A Canuck In The Machine

Mark Relph - Senior Director - Startup and VC Team

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    The Canadian Strategic Architect Forum



    Join top architecture experts at the Canadian Strategic Architect Forum. This prestigious, three-day conference has been designed specifically to meet the needs of enterprise strategic, solution and application architects like you. The event features presentations by Microsoft and other industry professionals, as well as hands-on, interactive sessions, dealing with a variety of topics, including the relationship between architecture and business strategy.

    Learn from the best and brightest minds in architecture:
    Jack Calhoun – CEO and Co-Founder of Accelare
    Gregor Hohpe – Integration Architect Lead, ThoughtWorks Inc.
    Pat Helland – Architect, Architecture Strategy, Microsoft
    Don Box – Architect, Distributed Systems Group, Microsoft

    Plus attend highly specialized and detailed information sessions:
    • Security (David Aucsmith)
    • VSTS (Prashant Sridharan)
    • Compliance (Mike Burner)
    • SOA and Reliable Messaging (Pat Helland)
    • Smart Client (Scott Garvey/David Hill)
    • Microsoft Architectural Framework (Gunpreet Pall)

    Intimate and interactive breakout sessions will also be offered and will give you the opportunity to discuss current industry trends and to provide feedback directly to the professionals in Redmond.

    For more information, and to register, please call 1-800-528-1668 or click here.



    © 2005 Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Fun Times At CUTC 2005


    On Thursday Jan 20th I was invited to speak at the CUTC (Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference) "Techshow 2005" at their annual conference in Toronto.  Techshow was done in a "talk-show" style and was just so much fun to be a part of!  500 students and all future developers in the audience!  Just an awesome event.


    My talk was themed around my part-time persona of "Gadget Man".  Basically, I have taken my extreme "geek" habits and turned them into a talk I do for students around trends in "digital lifestyle" technologies and how they can get involved as developers to fix the "gaps" in the current capabilities of technologies.  My hope is that these students will take a different view on some of the hot new technologies and get inspired on how to develop new applications for them in the future.


    As I promised to everyone in the audience, my slides will be posted soon. (I will add the link once they are ready)


    As a little background - this whole "Gadget Man" presentation started when I was asked to speak at the University of Waterloo in Ontario about what I thought were the coolest new trends in technology.


    What's Cool: 

    For CUTC I highlighted a few areas (and included some others in the slides I decided to skip due to time restrictions):


    • Voice-Over-IP as an industry-shaking trend, as well as technologies like SIP and Real Time Communications / Live Meeting


    • The continuing evolution of Digital Media and the home - including Windows Media Centre 2005, Media Centre Extenders and Portable Media Players.  I want to highlight the fact that Media Centre 2005 has an all new SDK that allows anyone to extend the capabilities and to add new features.  As an example, check out: http://www.mcesoft.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=70&Itemid=143.  Also check out Adam Gallant's blog for other MCE focused development articles.


    • The acceptance of Web Services by consumers - the example being the new for-fee Napster service which I think is an excellent model of content delivery over broadband


    • PodCasting - it kills me that this is named after Apple's iPod, because there are so many great portable players on the market (like the Creative Zen, which I use).  I cannot change this now, so I will have to live with it!  The ipodder.org definition (http://www.ipodder.org/whatIsPodcasting): "Think how a desktop aggregator works. You subscribe to a set of RSS feeds, and then can easily view the new stuff from all of the feeds together, or each feed separately. Podcasting works the same way, with one exception. Instead of reading the new content on a computer screen, you listen to the new content on a Portable Media device. Think of your Portable Media Player as having a set of subscriptions that are checked regularly for updates. "


    For more information check out:



    There are even .NET Podcasts out there - check out the guys from DotNetRocks!!




