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EU to fund Free Software code review (FSFE)

LWN.net - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 21:35
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has commented on the most recent European Union (EU) budget—approved on December 17—that includes €1 million for auditing free-software programs that are used by the EU governmental bodies. The auditing is meant to find and fix security holes in those programs. "Even though these institutions are tightly locked into non-free file formats, much of their infrastructure is based on Free Software. 'This is a very welcome decision,' says FSFE's president Karsten Gerloff. 'Like most public bodies, the European institutions rely heavily on Free Software for their daily operations. It is good to see that the Parliament and the Commission will invest at least a little in improving the quality and the programs they use.'"

If You Think Deep Links Are a Big Deal Now, Just Wait

Wired - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 21:30

They were a discussion topic on Google’s Earnings Call and were a focus at I/O. Facebook created a standalone initiative called App Links to take a leadership position. Long time internet watcher John Battelle claims the quickening is nigh. What is it about deep links that has everyone so worked up? Today, they help us […]

The post If You Think Deep Links Are a Big Deal Now, Just Wait appeared first on WIRED.

Cyber espionage targets Syrian activists, linked to ISIS

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 21:30

A cyber espionage campaign targeting activist groups in Syria is likely the work of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report published on Thursday by CitizenLab, a research group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

The attacks have targeted a group of Syrian activists, Raqqah Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RSS), that focuses on documenting human rights abuses in the Northern Syrian city of Ar Raqqah, which is currently occupied by ISIS, according to the analysis. The attacks used a tailored e-mail message to direct targeted users to an infected slide show, purportedly showing locations of ISIS forces and US airstrikes, but in reality, compromising the victim’s computer.

The attack does not result in remote access to a victim’s computer, but does result in a malicious program sending out occasional e-mail messages with data about the victim’s system and location, including the Internet protocol (IP) address, CitizenLab said in its analysis.

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Obama’s Bold Sony Statement: Canceling The Interview Was a ‘Mistake’

Wired - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 21:14

In his end-of-year press conference today, President Barack Obama called the decision by Sony Pictures Entertainment to cancel the release of its film The Interview a “mistake.” “I am sympathetic to the threats they face,” Obama said. “Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake…. “We cannot have a society in which […]

The post Obama’s Bold Sony Statement: Canceling The Interview Was a ‘Mistake’ appeared first on WIRED.

Obama thinks Sony “made a mistake” pulling The Interview after hack

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:55

At the president's end-of-year speech on Friday afternoon, Barak Obama acknowledged the FBI's report claiming that North Korea was behind the November hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and confirmed that the US would lay blame on the isolated nation for Sony's hack. The president promised a “proportional response,” but he did not give more details as to what that response would look like. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama told the press. “It will be proportional, and it will be at the time and place that we choose; it's not something I'm going to announce at a press conference.”

The president continued, calling for the US government to help private interests shore up their security practices, although he was vague on details for that plan as well. “Part of the problem is you've got weak states that can engage in this kind of attack, you've got non-state actors, that's part of the reason we need to work with congress and get an actual bill passed to [help companies] prevent these attacks from taking place.”

When asked whether he thought Sony did the right thing in pulling the movie The Interview from theaters, the president spoke remarkably candidly. “Sony is a corporation, it suffered significant damage... I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”

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Tech Time Warp of the Week: The ’90s TV Special That Profiled Hackers and Their Glorious Hair

Wired - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:39

In 1996, the first episode of Internet Cafe looked at the net's hacker problem. Not a lot has change since then.

The post Tech Time Warp of the Week: The ’90s TV Special That Profiled Hackers and Their Glorious Hair appeared first on WIRED.

Republicans may have plan to save Internet providers from utility rules

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:36

Congressional Republicans are drafting an "industry-backed proposal" to enforce net neutrality rules while preventing the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying Internet service as a utility, The Washington Post reported today. The Republicans "appear likely to introduce legislation next month," the report said.

If true, Internet providers and Republicans would be resigning themselves to some form of network neutrality rules being imposed on broadband service. But they would avoid the imposition of utility rules under Title II of the Communications Act, a scenario the industry fears even more.

The FCC is on track to issue network neutrality rules that prevent or limit the ability of Internet providers to block or discriminate against applications and websites. The rules would include restrictions on "fast lanes" in which online content providers could pay ISPs for preferred access. The FCC may need to use Title II to impose these rules because of a Verizon lawsuit that led to a court decision saying the FCC could not impose per se common carrier obligations without reclassifying broadband providers as common carriers.

