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20
Apr
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X-Mini WE Speaker Review


X-mini WE Product Images (1)

Following up on our post on the X-mini series, I had a chance to play with the X-Mini WE speaker for a few weeks. I’ll admit, I was pleasantly surprised. X-mini’s slogan is “Sound Beyond Size” and this miniature speaker had giant sized sound.

The X-Mini WE unit I reviewed was the version that had both Bluetooth and NFC. Two simple functions to make using the speaker as simple as taping the your devices together and flipping a switch.

When the package finally arrived, I could not wait to open it. Curiously inside I found this small little cube. I should have figured, I mean the speaker is called the “X-Mini”. To give you an idea of how small, let’s say the total package was about the size of a Rubik’s cube. Inside I found some basic instructions, a strap for the speaker, an I ♥ X-Mini sticker, and a nice little cable array. This cable had three connections, one being a USB for charging, a Micro-USB to go to the speaker for charging, and an audio cable. The interesting thing about this is that you would connect the audio cable to a laptop, and the cable system converts the analog audio into the Micro-USB that plug into the speaker for charging. This eliminates the need for two audio cables, which if you ask me is a plus.

Now that the speaker and accessories are out of the box, you have to imagine the size of this speaker. It is small. I truthfully did not expect much. It is only 48mm x 40mm with a weight of 48 grams. Even with the added functionality of both Bluetooth and NFC, this version only weighs 4 grams more than the non-Bluetooth/NFC version. It is small and light which means it is very portable. You can literally attach it on your keychain or carry it in your pocket. Despite the miniature size, the device seems very durable. I would think it could survive a couple drops without shattering into a million pieces.

As duly noted, the size on this device is one of the tiniest speakers I’ve ever seen. Let’s take a look and see what was jammed into the inner workers of this little beast:

X-Mini WE:

Dimensions: 48mm x 40mm
Net Weight: 48g
Speaker: Magnetically Shielded 31mm (3.6Ω)
Loudspeaker Output: 1.5W
Frequency Response: 200Hz-20kHz
Signal-to-Noise: ≥80dB
Distortion: ≤0.3%
Playback Time: Up to 6 hours
Battery Capacity: 230mAh
Battery Charging Voltage: 5V (USB)
Battery Charge Time: Minimum of 1.5 hours

Bluetooth Specifications:

Operating Frequency Range: 2.4GHz – 2.48GHz
Wireless Range: Up to 10 meters/33 feet
Bluetooth Compliant: v3.0 (with one-tap-pair NFC)
Bluetooth Profile Support: A2DP Stereo
Bluetooth Playback Time: Up to 4 hours

For some comparison on size, I’ve taken a picture of the speaker lined up with a large sized paperclip. The second picture shows the width versus the same paperclip.

X-Mini WE Size Comparison

X-Mini WE Size Comparison against a large paperclip

X-Mini WE Width Comparison against a large paperclip

X-Mini WE Width Comparison against a large paperclip

 

The only thing about speakers though is that while size matters for portability, the sound quality is ultimately what will make people buy or not buy this product. Getting sound out of my product was a little troublesome at first. I have two cell phones and a tablet. I was not easily able to pair the speaker with any of them on the first shot. I had to do multiple attempts, which included turning on and off the Bluetooth, turning on and off the speaker, and finally it would pair with the device I was looking for. I was never able to get it to pair with the device using NFC for the first time. I’ve always had to connect it directly via Bluetooth for the initial connection. Considering I had problems with all three of my devices, I would like to think that it was not user error. I will admit though, after the rocky initial pairing of the device, once the device was paired, reconnecting the device using NFC was amazingly easy especially compared to how difficult the initial pairing was. It was literally tap the bottom of the speaker against my device and three seconds later sound is coming from the speaker.