    What's Not-So-Cool:

    I feel that it is very important in a presentation such as this to include my thoughts on what doesn't work to balance off the "what's cool" factor.  Technology continuously evolves and while we are making huge strides, there is always room for improvement! For the CUTC talk I focused in on these "gaps":


    • Security, Privacy and Anti-Spyware
    • Home Networking Is Still Too Hard
    • File Storage, Organization, Retrieval
    • Backup
    • Islands of Devices
    • Lots of Bad User Interfaces
    • Government Regulation Is Inconsistent
    • Industry Attitudes (Music, Film)


    My challenge to every student developer out there is to really dig into these issues and put your great talents and innovation to work to close the gaps in the future.  To that end, I have included a few links to get you started:


    Developer Links:


    For Gaming:


    For Windows Media Centre Development:


    For SPOT:  .NETCPU SDK Kit


    For Live Communications Server:  http://msdn.microsoft.com/office/understanding/livecomm/default.aspx


    Of course, one of the best ways to build your development prowess is to compete in the Imagine Cup (www.imaginecup.com).  Canadian students will be really well represented this year and the prize is a trip to Japan for the finals!


    Lastly - I was asked by a few people where I got my "gadget gossip" from.  The 2 best sites in my opinion are:  www.gizmodo.com and www.engadget.com


    Thanks to Steve, Katelyn and the CUTC crew for inviting me and I hope I can be back in 2006.


  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Talking Innovation In Vancouver


    On Friday afternoon I spoke at the Westlink / CATA sponsored Innovations & New Ventures 2005 Conference in Vancouver.  The conference focused on building the "innovation economy"  in Canada.  http://westlink.ca/NewVentures2005/


    From the press release "Participants in the conference will share venture formation strategies aimed at jump-starting Canada's innovation network….

    Partners in the "Innovation and New Ventures 2005" Conference in Vancouver, January 21-22, 2005, include CATAAlliance -- Canada's largest high-tech association -- and WestLink Innovation Network, an organization which includes western Canadian colleges, universities and technical and research institutes."


    I spoke about Microsoft Canada's involvement with the "Emerging Business and Venture Capital Community.  The themes in my presentation included:

    • Microsoft is a partner-driven company and emerging businesses help to enhance our partner ecosystem. 
    • VCs and Startups are a critical part of driving innovation in the marketplace.  Emerging Companies push the limits of the platform and drive innovation.
    • Microsoft builds a “technology stack” designed for others to innovate upon
    • There will always be functionality that partners / ISVs will provide above and beyond that stack
    • Partners helps us provide niche or vertical solutions for customers
    • This coupled with our US$6 Billion Research organization ensures an incredibly healthy platform for customers


    I also talked about how my team engages with Emerging Businesses across the country, including:

    • Platform Roadmaps / Technology Support
    • Exploring New Opportunity Areas
    • Certification
    • Partner Management
    • Sales Engagement
    • Co-Marketing
    • Access to our channel and partner ecosystem


    While in Vancouver I also caught up with my friends at Rocket Builders - www.rocketbuilders.com.  They just released their Top 25 "Ready To Rocket" List last week and the amazing thing is that 12 of the 25 using .NET and other parts of the Microsoft technology stack.  I think this is a great example oo the awesome being done by Independent Software Vendors all of Canada.  Some of the companies include: Copperleaf, Colligo, Loki, Flowfinity, Caelo, ResponseTek, NewHeights and Galeforce.

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    .NET Podcasts


    The latest trend is Podcasting.  Podcasting = the use of RSS to distribute audio files in a "subscription" model, thus letting the user collect and consumer the feeds at their leisure.

    I hate the fact that this is named after the ipod (obviously).  I will save the commentary on the number of great audio players out on the market for a different blog.

    For now, check out how the DotNetRocks crew are using the podcasts.



  • A Canuck In The Machine

    The Montreal Game Summit


    I had the pleasure of attending the first Montreal Game Summit (www.montrealgamesummit.com), hosted by the Alliance NumeriQC.  What a great event!  Over 400 people, great content and speakers.  Best of all a celebration of Montreal's rich game development community.

    I met some great folks at the event, including Jason Della Rocca (IGDA's program director).  Check out his blog entry on the event (that include a terrible photo of me and some other 'Softies).  http://www.igda.org/blogs/realitypanic/archives/000232.html

    I think Canada should be proud of the awesome work being done by Canadians all over the gaming industry.  Even Halo 2, which launches tonight, features a handful of good old Canucks (way to go Nathan and Michel).  Check out the "Making Of Halo 2" DVD when you get your copy tonight and watch for the Canadian Flags up at Bungie's offices.

