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17
Mar

V-Moda’s Crossfade 2 review: Pricey, delightful headphones that can take a beating


When it comes to headphones that run $200 or more Beats is the name that comes up most often in casual conversation. And while Beats often have decent sound, its build quality and design often leaves a lot to be desired. This is where a company like V-Moda really shines; its Crossfade 2 is a fantastic example of it. Where Beats uses plastic frames with weights in them to feel like quality, V-Moda designed the Crossfade 2 from the ground up to be a work of art.

A Box as Beautiful as the Product

Unboxing the Crossfade 2 is the rare occasion in which the the it is almost as much of a pleasure as using. Right of the bat, it reeks of “premium”. Made of thick gauge, lightly textured card stock, the box sleeve is the first thing you see when opening the V-Moda.

A vegan leather carry handle is bolted in place by square, pyramidal studs that matches the snap-latch that secures the lid in place.

Before you can do anything else, you have to literally cut the ribbon on your new headset – a crimson, silky ribbon secured around the box, sleeve and lid. The attention to detail borders on the ridiculous at times. You can easily, and correctly, guess that a company that puts this much effort into packaging would create an equally beautiful product.

Under the lid is a cap protecting the top of the exoskeleton case with firm, soft foam. It’s a simple affair with matte black card stock glued to the aforementioned foam and emblazoned with a glossy V-Moda logo. All of this adds to the impression that a lot of love went into designing the product.

The Exoskeleton

The included hard-sided case is, as you might expect by now, every bit as premium as the box and headset itself. It features a symmetrical, almost clamshell aesthetic, with adjustable vents on either side of the shell to air out your headphones after use. Even the zipper feels premium. The teeth are hidden and guided by strips of stiff fabric which ensures it’ll never catch or jam.

Inside the case is a bright orange microfiber lining, as well as two V-shaped elastic storage compartments – perfect to keep your USB and auxiliary cables. To top it off, the V-Moda branding is stitched into top patch of the case. The Crossfade 2 fits perfectly inside but only when completely collapsed. They’ll require adjusting each time you wear them.

Built like a Titanium Gymnast

Upon first withdrawing the $330 Crossfade 2 from its case, you can’t help but think to yourself how ordinary it looks. Save for the shiny steel forks attached to the ear cups, the headset is completely matte black. It’s neither overly heavy (309 grams), nor particularly bulky (I’m looking at you, Beats).

That all changes, though, when you unfold the ear cups for the first time. They pivot downward on two sets of hinges (one is on the frame and the other is on the cups) and snap into place satisfyingly.

The solidness of the click and smoothness of the motion really showcase the durability of the Crossfade 2; they can twist in pretty much any direction you want without fear of breaking. This is thanks to a nearly indestructible “SteelFlex” headband covered in vegan leather (which could mean seaweed or cork, or it could mean PVC or Polyurethane) and memory foam.

There’s very little horizontal movement in the frame. The SteelFlex headband and steel forks offer a surprising amount of tensile flexibility without fear of damaging it. V-Moda claims the Crossfade 2 will withstand 10 cases of a completely flattened headband without any ill effects. As any gamer can attest, this is typically a death knell for a headset.

Sleek and Industrial

A second glance reveals a more subtle, and somehow obvious, boldness to its design. The twenty-plus hex screws holding the thing together are bare for all the world to see, and the nylon-braided cables run uncovered from the headband to the cans. The stock model features metal earcups and cover. These are hexagonal in shape and secured with tamper-proof hex screws, giving it a sleek, industrial look.

It’s an odd hybrid of aesthetics that combines for a very unique styling. The covers that come in the package are sleek and stylish, but you can also order custom ones to make it truly yours.

Functionally, the Crossfade 2 is both easy to use and occasionally a bit finicky. Rather than a Power button, V-Moda opted for a three-stage switch on the side of the Right ear cup. Stage One is off, stage two is on, and stage three is pairing mode.

