Saturday, September 22, 2007

Citigroup Data Leaked on Limewire; Will There Be Jail Time?

eWeek is reporting that a Citigroup employee running p2p software Limewire has potentially been used to find over 5,000 customer records including Social Security Numbers, names, credit information and mortgage types. eWeek notes:

Tiversa found over 10,000 files, deduplication revealed only 5,208 unique Social Security numbers, along with names and what type of mortgage each customer had: conventional, 30-year or conforming, for example.

The information is likely to have been exposed to millions of LimeWire users, given that there are at least 10 million nodes online in a P2P file-sharing network at any point in time, said Chris Gormley, Tiversa's chief operating officer.

If this information is proven to be accurate, should the employee or the Citigroup execs face jail time? The monetary fines are obviously not working, would a stint in jail start to wake up companies that our data is the most important piece to their ability to generate revenue.

I raised my concerns earlier this week with Mint and their "bank-level" security. What I would like to see from them (and the other apps in this sector) is their plan for when data is breached. How will they handle the breach in both communications to customers and in monetization to those who were affected.

And while many wrote about Facebook blocking in corporations, one of the issues no one (including me) seemed to touch on is security. How far are we from a malicious Facebook app?

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MySpace News Is Stealing Your Search Results

ms3.jpgWe’ve wondered previously who was going to use MySpace News (if ever), and now we’ve found the traffic source: Google.

Framed pages of blogs and news sites, complete with MySpace News branding and MySpace URL, are being indexed by Google as original content, stealing search engine placement and direct links from content creators.

A search of Google found thousands of MySpace News pages presenting story headlines with a MySpace url that led directly to a framed page that uses content from other sites.

The legality of passing off content as your own is questionable. The case most frequently cited in content framing cases is Washington Post vs Total News where the Washington Post argued that this was unfair and harmful use of their trademark and there was a danger that the user would be confused concerning whose content was being displayed. Unfortunately that case was settled out of court; notably MySpace today is framing content from the Washington Post as well (example here). Some refer to the practice as stealing, and even Chilling Effects notes that the legality of serving framed content is questionable.

The practice may also be in breach of Google’s TOS; MySpace is leveraging its position of strength to promote your content branded as their content in the Google search results, a practice that looks like search engine manipulation from a distance.

No matter what the legalities and moral dimension, if you’re a publisher and MySpace is hijacking your search results and throwing up a frame with their branding around your content, it’s not a good thing. Given what little traffic MySpace News is doing on their main site, there is little new traffic benefits from the service, instead the traffic from the MySpace News pages on Google cannibalizes existing search traffic.

Here’s hoping the Washington Post and the other big media outlets who are having their content framed and presented as MySpace News content take the matter further.

ms2.jpg ms1.jpg

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

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Salmon Sperm makes LEDs Brighter

A University of Cincinnati (UC) researcher has an unusual approach to developing “green” electronics — salmon sperm. Date: 9/10/2007 By: Wendy Beckman Phone: (513) 556-1826

Professor Andrew Steckl, a leading expert in light-emitting diodes, is intensifying the properties of LEDs by introducing biological materials, specifically salmon DNA.

Electrons move constantly — think of tiny particles with a negative charge and attention deficit disorder. It is through the movement of these electrons that electric current flows and light is created.

Professor Andrew Steckl
Ohio Eminent Scholar Andrew Steckl is one of the world's leading experts in photonics. (Photo by Dottie Stover)
Steckl is an Ohio Eminent Scholar in UC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He believed that if the electrons’ mobility could be manipulated, then new properties could be revealed.

In considering materials to introduce to affect the movement of the electrons, Steckl evaluated the source of materials with an eye to supply, especially materials that do not harm the environment.

“Biological materials have many technologically important qualities — electronic, optical, structural, magnetic,” says Steckl. “But certain materials are hard for to duplicate, such as DNA and proteins.” He also wanted a source that was widely available, would not have to be mined, and was not subject to any organization or country’s monopoly. His answer?

Salmon sperm.

“Salmon sperm is considered a waste product of the fishing industry. It’s thrown away by the ton,” says Steckl with a smile. “It’s natural, renewable and perfectly biodegradable.” While Steckl is currently using DNA from salmon, he thinks that other animal or plant sources might be equally useful. And he points out that for the United States, the green device approach takes advantage of something in which we continue to be a world leader — agriculture.

Applied Physics Letter cover
Steckl is pursuing this research in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory. The research was featured recently in such premier scientific publications as the inaugural issue of naturephotonics and on the cover of Applied Physics Letters.

“The Air Force had already been working with DNA for other applications when they came to us and said, ‘We know that you know how to make devices,’” quotes Steckl. “They also knew that they had a good source of salmon DNA.” It was a match made in heaven.

Diagram detail from APL cover
So began Steckl’s work with BioLEDs, devices that incorporate DNA thin films as electron blocking layers. Most of the devices existing today are based on inorganic materials, such as silicon. In the last decade, researchers have been exploring using naturally occurring materials in devices like diodes and transistors.

“The driving force, of course, is cost: cost to the producer, cost to the consumer and cost to the environment” Steckl points out, “but performance has to follow.”

And what a performance — lights, camera, action!

“DNA has certain optical properties that make it unique,” Steckl says. “It allows improvements in one to two orders of magnitude in terms of efficiency, light, brightness — because we can trap electrons longer.”

When electrons collide with oppositely charged particles, they produce very tiny packets of light called “photons.”

“Some of the electrons rushing by have a chance to say ‘hello,’ and get that photon out before they pass out,” Steckl explains. “The more electrons we can keep around, the more photons we can generate.” That’s where the DNA comes in, thanks to a bunch of salmon.

BioLEDs make colors brighter.
BioLEDs make colors brighter.
“DNA serves as a barrier that affects the motion of the electrons,” says Steckl. It allows Steckl and his fellow researcher, the Air Force’s Dr. James Grote, to control the brightness of the light that comes out.

