Turbo Todd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

The Great Atomic Floppy Disks

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You can’t make this stuff up.

You’ve probably seen the b-roll by now on the TV news or in a YouTube clip, but if not, here’s the meme:

The U.S. Government (and the Department of Defense, in particular) is still using 8-inch floppy disks in a legacy system that “coordinates the operational functions of the United States’ nuclear forces.”

The nuclear forces….controlled by a floppy disk…from the 1970s….

This is according to a just-released GAO report entitled “Information Technology: Federal Agencies Need to Address Legacy Systems.”

And just in case you’re a milennial and have no clue what an 8-inch floppy disk is, there’s a footnote in the report explaining it:

“Introduced in the 1970s, the 8-inch floppy disk is a disk-based storage medium that holds 80 kilobytes of data. In comparison, a single modern flash drive can contain data from the equivalent of more than 3.2 million floppy disks.”

I know it’s hard to imagine that that’s where we used to put our data.

For several of my first computers, which included portables from both Kaypro and Compaq, one had to actually load the programs from one of these floppy disks. Then, once the program was loaded into RAM, one could put in a separate floppy drive to store the data you created.

Back and forth it went like that, swapping disks out, back and forth, back and forth.

Yeah, I know, it was like rubbing two sticks together to make a fire, but it worked.

In fact, go and watch a few episodes of “To Halt and Catch Fire” and you’ll start to get at least some sense of what it was like.

I guess I just kinda assumed the systems running our nuclear weapons delivery would have been upgraded from an 8-inch floppy sometime over the subsequent 40 years.

But no, upon further digging, I discovered it’s the IBM Series/1,introduced in November 1976, that runs the “Strategic Automated Command and Control System.”

According to a piece in Time magazine, “This system coordinates the operational functions of the United States’ nuclear forces, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers, and tanker support aircrafts.”

But maybe this is a case of where being outdated tech could be a good thing — those nukes likely aren’t connected to the Interwebs, so quite possibly the only way to hack them is to socially engineer one’s way down into the bunker and to the 8-inch floppies.

In the meantime, to the airmen and -women overseeing the floppies, please don’t let any magnets near those disks.

We don’t want to erase 40 years of nuclear security work in one fell swoop!

Written by TurboTodd

May 26th, 2016 at 4:08 pm

IBM Offering Watson Services Via Twilio

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IBM has announced it is collaborating with Twilio, the cloud communications platform for developers, to introduce two new offerings, IBM Watson Message Sentiment and IBM Watson Message Insights, which will be available as Add-Ons in Twilio’s recently announced Marketplace.

Pre-integrated with Twilio’s APIs, the new Watson offerings are now readily accessible as “Add-ons” to the more than one million registered developers in Twilio’s community, in addition to the developers who currently access Watson technology via Bluemix, IBM’s Cloud platform.

The new Watson Add-ons offer additional message enhancement capabilities through natural language processing to help understand sentiment, keywords, entities and high-level concepts from text messages. The insights gleaned from this unstructured data will give businesses actionable insights. The capabilities include:

  • IBM Watson Message Sentiment: using sentiment analysis, the new service allows users to retrieve sentiment from SMS in a scalable manner. For example, a customer service manager would be able to easily analyze customer SMS messages to determine whether they are positive, negative, and neutral, to help to assess a customer’s satisfaction with a brand, service or product.

  • IBM Watson Message Insights: using a combination of sentiment analysis, keyword extraction, entity extraction and concept tagging,this capability allows developers to distill key meanings from SMS. For example, a developer would be able to extract trending topics and match specific products or services to certain sentiments.

Add-ons are pre-integrated technologies available through the Twilio Marketplace that allow developers to do more with the Twilio API, and are designed to make it easier for developers to integrate with other platforms and technologies.

The new offerings complement the more than thirty Watson services currently available from IBM.

Future plans include extending these offerings on third party platforms, like the Twilio marketplace, bringing cognitive to where developers work. The Watson Speech to Text Add-on, as part of the Recording Add-on category, is up next for Twilio developers.