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As Hollywood Funds a SOPA Revival Through State Officials, Google (And The Internet) Respond

EFF Breaking News - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:10

Almost three years ago, millions of Internet users joined together to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a disastrous bill that would have balkanized the Internet in the name of copyright and trademark enforcement. Over the past week, we've been tracking a host of revelations about an insidious campaign to accomplish the goals of SOPA by other means. The latest development: Google has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of an overbroad and punitive subpoena seeking an extraordinary quantity of information about the company and its users. The subpoena, Google warns, is based on legal theories that could have disastrous consequences for the open Internet.

The subpoena was issued after months of battles between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. According to the lawsuit, Hood has been using his office to pressure Google to restrict content accessible through the search engine.  Indeed, among other things, he sought "a “24-hour link through which attorneys general[]” can request that links to particular websites be removed from search results "within hours,” presumably without judicial review or an opportunity for operators of the target websites to be heard."  As Google states, "The Attorney General may prefer a pre-filtered Internet—but the Constitution and Congress have denied him the authority to mandate it."

The subpoena itself is bad enough, but here's what's really disturbing: the real force behind it appears to be the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which has been quietly supporting state-level prosecutors in various efforts to target the company and the open Internet. The clear aim of that campaign—dubbed "Project Goliath" in MPAA emails made public through the recent high profile breach of Sony's corporate network—is to achieve the goals of the defeated SOPA blacklist proposal without the public oversight of the legislative process. Previously, Google had responded with a sharply worded notice and a petition titled #ZombieSOPA.

According to Google, the MPAA intended to use the state prosecutors' offices to bring about the aims of SOPA after the bill's embarrassing public defeat nearly three years ago. In January 2012, legislators quickly distanced themselves from SOPA after a widespread online "blackout" campaign drew attention to the way the proposed law could be misused for censoring lawful speech. In addition, EFF helped coordinate a series of letters signed by prominent computer scientists explaining how the proposed blacklist technique—censoring at the DNS level—could undermine the fundamental architecture of the Internet, destabilizing core components in an ill considered effort to reduce copyright infringement.

The MPAA learned a lesson from that campaign, but it appears it was the wrong one. Instead of recognizing that an online blacklist was a fundamentally unworkable idea, they decided that it could only be pushed in secrecy. In one email, MPAA's Global General Counsel Steven Fabrizio includes a section titled "Technical Analyses," that suggests they did not seriously consider the technical concerns highlighted during the SOPA backlash:

Very little systematic work has been completed to understand the technical issues related to site blocking in the US and/or alternative measures IPSs might adopt. We will identify and retain a consulting technical expert to work with us to study these issues. In this context, we will explore which options might lead ISPs to cooperate with us.

Neither the MPAA nor the state attorneys general in question have challenged the authenticity of the leaked documents, which clearly outline a widespread campaign by the MPAA to direct at least $500,000, and potentially up to $1.175 million, to these political offices and towards these goals.

This coordinated campaign by the MPAA follows a trend of lobbyists funneling money and gifts to state attorneys general, who are subject to fewer restrictions and disclosure requirements than elected officials at the national level. The New York Times reported on this broader trend in a series of extensive articles beginning last October. In fact, one leaked Sony email consists of an MPAA official circulating the first in that series to 62 others, including numerous studio executivess and representatives of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Some of the state attorneys on the receiving end of these benefits have undertaken legal efforts against Google, sending formal letters and subpoena-like documents called civil investigative demands (CIDs), both of which appear to be drafted in some cases by the MPAA or their attorneys at the firm Jenner & Block. Mississippi's Jim Hood of Mississippi in particular sent the current controversial 79-page subpoena to Google in October as a follow-up to a stern letter last year; a New York Times report demonstrates that the letter was drafted by the MPAA's law firm and delivered largely unedited to Google.

To be clear though: Google may be the target today, but the real target is the open Internet, which depends on free and uncensored platforms to survive. Any campaign to censor the Internet is cause for concern—and a secret one is all the more so. The public has clearly and unambiguously denounced the SOPA effort; it's shameful to see its backers try to revive its goals by dodging the scrutiny of the democratic process.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceSOPA/PIPA: Internet Blacklist Legislation
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Gregor Herrmann: GDAC 2014/19

Planet Debian - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 20:07

yesterday I learned that I can go to FOSDEM in early 2015 because a conflicting event was cancelled. that makes me happy because FOSDEM is great for seeing other debian folks, & especially for meeting friends.

this posting is part of GDAC (gregoa's debian advent calendar), a project to show the bright side of debian & why it's fun for me to contribute.

