let’s take a little look at marketing, current trends and a little of my fascination with social media.

Let me clarify what I mean when I say marketing.  Marketing can be selling a product or promoting a movie, television show, book, person, thought, idea, etc. because promoting something is a form of selling.  Money doesn’t have to change hands, but the idea is to try to convince you that this item is worth your time.  Marketing has been around for a long time.  People standing outside of shops and theaters trying to entice people to come in and spend money is an early example of marketing.  In the mid 1400s, Gutenberg’s movable type led to the ability to produce fliers and brochures.  The 1800s saw the first paid advertisement in a newspaper, the earliest recorded use of the telegraph for unsolicited messages, the first billboard rentals and the first examples of trademarks as branding.  The early 1900s gave us radio advertisements and the mid 1900s gave us television advertisements.  Late in the 20th century with the proliferation of computers, all kinds of internet based advertisements arose, such as database marketing, relationship marketing, spam, guerrilla marketing and viral marketing.  Today we have the beginnings of social media marketing with MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.  It is a field that continues to evolve and develop new methods yet it has not let go of the old methods.

I could discuss all the various forms of marketing, but that would be an entire posting, so I won’t bore you with that.  Instead let’s look at the general concept of advertisements (like TV/radio ads and magazine ads).  The point of advertisements is to “sell” something, whether it is a product, idea, person or company.  Images, music and words are all used and crafted to achieve this goal.  Various trends emerge in advertising.  Some are persistent trends.  “Sex sells” is an example of a persistent trend in advertisements because sex intrigues people, brings out emotions, draws people’s attention and is something that will always be part of life.  What sells a car better than phallic imagery?  And I don’t know about you, but for me, half naked people make me think toilet paper.

Volvo Ad & Renova Toilet Paper Ad

However, there are other trends in advertising that aren’t as persistent as sex.  Absurdity and cuteness seem to be current trends (i.e. sock monkeys driving a car and talking babies).  Advertisements specifically focused on appealing to geeks and women appear to sliding slowly toward the forefront.  Trends come and go (and sometimes come back again) as society changes, as people’s interests change and as various other influences change and fluctuate.  For instance, when trying to sell your product to teenagers, an ad that worked for teens in the 60s, may not be as effective for teens in 2010 since their interests, how they interpret things and what gets their attention are likely different.  So companies have to change how they present the same message to deal with this change.

Changes and fluctuation are not the only things that need to be taken into consideration.  You have to consider your target market, too, and realize that not everyone responds the same way.  If your target market is more specific (eg. White, Middle-Class, Suburban Women between 25-40), your task a bit easier, than if your target is more generalized (eg. Men between 18-35) because it’s a narrower focus and the audience is less varied.  People see and interpret things differently depending on their education, their income, how they were raised, their gender, age, area of the country and the list continues.  For instance, I can sit on my couch with a friend and we can watch the exact same commercial, at the exact same time on the exact same TV and we may react completely differently to it.  These two Old Spice commercials are a good example of this concept.  I think they are absurdly brilliant, but I know others who think they’re just asinine.

What’s your opinion on these ads or other ads containing absurdity?

Of course it’s not possible to tailor advertisements to each individual, but finding the gimmick that hooks the most people is a talent.  Putting images, music and words together to sell something is hard work and, in my opinion, an art form.

The internet is a big deal in marketing because it’s everywhere; people are online all the time and it allows ads to be tailored more precisely.  The internet also led to the newest marketing tool: social media.  Blogs, Facebook, podcasts and Twitter are being used for marketing.  You can find companies, television/movie actors, directors, authors, musicians, scientists, and astronauts on social networks.  Companies and celebrities used to seem so out of reach but now are seemingly conversing with you, responding to your questions, and sharing things with you.  Fans and followers can now feel more part of the action.  They are drawn in and given a sense of involvement which helps them feel like their voice might actually be heard and be important.  Prizes and awards are occasionally offered up to fans on these social networks, which further gives people a sense of inclusion like they are part of a special club.  Social media can be an extension of our voyeuristic society obsessed with reality shows.  People are giving you more access to themselves and what they do both professionally and privately.  Fictional characters from shows are stepping out of television and appearing online so people can interact with them.  People without huge marketing budgets are using social media to promote themselves and their projects for just the cost of their time.  Companies, like Comcast, monitor social networks for keywords so they can address complaints or help sell their products.  There are people harnessing social media for outreach, to share & promote their ideas and to help find like minded people.

