Fifteen Twenty

I am pub­lish­ing my first Word­Press theme, Fif­teen Twenty. Born out of frus­tra­tion at the Word­Press theme struc­ture when attempt­ing to update the theme of this blog it demon­strates an altern­at­ive. This theme is designed as a tech­nical demon­stra­tion of struc­tur­ing a Word­Press theme with a single core lay­out file. As this is an inver­sion of the stand­ard struc­ture of the default theme Twenty Fif­teen I have dubbed it Fif­teen Twenty. The appear­ance, styl­ing and gen­er­ated html is the same as the original.

Word­Press is an open source blog­ging plat­form, it is the most pop­u­lar blog­ging plat­form with over 60 mil­lion web­sites using it. To enable all of these web­sites Word­Press has a theme sys­tem which allows the user to rad­ic­ally change the appear­ance of their blog with just a few clicks. Most of these themes are con­trib­uted by users but the Word­Press team does release a theme every year, this is the default theme and acts as a best prac­tices tem­plate for theme design­ers. The default themes are named after the year, the cur­rent one is Twenty Fifteen.

Word­Press themes con­sist of a col­lec­tion of php tem­plate files. Word­Press chooses a tem­plate based on the type of con­tent being reques­ted, this allows a dif­fer­ent tem­plate to be used for search res­ults or an audio attach­ment. The decision is made using the tem­plate hier­archy depic­ted below. Word­Press pro­ceeds from left to right until it finds a file which matches the desired pat­tern, on the far right index.php acts as a catch all for any file types not spe­cially handled.

The advant­age of this struc­ture is that it allows for a huge degree of flex­ib­il­ity in the styl­ing. Any con­tent can have a com­plete dif­fer­ent set of styl­ing provided to it and the hier­archy allows for very spe­cific spe­ci­al­ity pages to be created.

The dis­ad­vant­age is that every tem­plate requires a duplic­a­tion of the site struc­ture. Changes such as reorder­ing the HTML struc­ture require the rework­ing of every single tem­plate file, this was exactly the prob­lem I faced when work­ing on this blog’s tem­plate Piano Black.

In prac­tice I feel the theme hier­archy struc­ture is a poor design choice as you want to retain the same look a feel across the entire site. This means that the lay­out is con­sist­ent and the vari­ations are typ­ic­ally isol­ated to the cent­ral con­tent pane. Theme authors attempt to reduce the amount of duplic­a­tion by using a header and footer file which is pulled into each tem­plate, this helps to reduce work for minor changes but makes struc­tural alter­a­tions even harder.

The altern­at­ive tech­nique is to have a single tem­plate file which sets the struc­ture of the web­site. This file then pulls in par­tial tem­plates based on the con­tent being reques­ted. The par­tial tem­plates provide a reduced level of flex­ib­il­ity com­pared to the full tem­plate model but are sim­pler as they do not need to include as much of the site’s struc­ture. The Twenty Fif­teen theme actu­ally uses both full and par­tial tem­plates, the par­tial tem­plates are used within the full tem­plates to cus­tom­ise dif­fer­ent cat­egor­ies of posts.

I do not mean this as an attack or cri­ti­cism of the Word­Press team, the choice was a trade off and they chose the more flex­ible approach lead­ing to a product far more suc­cess­ful than any I have ever pro­duced. This choice was also made for the ini­tial release in 2003, a dif­fer­ent online envir­on­ment with altern­at­ive aes­thetic (MySpace) and less use of javas­cript. They have made a fant­astic product and the flex­ib­il­ity built through it allows for novel uses, like mine.

By remov­ing all the cus­tom tem­plate files Word­Press will always use index.php as a tem­plate. As the tem­plate is a full php file it can exam­ine the reques­ted con­tent type and pull in the required par­tial tem­plate. This tech­nique uses the Word­Press par­tial include func­tion which enables sub-themes to cus­tom­ise spe­cific partials.

To demon­strate this lay­out tech­nique I chose to rework the Twenty Fif­teen theme as it is designed as a basis for theme authors to work from, which is also my goal. I took each of the tem­plate files and pushed the com­mon ele­ments up to index.php con­vert­ing them into a par­tial. The files designed to reduce duplic­a­tion such as header.php, footer.php and sidebar.php were also pushed into index.php. I then set up a demo site using the wptest​.io test data and used wget –mir­ror, HTML tidy, a tiny bit of sed and diff to beat the last bugs out and ensure that the final res­ult was unchanged from the ini­tial Twenty Fif­teen design.

