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Software

Why Xbox One Backward Compatibility Took So Long (ign.com) 62

A new report from IGN this morning explains why it took so long for backwards compatibility to be supported on the Xbox One. Microsoft veteran Kevin La Chapelle says the answer to the question can be found in 2015 -- the year that Phil Spencer announced backwards compatibility at Microsoft's Xbox E3 media briefing. From the report: The fan-first feature has evolved from an experiment conducted by two separate Microsoft Research teams into a service planned for Xbox One's launch -- complete with hardware hooks baked into the Durango silicon -- until the well-publicized changes to the Xbox One policies (namely, stripping out the always-online requirement for the console) forced it to be pushed to the back burner. It's obviously back for good now, and expanding into original Xbox compatibility of select titles on Xbox One (the first batch of which we announced today). Even the Xbox One X is getting involved, with a handful of Xbox 360 games getting Scorpio-powered enhancements like 10-bit color depth, anisotropic filtering, and up to 9x additional pixel counts displayed on screen. [...]

It was 2007. One of [the research] teams was working on PowerPC CPU emulation -- getting 32-bit code, which the 360 uses, to run on the 64-bit architecture that the third-generation Xbox would be using. The other team, out of Beijing, started writing a virtual GPU emulator based on the Xbox 360 GPU architecture. "These were like peanut butter and chocolate," Microsoft VP of Xbox software engineering Kareem Choudhry recalled. "[So we thought,] 'Why don't we put them both together?'" Choudhry did just that, and so the first steps to Xbox One backwards compatibility were taken, long before the console had a name or anything remotely resembling final specifications. As Durango crystallized, so too did plans for Xbox 360 compatibility on the new machine. "This was primarily a software exercise, but we enabled that by thinking ahead with hardware," Gammill explained. "We had to bake some of the backwards compatibility support into the [Xbox One] silicon." This was done back in 2011. Preliminary tests showed that support for key Xbox middleware XMA audio and texture formats was extremely taxing to do in software alone, with the former, Gammill noted, taking up two to three of the Xbox One's six CPU cores. But a SOC (system on chip) -- basically an Xbox 360 chip inside every Xbox One, similar to how Sony put PS2 hardware inside the launch-era PS3s -- would've not only been expensive, but it would've put a ceiling on what the compatibility team could do. "If we'd have gone with the 360 SOC, we likely would've landed at just parity," he said. "The goal was never just parity." So they built the XMA and texture formats into the Xbox One chipset...

Power

Microsoft Teases Multi-Day Battery Life For Upcoming ARM-Powered Windows Devices (techspot.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechSpot: Microsoft late last year announced a partnership with Qualcomm to bring the full Windows 10 experience to ARM-powered devices. Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, promised at the time that Snapdragon-powered Windows 10 devices would be efficient in the power consumption department. We're still waiting for the partnership to bear fruit but in the interim, new details regarding efficiency (and a few other subjects) have emerged. With regard to battery life, Pete Bernard, Principal Group Program Manager for Connectivity Partners at Microsoft, said that to be frank, battery life at this point is beyond their expectations: ""We set a high bar for [our developers], and we're now beyond that. It's the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don't take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It's that kind of battery life."
Operating Systems

48-Year-Old Multics Operating System Resurrected (multicians.org) 94

"The seminal operating system Multics has been reborn," writes Slashdot reader doon386: The last native Multics system was shut down in 2000. After more than a dozen years in hibernation a simulator for the Honeywell DPS-8/M CPU was finally realized and, consequently, Multics found new life... Along with the simulator an accompanying new release of Multics -- MR12.6 -- has been created and made available. MR12.6 contains many bug and Y2K fixes and allows Multics to run in a post-Y2K, internet-enabled world.
Besides supporting dates in the 21st century, it offers mail and send_message functionality, and can even simulate tape and disk I/O. (And yes, someone has already installed Multics on a Raspberry Pi.) Version 1.0 of the simulator was released Saturday, and Multicians.org is offering a complete QuickStart installation package with software, compilers, install scripts, and several initial projects (including SysDaemon, SysAdmin, and Daemon). Plus there's also useful Wiki documents about how to get started, noting that Multics emulation runs on Linux, macOS, Windows, and Raspian systems.

