The Promise of Windows 9

We are only about a month away from the developer’s preview of Windows 9 so of course news about what’s in this new Microsoft box is starting to arrive. I for one am looking forward to test driving this new Windows version. Microsoft’s vision is to learn from Windows 8 and to combine the best of Windows 8 and 7 into one unified operating system to offer more control to the users of their operating system.

So what’s new?

First – You will often hear “Windows Threshold” being referred to in the news. That is because Microsoft’s code name for Windows 9 is “Threshold”. They are one in the same.

One of Window 9’s significant feature implementations is the return of the traditional Start menu, which had been a long-standing Windows feature until Microsoft retired it with their touch heavy Windows 8. To be clear on a touch device Microsoft was correct, there really is no need for a Start button (and menu) but the majority of users, especially in business continue to rely on non-touch screens and the missing Start button was a real point of contention that would not go away, no matter how much Microsoft tried to ignore the mass outcry.

Windows 9 will bring many changes and enhancements in addition to the returning tart menu.  Of interest are new interactive Live Tiles which will apparently play a big part in Microsoft’s new UI. Also reported is the addition of a new notification center, much like we have come to expect on our smartphones.

Interactive Tiles

It is also expected that Windows 9 will also offer a host of new features and changes equating to a more well-rounded experience. Having joined the tablet market, Microsoft has certainly has hit some rock and struggled at times however with the eventual merging of Windows RT and Windows Phone combined with the Windows 9 release, it does appear that Satya Nadella’s company can expect brighter days.

What Will It Cost?

Microsoft it appears has received the message. Many users are not happy with Windows 8. There are real indications coming from Microsoft that Windows 9 will be offered “free” for current Windows 8 and 8.1 users while users on older operating systems will incur a cost of only $20.00.

There is all leads me to believe Windows 8 was a speed bump leading to better things from the software giant and the software giant adapts to the ever changing technical world.

Windows 8.1 with Bing’s Low Cost

You can see that Microsoft is really – really trying to get Windows 8.1 computers into our homes and offices.

Microsoft has this week announced a new low-cost version of Windows 8.1 that will be pre-loaded on new computers. The newest SKU (stock keeping unit) is simply called “Windows 8.1 with Bing” and according to Microsoft will allow its hardware partners to “build lower cost Windows devices.”

When I first heard rumors of this Bing-ified version of Windows 8.1 back in late February, it was being suggested that it would be made available for free. However, nothing in Microsoft’s announcement this week mentions anything about the new SKU being “free” to OEMs.

According to Microsoft, “Windows 8.1 with Bing” will look and perform exactly the same as all other versions of Windows 8.1 with Update 1. However, Bing will be mandatory as the default search engine in Internet Explorer (it is believed that OEMs can set their own default IE search engine from the factory, but this obviously won’t be the case with a subsidized version of Windows 8.1). However, customers will obviously have the ability to change their default search engine if they wish, which of course Microsoft is hoping the majority will not take the time to do.

Microsoft explained the reasoning behind providing OEMs with this new Bing-ified SKU:

More people—across consumer and commercial—will have access to an even broader selection of new devices with all the awesomeness that Windows 8.1 provides, and get Office too, all at a really affordable price. Additionally, as reach expands, the opportunity for developers and their apps also increases.

It is obvious that the only reason for doing this by Microsoft is to offer a less expensive version of  Windows 8.1 for customers.

Microsoft is hoping to push more Windows 8.1 and at the same time increasing the usage of Bing, which ironically is actually a quite good search engine.

An honorable, out-of-the-box attempt by Microsoft if you ask me.

Windows 8’s Yoga

Microsoft has released a new iPad versus Windows 8 commercial and it might be the best one yet. The 31-second commercial shows how the Lenovo Yoga offers all of the features of the iPad while in tablet mode, and then when needed, flips to the standard laptop layout while those with iPads waste time trying to attach a keyboard.

The reason why this commercial is so important is because it shows a real-world scenario of how the Lenovo Yoga bests that of the iPad in the classroom and that it is a great companion for those who students are heading back to school. Of course, seeing that the commercial came out in late August and many are already in the classroom, this commercial may have been better suited to air over the summer before the back to school goods were purchased.