“The story continues,” says Steckl, again smiling. “I’m receiving salmon sperm from researchers around the world wanting to see if their sperm is good enough.” The next step is to now replace some other materials that go into an LED with biomaterials. The long-term goal is be able to make “green” devices that use only natural, renewable and biodegradable materials.

This research was funded by the United States Air Force.

Here we have the “yin” of biological materials in photonic devices. See Steckl’s “yang” research placing electronics in biological materials: UC Engineering Research Widens Possibilities for Electronic Devices: NSF-funded engineering research on microfluidics at the University of Cincinnati widens the possibilities on the horizon for electronic devices.

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60+ Free Password Managers and Form Fillers

September 17, 2007 — 06:09 PM PDT — by Palin Ningthoujam

    passwordmanagers.PNG

If you're an active internet user with accounts on dozens of websites, chances are you already have dozens of user IDs and passwords to remember. An identity system like OpenID may eventually solve all your problems, but until that time you can make use of various tools to save your passwords and automatically fill out forms.

See also: 25+ Ways to Manage Your Online Identity

Password Managers (Online)

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Agatra - Online password manager that helps you log in to websites automatically. You can click on the Agatra dashboard where your website links will be displayed.

Clipperz - Online and offline password manager. You can use its one-click login feature to access your websites. It also has a stripped down edition designed for the Firefox sidebar and the Opera panel.

Handy Password - Firefox and IE addon that functions as a password manager, form filler, and a bookmark manager. You can save your data locally or on your email server.

Passlet - A simple online password manager that provides you with your Passlet page where you can store your passwords. Clicking on a particular entry pops up a window that displays the information that you stored for that particular entry.

PassPack - This is an online and offline password generator and manager with many features like 1-click logins, Anti-Phishing, Rapid Sign In, disposable logins, import and export, etc. My personal favorite.

Password Safe - Password manager that has a mini web browser pop up to help you log in to sites. It also has a desktop application for Mac and Windows.

Shibbo - Online password manager that you can use to manage passwords and private information anonymously.

SpyShakers - Online password manager with a drag and drop feature. Password Managers (Desktop applications)

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4uOnly - This tool stores your password, which you can access without having you to enter a master password. It uses your windows login ID as your account password.

Absolute Privacy - Stores your contacts, calendar, task list, diary, memos, passwords, and financial information.

Access Manager - Drag and drop passwords from user list to websites.

Agile Password Manager - A small freeware utility to store all your passwords. Offers five sections where you can store your passwords separately - personal, business, web, financial, etc.

Any Password - Store your password in a tree-type structure. Also has an import-export facility.

Comodo -i-Vault - Password generator and manager with a drag and drop interface.

Echo Password Manager - Automatically remembers and retrieves your online passwords and login information. Also has password generator, validator, and multi-language support.

Era Password Manager - Install the Era Password Manager on your USB drive and carry your passwords securely.

Halsa - A simple password manager that comes in six languages - EN, DE, PL, CZ, ES and HU.

JK Password Manager - Stores your passwords on a encrypted and master password protected file.

Keepass Password Safe - Open source application to store all your passwords in a encrypted form.

Keychain - Tracks and stores your passwords in a master-password protected file.

KeyWallet - Free tool to store your passwords. You can drag and drop your passwords to their respective websites forms in a browser.

Master Password - This application has a small floating toolbar that will track, add and manage entries.

nPassword - With this cool application, you can log in to any website or program with its QuickPassword popup feature from where you can drag your login information.

PassLocker - access your websites, email, standalone applications, instant messengers etc.

Passweerd - A USB key portable password manager application where you can store passwords by categories.

Password Assistant - A nifty password generator and analyzer tool. You can make the password output pronounceable so that it is easy to remember.

Password Assistant 2.0 - A Java based application to store all your passwords on your PC.

Password Gorilla -Stores and encrypts your passwords. You can copy the passwords in an encrypted form into your browser.

Password Manager for Opera - Allows you to store non-website related information like application logins, cell phone PINs, etc. using the built-in wand in your Opera browser.

Password Corral - This application stores your passwords in an encrypted form. You can launch browsers from the application itself.

Password Guardian - A simple password manager with import-export facility.

Password Keeper - Stores your passwords in an encrypted form.

Password Keychain - A small password generator and manager. You can use this to launch sites by double clicking the entries in the application.

Password Keyper - A tool that you can use to store and encrypt your passwords. You can launch the urls from the application itself.

Password Organiser - A small tool to store your passwords in one place.

Password Picker - Generate and store your passwords in a secure way.

Password Prime - This tool saves all your passwords and the locations where they are used.

Password Scrambler - An IE addon that provides scrambled passwords for all your web log-ins. You just have to remember the master password and let Password Scrambler do the login automatically.

Remember Me - This tool helps you create multiple password protected profiles and save your password in different categories in an encrypted form.

RN Password Manager 4.0 - Store all your passwords and website urls in one file that can password protected. You can launch your browser from the application or use the application's default web browser.

Scarabay - Password manager application from where you can drag and drop your login information.

SimplePasswords - A lightweight password manager that you can carry around on your USB stick. You can store notes with your passwords as well.

Universal Password Manager - Store your passwords at a password-protected web address. Runs on Windows, Mac OS X & Linux.

YGS Password Manager - Enables you to store all your passwords in the application. You can open the web address from the application itself and also copy the passwords into your clipboard.

Zaid - A simple password manager that can be run from your USB stick.

Form fillers / Browser Add-ons

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Billeo Free Password Manager Plus - Browser toolbar that will automatically pre-fill your login information, autofill your contact details on shopping sites, and also serves as an online bill pay assistant.

Biz Form Bar - Browser toolbar with password manager and form filler features with unlimited passwords and profiles.

Google Toolbar - The Autofill feature in the Google toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox helps fill web forms with a click.