The volume controls are similarly odd with three buttons on top of that same ear cup. The front and back buttons are volume up and down, respectively, and the third button is a multifunction, contextual V button. This button is responsible for a number of important features, including playback control, call control, and summoning your mobile Assistant of choice.

Playback control is a bit tricky: press twice for next or three times for back. It’s not the easiest function to get right every time, but it’s not terrible. Consider that you’ll mostly be using it when connected to a phone that can control playback much more easily.

High-End Sound, High-End Price

I’m not an expert in audio quality. I’m a layman when it comes to high-end sound equipment with my main over-ear headphone experience coming from Turtle Beach and Razer gaming headsets.  Keep this in mind as I discuss the sound quality of the Crossfade 2. With that caveat out of the way, though… Wow. The Crossfade 2 really blew me away with its sound.

My $249 Turtle Beach Stealth 700 has a pair of 50mm drivers with a frequency response of 20Hz-20,000Hz. The $330 Crossfade 2 features dual 50mm, dual-diaphragm drivers with a 5Hz-40,000Hz range. This means the Crossfade 2 is more than twice as sensitive to bass and treble than the 800X. Turtle Beach has a reputation for being among the more popular gaming headsets on the market. And that’s well earned! But even its most expensive headset doesn’t hold a candle to the Crossfade 2.

In the World

My experience with both headsets backs up those numbers. Be it gaming or listening to music, the Crossfade 2 is simply a joy. It’s got a booming bass that doesn’t drown out the complexity of the highs, and the massive frequency range ensures you catch every detail in the sound. Whether straining to hear the footfalls of an enemy in PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds or picking out each and every note of Voodoo Child, V-Moda’s Crossfade 2 is excellent in any situation.

I used the Crossfade 2 for gaming (mobile and console) and listening to music at home and on the go. While most of my music tastes tend toward rock, I also did a few test runs with Pop, R&B, EDM, and Classical styles to get a feel for how the Crossfade 2 sounded when blasting each genre. In short, it sounds awesome no matter what you put on. Gaming is no different. I played Shooters, Puzzlers, MOBAs, RPGs, and all of the games sounded wonderful.

V-Moda estimates the Crossfade 2’s battery life at 14 hours. In practical usage, I found it closer to 12 or so. I’m sure that varies based on the features you’re using and the volume at which you’ve set it. Honestly, though, battery life isn’t a concern as long as you’re carrying around the included 3.5mm cable. When plugged in, the Crossfade 2 immediately becomes a zero-latency, zero-power analog headset whose quality isn’t diminished in the least.

Value

$330 is a lot to spend on a headset, no matter who you are. But, in a world where the Beats headphones are synonymous with luxury, people are willing to shell out the cash. Do yourself a favor and go against the crowd. If you’re looking to buy an expensive headset, don’t buy a pair of Beats. Buy the boldly-styled, built-like-a titanium-gymnast, excellent-sounding V-Moda Crossfade 2.

The Crossfade 2 retails for $330, and can be bought from any number of retailers, including Walmart and B&H. However, at the time of this writing the Matte Black model is available from Amazon for just $270  a bargain.

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17
Mar

How to get March Madness scores with Google Assistant


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Ok Google… who broke my bracket today?

The Big Dance is just beginning, and while there are apps aplenty to keep bracket-makers and die-hard fans watching and trash-talking, not all of us need that. Some of us just want to see how far our local team has gotten so far. Some of us just need a quick way to find out what channel the next good game’s going to be on. Some of us just want to get the score and then get on with our lives.

Some of us just need Google Assistant.

First, a word about the women’s teams

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According to Google Home’s sports support page, Google Home only covers basketball scores from the NBA, the WNBA, and Division 1 Men’s teams of the NCAA. So, if you want to follow the Louisville men, you’re fine, but if you want to follow the women, you’ll have to look to other apps instead.