While this commercial is a new spin on Microsoft’s iPad vs Windows 8 PCs, Microsoft does conveniently leave out the price, with the Yoga 11s starting at $749. While obviously more expensive, depending on how you equip the iPad, it can reach easily into that price point. In addition although this commercial displays the Yoga 11 I would tend to go with Microsoft’s Surface Pro for college students.

Windows 8.1 Preview

you are currently using Windows 8 you are aware that it obviously is a work in progress. While Windows 8 works fine on touch screens it can be clunky on non-touch screens. In addition if Microsoft has dreams of the corporate world adopting Windows 8 in the workplace further development and customization is required. Microsoft has obviously been working on some of these issues as the upcoming release of Windows 8.1 (or Windows Blue) proves. As with Windows 8 and Office 2013 Microsoft will be releasing a “preview” a few months before the final release on June 26.

It makes sense to look at what the Windows 8.1 Preview will bring to the table, and its requirements and changes, before you make a decision whether you should upgrade your system to the preview build right away.

For many users, it may be better to wait until the final version of Windows 8.1 gets released. While there is no definite date set for that yet, it is likely that Microsoft will make it available just a couple of months after the release of the preview version.

The system requirements have not changed at all.

  • 1 GHz or faster processor.
  • 1 Gigabyte or 2 Gigabyte of RAM depending on whether you are using a 32-bit or 64-bit system.
  • 16 Gigabyte or 20 Gigabyte of hard drive space again depending on whether you are using a 32-bit or 64-bit system.
  • Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics card.

Windows RT users need to have at least 10 Gigabyte of free storage on their device for the upgrade.
There is one main change though that users need to know about. You need to use a Microsoft account to sign in to PCs that run the preview build of Windows 8.1 There is no option to create a local account in the release, but Microsoft promises that it will be made available when the final version of Windows 8.1 gets released later this year.

Windows 8.1 Preview will be made available via Windows Store as a direct download and as a Preview ISO image. If you want to download it from Windows Store, you need to install an update first on the system that you get from the Windows 8.1 Preview download page. Next time you start the system after installing the update you receive a notification that you can get Windows 8.1 Preview for free from the store.

An Internet connection is needed to download the app from Store, but once it has been downloaded no Internet connection is required until the update has been successfully installed and the system rebooted.

You can alternatively download the Windows 8.1 Preview ISO from the download page and use it to install the operating system. You will need a product key that Microsoft makes available on the download page. It is likely that this is a generic key that all users who install the preview build share.

What’s New in Windows 8.1?


  • Boot to Desktop
  • More rows on start screen and additional tile sizes.
  • Improvements for mouse and keyboard users on the desktop and start screen.
  • Snap View feature improved, supports now up to three apps.
  • Internet Explorer 11.
  • Windows Defender with network behavior monitoring.
  • Device Lockdown with Assigned Access (RT, Pro and Enterprise) to enable a “single Windows Store application experience on a device”.
  • Pervasive Device Encryption for all Windows editions. Enabled out of the box and can be configured “with additional BitLocker protection and management capabilities”.
  • Improved Biometrics including optimization for fingerprint based biometrics.
  • Remote Business data removal.
  • Support for a wider range of VPN clients and auto-triggered VPN.
  • Broadband tethering.
  • Windows Store enabled by default for Windows To Go users.
  • Bring your own Device enhancements such as work folders, Wi-Fi direct printing, RDS enhancements and web application proxy.
  • SkyDrive is integrated natively into Windows 8.1 but does not sync data automatically to the PC. Placeholders are displayed instead.
  • You need to sign in to a Microsoft account to use the store.
  • All Windows 8 apps will work on Windows 8.1 but not the other way round.
  • Apps are automatically updated unless you are connected to a metered Internet connection.
  • Desktop background can now be displayed on start screen.
  • Lock Screen slideshow of photos.
  • Aggregated search powered by Bing.
  • Improved stock apps and new apps such as a Calculator, Sound Recorder and new Alarm features.
  • PC Settings updated (the start screen control panel) so that it is no longer necessary to switch to the desktop Control Panel.
  • Start button that links to the start screen.


You will lose access to apps and programs that you have installed on Windows 8.1 Preview systems when you upgrade to the final RTM version of the operating system.