    Congrats to the organizors and I am looking forward to next year!

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    No More Geeks Left At Microsoft?


    At a recent dinner a former Microsoft employee and a senior director of a large Microsoft partner suggested that there are no geeks left inside the company.  My goal is to prove them wrong.  I will post evidence to prove the geek spirit is alive and well.

    Here is some evidence:

    1.  Read Craig McMurtry's Blog: http://weblogs.asp.net/craigmcmurtry/

    2.  Watch the "Making Of Halo 2" video on your copy when you get it tonight.  If this doesn't prove the spirit is still here, perhaps nothing will.

    More evidence to come...

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    07/11/2004, 8:58 PM - Blogging at 40,000ft to avoid Air Rage... (RANT)

    After an incredibly busy October, I have found some time to return to blogging.  Locked in a metal tube at 40,000ft seems a great time to get my thoughts down on "paper".


    First - a quick discussion on technology and flying.  On my last 2 flights (to Vancouver and Montreal) I have noticed some incredibly poor technology travel etiquette from my fellow passengers.  So, let me share my 2 cents worth about how to make your techno travels more enjoyable.


    Quick Draw McGraw: I am a road warrior - TabletPC, Creative Nomad, Mobile Phone.  I take this cache of gadgets through airport security each and every time I fly without issue or delay.  I am never asked "do you have a laptop" by airport security because I have it out and ready for inspection quickly.  There is nothing worse than being the guy in a busy airport that has to tear about their briefcase or carry-on luggage to find their laptop and digital camera.  You know you are going through security, so have your laptop handy.  For the sake of the 100 people in line behind you, I recommend a briefcase or backpack with a quick access laptop compartment.  Ogio (www.ogio.com) sells what I consider to be the absolute best bags with this and many other cool features.


    The middle seats sucks, but deal with it:  On a packed Airbus 319 flight to Montreal last week I was sitting in the window seat in a 3 + 3 configured place.  The gentleman in the aisle seat was already their and our middle seat companion had not yet arrived.  About 10 minutes before departure he did turn up (and had obviously changed flights as many of us do on the Montreal - Toronto commute).  He was friendly and made a joke about "middle seat disease" or something along those lines.


    That's when things went downhill.  He pulled out his laptop. 


    Let me paint a picture for anyone who has not flown from Toronto to Montreal.  It is important to understand that they have crammed as many seats onto the plane as possible which means there is almost no room for anything other than remaining motionless for the duration of the flight.  I make it a rule not to use my laptop on flights like these for a couple of reasons.  First, you run the risk of damage from the person in front of you reclining their seat.  Craig, our Developer Audience Manager, had this exact thing happen to his tablet.  Second, unless you are a Hobbit there is no way to type without your elbows interfering with your fellow passengers.  This is the beauty of the TabletPC - "slate" mode and handwriting avoids this exact issue.


    Back to "Mr. Middle Seat" - with his laptop charged he proceeded to update his calendar.  This involved him elbowing me in the ribs with each entry.  I didn't want to invade his privacy, but it was hard since his screen was so close to me that most of my field of vision was filled with the details of his sales calls and doctor appointments.  Odd thing was - it was the Palm Desktop software - which begs the question, "if you have a tiny little PDA why not use it when in such a confined space?".


    The refreshment card came and I thought that was the end of the ordeal.  Alas, no.  Next came Flight Simulator.  I am a huge supporter of Microsoft Game Studios.  Flight Sim is one of the best games ever….. But not when you need to break the rib of the guy next to you to bank the plane to the right…. I honestly couldn't believe that this guy was playing a game under these conditions.


    So… the moral of the story is:  if you are unlucky enough to end up in the middle seat, buy a magazine or a TabletPC…. (or avoid sitting next to me!)




  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Mark In The Press - RFID



    Microsoft announces expansion of Radio Frequency Identification
    29 September, 2004
    Dave Chappelle

    Microsoft Business Solutions has announced an expansion of its Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) initiative.

    The goal is to help SMBs meet RFID technology compliance mandates from large trading partners, and drive efficiencies in internal operations.