Easy login - This is a toolbar button for Internet Explorer that you can use to log into websites with a single mouse click.

Form Auto Filler - Helps automate your form filling in Internet Explorer with a few keyboard buttons.

Formfiller - This is a small Firefox extension to help fill forms. Information from the Formfiller window can be pasted into web forms.

FormSaver - Firefox addon that will save the information you provided while filling an online form and provide the data the next time you fill a similar form.

iMacros for Firefox - Firefox addon that can act as a password manager and form filler, automate the download and upload of pages, and capture web page response time for web developers.

iNetFormFiller - Stores your private data and reproduces order of clicks on web-links when you want to fill an online form.

inFormEnter - A nice Firefox extension that puts image markers beside input fields on websites which can be selected for auto filling forms.

Login Manager - Firefox addon to help you login to the same web service using two different IDs in the same browser session.

Personal Web Helper - A password generator, manager and form filler with an inbuilt browser history cleaner.

Roboform - Browser toolbar that helps automate online form filling and logins. You can only store ten passwords in its free edition though.

Roboform2go - Version of Roboform that you can install on a USB key. It leaves no trace of the application when you unplug the USB key. Only ten passwords on the free version.

Secure Login - Firefox addon for automating web logins. When you are on a particular webpage and you hover above the login button on the toolbar, it displays a series of available login IDs and passwords.

Signupshield Passwords - Firefox addon that has a 1-Click Password manager, form filler, spam control and anti-phishing toolbar.

Shopwiki Form Filler Assistant - Firefox addon that will help you fill forms at various online shopping sites.

Sxipper - Firefox addon that uses the Firefox password manager to track your passwords and form filling information and provides you login options whenever you return to that particular site.

Miscellaneous password tools

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Change Forgotten Passwords - Recover your forgotten passwords from Internet Explorer, IMs, Outlook, shared folders, and many more.

Master Password Timeout - This Firefox addon locks the master security device after a specified amount of time. Password Decrypter - Decrypts hidden asterisk passwords into plain-text.

Password Dynamo - A nifty password generator. Requires .NET Framework 2.0+ to work. Password Exporter - Imports and exports passwords from Firefox, Thunderbird, Flock, and Songbird.

Password Finder - This Firefox addon adds the search function to the password manager.

Password Generator - You can generate up to 1000 passwords with this tool and save them on your clipboard.

PDF Filler - Online tool to help you fill any PDF form on-line in 3 steps.

Serial Key Manager - Saves your software serials in the Windows Registry.

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How does Dyson make water go uphill?

Augustine: with a little imagination, even a lowly water feature can be a remarkable "purple cow."


Source: http://www.watercascades.com/files/Dyson_uphill_fountain.htm

How does Dyson make water go uphill?

What a shower
James Dyson's uphill water feature has been the striking image of this year's Chelsea Flower Show. But how did he do it?

It certainly beats your common or garden water feature.

Inventor James Dyson, he of the bagless vacuum cleaner, has stolen the headlines from the gardeners at this year's Chelsea Flower Show with his "Wrong Garden".

A set of four glass ramps positioned in a square clearly show water travelling up each of them before it pours off the top, only to start again at the bottom of the next ramp.

It is a sight which defies logic, and has become probably the most memorable image of this year's show.

Mr Dyson says his inspiration was a drawing by the Dutch artist MC Escher (he of Gothic palaces where soldiers are eternally walking upstairs, and of patterns where birds turn into fish).

"One of these is an optical illusion that shows water going uphill and round and round the four sides of a square perpetually," he says [see Internet Links]. "I wanted to create a series of cascades that are all on the same level - an everlasting waterfall."


After much head scratching and experimentation, the effect has been achieved. Derek Phillips, the Dyson engineer who spent 12 months building the feature, told BBC News Online that his head was spinning when he was given his brief.

"James came up to me and said he wanted this idea to make water go uphill. My initial reaction was to look for Paul Daniels' phone number. But I've had to become a bit of an illusionist myself."

How is the illusion achieved?

Covering the ramp is a glass surface. Water is pumped in at the bottom, and comes out of the opening at the top. At the opening, some of the water is diverted back down the ramp, covering the glass in a thin layer of water.

Compressed air is also pumped in where the water enters - bubbles then travels up the ramp to the opening. These bubbles, combined with the thin later of water going downhill, are what create the illusion that the surface of the ramp is not just a glass lid.

I stand a discreet distance away and listen to some of their theories - there are some fantastic ideas there
Derek Phillips, Dyson engineer
It is a trick which has greatly intrigued the crowds at the Chelsea Flower Show, where Dyson's work is part of the Daily Telegraph's Silver Gilt award-winning garden. People have been queuing up 10-deep to see the fountain, says Mr Phillips, many of them discussing their various ideas as to how it works.

"I stand a discreet distance away and listen to some of their theories - there are some fantastic ideas there, some of them I actually wish I could make.

"One person was saying that they thought the water was actually travelling the other way - they were wondering how I was managing to get a water jet to shoot up to the top of the glass."

Wrong garden
No sooner has it got to the top than it starts again up the ramp
So could the uphill feature become a common sight around the country, either in people's gardens or as features in public squares?

"We could certainly make mini versions of it - or even larger versions," says Mr Phillips. "I've had a few architects coming up to me asking me about it. But I'm not telling exactly how I achieve the effect."

Before someone tries to market their own uphill water feature, they had better be warned. James Dyson - no stranger to court battles over patents - has presumably taken care of the necessary legal business.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

MatchMine Takes $10 Million From Kraft Group

matchmine.jpgMedia discovery startup MatchMine has raised $10 million from original seed investor the Kraft Group.

Boston based MatchMine launches Sunday with a product that is advertised to "unlock a whole new world of music, movies, video and other cool stuff to match the tastes of the original, quirky, one-of-kind inner you."