Social media is a whole new outlet for communicating, sharing and getting involved.  There were two social media instances that really got me thinking about this blog posting.  One was a tweet by ZacharyLevi from “Chuck”, that he was live Ustreaming from his phone.  Being curious, I clicked on the link and there was Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski and Brandon Routh all walking on the studio lot headed to their trailers.  They were just talking and goofing off and promoting that night’s episode. It was brilliant, unique and made me feel more of an attachment to the show and its actors.  The second was a Facebook group devoted to getting Betty White to host SNL.  It was started by some guy and then the group grew and grew and grew until the news was reporting about it,  TV shows were talking about it and Betty White was responding about the group.  It shows the potential marketing power social media can have because…it worked.

I am not saying social media is right for everyone or every company because it does take time and resources.  You do not want to be on Twitter and Facebook if you are not actively monitoring it.   I don’t really want to get into who shouldn’t use social media or the potential downsides to it (which there are), but I will direct you towards a blog posting by Marijean.  She briefly discusses an experience she had that shows the problem with being on Facebook and Twitter but not actively paying attention to the accounts, so check it out.

I know there is a ton I am leaving out or glossing over, but I could probably talk about this for hours.  I find it wonderful, amazing and mind-blowing and I can’t even imagine what else is possible with social media or where marketing will go to next.

Check out some of the awesome people I follow on Twitter: Twitter List

Posted by: Tim | March 16, 2010

Social Media: A Fad?

While I finish editing my next post “Marketing and Social Media,” here is an interesting video I found.

This is a promotional video for the book “Socialnomics” by Erik Qualman (Socialnomics Blog) and it asks the question “Is Social Media a Fad?”

Posted by: Tim | March 13, 2010

A Blog By Any Other Name

I’d like to thank the lovely Nicole (NoisyAstronomer) for inspiring me to write blog posts and allowing me to post those first two on her blog originally…and for inspiring me to actually start up my own blog.  Thank you!

I’m really not sure what I will write about or how often I’ll be writing, but hopefully I’ll keep up with this blog writing thing.

Now let’s get down to business…on Twitter I asked Tim3PO & NoisyAstronomer to help me think of some possible names and tag lines for my new blog.  Here are some of the ideas that emerged:

– Something having to do with Spider-Man…or Boner!
– There Are Some That Call My Blog…Tim
– Spider-Man’s Science Boner Blog
– My Name is Tim…You Killed My Gather…Prepare To Blog.
– Tim And The Amazing Technicolor Boner Blog
– I’m A Blogger Dottie…A Rebel
– The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn Is Just To Blog and Be Blogged In Return.
– Beautiful Blog, Isn’t It, Policegirl?
– If You Want To Make A Blog From Scratch, You Must First Create The Universe
– Blogging Is My Life, But I Love You

Posted by: Tim | March 12, 2010

Anime USA After Thoughts

I originally wrote this posting for One Astronomer’s Noise

A few months ago, I attended Anime USA, my 4th anime convention.  This was the 2nd time I attended Anime USA and it was a great time as always.  I went to some interesting panels and enjoyed the dealer’s room and artist alley, and I got to sit down with one of the voice actors, J. Michael Tatum, and talk about various aspects of his job and the anime industry, as well as, a lot of other things.  Some things that intrigued me in the course of the weekend (panels, conversations, etc.) were the concept of classifying anime, the stigma surrounding anime, and the problems that these cause in marketing anime.

A lot of people seem to refer to anime as an all encompassing genre, similar to comedy, drama, romance, and action, but this classification isn’t really accurate.  It’s more complex than that.  Why?  Because you can find all of those genres in anime, too.  So, anime should fall into a different level of classification.  Maybe it should fall into a category such as television, movies, and books, but then again it doesn’t fit there too well either.  Why?  Because anime can be a TV show or movie.