So now that it is connect, what song do I play? I pump on some Aerosmith with the song of choice being Mama Kin. I figured it being one of my favorite songs it would give me great comparison on what I am used to hearing versus what this speaker is playing. The sound is muffled. It sounds “OK” but it is not very clear and really not what I expected, not to mention the volume was a lot lower than advertised. That’s when I noticed that I was supposed to remove that little rubber cap on the top of the device. Apparently that is there to protect the speaker and must be removed before enjoying the music (insert DOH! here).

X-Mini WE Top Off

X-Mini WE with the rubber top removed

 

What a difference a rubber lid makes… Seriously. The sound comes blaring through this little speaker about double as loud as I ever expected. I have now listened to about 12 hours worth of music on this speaker since Xmi Pte Ltd was nice enough to send me one to review. I have gotten a decent amount of airplay out of the speaker and must say that the playback times and charge time seem to be pretty accurate depending on various factors. I averaged about three and a half hours per charge, which is probably due to the fact that I have had it on full blast every time the speaker was on. The only negative I found with the quality of sound is that I, as did our reviewer in the X-Mini ME hands on, found that the bass was a little lacking. This may be a trade-off due to the size of the speaker, but I will admit, it was not that big of a deal, especially if you are looking for a small size but loud speaker.

Overall I feel that this is a solid device. Price-wise, if you purchase it from Amazon, it is astonishingly only $24.99. I am giving this item 4.5 out of 5 stars. I deducted a half a star for the difficulties with connecting via Bluetooth initially and because it does need a small boost in bass. Other than those minor details this is an amazing device that offers durability, portability and sound volume that you would expect out of a larger speaker. The best part about it is that the price matches the size. If you are looking for a small speaker that you can pop out to enjoy tunes or watch a video on-the-go under $30, then X-Mini WE is the portable speaker for you.

The X-Mini WE is available on the X-Mini Store or for $24.99 on Amazon.

The post X-Mini WE Speaker Review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

20
Apr
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Joystiq Weekly: Nintendo foibles, LGBT gaming cons and crash-prone dirtbikes


Welcome to the Joystiq Weekly wrap-up where we present some of the best stories and biggest gaming news from our sister-publication.

With a few smart and unobtrusive tweaks to its thorny heart, Trials Fusion nails its balance between purity and cruelty. The new tricks system doesn’t betray the game’s simple roots, and instead makes a perfect landing seem even less attainable at times – and more rewarding. The primal pleasures of Trials live on and into the future, leaning forward just a tad.

That’s it! Be sure to check back next Sunday for another recap, or if you’re impatient, click over to Joystiq and catch the news the moment that it happens.

[Image credit: Rddyms/Flickr]

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Source: Joystiq

20
Apr
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IRL: Kogan’s Agora HD, a $189 smartphone made obsolete by the Moto G


Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we’re using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: Kogan's Agora HD, a $189 smartphone made obsolete by the Moto G

When I first came across Kogan at last year’s CES, it was for the launch of the Aussie company’s very first Agora smartphone. It was a modestly specced handset with some performance issues, but that was understandable: the going price was just $149, a sign that affordability was considered above all else. Then just nine months later, a follow-up smartphone, the Agora HD, was announced. A new 720p, 5-inch display and quad-core 1.2GHz processor were the headline features, but really there were improvements across the board. It was inevitable the price had to go up, too, but even then $189 felt like a small hop compared with the leap in hardware.

In theory, at least, the only “value propositions” I could think of to pit against the Agora HD were nameless Android smartphones with similar specs available on eBay, Amazon and other etailers. I guess one advantage to Kogan is that it has a website you can visit and various ways to get in touch, not that I have any personal experience with its customer service. The company doesn’t make its own devices, though, but I was told by Kogan that it worked with a manufacturer to steer hardware and design decisions, meaning than the Agora HD isn’t merely a rebadged device. Anyway, the new handset had me intrigued, and I was eager to try it out.