Crossword Puzzle 2014: The Year in Copyright News

EFF Breaking News - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 19:52

Over the last 12 months, IP spectators saw a lot of action in the arena of copyright and related law. We would tell you all about it, but that would be cheating. Instead, we'll leave you to test your knowledge on Crossword Puzzle Day, December 21.

Download a printable PDF here, or play an unofficial interactive version hosted on GitHub by The Dod.


2. Zoe ______,  member of Congress who received one of EFF’s 2014 Pioneer Awards, in part for her commitment to reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

7. First name of the fictional detective who—thanks to the Supreme Court's refusal to take up the case—is officially in the public domain

8. Former Panamanian dictator who used the “right of publicity” to attack the creators of Call of Duty for including him in their game

9. Code-sharing website from which PopcornTime torrent software, was removed after an elaborate takedown request from the MPAA

10. Company that lost a major case before the Supreme Court over letting users rent dime-sized antennas to record television programming

13. Cindy Lee ______, actor who filed a copyright suit against Google over her five-second performance in the notorious “Innocence of Muslims” video

14. Blog site, run by Automattic, that earned all the possible stars in EFF’s inaugural Who Has Your Back copyright and trademark report

17. According to a dangerous decision by the Federal Circuit Court in Oracle v. Google, these Java specifications may be considered copyrightable.

18. "Monkey _____" (see crossword background) was the center of a controversy when a photographer didn’t like that it was uploaded as a public domain image to Wikimedia Commons

19. You can now do this to your cellphone to bring it to a different carrier, thanks to a bill signed by President Obama in August

20. News and gossip site that Quentin Tarantino filed a copyright lawsuit against after it linked to a leaked script of his upcoming movie The Hateful Eight

21. Photography licensing company that made its images “free to embed” and announced it would dial back its copyright enforcement


1. Porn troll Malibu Media filed more than 1,600 copyright lawsuits in 2014, using this name in place of many of the yet-to-be-identified defendants

3. An appeals court ruled that you can’t copyright the shape of this tobacco paraphernalia

4. Outgoing “IP Czar” Victoria Espinel has taken the top job at the Business Software Association. In political circles, this move is known as the revolving ___

5. Image-hosting site owned by Yahoo that raised some hackles when it announced it would be selling prints of some users’ Creative Commons licensed prints

6. Company whose leaked emails revealed a secret anti-piracy meeting organized by the Department of Homeland Security

7. Comedy Central show Nathan For You tested the limits of fair use with its parody coffee shop, “Dumb ________”

11. Brian Knappenberger released his Aaron Swartz documentary, “The Internet’s ___ ___” under a Creative Commons License

12. In December, Swedish police raided this notoriously resilient torrent site, bringing it down worldwide

15. “Blurred Lines” singer Robin _____ went to court to ask for a declaratory judgment that his song does not infringe Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.”

16. Maker of single-serving brewing pods that introduced something akin to DRM for coffee machines

Files:  eff_2014_crossword.pdfRelated Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceCopyright TrollsDMCA
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FBI claims North Korean involvement in Sony Pictures attack

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 19:47

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington press office has issued an update on the investigation into the cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, including the conclusion that North Korea was behind it.

“As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other US government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” the office said in a statement.

However, the information cited by the FBI’s update may not be as conclusive as many would like. Other hints at the attribution were provided to news organizations off-the-record, but the FBI’s public statements are far from definitive.

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T-Mobile gives up fight over cramming fees, will pay $90M back to customers

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 19:05

T-Mobile US has given up its fight against a lawsuit filed by the US government, agreeing today to refund $90 million or more to customers who were charged premium text message fees without their consent.

The Federal Trade Commission alleged that T-Mobile made hundreds of millions of dollars off the practice of passing along third-party charges to customers without their authorization and taking a commission on each charge. T-Mobile could end up paying much more than $90 million. "The settlement requires that they provide full refunds to consumers, with a total of 'at least' $90 million," an FTC spokesperson explained. "The $90 million is a floor. If they receive refund requests of more than that, they have to provide them."

In addition to everything it pays back customers, T-Mobile will pay $18 million in fines and penalties to state attorneys general and $4.5 million to the Federal Communications Commission. If T-Mobile receives less than $90 million worth of refund requests, the extra fines can be counted toward the minimum payment of $90 million. If the payment is still under $90 million, "the balance must be remitted to the FTC for additional consumer redress, consumer education, or other uses," the FTC said.