Love Hina (Right Image) and Hellsing (Left Image)

So, it’s hard to classify anime just as anime.  I can’t say that because you like “Love Hina” you’ll most likely enjoy “Hellsing” because they are very different.  There’s anime that’s comedy, drama, science fiction, surreal, romantic… anime that focuses on robots and vampires… anime geared towards girls (Shojo), geared towards boys (Shonen), geared towards women (Josei), and geared towards men (Seinen).  There’s anime with real, in-depth, heartfelt stories and ones that are mostly action…there are musicals and shows that are just sickeningly cute and ones that are mind-blowingly absurd or just freaky and messed up.  There’s horror and suspense.  There are ones that are just epic.  Ones with morals and trying to make a social or political point.  There are ones that are just for fun.  Not to mention “adult” anime (Hentai) which has its own breakdown of types.  So it cannot be classified simply.

There is also a stigma that surrounds anime, similar to the stigma that surrounds science fiction.  Anime is looked as being childish and/or geeky.  People hear the name anime and immediately associate it with cartoons, geekiness, Pokémon, children’s shows, robots, etc.  Some of those things are correct.  If by cartoon, you mean it’s animated, then yes.  There is hand-drawn and computer-animated anime.  Is it geeky?  Well, it certainly does have that stigma and some of the fans are extremely hard-core and do dress up as characters (called Cosplay), so it is definitely something that appeals to geeks.  However, I don’t think there is anything instrinsically geeky about anime.  Pokémon and other such children’s show ideas are just one aspect of anime.  Some will argue that they are the parts that give anime a bad name and the stigma, but I disagree.  It is judged by the beliefs people have about it, and often these beliefs come from limited knowledge about it.  There is such a variety within anime that it is a shame it is not even given a chance by so many people.  As a young kid, I was into the anime that was available, though we didn’t think of it as “anime”, it was just another cartoon.  When I got older, I shunned it because I feared the ridicule of my peers and, at the time, I only knew one small sliver of what was available.  It was in college that I started to get back into it.  Yes, it started with Pokémon and it was everything I remembered as a kid.  It was silly and childish, but I now saw a message in the stories that I didn’t see as a kid.  I was then exposed to a hentai series, which was the complete opposite of everything I knew about anime.  So I started to explore other series and found a wide range of shows.  I liked some and I didn’t like others, but that’s when I started to realize a lot of people who shunned anime, like I did, could find something that interested them.  I just lucked out that I had friends who knew about anime and hadn’t shunned it like I had and they could walk me through it and help me find things I liked.  They helped me find where and how to look for series.

So not all anime is created equal.  So what?  Well the difficulty in classifying anime makes marketing it difficult.  The broad anime moniker means there is no target market because the age range, gender, sexual preference, race, etc. are all over the place since there is such variety.  Combine that with the stigma that surrounds anime and you’ve narrowed your market.  Even if you do take a broad approach at marketing, the stigma will keep a lot of people from even considering it, so you’re wasting lots of money for little results.  This is a major problem in the industry.  Without marketing and advertising, only the diehards are up-to-date on new releases.  It’s like a closed off genre because if you’re new you don’t know what is what and it’s hard to find out.  There isn’t a lot of marketing and advertising to even point you in the right direction or let you know new things are coming out.  People see Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh on television and for them that is anime.  So the consumer base is only growing very slowly, which is not good for the studios.  It’s expensive to purchase the titles, translate the story, adapt the story, record the new voices and then make & distribute the DVDs.  And since anime does not have as wide a consumer base as major television series and motion pictures, the prices are higher for each consumer.  That also results in people using the internet for downloading unlicensed “fansubbed” shows.  All of this combined really does hurt the industry.  Recently ADV, one of the few studios in the United States for dubbing anime, closed down.  Luckily, there are still others (like FUNimation) left to try to pick up all the titles once owned by ADV, but it was a major blow.  It’s getting harder and harder for these studios to operate and turn a profit.  Something needs to be done, marketing needs to improve, and the consumer base needs to increase.  How?  I am not sure, but social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook seem to be a good place to start.  Why?  Because compared to other forms of advertising, social media networks are relatively inexpensive.  There are definitely draw backs to social media networks.  With social media, consumers have to actively come to you for information, whereas with regular advertising information comes to the consumer.  But there are more and more people are joining Twitter and Facebook, and both are continuing to evolve.  Videos can be posted on Facebook and YouTube, so they are good places for trailers and teasers. Companies can search Twitter for certain terms and then send those people 140 characters of information.  Plus, fans and people who like what they see can repost the information or email it to their friends expanding the reach of the advertising.  For a tiny investment, it seems like a great place to start.