When a unit landed on my doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised. For some reason, I’d built up the impression it would be sloppily constructed, even though the first Agora was actually quite well made. Build quality was of a high standard, with a rubbery, textured back panel wrapping the majority of the device and a glass-dominated face. If Samsung’s Galaxy S III and HTC’s One X had a love child, it would look like the Agora HD, with the general stylings of the former and camera hump of the latter. Inspiration isn’t a bad thing, though, and Kogan managed to pull off a perfectly respectable, if not generic, handset.

My initial impressions were quickly dulled, however, as I spent the next hour with a scalpel, an old mini-SIM and backache, crafting an adapter for my micro-SIM. I’m still not entirely sure why Kogan decided on two mini-SIM slots for the Agora HD. But then again, I’m not au fait with SIM standards in every market where the Agora HD’s sold, so maybe it caters to the majority. Once the adapter chore was complete, the phone settled in as my daily driver with surprising ease. Having had the opportunity to fondle a bunch of top-tier phones, I was prepared for a notable gap in performance, but the Agora HD purrs along quite nicely. Thanks are partly due, no doubt, to the simple, clean AOSP Android 4.2.2 build. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that MediaTek quad-core processor, though: it’ll see you through an online round of ShadowGun: DeadZone as well as any flagship.

At first, I didn’t really want for anything. Battery life was no better or worse than what I’m used to (a day, day and a half of normal usage). And as I mentioned, the performance was more than acceptable. But at $189, there had to be some corners cut, right? Yep. For starters, I was forever reading roaming warning messages, as if the handset couldn’t suss out the origin of my SIM. GPS was erratic, frequently taking an age to find signal, only then to jump to random locations and back. Furthermore, the display auto-brightness setting was like staring into a strobe light.

Otherwise, the 720p display had nice color temperature, but was basically useless in strong sunlight, regardless of how high the brightness was set. The 8-megapixel camera, too, had the opposite affliction. Even in moderately low-light conditions, quality tanked heavily. Turned out you could only squeeze a 6-megapixel image out of the stock camera app, and in tricky lighting conditions the auto-contrast and white balance settings tended to go awry. Focus and shutter speeds were a little sluggish also, but as with most smartphone cameras with a few megapixels, I took a number of memorable snaps when conditions were just right (see the shot below for an example).

One major issue I experienced was an incompatibility with headphones that have a mic/button module. Music came out muffled and impossible to listen to — unless you held the button down — then it came through clear as day. Needless to say, I didn’t use it as my portable jukebox. Despite all this, though, I used the Agora HD for some time without any one problem driving me to switch, and I’ve used it since on occasion. I was constantly reminded I was holding a fairly powerful handset for $189 all in. And that’s worth… something.

I initially thought that Kogan had arrived at a particularly opportune time, given the recent retirement of the $199 Nexus 4. That window was short, however, as I had ended up switching from the Agora HD to the Moto G. I’d determined the former’s killer feature was its price, and then the Moto G arrived at $10 cheaper, for $179. It was totally polished, and I had little to complain about compared with the relatively mammoth list of cons I had for the Agora HD. Still, if Kogan decides to give it another shot with a third iteration that’s as much an improvement as this model was over the original, well, I’m sure I’d be intrigued to check that out, too.

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20
Apr
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First Generation Apple TVs Unable to Connect to iTunes


appletv-326x-tjlApple’s first generation Apple TV have lost their ability to connect to iTunes and appears to be affecting users worldwide.

A lengthy Apple Discussions page shows that the problem started on the 17th of April and has persisted for 1st generation Apple TV users. Forum poster georgevargas describes the issue:

As of last night I had full access to the iTunes Store. Since this morning I was getting an Itunes Store Not Available message, and after unplugging the AppleTv the iTunes Store access completly disappeared except for movie trailers.

Users have gone through the usual diagnostics, including rebooting and restoring, but have found that nothing has restored connectivity. MacRumors has confirmed the issue on our own 1st generation Apple TV.

The initial timing of the outage corresponds to the FaceTime not working for iOS 6 users, suggesting some internal changes by Apple has affected both services. Some users are speculating that internal communication upgrades related to the Heartbleed security issue could be related. Apple denied that Heartbleed affected any of their “key services” but did not elaborate on what those might be.

