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Android Media Software News

VLC Player For Android Is Almost a Reality 144

Posted by Soulskill
from the incremental-progress dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Android, as a platform, has always fallen a little short when it comes to media playback. The native apps that come with every Android device don't make it easy to watch movies. The only native app that allows you to navigate movies is the Gallery app, which is great for photos, but bad for movies. Among the many contributions to the Android ecosystem made by Austen Dicken are his developments in support of the Motorola Droid line of phones for Cyanogenmod, Embedded Gentoo for Android, and, as a fun side project, he's playing with VLC for Android. Austen describes his work on VLC for Android to be pre-alpha at this point in time, but he is still able to show some impressive results regarding basic functionality. "
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VLC Player For Android Is Almost a Reality

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  • Going from the N900 to the Galaxy S II when it turns up is going to be a culture shock, I honestly hadn't thought that video playback would be a concern.

    RIP N900 :(

    (Yes I'm a bitter fanboy)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Playback is fine in my experience, the video player that comes on the Galaxy S 2 is fine for watching things and supports any format I've thrown at it (not sure if it's a stock Android thing or if Samsung has their own Video player, but it's separate to the Gallery app).

      It has a fairly bad interface for selecting videos, but I just use the file manager to find them, then they load in the video player anyway.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Playback is fine in my experience, the video player that comes on the Galaxy S 2 is fine for watching things and supports any format I've thrown at it

        And the same is true of other Tablets and phones. I have 4 different players on my Tablet, and they all work well.
        Plus there is this mind boggling collection of video players in the Market.

        The mistake is focusing on the "native" player in a system that was designed from the ground up to have features added by the vendors and the end users via the market. It betrays a mind set that prefers the walled garden, and to have that mind set suddenly reporting on an open source project is
        just wrong on so many levels

        • And the same is true of other Tablets and phones. I have 4 different players on my Tablet, and they all work well.

          Is your tablet Honeycomb?

          Can it play 1080p without hiccup in any of the players? what about 720p?

      • I still have problems with files that have multiple audio tracks. Haven't found a player that'll handle them properly...

    • by mea_culpa (145339)

      Just download RockPlayer from the market. I've been using it over a year and it plays almost everything VLC does and it supports hardware acceleration if available. I use it mainly for SD divx TV shows and is perfect for these, plus it supports subtitles like VLC does. You don't need to buy it either, the unlimited trial version puts a small logo in the corner of the screen.

    • by sarhjinian (94086)

      Interesting point: before one of the developers had an, ah, disagreement about App Store policies and had the app pulled, you could get VLC for iOS. I still have it and works very well, despite surviving a few major iOS updates.

      I was very surprised to not see it on Android.

    • Me too. But... http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_n9-3398.php [gsmarena.com]
    • I honestly hadn't thought that video playback would be a concern.

      It's not a concern -- there are many apps that can play large numbers of video formats available from the Market; QQplayer is one that works well. There's nothing much wrong with the way the Gallery app handles videos either.

  • VLC on Android is something I and my kids have been waiting for. It's worth it, as this is our primary media player at home (Ubuntu + Lubuntu + PCLinux OS).
  • How is WebM playback?

    Does it need hardware accel?

    Is there hardware accel on any current-model phones? Next gen phones?

    • Re:Accelerated WebM? (Score:5, Informative)

      by EdZ (755139) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:30PM (#37519738)
      Yes, there is hardware acceleration, but it depends on the chipset. The Tegra 2, for example, can play back h.264 1080p24 (/p30/i60) perfectly happily, but ONLY Main Profile. Throw CABAC and weighted p/b frames at it and it'll throw a wobbler, so no High Profile.