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EFF Asks Federal Circuit to Strike Down Overbroad Software Patents

EFF Breaking News - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 18:47

There are many reasons software patents cause so much trouble. The Patent Office does not do a good job reviewing software patent applications to see if they are claiming something new. And these patents often describe the purported invention with highly vague and ambiguous language. Software patents also tend to claim every way to solve a problem, rather than the particular solution developed by the applicant. This is known as functional claiming. While it may seem like an arcane legal dispute, functional claiming is a key feature of overbroad software patents.

The Patent Act already contains a provision that is supposed to limit the scope of functional claims. If a claim describes an invention functionally, its scope is supposed to be limited to the structure the applicant actually discloses in the patent. Unfortunately, the Federal Circuit has interpreted this law narrowly and makes it far too easy for patent applicants to avoid it. Essentially, as long as a patent applicant avoids using some magic words, then the court will not apply the law.

Today EFF filed an amicus brief on this issue in a case called Williamson v. Citrix. The key claim language in this case is as follows:

a distributed learning control module for receiving communications transmitted between the presenter and the audience member computer systems and for relaying the communications to an intended receiving computer system and for coordinating the operation of the streaming data module.

As you can see, this claim describes the invention in terms of what it does rather than how it does it. But the Federal Circuit did not treat this as a functional claim. Instead, the court applied a “strong presumption” that where an applicant does not use the magic words “means for” then the claim will not be treated as a functional claim. This allows the patent applicant to skirt the law.

The defendants have asked the Federal Circuit to rehear this case en banc and reject the “strong presumption.” We agree. Our brief argues that courts must analyze the substance of the patent claim rather than looking to whether or not the applicant used certain magic words. If an applicant describes the invention in terms of what it does, then the Patent Act’s restrictions on functional claiming must be applied.

Restrictions on functional claiming will not solve all problems with software patents. But they will make it harder for applicants to come up with one way to solve a problem and then monopolize all ways to solve that problem. This has been a major reason why software patents are so useful to patent trolls. We urge the Federal Circuit to hear this case en banc and restore the Patent Act’s prohibition of overbroad functional claims.

Files:  eff_amicus_williamson_v_citrix.pdfRelated Issues: PatentsInnovation
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Instagram Is Now Worth $35 Billion, Eclipsing Twitter

Wired - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 18:40

On Friday, Citigroup raised the valuation of Instagram from $19 billion to $35 billion.

The post Instagram Is Now Worth $35 Billion, Eclipsing Twitter appeared first on WIRED.

Google moves to halt investigation by Mississippi AG, cites MPAA lobbying

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 18:26

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has been a persistent critic of Google, complaining that the company's search engine leads consumers quickly to everything from pirated movies to illegal pharmaceuticals. In late October, Hood sent a broad subpoena to Google, which was recently published by The New York Times.

Now, Google has gone on the counterattack, asking a federal judge to throw out (PDF) Hood's subpoena. The search giant is quick to point out that Hood's entire investigation was undertaken "following a sustained lobbying effort from the Motion Picture Association of America."

Google says that Hood's efforts to force it to censor and rearrange its search results are barred by multiple laws. The first is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally makes websites immune from lawsuits over what's published by third parties. The company also argues search results are protected by the First Amendment, since "the state can no more tell a search engine what results to publish than it can tell a newspaper what editorials to run."

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The Savvy Plan to Combat Malaria With Mobile Phones

Wired - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 18:01

Martin Edlund likes to say that malaria could be the first disease to be beaten by mobile phones. Yes, he happens to be the CEO of the non-profit Malaria No More, so he has to say stuff like that, but no, it’s not a total pipedream.

The post The Savvy Plan to Combat Malaria With Mobile Phones appeared first on WIRED.

NASA just e-mailed a wrench to space

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 17:40

When International Space Station Commander Barry Wilmore needed a wrench, NASA knew just what to do. They "e-mailed" him one. This is the first time an object has been designed on Earth and then transmitted to space for manufacture.

Made In Space, the California company that designed the 3D printer aboard the ISS, overheard Wilmore mentioning the need for a ratcheting socket wrench and decided to create one. Previously, if an astronaut needed a specific tool it would have to be flown up on the next mission to the ISS, which could take months.

This isn't the first 3D-printed object made in space, but it is the first created to meet the needs of an astronaut. In November astronauts aboard the ISS printed a replacement part for the recently installed 3D printer. A total of 21 objects have now been printed in space, all of which will be brought back to Earth for testing.

