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Hot damn. Good on them. No doubt it is latin script chinese, so no way to tell if this also might mean they have internationalized their code base (at least unicode and large font library support).

According to TivoPony elsewhere on this board, Tivo continues to make investments to upgrade their infrastructure in the UK, so the article is at best misleading to say they have departed the UK market.
 

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When Microsoft went international, they doubled in size the first year.

There are huge payoffs, in markets that are not obvious at first glance. For example, many people would be surprized to learn that the Indian middle class is 250 million- that is the US's population, and they are hungry for technology products. Further, most of the middle class spells english better than americans, and mistaken romanizations of hindi as I understand it make one the instant brunt of ridicule.

So you don't run into internationalizaiton issues for Tivo- first of which is missed hits due to varations of romanizations. In some languages, even proper names are romanized several different ways. Cyrillic characters for "Ludmila" could get romanized also as Liudmila, or Lyudmilla as well, and it is much worse for other words. Try doing an actor search with that kind of problem. Still, application of henry Kucera's Soundex algorithm will normalize such variations so the problem could be dealt with pretty effectively I suppose- provided you have an engineer motivated enough to encode the soundex algorithm for your data prep. YOu can probably license some C code if you want, but that's no fun.

That would be an issue for Taiwan as well. They only started moving over to Pinyin recently (started teaching it in schools only in the 90's), and so there isn't a lot of uniformity in use yet.

But romanization deals with the second huge issue which is text entry. It's hard enough to enter text expressions for roman script. Can you imagine how hard to type in one of thousands of Chinese glyphs? Pinyin is definately the way to go.
 

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There were rumors and speculations in Japanese newspapers about that, but I don't recall anything official from Tivo confirming plans for Japan. Ramsay said something about exploring opportunities with cable partners in Japan, but they have a guy whose job it is to do that with everyone. There are some old threads about it here on TCF.

Still, Megazone pointed out at the time that Tivo had a job listing out for an engineer with Japanese UI design experience, but who knows what that was. Maybe they were jumping through an INS hoop for a new hire (to hire a foreign national, you have to show you couldn't find the needed skill from the US job pool.- so you advertise for some obscure, but not too obscure skill- tell the INS you made a good try so give this guy a job permit/ green card whatever).

Anyway, I don't recall anything specific confirming they actually planned to go into japan. Nor do I recall anything about Sony being involved in any way in blocking such a move. If anyone has more info, please chime in here.

It's true there is a lot of stuff to speculate about- Yahoo is affiliated with a company that has like 80% of the world's VOIP subscribers and they are involved with internet TV (IPTV), so maybe a Tivo triple play unit could be trialed there.

There are a lot of interesting opportunities out there in the world, and which ones Tivo moves on first will likely not be entirely predictable- if some carrier in Korea wanted to pull Tivo in as a partner and was ready to invest the money for the software port, then by golly we would see a Korean Tivo pretty darn fast.
 

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Japan is small potatoes. Last spring there were a lot of rumors and there was a Tokyo article that quoted Ramsay as saying they were looking into it. I don't recall anything official. Besides, I don't see what the huge opportunity would be there anyway.

What's different about Tivo's so called "Taiwan" annoucement is that it is official, but I totally missed a teensy detail. Maybe you weren't paying attention even though Bob went to the trouble of excerpting a very interesting portion of the announcement. This isn't just Taiwan. They have rights to sell into the PRC and greater China markets. In fact TGC means "Tivo Greater China". The importance of that is a little mind numbing.

Here's why.

China is projecting monumental growth in Cable subscribers in PRC. Compared to America's 67 million cable homes, take a guess what the PRC's cable home population was as of 2001: (highlight for the answer)
90 million cable Customerssource

Further, this isn't some idea cooked up in a bar at a conusmer electronics convention. Take a look at the leadership of TGC-America: None other than Ta-Wei Chien is president and CEO. (formerly Tivo's Senior VP in charge of technology and licensing business.) This is starting to looking pretty incestuous. Tivo also owns the largest stake in TGC. 40% as reported in last conference call. (All this was noted in a thread that DaveZatz started on 11-30. I guess I missed that too while I was on walkabout.)

And the TGC license is pretty interesting too. Authorized to do business in PRC, TGC has standing to bring suit against anyone infringing on their or Tivo's IP. Maybe I misunderstand this, but it looks pretty fricking clever to me.