      There are several existing free apps that provide a nice browsing interface and software decoding for any codecs not supported in hardware (usually pretty slow, think 480p30 max) and hardware decoding for unsupported containers (e.g. MKV. I think MoboPlayer can even handle Ordered Chapters). I can't see VLC doing anything different other than having the traffic cone logo and a hideous interface. And probably dodgy subtitle rendering.
      • by Guspaz (556486)

        Intel's Atom and the Cortex A9 have about the same performance clock-for-clock (the A8 was a bit slower, the A9 is a bit faster). A single-core 1.6GHz Atom can, from personal experience, handle 720p h.264 content in software. Any dual-core Cortex A9 smartphone at 1GHz or above should be able to handle 720p30 h.264 video with the right codec. A dual-core A9 at higher clockspeeds (the SGS2 LTE and HD LTE are at 1.5GHz) can probably even do 1080p30 if you cut some corners (skip in-loop deblocking). Of course,

        • by Telvin_3d (855514)

          Yes, but handling it in software isn't anywhere near as efficient. And less efficient means more power consumed. Software video, particularly processor intensive video like h.264, will suck through battery like nothing else.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        Thanks for the detailed answer. It's fitting that your reply is modded 4, but it's really strange that someone saw fit to mod the question itself to 0. How is the question a troll? In a story about VLC, is it trollish to ask whether it'll be able to do take advantage of hardware playback?

  • Or VLC For IOS!!! or any number of video players for IOS My only complaint for the Non-Apple video players is that for 4:3 content, it is not flush with the screen, must be an API limitations. 16:9 content is flush with no conversion needed.
    • I believe VLC was on IOS, I think it is probably is still possible to get on jailbroken devices. Basically Apple decided that GPL and apples terms and conditions are incompatible. http://appadvice.com/appnn/2011/01/vlc-ios-removed-app-store [appadvice.com]
      • by ZPWeeks (990417)

        Not quite that GPL and Apple TOS are incompatible- otherwise Apple wouldn't permit other popular GPL-developed apps like the iOS WordPress client. VLC doesn't hold the copyright to contributed code, and one of the VLC contributors (who holds copyright to part of VLC) decided to make a stink about it for everyone. That person may have thought the GPL to be at odds with Apple TOS, but he's not the one calling the shots. As far as Apple was concerned, the complaint was that the developer publishing an iOS VLC

        • by Nick Ives (317)

          Wrong.

          VLC is GPL3. GPL3 is incompatible with the App Store due to the anti-Tivoisation provisions. On that basis, nobody has the right to publish an iOS App Store version without the consent of all contributors.

          • Irrelevant (Score:4, Informative)

            by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:43PM (#37520546)

            VLC is GPL3. GPL3 is incompatible with the App Store due to the anti-Tivoisation provisions.

            Regardless of that being true or not, it doesn't matter - because that is not how VLC was pulled from the app store. As stated. one of the VLC contributors had Apple pull it - Apple published it to the store just fine and it was up for a while.

            • by Nick Ives (317)

              Well duh, it's not like the copyright holder can just delete it themselves now is it?

              If Apple allowed anyone to sign or otherwise distribute & install binaries on iOS devices then the original copyright holder would have had no standing to ask for the removal, as it would have been distributed in compliance with the GPL.

              You can distribute GPL2 on locked devices - that was TiVo's great innovation - so you get plenty of GPL2 software in the App Store. As far as Apple is concerned, they're just the man in

          • by RDW (41497)

            VLC is GPL3. GPL3 is incompatible with the App Store due to the anti-Tivoisation provisions. On that basis, nobody has the right to publish an iOS App Store version without the consent of all contributors.

            No, VLC is GPL2 (check your COPYING.txt). Only GPL3 has an explicit Tivoisation clause, which makes it clearly incompatible with the App Store, but the FSF and others (including one of the VLC programmers) have argued that Section 6 of GPL2 is also violated by Apple's additional restrictions, making even GPL2 apps incompatible.

          • by CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:39PM (#37521086) Journal

            Wrong.

            VLC is GPL3. GPL3 is incompatible with the App Store due to the anti-Tivoisation provisions. On that basis, nobody has the right to publish an iOS App Store version without the consent of all contributors.

            Wrong? That's so wrong it's right. Not only is VCL under GPL2, the VCL project has even spoken out against GPL3 http://www.videolan.org/press/2007-1.html [videolan.org] because of the Tivo clause - and the VCL engine is about to move to LGPL2.1 http://www.videolan.org/press/lgpl.html [videolan.org] to make it even more open.