In the future I’ll be releas­ing my updated ver­sion of Piano Black, this blog’s theme, with mobile sup­port (respons­ive lay­out) and other mod­ern­ising updates under the hood. I may also make an Angu­larJS powered demon­stra­tion ver­sion of Fif­teen Twenty for fun.

Microwave project managing – week 6

Other News

The fan in my laptop died this week. It has been strug­gling and groan­ing nois­ily along for a while now, occa­sion­ally the boot has even failed due to a fan error but a second shot always got through. While I had the sys­tem switched off I thought it would be a good idea to blow the dust out and give it a bit of love. It still groans along but now the fan error is con­sist­ent. :( I have ordered a replace­ment fan which should arrive next week. In the last six months I have had to swap the bat­tery, hard drive and fan. Maybe my Len­ovo is reach­ing the end of its lifespan, 2008 was a while ago and appar­ently it doesn’t even run WOW.

Other Other News

In bet­ter other news, a friend poin­ted out that a recent XKCD what if? post is on the topic of microwaves. Because it seems microwaves are awesome.

Screen

I have con­tac­ted sev­eral sup­pli­ers of the Banana Pi and a screen sup­plier to get price estim­ates. The screen sup­plier may be able to fit the touch­screen, which is a bonus, oth­er­wise I have some touch­screen sup­pli­ers selec­ted to approach.

The ini­tial Banana Pi pri­cing is $29 USD in quant­it­ies of 500, $34 for samples. I am look­ing at a seven inch IPS screen which I expect to be roughly $15 and another few bucks for the capa­cit­ive touch­screen. So a total bill of roughly $50 USD with no elec­tronic design required, which makes me very happy.

An inter­est­ing side note is that both the Rasp­berry Pi and Banana Pi fea­ture a rib­bon con­nec­tion for the screen which fol­lows a stand­ard by MIPI (not an acronym) called the Dis­play Serial Inter­face (DSI). This is a fairly stand­ard inter­face used by the mobile phone industry which makes it very nice to pick up screens for. The Rasp­berry Pi hard­ware has always fea­tured this con­nector how­ever the drivers to use it weren’t ini­tially provided by Broad­com, so most of the screen accessor­ies use the HDMI port. When the Rasp­berry Pi found­a­tion released their screen it used the DSI inter­face and was paired with a driver release. How­ever this driver still only uses some of the bus (half the LVDS chan­nels by some reports) so you can’t use stand­ard screens with it. The All­win­ner chip used by the Banana Pi has full sup­port. The only remain­ing annoy­ance is that the DSI bus sup­ports an I2C chan­nel for the touch­screen but all the screen man­u­fac­tur­ers seem to use a sep­ar­ate touch­screen cable, I may even have to do some design work.

Sched­ule

So, it prob­ably isn’t a shock after I com­pletely blew a week or two that I am rap­idly approach­ing the end of the eight week eval­u­ation period and there is an awful lot not yet done. Essen­tially all of the out­stand­ing work is doing pre­lim­in­ary work in the tech­nical innov­a­tions I hoped to achieve.

Break­ing it down into tasks we have subheadings.

Thermal Cam­era

The thermal cam­era is a key body of work that I have let slide.

I iden­ti­fied two poten­tial cam­era sys­tems to eval­u­ate, the Seek Thermal which I have got­ten a sample of and the Panasonic Grid-Eye 8×8 which I man­aged to get Panasonic to agree provid­ing samples of. The plan was to com­pare, decide, poten­tially make an approach to Seek Thermal etc.

