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Newsletters – October to December 2008

Click on a link to any of our recent newsletters, or just scroll down.  Every month there are valuable tips and hints on Microsoft Excel, Maximizer and more!  In Internet Explorer, you can search this page for keywords using Ctrl+F.  Below and on our home page you can search this entire web site.  Click here for the list of ALL Newsletters.

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Newsletter – October 2008

Editorial – The need for Carrots

If we want to build a winning nation, I would suggest that we have to bring about a change in government's attitude towards business.    We need to urge government to use more carrots and fewer sticks in dealing with compliance issues.  Business is being hammered from all sides and yet is expected to foot the bills for the country's development through PAYE, VAT and company tax.

SARS can charge penalties and interest on late payment of tax, but does not reciprocate when they owe us money.  In fact the system is so in their favour that they can sit on money due to a person or a company indefinitely if they wish.  In addition, they are not transparent, as they are not issuing receipts for taxes paid and often issue claims for monies they believe are outstanding years after the incident.  This means that the "victim" has to go through paperwork dating back years to prove that SARS is incorrect –at their own expense.  Meanwhile SARS has chalked up penalties and interest with gay abandon.

I see a major inequity here and most SMEs haven't got the funds or the time to tackle this at the Constitutional Court.

In addition, accessing real funding for training young people on the job is close to impossible if you are an SME.  The farce of the SETAs around the skills development levies and claim for training is a tragedy.  Most companies actually doing training of their employees on the job at SME level cannot claim and their efforts receive no recognition.

We are in a skills crisis.  Please join forums on the Internet discussing this and push for a rethink on SETAs and how we handle skills development in the future.

Green Tips

The good news is that SA is exhibiting a green car which runs on an electric battery –in Europe.  We are really on the ball with solutions here.  It brings to mind the fact that we were well ahead in IT skills in 1994.  Those pioneers all were head-hunted out of SA and this trend has continued.  Somehow, we do not place sufficient value on our achievers in SA.  Is there anything we can do as business people to change this?

Do we need to set up a forum?  Approach government?  Set up our own centres of excellence within our companies?

"PLEEEEEEASE READ!!!! it was on the news! & CarteBlanchh"

"Dear Friends;
Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates is sharing his fortune. If you ignore this, You will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure  that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.  When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will Track it (If you are a Microsoft Windows user)? For a two weeks time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and ! for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check.
"

...thus reads this hoary old hoax received again recently.

Friends, please check the truth of chain-letter e-mails you get, and don't just forward them!  You look a right charley when someone points out that you've been had.  This hoax is documented on Snopes at http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/billgate.asp and TruthOrFiction at http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/m/msoffer.htmm as you can check in seconds.  No, Bill Gates was not sharing his fortune four years ago, and he isn't now either.  Microsoft can't track e-mails sent to third parties and they are not going to pay you over a thousand Rand for forwarding an e-mail!  Did you see it on the news?  Or CarteBlanchh (sic)?  Forget the testimonials from people you can't verify: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Let's use a little common sense, please!

Microsoft Outlook Tip

If you are going to send e-mails to all and sundry, we suggest you use BCC instead of CC.  That way you don't get everybody seeing everybody else's e-mail address (and spamming them too, or e-mailing them to complain about you!).  If you are using Outlook and can't see the BCC box, click View > BCC Field.

Excel Tips #58 – Array Functions III (LINEST)

Last time we looked at the Array Formula, TREND.  LINEST is a similar function.  Both fit a least-squares straight line to your data.  Where TREND gives you values on the line, LINEST gives you the equation of the line.

You will recall from High School maths that the equation for a straight line is: y = mx + b.  LINEST gives us "m" and "b".

The syntax is =LINEST( Known Y-values, Known X-values) –note that Y comes first here, as for TREND.

Let's rework our rather forced example from last time, predicting the petrol price. 