          • by exomondo (1725132)

            Wrong.

            VLC is GPL3.

            It's useful to actually know what you're talking about before calling someone out like that. I'm not sure what you're basing this post on because VLC is quite clearly GPLv2 and *not* v3 as you can see here: [videolan.org]

            Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

            You can also have a look in the COPYING file in the source code

      • Apple removed it at the DMCA request of a Nokia employee that had contributed code to VLC (and retained copyright of it).
  • I'll be interested to see if it has full software rendering engine bypassing the hardware decoder. I don't see why it shouldn't, I believe that's what the desktop VLC does.

    The hardware decoders on a lot of phones/tablets leave a bit to be desired. Why, for instance, would you limit hardware (nook color) with a display with a native resolution of 1024x600 to hardware accelerated playback of 854x480. ugh. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why my handbreak encodes weren't playing any visuals at native r

    • by toadlife (301863)

      Why, for instance, would you limit hardware (nook color) with a display with a native resolution of 1024x600 to hardware accelerated playback of 854x480

      Because that's all the hardware can handle.

      • Also "BIG SCREEN GOOOOD" is a better way to market something than a more technical explanation.
      • ok, let me rephrase.

        Why would you choose to build a device with hardware incapable of handling rendering at the native resolution of the device, especially when you've chosen hardware capable of rendering at 2/3 of the native resolution. was the last 1/3 really so far away price-wise?

        • by Solandri (704621)
          Most videos are 480p or 720p, hardly anything in between. So the choice was between video hardware capable of 480p and upscaling it to fit a 1024x600 screen, or video hardware capable of 720p and downscaling it to fit a 1024x600 screen. From the tests I've done, there's not much difference in appearance between 480p upscaled or 720p downscaled to fit on the NC's screen. So I think B&N made the right call. You lose the ability to play native 720p videos from camera phones, but that wasn't a feature o
        • by djdanlib (732853)

          It's probably incapable of refreshing it at an acceptable rate for video playback. Doesn't it use the whole screen while you're performing less intensive operations, like reading a book?

          Also... Remember analog CRTs? Remember that you always had to design for the "overscan" area and designate a safe draw area with a margin around it, when making games and GUIs. It's been done before, and continues to be relevant even today because CRTs are still alive. Not being able to use the entire display resolution is n

          • by Sancho (17056) *

            Also... Remember analog CRTs? Remember that you always had to design for the "overscan" area and designate a safe draw area with a margin around it, when making games and GUIs. It's been done before, and continues to be relevant even today because CRTs are still alive.

            Manufacturers are starting to ignore this now, though. For example, Roku doesn't consider overscan--it just displays its full resolution. That means that on CRTs, a moderate amount of the screen can be cut off. There's no way to adjust it on the Roku. If your TV can't adjust, you're out of luck.

            There are other (HD-enabled) set-tops that act similarly, such as the PS3. While games may take overscan into account, the Netflix app didn't.

            I had to find the service manual for my TV (luckily available online) t

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              Manufacturers are starting to ignore this now, though. For example, Roku doesn't consider overscan--it just displays its full resolution. That means that on CRTs, a moderate amount of the screen can be cut off. There's no way to adjust it on the Roku. If your TV can't adjust, you're out of luck.

              Which is why there are still title and action safe areas even on HD. And said areas for 4:3 SD downconversion (important for TV shows).

              Most devices don't care because it isn't needed for the vast majority of HDTVs ou

        • by Anonymous Coward

          ok, let me rephrase.

          Why would you choose to build a device with hardware incapable of handling rendering at the native resolution of the device, especially when you've chosen hardware capable of rendering at 2/3 of the native resolution. was the last 1/3 really so far away price-wise?

          Because they didn't design it for video playback period, it was designed for displaying books and fairly trivial images. They didn't say "hey I bet people are going to root this and try to turn it into a full-fledged tablet, let's make sure we have the hardware to support them." They put a nice screen on it and said "we don't have to support this other stuff, so let's not spend the extra money on better hardware". It's supposed to be a limited platform designed to push the sales of e-books that just happens

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        And hardware varies a lot in this regard.