Apple has not provided any statement on if and when 1st generation Apple TV functionality will be restored or not. The first generation Apple TV was released in January, 2007 and was sold until September, 2010.



20
Apr
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Gadget Rewind 2006: Lego Mindstorms NXT


It’s our 10th birthday, and to celebrate we’ll be revisiting some of the key devices of the last decade. So please be kind, rewind.

Lego, the popular toy brick maker, graduated from simple plastic playthings in 1998 when it released its Mindstorms Robotics Invention System (RIS). Born of a collaboration between Lego and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), these “toys” let users build a variety of interactive humanoid, animal and vehicular robots. Although the product underwent iterative revisions over the years, it wasn’t until 2006 that the company decided to introduce its true next generation of Mindstorms kits, appropriately dubbed NXT.

This updated series ditched the iconic brickwork-style that’s made Lego famous, opting instead for more streamlined, though still interlocking, gray plastic pieces. It was also the first Mindstorms line to offer a Mac-compatible version of its icon-based building software alongside the existing Windows version; software which let users program specific movements and tasks by simply dragging and dropping predefined function blocks. The appeal of Lego’s NXT series wasn’t exclusive to just hobbyists, either. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon joined in on the fun and developed a new RobotC programming language that works well with the series.

Lego also gave its Mindstorms line a processing boost with the release of the NXT series. Compared to the original RIS’ meager 8-bit “RCX” CPU, Lego’s NXT was four times more powerful thanks to an upgraded 32-bit microprocessor. Fresh interactive components were added to the mix, too, including sensors for motion- and audio-based control.

In September 2013, Lego upped the ante for its smart-toy arsenal once again with the EV3 robotics platform. This new Mindstorms line, now backwards-compatible with the NXT series, touted several expected enhancements to its sensor load and processing might. Lego even set up a Mindstorms community for this launch where users could share their creations and collaborate with other builders. But the EV3 series’ real standout feature wasn’t its social angle; it was Lego’s dedicated mobile apps. One of which, the aptly titled Robot Commander, turned iOS and Android devices into remote controls for Mindstorms projects.

Brick by brick, Lego’s smart Mindstorms sets have evolved over the years to help transform a casual hobbyist pastime into an engaging crash course on robotics. A legacy that has left us with no shortage of amateur Wall-E’s and Johnny 5′s to pore over and adore.


Did you own a Lego Mindstorms NXT? Add it to your Engadget profile as a device you had (or still have) and join the discussion to reminisce or share photos of your device with other like-minded gadget fans.

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20
Apr
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Inhabitat’s Week in Green: flexible circuit boards, BMW i3 and the world’s first urban algae canopy


Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.

When you think about transportation innovations, highways probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. But Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde recently rolled out the first “smart” highway in the Netherlands — and it utilizes glow-in-the-dark lane lines, interactive lights and smart road signs to make roadways safer and more sustainable. The skincare company Foreo has come up with a far less practical plan to lessen our need for streetlights: Increase the moon’s reflectivity to make the night sky brighter. The bizarre idea calls for coating part of the moon in a reflective surface in order to increase the amount of light it reflects back to the Earth at night.

In other space news, NASA launched the very first vegetable greenhouse into space, and in case you missed this week’s epic blood moon, the organization took some stunning footage of the event. Meanwhile, James Dyson wants to create an enormous vacuum that could be placed on a boat to clean up ocean debris. In wearable technology, a pair of researchers has developed a stick-on, flexible circuit board that could be used to build cheap, tiny “wearable” phones. And Google beat out Facebook in its bid to acquire Titan Aerospace, a solar-powered drone manufacturer. Google says it will use the drones to bring internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.

