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    Join the Microsoft Team, become a Microsoft Student Partner!

    • 18 Comments

    Become an MSP and bring technology and awesome opportunities to your campus! In this blog post I’ll explain what you need to do as an MSP and some of the great perks you get in return. So join now!

    MSP1

    The Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) program can be summarized in the following 4 words: “We believe in you!”

    For us, it is not about track records, it is all about passion. We want to see where your love for technology can take you. Of course we prefer people passionate about Microsoft technologies, but simply having the urge to find out more about them, regardless of whether you own an IPhone or an Android phone, is enough to get you in our MSP position.

    We have great MSPs all over Canada, some are working with their faculties student society, others directly with teachers, some even have their own start ups. You could be one of them! We want to know how you can help! What are your strengths and how we can empower you so you can shine!

    What is an MSP?

    A MSP is the point of contact between students and Microsoft. They help other students find out about the initiatives we put in place such as Developer movement and Imagine Cup. If you like free stuff or helping the world make sure to check those two links out. This last semester we had March App Madness Hack-a-thons which were coordinated events across Canada to teach and then let students develop their own Windows Phone 7 Apps! All thanks to our MSPs. They organized the events, gave tutorials and helped guide the rest of the students in the development of their app.

    We are always on the lookout for those highly energetic students that want to get involved with our technology! If you are one of them, apply now!

    Wait there’s more!

    The MSP position is not all about work. We have a line up of great rewards as a thank you for all the effort you put into it. For starters, MSP  get a full MSDN account. More than 5000$ value! (This convinced me when i joined. Nothing like Legal free software)

    If that is not enough, read the title of this section again!

     533772_402105863150622_142504739110737_1469311_1867172679_n

    We want to help you Improve your career prospects. As a MSP, you are invited and engaged in most of our own and 3rd party conferences in your region. You will get to network with some of the top technology professionals and sometimes even with part of our leadership team. Recently, for instance, our MSPs in the Toronto region had the chance to sit down and chat in a round table with Microsoft Canada’s President Eric Gales. Every year brings new opportunities for you’ll get to take advantage of!

    Furthermore, this September, we will be having an international MSP virtual Summit. Where MSPs will get training and knowledge on how to present effectively, how to develop for different platform, how to take advantage of the technologies we have and much more!

    Remember that you will be directly engaging with Microsoft. Doing a great job as an MSP helps your chances of finding great opportunities!
    Being in the front lines lets you touch all the latest technology as early as possible.

    There are many other perks and goodies that you constantly receive from us. Join the team, get involved and get ready to shine!

    Apply now!

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    Visual Studio Tips: Selection shortcuts for lazy coders

    • 17 Comments

    VisualStudioLogoHere are a couple of tricks you may not know for selecting and editing text with as few keystrokes as possible.

    Don’t forget students can get Visual Studio Professional for free through DreamSpark!

    Find more Visual Studio tips and tricks here

    Cut, Copy, Paste: Three commands programmers use every day. Let’s face it, all coders are basically lazy: The less keystrokes the better. That’s why it’s nice to know the fastest way to select the text you want to cut, copy & paste. In this post I’ll share a few different techniques for selecting code. You probably know a couple of the tricks listed below, but did you know all of them? If you have any tricks of your own, please share!

    • How do I select one word at a time?
    • How do I select to end of line?
    • How do I select an entire line of code as quickly as possible?
    • How do I select multiple lines of code starting from a particular column?
    • Two Bonus tips (You have to scroll down to find them)

    How do I select one word at a time?

    You can select text using the keyboard as well as the mouse. If you put the cursor anywhere in the code and hold down the <SHIFT> key and then use the right or left arrow key, you can make a selection one letter at a time.

    image

    If you hold down the <SHIFT> and <CTRL> keys then using the arrow keys will select one word at a time.

    selecting one word at a time

    How do I select to end of line?

    If you hold down the <SHIFT> key and then press the <END> key you select from the cursor location to the end of the line

    select to end of line

    How do I select an entire line of code as quickly as possible?