I may actually end up waiting if it is indeed true that all applications will need to be re-installed when moving from the preview release to the final RTM. I am still waiting on what is happening here before deciding what to do.

Windows 8.1 Sneek Peak

Its no secreat that Microsoft has taken some heat from consumers for Windows 8. While I believe much of this is a little unfair to Microsoft perhaps they did move ahead a little too fast for many consumers. With this in mind Microsoft today offered a ‘first look’ at its upcoming Windows 8.1 operating system via a blog post by Antoine Leblond, Corporate Vice President, Windows Program Management.

You can read all about the new features below…


In Windows 8.1, you’ll be able to do more to personalize the experience on your device. As people started using Windows 8, we found that people were using their Locks screens to show pictures of their families. So in Windows 8.1, you can turn your PC or tablet into a picture frame by making your Lock screen a slide show of your pictures – either locally on the device or photos from the cloud in SkyDrive. We also added the ability to take pictures with the built-in camera right from the Lock screen without having to log in.

Windows 8.1 offers more colors and backgrounds for the Start screen – including ones with motion. You can even choose your desktop background as your Start screen background, creating a greater sense of unity and familiarity. And the Start screen in Windows 8.1 features a variety of tile sizes including a new large and new small tile, so you can organize your Start screen exactly the way you want it. It’s also even easier to name groups and rearrange tiles. You can now select multiple apps all at once, resize them, uninstall them, or rearrange them. We also found people were accidentally moving tiles on their Start screen so in Windows 8.1, you press and hold (or right click) to move things around.

You can view all apps just by swiping from the bottom to view all apps, and we’ve added the ability to filter your apps by name, date installed, most used, or by category. You want the Start screen to be about all the things you love. So when you install a new app from the Windows Store, we no longer put that app on your Start screen. Instead, you’ll find these apps under apps view as mentioned above and marked as “new” where you can choose to pin the apps you want to your Start screen.

In Windows 8.1, the Search charm will provide global search results powered by Bing in a rich, simple-to-read, aggregated view of many content sources (the web, apps, files, SkyDrive, actions you can take) to provide the best “answer” for your query. We think this will really change the way you interact with the Web and with windows making it quicker and easier to get things done. It is the modern version of the command line!

Quick actions include things you would want to do like play a song or video. Results from local files, apps, and settings are easily accessed in the same convenient view by scrolling to the left.

Apps and Windows Store:
We will be improving all our built in apps that come with Windows 8 for Windows 8.1. For example, the Photos app now has some new editing features that lets you quickly edit or adjust photos when you view them in the Photos app or open them from other places like the Mail, SkyDrive, and Camera apps. And our Music app has been completely redesigned to help pick and play music from your collection. We plan to talk more about updates to the built in apps in Windows 8.1 and some brand new apps we will be introducing in a future blog post.

We’re also making improvements for using multiple apps at once in Windows 8.1. Windows 8.1 brings variable, continuous size of snap views. You will have more ways to see multiple apps on the screen at the same time. You can resize apps to any size you want, share the screen between two apps, or have up to three apps on each screen if you have a multiple displays connected, you can have different Windows Store apps running on all the displays at the same time and the Start Screen can stay open on one monitor. This makes multi-tasking even easier. Also in Windows 8.1, you can have multiple windows of the same app snapped together – such as two Internet Explorer windows.

The improved Windows Store in Windows 8.1 is designed to show more info than before in Windows 8 with detailed lists of top free apps, new releases, and picks for you on the homepage. The app listing is more descriptive and informative and includes an area for related apps to help with app discovery. Categories are listed with other app commands such as links to your apps and your account information. App updates install automatically in the background as well as they come through the Store. And search is available in the upper right hand corner for finding the apps you want.

Cloud Connectivity:
In Windows 8.1 your files can be saved directly to SkyDrive, so you can always have your files with you. The new SkyDrive app gives you access to your files that are on your device or in the cloud, and files are accessible even when offline.

Also, when you log on to your Windows 8.1 device with your Microsoft account ( by default), your device magically becomes personalized with your settings and apps, making switching or setting up a new device really easy.

PC Settings:
The updated PC Settings in Windows 8.1 gives you access to all your settings on your device without having to go to the Control Panel on the desktop. You can do things like change your display resolution, set power options, see the make and model of my PC, change the product key, let me do Windows Update, and even join a domain – all from PC Settings. You can even manage SkyDrive from PC Settings as well and see how much available storage you have (and buy more if needed).