“Add-ons make it possible for developers to do more with their Twilio applications using less code,” said Patrick Malatack, VP of Product at Twilio. “The IBM Watson Add-ons apply Watson’s sentiment analysis capabilities to customers’ text messages at scale, better equipping businesses with insights into how their customers feel. We’re pleased that customers can now add the functionality of IBM Watson in a single click.”

These new services are the latest example of IBM’s commitment to empowering the developer community to build cognitive-enabled apps and businesses with Watson.

They build upon IBM’s open Watson platform that offers cognitive APIs in the areas of Language, Speech, and Vision available through BlueMix, IBM’s Cloud platform.

For more information on IBM Watson, visit: ibm.com/Watson.

Written by TurboTodd

May 25th, 2016 at 6:49 pm

Twitter’s Economy

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Social media enthusiasts have been waiting for an economization of Twitter’s 140 character limit — as Hemingway (or was it Twain) wrote, “If I’d had more time I would have written you a shorter letter.”

In a blog post by Twitter Sr. Product Manager Todd Sherman earlier today, Sherman announced that Twitter be making some substantial changes to Tweets, “including what counts toward your 140 characters.”

As an example, Sherman wrote that @names in replies and media attachments (photos, GIFs, videos, polls) will no longer count towards the 140 character limit.

Another new and interesting feature: One will be able to easily Retweet or Quote Tweet oneself (for the true narcissists in the audience).

You can get all the details in Sherman’s post.

Now how many characters have I used so far???

Written by TurboTodd

May 24th, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Posted in social media,twitter

CIOs: Show…Me…the…Mon-eyy!

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Found today in The Wall Street Journal’s “Morning Download” email, this headline: “CIOs Sharpen Focus on Creating Revenue.”

According to a survey of 3,352 CIOs and tech leaders by Harvey Nash and KPMG LLC, 63 percent of CEOs afe focusing their CIOs on IT projects that make money.

This in juxtaposition with 37 percent of CEOs who are asking their CIOs to focus on saving money.

The post goes on to reveal further survey data, suggesting four in 10 CIOs spend one day a week outside IT, suggesting that the decreased focus on uptime and tech failures has liberated them to spend more time on other strategic matters.

Written by TurboTodd

May 24th, 2016 at 3:22 pm

IBM Expands New Cloud & Cognitive Technologies To Personalize Customer Interactions

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IBM today announced an expanded set of solutions and features including cognitive technologies that allow brands to help deliver relevant customer experiences. With these offerings marketers, merchandisers and e-commerce professionals can learn, predict and guide customer engagement at each step in their brand journey.

According to a new report from Nucleus Research, IBM delivers $15.82 return on investment (ROI) for every dollar spent on its marketing, sales, merchandising and analytics offerings1 which today are being used by leading brands such as ING Direct, The Home Shopping Network (HSN) and Standard Life to meet the personalized, real-time needs of their customers.

The importance of these experiences was highlighted in a recent IBM Study, “Redefining Markets,” where 66 percent of CxOs stated they are interested in creating more digital, individualized experiences. However, these moments cannot be isolated at different times in the consumer/brand relationship.

IBM is infusing cognitive technologies into the tools that practitioners work with today to help companies deliver these complete end-to-end customer experiences. These new offerings will leverage cognitive’s ability to understand, reason and learn over time and in the end provide teams with the expert in-the-moment advice, insights and recommendations to help them make better, more informed decisions at each step in the brand journey.

With IBM Real-Time Personalization, marketers will be able to deliver the right message and offer to customers. Part of the IBM Marketing Cloud, Real-Time Personalization understands that a person’s preferences change over time and addresses this through its Cognitive Rule Adviser, which learns, advises and suggests the offer and message should be shared with each visitor.

It then discovers which segments are responding best to each variation (broken down by factors such as age, geography, etc..) and through self-learning algorithms and analytics fine-tunes the experiences over time.

For example, a sporting goods retailer identifies a customer whose site profile indicates they are interested in taking up cycling. Recognizing she’s a novice, the site responds with deals on bikes and everything she needs to get started, all presented with visual images that help her make the right purchase.