The plan went awry when I met Braemac a local dis­trib­utor of elec­tronic goods includ­ing Panasonic’s. There are two com­pan­ies in Aus­tralia that do this sort of dis­tri­bu­tion, Braemac and Avnet. I have inter­ac­ted with Avnet a fair bit, they dis­trib­ute Xil­inx chips so at my last employer I was on first name terms with their Xil­inx sales/support guy. Panasonic actu­ally uses both com­pan­ies, I chose Braemac in this instance as they are the smal­ler of the two and I thought it would be good to build a rela­tion­ship into the other elec­tron­ics dis­trib­utor. My only prior exper­i­ence with Braemac was also at my last employer, we were try­ing to pur­chase some U-Blox GPS mod­ules. We ordered them well in advance but Braemac man­aged to slip the deliv­ery three times, as we were get­ting into dam­ages ter­rit­ory with our cus­tomer I reached out to someone senior I knew in U-Blox and we man­aged to get some emer­gency com­pon­ents from Singa­pore. It seems like this neg­at­ive exper­i­ence wasn’t a one off.

I had done all the work, it really should have been rather simple for Braemac. I had approached Panasonic, they had agreed to provide the samples, everything was arranged except for me giv­ing over money. Panasonic sent the price to Braemac, Braemac’s job was to put their header on it, take my money, remove their cut and pass the rest back to Panasonic. We are only talk­ing samples at this stage so they prob­ably aren’t mak­ing a profit but it isn’t like it is a great deal of work.

Braemac man­aged to not respond for eleven days, and even then sev­eral days after I con­tac­ted Panasonic to give them a shove, their feed­back to Panasonic was sim­il­arly absent.

The Panasonic rep offered a sample quant­ity of ten. Ten is a fairly high num­ber for samples, accept­able but gen­er­ally for a com­plex part you get 3 – 5 samples. The Braemac email lis­ted a min­imum sample quant­ity of 100. I have never before heard of a man­u­fac­turer demand­ing the pur­chase of 100 units as a sample. Even samples of trivial parts like capa­cit­ors aren’t done in lots of 100. Why would you eval­u­ate some­thing 100 times before mak­ing a decision?

When ques­tioned about the sample quant­ity Braemac haven’t respon­ded, it has been two weeks so far.

I need to get on top of this ASAP. Even once ordered it will prob­ably take sev­eral weeks to get the samples and a week to eval­u­ate them. There is no way I am going to close this out by the end of the month.

The plan going for­ward is to call the Braemac rep on Tues­day. If I can’t get it resolved on the Tues­day I will aggress­ively pur­sue samples through Avnet. I can’t see resolv­ing the cam­era sys­tem by my decision dead­line, I think the best I can hope for is to get as much done as I can and deal with it at the time. Mak­ing a viab­il­ity call with this ele­ment so uncer­tain is dif­fi­cult, I may have to put a sec­ond­ary eval­u­ation date in.

Inverter

I would like to include an inverter sys­tem in my microwave, it isn’t crit­ical but cer­tainly a nice to have. I con­cluded a while ago that the only viable way for­ward was to buy the sys­tem from Panasonic, parts, pat­ent licence etc. as a com­plete kit. This seems to be how other man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Sharp have approached it.

My plan was to use the cam­eras to build a rela­tion­ship with Panasonic and then broach the ques­tion of the inverter tech­no­logy. I think I have enough of this so far, I’ll raise the inverter tech when I talk to Panasonic in the pro­cess of resolv­ing the cam­era sample mess.

Scales

The scales tech­no­logy is rel­at­ively simple. I am con­fid­ent that I can handle the elec­tron­ics side and will be able to at least estim­ate the cost by the end of the month. It will prob­ably involve a cus­tom PCB which is increased risk but it should be a simple one.

The out­stand­ing ele­ment here is that I am prob­ably going to need to cre­ate a cus­tom plate for the scales. There are a few options with dif­fer­ent cost/design tradeoffs but I need to be more know­ledge­able about the costs involved in plastic fab­ric­a­tion to proceed.

When deal­ing with the metal fab­ric­at­ors some plastic com­pan­ies were men­tioned. I need to line up a visit next week and get an under­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ent tech­niques with their tool­ing and unit costs.

No turntable

The lack of a turntable in the sys­tem is basic­ally a require­ment to get the scales working.

Again the tech­no­logy, a basic under­stand­ing of it, is simple enough that even I have grasped it.

I just haven’t found any­one who sells them premade. Panasonic prob­ably another option, I’m giv­ing them all my money any­way… I could also grab one and get a metal bender to clone it but the part needs to be pre­cisely made. Design­ing my own would prob­ably require RF meas­ure­ments to do it prop­erly which is com­plex and expens­ive, not to men­tion how ter­ri­fy­ing RF design is.