MatchMine's "MatchKey" technology uses demographic information about a user and a ratings system to deliver suggested media, and can also be plugged into third party sites to deliver recommendations. Three sites will support MatchKeys at launch: Peerflix, FilmCrave and Fuzz.com.

Th Kraft Group (not to be confused with Kraft Foods) is best known in the United States for its investments in Gillette Stadium and the New England Patriots.

(via Boston.com)

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Mandelbrot Demo using a WorkerPool

from Ajaxian

Nick Edgar started to play around with the Workerpool component and decided to build a distributed Mandelbrot generator:

A UI/administrator task would farm out work (columns in the Mandelbrot set) to different worker tasks, possibly running on different machines. As each worker sent in its result, the UI would draw the column, and respond with more work for the worker. It was a cool example, and looked cool too: due to different machines running at different speeds, you would see the results kind of shimmer in, with faster machines generating the leading edge, and slower machines trailing and filling in the blanks.

He put together a demo using Workerpool and without to compare.

After you start the simulation, click on the toggle button to see how the UI can remain responsive in the Workerpool case. Although you would be foolish to rush to use Workerpool thread for every little thing you do, it is nice to have this in the arsenal for truly long running actions.

Mandelbrot

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some things are better left un-sent

Augustine: if such an error did make it through QA of marketing pieces, suck it up and honor the price for those customers who DO come in to buy the unit. This would lead to such positive and rapid viral spread across the internet that would amplify the intended outcome of the ad in the first place (drive-to-store, plus sales). And, economically speaking, how many more people would jump to buy the 50-inch HDTV between Sept 23 - 29 anyway? So the "costs" are limited, while the positive upside is unlimited.

Instead, by sending this email to "valued Best Buy customers" they have created the exact opposite -- they may have limited their costs of selling 50 inch TVs at $1799 but the PR and word of mouth downside is unlimited. And they might have a while longer to continue looking forward to my next visit to their store.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Best Buy <BestBuyInfo@emailinfo.bestbuy.com >
Date: Sep 21, 2007 2:14 PM
Subject: Important 9/23 Ad Correction




As a valued Best Buy customer, we want to inform you of an error that will appear in the September 23, 2007 Best BuyTM ad.  On the front cover we mistakenly listed the price of the 50" Panasonic Plasma TV (TH_50PZ77U- 8501711) at $1799, before $90 savings.  We intended to advertise the 42" Panasonic Plasma TV (TH-42PZ77U-8501757) at $1799, before $90 savings. 

Best Buy will not be honoring this price on the aforementioned 50" Panasonic Plasma TV.

 

We apologize for any inconvenience, and we will offer a $100 Instant Rebate on all Plasma Televisions from Sunday, September 23, 2007 through Saturday, September 29, 2007. This Instant Rebate will be deducted from the price you see in the store, including our regular sale prices.

 

Thank you for your understanding.  We look forward to seeing you in our store soon.

 

(c) 2007 Best Buy

 




This email has been sent to you because you have agreed to receive offers and information from Best Buy. If you no longer wish to receive our e-mails, unsubscribe here. You may also send an e-mail to PrivacyManager@bestbuy.com or send a letter to Best Buy Corporate Campus, 7601 Penn Avenue South, Richfield, MN 55423-3645, Attention: Customer Care/Privacy. Please include your current contact information (name, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address), and indicate that you wish to stop receiving Best Buy marketing e-mails. For more information, read our Privacy Policy or call 1-888-BEST BUY

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Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings (Jakob Nielsen)

Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings (Jakob Nielsen)

A new research by Jakob Nielsen proves: users rarely look at display advertisements on websites. Of the four design elements that do attract a few ad fixations, one is unethical and reduces the value of advertising networks.

Banner Blindness

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Sparkling Salt

from IDEAS IN FOOD by Aki Kamozawa & H. Alexander Talbot

Poprockstogarishisalt I had the pleasure of watching brilliance this morning.  Aki came into the kitchen, muttering to herself, and finally asked where our neutral pop rocks were.  In the meantime she had pulled out our togarishi and maldon salt and blended them together.  When I handed her the pop rocks, she added them to the mix and then ground everything into a fine powder.  She had me taste and it was amazing.  I experienced a ton of tastes and sensations in just a few grains. 

Aki had taken inspiration from Oriol Balaguer's presentation at the Star Chefs event, ICC, where he passed around chocolates seasoned on the inside with pop rocks.  The effervescent chocolates seemed to bring a quiet to the audience as chefs chewed and then seemingly melted into smiles and childhood memories.

Aki's seasoning blend brings a whole new approach to salt and spice blends added to dishes at the last moment.  The addition of the pop rocks adds motion to the dish.  The spices and the interplay of textures and motion creates a much more complex blend of well, anything we choose.  While today we have sparkling spiced salt tomorrow could be carbonated coffee crumbs and the next day popping pistachios.

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Design Concept: Portable DVD Player with Sexy-Flexy Display Transforms Into Mini-Theater

portable_dvd_playa.jpgHere's a wild-ass looking portable DVD player (PDP) that reminds us a lot of that player we showed you last month that looks like a butterfly knife . This concept takes that design a few years into the future, looking like it's about the size and unpocketable shape of that crazy iPhone clone Intel was flaunting the other day. Like a transformer, it twists around and gives you a turntable on which to spin the DVD while you unravel its sexy flexible OLED screen to feast your eyes.

Designer Yeon-shin Seung says he plans to use Sony's full-color flexible organic electroluminescent display on this device because of the screen's thin and lightweight form factor. Here's hoping that he doesn't use the ancient DVD format is a playback medium, eschewing that old fossil for a dual-format Blu-ray and HD DVD player.