Actually, FUNimation is already on Twitter and Facebook

Posted by: Tim | March 11, 2010

A Non-Scientist’s Reaction to Richard Hoagland

I originally wrote this posting for One Astronomer’s Noise

Ok, so I am not typically the type to write a blog posting, actually I’m not the type to really read or write at all, but it’s always good to attempt something new.  Anyway, Nicole & I were watching this show on SciFi…SyFy…PsyPhi…whatever it’s calling itself now, about 2012.  This dude came on…now right away I knew he was someone I should trust.  I mean his hair, bolo tie and hat, it resembled a Sombrero-Cowboy Hat hybrid, were good indicators that this guy was worthy of my attention.  His name was Richard Hoagland.  Apparently he’s a genius (at least in his own opinion).  He was telling me about this thing called Torsion Field Physics.  Now, I’ve never heard of this before but I’m no scientist so that wouldn’t be surprising.  However, I learned that the Mayans were experts in Torsion Field Physics…Calendars and Torsion Field Physics…and sacrificing things to appease the Gods.  Well, I learned from Hoagland that the Mayans were experts in Torsion Field Physics and he knows Torsion Field Physics and they appeared to be the only ones who know anything about it…so either he’s right or he’s just making this stuff up.  I think I’ll trust him though because he had some awesome scientific type equipment.  Sure, it may only look like some little box with a broken watch on top and a USB cable running to his laptop…but he swears it’s scientific.  It’s called an Accutron after all…need I say more?  Now I’m not sure if Accutron is an Autobot or a Decepticon, so I am a little wary still, but if it can find Energon Cubes, then Torsion Field Physics should be easy…fictional things should be able to deal with other fictional things, right?

Bolo, yo.

Seriously though, or as serious as I am capable of being.  Why don’t Hoagland’s family and friends love him enough to just get him committed somewhere?  I know I am not a full blown skeptic and I don’t really care to research or look into things, but even I think this guy is a crackpot.  Martians left Mars because it was doomed and they came to Earth to hang out with the Egyptians & Mayans to teach them about Torsion Field Physics and warn them about impending disaster.  Then the Martians went and hung out in Atlantis.  Really?   That sounds as plausible as my theory that tiny green gremlins will burst from inside the Earth in 2012 and run around stabbing people in the toes with spears and with all these green gremlins leaving the center of the Earth, there will be nothing at the core anymore and the Earth will collapse in on itself.  That’s right, the core of the Earth isn’t iron or anything like that…it’s tiny Green Gremlins.

I decided my new best friend, Richard Hoagland, deserved a quick Wikipedia search.  I really do think this man would awesome to hang out with…it would be a non-stop riot and his Wikipedia page only further supports that opinion.  For instance, he believes the US Government and other major governments of the world have known 2012 was going to happen for some time and have staged an elaborate ruse to confuse us and keep that truth from us.  The Berlin Wall coming down, the two satellites that collided in space, 9/11, they were all part of this conspiracy to keep us from finding out about the impending disaster in 2012.  Personally, I think he’s giving way too much credit to politicians.  He also believes in an ancient Moon Civilization, life on Mars, the Face of Mars, the Face of Bo…oh that last one is from Doctor Who not Hoagland, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he believed Doctor Who was actually a documentary.  As I said, I am not a scientist.  I probably slept through any science classes I took, in fact, I probably slept through most classes I took, science or not.  But even for me, some of these theories are so completely absurd that they’re funny.  They make no sense and the conspiracies needed to hide some of these “facts” are so elaborate that they leap into absurd.  So I implore you, if you know Richard Hoagland or know anyone who believes everything he says, have an intervention.  Send them to The Bad Astronomer or one of the other great scientifically accurate blogs out in Cyberland (not to be confused with Cybertron).  Do something to help them learn real science.

UPDATE: On further research, by that I mean I actually looked something up, it turns out Hoagland’s Accutron looks just like a watch on a box because it IS a watch on a box.  An Accutron watch is a watch made by Bulova that uses resonating tuning forks as a means of regulating the time keeping function.  But with the name Accutron, I’m not changing my mind, it might still be a Transformer.

The writer of this blog posting accepts no liability for any pain, damages or losses suffered as a result of the misinterpretation of or actions taken based on information contained above.
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