Especially section 10.1 b&c (excerpted):
(b) Patent Prosecution in Greater China. Company and TiVo will cooperate with each other to ensure that the Parties are obtaining proper patent coverage in Greater China. .....
(c) Company Assistance in Greater China. Company agrees to assist TiVo, at TiVo’s reasonable expense (except as otherwise provided in Section 10.1(b)(ii) above) and request, in prosecuting or registering TiVo’s IP Rights and rights in and to the TiVo Marks in the GC Regions.​


I keep babbling about how chinese manufacturer's are going to bury everybody with cheap knockoffs of every CE device and here Tivo was years and years ago laying the groundwork to make sure that the cheap Tivo knockoffs were going to all be Tivos. Any one of the advantages would have been enough to set such a structure up:
  • IP defence,
  • low cost manufacturing partners in PRC,
  • income from a burgeoning market that is already larger than the US's, and will soon be double.
 

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Yeah. I know on the face of it you think Japan = rich, China = poor. China= exporter. China not = consumer. Reality is often different than stereotypes.

1) First off. Japan really is small potatoes. Comcast alone has 21 million homes. The total number of cable homes in Japan is 10 million, and fairly static. The China cable population was nearly 10 times that in 2001. If I was less lazy I would look up where there are today, but the point is, the china number is exploding. You are right that the Japanese consumer has much more disposable income. But we are not talking about selling $1000 devices or even $500 devices. The goal is to manufacture them for practically nothing- and that is what the chinese do. If it turns out lots of chinese workers are being employed making Tivo DVRs, then TGR's complaints on patent infringement on behalf of Tivo have a great deal more weight. So both from a consumer and manufacturing standpoint, Japan is not anywhere near as significant as China.

2) "Japan is little more difficult"? Yep, and then some. Japan is legendary in its ability to lock out intruders into its markets. Most of it is highly informal. If you have a non japanese brand device under your TV people think maybe you are having financial problems or you are such a cretin you don't appreciate Japanese quality. If you were are in a business and need a manufacturer for a device you require, many companies are so large that you can buy from a different division of the company, and to consider anything else would be a poor career move. If you are free to go outside, you use the old boy network, or the old boy network gets used on you. Some old university buddies on the golf course decide what your business group's hardware choices are going to be regardless what choice was a slam dunk as indicated in the mounds of documents you provided for the senior leadership. Of course such golf course arrangements are always mutually beneficial.

3) With an mature market of CE companies, carriers, and content suppliers in Japan, you get guys like the head of a major broadcaster in japan saying that skipping commercials is against copyright law. He was totally serious, and if you think entrenched interests in the US was bad, Japan will make the MPAA and NTCA look like amateurs.

Even though they are smaller markets, if some French or Australian or Japanese carrier was interested in using Tivo technology on whatever DVR they wanted to use, I am sure Tivo is positioned well for a deal and certainly something may be cooking in regards to Japan. Both Sony and Toshiba have manufactured Tivos in the past so that avenue is open. Doing a triple play Tivo device linking up with Yahoo's Broadband affiliate in Japan would have been interesting, but it looks like they have gone with NDS for their IPTV rollout.
 

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Possible Taiwan/ Shanghai Tivo Unit.​

Business weekly Taiwan has a picture of what I assume is of the TGC branded Tivo that will be sold into the Taiwan market.

It mentions that the next step after Taiwan is Shanghai [source- see caption under picture]. This is a huge huge market. This article assumed that the model would be as a subcription based service as in the US, but had no info on fees or the retail price of the unit.

The form factor is very similar to a 540 unit. It will be interesting to see a picture of the motherboard when these finally hit the street. It would be a surprise if it were substantially different from a standard Broadcom based series two (aka series 2.5) which currently manufactured Standard definition Tivos use.
 

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Here's my crackpot idea of the day.

Matt at PVRBlog did a great interview of Michael Cronan- designer of the Tivo logo. At the close of the interview, Michael made the following remark
"TiVo has the potential to be what marketers call a Branded House, meaning that the brand evokes a level of trust that it can offer a large array of products and experiences. I actually think, from a brand perspective, TiVo has an advantage as a Branded House over Yahoo and Google. I'd bet that most people who know TiVo and Google would buy a TiVo toaster before a Google toaster."​
I never really thought about it, but he's right. Tivo evokes an unusual amount of trust and goodwill. This is a leveragable asset of the company. Tivo works up into the space that taps into a general frustration that folks have about a lot of gadgets. Why does the blinking thing always flash 12:00 if I do any little thing wrong? What technology product can I give a grandmother and be reasonably confident that she can figure out how to use it?