Enter into Excel, or copy from here, columns A and B of the following data, and the column headings:

  A B C D E
1 Month R/litre m b y = mx+ b
2 4 R 9.22 0.332286 7.7218095 R 9.05
3 5 R 9.33     R 9.38
4 6 R 9.33     R 9.72
5 7 R 10.40     R 10.05
6 8 R 10.20     R 10.38
7 9 R 10.81     R 10.71

To find m and b for the straight line fitting the data, select cells C2:D2 (remember, we are going to enter the formula into a range of cells).  Type the formula =LINEST(B2:B7,A2:A7) and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter  together. In each of the cells you will see the formula in braces {}, and the values that Excel calculates shown in red above.

To work out our straight line, we plug the values of m and b into the equation y = mx + b.  In cell E2, enter the formula =$C$2*A2+$D$2 (press F4 to get the dollar signs, making the cell address absolute so that it does not change when you copy it down). You now have your predicted values (shown in blue above) and, remarkably, they exactly match the values calculated with  TREND!

By the way, if you think a logarithmic (exponential) curve would fit your data better than a straight line, use LOGEST instead of LINEST, or GROWTH instead of TREND.

Maximizer 10

Maximizer 10 offers mobility for the sales force, strong customer tracking and marketing facilities.  Please phone Judith to obtain more details or e-mail her on judith@softwareafrica.co.za

Judith's "complaint" - Maximizer is so stable and easy to use that we get almost no support calls following the user training!  Customer's happiness is ensured!

Maximizer Tip
Using it to build your business

Did you know that you can move hot list tasks from your list to that of another user?  This means that you an ask people to handle a customer need more appropriately than you can yourself.  I use this feature often as I am very often not in the office and cannot phone people.  By asking my staff to follow up instead, I ensure continuity in the relationship.  It also increases my company's knowledge of our customer base.

When creating a hot list task, look at the Assigned to drop down and there change the assignment to the person you want to handle it.  In order to do this you must have access to that person's hot list.

Rick's Favourite Riddle

Q: What do you get when you cross an elephant with a jar of peanut butter?

A: You either get a jar of peanut butter that never forgets, or an elephant that sticks to the roof of your mouth.

Remember:  We can Help you with:―

  • Automating your processes with a custom program or database.
  • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and even Lotus 123 problems.
  • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows (all levels from beginners to Programming).
  • Software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.
  • Your corporate image with a set of templates on Word or Excel, linked to your address list.

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Directors, Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd t/a Software Africa
PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576 and 086-635-7902/3.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2. E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2008 Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd.  Please share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be provided to a third party without your permission. To unsubscribe, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail from the address to which this newsletter was sent.

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Newsletter November 2008

Editorial – World melt down?

Or golden opportunity?  In the face of the credit crisis which has hit the USA particularly hard and impacted on Europe to a lesser degree, where does South Africa stand?  So far as I can gather from presentations and commentaries, SA has benefited from the implementation of the National Credit Act.  This may have curtailed the rapid downhill slide into greater and greater debt by tightening up the conditions, under which credit may be granted, in good time.

Repossessions of vehicles and houses are high currently.  On the plus side, we do not seem to have a crisis with our banking sector.  So now, perhaps, we have a golden opportunity to plan wisely for 2009; structure our efforts to bring our businesses into greater efficiencies through innovation in the workplace and in how we work.

The recent improvement in broadband access, greater bandwidth and greater speeds; voice over IP; teleconferencing solutions; remote connectivity to walk your customer through a product demonstration and obtain their feedback and buy-in – all these opportunities are saying that we can still give the service and the presentation we want to give without travelling great distances.  Support can be done remotely as well, even installation.  One company I spoke to recently is doing installations in Eastern Europe from their UK offices!

Where are some of our opportunities?  Definitely in green solutions, recycling and solar development, but also in water treatment and sewerage plant treatment.  If the latter sounds yuk, just stop to consider what is happening.  Untreated sewage is flowing into our scarce fresh water resources and polluting them.  Soon we will not have potable fresh water because of this and we will be well advise not to swim in rivers, streams, dams or the sea.

South Africa is a water scarce country.  We have the challenge of developing solutions that will preserve our fresh water; create greater flows - get rid of those plantations and heavily paved settlements!