The original submission points out that "This revival of Multics allows hobbyists, researchers and students the chance to experience first hand the system that inspired UNIX."
Businesses

Intel: Steer Clear Of Our Patents (axios.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: Intel posted a long blog post yesterday touting the success and evolution of its 40-year-old x86 microprocessor -- the one that powered the first IBM personal computer in 1978 and still powers the majority of PCs and laptops. But it wasn't just a stroll down memory lane. Intel ended the post with a reminder that it won't tolerate infringement on its portfolio of patents, including those surrounding x86. The company wrote, "Intel invests enormous resources to advance its dynamic x86 ISA, and therefore Intel must protect these investments with a strong patent portfolio and other intellectual property rights. [...] Intel carefully protects its x86 innovations, and we do not widely license others to use them. Over the past 30 years, Intel has vigilantly enforced its intellectual property rights against infringement by third-party microprocessors. [...] Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel's microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel's x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights. Also read: Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation.
Emulation (Games)

Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation (hothardware.com) 197

MojoKid quotes a report from HotHardware: Qualcomm and Microsoft are on the verge of ushering in a new class of always-connected mobile devices that run full-blown Windows 10. The two are enabling ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processors to run Windows 10 with full x86 emulation, meaning that devices will be capable of not only running Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Windows Store, but legacy win32 apps as well. There is little question, Intel is likely none too pleased with it and PC OEM heavyweights Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and ASUS have also signed-on to deliver Windows 10 notebooks and 2-in-1 convertibles powered by Qualcomm. Until now, Intel sat by quietly while all of this unfolded, but the company today took the opportunity to get a bit passive-aggressive while announcing the fast-approaching 40th anniversary of the world's first x86 microprocessor. The majority of the press release reads like a trip down memory lane. However, Intel shifts into serious mama bear mode, with significant legal posturing, touting its willingness to protect its "x86 innovations." Intel goes on to say that Transmeta tried and ultimately failed in the marketplace, and has been dead and buried for a decade. The company then pivots, almost daring Microsoft and Qualcomm to challenge it by making Windows on ARM devices commercially available. "Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition... However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights."
Businesses

Intel's Itanium CPUs, Once a Play For 64-bit Servers And Desktops, Are Dead (arstechnica.com) 138

Reader WheezyJoe writes: Four new 9700-series Itanium CPUs will be the last and final Itaniums Intel will ship. For those who might have forgotten, Itanium and its IA-64 architecture was intended to be Intel's successor to 32-bit i386 architecture back in the early 2000's. Developed in conjunction with HP, IA-64 used a new architecture developed at HP that, while capable as a server platform, was not backward-compatible with i386 and required emulation to run i386-compiled software. With the release of AMD's Opteron in 2003 featuring their alternative, fully backward-compatible X86-64 architecture, interest in Itanium fell, and Intel eventually adopted AMD's technology for its own chips and X86-64 is now dominant today. In spite of this, Itanium continued to be made and sold for the server market, supported in part by an agreement with HP. With that deal expiring this year, these new Itaniums will be Intel's last.
Operating Systems

Windows 10 On ARM Will Support x86 Apps From Outside the Store (liliputing.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Liliputing: First announced last year, Microsoft provided an update on Windows 10 ARM at the MS Build developer conference today. And the company confirmed that not only would Windows 10 ARM be able to run legacy apps developed for computers with x86 processors but you'd be able to just download any old Win32 app from the internet, install it, and run it on a computer running Windows 10 ARM. In other words, Windows 10 S runs on devices with ARM or x86 processors, but only supports Windows Store apps. Windows 10 ARM only runs on devices with ARM chips... but supports apps from pretty much any source. Developers don't need to convert their software in any way, because Windows 10 ARM includes a built-in emulation layer that allows Win32 apps to run on an ARM-powered system. But Microsoft demonstrated how you could download a common program like 7zip from the internet and simply install it on a device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Of course, developers can also package software optimized for ARM as Universal Windows Platform apps for distribution in the Windows Store. But they don't necessarily have to.
Emulation (Games)