Through its cognitive technologies, the site later learns that her needs have shifted based on activity focused on nutrition for long-distance rides, automatically adapts and shares content on local races and nutrition recommendations as well as offers on foods items in the store.

You can learn more about this and other IBM Commerce technologies here.

Written by TurboTodd

May 17th, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Get On The Blockchain

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Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright came forward this week as “Satoshi Nakamoto,” the unknown creator of the digital currency, bitcoin.

And then he didn’t, writing in his blog that he didn’t “have the courage” to publish additional proof.

The world yawned, and is moving on, because some of the underlying technology, no matter who ultimately created it, has significant potential to change the way companies conduct business in the 21st century.

The so-called “blockchain” is a distributed database that can maintain an ever-growing list of data records that can be hardened against tampering and revision. In fact, it was the main technical innovation behind bitcoin.

This distributed database consists of data structure blocks, each of which can hold batches of individual transactions and the results of any blockchain executables (and each containing timestamps and information linking to a previous block).

This capability allows for a new generation of transactional applications that establishes trust, accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes.

Blockchain has the potential to radically improve industries, beginning with banking and insurance, but also in creating more efficient systems ranging from supply chains to Internet of Things networks to gaming and beyond. In short, it can eliminate friction in transactions and, in fact, help speed them along.

In the video below, IBM’s Jerry Cuomo explains how blockchain is open for business (and how IBM is approaching Blockchain as an open technology).

And if you’re a developer and ready to get started, check out this site that has a number of sample blockchain apps and a direct link to IBM’s new Blockchain-as-a-Service capability on the IBM Bluemix cloud development platform.

You can also learn how IBM has begun contributing to the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, a collaborative effort to create a blockchain for business. IBM has already contributed code to the project, which is intended to help developers build secure, distributed ledgers that can be used to exchange most anything of value.

It’s time to get on the blockchain!

Written by TurboTodd

May 6th, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Bausch + Lomb and IBM Collaborate on Innovative Apps for Cataract Surgeons

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Bausch + Lomb, a leading global eye health company, and IBM today announced a collaboration to develop the first app of its kind for iPhone and iPad for surgeons who perform cataract surgery. The innovative app will help surgeons streamline their workflow by delivering patient information and clinical insights as well as intraocular lens (IOL) options on a single, digital platform at the point of care.

Cataract extraction is the most common surgical procedure among Medicare beneficiaries and cataract rates are on the rise. Cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans and that number is expected to rise to 30 million by 2020.

Cataracts – a clouding of the eye’s lens that can lead to blindness if untreated – affect approximately 70 percent of people by age 75. In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens – an IOL.

Today, many cataract surgeons consult patient data in the operating room (OR) via print-outs or notes created during pre-op patient office visits, which can often be bothersome and inefficient.

The new app from Bausch + Lomb will be designed to provide surgeons with access to information that patients have agreed to share, enabling doctors to plan their surgical interventions — including IOL selection — and have the option to view the information on digital devices or display screens on walls in the operating room during surgery.

The app will be designed to electronically manage patient data across iPhone and iPad while hosting health-related data on IBM Cloud Platform, Bluemix — a security rich, cloud-based environment — and relaying customized IOL options to surgeons that they will use to help enhance surgical planning and provide better patient care.

The MobileFirst for iOS team, which is part of IBM Global Business Services, will design and develop this custom app for Bausch + Lomb to help drive innovation in healthcare. Bausch + Lomb’s vision is to optimize the app to collect data over time, resulting in a cognitive app that applies machine-based learning and predictive analytics to deliver real-time insights to surgeons.

By compiling each cataract patient’s information in the app — including IOL calculations, corneal topography and other biometry results as well as lifestyle preferences — surgeons and their staff may generate a comprehensive, integrated profile to help them facilitate IOL selection and procedure planning. Historical surgical data and other patient insights can also be housed within the app to potentially support positive clinical outcomes for future cataracts.