    I discovered this trick by accident, and fell in love with it. If you want to select an entire line of code, all you need to do is put the cursor anywhere on the line, do not make any selection at all and then do the desired command (Cut, copy, or paste). When there is no text selected, cut, copy and paste default to selecting the entire line. Try it!

    How do I select multiple lines of code starting from a particular column?

    Have you ever tried to select code on multiple lines? If you just start in the middle of a line of code and select multiple lines of code you end up with a selection like this:

    select multiple lines of code

    Now try holding down the <ALT> key as you make a multiple line selection. This works if you are selecting with the keyboard or the mouse.

    box select

    When you use the <ALT> key you get something called a box select. This can be useful if you are trying to copy a list of variable names, comments, or namespaces without the entire line of code.

    BONUS TIPS!

    Okay if you actually scrolled down this far, here are the two bonus tips I promised.

    Not only can you select code over multiple lines with the <ALT> key, you can actually edit code on multiple lines as well. Let’s say you have a list of variables declared as private and you decide they need to be public. Use the <ALT> key to do a multiple line selection of the keyword private across all the declarations.

    box edit

    Now start typing the word public, as you type it will replace the selected text on each line with the new text you type

    box editing

     

    Last but not least, you can actually insert text on multiple lines of code using the box select technique as well. Let’s say I wanted to add some similar comment text after each variable declaration above. Use the <ALT> key to do a multiple line selection, but make your selection at the position in the line where you want to add the comments.

    box insert

    Now start typing the text you want to insert, as you type it will be added to all the lines.

    box insert

    If you like that multi-edit feature, you may also want to check out this neat little add-on for Visual Studio called MultiEdit Extension for Visual Studio. After you install the extension, if you hold down <ALT> while mouseclicking in the editor it will add multiple selection points wherever you clicked. Then you just type and your text is added to all the selected positions. Scott Hanselman wrote a blog post about it here. Thanks Andrew for pointing out this neat little extension.

    Happy coding!

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    How does a student get a DreamSpark account for free software and store accounts?

    • 16 Comments

    DreamSparkDreamSpark gives students access to free software and free accounts for the Windows Store but how do you sign up?

    DreamSpark (https://www.dreamspark.com/) is a program that provides students with free Microsoft software. Chances are your school is already signed up for DreamSpark and all you need to do is create your own account.

    To create your DreamSpark account go here

    Enter your name, date of birth, password, and whatever email address you wish to have associated with your DreamSpark account. After you have completed all the required fields select continue to verify.

    clip_image002[7]

    Now, DreamSpark wants to verify that you are in fact a student. There are three ways to do this

    1. Get verified through my school – if you pick this option you will be presented with a text box, type in the name of your university or school. Then select your school name from the dropdown list

    When you select a school, you are asked to enter your university email address. This is how DreamSpark confirms that you are in fact a student at that school. Your school’s email domain name (e.g. @CarletonUniversity.com) is stored in DreamSpark for every school that is registered for the program. If you do not have a valid school email address, or your school is not listed you will have to select another method of verification.

    clip_image006[4]

    2. I have an ISIC card – if you pick this option you can type in your ISIC serial number or the ISIC/CIP number or your ISIC/NUS card number to prove you are a student.

    3. I have a verification code – this option requires you to enter a verification code. But where do you get a verification code? You need to reach out to a Microsoft representative or possibly a school administrator. You can also try reaching out to DreamSpark support to ask about manual verification but scanning and emailing proof of your student status to receive a verification code.

     

    Once you have created and verified your account, you can now download software and get codes to provide you with free Windows Store account and free Windows Phone store accounts so you can develop and publish your apps for free!

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    What cross platform development tools support Windows 8 and Windows Phone?

    • 11 Comments

    Want your app on multiple platforms without rewriting all the code? Here’s a summary of some of the tools, libraries and SDKs out there to support building multi-platform apps.

    Every mobile developer struggles with the decision of which platforms to support, and most end up building for more than one platform. I am frequently asked what tools are out there to make it easier to build for multiple platforms. Well, there are lots of options out there for you, everything from professional paid tools to open source libraries. I decided to sit down and put together a list for you. Information is all based on what I could find on their websites at the time this blog was posted. For the most up-to-date information I recommend you visit the product sites themselves. Each product title is linked back to their website. There are some gaming and graphic specific tools listed as well.

