Category Archives: Articles

Windows Vista

Last week I promised that I’d take a look at the new version of Windows that is currently under development, Windows Vista.Not wanting to disappoint, I will today be taking a look at the latest preview build (5231) that was released to beta testers a few days ago.

Windows Vista (formally codenamed ‘Longhorn’) was originally envisioned as a minor upgrade to Windows XP designed more as a stopgap although as work progressed on the Operating System it took the shape of an all encompassing major upgrade.

Let us take a look at some of the new features this Operating System will offer although please do bear in mind that the finished version is over a year away yet so obviously features are subject to change.

New look – Windows new look and feel is known as “Aero” which on suitably equipped machines will use the PC’s 3D accelerator to create a glass effect that will make the Windows visual experience deeper and more engaging.A downside to this effect is that it will require some pretty beefy hardware to create although on less powerful machines you will be able to go back to the classic Windows look.

Security – This is being touted as the big improvement over previous versions of Windows and Microsoft is confident that they have truly got it right this time around.Windows XP if you will remember was riddled with massive security vulnerabilities when it first released and it took the release of two service packs to get it up to anywhere near a decent standard.Obviously there is plenty happening behind the scenes to protect you from security vulnerabilities but since the majority won’t be aware of any of this background work we should focus on the things that will make a difference in the way you use the computer day to day.

Notable features include a firewall that will protect against unauthorised outbound activity in addition to the current ability to protect against inbound connections, parents will be able to set up parental controls to restrict what their children access and the OS should be able to prevent the installation of malicious software by using restricted access user accounts for day to day activities.The in-built e-mail client will provide anti-spam facilities as standard and Microsoft is planning to offer an anti-virus and anti-spyware subscription service although I would have personally liked to have seen this included as standard in the OS.

Internet Explorer – Windows Vista will include Internet Explorer 7 which is the replacement for the now four year old Internet Explorer 6.Although IE7 will be available for Windows XP eventually will be standard in Vista.As Microsoft is facing heavy competition from third party alternatives such as “Firefox” we should expect IE7 to be vast improvement although I think it is unlikely that they will think up anything original but just rip the best bits out of Firefox.For example, IE7 will support tabbed browsing and a built in RSS reader both of which Firefox has always included from the start.Security is again paramount in the new version of IE as it will include a protected mode to prevents Spyware and Malicious software from easily entering your system as well as a “phishing filter” which will protect you from fraudulent websites.

To summerise the new version of Windows looks as though it could be a worthy upgrade to the current Windows XP although we’ll have to wait until December 2006 to see everything that Microsoft has up their sleeves.Of course, there’s a lot more that I’d love to tell you about but unfortunately it’s difficult to cover an entirely new release of Windows in a 600 word article.For more information straight from the horses mouth visit www.microsoft.com/windowsvista

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Happy Birthday Windows

It’s a month full of birthdays as not only 24 years ago this week was yours truly bought into the world but it is also twenty years this month that the first copies of Windows began shipping onto the market.I thought to celebrate we would take a quick look back over the Windows history.

Windows 1.0 was initially announced to the world back in November 1983 with a shipping date of early 1984 with minimum system specs of a floppy drive and 192kb of RAM.Even back then Microsoft were hopeless at keeping to deadlines and technical requirements so over a year later Windows was shipped to the world with minimum of 256kb of RAM with Microsoft suggesting that you should really have double that amount of RAM and a hard drive.Windows 1.0 included a number of applications that would be familiar to modern day Windows users such as Calculator, Clock, Write, Paint and Calendar.

Windows 2.0 was released in December 1987 which introduced overlapping Windows and Icons to the public whereas previous versions of Windows were largely text based and multiple open windows couldn’t be overlapped but rather tiled across the screen.A later version designed for the new 386 processor was also released which included improved multi-tasking abilities.

Windows 3.0 introduced a number of new features such as program manager and file manager along with the ability for programs to use memory beyond 640kb which had previously been a fairly substantial stumbling block of earlier versions.Windows 3.0 was one of the first versions of the program that truly clicked and soon a number of home users, business users and developers began adopting the software.One of the most popular incarnations of the software, Windows 3.1 was released in April 1992 which focused on improving the stability of Windows 3.0 as well as introducing a few new features.