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T-Mobile to offer LTE over 5GHz Wi-Fi airwaves to boost data rates

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 17:32

T-Mobile will expand its LTE network with the same 5GHz spectrum used by Wi-Fi starting next year. The deployment would help the company boost data throughput but work only over short distances, similar to Wi-Fi hotspots.

LTE over Wi-Fi airwaves is unusual in a couple of ways: T-Mobile will share unlicensed airwaves with other networks, rather than using spectrum to which it has an exclusive license, as wireless carriers typically do. And by using 5GHz for cellular, T-Mobile is going in a direction opposite of the coveted low-band frequencies below 1GHz that travel longer distances and more effectively penetrate building walls.

T-Mobile has acknowledged that its network has trouble over long distances and indoors because it has less low-band spectrum than AT&T and Verizon Wireless, hence T-Mobile's reliance on Wi-Fi calling to cover the gaps. But deploying LTE over 5GHz doesn't preclude further purchases of low-band licenses, which T-Mobile will likely do in an auction of 600MHz airwaves expected to occur in early 2016.

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Richard Hartmann: Release Critical Bug report for Week 51

Planet Debian - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 17:25

Real life has been interesting as of late; as you can see, I didn't post bug stats last week. If you have specific data from last Friday, please let me know and I will update.

The UDD bugs interface currently knows about the following release critical bugs:

  • In Total: 1095 (Including 179 bugs affecting key packages)
    • Affecting Jessie: 189 (key packages: 117) That's the number we need to get down to zero before the release. They can be split in two big categories:
      • Affecting Jessie and unstable: 134 (key packages: 90) Those need someone to find a fix, or to finish the work to upload a fix to unstable:
        • 32 bugs are tagged 'patch'. (key packages: 24) Please help by reviewing the patches, and (if you are a DD) by uploading them.
        • 13 bugs are marked as done, but still affect unstable. (key packages: 9) This can happen due to missing builds on some architectures, for example. Help investigate!
        • 89 bugs are neither tagged patch, nor marked done. (key packages: 57) Help make a first step towards resolution!
      • Affecting Jessie only: 55 (key packages: 27) Those are already fixed in unstable, but the fix still needs to migrate to Jessie. You can help by submitting unblock requests for fixed packages, by investigating why packages do not migrate, or by reviewing submitted unblock requests.
        • 29 bugs are in packages that are unblocked by the release team. (key packages: 11)
        • 26 bugs are in packages that are not unblocked. (key packages: 16)

How do we compare to the Squeeze release cycle?

Week Squeeze Wheezy Jessie 43 284 (213+71) 468 (332+136) 319 (240+79) 44 261 (201+60) 408 (265+143) 274 (224+50) 45 261 (205+56) 425 (291+134) 295 (229+66) 46 271 (200+71) 401 (258+143) 427 (313+114) 47 283 (209+74) 366 (221+145) 342 (260+82) 48 256 (177+79) 378 (230+148) 274 (189+85) 49 256 (180+76) 360 (216+155) 226 (147+79) 50 204 (148+56) 339 (195+144) ??? 51 178 (124+54) 323 (190+133) 189 (134+55) 52 115 (78+37) 289 (190+99) 1 93 (60+33) 287 (171+116) 2 82 (46+36) 271 (162+109) 3 25 (15+10) 249 (165+84) 4 14 (8+6) 244 (176+68) 5 2 (0+2) 224 (132+92) 6 release! 212 (129+83) 7 release+1 194 (128+66) 8 release+2 206 (144+62) 9 release+3 174 (105+69) 10 release+4 120 (72+48) 11 release+5 115 (74+41) 12 release+6 93 (47+46) 13 release+7 50 (24+26) 14 release+8 51 (32+19) 15 release+9 39 (32+7) 16 release+10 20 (12+8) 17 release+11 24 (19+5) 18 release+12 2 (2+0)

Graphical overview of bug stats thanks to azhag:

Hackers tell Sony “The Interview may release now”—with edits

Ars Technica - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 17:18

In a message sent to company executives, someone claiming to represent the hacker group calling itself the Guardians of Peace has given Sony Pictures Entertainment the go-ahead to release the film The Interview—with some minor caveats. First of all, they want any death scene for Kim Jong-un dropped from the film.

"This is GOP. You have suffered through enough threats," the message, which was also posted to Pastebin, read. "The interview may release now. But be careful. September 11 may happen again if you don't comply with the rules: Rule #1: no death scene of Kim Jong Un being too happy;  Rule #2: do not test us again ; Rule #3: if you make anything else, we will be here ready to fight."

Sony dropped plans for the release of the film following the cancellation of screenings by major theater chains.

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