“This new mobile solution has real potential to fundamentally change how our practice manages patient information throughout the cataract procedure, from planning through post-operative follow-up,” said Anil Shivaram, M.D., from Claremont Eye Associates in Claremont, CA. “Additionally, having the ability to access the variety of each patient’s surgical information on an iPhone or iPad will allow surgeons to streamline their time management and decision-making process. Allowing this mobile platform to organize and essentialize the numerous data sets that cataract surgeons must tackle with each case will also allow for refinement over time for each individual surgeon. By capturing, displaying, and analyzing the data over time in an iterative process, this app is expected to help surgeons provide better care and potentially help provide improved surgical outcomes, while at the same time increasing their efficiency.”

Pilot study testing for the new application is expected to begin in late 2016.

Written by TurboTodd

May 5th, 2016 at 2:42 pm

IBM Makes Quantum Computing Available on IBM Cloud

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IBM Research announced today that for the first time ever it is making quantum computing available to members of the public, who can access and run experiments on IBM’s quantum processor.

IBM scientists have built a quantum processor that users can access through a first-of-a-kind quantum computing platform delivered via the IBM Cloud onto any desktop or mobile device. IBM believes quantum computing is the future of computing and has the potential to solve certain problems that are impossible to solve on today’s supercomputers.

The cloud-enabled quantum computing platform, called IBM Quantum Experience, will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on IBM’s quantum processor, work with the individual quantum bits (qubits), and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.

The quantum processor is composed of five superconducting qubits and is housed at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in New York. The five-qubit processor represents the latest advancement in IBM’s quantum architecture that can scale to larger quantum systems. It is the leading approach towards building a universal quantum computer.

A universal quantum computer can be programmed to perform any computing task and will be exponentially faster than classical computers for a number of important applications for science and business.

A universal quantum computer does not exist today, but IBM envisions medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 qubits to be possible in the next decade. With a quantum computer built of just 50 qubits, none of today’s TOP500 supercomputers could successfully emulate it, reflecting the tremendous potential of this technology. The community of quantum computer scientists and theorists is working to harness this power, and applications in optimization and chemistry will likely be the first to demonstrate quantum speed-up.

With Moore’s Law running out of steam, quantum computing will be among the technologies that could usher in a new era of innovation across industries. This leap forward in computing could lead to the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs and completely safeguard cloud computing systems. It could also unlock new facets of artificial intelligence (which could lead to future, more powerful Watson technologies), develop new materials science to transform industries, and search large volumes of big data.

IBM Quantum Experience

Quantum information is very fragile and needs to be protected from any errors that can result from heat and electromagnetic radiation. Signals are sent in and out of a cryogenic dilution refrigerator to measure operations on the quantum processor.

The IBM team has made a number of robust engineering advances both at the device level and in the electronic controls to give IBM Quantum Experience users unprecedented and reliably high-quality performance in this five-qubit processor.

Coupled with software expertise from the IBM Research ecosystem, the team has built a dynamic user interface on the IBM Cloud platform that allows users to easily connect to the quantum hardware via the cloud. The team sees the introduction to the public of this complete quantum computing framework as just the start of a new user community, which embraces the quantum world and how it works.

In the future, users will have the opportunity to contribute and review their results in the community hosted on the IBM Quantum Experience and IBM scientists will be directly engaged to offer more research and insights on new advances. IBM plans to add more qubits and different processor arrangements to the IBM Quantum Experience over time, so users can expand their experiments and help uncover new applications for the technology.

IBM’s quantum computing platform is a core initiative within the newly formed IBM Research Frontiers Institute. The Frontiers Institute is a consortium that develops and shares ground-breaking computing technologies to spur world-changing innovations. Companies from diverse industries can leverage IBM’s research talent and cutting-edge infrastructure to explore what the future of quantum computing may mean for their organization and business. Founding members of the Frontiers Institute include Samsung, JSR, and Honda.

To access the IBM Quantum Experience and for more information on IBM’s quantum computing research, please visit www.ibm.com/quantumcomputing. To learn more about the IBM Research Frontiers Institute, please visit www.ibm.com/frontiers.