Windows 95 was released back in August 2005 accompanied by a huge advertising campaign and the Operating System became a great success due a number of factors.One such factor was simply timing; the home market was booming and the Internet was starting to make its way into homes.The tools provided by the Operating System to developers made it easy to create applications that could connect to the Internet and hence fantastic new programs such as Netscape Navigator started to appear on the market.Windows 95 was technically superior to previous incarnations being designed for 32-bit applications and in most cases removing the necessity for users to often switch back to the old MS-DOS Operating System that was previously so frequently required.

Windows 98 was another popular Operating System that was later superseded by both Windows 98 SE and then Windows ME but to be honest they were only slightly different to the original.

Although many home users wouldn’t have been aware of it, the majority of the Microsoft product team were at this time working on developing the Windows NT Operating System which had always been the version of Windows that business users relied on due primarily to the superior stability and networking performance of this OS offered.Windows NT 4.0 had shipped in August 2006 and then Windows NT 5.0 which was later renamed Windows 2000 appeared in February 2000.

Windows XP was the next major product that Microsoft released and remains the Operating System that the majority of us use to the current day.It released in October 2001 as a combination of the core of Windows 2000 and the user interface and compatibility of Windows 98 (note that I’m ignoring the lame duck Windows ME Operating System) and has been a fantastic success.Although it is undeniable that the software has experienced a number of problems with early compatibility and ongoing security concerns it is certainly the best that Microsoft has to offer at present.

Looking forward, Microsoft plan to release Windows Vista in the second half of 2006 as a replacement for Windows XP and I will be previewing this new version of Windows in a future Click Article.

One of the key factors to the success of Windows has undoubtedly been creating a standard platform so that all software looks and acts in a similar fashion.If you take someone who has been using Windows 95 for the last 10 years and give them Windows XP they will have absolutely no problems using it as it looks and behaves in a almost identical fashion.Perhaps this has been the biggest stumbling block for programs such as Linux which rely on the user changing the way that they use their machine from what they have been accustomed.

Happy birthday Windows!

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Readers Suggestions

This week I’ve had a couple of suggestions for articles from a couple of readers but neither was substantial enough to create an entire article from and so I’ve printed both!

I know you’re interested in any useful freeware downloads I thought you might look into WordWeb which is an English Dictionary/Thesaurus which sits in the system tray on the PC.I have used this little program time & time again and have found it highly useful so try it out and see what you think!

Tom Blakesley, via e-mail

Following Toms advice I have tried out this program and found it to be pretty useful so head to https://wordweb.info/free/ to download the free version of the software which is slightly over 6mb in size.Once downloaded simply install it on to your PC and it sits patiently in the bottom right hand corner of your screen by the system clock until it is summoned.

The idea is simply whenever you need to check the spelling or definition of a word then highlight it then press the keys <CTRL>, <ALT> and ‘W’ simultaneously and up pops WordWeb.If it recognises the word it will give you a definition along with a list of alternative words or if the word isn’t present in its dictionary then alternative spellings will be suggested.Although the program is possibly not too useful if you only ever use Microsoft Word which has an inbuilt Spell checker and Thesaurus it could be a godsend for those who often use programs with poor quality or even absent spell checkers or those who regularly require a definition of a word rather than just the spelling.

The program would be particularly useful if you were browsing the Internet and a webpage mentioned a word that you weren’t familiar with - simply double click on it and use the key combination mentioned above and you will instantly be given the definition.This feature would be a useful learning tool if you get your kids to use it whenever they encounter a new word that they don’t know the meaning of whilst using the family PC.

You may have seen in the news that Telewest and NTL are going to merge.This will create one giant cable company in the UK and it will be interesting to see what this means for the people in Torbay.Perhaps the merger would warrant an article in Click?

Ian MacMillan, via e-mail.