Why the ramble about the brand? Combine Tivo's reputation for quality and trust with Chinese manufacturing might. Sure there are a several dozen chinese companies making a digital camera. Easy to use? reliable? Who the heck is TCL anyway?

So what? After all Sony has a camcorder plant in china too? Yeah, but have you tried to use a Sony camcorder recently? Try to hit the fade button on any of the screen oriented ones. It requires 5 button presses.

Tivo digital camera? Tivo Camcorder? Tivo portable media player?

So you take the Tivo design process and apply it to every electronics product. TGC lines up the manufacturing muscle and the crucial QC at the plants. Tivo Corp evolves from being just a one trick pony.
 

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I see Tivo as being more than a revolutionary who brought about a radically different weltanschauung of how we interact with video (if that weren't enough).

They are a more fundamental revolutionary in that they have demonstrated a knowledge how to make ease-of-use drive design, rather than UI being a kind of wallpaper we put up over an engine as a kind of end of the process afterthought.

People at user interface design conferences have been in agreement for decades that this sort of design process is exactly what is necessary. It's a motherhood and apple pie position. But the group dynamics and management discipline to make that process successful is a huge challenge. Maybe Tivo's design success was a one-off fluke like xerox alto. The ongoing innovations from Tivo suggest that it was not a one-off. If Tivo has actually revolutionized that process, and can replicate it- well then- they have an incredibly powerful tool that can be applied to a much broader range of CE products than those concerning video.
 

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I was all wrong about Pinyin Charles. From the third screen over, the now playing titles appear to be multibyte, and I have no idea what that illegible junk on the 4th screen is, but I would guess the guide is too. No way to know what encoding they used, but whatever- this involved a lot more than a string substitution type port. I know you have experience in this field so perhaps you have some thoughts on how you would do a keyword wishlist entry using a remote. a chinese onscreen keyboard? Jeez. I thought roman text entry was hard enough. If they dumped keyword wishlists, then all strings- actors, directors, titles could all be offered from picklists- with "chapter"callouts to jump ahead in the picklist.

Overview impressions- A successful internationalization port of the Tivo Software. This is a nontrivial work item to adapt Tivo's software to a majorly different language- this isn't just bitmaps- they have to have support for multibyte character sets to display Now playing list and Guide database interactions. There is a nice improvement in the interfaces supported, (addition of an ethernet port will probably mean transfers will be faster than any previous tivo), but this appears to be an otherwise stock 2.5 capability device. When we hear of transfer times for TTG functionality, we will know if the remuxing processing bottleneck has been addressed in a substantial way.

I don't read chinese- the translation from which I extracted the following specifications is here.

Features:
analog input- no cable direct connection
160 GB HD
1 Ethernet port, standard RJ45
2 USB 2.0 ports, future use to support storage installation
mpeg2 encoding
720x540 resolution !
standard SD video inputs and outputs Svideo, composite.
no "optical" audio- assume that means no 5.1 dolby.
14 day guide
Main screens in chinese glyphs. Screen shot of now playing list is difficult to make out characters, but they aren't roman glyphs

Monthly fee based subscription One year of subscription valued at NT$1,500 ($44 or $3.60/mo)

Introductory offer:
NT$12,900- $384 USD. (Best buy sells a 140GB Tivo for $349)
free installation
Free first year subscription
Dlink wireless connector included free.

Missing from article-
  • Where was this puppy manufactured?
  • no mention of dvd burner unit (though complaints about this being missing)
  • any mention of TTG/HME features
  • method of inputing text to navigate guide (title, actor searches) of course the US way is not the only way- you can have items in the list as kind of chapters to jump you ahead in a pick list. I think I was way offbase about Pinyin (romanized chinese) though.
  • No suggestion on where the mothership servers are. At Tivo's US facility? (I assume so, since that is what TivoPony said they do for the UK).

Odd things-
  • Let's assume the ethernet port is a modification that will only appear on Chinese market Tivos. Ok. Why is the rear panel in english then?
  • USB external storage- was this just speculation on the reporter's part, or are they making a firm commitment to provide external drive support? For Playback only like a linkplayer, or for archiving too, or for Direct recording use?
  • Are they shooting for the high end market first? Why enter with a high capacity, high cost unit instead of a 40GB unit?
  • There is a picture of a dlink wireless device that I have never seen before, except maybe in very blurry form on TivoJerry's tall stack. It has a what appears to be a directional antennae.


 

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Hew said:
The Taiwan offering is a better deal then any offering over here.