Green Tips

When you walk along the Braamfontein Spruit, Sandspruit, or another of our waterways in Johannesburg and see illegal dumping or sewers overflowing, call Johannesburg Water's Technical Department directly on 011 688-1500.  This means you don't have to use the increasingly moribund and useless "Joburg Connect" (011 375-555).

Microsoft Outlook Tip

It looks professional if all your e-mails have your contact details at the bottom.  You can set Outlook to automatically fill in a "signature" for you at the bottom of new e-mails, and a different (e.g. shorter) one for replies.  In fact it is a legal requirement that your company registration number appear on all official correspondence.  Some companies use it for their e-mail disclaimer, too.

To set up signatures, use Outlook's Tools > Options > Mail Format (tab) > Signatures.

Excel Tips #59 – Array Functions IV:  TRANSPOSE

We continue looking at Array Formulas, entered into several cells at once using Ctrl+Shift+Enter  together.

We all know (I hope) about Copy-Paste-Transpose (Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste Special: Transpose (checkbox) OK).  This lets you take a block of data and "flip" it, changing the rows to columns and the columns to rows.

Copy-Paste-Transpose produces a copy.  What if the original data changes?  The copy know nothing about the change!

What if we want the transposed copy to change when the original changes?  Then we use TRANSPOSE.  Let's demonstrate:  Enter into a new Excel worksheet, the following data (you will of course see the answers in cells B3 and B4):

A1: Item B1: Amount
A2: Exclusive B2: 10
A3: VAT B3: =B2*14%
A4: Total B4: =B2+B3

To demonstrate Copy-Paste-Transpose, select cells A1:B4.  Click Edit (menu) > Copy (or press Ctrl+C).  Clcik in Cell D1.  Click Edit > Paste Special.  Keep the radio button "All" selected.  Tick the checkbox "Transpose".  Click OK.

To demonstrate TRANSPOSE, select cells D4:G4.  Type =TRANSPOSE(B1:B4) and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter  together.  You will see the same results as in cells D2:G2 above.

Now change cell B2: Where you have the 10, instead type 20.  The result (slightly tidied up):

  A B C D E F G
1 Item Amount   Item Exclusive VAT Total
2 Exclusive R 20.00   Amount R 10.00 R 1.40 R 11.40
3 VAT R 2.80          
4 Total R 22.80   Amount R 20.00 R 2.80 R 22.80

As you can see, only with the TRANSPOSE formula do changes to the original carry through to the copy..

Maximizer 10.5 Released

Maximizer 10.5 focuses strongly on mobility and the web. It is the most impressive release to date and interfaces with Blackberries as well as Windows Mobile and Palm.  For more information, go to http://www.max.co.uk/mobile-crm/mobile-crm.html and see what this means.  Then, please phone Judith to obtain more details or e-mail her on judith@softwareafrica.co.za

Judith's "complaint" - Maximizer is so stable and easy to use that we get almost no support calls following the user training!  Customer's happiness is ensured!

Maximizer Tip
Using it to build your business

Imagine, as a sales professional, not having to go into the office every day, because you can update your sales pipeline continuously via your cellphone.  How much more could you achieve?  As you finish an appointment, you immediately update your notes with the outcome of the meeting; sit quietly to put through the order you closed to your sales manager or send the customer the requested quote via e-mail - all on your cellphone!  Well, Maximizer 10.5 makes all of this possible and more.

For sales managers, the dashboard reporting is real time, up dated moment by moment as your sales team records its successes in the field.  The marketing side of your business handles campaigns to customers, which give you rich feedback on website visits to look at the products mentioned in the campaign; who unsubscribed and who seems really interested.  You can then let your team know that there are new prospects out there for them to contact!

Sound like the boost to set you ahead from 02 January 2009?  Go to www.max.co.uk for a real look at the business points Maximizer 10.5 addresses.

Review: "A Moral and Ethical Dilemma – Systems that Fail"
by Dr James Robertson

James Robertson, a university classmate of Rick's, delivered a significant paper at the ImproveIT Conference in September.  James says that "19 out of 20 ERP implementations fail to deliver what was promised" according to a survey in 2003.  From his perspective as an engineer, he points out that if buildings, bridges, factories, or large ships failed at the rate that business information systems fail, our technologically-based society could hardly function.