Internet Explorer:

Web browsing continues to be one of the most popular activities on any device. That’s why with Windows 8.1, you also get Internet Explorer 11 (IE11). IE11 builds on the advancements in IE10 and is the only browser that is built for touch. IE11 will offer even better touch performance, faster page load times and several other new features we think you will enjoy. For example, you can now adjust the appearance of modern IE11 to always show the address bar and you can have as many open tabs as you like. And you can access your open tabs in sync across your other Windows 8.1 devices.

Better Mouse and Keyboard Options:

PCs today are evolving for a world of mobile computing where people interact with their devices through touch, and we designed Windows 8 for this. But we also recognize there are many non-touch devices in use today – especially in the commercial setting. As such we’ve focused on a number of improvements to ensure easier navigation for people using a mouse and keyboard.

We’ve improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start “tip” to be the familiar Windows logo. The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop. There are also options to change what the corners do, and options to boot into alternate screens. For example, if you prefer to see the Apps view versus all the tiles, you can choose to have the Start screen go directly to Apps view.

Windows 8.1 will be available later this year as a free update to Windows 8 users via the Windows Store. Microsoft will release a preview of Windows 8.1 on June 26th, the start date of its Build developer conference.

In Defense of Windows 8

Even if you only vaguely pay attention to technology news you no doubt heard how PC sales are at an all-time low and that Windows 8 is the cause. I am here to defend Microsoft’s Windows 8 – sort of.

It cannot be disputed that PC sales have been declining and in fact are indeed at an all-time low. Why this is a shock to everyone simply amazes me. If you look at this trend with a very broad scope – it is easy to explain and more importantly to be expected. Here are some facts to look at before reflecting on what is actually happening in the consumer market as we speak.

During the early 1980’s the first low-cost home computers began to appear on the market. A price war began and home computers were soon showing up in homes across America. IBM PC clones began dominating the market by the late 1980’s. There were always rivals like Apple during this time period, however PC Clones were the easy choice for most people. By 2001 personal computers, running Microsoft’s Windows operating system were controlling the market. This dominance continued until the third quarter of 2008 when laptops made their first real (affordable) appearance in the consumer market. At the time computer sales had reached the one billion mark.

Laptops date all the way back to 1976 however for the consumer these mobile computers became a true option in 2006 and 2007.  The appearance of truly affordable and usable laptops by mid-2008 is important because it marked the first time that personal computers had a true competitor, the laptop. Consumers now had a real choice when it was time to replace their old computer. Should they replace their PC with a laptop or purchase another PC? In fact the choice consumers were making regarding personal computers when provided options is clear as far back as this point in 2008. During the third quarter of 2008 laptops outpaced personal computers in sales.  Let’s be clear – Windows XP was the operating system at this time. Windows XP had nothing to do with the shift away from personal computers. I believe that the same can be said for Windows 8 today, but we will get to that later.
The competition for sales is only beginning in 2008. Just like laptops, smartphones are older than you may think. The first actual prototype appeared in 1992 built by IBM. Bell South than built one in 1994. Then Nokia premiered Nokia 9000 in 1996. As you can see smartphones have been around for quite awhile.  Companies including Palm, HP, Blackberry and even Windows were writing software for smartphones throughout the mid to late 1990’s. By the late 2000’s right around the time of the truly affordable laptop the popularity of smartphones was proven. Here you have the second competitor with personal computers.

Tablets like smartphones and laptops have a longer history then one might expect. Did you know that the first patent for a “tablet used for handwriting” was granted in 1888? That is not a typo. 1888 – Not 1988. For the purpose of keeping this article as short as possible lets jump ahead 122 years. You see it was here, in 2010 that Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad. This was a disaster for personal computers. This is because many consumers simply do not need the complexity of computers. Many people only require the ability to access email, the internet, the ability to shop online, games and the ability to write letters and other documents. Apple’s iPad offered this. The operating system as this time running most computers was Windows 7. PC sales which had already been declining continued to do so. To make matters worse for PC sales Android tablets appeared in early 2011 followed by the Amazon Kindle in September of 2011 and in October 2012 Microsoft launched it’s Surface tablet line. Tablets today are appearing in every size and shape imaginable.