Screen

The screen is actu­ally look­ing fairly good. I haven’t received the samples to try out but that is fairly low risk and should hap­pen before the end of the month. I have a solu­tion and enough inform­a­tion to estim­ate the cost solu­tion, which is all I really need at this point.

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Microwave project managing – week 5

Update

So I really didn’t do much this week. I have always suffered from occa­sional days where my pro­ductiv­ity drops off and I achieve vir­tu­ally noth­ing. I found that work­ing solo this was much harder to arrest and control.

In the spirit of full dis­clos­ure it was more like two weeks. With a fairly sharp decline in the second half of week 4, the entire loss of week 5 and the first half of week 6. I had over­run set aside in the sched­ule, I had hoped that if it was needed it would be due to external factors… but it means the impact isn’t as bad as it could have been.


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Grants

Rather than leave this entry com­pletely depress­ingly empty I’ll pad it out with an inform­at­ive rant on grants.

Prior to my move to the Geelong region every time I heard the city men­tioned in the news it seemed to be attached to another bundle of money. Espe­cially around the Fed­eral elec­tion it seemed like politi­cians were determ­ined to drown Geelong in largess.

So when I hatched this deranged plan and moved to the region look­ing into these buck­ets of cash was always on my todo list. I’m start­ing a busi­ness, it’s new and innov­at­ive, in the right area and I may even have to employ people one day. It is some­thing a num­ber of people I have talked to have also mentioned.

I will fore­shadow slightly by say­ing that every­body who raised it was from out of the region. None of the local account­ants I talked to raised it, the one I brought it up with is well con­nec­ted with the regional com­munity and knew noth­ing about them.

Grants are awar­ded by the Fed­eral and State Gov­ern­ment depart­ments, coun­cils as well as private busi­nesses. I sus­pect in the past being aware of a grant was a big prob­lem so the gov­ern­ment has made that part of the pro­cess much easier, with their Grant Finder website.

Using the Grant Finder you select your region by state, industry and a few other ele­ments. It then provides a list of rel­ev­ant grants to look up the details of. My list was roughly 220 items long. I man­aged to cull this down to about ten worth look­ing in to. I will men­tion though that the City of Mel­bourne has an impress­ive col­lec­tion of grants if you a start­ing a small busi­ness in the Mel­bourne CBD.

GRIIF

The big daddy of grant funds is the Geelong Region Innov­a­tion & Invest­ment Fund (GRIIF), prob­ably bet­ter known as the Ford fund. Money was tipped in by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, the Vic­torian Gov­ern­ment, Ford and later Alcoa. Roughly half the money is for North­ern Mel­bourne where the Ford sup­pli­ers and trickle down employ­ment is actu­ally loc­ated. $29.5M is alloc­ated for Geelong.

So far $18M has been spent in two fund­ing rounds. Money is provided on the basis of cre­at­ing per­man­ent jobs, all funds must be matched by the receiv­ing com­pany. The grants must be at least $50k but in prac­tice most are well over $1M, the smal­lest awar­ded is $230k. This cor­res­ponds to roughly $30k per job. From the grant sum­mar­ies it seems like the grants are bring­ing for­ward planned expan­sion and invest­ment, not neces­sar­ily bad but use­ful to note in eval­u­at­ing the scheme.

What I found inter­est­ing is that the last round closed on the 29th of May 2014. There has been no announce­ment of a third round, when I inquired as to when a third round was likely to occur I was told “at this stage no future rounds or poten­tial dates have been announced.”

All money from the grant must be spent by the end of the 2015/2016 fin­an­cial year, this is an import­ant ele­ment of the fund because it cor­res­ponds to the timeline of the Ford job losses. Assum­ing you want a grant to expand your com­pany with a new man­u­fac­tur­ing facil­ity I see a crude timeline of:
* 2 months to pre­pare the grant
* 1 month to eval­u­ate the grants
* 1 month to plan the details of the expan­sion
* 6 months to buy the equip­ment, prob­ably cus­tom built and sea freighted
* 1 month to install and commission

With this very ambi­tious timeline you are look­ing at 11 months to fin­ish the grant based works and get the fund­ing. Given that the money must be spent in the next 15 months it seems like they are run­ning low on time. I know account­ing games can be played to bring the spend­ing for­ward but I assume the gov­ern­ment wouldn’t run the pro­gram plan­ning for this.