Milan Design Week is the world’s biggest furniture fair, and this year’s show didn’t disappoint. Danish designer Johanna Riedl showed off her Saw Dust Chair, which uses recycled sawdust from its own manufacture to create a cushion. Italian design studio Digital Habits featured its new Dragon Lamp, a modular LED light made from interlocking triangular panels that can be controlled with a smartphone. The show also featured some impressive new 3D printing innovations, like the FoldaRap open-source 3D printer, which can be folded to fit into your rucksack to print objects on the go. And London-based designer Beth Lewis-Williams used 3D printing to create a beautiful series of lamps inscribed with images of cities and natural landscapes.

Road trip season is almost upon us, and driver Norman Hajjar got in the spirit by taking a Tesla Model S sedan on a record-breaking 12,000-mile trip across the US. In other green transportation news, Chevrolet may be planning to launch two versions of the Chevy Volt next year — a cheaper version with shorter electric range, and a fully electric Volt with a 200-mile driving range. The BMW i3 electric car racked up the awards at the 2014 New York Auto Show, taking home the Green Car Of The Year and the Car Design Of The Year awards. Volvo announced this week that it will unveil its S60L PPHEV (Petrol Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) concept car at the Beijing Auto Show next week. And motorcycle maker Johammer just released its funky-looking J1 electric motorcycle, which can get more than 125 miles on a single charge.

In NYC, Chad Kellogg and Matt Bowles of AMLGM Labs unveiled plans for a wild new transit hub that looks like an alien organism landed in Queens. In other green architecture and design news, ecoLogic Studio has created the world’s first urban algae canopy, which produces the equivalent of four hectares of woodland every day. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is an extreme condition that causes people to have an allergy-like reaction to everyday household items, like computers, light fixtures and even paint. Europe’s first chemical-free housing complex for people who suffer from MCS was recently completed near Zurich in Switzerland. In the Chinese city of Wuxi, workers recently broke ground on a spiraling, green-roofed kindergarten that’s filled with natural light. And as we gear up for summer, Inhabitat rounded up five of the year’s top tiny homes, campers and trailers for a green getaway.

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20
Apr
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Samsung data center fire causes outage, errors on smart TVs and phones (update: fixed)


Seeing an error message on your Samsung phone, tablet or Smart TV today? You’re not alone, as the Samsung.com website appears to be down and owners worldwide have reported anything from error messages to being unable to access apps on their smart TVs. Reports have spread on Twitter, mostly from a community news site called Wikitree, that a fire at a Samsung SDS building in Gwacheon, South Korea is the culprit. We’ve contacted Samsung but haven’t heard anything back yet, and while some of its social media pages have noted the outage, there isn’t an official explanation posted.

Update: Naturally now that we’ve mentioned it, the outage that lasted several hours appears to have ended around 6:15AM ET. Many of the same users who were having problems with their smart TVs and phones seem to have full access again, and Samsung.com is back up and running. A Samsung SDS blog post confirms the fire and subsequent outage, while apologizing for the inconvenience. Despite some scary photos (after the break) Korean news reports indicate there were no fatalities. The big question left? Why a fire at one location seemed to have such a wide ranging affect on the company’s devices and services.

[Thanks, Mark & Martin!]

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Source: Wikitree, Samsung.com, Is It Down Right Now?, ICT Story, YTN (Korean)

20
Apr
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Motorola Moto G Getting a Little Brother?


moto e

Amongst all the speculation surrounding the allegedly upcoming Motorola flagship (currently coined “X+1″ by the media), another new Moto phone is purportedly in the works.  Though this model is on the other end of the model spectrum, and is expected to reside just under the existing Moto G in terms of specs and affordability.

Currently dubbed “Moto-E” by the Italian site androidworld.it, this new model further emphasizes the “more phone for everyone” mantra brought on by the Moto G and arguably the Nexus 4 before that.  The spec comparison reads as such:

Moto-E (Moto-G)

  • Display: 4.3″ (4.5″)
  • Processor: 12.GHz dual-core (1.2 GHz quad-core)
  • RAM: 1GB (1GB)
  • Internal storage: 4GB (8GB)
  • Rear camera: 5MP (5MP)
  • Front camera: None (1.3MP)
  • Battery: 1900mAh (2070mAh)

The height and width appear almost identical; the one noticeable dimension is the depth of the device.  At 6.2mm, it appears to be almost half of the Moto G, which checks in at 11.6.  This sveltness will definitely be appealing to a lot of potential buyers.