    All of the interest in RFID is great news for the channel.

    "It makes our solution for companies in the supply chain," said James Salter - Marketing Manager - Mid-Market Verticals, Microsoft Business Solutions, Microsoft Canada.

    "Back Office accounting, inventory management, customer resource management, and now we're offering additional features everyone is asking for. It's going to be an inventory management system and RFID is definitely a part of that."

    The perception is that RFID will have a positive effect by helping to add value to the solutions that the channel sells, creating better value, and opening up new opportunities.

    "RFID has two parts: obviously some system integrator work to get the business process flow working, and there is an opportunity on the software side," said Mark Relph, National Manager, Microsoft .NET Platform Team, Microsoft Canada.

    "RFID creates an unprecedented amount of data that must be integrated into systems, whether it's Navision or Axapta or other products, or location-based services or other software-based solutions, you may want to use with that data."

    Customers who are thinking about RFID will look for new types for solutions and expertise, which is a tremendous opportunity for the channel.

    "Our partners are beginning to come to market with things that were previously considered impossible," said Relph.

    "You don't have to be large; you can be an SMB to have and enjoy the benefits of RFID."

    Business solutions partners, shipping partners, and a number of other partners are working together to strengthen their businesses. They will get new customers and develop new ways of using the technology.

    "Certainly RFID as a base technology has been around for a number of years, although many customers don't realize it," Relph said.

    "Security badges are a less exciting part of that. As the industry settles on standards, be they physical or data standards, if one puts RFID in a place where it can be integrated, standardization gives customers comfort that they won't pick the wrong platform to end up on, in sort of a Beta versus VHS."

    The industry is at a critical point where standards are being selected.

    "From a Microsoft view, we're thinking about where it plays into our technology stack," said Relph.

    "Whether its ERP or any of the other products, you're going to either pipe it into or pull it out of your back end systems. That's where we are spending a majority of our RFID development."

    RFID is also proving interesting from a ROI point of view.

    "The cost of the tag still needs to come down, but enhancing a supply chain the additional efficiencies driven out of the technology better handle on inventory, sheer efficiency in ordering, what is made and how it is delivered, and transportation costs," said Relph.

    RFID is not simply limited to the supply chain. It is in loyalty cards, speedpasses, security access cards, health care, asset management, and tracking people inside a building or theme park.

    "The tags have come down where a label printer as it is printed it is also programmed," said Relph.

    "The size of the technology is very advanced. Tagged pets are also RFID."

    As technology improves, integration with reader and tag technology will become easier and less expensive, just like we've witnessed with CD players.

    "We envision a day when an RFID is as easy to install as a plug and play printer," said Salter.

    And developers, users, and different software platforms will understand it natively.

    "Current technology is ideal for building those solutions," said Relph.

    "When you're in incubation mode it's only limited by imagination and demand from customers in the market. It is a great case study for the kinds of projects that eChannelline readers will be most concerned about."

    So it comes down to choosing the right RFID system provider.

    "If RFID is going to be mission critical, it's important for customers and partners to have an established company they can do business with," said Salter.

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Microsoft Canada RFID Council


    Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Solutions Make it Easier for Canadian Retailers and Manufacturers to Manage their Inventories and Track and Ship Merchandise


    Microsoft Brings Together Major Partners Delivering RFID Solutions on the Microsoft-based Platform in a New RFID Council

    Mississauga, ON – July 5th, 2004 – Microsoft Canada Co. announced today its growing list of partners creating innovative Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solutions on the Microsoft-based platform to help Canadian manufacturers, distributors and retailers reduce human error in data collection, improve inventory visibility and provide better customer service.

    “T4G was founded almost 10 years ago by a group of retail industry veterans, so we know the retail industry and we know RFID will have a major impact on this industry,” said T4G Limited President Geoff Flood. “Our out-of-the-box Microsoft-based Analytics for RFID Systems (MARS) solution helps enable retailers to perform detailed analytics on their RFID data, manage the increase in this critical new data effortlessly and effectively and make business decisions in real time.”   

    RFID combines the benefits of the silicon chip and radio frequencies to provide increased levels of product and asset visibility across the supply chain.