    Don't forget good design of your app also makes it easier to implement on multiple platforms. Using a Model View ViewModel architecture makes it easier to re-use your code. Check out this MVVM Light Toolkit or Okra (formerly Cocoon) to help you get started with the MVVM model pattern in XAML. This is great when combined with portable class libraries which allows you to share code between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 apps.

    appDesigner

    • Platform support: Windows 8, iOS
    • Price: Revenue from published apps is split 50/50
    • Coding language: HTML5
    • Development Environment: appDesigner
    • Description: Use AppDesigner to create an interactive app with drag and drop images, video, and audio files to prototype. Once you’ve finished upload to AppDesigner.com. The business development team reviews your app concept and provides and upload code to build the finished app. When you receive your upload code, you upload your app concept and the technicians build a native app for the store.

    Xamarin.Mobile 

    • Platform support: Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 support, iOS, and Android
    • Price: around $999
    • Coding language: C#
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio, or MonoDevelop IDE on PC or Mac
    • Description: A library that exposes a single set of APIs for accessing common mobile device functionality across iOS, Android and Windows platforms. This increases the amount of code you can share across mobile platforms making app development easier and faster. They currently abstract contacts, camera, and geo-location. Future plans include notifications and accelerometer services.

    Trigger.io

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 8, iOS, Android
    • Price: starts at $19/month pricing varies based on Number of developers and number of apps
    • Coding language: HTML5, JavaScript
    • Development Environment: Trigger.io Toolkit or use your own IDE
    • Description: Build apps using the best of HTML5 and native. Forge is a development framework which enables you to create native apps for multiple platforms from a single HTML% codebase. It consists of a JavaScript API that exposes device functionality and UI components such as the Camera, SMS, Contacts, Topbar and Tabbar navigation and a cloud build service to compile your app for each platform that you want to support.

    Appcelerator

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 (coming early 2013), iOS, Android, mobile web
    • Price: packages listed on website but not prices
    • Coding language: HTML5, JavaScript
    • Development Environment: Titanium Studio
    • Description: Appcelerator is the first application development mobile platform to combine the flexibility of open source development technologies with the power of cloud services. Develop using a JavaScript based development platform. Leverage experiences like push notifications with the cloud services.

    Marmalade

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 8 (end of 2012), Windows 8 (early 2013), iOS, Android, BlackBerry
    • Price: There is a free license for students and educational institutions. Community license is $149, Indie license is $499
    • Coding language: HTML5, JavaScript
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio
    • Description: Tool that allows you to develop cross-platform native games and apps in C/C++ and deploy to both mobile and desktop with a unified toolset. You can submit your games and apps to stores like Steam and you can now mix HTML5 with native platform code.

    Apache Cordova (formerly known as PhoneGap)

    • Platform support: Windows Phone support, Android, iOS, Blackberry, QT, WebOS
    • Price: Open source
    • Coding language – HTML, CSS, JavaScript
    • Description: Set of device APIs that allow a movile app developer to access native device function such as camera or accelerometer from JavaScript. Combined with a UI framework such as jQuery Mobile or Dojo, this allows a smartphone app to be developed with just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Because these JavaScript APIs are consisted across multiple device platforms and built on web standards, the app should be portable to other device platforms with minimal to no changes. Apps using Cordova can be made available from the device’s app store

    Sencha Touch

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 8 (coming soon), iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire
    • Price: There are free options, but it depends on licensing model
    • Coding language – HTML, CSS
    • Development Environment: Sencha Cmd
    • Description: A high performance HTML5 mobile application framework. With over 50 built-in components, state management, and a built in MVC system, Sencha Touch provides everything you need to create universal mobile web apps.