Written by TurboTodd

May 4th, 2016 at 2:16 pm

IBM Launches First Highly Secure Blockchain Services on IBM Cloud

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Since blockchain is an emerging technology, until now there has been little clarity on the requirements to securely operate blockchain networks in the cloud. To help speed the adoption of blockchain for business, IBM today announced a new framework for securely operating blockchain networks, as well as new services on the IBM Cloud that are designed to meet existing regulatory and security requirements.

Blockchain networks are built on the notion of decentralized control, but some cloud environments leave back doors open to vulnerabilities that allow tampering and unauthorized access. Working with teams of security experts, cryptographers, hardware experts and researchers, IBM has created essential new cloud services for tamper-resistant, trusted blockchain networks.

"Clients tell us that one of the inhibitors of the adoption of blockchain is the concern about security," said Jerry Cuomo, vice president, Blockchain, IBM. "While there is a sense of urgency to pioneer blockchain for business, most organizations need help to define the ideal cloud environment that enables blockchain networks to run securely in the cloud."

After working with hundreds of clients, startups and developers building blockchain applications, IBM is addressing their security needs in several ways, including cloud services with the highest Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS 140-2) and Evaluation Assurance Levels (EAL) in the industry to support the use of blockchain in government, financial services and healthcare. The company is also making it easier to use IBM’s code based on the Linux Foundation Hyperledger Project in any environment, and offering services on Bluemix, IBM’s cloud platform, to help developers quickly build applications.

With the opening of the IBM Garage this month in New York City, IBM is also working with clients such as BNY Mellon to accelerate the design and development of a unique application for securities lending, using a blockchain network to trade and transfer assets.

“At BNY Mellon, we are actively exploring blockchain’s potential to better serve our clients and our company,” said Suresh Kumar, CIO, BNY Mellon. “With this new initiative, IBM is providing an environment that will allow companies like us to collaborate more easily and more securely and in a more standardized way, which is critical to advancing meaningful use cases for blockchain.”

Defining a Security Framework for Blockchain in the Cloud

Built to help businesses quickly host secure, tamper-resistant networks and scale to thousands of users, IBM Cloud will allow production blockchain networks to be deployed in minutes, running signed, certified and tested Docker images with dashboards and analytics as well as support.

These new cloud services have been optimized for cloud-based blockchain networks by providing an auditable operating environment with comprehensive log data that supports forensics and compliance. Tamper-resistant storage of crypto keys and complete protection around the cryptographic module detects and responds to unauthorized attempts at physical access.

Additionally, the IBM Cloud services enable blockchain peers to run in protected environments to prevent leaks through shared memory or hardware.

"Blockchain is a highly innovative and promising technology. However there are a lot of issues to be solved for enterprise systems," said Eiji Ueki, director and executive vice president, NTT DATA. "IBM’s new blockchain cloud service is directly trying to address those issues. We believe this will help accelerate the maturation of blockchain technology."

IBM’s Blockchain for Hyperledger Now Available on DockerHub

For organizations that need the flexibility to run blockchain on different cloud servers or devices, a signed, certified distribution of IBM’s code submission to the Hyperledger project is now available on DockerHub. Ongoing updates will provide new features including dashboards, analytics, chat support and exclusive network services.

IBM Blockchain for Bluemix Provides Developers New Flexibility

For application developers who want to get a blockchain environment running almost instantly and start building applications, the beta release of IBM Blockchain on Bluemix provides access to the very latest Linux Hyperledger code, updated as the code continues to emerge. Whether on DockerHub or IBM Cloud, IBM Blockchain supports multiple industries and diverse use cases.

“Bluemix Services make it easy for Factom developers to work with IBM Blockchain code,” said Paul Snow, Chief Architect of Factom. "IBM is the single largest contributor to open source technology and the Internet would not be what it is today without their contributions. Exploring blockchain technology with IBM is exciting and our approaches are complementary. We are thrilled to see how they will help grow the industry."