This is interesting news which instantly grabbed my attention when it appeared last week as I own some nicely recovering Telewest shares.The merger of these two companies will create the UK’s dominant cable TV company which is real competition to the current Sky TV network along with also becoming the second largest UK residential telephone company behind BT.Readers of Click will probably be more interested in following how these developments are going to affect the Internet service that Telewest have been offering in Torbay as the two companies increase their broadband market share and streamline their newly combined business.For more information about this story you should check out www.ntl.com, www.telewest.com or any good news site.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

E-mail etiquette

E-mail like so many other things in life has an etiquette that should be adhered to.As a relatively literate member of society some of the e-mails I receive make me mad for no reason other than the fact that they are either ill thought or because it is just obvious that the author has taken no care whilst composing it.It’s for this reason that this week I have decided to publish what I believe should be fundamental rules that we all follow when putting together an e-mail:

Do not type the entire e-mail in CAPITALS – Typing in capitals insinuates that you are either shouting or yelling at your recipient.Of course if this is your intention then feel free to use caps but if you’re writing to your dear old grandmother then it isn’t really appropriate to be yelling at her constantly.Most people realise that you won’t be meaning to shout at them and that you have just left the caps lock key on but then rather than causing insult you will instead just appear either extremely lazy or ignorant.

Do not leave the subject field blank – Not only is this the quickest way to get your e-mail blocked by a spam filter but for those of us that receive a lot of e-mail it will make it hard to organise and manage our inboxes.

Don’t use fancy formatting – When I receive an e-mail black text on a white background is perfect – It’s easy to read and is quick to download.I cannot stand it when someone e-mails me in pink text with a huge similarly coloured image in the background - not only does it slow down my machine but it also makes for impossible reading so keep it simple folks!

Use Blank Carbon Copies – When sending an e-mail to a large number of people make use of the blank carbon copy (BCC) field to input all your recipients e-mail addresses rather than the standard CC field.By using the BCC field you will be able to e-mail a large number of people but their e-mail addresses will be hidden from one another so not only are yourespecting their privacy but your e-mail also won’t start with a huge list of recipients which serve no purpose but to remind people that you’re a novice.

Be careful what you forward – When you get something in your inbox that you think is slightly humorous think to yourself whether other people would appreciate it as much as you obviously do.Perhaps you’re just the kind of person who has a terrible sense of humour; if you forward a bad joke on to 20 other people then they’re not going to thank you as in addition to not being funny, they’ve probably already seen said e-mail a dozen times already that day thanks to other newbie users.

Don’t ever, EVER forward virus warnings - I have never seen a genuine virus warning e-mail and would be confident in saying that without exception they are certainly all hoaxes.Some of these hoax e-mails can cause damage as users follow the instructions to attempt to remove a fictitious virus that hasn’t even infected their machine.You will not be thanked if you forward an e-mail on to 20 friends and they all mess up their machines thanks to you.

There was a lot more that I wanted to cover in this article but I’ve ran out of space so perhaps I’ll continue to set the online world to rights next week.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Internet Content Filters

Many parents are worried about the type of material their children could access on the Internet, either intentionally or by accident as even without trying it’s easy to inadvertently end up at one of the less reputable sites online.

One of my regular contributors Ian McMillan suggested that I take a look at the freeware program ‘Naomi’ and I must say that I’m so impressed by this small, free program that this weeks article will focus primarily on the review of this particular piece of software.

By heading to www.radiance.m6.net you can download this small 1mb package and once installed you are simply asked to select a password that will be used if you ever wish to change any settings or shut down the program and then for most users the configuration is now completed.The program will now sit down in the toolbar and close the browser if it detects that you are attempting to access anything questionable.

Unlike less sophisticated Internet filters, Naomi doesn’t just rely on a database of banned sites or simple keywords but instead uses a heuristic analysis of every site that you visit to determine the likelihood of it being unsuitable.Rather than just working with Internet Explorer the program also monitors sites being viewed in other browsers such as Firefox and Opera and is capable of detecting questionable content written in most major languages.

Most people when they think of questionable content on the Internet only think about pornography but of course there are plenty more to worry about our there.In no particular order Naomi tries to prevent access to violent contents; pornography and eroticism in the form of images or texts, sites that popularize drugs, gambling games, terrorism, hate propaganda, occultism, sects and blasphemy.