Hey, this looks like it would be a perfect companion on a transpacific flight, that is, if the batteries can hold out for at least three movies' worth. But wait a second. By the time this actually comes to market, if ever, you'll be able to stream Internet video from your airplane seat and everywhere else, so physical media will be irrelevant. Oh well, timing is everything. [Yanko Design]

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Seoul Semiconductor's 420-lumen LED puts the sun to shame

We're not really sure if Seoul Semiconductor is completely accurate in the assertion that its new 420-lumen (peak) LED is the world's brightest at 8-watts, but considering that we were pretty impressed by the company's 240-lumen model late last year -- and the fact that even the most blinding LED-based tactical flashlights rarely exceed 200 lumens -- this still seems like a fairly notable development. We should start seeing commercial products sporting these mini-suns sometime before the end of the year, so now might be a good time to check up on your insurance plan's optical coverage.

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DRM violates Canadian privacy law

The University of Ottawa's Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic has just released a huge, deep report on the privacy implications of various DRM systems. They examine 16 different systems in depth and conclude that DRM is a grave threat to personal privacy.
Our assessment of the compliance of these DRM applications with PIPEDA led to a number of general findings:

• Fundamental privacy-based criticisms of DRM are well-founded: we observed tracking of usage habits, surfing habits, and technical data.

• Privacy invasive behaviour emerged in surprising places. For example, we observed e-book software profiling individuals. We unexpectedly encountered DoubleClick - an online marketing firm - in a library digital audio book.

• Many organizations take the position that IP addresses do not constitute "personal information" under PIPEDA and therefore can be collected, used and disclosed at will. This interpretation is contrary to Privacy Commissioner findings. IP addresses are collected by a variety of DRM tools, including tracking technologies such as cookies and pixel tags (also known as web bugs, clear gifs, and web beacons).

• Companies using DRM to deliver content often do not adequately document in their privacy policies the DRM-related collection, use and disclosure of personal information. This is particularly so where the DRM originates with a third party supplier.

• Companies using DRM often fail to comply with basic requirements of PIPEDA.

PDF Link (via Michael Geist)

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$130 Zunes -- $10 Woot credit mocks Apple

from Engadget by Thomas Ricker

If the $150 white Zune was too rich to Woot, then how does 30GB for $130 sound Zune boy? Yup, $129.99 to be precise, which leaves you with half of the 2 cents required to sound-off in the comments. In a tip of the hat to their customers (and a mocking poke at Apple), Woot's "Emergency Open Letter" offers a $10 Woot credit for anyone who purchased at the higher price. My my, how consumer expectations are changing.

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BenQ launches uber-quiet MP622 / MP622c projectors

Although BenQ prefers to market its MP622 and MP622c projectors to the suits, we see no reason these bad boys can't be carted home after the nine-to-five for a little fun. Both DLP units sport a 1,024 x 768 (XGA) resolution, a 2,000:1 contrast ratio, ultra-quiet 26dB noise level whilst running in economy mode, and a sexy "midnight black high gloss exterior." The MP622 offers up 2,700 ANSI lumens while the MP622c musters just 2,200, but you'll find VGA / S-Video / composite video inputs on each to compliment the audio in jack and integrated speakers. Word on the street puts these two units on store shelves later this month, with the MP622 ringing up at around $999 and the MP622c costing $849. [Via FarEastGizmos]

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Clever USB: 19-inch Monitor from Samsung Connects to your PC via USB

CX940UX_1.jpgNew from Samsung is the CX940UX, a 19-inch monitor that you can connect to your PC via USB. From the Syncmaster range, it's got all sorts of tricks up its sleeve, such as being able to control up to six further monitors linked to your computer. You can forget about needing extra graphics cards or new drivers to manage the multiple screens too, as Samsung claims the CX940UX can do it all itself. There's also a couple of USB ports, so you can use it as a mini hub. Clever, Samsung, very clever. [Samsung]

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WASH CYCLE ATMs Become Handy Tool For Laundering Dirty Cash

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119033266947734601.html?mod=hps_us_pageone

With Small Deposits,
Couriers Outwit Banks;
Bag of Money in Queens
By MARK SCHOOFS
September 21, 2007

At 8:50 a.m. on March 15, 2006, Luis Saavedra and Carlos Roca began going from bank to bank in Queens, New York, depositing cash into accounts held by a network of other people, according to law-enforcement officials. Their deposits never exceeded $2,000. Most ranged from $500 to $1,500.

[Luis Saavedra]

Around lunchtime, they crossed into Manhattan and worked their way up Third Avenue, then visited two banks on Madison Avenue. By 2:52 p.m., they had placed more than $111,000 into 112 accounts, say the officials, who reconstructed their movements from seized deposit slips.

Confederates in Colombia used ATM cards to withdraw the money in pesos, moving quickly from machine to machine in a withdrawal whirlwind, the officials say. "The organization at its height was moving about $2 million a month," estimates Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City.

Messrs. Saavedra and Roca were arrested in June and charged under state money-laundering laws. Officials say they were moving money for a Colombian drug-trafficking organization that sells cocaine and the club-drug Ecstasy. Prosecutors say the two men engaged in a laundering practice called "microstructuring," a scheme notable for its simplicity. To evade suspicion by banks, they always made small deposits. In Colombia, getting at that money was as easy as pushing buttons on an ATM.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

New Induction Cooktops from GE Are the Highest Wattage Ever

inductionge.jpgOur cooking experience barely goes beyond "Fire. Bad. Keep. Away," but these GE Monogram and Profile induction cooktops have the highest wattage element from an induction cooktop ever. The 3700-watt cookers use magnetic fields to heat up your food, as opposed to gas or electric cookers. Induction cooking's been around for a while, but as evidenced by the small shot of a bunch of ice cubes sitting on the same plate as a tray of boiling water, this technology is fancy. Just cause they're as close to Star Trek as you're going to come in the kitchen, save for the microwave or something. [GE]

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Solar Power: Floating Solar Island Will Produce Energy While Annoying Plankton and Fish

solarislandcsem.jpg Ras al-Khaimah &mdash one of the United Arab Emirates, not a relative of Batman's nemesis &mdash is going to install this floating solar island, which will be 0.62 miles in diameter when completed. Due to the lack of space in land, the micro-state contracted the Neuch√Ętel's Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology to design it, paying $5 million toward the construction of the project. The island will produce electricity by heating up water to produce vapor and will be able to propel itself in case bad weather strikes. [GoodCleanTech]

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Brilliant: FIQL Avoids Copyright Trap Through Music Videos

from TechCrunch by Michael Arrington

FIQL is a nice niche social network focused on music playlists. Users upload, categorize and share their playlists with others. People who view the playlists can buy songs through links to iTunes and other music services. But for the most part they can't simply listen to the songs online, other than through somewhat cumbersome links to Napster and Rhapsody, which allow people to listen to songs for free with certain restrictions.