The cynic in me sus­pects that the gov­ern­ment could not provide any updates until too late, then quietly close it. I don’t know the details of how the remain­ing money would be divided and returned but I believe all of the parties would be happy to pocket the funds.

GAF

The Geelong Advance­ment Fund (GAF) is a Vic­torian Gov­ern­ment ini­ti­at­ive run out of the Regional Devel­op­ment Vic­toria depart­ment. GAF has $11M to “drive jobs growth, increase skills and innov­a­tion and deliver eco­nomic and com­munity infra­struc­ture in Geelong.”.

So far two rounds of fund­ing have been run, the most recent closed on the 30th of May 2014. The first round spent $3.65M on two pro­jects, I can’t find details on the second round actu­ally being awar­ded. It cer­tainly seems as if the fund has not been exhausted but no fur­ther fund­ing rounds have been announced.

GGIF

The con­sist­ently named Greater Geelong Industry Fund (GGIF) is another Vic­torian Gov­ern­ment ini­ti­at­ive. Often lumped in with the GAF, together they are called the Geelong Devel­op­ment Fund.

One round of fund­ing has been run and awar­ded, there are ref­er­ences to IXL get­ting $180k for example. The fund seems to have dis­ap­peared though, links to it are dead, there are just lots of announce­ments on its cre­ation. The Depart­ment of State Devel­op­ment, Busi­ness and Innov­a­tion (DSDBI) now the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment, Jobs, Trans­port and Resources (DEDJTR?), which admin­is­ters the fund only men­tion it in old fin­an­cial reports.

The Depart­ment Annual Report (page 173) lists grant recip­i­ents and shows IXL get­ting $60k, not the $180k announced in the budget speech. There are six recip­i­ents lis­ted for a total of $695k.

I don’t know the details of gov­ern­ment grant award­ing but it looks like the gov­ern­ment announced a $4M fund, awar­ded $700k with lots of nice press releases all along the way and have since pock­eted the remain­ing $3.3M without any­one say­ing boo.

R&D Tax Concession

The R&D tax con­ces­sion is lis­ted on the grant finder, it isn’t a grant but worth men­tion­ing anyway.

This tax deduc­tion has been around for a while and was sig­ni­fic­antly reworked in 2011. The legis­la­tion is actu­ally one of the bet­ter ref­er­ences, the Aus­In­dustry web design­ers simply point at the legis­la­tion (without links) whenever you look for details such as who is eli­gible. The ATO web­site also has good information.

To sum­mar­ise (my sim­pli­fied under­stand­ing):
* You must be a com­pany doing R&D work
* You must pre-register for the tax con­ces­sion
* You receive a tax deduc­tion of 45% of your R&D expendit­ure
* You must have deduc­tions of at least $20k on R&D (at least $45k expenditure)

The tax con­ces­sion seems to be designed for estab­lished com­pan­ies not early phase star­tups such as myself. Without pay­ing a salary I prob­ably won’t reach $45k, I am cer­tainly not plan­ning to spend that much. My expendit­ure is also going to be split across two fin­an­cial years.

As a tax deduc­tion it is also far more use­ful for busi­nesses that make a profit, which I don’t have, yet.

Optus-Innov8 Seed

This Optus/SingTel fun­ded “grant” looks like stand­ard VC seed fund­ing (money for equity) that they have some­how got­ten lis­ted on grant web­sites. It is the kind of decept­ive amoral manœuvre that VCs spe­cial­ise in, I am sur­prised more haven’t lis­ted themselves.

Indus­tries for Today and Tomorrow

Indus­tries for Today and Tomor­row is a Vic­torian Gov­ern­ment pro­gram run out of the Regional Devel­op­ment Vic­toria office. It is designed to assist medium to large busi­nesses grow and increase employment.