Of course, no Internet content filter is completely secure - Give me a minute alone with Naomi and I could forcefully remove it from the machine forever however it should be noted that the program isn’t designed for 23 year old computer experts but for children and early teens.If your son or daughter has sufficient knowledge to remove this program from your home PC then they’re obviously not particularly young so perhaps it’s time you stopped worrying and you should hope that sometime in their lives you’ve thought them what is and what is not acceptable material.

The program does not perform any downloading itself in order to check the suitability of sites and so is fine to use on slow Internet connections without fear of them slowing down and in addition it takes up very little in the way of system resources so should not slow down your machine.One nice feature of the program is that it can also be set to prevent peer to peer downloads - these are popular ways to acquire both illegal and questionable material.

The only real gripes that I have with the program is that it will slip up from time to time by either allowing access to material which you consider to be unsuitable or by preventing access to perfectly acceptable sites.The fact that the program is so easy to set up and requires no configuration can also work against it in the fact that you can’t turn the sensitivity of the program up or down nor can you manually allow access to specific sites.I would have also preferred that in the instance of questionable material being discovered if the program could just pop up a message telling you that access to the requested material has been denied and taking you back to the last page you viewed rather than shutting down the browser entirely.

All things considered this program is a worthwhile download for those parents who may be worried about the browsing habits of their children especially when you take in to account that it is both free of charge and easy to configure.Personally I would find a content filter installed on a family computer annoying when it blocks suitable material and think it would also give the message to my children that perhaps I didn’t trust their own judgement but of course everyone is different and perhaps when I have kids of my own this viewpoint will be radically changed!

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Digital Cameras

A scary realisation hit me a few weeks back when a relative asked if I had a photo of myself that they could have to add to a family album that was being prepared as part of a birthday present for my Granddad.After around ten minutes of looking I realised that I actually had no recent physical pictures of myself whatsoever because any that were taken of me in the last couple of years were taken using a digital camera and then either immediately deleted or stored on the PC.

Of course if I went back to pre-digital days I found that I had hundreds of pictures of me as a teenager stashed away in shoeboxes and in albums.These pictures were all taken using an old 35mm camera and to be fair half of them were rubbish so would probably have been deleted to save memory if digital technology had been around at the time.Half the fun of taking photos back then was the number of poor quality but funny pictures that always resulted from poor photography skills or simply when you wanted to use up the end of a film.

It’s this our current attitude that worries me; if we delete all photos that aren’t perfect and then don’t bother printing the ones that we do decide to keep but instead choose to keep them on our PC’s then what are we going to have in the future to remind of years gone by?Of course many people choose instead to save their entire photo albums on their computers hard drive but chances are that sooner or later that hard disk is going to crash or that something untoward will happen to that data and then you’ll be left with nothing.

Of course it doesn’t have to be this way; digital photography is great and it is ultimately our attitude that needs changing.There are plenty of options for ensuring that you manage to preserve your precious memories on film:

-Invest in a good quality, cheap to run printer that preferably has a memory slot built in for your cameras memory card.The memory card slot will avoid you having to mess around with having to print pictures from your PC and instead just insert your memory card and choose to print off all pictures – Don’t be too discriminate in which ones you print.

-If you don’t have a good printer or can’t be bothered with the hassle of printing them yourself then take your cameras memory card to a regular film processing company who should be happy to print them out for you professionally just like it used to be when you took your old films to be processed.

-If you’re even too lazy to head to your local store for them to print out your photos then use a company such as Pixmania (www.pixmania.com) – simply upload your photos to them and they’ll then print out your pictures and post them to you.

-Don’t delete any picture that isn’t perfect.Some of my most treasured pictures from the past were ones at the time I thought were rubbish at the time but they now remind of specific moments in my life.

-If you do keep the majority of your photos on your computer then please do make sure that you keep a backup on CD, DVD or by uploading them to one of the many picture storage sites on the Internet.

-If you’re not going to do digital photography properly by using a good quality camera and creating good quality printouts then do yourself a favour for the time being and stick to 35mm film.