In addition, we face wholesale forced obsolescence of software that is functioning satisfactorily.  The software industry is the only industry in the world that regularly demolishes and replaces what it sells when there is no technical reason to do so.  Most software is forcibly discarded after three to seven years:  Customers are forced to upgrade because the older version is no longer supported or supposedly won't work on newer hardware.

It is in fact perfectly possible to run software that is many years old on new processors.

James introduces an important and established legal principle termed "the right to maintain and repair".  It originated in the motor industry and is the legal basis of the "pirate parts" industry.  This principle says that when one purchases a product one has the right to maintain and repair and therefore use that product for as long as one wants.

So if a motor manufacturer stops manufacturing exhaust pipes for your car they automatically lose their intellectual property rights to the extent that you can have a third party make an exhaust pipe to the original (or another) specification.  (The principle says nothing about the economic or mechanical practicality of doing this, it just says that you have the right to do it.)

What has this to do with computer software?  Read on and be amazed...

Applied to software, the right to maintain and repair says that if a software developer ceases to support a version of their software which you have legally purchased then you are entirely within your rights to have a third party (or yourself) maintain that software for as long as you like.  You are thus entirely entitled to demand the source code for no more than the reasonable cost of making a copy for your use.  Alternatively, the supplier has to continue to support the software.

Now we need someone to establish a legal precedent in the software business.  Any takers?

If you would like a full copy of this reasoned and scholarly presentation from Dr James Robertson, please click here and send the resulting e-mail (or mail james@jar-a.com with the word "Presentation" in the Subject.

Weinberg's Law of Programming

Following on from James's comments: Weinberg's law of programming says: "If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization!".  Next month we publish the programmers' response...

We are currently replacing a 20 year old program, that we wrote, as the company wants more functionality.  No other reason than that, but a pleasure to enhance their processes after so long.

Remember:  We can Help you with:―

  • Automating your processes with a custom program or database.
  • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and even Lotus 123 problems.
  • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows (all levels from beginners to Programming).
  • Software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.
  • Your corporate image with a set of templates on Word or Excel, linked to your address list.

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Directors, Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd t/a Software Africa
PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576 and 086-635-7902/3.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2. E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2008 Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd.  Please share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be provided to a third party without your permission.

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Newsletter December 2008

Editorial – Festive Seasons Greetings

It only seems like yesterday that 2008 began and now we are close to its end!  It has been a truly eventful year with some unexpected changes taking place.  The impact of the sub-prime fiasco and the ensuing global financial meltdown is only now trickling into South Africa.  Reports that job losses could be severe and impact on at least three times as many people, because of extended families, are extremely worrying.

So far, however, we are still seeing good investment in infrastructure and the price of steel is coming down.  The latter will assist with keeping costs control for the 2010 projects.  Gauteng is a forest of construction cranes and I spotted a very pretty magenta one this morning!  There I was thinking that they had to be yellow.

Rains have been good this month to date and the frogs have managed to bring up some tadpoles on our local spruit.  Ducks and geese are also in the family way.

So to bring this year to an end, I reflect on the new people that have joined us - Funiwe's son, our grandson, Khanya and Mzamo.  The last two have actually joined the company whereas the first two point to the endless optimism of parents and their belief that everything will be for the best.

Finally, may we wish you all everything of the best for 2009, please travel safely and enjoy your well deserved break.  Thank You for your support during the past year as well, it has been much appreciated.

Green Tip

When you shut down your computer, the screen remains on standby, consuming power.  Switch it off using its "on/off" button and it will use less electricity.

Microsoft Outlook Tip

Last time we mentioned how you can set up Outlook's "signatures" using Outlook's Tools > Options > Mail Format (tab) > Signatures.  You can use this for much more than just some automatic text at the foot of new e-mails and replies:  You can set up as many "signatures" as you like, and drop them into e-mails using Insert > Signature.  This is useful for any "boilerplate" text (text that you use repetitively and don't want to retype).  Examples: Your signature in Afrikaans, Sotho or Zulu, directions to your offices, disclaimer notice, favourite quotations, tip of the day.