How The 1997 'NESticle' Emulator Redefined Retro Gaming (vice.com) 83

Slashdot reader martiniturbide writes: For those who lived the console emulator and retrogaming boom on the late 90's there is this interesting article about the story of NESticle posted at Motherboard. NESticle was a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console emulator that had a huge success in the early internet era and helped to start the emulation scene. The author of the story, Ernie Smith, also posted an extra second part of the story... NESticle was "the product of a talented programmer who designed a hit shareware game while he was still in high school," according to the article, which credits the 1997 emulator with popularizing now-standard emulator features like movie recording and save states, as well as user modifications. Programmed in assembly code and C++ and targeting 468 processors, NESticle was followed by emulators for the Sega Genesis and the Capcom arcade platform before Icer Addis moved on to a professional career in the gaming industry, working for Electronic Arts and Zynga. Leave a comment if you're a fan of classic game emulators -- or if you just want to share your own fond memories of that late-'90s emulation scene.
Software

Internet Archive Adds Early Macintosh OS and App Emulators (macstories.net) 66

An anonymous reader writes: The Internet Archive has added a curated collection of Mac operating system and software emulators from 1984 through 1989. The Internet Archive already hosts browser-based emulators of early video games and other operating systems, but this is its first foray into Mac software. The collection includes classic applications like MacPaint, programming tools such as MacBasic, and many games including Dark Castle. Each app can be run in an in-browser emulator and is accompanied by an article that chronicles its history. It's fun to play with the apps in the collection and realize just how far apps have come since the earliest days of the Mac. It's also remarkable how many computing conventions used today were introduced during those earliest days.
NES (Games)

Geek Builds His Own NES Classic With A Raspberry Pi (arstechnica.com) 132

"It turns out that the NES Classic Edition is just a little Linux-powered board inside a cute case," writes Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica, "and it's totally possible to build your own tiny Linux-powered computer inside a cute case without spending much more than $60." An anonymous reader writes: Andrew used a $42 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B -- "it's relatively cheap and relatively powerful, and it can easily handle anything from the original PlayStation on down" -- plus an $8 case, and a microSD card. He also purchased a pair of gamepads -- there's several options -- and reports that "Putting our little box together is ridiculously easy, and you ought to have no problem with it even if you've never opened up a PC tower in your life."

"Making retro game consoles is a fairly common use case for the Pi, so there are a few different operating system choices out there," Andrew reports, and he ultimately chose the Linux-based RetroPie OS, which includes a number of emulators. Basically the process boils down to dropping a RetroPie boot image onto the SD card, putting it into the Pi, and then plugging it into your display and connecting your controllers -- plus configuring some menus. "The default quality of the emulation looks just as good as it does on the NES Classic Edition," and "the emulators for these older systems are all advanced enough that things should mostly run just like they did on the original hardware... I've been having a ton of fun with mine now that it's all set up, and its flexibility (plus the quality of those USB gamepads) has made it my favorite way to play old games, outpacing my Apple TV, the pretty but not-living-room-friendly OpenEmu, and the old hacked Wii I still have sitting around."