All the above is fairly obvious stuff but I thought it should be mentioned before we all find ourselves years down the line with nothing but faded memories to show for the journey thanks to our half hearted switch to digital technology.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Epson Printer Utility

As you are all probably no doubt aware I own a company that distributes low cost compatible inkjet cartridges across the UK.From the range of cartridges that are stocked I find that the ones designed for Epson printers tend to produce excellent results at a good price with a very low return rate.One thing that time and again catches customers out is when they install a new inkjet cartridge into a machine which has dried up printheads and as a result the new cartridge fails to work satisfactory.

This problem is caused due to the fact that unlike machines designed by HP or Lexmark, Epson printers have the printhead integrated into the machine itself rather than present inside the cartridge.This means that in an Epson printer you just buy ink tanks and the printer then has to take care of distributing the ink onto the paper whereas in contrast a HP or Lexmark printer will have the printing technology present in the cartridge itself and so the cartridge takes care of distributing the ink across the page when you print.Bottom line is that with a HP or Lexmark cartridge that you will be getting a new print head every time you change the cartridge which although may sound good in theory results in your printing costs soaring.

The good news with Epson printheads is that if they do become clogged that you can easily clean them through the use of a function built into the printer that can be accessed via the printer control panel or through software on your PC.Whilst effective this utility is somewhat limited so today I’m going to take the time to let you know about a free piece of software which is a must for Epson printer users.

The SSC Service utility (www.ssclg.com/epsone.shtml) includes several tools that Epson printer users will find useful.First and foremost is the ability to clean individual colours of the printhead; let’s say for example that your yellow isn’t working properly because the printhead nozzle is blocked – Now conventionally you would have to run the head cleaning process on all your available colours and since this process uses ink it would result in a fairly large wastage.With the SSC Service Utility you could just clean the yellow section of the printhead which would result in less wastage.This facility is made even more useful by the fact that you also have the ability to perform thorough head cleans rather than just the conventional standard clean.

Although I wouldn’t really recommend refilling your Epson print cartridges (why bother when I sell brand new cartridges starting from £1.49) this utility does also offer a few utilities relating to managing the smart chip on the front of the cartridge which tried to prevent refilling.There are also a few utilities relating to the internal counters inside the printer which will be helpful for more advanced users who don’t appreciate their printer highlighting the fact that it needs to be serviced on a regular basis.

To conclude, the SSC utility is a free of charge program that extremely compact and hence uses very few system resources and will take very little time to download.Most Epson printer owners will find a use for it at some point in the life of their printer so it is certainly worth taking the time to download it now.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Readers suggestions

Once again I’ll take the time off this week to help one of my readers take care of their computer woes.

I wonder if you could help, I am looking for some free software which “undeletes” pictures from an SD media card.I accidentally (believe it or not) deleted my holiday pictures by cutting the file from the camera card and then thinking I had copied them I deleted them off my PC!

Paul Wright, via e-mail

I should start this article by briefly explaining exactly what we mean when we use the term undelete.Many people think that what happens when they delete a file from their computer is that it is physically removed from the hard disk or media device you are using never to be seen again.What actually happens is that the Operating System simply marks the area of space that was once used by that file as being available to use and hides the file from the view of the user - it doesn’t physically disappear from the disc until the computer decides to write data to that area.This explains why in legal cases involving data being used as evidence the computer of the accused is given to forensics to analyse so that they can try and recover data from the hard drive that may been purposefully deleted.

A SD (Secure Digital) card is a memory card that is primarily used in digital cameras for storing pictures.I had always assumed that as a static memory device that a SD card would be a different kettle of fish and that once a file had been removed from the card that it would be lost forever however on closer investigation it would appear that they work on the same principle when it comes to recovering lost files.

After spending half an hour searching the Internet for an appropriate program I discovered the PC Inspector site (www.pcinspector.de/file_recovery/uk/welcome.htm) which would appear to do the job you require perfectly.To test the application I filled an SD card up with pictures then deleted them and PC Inspector then managed to recover them all.Additionally the site includes a version of this program to recover files that you may have lost on a floppy or hard disk and best of all these utilities are completely free of charge.It is worth bearing in mind that if since deletion the space that your files once occupied has since become filled that these undelete programs will be essentially useless.