    Embarcadero RAD Studio XE3

    • Platform support: Windows 8, Mac OS,
    • Price: There are special programs for academic usage, editions but not prices are listed on the site
    • Coding language: HTML5, C++
    • Development Environment: RAD Studio XE3
    • Description: A way to build data rich visually engaging applications for Windows 8, Mac, Web and mobile.

    appMobi

    • Platform support: Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, iOS, Android, Open Web
    • Price: For hobby developers free but no cloud services, for money making apps charges based on monthly active users
    • Coding language: HTML5
    • Development Environment: appMobi or your own IDE
    • Description: A complete ecosystem to support cross platform mobile app development and deployment using HTML5. appMobi augments HTML5 by providing functions that HTML5 lacks: device and OS interface, user authentication, in app purchasing, rich media push messaging, gamification, social networking, live app updates. From a single HTML5 code base, store ready apps can be built for a variety of platforms.

    RhoMobile

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 7, Windows Embedded, Windows desktop, iOS, Blackberry
    • Price: Couldn't find any pricing information on the site
    • Coding language: HTML5
    • Development Environment: RhoMobile Suite
    • Description: Let's you create flexible OS independent applications that look, feel and act the same on every supported device. device type, operating system and screen size doesn't matter. You control how applications behave on different devices.

    jQuery mobile

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Symbian
    • Price: Open Source
    • Coding language: HTML5, JavaScript
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio
    • Description: A unified, HTML5 based user interface system for all popular mobile device platforms, built on the jQuery and jQuery UI foundation. Lightweight code with a flexible easily themable design

    3D Graphics and Gaming

    Yo Yo Games GameMaker

    • Platform support: Windows Phone 8, Windows 8,
    • Price: Studio (Free), Standard ($49.99 can export to Windows 8), Professional ($99.99 can export to Windows Phone with $199.99 add-on), Master ($499.99 can export to all supported platforms)
    • Coding language: Drag & Drop and GameMaker Language (GML)
    • Development Environment: GameMaker Studio
    • Description: Caters to entry level novices and seasoned game development professionals equally allowing them to create casual and social games for mobile, desktop and the web. Developers can create fully functional prototypes in just a few hours, and a full game in just a matter of weeks. When you’re done GameMaker will produce an app store ready app for different stores from the same source code.

    Unity

    • Platform support: Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (coming soon), iOS, Android
    • Price: Unity Pro is $1500 + add-on for different marketplaces
    • Coding language – C#, JavaScript, Boo
    • Development Environment: Unity Pro
    • Description: Unity allows you to create and market high quality games with less time, cost and effort. They have an entire mobile game development ecosystem: powerful rendering engine, continuously updated development toolset that includes real-time shadows and dynamic fonts; in-depth documentation; thousands of ready-made assets.

    Construct2 by Scirra

    • Platform support: Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 (added Nov 30, 2012), iOS, Android, Facebook, Web, Desktop
    • Price: Free edition to make games supports windows 8 app but has limited events, layers and effects, If you plan to make money you need personal version is 70 British pounds, if you plan to make serious money (over $5000 USD) the business edition is 259 British pounds
    • Coding language – drag, drop, click
    • Development Environment: Construct 2
    • Description: A code free 2D game engine that allows you to add physics effects to your games, special effects, and is extendible with a JavaScript SDK

    monogame

    • Platform support: Windows 8, Android, iOS, Mac
    • Price: open source
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio or MonoDevelop
    • Description: If you are comfortable developing with XNA, this is an interesting option. MonoGame is an open source implementation of the Microsoft XNA Framework. Their goal is to allow XNA developers on Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone to port their games to iOS, Android, Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows 8.

     Cocos2d 

    • Platform support: Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 7 (with XNA) iOS, Android, BlackBerry
    • Price: Open Source
    • Coding language: C++, C# (for Windows Phone 7)
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio, Eclipse, xcode
    • Description: An open source mobile 2D Game framework. Mobile games can be written in C++, Lua, or JavaScript. The goal of this open-source project is to allow users to create cross-platform code.