The distribution plans for this phone is not mentioned, but it can be deduced that Motorola would have a very similar game plan; meaning pretty much worldwide.

The post Motorola Moto G Getting a Little Brother? appeared first on AndroidGuys.

20
Apr

ccGenie Review


If you are anything like me, you will both like and loathe email. You like it because it’s a must have communication tool and as big a part of your day as coffee, but you loathe it for how messy, unstructured and downright confusing it can be to use at times.

As a project manager (albeit for a small company), my work inbox is probably a much messier place to work than most peoples’ are. However, I believe that I have found a tool that will work for anyone that receives emails from a group of people related to the same project: ccGenie.

A friend that already uses the service recommended me ccGenie and, while it did seem like he was being rather biased in selling the concept to me, I decided to give it a go anyway – and I’m glad I did.

What Is It?

ccGenie is billed as a service that “makes your email work”. Basically, it takes all of the emails that are cluttering your inbox and organizes them so that they are easier to access, read, and share.

The concept is one that takes file sharing and combines it will email and a hint of social media to provide a single cloud-based platform for keeping email conversations, attachments, content, links, and contacts neat and tidy.

Why Is It Good?

I’m writing purely from a project management perspective here, but ccGenie is great for helping me collaborate with several different teams at once on an order. The tool is compatible with various file-sharing services and is fully accessible to anyone, regardless of location or device. This is obviously great for when I’m out of the office, as I can still access messages and contribute to a conversation on my smartphone.

All of the information is kept in context by ccGenie, which automatically places it into “rooms” based on what it is – documents, conversations, people, etc. This aspect of the service is what I love most and I’m guessing it would work great for personal use too, maybe if you were planning a party or something.

Do You Have To Pay?

Now here is the really great thing about ccGenie – it’s free! Signing up for an account couldn’t be any simpler; I got started by using my Google+ account, but there options to use LinkedIn credentials and email – both of which are probably just as easy.

If you’re like me and use Dropbox, Gmail, Outlook, or any similar services on a daily basis, and are fed up with an unmanageable inbox, I suggest that you give ccGenie a try. I love it and I’m sure you will too.

20
Apr
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Series of Beautifully Crafted Google Now Inspired Wallpapers by Alex Pasquarella


Wallpapers are always a fast and simple way to update the look on your device. Most themes and icon packs come with a set of their very own walls that help you achieve an overall look and feel. While we all appreciate the efforts that the creators put into them, there are plenty of other wallpapers out there to help quench your thirst of awesomeness. Earlier this evening Alex Pasquarella shared a series of walls inspired by Google Now. We know how much you all love Google Now walls and icons and things. We really could help but bring the 16 wallpapers to the attention of our readers.

Rochester NY Google Now Inspired WallsAlex has based the scenes off four different locales. You have the basic Rocky Mountains and Tahoe variety plus a set for Rochester, NY and a Canyon setup. Along with the four locales, he has 4 different times of the day, dawn/morning, dusk/evening, day, night. Each is crafted in a 1920 x 1080 resolution, so they are perfect for your laptop, Chromebook, or Desktop. They look great on tablets and phones too, you just might not get the whole image effect on the smaller screens. The walls look great with the Google Now Icons.

GOogle Now Tahoe WallpaperAs I stated before, there are 16 in all with 4 different times of day to each. You can look at them all at Alex Pasquarella’s blog where he has them up for individual download along with a ZIP containing them all. He plans to bring some 4K version to light and some panorama versions for those with multiple monitors. Enjoy, have a great weekend and be sure to circle him.

Via Alex Pasquarella’s G+

//<![CDATA[
ord = window.ord || Math.floor(Math.random()*1E16);
document.write('');
//]]>

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