The hardest part may just be finding a PC with an SD card slot -- and of course, the resulting system gives you lots of flexibility. "By using the Raspberry Pi and freely available software, you can build something capable of doing a whole heck of a lot more than playing the same 30 NES games over and over again."
The Internet

Die-Hard Sysops Are Resurrecting BBS's From The 1980s (arstechnica.com) 245

Ars Technica reports on vintage computing hobbyists "resurrecting digital communities that were once thought lost to time...some still running on original 8-bit hardware." Sometimes using modern technology like Raspberry Pi and TCPser (which emulates a Hayes modem for Telnet connections), they're reviving decades-old dial-up bulletin board systems (or BBSes) as portals "to places that have been long forgotten." An anonymous reader writes: One runs the original software on a decades-old Commodore 128DCR. Another routes telnet connections across a real telephone circuit that connects to a Hayes modem. And after 23 years, the Dura-Europos BBS is back in business, using an Apple IIe running its original GBBS Pro software -- augmented with a modern CFFA3000 compact flash drive, and a Raspberry Pi running TCPser. [It's at dura-bbs.net, using port 6359.] Ars Technica blames "the meteoric rise of the World Wide Web and the demise of protocols that came before it" for the death of BBSes. "Owners of older 8-bit machines had little reason to maintain their hardware as their userbase migrated to the open pastures of the Web, and the number of bulletin board systems plummeted accordingly...

"Despite the threat of extinction, however, it turns out that some sysops never quite gave up on the BBS," and for many modern-day users, "it's simply a matter of 'dialing' the BBS using a domain name and port number instead of a phone number in their preferred terminal software." There they'll find primitive BBS games like STARTREK, Chess, and Blackjack, but also "old conversation threads dating back decades were available verbatim... It's like a buried digital time capsule."

One user says visiting a web site today "has a very public feel to it, whereas a BBS feels very much like being invited into someone's living room." The article also remembers "the dulcet tones of a 1200 baud connection (or 2400, if you were very lucky)," adding that "to see what was accomplished with so little was simply humbling."
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Can Linux Run a GPU-Computing Application Written For Windows? 117

dryriver writes: I have been told that Linux can run Windows software using Wine or perhaps a VM. What happens if that Windows software is a GPU-computing application -- accessing the GPU through HLSL/GLSL/CUDA/OpenCL or similar interfaces? Can Wine or other solutions run that software at a decent speed under Linux? Or is GPU-computing software written for the Windows platform unsuitable for use -- emulated or otherwise -- under Linux? This sounds like one of those cases where there's a theoretical answer and then your own real-world experiences. So leave your best answers in the comments. Can Linux run a GPU-computing application that's written for Windows?
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If All Software Ran On All Platforms? 383

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: We live in a computing world where the OS you use -- Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, others -- often determines what software can and cannot be run on a given electronic device. (Let us pretend for a moment that emulators and other options don't exist). What if -- magically -- such a thing as as Universally Compatible Software Application were possible. Software, in other words, that is magically capable of running on any electronic device equipped with enough CPU, GPU and memory capacity to run the software in a usable way.

Example: 3D CAD software that runs on Windows 14, Playstation 7, an Android Smartphone, Nintendo's latest handheld gaming device and an Ubuntu PC in exactly the same way with no compatibility problems whatsoever occurring. What would and would not change in such a computing world?

He also asks an even more important question: will this ever be possible or feasible from a technical standpoint? So leave your best answers in the comments. Will it ever be possible to run all software on all platforms -- and what would happen if we could?
Nintendo

$10K Package Of Super Nintendo Games Finally Found By Post Office (eurogamer.net) 155

A project to preserve (and validate) every Super Nintendo game ROM had been derailed when the post office lost a package containing 100 games from the PAL region. But now Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, reports that the package has been found. An anonymous reader writes: Thursday Byuu finally posted photos of the unboxing for the package that was shipped to him January 5th. "I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to the USPS for assuming the worst in that these games were stolen. I should not have been so hasty to assume malicious intent." At the same time, Byuu writes that "My package was sitting in Atlanta, GA for well over a month with my address clearly visible right on the box. Had this case not been escalated to the media, it likely would have gone up for auction in a bin with other electronics sometime in March."

Byuu is now refunding donations he'd received to replace the missing games, and says he can now also resume work on the SNES Preservation Project. And going forward, according to Eurogamer, "Byuu has said he will be more cautious with shipping games in the future -- only using smaller shipments, or buying individual games to scan and archive then selling them on to get some money back."