Tech­no­logy Devel­op­ment Voucher

The Tech­no­logy Devel­op­ment Voucher is a small grant up to $50k for small to medium sized tech­no­logy based busi­nesses. It is designed for dis­crete work with a sup­plier such as a design firm. I was hop­ing to use it to help fund the required product cer­ti­fic­a­tions. How­ever the pro­gram was sus­pen­ded after the recent Vic­torian change of gov­ern­ment and there is no indic­a­tion of if it will resume or be replaced.

EIP

The Entre­pren­eurs’ Infra­struc­ture Pro­gramme is a sub­stan­tial Fed­eral busi­ness assist­ance pro­gram intro­duced in 2014. It replaces eight pre­vi­ous industry par­ti­cip­a­tion pro­grams and is designed to be a one stop shop for busi­ness sup­port and growth. A private grant con­sult­ing group provides a solid summary.

The EIP has three branches which seem to oper­ate inde­pend­ently.
* Busi­ness Man­age­ment — Breaks down into four offer­ings, par­tially fun­ded con­sult­ant run eval­u­ations which can then lead to assist­ance with sup­ply chain, growth ser­vices or growth grants.
* Research Con­nec­tions — Link­ing busi­nesses with uni­ver­sit­ies and CRCs with fund­ing for the col­lab­or­a­tion.
* Accel­er­at­ing Com­mer­cial­isa­tion — Assist­ing and fund­ing busi­nesses to com­mer­cial­ise their concept.

Of the three the branch I am inter­ested in is Accel­er­at­ing Com­mer­cial­isa­tion. This has sev­eral offer­ings, the port­fo­lio, com­mer­cial­isa­tion advisers, the expert net­work and grant funding.

The port­fo­lio is a list of busi­nesses who have applied, 554 so far. Not much more to it but we can run up some quick inter­est­ing stats, I have included some tables at the end of this sec­tion. In par­tic­u­lar the num­ber of registered busi­nesses rel­at­ive to pop­u­la­tion shows some sur­pris­ing growth areas.

The Com­mer­cial­isa­tion Advisers are a small group of indi­vidu­als with prior senior exper­i­ence in grow­ing com­pan­ies, most are either prac­tising con­sult­ants or VCs. All port­fo­lio mem­bers are assigned an advisor to assist them with high level advice, they also assist with the applic­a­tion pro­cess. There is also an RFT pro­cess which hasn’t yet been com­pleted for com­mer­cial­isa­tion advisers, it isn’t clear how this relates to the exist­ing group.

The Expert Net­work is a lar­ger group of exper­i­enced advisors, either domain experts or indi­vidu­als with exper­i­ence grow­ing com­pan­ies. The list of experts is con­fid­en­tial, the com­mer­cial­isa­tion adviser arranges the link between the par­ti­cipant and the expert. Inter­est­ingly experts aren’t paid, which sug­gests that the com­mer­cial­isa­tion adviser prob­ably is.

In addi­tion to join­ing the port­fo­lio an applic­ant can apply for grant fund­ing. This has a stricter assess­ment pro­cess and lim­it­a­tions on what the grant money can be used for. All grant fund­ing must be matched.

I am con­sid­er­ing apply­ing to join the port­fo­lio, I don’t think apply­ing for fund­ing is likely to be suc­cess­ful or worth­while at this point. Assist­ance in nav­ig­at­ing the busi­ness world would be rather use­ful though.

Tech­no­logy
Man­u­fac­tur­ing, Engin­eer­ing & Design 228
Soft­ware & Web Design 185
Com­puter Sys­tems & Hardware 72
Bio­tech­no­logy 69
Mar­ket
Health & Medical 122
Busi­ness & Communications 93
Agri­cul­ture & Food 78
Energy, Min­ing & Resources 69
Infra­struc­ture & Building 54
Defence, Secur­ity & Safety 40
Enter­tain­ment, Tour­ism & Sport 31
Auto­mot­ive, Avi­ation, Mar­ine & TCF 24
Edu­ca­tion & Training 21
OEM 20
Tex­tiles, Cloth­ing & Footwear 2
Region Count Pop­u­la­tion (k) Count per 100k
QLD 150 4676 3.2
VIC 133 5769 2.3
NSW 131 7439 1.8
WA 68 2526 2.7
SA 38 1675 2.3
ACT 17 383 4.4
TAS 14 513 2.7
NT 3 242 1.2
Surf Coast 3 26 11.5
Greater Geelong 1 222 0.5
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