Since listening to music on playlists has so many restrictions, the service hasn't grown much - it has just 15,000 playlists from 50,000 registered users since launching in 2005.

But at 9 AM PST I have a feeling they will be getting a whole bunch of new users and a lot more playlists when they launch a new product called FIQL TV. That's because they figured out a brilliant, if somewhat obvious, end-around to copyright laws that restrict them from playing music outright: music videos hosted on third party video sites like YouTube.

It's widely known that music videos are available on video sharing sites (some of them are even distributed legally). In fact, sites like Middio have sprung up that do nothing more than provide music video search for YouTube and other sites. There are a number of services that also allow people to download these videos to their hard drives (see our own YouTube download tool) - and converting them to iPod format is only a small additional step.

Videos are regularly pulled down as copyright holders complain, but they are quickly re-added by other users. That means bookmarks of videos often go stale, but using a search engine will always help you find what you're looking for in no time.

FIQL Leverages Music Videos To Avoid Copyright Trap

So here's what FIQL has done - users can create a playlist on FIQL, or import an existing one from iTunes or other services. FIQL will then go out and grab music videos from the third party video sites and add them to the playlist. You and others who view the playlist can then play the videos.

FIQL has also created an embeddable player for those videos that can be dropped in to MySpace and other social networks and websites, or add it to their Facebook application. So now, if you have a favorite playlist in iTunes, you can simply export it to FIQL and get an embeddable player back that plays the music videos of all your songs. An screencast overview of the new service is here.

Problem solved.

Or, mostly. Technically FIQL is still subject to copyright claims. But they've pulled themselves one step away from direct contact with the content owners, who are mainly focused on the sites that actually host the infringing content. Case law is still developing in this area, but they are under little real threat of litigation.

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Is Your Computer Connecting To Websites Without Your Knowledge

If you are worried that some programs on your PC are secretly making connections to websites in the background, here's a quick tip that uses a simple DOS command to detect and prevent such suspicious activity:

1. Type cmd in your Windows Run box.

2. Type "netstat -b 5 > activity.txt" and press enter. After say 2 minutes, press Ctrl+C.

3. Type "activity.txt" on the command line to open the log file in notepad (or your default text editor)

computer internet connections

The file activity.txt will have a log of all process that made a connection to the Internet in the last two minutes. It will also show which process connected to which website in this time. And not just the web browsers (like iexplore.exe or opera.exe), the log will also show your IM clients, download managers, email programs or any software that requires a net connection.

Scroll though the activity.txt file and look for any process names or website addresses that you are not aware of. If you track one , go to the task manager (or Process Explorer) to find the location of the executable on your computer and eliminate it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cellphones: Digitimes Reconfirms gPhone

google-phone-1.jpgDigitimes has a quick bit on the gPhone, saying it is definitely coming out, sourcing factory workers, who may very well have the GPhone innards in their. We already knew this, from Crunchgear's HTC insider. They talk about whether or not EDGE or 3G will be on the phone, but that looks more like a hedge than any specific information. My two cents on HTC -- I know that key individuals inside the company were severely disappointed with Windows Mobile 6, so the idea of a Linux and Google powered OS running on HTC's heralded hardware is really one I'll buy in to. [DigiTimes]

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Apple: iPhone GPS Hack Works and is Awesome

gpsunknown.pngWhoa, the iPhone just got GPS. Well, assisted GPS, but still, It actually works. This morning, the Navizon GPS app showed up in Installer.app. After creating a username and login (get this: email NOT required), the free app started up, taking about 30 seconds to find my location by measuring the delay between nearby cell towers and using their known locations to pinpoint where I am. Then it pushes your coordinates, by latitude and longitude, to many, many, many decimal places of degrees, to the map application.

Kind of. It's off by a few hundred yards, but this is a lot better than the total lack of location awareness that the iPhone officially enjoys. And its FREE. It also claims Wi-Fi positioning, which I don't completely understand. A caveat: It crashed Chen's phone, but it worked great for me. And this is only version 1.0, but maybe the real question is why wasn't this functionality built into the iPhone to begin with? Go Navizon!

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Who Owns Your Financial Data?

That's the question we should all be asking. Now that Mint has finally launched and joined Wesabe, Geezeo, Buxfer and a few others in the personal financial web service space, it's time to discuss what it means to take your personal financial data out of the hands of your bank and credit card company (who thinks they own it but do not), and put it on the web.

Wesabe, a Union Square Ventures portfolio company, has a Data Bill Of Rights.

It says:

  • You can export and/or delete your data from Wesabe whenever you want.
  • Your data is your data, not ours. Our job is to help you understand and act on your data.
  • We’ll keep all of your data online and accessible for as long as you have an account. No “archive access” charges.
  • Any data you want us to keep private, we will.
  • If a question comes up not covered by these rights, we will answer it remembering that your data belongs to you.

That's a good start. But I think its time to discuss this at length. And there's no better place to do that than in the blogs. Here's some questions to ponder.