Fast forward to today as we near the end of this article. Today personal computers are at a crossroads and Microsoft is obviously very aware of this. Computing tools are all around us truly for the first time in history. Today consumers can choose personal computerslaptopssmartphones and now tabletsto meet their computing needs. Most consumers simply will not purchase “all of the above”.

Microsoft also realizes that the way in which we use our computers is evolving, even if many consumers refuse to acknowledge it. Think about it. With the exception of most personal computers all of the devices I mentioned in this article have “touch screens”. There is no reason that computers cannot be used in this manner as well. This is why Windows 8 is designed in the way that it is. I believe that Microsoft sees a day in which we will use our smartphones, tablets and computers all in the same way and that all the devives we use will be synced together.
Personal computers sales will never be what they once were. Let me be clear. In my humble opinion Windows 8 has very little to do with this so I really hope that people stop blaming it. Competition from within the digital market is the explanation. For many users a tablet or even a good smartphone meets their everyday digital needs.

Windows 8 needs to and will improve as Microsoft’s development of it continues. But to blame the woes of computers sales on it is foolish, easy and wrong. 

Windows Phone Moves into 3rd Place

I have been predicting this for almost a year now so when I read that Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform has leaped past Blackberry (formally known as RIM) into the third place position for mobile operating systems I just had to report it here.

Stategy Analytics reveled on February 6, 2013 that “Microsoft Windows Phone” overtook Blackberry OS to become the third largest smartphone platform in the United States maket during Q4 2012.
Blackberry had held this position since 2006 so this is big news for Microsoft as they struggle to gain market share in the mobile world.

If you are a regular reader of this fine blog you will recall that I used a Windows 8 phone throughout January. Although I switched back to my iPhone afterward i was impressed with many of the features Windows 8 had to offer. However the platform is still in the infancy stage and needs a little more time to develop. I am hopeful that I will soon be switching back to the Windows Phone because I do miss having Microsoft Office and Skydrive always accessible to me.

Windows 8 Phone – If Wishes Were Horses

I lasted a month with my Windows 8 phone. We had some goodtimes – we had some not so good times. There is an old saying that  goes something like this that describes my feeling about the Windows 8 phone. It goes like this, “Wishing for something doesn’t make it true”. Don’t get me wrong. I really – really want Microsoft to find success with their Windows phone. There are some unique benefits to their phone that cannot be found anywhere else. However the Windows phone is in the baby stages of development and there is still a little work to be done before Microsoft can truly nudge their way into relevance in the smartphone world.  This is not to be unexpected, the head start Apple (2007) and Android (2008) have over Microsoft (2010) is significant.  If you further consider that Microsoft only launched their Windows 8 phone on December 20, 2012 they truly have a lot of ground to catch up.
After using the Windows 8 phone for a month I came to the following conclusions.

It’s all about the Apps

Sadly it’s all about the Apps for many smartphone users. Android and Apple have done an amazing job of enticing companies to develop apps for their smartphones. If you are a business you almost are required today to develop and release an IPhone and Android app. The amount of Apps has exploded since 2007 and 2008. Microsoft has a lot of catch up to do here if they want consumers to move to their eco-system. The good news is I believe Microsoft realizes this and they are working to increase the amount of Apps available as quickly as possible.

I Want My Music

Yes – I know this is not exactly business related. However most users of smart phones have stopped carrying separate portable music players and rely on their smartphone for this. In addition if Microsoft is going to be successful with their Windows phones they cannot rely only on the professional consumer. This is what RIM did and look what has happened to that company. Microsoft has never got the music player right. Microsoft’s biggest effort with music players was Zune (2006) which never competed with Apple in any meaningful way. This was simply because Zune is not that good. It was overly complicated. The music player on the Windows 8 phone is not much better. Importing music and tags* is erratic and overly complex. This will need to improve as well for the Windows phone to find mass appeal.

* Tags contain the information in music files such as artist name, song name, album title, album year, album art in additional to other details regarding the song file.

The Windows Advantage

There are some great advantages that Microsoft has over Apple and Android even at this early stage. The first and most important is Microsoft Office integration. With the addition of SkyDrive integration accessing documents is far easier and efficient on the Windows phone then any of its competitors.