NES (Games)

Lost Package Derails Project To Preserve Super Nintendo Games (eurogamer.net) 172

A developer's quest to preserve (and validate) every game ROM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has hit a glitch -- thanks to the U.S. postal service. Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, had been expecting a package with 100 games from the PAL region (covering most of Europe, Africa, South America, and Oceania). wertigon writes: As it turns out, someone at the USPS thought it was a good idea to lose the package, thereby robbing the project of roughly $5000 and the sad hopes of ever seeing a full indexing, like the one done to the U.S set. Byuu writes... "I do still want to dump and scan the Japanese games I already purchased. But we will never have a complete PAL set. Kotaku reports the games were worth up to £8,000, and though Byuu says the sender never requested reimbursement, it's going to happen "because I can't live with myself if it doesn't." He's asking for donations on Patreon, adding "If the package ultimately arrives, I will be refunding all donations." In that Thursday update, Byuu writes that the post office had finally shipped him the label from the package "and nothing else, claiming the machine ate it." They've launched an investigation, reports Byuu, adding "It's still an incredibly long shot that they'll find anything, but we'll see. I really, really hope that they do."
Classic Games (Games)

MAME Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (mame.net) 47

After years of work, a fan has finally completed a MAME version of Atari's unreleased game Primal Rage II this week, one more example of the emulator preserving digital history. Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes MAME.net: Way back in 1997, Nicola Salmoria merged a few stand-alone arcade machine emulators into the first Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Could he have possibly imagined the significance of what he'd built? Over the past two decades, MAME has brought together over a thousand contributors to build a system that emulates more machines than any other program.

But MAME is more than that: MAME represents the idea that our digital heritage is important and should be preserved for future generations. MAME strives to accurately represent original systems, allowing unmodified software to run as intended. Today, MAME documents over thirty thousand systems, and usably emulates over ten thousand. MAME meets the definitions of Open Source and Free Software, and works with Windows, macOS, Linux and BSD running on any CPU from x86-64 to ARM to IBM zSeries.

A 20th-anniversary blog post thanked MAME's 1,600 contributors -- more than triple the number after its 10th anniversary -- and also thanks MAME's uncredited contributors. "if you've filed a bug report, distributed binaries, run a community site, or just put in a good word for MAME, we appreciate it." I've seen MAME resurrect everything from a rare East German arcade game to a Sonic the Hedgehog popcorn machine. Anybody else have a favorite MAME experience to share?
Cloud

Microsoft Reportedly Working On a 'Lightweight Version of Windows' Known As 'Cloud Shell' (neowin.net) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: Last week, details emerged of Microsoft's plans to develop a single, unified, 'adaptive shell' for Windows 10. Known as the 'Composable Shell', or CSHELL, the company's efforts were said to be focused on establishing a universal Windows 10 version with a standardized framework to scale and adapt the OS to any type of device, display size or user experience, including smartphones, PCs, tablets, consoles, large touchscreens, and more. Today, Petri reported that Microsoft is working on a new shell for Windows known as 'Cloud Shell'. According to internal documentation referred to in that report, Cloud Shell is described as a "lightweight version of Windows designed for the modern computing world." It also hints at plans to introduce the Cloud Shell sometime in 2017 -- but little else is known about the new shell besides that. Cloud Shell is said to be connected, in some way, with the Windows Store and Universal Windows Platform app framework, and the report speculates that it may also be related to Microsoft's plans to bring the full version of Windows 10 to mobile devices with ARM-based processors, which it announced in December. However, the cloud nomenclature, and the reference to this being a 'lightweight' version of Windows could hint at a 'thin client'-style approach, in which the Windows 10 shell could be streamed from Microsoft's Azure platform to any device with an internet connection, while its cloud servers remotely handle all of the processing and storage requirements of each users' tasks.
Open Source