    SharpDX

    • Platform support: Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, .NET Framework, Windows
    • Price: Open Source
    • Coding language: .NET
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio
    • Description: SharpDX is a free and active open source project that delivers a full featured Managed DirectX API under the .NET Platform. It is used to make games, advanced rendering or multimedia applications. Develop multimedia applications for desktop, WinRT and Windows Phone with the same API

     

    Ogre3D

    • Platform support: Windows 8 (community created), Windows Phone 8, more…
    • Price: Open Source
    • Coding language: C++
    • Development Environment: A C++ Compiler (e.g. Visual Studio)
    • Description: An open sources graphics rendering engine. An open source easy to use OO interface designed to minimize the effort required to render 3D scenes and to be independent of 3D implementation (i.e. Direct3D/OpenGL). It is not a gaming engine, just a graphics engine. You need to know how to program, Ogre is not a game shell or scripting language. It requires more knowledge to use properly, but it is also more powerful tha a scripting kit will be. There are wrappers that offer the possibility to use other programming languages that C++ but they are not officially supported by the Ogre Core Team. (MOGRE is the .NET version)

    Axiom 3D

    • Platform support: XNA & DirectX (so Windows Phone & Windows 8)
    • Price: Open Source
    • Coding language: .NET
    • Development Environment: Visual Studio
    • Description: The Axiom 3D rendering engine is a Object oriented 3D graphics engine using C# and the .NET platform. It is an easy to use, flexible, extendable, and powerful engine that allows for rapid development of games and other graphical applications. The core of Axiom is a port of the OGRE Graphics engine.

    Game Salad

    • Platform support: Windows 8, iOS, Android, Mac
    • Price: To publish to the Windows 8 store or Android store you need the Pro edition which is $299/year, they advertise student pricing available
    • Coding language: drag & drop
    • Development Environment: GameSalad Creator
    • Description: GameSalad Creator provides a visual drag and drop interface and complex behavior library to provide almost limitless freedom to game designers. Create games fast with no coding. Their web publishing system allows for cross platform game publishing.

    I’m sure there are some I missed, feel free to add comments to point out any good tools and tips for cross platform development that you have discovered. Don’t forget in Canada when you publish your app you could earn rewards through Developer Movement!

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    Turn your WordPress site into a Windows 8 app without any coding. Really?

    • 11 Comments

    IdeaPress claims you can create a Windows 8 app from your WordPress.com or WordPress.org site without any coding! They are right!

    As Windows 8 matures, more tools and templates are appearing to help developers and non-developers create Windows 8 apps. Today I decided to test one of those tools: IdeaPress. I’ll be testing it by creating an app from my personal WordPress.com site. If I get a chance I’ll try to do another blog with a self hosted WordPress.org site to see how that works.

    The tool: IdeaPress

    • The promise: “Transform your WordPress site into a Windows 8 App in minutes.”
    • The reality: gotta say, pretty impressed, it’s not 5 minutes, but I was submitting to the store within two hours from when I started.

    Note: For a limited time in Canada one of Microsoft’s partners, IdeaNotion, is offering 200 people a $50 Visa Gift card as a reimbursement for your Windows Store Developer Account when you publish an app using the IdeaPress tool. Email mwnwcan@microsoft.com with your blog URL to secure your Visa gift card.

    What you will need to use this tool

    • A WordPress.com site and your WordPress login information
    • A collection of images to personalize your app
    • A name and description for your app
    • A page on your WordPress blog where you can post a privacy policy (sample text for a privacy policy is provided by the tool)
    • A Windows 8 developer account (so you can publish the app)
    • A WordPress.com Account whose username and password you are willing to share with the Store Certification testing team (you can give them your account information if you want, or create a test account on WordPress if you prefer)

    How does it work?