        Since the Nook Color isn't designed as a video playback device, this limitation wasn't a big deal for whomever chose the hardware architecture for the Nook.

        For example, the GPU in many Samsung devices happens to be capable of decoding hardware accelerated video at well ABOVE the device resolution - the assumption being that it'll be used for HDMI output.

        The GPU in Nvidia Tegra 2 systems is kinda "meh" as far as video playback performance. Nvidia focused on gaming -

        • Since the Nook Color isn't designed as a video playback device, this limitation wasn't a big deal for whomever chose the hardware architecture for the Nook.

          This has generally been my working assumption, either that or the rendering hardware was finalized before the display size was known. it is just the first time I've ever had a device incapable of rendering a format it supports at it's own native resolution. struck me as very odd. Seems to me like buying a Corvette and putting cheap tires on it. You know the corvette's guts are capable of 170mph, but the car will never get faster than 120mph nonetheless. (the need to do faster than 120mph obviously notwithst

    • I'll be interested to see if it has full software rendering engine bypassing the hardware decoder. I don't see why it shouldn't, I believe that's what the desktop VLC does.

      If you have no regard for your battery life....

      • If I did, would I overclock it to 150% of normal speed?

        As long as it lasts through a single movie (say, for an airplane trip), that'd be good enough for me.

        For car trips, it uses a standard microUSB port, and I've got at least two car chargers for those. Granted, the NC will draw about twice the default amps of a stock usb port if it has its preference, but stock will do in a pinch.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Does an ARM have the guts to decode half a million pixels?

      Even if it does, what does that do to the battery?

      I suspect your answer lies in one of those two questions.

      • by cynyr (703126)

        no, but the DSP does, you are forgetting most ARM CPUs have extra hardware to handle video/audio/etc decoding.

        Depends, my tablet is mostly backlight usage even when watching movies, so not much.

        Acer Iconia Tab A500.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          I don't think you read the grandparent's post - he was saying that his hardware decoder only can do 854x480, so that would leave the full resolution up to the ARM, which I doubt it could handle - or if it did, it would suck the battery down very quickly.

      • by mcrbids (148650)

        15 years ago, the full power now available in my phone required the better part of a 15-amp circuit to enable. Now, I get several hours of battery life from a device smaller than my wallet at this computational scale.

        It may be true that battery life would suffer badly *today* trying to deliver an HD movie on my phone. Give it another generation or two and this will be commonplace.

        See, there's this guy named Moore, and he made an observation decades ago that we now call Moore's law...

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          It may be true that battery life would suffer badly *today* trying to deliver an HD movie on my phone.

          Oh, goodness, I didn't mean to imply that a phone couldn't do HD video - just that the ARM chip is probably not the right tool for the job. You likely need to use the dedicated video decoder to retain any sort of battery life. Therefore, you are at the mercy of whatever video chip happens to be in your phone/tablet. The grandparent's tablet is apparently limited to 854x480 by the hardware decoder. Some slick programmer might be able to decode video on the ARM chip and get higher resolution than that, but it

    • by Junta (36770)

      Even relatively recent, dual-core 1.2 Ghz Android devices simply do not have the horsepower to decode a 1080 stream. Note that even a Core2 at 2 Ghz won't even reliably keep up with many 1920x1080 streams, and the performance per clock is better there than ARM.

      Now consider the fact that even at full tilt, it will have massive frame drop. Imagine your battery consumption.

      The reason I presume Nook hardware decode is limited is because even their hardware decoder couldn't have been architected to do that dec

    • by Jonner (189691)

      I'll be interested to see if it has full software rendering engine bypassing the hardware decoder. I don't see why it shouldn't, I believe that's what the desktop VLC does.

      You've got that backwards, as VLC originated on general-purpose PCs without any particular hardware decoder to "bypass." VLC, relying on libraries like libavcodec implements everything it needs in C for maximum functionality on a wide range of hardware. It optionally uses tuned assembly-language routines, hardware acceleration or decoding features when they exist for specific hardware. The C implementations will be the first to work, but hardware features of specific devices that save power or enable higher

  • Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 packs in a fairly decent media player - it's been able to handle just about every format I've thrown at it (granted, I only have AVI, MP4, MKV, and MPG, but still); the only thing I wish it could do natively is display subtitles, for when they're embedded in the MKV's.