Join IBM during the Consensus Building Blocks Hackathon 2016, where developers will be challenged to use IBM’s blockchain service on Bluemix to rapidly build innovative applications incorporating services such as IBM Watson, IBM Internet of Things, The Weather Channel Data and others. Voting, risk management, finance, healthcare, insurance, supply chains and IoT are some of the systems that are poised for dramatic change using blockchain networks.

For more information, visit: www.ibm.com/blockchain.

Todd "Turbo" Watson
Blog: www.turbotodd.com
Email: toddhttp://about.me/toddwatson

Written by TurboTodd

April 29th, 2016 at 2:12 pm

IBM Expands Flash Storage Solutions For Intelligent Apps in the Cloud

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IBM has announced an expansion of its flash storage portfolio to help clients more quickly extract value from data so it can be turned into a competitive advantage.

IBM launched three new all-flash array products incorporating industry-leading performance – a minimum latency of 250μs (microsecond) — to solve the challenge of accessing the massive amounts of data quickly for cloud-based applications and workloads.

Consumers today are demanding cloud-based applications that are fast, easy and intelligent. Sub-second response times are critical when data is retrieved from the cloud to deliver a unique, personalized and positive customer experience. IBM MicroLatency technology transfers data within the flash array via hardware instead of the added layer of software.

Also built into the solutions are features designed to solve cloud requirements such as quality-of-service (QoS) to prevent the impact “noisy neighbor” problems have on application performance, secure multi-tenancy, thresholding, and easy-to-deploy grid scale out.

“The drastic increase in volume, velocity and variety of information is requiring businesses to rethink their approach to addressing storage needs, and they need a solution that is as fast as it is easy, if they want to be ready for the Cognitive Era,” said Greg Lotko, general manager of IBM Storage and Software Defined Infrastructure. “IBM’s flash portfolio enables businesses on their cognitive journey to derive greater value from more data in more varieties, whether on premises or in a hybrid cloud deployment.”

Clients around the world are adopting IBM Flash Storage. For example, the Arizona State Land Department was seeking a solution that could speed access to data.

“The workloads our department manages include CAD files for land mapping, geographic information system (GIS) applications and satellite imagery for the over 9.2 million acres of State Trust lands we’re responsible to oversee. The data we manage is tied directly to our goal to make this information available and to increase its analytical capabilities,” said William Reed, chief technology officer at the Arizona State Land Department. “After exhaustive, comparative proof of concept testing we chose IBM’s FlashSystem, which has helped to increase our client productivity by 7 times while reducing our virtual machine boot times by over 85 percent.”

“American Postal Workers Union Health Plan continues to experience tremendous amounts of data growth within our medical claims department,” said Rich Myers, senior network director, American Postal Workers Union Health Plan. “We need a storage solution that easily scales, simplifies management and reporting, and lowers our costs per terabyte. IBM FlashSystem solves all these problems, and at the same time, increases the speed of our batch processing by 7 to 8 times from our previous solution removing all latency from the system.”

Representing more than 380 patents, IBM’s flash portfolio includes many breakthroughs in performance, flash durability, reliability, availability, and ease of use. In addition to cloud-enabled features, IBM flash solutions are also addressing the complexity of data management facing CSPs.

IBM’s new Hyper-Scale Manager is a simplified user interface that streamlines data movement and can manage more than one hundred units from a single user interface. Developed in collaboration with clients and leveraging IBM Design Thinking, the Hyper-Scale Manager reduces mouse clicks by more than 50 percent and eliminates time wasted toggling between the user interface and corresponding files.

All-flash solutions announced complement IBM’s existing all-flash portfolio including IBM’s midrange all-flash solutions consist of all-flash versions of the industry acclaimed Storwize® family, which offers the performance needed for real-time insights from business data combined with advanced management functions. IBM’s Big Data all-flash solution delivers a high-density multi-petabyte scale, low-cost flash option ideal for industries such as media, genomics, and life sciences.

You can learn more about IBM flash storage here.

Written by TurboTodd

April 28th, 2016 at 2:36 pm

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