Looking up a particular team score

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If you just want to see how far your alma mater has gotten or if the home team is playing today, Google Assistant is all over this. In fact, when you ask about March Madness, Google Assistant recommends just asking for specific teams rather than the whole field (we’ll get to why in a moment). There’s a few ways to phrase it, but above all else you need to include that it’s the basketball team, otherwise Google Assistant might default to the football team or regular search results, even though football ended three months ago. Go figure.

  • OK Google, is Louisville basketball playing today?
  • OK Google, when is the Baylor Bears basketball game?
  • OK Google, did Duke basketball win?
  • OK Google, who is Notre Dame basketball playing?

These games were scheduled Sunday night and the second/third round games are scheduled hours/days after winning their matches, so Assistant might not get the matchups the second your team wins. Google Assistant can only tell you matches that have been piped in from its Knowledge Graph, so keep that in mind if Assistant doesn’t have the next match lined up when you ask.

Following the whole bracket? You’ll have to look elsewhere

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If you’re wanting to keep up with the whole field, I’m sorry to say that you’re going to have to use an app or the NCAA website, because Google Assistant is only showing three games in the search results, and suggests using the NCAA site to see the bracket and live stream the games. And during the later rounds, three games might be enough, but during the First Round? Yeah, that’s kinda useless.

So, are you following any particular teams, so or do you just want to keep up since it’ll be the taking over water cooler conversations the next few weeks?

If you need apps to watch the games or follow your broken, broken bracket, find them here.

Updated March 2018: This article has been cleaned up and updated for the Big Dance of 2018.

17
Mar

Best March Madness apps for Android in 2018


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The NCAA Tournament is in full swing. These apps will help you keep up with your bracket.

Game on. The 2018 NCAA Tournament (that’s college men’s basketball, in case you’re not into such things) is underway. That means countless work hours lost over the next couple weeks, but specifically in these early days as we all pore over our brackets, hoping to avoid the bust and advance to the next round.

Sadly, we don’t all have televisions in our offices. But seeing as how this is 2018, there’s more than one way to keep up with the tourney. A trusty web browser is one, of course. But you’re on the go. That’s where these handy Android apps come in.

  • theScore
  • NCAA March Madness Live
  • ESPN Tournament Challenge
  • CBS Sports

theScore

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theScore is a longtime sports staple on Android. Follow leagues, teams and even individual players. You’ll get real time updates on scores, stats and news, and the ability to fine tune and personalize that feed. It’s got a dedicated tournament section, with a smartly designed sort of bracket that’s using Android design guidelines instead of the sort of pan-and-zoom thing you’ll find elsewhere. It’s really well done.

The app is ad-supported, but it’s also one of those apps that can very well stick around once you try it. So try it.

Download theScore (free)

NCAA March Madness Live

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This one’s the official app from the folks putting on the tournament, so you know it’s good. It’s also very much sponsored by AT&T, Capital One and Infiniti, so you’ll be subjected to ads from those three throughout. But if you’ve got a cable subscription this is a great way to watch all the games live.

And with Chromecast support built in, you can stream to a larger TV or monitor if you’re not in the same room as your cable box. Plus there are scores, info on every team in the tourney, and the ability to keep up with your bracket, at least until it gets busted.

Download NCAA March Madness Live (free)

ESPN Tournament Challenge

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This one’s less about following the tournament and more about a bracket challenge. Specifically, if you’re playing with ESPN’s brackets. (If you’re not, just move on.) You can follow up to 25 brackets and get alerts on the latest news. You also get access to Bracketcast which allows you to see how upsets or underdogs have affected your own brackets. Following scores is fairly simply, but the app also is (unsurprisingly) pretty ad-heavy.

Download ESPN Tournament Challenge (free)

CBS Sports

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CBS consistently has had some of the best sports apps out there, and that continues this year with the latest iteration of the CBS Sports app. At launch you’ll be asked if you want to use location services to follow local (or regional) teams. Do or do not, there is no try. You also can designate specific teams in any of the sports that you want to give special attention to.