  • I wouldn't call 'pre-alpha', 'almost a reality'.
  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:26PM (#37519686) Homepage Journal

    I've been using android since the 1.6 days and I've never had issues playing any movie or video right out of the box. In point of fact, it's the only thing that's impressed me about the Android OS, that is *could* play anything thrown at it.

    Anyway, I like VLC on the desktop, so a fully working one on Android would only be a plus.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      You must not be playing anything all that great, then. Anything with 5.1 or even sometimes 2.1 surround typically fails, higher bitrate stuff is often choppy, and often .mkv stuff won't play properly or allow you to pause/resume/seek. This is with the built-in video stuff as well as players like RockPlayer or MoboPlayer.

      • by Sancho (17056) *

        Yeah, same here. I stopped having problems playing video on Android only when I stopped trying. What I managed to play smoothly drained the battery badly enough to make it not worth it.

      • Is it really fair to complain about not being able to play 5.1 audio tracks on a phone, or mkv files on anything?
        • by Sancho (17056) *

          MKV is a great container format, and one of the only ones that you can throw vobsub subtitles into and expect them to work. It's a shame that more devices don't support them well, if at all.

        • Is it really fair to complain about not being able to play 5.1 audio tracks on a phone

          When you don't have the time to transcode everything to 2.0 in advance, yes. Or when the phone has a mini-HDMI out, yes.

      • by m50d (797211)
        Try Dice Player. It's handled everything I've thrown at it, even hi10p (which actually puts it ahead of my desktop machine)
  • by markdavis (642305) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:58PM (#37520062)

    >"The only native app that allows you to navigate movies is the Gallery app, which is great for photos"

    No, it is NOT great for photos because it doesn't understand what a directory structure is. So it flattens out all my subdirectories into just two levels, making it impossible to find anything. Sure, it might work fine for someone just using the camera and with a few directories of stuff. But for someone who wants to load their card with thousands of pictures so they can use their tablet as a nice display system- it is a mess.

    Unfortunately, not a SINGLE photo display app I have tested can properly display nested subdirectories with more than 1 nest. And Gallery does the same crappy thing for videos too, it is just that I don't have tons of them, so it isn't an issue.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      That's one of the thing I *hate* android and "modern interfaces" for. They are hiding the directory structure, often using some meta data included in the file for sorting such as the EXIF data. They do not seem to care about the directory structure (which is meta data as well). They just assume the user does not know how to use directories (which is definitely true for some users). But come on, if I have 10000 files, linear order IS NOT the way to go.

    • by boret1 (894066)
      Have you tried QuickPic?
      • by markdavis (642305)

        Yes, I tried QickPic. It was the best of them all. And it FAILED directory trees exactly the same way Gallery does. I sent the developer Email several months ago asking for the option and he said he would look into it but that it would be "hard". I am still hoping he will get to it.

  • by networkz (27842) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:03PM (#37520132) Journal

    The screen shot has an R5 pirate copy of Toy Story featured in it.

    Guess they forgot to rename the file before taking a shot. Noice.

  • by Trixter (9555) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:26PM (#37520370) Homepage
    Unless he's planning to build in hardware decoding support for H.264, VLC won't be anyone's main player because it will burn up CPU like nobody's business. It's good news for old/esoteric formats though (MPEG-1? .mod/.s3m/.xm/.it modules?), which don't need a lot of CPU to decode.
  • Then what am I running? When I got the tablet last week, I chose VLC Direct from the Android Market. Works just fine. Guess this refers to a fully-free version, since this already-working project is a paid application...
    • by Jonner (189691)

      Then what am I running?

      When I got the tablet last week, I chose VLC Direct from the Android Market. Works just fine.

      Guess this refers to a fully-free version, since this already-working project is a paid application...

      Did you get an offer for source with your VLC binary? If not, it's probably infringing on the copyrights of the VLC developers.