160 gig hard drive
free wireless adapter
free shipping
first year of service included, no monthly fees for a year.
$3.75 monthly fee.

All for 400 dollars.

Now wasn't there another article saying that a similar dvr in Taiwan, would sell for something around $2,300? This deal will easily make TiVo the choice over any other DVR in their market.
I know nothing about the Taiwan market, but pricing no doubt reflected the typical pattern of shooting high then ratcheting down to lock onto a price the market will bear. Once they start manufacturing on the chinese mainland (if they haven't already), they will be able to sell it into the Shanghai market for pocket change. As for comparison with american prices, you can make a 300GB Tivo for $79 (free 40gb Tivo, $79 300GB MIR outpost.com Seagate, obligation for one year sub ($156). So double the capacity Tivo for $230. A real penny pincher would by a lifetime and recover 90% of the lifetime when they resell on ebay, so that would bring it down to sub $100.

Sure HD swaps are not for civilians but cottage industries pop up overnight, and believe me- The Taiwanese and mainland folks are going to figure out the HD swap stuff real real fast.

So ironically, when you see Tivo Greater China (TGC) coming out with the economy 40GB models, you are going to see the very high end simultaneously served (800GB tivos). It will be very interesting to see how personal video evolves on the mainland where access to extremely low cost video is common.

Once a few more articles come out, I will have a few chinese national friends of mine read the articles and explain these odd expressions. For example, I didn't understand what level of system functionality they have. If you look at the translation, there are references to photos and music but I was not too sure how much of HMO features are there. They may not have ported all the hmo/hme/ttg features yet, but to get a bead on the ethernet port improvement, at least it would be interesting to hear how fast an MRV transfer of a half hour show is on a wired connection.
 

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TiVoPony said:
Just to be clear...we didn't make infrastructure improvements in the UK. The TiVo service has always been run from our server farm here in the US, even for UK subscribers (the Internet is a wonderful thing). We recently upgraded all of the servers hosting the UK version of the service - new servers & the latest software. They're running the equivalent of the US service now (from a server perspective).

Pony
TivoPony- just curious. Is this the way the TGC service works? Unified backend in the US, or do they have their own? Is it also running "the equivalent of the US service" (from a server perspective) now?

If so that would be an awesome achievement.
 

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This just in. Possibly Tatung is manufacturing? The quoted article confirms some of the specs and price points I related yesterday. New stuff is the distributors. Will followup later on them- curious about mainland connections. also, name that it goes by is Tivo 8. Wonder what that is about.

"TiVo 8 will be sold through Tatung, a local manufacturer of consumer electronics and electrical home appliances, Synnex Technology International, a 3C distributor in Taiwan, and PChome Online" Source.
 

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ChuckyBox said:
No. Universal Scientific Industrial. It says so in the article you quoted (very last line):]
Thanks. I will have to learn to quit speed reading one of these days. :eek:

I took a look at the Online store where the "Tivo 8" is being sold. Cool to see.

Little fella in his new clothes.​
The CNET Taiwan article that I excerpted above was almost a total lift of the material on the Taiwan online shopping site. Here's the translation page.

There are some new pictures and a bit more confirmation on the capabilities.

I know I have seen a rear panel like this before. But where?​

Yep, down to the screw locations- it pretty much looks like a 540 with the exception of the ethernet port. They must have used the same dies, etc.

Other new info:
  • The "photo album" description from this text may well be an idiomatic expression or a marketing metaphor to describe the now playing list as if it were a "photo album" of treasured television shows. It doesn't sound like HMO slideshow at all.
  • No network functionality at all that I see, besides guide. No MRV, no HMO, no HME. Which makes sense. You go with your first phase of the port, then bite off more.
  • No confirmation of any future use of the USB ports (CNET article seemed to state external storage use).
 

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WOW. I missed that one: (under screen shots heading "what is tivo")
"TIVO weapon milk function :
(1) Item defends delta sweeps. TIVO may watch item, does 30 minute [unintelligible), defends three-horse harness team. A remains, you may [unintelligible) or go the refrigerator take the material, then return again watch 30 minute decayed teeth."​

Wow. Tivo is using Taiwan to test market some sort of autonomous function that watchfully will protect my horses with this Milk weapon that somehow decays the infiltrator's teeth within 30 minutes.

Naturally, there is no mention of sheep protection. TivoPony? Do you have any firm time frame for Sheep protection support? No marketspeak. We want a firm date.
 