    “HP fully understands how RFID technology can be used to streamline supply chains, improve inventory control, track baggage and assets within an airport and provide enhanced customer experiences,” said Victor Garcia, Managing Principal, Mobility Program Office and Chief Technology Officer, HP Canada. “HP is uniquely qualified to help customers realize the benefits of RFID technologies because of our knowledge of real-world applications, our implementation experience and lessons learned deploying RFID within our own manufacturing facilities. We also understand the business, technical and logistical challenges associated with the design, implementation and support of RFID solutions, bringing a unique perspective that creates value for our customers. ” 


    Ship2Save provides RFID supply chain logistic solutions for the specific needs of a particular vertical market.  “We built our new RFID Middleware Software with Microsoft .NET because it would help shorten our time to market,” said Sam Falsafi, Director of Business Development & RFID Strategy, Ship2Save.  “Time to market is critical for us, and .NET helped us get to market quicker by as much as 32 per cent.”


    “Microsoft is committed to providing a platform on which our technology partners can create RFID solutions to meet the needs of our joint customers,” said Javed Sikander, Program Manager for RFID strategy at Microsoft Corporation. “We are working closely with technology partners and customers to align our strategies and help ensure that they can create RFID solutions on the Microsoft-based platform that meet their requirements."


    A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Cactus Commerce Inc. has been helping organizations bring more efficiency to their complex business processes since 1995. “As RFID standards evolve, we continue to leverage our existing products to meet the changing needs of our enterprise customers in the manufacturing, retail and logistics industries,” said Pierre Deschamps, Executive VP, Cactus Commerce Inc. “Our solutions, including Cactus GDS Accelerator for BizTalk® server, ensure data accuracy and reduce costs for trading partners providing the foundation for successful RFID deployments.”

    Microsoft Canada also announced today the formation of a new RFID Partner Advisory Council to look at RFID requirements and how to take advantage of today's technology to make it easier for Canadian retailers and manufacturers to reduce inventories, improve product availability and track and ship merchandise.  

    “Microsoft is assembling a wide range of partner support for RFID solutions built with Microsoft®.NET connection software,” said Lasha Dekker, Director, Developer and Platform Evangelism, Microsoft Canada.  “As part of the Canadian RFID Council, Microsoft and the technology partners on board so far plan to address industry needs with RFID solutions that are low-cost, simple to deploy and built on a robust scalable technology stack.”

    Partners participating in the Canadian RFID Council include: Bell Canada, HP Canada, T4G Limited, Ship2Save, Cactus Commerce Inc., BearingPoint, RCM Technologies Canada Corp., CapGemini, Texas Instruments, SIRIT Technologies Inc and J.L. Albright Ventures. 


    Bell Canada is pleased to participate in the RFID Partner Council,” said Brad Fisher, General Manager, Consumer Services Development, Bell Canada.  “This is yet another innovation to come from our ongoing relationship with Microsoft and it reaffirms our commitment to providing Canadians with innovative and secure solutions that simplify their lives.” 


    Companies looking to find out more about RFID solutions Microsoft technology partners are creating, Microsoft Canada is also launching the RFID Partner Highlight Web site, at http://msdn.microsoft.ca/RFID/partners with logos, overview descriptions of solutions and links to partners working in RFID. 


    For developers becoming more interested in RFID and looking for guidance and information, Microsoft Canada is now including specific RFID articles, content and links on its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Canada Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.ca/RFID .

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Reboot Canada


    Are you a gadget geek like me - always building your own PCs and Servers?  Always buying the latest toys?  If you are, then you have likely faced this problem - a closet full of outdated parts or a PC that becomes a paperweight when you upgrade. 

    Recycling a PC is not a simple task and the idea of sending my old equipment to a landfill turns my stomach.  I have been searching a long time trying to find a good way of disposing of my old equipment - let's call it “e-cycling“.  I finally found the solution!!!

    reBoot Canada (www.rebootcanada.ca) is a non-profit charity providing computer hardware, training and technical support to charities, non-profits and people with limited access to technology.  What an amazing operation!  I was there yesterday to drop off my donation.  With a limited staff of a few full time people and a small army of students they tackle a mountain of donated equipment at their warehouse in Toronto.  I don't envy their task!!  They strip down, test, refurbish and finally rebuild all of the equipment.  It is then sent out to charities around Ontario.