From there, it’s all sports, all the time. That means you’ll see other events lumped with the basketball games. Just duck into the drawer on the left for quick links to scores and news, the full brackets, and expert pics. (And CBS has added the NIT tournament for good measure.) You also get Chromecast support, live streaming radio, and personalized alerts for the news stories that you don’t want to miss.

If you’re looking for a really good all-around sports app, this is one to have.

Download CBS Sports (free)

Your turn

Those are still our favorite picks. Did we miss something that’s worth checking out? Let us know in the comments. And may your bracket live beyond the weekend.

Updated March 2018: We’ve updated our favorites for following this year’s big dance.

17
Mar

These are the U.S. carriers that have updated the Galaxy S8 to Android Oreo


Available first on Verizon and T-Mobile.

Android Oreo has been rolling out to unlocked models of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ since February 22 after Samsung fixed a bug with its initial build, but there’s been no word as to when U.S. carriers would begin updating their versions of the phone. Thankfully, that’s starting to change.

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Verizon

Verizon recently updated its official support page for the Galaxy S8, indicating that Oreo started being pushed to the phone on March 15, 2018. The build number for the S8 is G950USQU2CRB9, whereas the one for the S8+ is G955USQU2CRB9.

Similar to what we’ve seen for past updates, Oreo adds picture-in-picture, the Autofill API, and much more to the S8/S8+. This changes the Samsung Experience to v9.0, and it also adds the February 2018 security patch. I’m not sure why we didn’t get the more recent March patch, but I digress.

T-Mobile

Just a day after Verizon started pushing Oreo to the Galaxy S8, T-Mobile was quick to follow in its footsteps. We’ve received multiple tips from our readers (thanks to everyone who let us know!) that T-Mobile is now updating the S8 and S8+ to Oreo, and while it’s unclear at this time which security patch is included, we’ll update this post with additional info as we know more.

If you’ve got a Galaxy S8 or S8+ on Verizon, have you gotten the Oreo update yet?

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

  • Galaxy S8 and S8+ review!
  • Galaxy S8 and S8+ specs
  • Everything you need to know about the Galaxy S8’s cameras
  • Get to know Samsung Bixby
  • Join our Galaxy S8 forums

Verizon
AT&T
T-Mobile
Sprint
Unlocked

Updated 3/17/18: Added T-Mobile to the list!

17
Mar

Answer your doorbell from anywhere with Ring’s $199 Video Doorbell Pro


Ding dong, who’s there?!

Ring’s popular Video Doorbell Prp is back down to just $199 at both Amazon and B&H for a limited time. This doorbell normally sells for around $250.

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Keep in mind, to use the Video Doorbell Pro properly you will need to have an existing hardwired doorbell in the place you want to install this one. Installation is super simple and only takes a few minutes once you get started. Ring includes a variety of faceplate colors so you can pick the one that matches your house.

B&H doesn’t charge sales tax at the time of purchase to those who live outside of NJ and NY, and also has the Video Doorbell 2 on sale for $179.

See at Amazon

17
Mar

Today’s best deals you won’t want to miss


Whether you’re looking for new tech gear or household items, we’ve got you covered.

Right now there are great discounts on Ring’s Video Doorbell Pro, Vizio’s 50-inch 4K TV, the Hyperkin RetroN 2 gaming console and so much more!

View the rest of the deals

If you want to know about the deals as soon as they are happening, you’ll want to follow Thrifter on Twitter, and sign up for the newsletter, because missing out on a great deal stinks!

17
Mar

Best Horror games for PlayStation 4


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If you’re looking for a way to increase the scares in your life, this is a solid place to start.

If you are anything like me, then sometimes you absolutely love to get the pants scared off of you. Unfortunately, not all horror games are created equal. There are loads of games which intend to give you the creeps but fall way short of the target. If you want some of the best scares available on the PlayStation 4, then read on.

  • Until Dawn
  • Alien: Isolation
  • The Evil Within 2
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • P.T.