Sharepoint and Lync users will also find the integration of these services seemless, which is not true on Android and IPhones.

Microsoft has demonstrated real innovation with the Windows 8 operating system. Moving away from icons that include several screens to a live tile interface is the first real change in smartphones since 2007. Because of this live tile interface no 2 Windows 8 phones look alike once the user begins customizing their phone. This cannot be said for IPhones and Android phones.

I will stay on top of the continued development of the Windows 8 phone. I hope to find myself using a Windows 8 phone again. I truly believe it has the capability to become a true option not just for the everyday consumer but professional organizations as well.

2 Week Review of My Windows 8 Phone

OK it’s been about 2 weeks since I gave up my IPhone for a Windows 8 Phone. There have been some tough times during these past 2 weeks and sometimes I actually miss my old IPhone. However that being said I must say I have been adapting to this new smartphone.  The problem in my opnion is that innovation inside of Apple has slowed to a crawl, especially in respect to their smartphone. The IPhone today (IPhone 5) actually in many ways is the same phone as the original (IPhone 3G). Sure the processors have improved, 4G is now available and SIRI is available when you are lonely. Other than this the innovation within Apple has been incredibly slow in respect to the development on the IPhone product. 5 years have passed (2007) between the first 3G model and the current IPhone 5 (2013) model. That’s a really long time in the tech world.

Anyway enough of the past and on to my experience with the new Windows 8 Phone. Unlike the IPhone there are various manufactures developing and building Windows phones. Each wireless provider offers different models. I have a Nokia Lumia 822. In previous posts I have written about my disappointment with the Windows Music player and App Store.  Moving on from these issues my experience gets much better.

Here are some of the highlights. 

Before I move on to some specifics let me say that the voice quality on the Nokia Lumia 822 is loud and clear. Music playback is also very good. The form factor although a little heaver & thicker than the IPhone 5 is actually very nice. I have found that the battery (which is removable) will easily last 24 hours with normal usage.

The Lock Screenis very customizable. Services such as the Weather Channel, ESPN & Facebook can be used as live wallpaper. Updates can be displayed on the lock screen as well.

Home Screen Displaying Weather
Microsoft Officeintegration is really where the Windows 8 Phone shines above any of its competitors. With the integration of SkyDrive, accessing & working on your files has never been easier or more efficient. Office even displays your “recent documents” to quickly access a file you are reading or working on. The “recent documents” are linked to the documents on your PC or tablet.

SkyDrive has really improved over the past year. Microsoft currently is offering 7 GBs free. If you do not use Office SkyDrive is still there to manage and store documents. SkyDrive can also be accessed on your PC at

The interface of the Windows 8 Phone is also far superior to the IPhone. I also give Microsoft credit here for developing a completely new design for their smartphone. In place of stagnate icons and screens that move from left & right are “live tiles” that can be sized from small to medium to large. When the tiles are medium or large “live” content is often displayed. Because of this no two Windows 8 phones will look alike once the user begins designing their display.

Although managing your music is a much more challanging task as opposed to the IPhone once configured it is actually not that bad. That being said there is work that needs to be done with the music player if Microsoft wants to seriously compete with the non-professional consumer. I have hope here because there is word that SkyDrive integration is around the corner. This would seem to be a natural place to store music in the cloud.

I will be continuing to use & evaluate this phone. With each passing week I become more convinced and hopeful that the Windows phone can become a real possibility, especially for the professional who wants to have a true “smartphone” that can do it all while remaining customizable and fun.

Wireless @ Work

OK as I have been suggesting and predicting for almost a year know tablets are going to eventually take over the computing word. They have already begun this take over in the consumer market. You could see this when it was reported that for the first time in a decade computer sales actually fell this holiday season. However the biggest hurdle for tablets is going to be in the professional market. This will happen eventually as well, it will just take a bit more time. With each new innovation in software and hardware development we are inching closer to a tablet dominated workplace. I am not talking ipads here folks. Windows 8 tablets will probably be the winner here.

An example of this trend is my ongoing effort to find new and exciting ways of getting our work done…. at work. Access to work files and programs will eventually be available wherever we go. Today this vision is beginning to come true.

Through a secure wireless network with AD sync here you can see I am running one of our programs on a Windows 8 tablet.

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