    1. Go to Ideapress and select Login to create an account. I used my Live account, but you can use other accounts such as Facebook as well. After you create the account you will receive an email with a link to activate your account and reset your password.IdeaPress Login
    2. After you have logged in, select Start New AppStart New App
    3. Next you will go through a series of pages to enter the details for your app. The first page is Settings where you enter the URL of your WordPress site.Enter URL
    4. WordPress.com won’t allow the app to post comments to your site without permission. So when you enter a URL for a WordPress.com site IdeaPress gives you instructions to log in to the Developer WordPress site with your WordPress account and follow the instructions provided to generate a Client ID and Client Secret which you use to complete the fields on the Settings Page. The instructions are pretty clear, I didn’t have any trouble following the steps. NOTE: Make a note of the app name you enter in WordPress you will need it again shortly.Create WordPress App
    5. Once you have specified the Client ID and Client Secret from your WordPress account you can go to the General Info tab and enter an App Name and App description. The app name should be the same app name you entered when you just entered in WordPress. The description should describe the content of your blog so that someone who is browsing your app in the Windows Store understands the type of content you provide and can decide if they want to download it.App name and description
    6. Now continue to the Content Configuration Tab. On this tab choose which pages from your WordPress blog you want included in the app. Note: My WordPress site is made up of a blog page where you can view my posts and a variety of HTML pages. IdeaPress was unable to incorporate a couple of my HTML pages into the app. When I tried to select those pages I either received an error message at the bottom of the screen, or the application would spin for a while and then return with some of the pages deselected (the ones it could not include).Select Pages to include
    7. After you select the pages without receiving any error messages, continue to the Theme Configuration tab. Now, you can have some fun playing around with the look and feel of your app. Note: You even get a live preview as you make changes so you can see how the finished app will appear to the user.

    You can choose

    • Layout of your content
    • Images to display: Background image, title image (if you prefer an image such as a logo instead of text for a title on the main page), a default image to display for content read from your blog that is not already associated with an image.
    • Colors for headers, titles, background
    • Logos for your tiles
    • Images and color to display on the Splash screen that appears to the user when your app launches

    Note: IdeaPress tells you what image sizes are required for each logo or page. I used Paint to resize my images, you can also use free tools such as Paint.NET to resize images.

    Note: Even though I uploaded the images for my tile and splash screen I got an error saying I hadn’t uploaded any images. As soon as I uploaded a Default Article Image (under Layout and Theme) the error message went away, so I think Default Article image is mandatory and you just get a misleading error message when you don’t provide all the mandatory images.Theme Configuration

    8. When you have a look and feel that you like, go to the App Generation tab.

    On the App Generation tab you get to choose whether to Generate a Visual Studio Solution or an App Package.

    • Generate Visual Studio Solution – if you choose this option, you will get a package which contains a .jsproj file you can open in Visual Studio (install Visual Studio Express on your PC by downloading and installing the Windows 8 SDK). The advantage to this option is you can see the code, make changes to the code if you want to, get screenshots from the simulator, and build the app package to submit to the store yourself.
    • Generate App Package  - if you select this option, you will have to provide your Windows Store account information. IdeaPress will used this information to create and send you an app package. The advantage to getting the app package from IdeaPress is you can submit that package to the store directly without Visual Studio. NOTE: You will need a snap shot of your app when you publish it to the store, so you might want to go to the theme configuration tab and take a screen shot.

    Regardless which option you choose you will require a Privacy link.

    Your app will connect to the internet to access your blog content. The Windows Store requires any app that connects to the internet to have a privacy policy. The easies way to handle this is to add an extra page to your WordPress blog, the IdeaPress team provides an example privacy policy so you can get an idea of what information to include on the privacy policy page. Enter the URL of your privacy policy page here, and make a note of it, because when you submit your app to the store you will again be asked for the URL of the privacy policy.

    Submit app

    Finally you can check the box that says you have read and agreed to the terms and conditions and choose Submit. IdeaPress will email you a link to your solution or package and you can start the process of submitting it to the store! No coding required!

    So there you have it, if you have a WordPress.com blog site you can build and publish a Windows 8 app without writing any code!

    NOTE: My first two attempts to publish to the store failed certification, thought I would share with you why I failed certification and how I fixed it. The first time it was rejected because they did not feel I had selected a suitable category. So i changed the category to Lifestyle since my personal blog covers a fairly broad range of topics. The second time I failed because to post a comment on a post you need to log in with a WordPress account. I did not mention that in my app description, and I failed to provide an account the store certification team could use to test that feature in the Notes to testers section. Once I made those corrections my app passed certification and is now published to the store.

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