Excel Tips #60 – Matrix Functions:  MDETERM

Did you know that Excel can do Matrix mathematics?  That is, maths using not just one spreadsheet cell at a time, but a block of them.  Some of these are Array Formulas, which we have been looking at for the last several issues.  There are three Matrix functions, all conveniently named starting  with an "M":

MDETERM: Returns the matrix determinant of an array (a number)
MINVERSE: Returns the matrix inverse of an array (an array)
MMULT: Returns the matrix product of two arrays (an array)

.

Maximizer 10.5 Released

Maximizer 10.5 focuses strongly on mobility and the web. It is the most impressive release to date and interfaces with Blackberries as well as Windows Mobile and Palm.  For more information, go to http://www.max.co.uk/mobile-crm/mobile-crm.html and see what this means.  Then, please phone Judith to obtain more details or e-mail her on judith@softwareafrica.co.za

Maximizer Tip
Why upgrade in 2009?

Version 10.5 is so well integrated with Microsoft Office that new contacts can be put directly into Maximizer from Outlook and e-mails saved to existing contacts.  Appointments leave Maximizer as Outlook meeting requests and additional attendees can be sourced from anywhere in the database.  Attendees' responses are acted upon as they come in.

In addition, being able to run off to your meetings, update the results in client notes and set up new tasks and appointments from your Windows mobile instead of lugging around a heavy laptop, is a boon.  Reports can be generated for your sales manager from the same source.  Dashboards are also available across the product range in 10.5 - Group, Professional and Enterprise.  Please note that Entrepreneur is still version 10 and will remain a simple contact manager, enhanced with the superior Outlook integration and mobility.

All products now run on either Microsoft SQL Express or full SQL.

Sound like the boost to set you ahead from 02 January 2009?  Go to www.max.co.uk for a real look at the business points Maximizer 10.5 addresses.

In addition, Maximizer has a powerful link to QuickBooks® accounting.  For a young business, this gives complete solution to soundly growing even in tough times.

From the Helpline: Word 2003 Hyperlinks Show as {Field Codes}

Q: Can you help?  I pressed two keys, or clicked on something, and the result is that all hyperlinks in Microsoft Word display like this: { HYPERLINK "http://www.softwareafrica.co.za" } { HYPERLINK "mailto:rick@softwareafrica.co.za" }, but print correctly... I'm going nuts!

A:  In Word, click Tools > Options. On the View tab (first tab), at the top right, take the tick out of the checkbox "Field Codes". Click OK.

Reply to Weinberg's Law of Programming

This is a reply letter to Weinberg's law of programming, which is: "If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization."

Dear Mr. Architect,

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one. Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't have nearly enough insulation in them). As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminium, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminium, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952 Electrolux refrigerator.

To ensure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our in-laws.

My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you make. Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the colour of the carpet. However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours. While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has. I advise you to run up and look at my neighbour's house he constructed last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would also like in our new home, particularly the 25 m swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the final cost.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on as interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a mobile home. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.

Remember:  We can make your business run better by:―

  • Automating your in-house processes with a custom program or database.
  • Solving your Maximizer, Access, Excel, Word, Visual Basic, and even Lotus 123 problems.
  • Training your company on Maximizer, Excel, Word, Access and Windows (all levels from beginners to Programming).
  • Supplying software: We re-sell and support various CRM, timesheet, scheduling, and productivity programs.
  • Promoting your corporate image with a set of templates on Word or Excel, linked to your address list.

All the Best from the team!
Judith and Rick

Directors, Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd t/a Software Africa
PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.
Tel: 011 802-2685.  Fax: 011 802-4576 and 086-635-7902/3.  Cell: 082 389-3481/2. E-mail: info@softwareafrica.co.za

This entire newsletter is Copyright© 2008 Communication in Action (Pty) Ltd.  Please share it with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, and includes this notice.  To Subscribe to the newsletter, click here and SEND the resulting e-mail. Your data will not be provided to a third party without your permission.

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