Until Dawn

Generally speaking, Until Dawn is not a perfect game. However, it is one of the best horror games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. Supermassive Games does a great job of developing a creepy mood which just drips off the screen. Also, it’s always nice when a developer creates a decision-making mechanic that actually seems to have an impact on how the game plays out. It is this decision making which also adds to the replayability of the game. With a $20 price point, you get a ton of scares and gameplay for your dollar.

See at Playstation

Alien: Isolation

Holy macaroni, I loved this game. If you are a fan of Ridley Scott’s original Alien film, then you are going to love this. Developer, Creative Assembly managed to capture the mood and visual style of the first Alien film almost impeccably. From the moment the game started, I was giddy to be interacting with that world. On top of that, it is chock full of truly tense and frightening moments. The original Alien film was essentially a slasher film in space and that is exactly what Alien: Isolation feels like as you try to creep, hide, and run away from the alien which is after you. It’s been out a while now, so you can pick it up for only $20.

See at Amazon

The Evil Within 2

I wasn’t a huge fan of the first game in the series but I sure am glad that Tango Games took another swing at it with The Evil Within 2. If you’re on the hunt for a solid survival horror experience then this game is certainly worth your time. Despite the fact that there are moments where The Evil Within 2 seems to rehash to pretty well-trod tropes, they do a great job of building and cranking up tension when it’s needed. A copy can be had on Amazon for only $26.

See at Amazon

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

The king is back! There were some moments in the previous decade where I was pretty certain that the Resident Evil franchise had lost every ounce of its creepy mojo and we would never see a great entry again. However, in 2017, Capcom dropped Resident Evil 7 in our collective laps. Not only is it a fantastic Resident Evil game, it may just be one of the best horror games of all time. With solid scares, a great mood, and pacing so tight you can bounce a quarter off of it, it is worth every bit of the $47 it costs to own a copy.

See at Amazon

P.T.

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It hardly seems fair to include this game in a roundup. After all, you can’t get your hands on it unless you want to buy a whole PlayStation with PT preloaded on it for hundreds of dollars on ebay. That being said, I would be remiss if I neglected to include it. P.T. is bar none the most frightening “game” I have ever played on any console. Dropped into the PlayStation store in 2014 without so much a murmur it was the brainchild of the mad scientist of gaming, Hideo Kojima. Unfortunately, when Kojima and Konami split the sheets the project was shelved and P.T. was pulled from the PSN store. It really is amazing. If you want to get a feel for it and don’t feel like dropping hundreds of dollars to do it, you can watch all kinds of playthroughs on YouTube.

Just like horror films, there are a lot of video games released in the genre but precious few shining gems. I often find myself disappointed when a horror game falls short, but when it’s done right it’s one of the best gaming experiences in the world.

See at PlayStation

What are some of your favorite horror games on PS4?

Let us know what games have had you making sure your doors and windows were locked in the comments below.

Why are we talking PlayStation 4 games on Android Central? Let us explain.

PlayStation 4

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  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome

Amazon

17
Mar

Democrats aim to subpoena Apple, Twitter over private chats


The House of Representatives’ investigation into Russia’s election interference may have ended, but Democrats are still discussing what they’d like to do if and when they regain a House majority — and it could have significant repercussions for the tech industry. Their recently published memo in the aftermath of the investigation calls on the House Intelligence Committee to subpoena Apple, Twitter and WhatsApp for info regarding encrypted chat apps and private messages. The Democrats want to know which apps key actors in the 2016 US election used, and what they said.

In Apple’s case, the Democrats want records for downloaded secure chat apps from “key individuals,” including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. The politicians would also subpoena WhatsApp for messages between “key witnesses of interest.” Twitter, meanwhile, would be pressed to hand over direct messages from Trump staff as well as WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and suspected Russian hacking front Guccifer 2.0.