- who owns the metadata you and others create about the transactions that come into the system? - is it better to let the service do the tagging or is it better to let the community to do the tagging of the transactions? - should the tags be shared and if so, when and with whom? - where should your login and passwords be stored? - can these services be hacked? - is personal identifiable information (PII) being stored with the data?

I am sure there are more questions. So now that we have a full fledged category here with at least four high quality companies in it, let's figure out the rules of the road.

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Mint Wins TechCrunch40 Top Company Award; Takes $50,000 Prize

Jason Calacanis just announced that Mint was chosen as the best presenting company at TechCrunch40. The provider of an impressive personal finance application will receive $50,000 as part of the award.

Mint presented its application this morning during Session 5, which was entitled "Productivity and Web Applications". See our coverage of that session here.

Mint is a personal finance application that lets users track and monitor their financials in one place without the need of routine maintenance or accounting knowledge. Their application tracks bank, credit union and credit card transactions and alerts users to upcoming bills, low balances or unusual spending. Mint's patent-pending technology automatically categorizes transactions, so users know with precision where they are spending money, what their bank and credit balances are, and how much interest they have earned.

Their application also helps people find ways to save money by constantly searching for deals on credit cards, bank accounts, etc. Mint's technology also analyzes your finances and makes suggestions all while using the same security systems as top banks.

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Metaplace: open DIY virtual worlds for everyone

via Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow on 9/19/07

Metaplace -- a virtual world creation system that lets anyone make their own multiplayer games, link them and share them -- has just launched, at the Techcrunch 40 event. Metaplace was created by Raph Koster, the architect of Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online -- and the author of the incredible Theory of Fun. Metaplace is a world-creator that runs right in your browser, and that makes it incredibly simple to share objects, characters and entire worlds. I joined the advisory board as soon as Raph told me what he was working on and why -- this is one of the coolest ideas for gamespace that I've ever heard of.

Our goals are sort of idealistic. We think there are all kinds of things on the Internet that would be improved if anyone could have a virtual place of their own. Right now, there aren't enough good games, for example, and they all seem to be about elves in tights or soldiers in battle armor. Metaplace allows more diversity. Right now, there are lots of people who want to use virtual worlds for research, or education, or business, but it's just too darn hard to get one going. Now you can create a world in just a few minutes and start tailoring it to your needs. Basically, we wanted to democratize the process of making online spaces of all sorts...

We speak Web fluently. Every world is a web server, and every object has a URL. You can script an object so that it feeds RSS, XML, or HTML to a browser. This lets you do things like high score tables, objects that email you, player profile pages right on the player -- whatever you want. Every object can also browse the Web: a chat bot can chatter headlines from an RSS feed, a newspaper with real headlines can sit on your virtual desk, game data could come from real world data... you get the idea. No more walled garden.

Link

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DigiTimes: Google will definitely launch its own branded handset


Citing sources at "Taiwan handset makers," DigiTimes is reporting that "Google will definitely launch its own branded handset." However, the Googlephone's OS, hardware specs, production contractor and operating partners have still not been finalized. Given that we're already pretty sure that Google has developed their own mobile OS based on Linux, we'll assume that their use of "finalized" refers to the final feature set and UI polishing -- not the possibility of the gPhone running Symbian or WinMo, for example. DigiTimes' sources also note that Google is contemplating going with a 3G handset instead of EDGE for its initial foray into the cellphone market. However, the choice for Qualcomm's 3G versus TI's EDGE could push the introduction of the HTC manufactured handset into the first half of 2008. Come on Google, it's post-Labor Day now so just go ahead and announce your plans already. We're big boys, we can take it.

 

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Imogen Heap - Just For Now

Popout
Imogen Heap singing acapella "Just For Now" (from her album "Speak For Yourself") at the Studio 11 for Indie 103.1FM on september 2006. Amazing performance. Thanks to Derek and Daniele for the video.

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Projectors: Toshiba TDP-PX10U Surprisingly Bright for a Such a Puny Projector

toshiba_tinyproj_front.jpg Toshiba's building upon its mini-projector chops it revealed last fall, and while this little DLP shiner's slightly bigger than last year's palm-sized projector, it packs a more powerful punch. The 2.9-pound TDP-PX10U is still not all that big—a mere 8.3 inches wide and 6.5 inches deep—but it tosses its 1024x768 image on the wall with an unusually bright 2200 ANSI lumens and a 2000:1 contrast ratio. Check out the gallery to get a feel for its size, shape and port configuration. Too bad there's no HDMI out back. Oh well, what do you expect for $999? [Toshiba, via Gadgetress]

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Slick: Vaio Zoom Concept is Exactly How We Want Laptops to Look in the Future

vaio_zoom.jpgThis Vaio Zoom laptop concept is one of the coolest we've seen. Featuring a holographic glass screen that goes transparent and a keyboard that turns opaque when turned off, it's slick and beautiful. And sure, a touch keyboard like this would be extremely annoying without haptic feedback and screens like that don't really exist yet, but it's an interesting look at what we'll be playing with a few years down the line. Despite the fact that this isn't an official Sony concept, we still think they should work at making it a reality. Check another image after the jump.

vaio_zoom2.jpg[Yanko Design]

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Renewable Energy: First Large Scale Wave Farm Approved in England

wavehub_9_470x350.jpgPlans for the first large scale wave farm on the planet were given final approval in England today, paving the way for a highly ambitious new method of generating energy off the coast of Cornwall in Southwest England. With an initial cost of over $56 million, the project has the potential to create 1,800 jobs and save over $1.1 billion for the UK over the next 25 years. It'll do this by generating enough electricity for 7,500 homes, saving 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the same period. If the project is a success, look for wave-generated energy to become a more prevalent source of renewable energy elsewhere in the world in the coming years. [SWRDA via NOTCOT.org]

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Metaplace Unveiled: Raph Koster Brings Virtual World To The Web

Koster at Techcrunch 40

Call it Second Life on the web, call it an MMO markup language, call it the most powerful open-standards, web-driven game platform ever made public — however you end up describing it, we finally have the main details to go on. After a year of rumors and terse venture funding announcements around Raph Koster's new San Diego-based startup, Areae, his stealth Internet project is finally public.