      • by Jonner (189691)

        Then what am I running?

        When I got the tablet last week, I chose VLC Direct from the Android Market. Works just fine.

        Guess this refers to a fully-free version, since this already-working project is a paid application...

        Did you get an offer for source with your VLC binary? If not, it's probably infringing on the copyrights of the VLC developers.

        Reading the description of VLC Direct [android.com], I suspect that it's not derived from VLC, but an Android front end for the VLC web interface which must be running on another machine to make it work. Though that approach probably has advantages, such as reduced power usage, it's certainly not the most flexible. VLC running natively on the Android device wouldn't require any transcoding server.

        If "VLC Direct" is not derived from VLC, it's not copyright infringement, but it could be trademark infringement, since it's c

        • VLC Direct doesn't need VLC running on the desktop, as long as the content is on the phone/tablet already. It can stream to or from VLC on another machine.

          I haven't looked into the licensing, because I'm still working on whether or not I'm keeping the tablet itself.

  • My little Archos 43IT running Froyo plays mp3, m4a, ogg, wma, flac, wav, ac3, dts, mp2 ....in fact so far it has played everything I fed it with the sole exception being musepack.

    As for video it plays up to 720p and works fine with all kinds of containers and codecs i.e. ts, vob, mkv, mp4, avi, wmv, mov containers and mpeg2, h.264, xvid/divx, wmp, even theora. It handles vobsubs and text subtitles as well, and if there are multiple audio tracks the user can choose. It can play all this from internal stora

    • Archos have their own special sauce, not sure if they have custom HW as well (probably?) but given their roots as a media player company its not surprising.

      My old archos 70 could do 720p x264 in mkv containers with a 1Ghz A8, whilst my Tegra2 superphone fails miserably.

  • What I've always wanted is an app for my phone which can stream internet radio stations. Most online radio stations stream at a low bitrate and don't require much bandwidth, but I haven't yet found an app that can just open any stream I want from a URL. Whenever I search the market for radio apps, all I get are a bunch of crapware that stream preset stations you can't change.

  • Could I watch DVDs? The regular VLC has a feature where I can play a DVD files folder just like it was the real disc. This is something I might desire to do on my phone.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      No, you wouldn't. Because it would be a big waste of storage space to put a DVD's IFO files (which contain MPEG2 video) on your phone when you can encode to a XviD or h264 codec video that gives you as good quality in 1/4 the memory space or less.

  • ... and has a good folder based management GUI. That makes the Sennheisers sing and puts a smile on my face.
  • When I get the VLC Android code when its released, will I be able to distribute my own movie (therefore my copyright) integrated into a custom Android app with the VLC player? Will the license let me charge people to download the app from my site or from the Market?

    Will I be able to bundle with my movie a skeleton app that looks to see whether VLC is already installed on the device, and play my movie via IPC intents, and download the VLC player code only if it's not already installed by some other app?

  • How the heck did the iPhone version of the app get released over a year before the Android one?

    • As somebody who tried a year ago to compile VLC for both my iPad and my Nexus S:
      Because getting stuff working, if and only if the sandbox will let you, is easier on the iPad/iPhone.

  • Shity name but it's a good app, works well, good controls - plays all I throw at it
    Good lord am I happy I ditched the iphone, SO happy. I can play 350mb (cough) files directly on my Android, no conversion, no damned sync with a cable - just pop them on the phone and play. Fan tastic - just how it should be too, I can't stand limiting technology.

    Oh yes I can put it on there wirelessly too, via SMB - just use "Samba File Sharing" (Red S icon for the package) - it works perfectly - drag and drop to a mapped d

  • Yeah, there are a bunch of Android media players, but they're all using essentially the same low-level code at some point. This is obvious because they're all essentially flawed.

    Start with a video file that's just at the edge of the system's ability to play. I was messing around with AVC in 720p, and found that on my Android tablet (nVidia Tegra 2), the system ran into trouble playing 1280x720/24p at around 6Mb/s, depending on the encoder used.

    When a player can't always decode every frame, the proper thing

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