    I am proud to say that Microsoft Canada supports reBoot (see press release) as part of our community activities. 

    So - Geeks Of Toronto Send Them Your Old Gear! 

    You will be helping a charity, preventing landfill and you get a tax receipt.

    Hats off to Devon and the team at reBoot!  Keep up the great work.



  • A Canuck In The Machine

    MSJVM Revisited and Service Pack 2


    There has been some interesting developments on the MSJVM front coming out of the settlements with SUN.  Everyone should visit:



    Also - SP2 should be on your radar.  Not only are there new features, but there are some potential issues developers need to be aware of.

    Visit: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnwxp/html/securityinxpsp2.asp


  • A Canuck In The Machine

    The Microsoft JVM


    Some customers and developers are aware of this, but I wanted to let everyone out there in blog land know about the changes that are coming to our support of the MSJVM.  This could impact applications that you have built in the past, please take a minute to read over the website.

    Background: In a settlement agreement reached in January 2001 to resolve a dispute over Microsoft's distribution of its Java implementation, Sun and Microsoft agreed to limit the duration of Microsoft's use of Sun's source code and compatibility test suites to support the MSJVM. Because some developers and enterprises have expressed concern about their ability to eliminate dependencies on the MSJVM in the time period originally provided, Sun and Microsoft have agreed to a longer period to permit a smooth transition from the MSJVM.

    Please surf over to www.microsoft.ca/java for all the details.

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    The Apprentice


    Had an idea for a reality show.  It's a play on the Donald Trump sponsored show “The Apprentice” where the thin and beautiful entrepreneurs of America compete to run one of Mr. Trump's companies.  The contests have been ridiculous so far - selling lemonade, managing Planet Hollywood, renovating a house and running an auction. 

    I'd like to recommend some new contents for future episodes.  Tasks and challenges that I believe will better test the business savvy of the contestants:

    • ERP Integration - contestants must develop and deploy a full scale ERP system that meets the needs of every department and division in a single day.  The team the stays on budget wins...
    • Migrate from the mainframe - the team that saves the most money on maintenance charges wins...
    • Stop the virus - the team the can convince the most users not to open unknown attachments wins...

    These are contests worthy of hearing “You're Fired” from Donald....


  • A Canuck In The Machine

    EOptimize - Interesting .NET Connected ISV - Resource Scheduling



    Met with these guys today.  It is a time and resource management engine that uses some advanced mathematics to schedule people, resources and processes.

    Best of all, it's all .NET based and they have logo certification.  Their product integrates with Active Directory, Exchange and SBS.  All web services based and exposed APIs for an organizations to integrate scheduling into their applications.

    Just fantastic technology.

    Maybe even better - they are Canadian :-)

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    Canadian Developer Event with Steve Ballmer!



    - Hear the latest on security from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
    - Get trained on the fundamentals of building secure applications
    - Learn more about using ASP.NET to build killer Web applications

    Register for this FREE, full-day event:


    You’re invited to hear one of the most prominent and passionate
    figures in the world of IT speak on issues of security and
    innovation. Join Steve Ballmer at this free, full-day training
    event in Toronto.

    In addition, take full advantage of four security training
    sessions, designed specifically for experienced Developers:

    1. Essentials of Application Security
    2. Writing Secure Code
    3. Designing and Developing a Line-of-Business Web Application
    4. Best Practices and Techniques for Building Secure ASP.NET

    Wednesday, February 25, 2004
    Sign-in begins at 10:00 a.m.
    Start time 11:00 a.m. 
    End time 7:00 p.m.

    Please note that photo identification will be required at the time
    of sign-in.

    Toronto Congress Centre, Hall A (Main Entrance)
    650 Dixon Road, Toronto, Ontario   M9W 1J1
    Parking is free

    This is a free event.

    Click here to REGISTER for this full-day event:

    Or call 1-877-673-8368 (quote event ID: 1032243338)

  • A Canuck In The Machine

    The Launch Of Mark's Blog

    Stay tuned for more.
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