FreeDOS 1.2 Is Finally Released (freedos.org) 146

Very long-time Slashdot reader Jim Hall -- part of GNOME's board of directors -- has a Christmas gift. Since 1994 he's been overseeing an open source project that maintains a replacement for the MS-DOS operating system, and has just announced the release of the "updated, more modern" FreeDOS 1.2! [Y]ou'll find a few nice surprises. FreeDOS 1.2 now makes it easier to connect to a network. And you can find more tools and games, and a few graphical desktop options including OpenGEM. But the first thing you'll probably notice is the all-new new installer that makes it much easier to install FreeDOS. And after you install FreeDOS, try the FDIMPLES program to install new programs or to remove any you don't want. Official announcement also available at the FreeDOS Project blog.
FreeDOS also lets you play classic DOS games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem, and Jill of the Jungle -- and today marks a very special occasion, since it's been almost five years since the release of FreeDos 1.1. "If you've followed FreeDOS, you know that we don't have a very fast release cycle," Jim writes on his blog. "We just don't need to; DOS isn't exactly a moving target anymore..."
Emulation (Games)

Microsoft and Qualcomm Collaborate To Bring Windows 10, x86 Emulation To Snapdragon Processors (anandtech.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today at Microsoft's WinHEC event in Shenzhen, China, the company announced that it's working with Qualcomm to bring the full Windows 10 experience to future devices powered by Snapdragon processors. These new Snapdragon-powered devices should support all things Microsoft, including Microsoft Office, Windows Hello, Windows Pen, and the Edge browser, alongside third-party Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps and, most interestingly, x86 (32-bit) Win32 apps. They should even be able to play Crysis 2. This announcement fits nicely with Microsoft's "Windows Everywhere" doctrine and should come as no surprise. It's not even the first time we've seen Windows running on ARM processors. Microsoft's failed Windows RT operating system was a modified version of Windows 8 that targeted the ARMv7-A 32-bit architecture. It grew from Microsoft's MinWin effort to make Windows more modular by reorganizing the operating system and cleaning up API dependencies. The major change with today's announcement over Windows RT and UWP is that x86 apps will be able to run on Qualcomm's ARM-based SoCs, along with support for all of the peripherals that are already supported with Windows 10. This alone is a huge change from Windows RT, which would only work with a small subset of peripherals. Microsoft is also focusing on having these devices always connected through cellular, which is something that is not available for many PCs at the moment. Support will be available for eSIM to avoid having to find room in a cramped design to accommodate a physical SIM, and Microsoft is going so far as to call these "cellular PCs" meaning they are expecting broad support for this class of computer, rather than the handful available now with cellular connectivity. The ability to run x86 Win32 apps on ARM will come through emulation, and to demonstrate the performance Microsoft has released a video of an ARM PC running Photoshop.
NES (Games)

Doyodo RetroEngine Sigma Is a Linux-Powered Classic Video Game Emulation Console (betanews.com) 91

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: The Nintendo NES Classic is quite an amazing console. True, it is not as powerful as modern game systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it comes pre-loaded with many classic NES titles. Unfortunately, its strength is also its weakness -- those pre-loaded titles are the only games you can play. You cannot load other games, so you are stuck with what you got. As an alternative, some folks use software emulation and ROMs on their computers to play countless video game titles. Of course, there are moral concerns here, as you are often downloading the games illegally -- unless you own the physical copy, that is. Even then, it is a gray area. Today, a company called Doyodo launched a new Linux-powered emulation console on Indiegogo. The device not only plays NES games, but Atari, Game Boy, PlayStation 1, Genesis, and more. You play using USB controllers. In addition, it can serve as a media player (with Kodi) or a full-fledged Linux desktop. Some other features include 4K video playback, Wi-Fi networking built in, and a compact and portable design. There's even a deluxe version that ships with Bluetooth, an extra controller and 32GB of storage; the basic configuration includes just one controller and 16GB of storage. You can view the Indiegogo page here.

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