The possibility of these requests going forward is contingent on the Democrats winning a House majority in the 2018 mid-term elections, giving them subpoena power. That could put the companies involved in a tough spot, as the Intercept noted. Apple does retain download records and would hand them over if ordered, but it and WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption that they themselves can’t crack. If they could supply messages (WhatsApp doesn’t store them), the info would likely remain useless. Investigators might have to be content with metadata like profiles. And if they aren’t, this could put them in yet another difficult position where authorities are asking them to provide information they technically can’t deliver.

Via: Intercept, 9to5Mac

Source: House of Representatives (PDF)

17
Mar

Uber may offer its self-driving technology to Toyota


Lyft and Waymo might not be the only ridesharing companies developing self-driving technology with hopes of making it available to others. Nikkei has claimed that Uber is in talks to slip its autonomous vehicle system into a Toyota minivan, marking one of its first reported attempts to sell its tech to someone else. The Japanese paper said that Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi recently met with Toyota leaders (including its American AI development lead, Gill Pratt) at his company’s research center in Pittsburgh. It’s not clear how far along the progress would be or what exactly was discussed at the meeting.

In a statement to Reuters, Toyota said its staffers “regularly exchange” self-driving information with Uber, but said that there hadn’t been any decisions made beyond existing involvement. It’s not a confirmation, then, but nor is it a denial. Toyota is no stranger to working closely with Uber: it invested in the company in 2016, and this January formed a partnership to develop a driverless vehicle system for everything from ride hailing apps to couriers.

This would represent a new step for both sides, however. Toyota already has its own self-driving hardware, so it’d be supplementing its own work. And for Uber, this would help its system evolve from a relatively in-house affair (albeit with the help of other brands) into something it can pitch to automakers. The company could theoretically make the most of its development work and even turn it into a viable side business if enough customers are interested.

Via: Reuters, CleanTechnica

Source: Nikkei

17
Mar

Learn how to change your gamertag on an Xbox One in just a few simple steps


If you’ve been on Xbox One for a long enough time, you’ve probably seen your fair share of terrible gamertags. For some of you, though, you are that person with the terrible username, but you don’t have to be. It might seem tricky to change your username at first, but learning how to change your gamertag on an Xbox One is easier than it looks.

What’s especially nice about changing your gamertag on Xbox Live is that you can make the change on a variety of platforms. Below, we’ll show you how to change your gamertag on Xbox One, and through Xbox’s website.

Keep in mind that Xbox only allows you to change your gamertag for free if your original gamertag was created for you when you signed up for Xbox Live. Anytime you want to change your gamertag afterwards, you’ll have to pay a fee (which varies by region.)

Changing your gamertag through Xbox One

Step 1: Press the Xbox button on your controller to bring up the Xbox guide and select your gamerpic, which appears at the top of the guide.

Step 2: Select “My profile,” then “Customize profile.”

Step 3: In the “Customize Profile” menu, select your gamertag to edit.

Step 4: In the editing screen, type in your new gamertag and hit “Enter.” If you’ve picked a name that is already active, or that Microsoft deems offensive, you may see an error message that reads, “Sorry, this gamertag is now reserved. Try another one.” If you do, try a slight variant to your preferred gamertag. You might also want to read up on Xbox’s rules of conduct to make sure you’re working with the rules.

If you don’t have a handle in mind, Xbox suggests some available options. If you don’t like any of the suggested handles, select “More” to generate a new set of potential gamertags.

Step 5: After you’ve chosen your new gamertag, select “Claim it” and then, “Sounds good.”

Changing your gamertag through a web browser

Step 1: Go to account.xbox.com, and sign in with the email address and password associated with your gamertag.

Step 2: From the home page, click on your gamerpic in top-right corner of the window. Using the drop-down menu, select “Profile” to go to your Xbox profile and activity feed.

Step 3: Press the Customize button in the title card at the top of the profile page.

Step 4: On the customize profile screen, select “Change Gamertag.”

Step 5: Enter in your new preferred gamertag, and then click “Check availability” If you receive a message saying that gamertag is taken, then try a slight variant on your preferred gamertag.

Step 6: After you find a gamertag that works for you, select “Claim it.”

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