The site also includes several other helpful pieces of software such as a utility to permanently delete files that you don’t want to ever be recovered, a hard drive cloning utility and several other useful programs that are free if charge.

An undelete program is something that most people should have on their computer as it is certainly something that you’ll use once in your lifetime; I know I have.Whether you require to recover a file from floppy disc, static memory card or your computers hard drive there is a utility out there that can help you.If you try PC Inspector and don’t find it to your liking then do check out https://www.snapfiles.com/freeware/system/fwdatarecovery.html where you will find a dozen or alternative free utilities.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Readers suggestions

There’s a philosophy that rarely disappoints in this world and it goes something along the lines that if you’re too lazy to do something yourself then let someone else stand up and do the job for you.This week Ian McMillian wrote to me with a long letter of suggestions for Click and since I’ve got a fair amount on my plate this week I thought rather than break it down and edit it that I’d just print it in his suggestions in their entirety for you lucky readers:

-E-mail notifiers can run in the system tray and tell you when there is new e-mail without having to leave the e-mail client running.The best one I tried is POP Peeper which can be set to notify for POP e-mails as well as Hotmail and Yahoo! webmail accounts.www.poppeeper.com

-One of the commonest criticisms of digital cameras is that the software that comes with them is not very good.A superb freeware alternative is Cam2PC which is a full featured program that will download and display digital photographs in a range of ways.www.snapfiles.com/get/cam2pc.html

-Xplorer2 is a freeware file explorer which is far more configurable than Windows Explorer.Tabbed exploring is something that Windows Explorer should offer but does not.www.download.com/3000-2248_4-10407732.html

-Comparator is a freeware alternative to Windows Briefcase.There are quite a few freeware file synchronisation utilities on the web but this one gets the vote as it is very easy to use and more versatile than Windows Briefcase.It can compare the contents of any two folders and synchronise them at the touch of a button.www.itlocation.com/en/software/prd41798,,.htm

-Web Builder is an excellent piece of freeware for people who want to design a website.People are often put off by the thought of squiggly HTML commands but Web Builder uses a word processor-style interface and converts the pages to HTML automatically.www.pablosoftwaresolutions.com/html/wysiwyg_web_builder.html

-Some people love sticky notes programs as an alternative to Windows Notepad.The best one is reckoned to be Stickies which is a very small download.www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/

-There are many different monitor test programs on the internet, but the Nokia Monitor Test is still the best and it is free unlike some others.This is a must have for any computer user who wants to check out the performance of their monitor.www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Video/Other-VIDEO-Tools/Nokia-Monitor-Test.shtml

-Mmm is a piece of freeware which can be used to remove clutter from the right click context menu.Simply drag and drop the unwanted items to “rarely used”.www.hace.us-inc.com/mmm.shtml

-Audiograbber is a sophisticated piece of freeware which can act as a replacement to Windows Sound Recorder.In addition to ripping MP3s, it can record MP3 audio in real time (Windows Sound Recorder will record only .wav files).Possible uses for Audiograbber include recording radio programmes off air or recording old LPs or cassettes to MP3 for use on a computer or MP3 player.www.audiograbber.com-us.net

-Arrow Search is a useful alternative to Google.It averages out the results of several search engines and presents them in a clear way.Unlike some metasearch engines Arrow Search is UK based and has no advertising, so it avoids skewing the results towards the USA as some metasearch engines do.www.arrowsearch.net

-The best webcam on the net is the one in Times Square, New York.This has live streaming video with sound and there is always something happening day or night.The camera pans round to give different views www.earthcam.com/usa/newyork/timessquare/livestream.html and to be honest, it makes the Torquay Harbour webcam look very boring! www.bbc.co.uk/devon/webcams/torquay_webcam.shtml

There has to be something in the above list that has taken your fancy!I would like to thank Ian yet again for his fantastic suggestions which are always welcome and always make my life just that little bit easier!

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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