Hours before he went onstage at TechCrunch 40 to officially introduce Metaplace, Areae's metaverse for the web, Koster's publicists finagled me an extensive interview and first look at the platform. Formerly Sony Online's creative director, Koster also directed the Star Wars Galaxies MMO and led design on the groundbreaking MMO Ultima Online. So everyone in the online game/virtual world industry has been eagerly waiting to see just what he was planning.

To be honest, I'd expected a user-created online world built on top of a Java platform or something. Instead, Koster's vision is far more ambitious: in effect, he's proposing to make online world elements like dynamic, graphically shared space, avatars, and virtual currency part of the standard code which drives the web. How is that possible, and how can they compete in such a crowded market? What follows are my first hasty notes, on the day the web married the metaverse.

Destroying the traditional walled garden: An MMO accessible through Flash apps, 3D clients, cellphones, etc.

Up to now, most MMOs have been "walled gardens", requiring an extensive client install. Metaplace, by contrast, is "A Web browser with virtual world capability." And it's a browser that comes with its own tool kit, for people who want to build worlds, and a community/marketplace where developers can give away or sell their templates, scripts, and so on, hosted on the Areae network.

Thanks to the underlying HTML-style code by which Metaplace defines each individual world served by its network, you can literally copy and paste attributes like graphic appearance and user interface from one Metaplace world to another. In the demo, Raph showed me a Habbo Hotel-style living room (Metaplace will launch with this 2D isometric graphics view as standard), but Raph and his team expect the variety of worlds to grow with their tools, eventually accommodating hardcore MMOs like World of Warcraft—or even a new Second Life.

So instead of a single contiguous world, someone visiting the Metaplace web site gets presented with a YouTube-style home page (see photo of Metaplaces Beta log-in page ). Instead of videos, however, you have a variety of worlds to choose from, with ratings in terms of popularity, genre, and other categories. This prevents users looking for different worlds with different audiences and genre expectations getting their experiences crossed. (Or as Koster calls it: "Oh no, you got my Cartoon Network in my Suicide Girls!")

Gaming the system: Koster eats his dog food

As a renowned game developer, Koster has a rolodex of top developers in games and the tech world in general, and says Areae has been talking with an A-list roster of people interested in creating their projects in Metaplace. More key, Koster say he'll be developing his own next MMO on the Metaplace network, which will probably gain a large audience in and of itself (thanks to his reputation) — while also creating a signature prototype for his company's platform. (Koster wouldn't provide any details on his new game, however — he said he's saving that for a later announcement.)

Areae's many revenue models

  • World-making is free — much like some introductory blog services, Areae only starts charging users for hosting their Metaplace world when they begin generating heavy traffic.
  • There'll be sponsored worlds from advertisers and/or Areae partners.
  • Virtual currency can be spent across the network, and can be sold for real cash — which users and developers can buy from Areae.
  • An Adsense-style ad network will track user behavior based on what Metaplace games and worlds they play, and feed them appropriately targeted ads.
  • A mini-Metaplace world can be embedded within a web ad, creating instant brand engagement to promote a sponsor's products.

Philosophical Differences: Metaplace vs. Second Life

While Second Life is evolving as an immersive 3D metaverse which slowly incorporates web elements like XML and RSS in-world, Metaplace is beginning as a web-based network which swallows the attributes of online worlds. As Koster put it: "We don't think the Net is getting stuffed inside a giant 3D client." That's just the Second Life strategy, which demonstrates the fundamental philosophical difference between Raph Koster's Areae and Philip Rosedale's Linden Lab. Rosedale wants a one-world utopia where all Second Life users share the same space. Koster wants a metaverse that looks more like the web. "Cramming people into one world doesn't make sense to us," he told me.

Metaplace: The geek details

  • Content creators will use the Lua programming language.
  • Client agnostic.
  • Fully interoperable with the web.
  • Modular scripts that are click-and-draggable from world to world.
  • Every object in Metaplaces is a web object, and can thus serve XML data. ("We speak web top to bottom.")
  • World developers have tools to charge their users Metaplace money, which they can then convert into U.S. dollars. (Which is why you'll need to give Areae your Tax ID number, when cashing out.)
  • Areae is now developing an open source 3D engine and cell phone-driven platform. ("All of our clients will be open source.")
  • Speaking of which, Creative Commons licensing is in consideration. "That seems like a natural fit." (And notably CC evangelist Cory Doctorow is on Areae's board of advisors, along with other stellar MMO figures.)
  • Open Beta planned for Spring 2008.
  • Alpha testing begins now, starting with 50 volunteers. In later months, that will expand to 500, and by the time it goes to closed Beta by the end of the year, will have room for up to 5000, a community of early adopters which Areae will help teach to use the development tools. Go to the Metaplace site to apply for an opening.

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Intel announces Penryn for November 12th, shows off Nehalem and 32nm SRAM

It's Fall IDF time in San Francisco, and Intel really came out swinging in the chips department. The company is releasing 15 of its new 45nm Penryn this year, with the first chips hitting on November 12th, and another 20 hitting in Q1 2008. That could get some of those chips into desktops before AMD's 65nm Phenom hits, and is earlier than was expected from the chip giant. The Penryn chips are promised to bring a 20 percent performance increase while improving energy efficiency. Intel also took the opportunity to show off Nehalem, Penryn's followup. Nehalem sports a new micro-architecture to further reduce power drain, and it can adjust itself dynamically to best suit the task at hand while saving power in the process. And just to tease, Intel talked up its 32nm SRAM tech, the world's first 32nm chip, which will apparently be ready in 2009, but we'll settle for faster chips and longer battery life from the likes of Intel and AMD in the interim. [Via TG Daily]

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