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ChuckyBox said:
Okay, let's have a show of hands: How many of you think the next production run of the U.S. Series 2 boxes will include an ethernet port? Faster processor? More memory?

Somebody needs to pop one of the Taiwanese boxes open, because that's going to tell us where we are going.
Tivo is software.

From a software perspective, you want to have as homogeneous a hardware platform as possible. Then when you have a new software release, you can easily propagate it to all devices. Look how long it took TTG to come to the DVD burners. For the future, the reduction in variant platforms means that you have fewer sources of bugs due to unanticipated subtle hardware interactions in legacy devices. My feeling is that existing SA Tivos are going to be around for a long long time to come. The parts that break can be fixed, so until the cost of replacement comes down to the cost of a repair, you are going to have a hefty number of legacy devices.

But this sort of conservative approach to hardware updgrades is related to whatever Tivo's software development philosophy is. I'm a big fan of simultaneus builds and testing for all platforms and a single unified code base. Do a weekly build to all platforms both single and double byte character versions, big and little endian. You catch problems with poor coding practice before they pollute too much of your code base. But the software for each Tvo model may well not come from the same code base and might actually be a fork due to complexity of squeezing the last drop of performance out of proprietary hardware which used barely enough computing power to get the job done.. The only stuff I did of that was very old school- all assembler and direct manipulation of memory mapped memory io locations with critical timing dependencies. Any change in hardware meant that all timing dependent interactions would have to be retuned and retested regardless how distant they were from the hardware change. Anyway, the point of this ramble into unified software bases is that it is hard to do at first when you are pushing the hardware to the limit, but it becomes easier as hardware perfomance is sufficient to be more forgiving and smarter so that you can upgrade to new software releases rapidly. The programming staff can spend much more time on new features than porting and tweaking for all the different variants (140, 240, 540, "560" (dvd burner).

So I think it would be a mistake to expect the kind of incremental hardware variations you see added each year to general purpose computing platforms where it doesn't matter because software is insulated by drivers, or added each year to totally hardware oriented CE devices where it doesn't matter becase software is an afterthought.

That's bad news for tech whores like us, but good news for Everyman (aka joe average user).

With GP computing it is easy where the hardware is virtualized and all you have to do is write a new driver (which usually is provided by the device vendor). With hardware oriented CE devices, the hardware engineers don't give a rat's *ss about the software implications and will break the software to get the latest and greatest chip in. There are no legacy issues because as you see, software updates maybe last the first year (and then only to fix bugs), then there is nothing.

So Tivo is in that middle ground, and something has to give. ONe thing you can do is try not to dribble out incremental hardware improvements, and instead put more of them in fewer models

If dvrs were already well known in the Taiwan market, and there was a lot of demand there for high end features, I think you could have seen a major new experimental platform in Taiwan. But the huge market for greater China is in the Tivo for Everyman. The SA architecture machine.

When we get a shot of the TGC motherboard, I think you are going to see the same broadcom chips. I think there is a chance for variations using chips that are even cheaper or using chips manufactured in PRC (for political, not technical advantages).

On the other hand, the US machines won't always lead with new features. Some features are easier to do in Greater china markets. For example, whenever the high end market emerges and you see HDTV broadcasts there, you probably will see analog encoding of HDTV (components) inputs first in China. Obvsiously, it may take a while for the demand for HDTV devices to grow in China, but the opposition to HDTV encoding shows no signs of ever slackening in the US.

This is all just armchair engineering opinion, but I think some of the considerations I touched on play a part in the decisions Tivo is making on minor upgrades to the platforms.
 

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davezatz said:
... I wonder why they didn't go in as themselves...
It is surprizing how something minor like the broadcast flags gets such huge attention and things like Tivos in greater China gets practically zip attention.

I don't suppose you have developed any theories on why TGC is developed at arms length from Tivo?
 

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Canada doesn't have 90 million cable customers.
ZeoTiVo said:
...TGC become the hardware branch along with software versions for Asia.
Did Tivo come out and officially and put it that way? That makes it tough to approach an OEM and try to persuade them to license and build a Tivo powered device if you come out and say you are also going to compete with them head to head.
 

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Well, my crackpot theory of the day is that on one dark day when the MPAA comes to threaten the mother of all lawsuits unles Tivo does some [fill in the blank onerous change in Tivo behavior], then whoever the Tivo CEO is pushes back in his chair and says.

"Well, I'm sorry, but the board is completely behind me on this and we just can't comply. We will fight and know it will be extremely expensive. So we have decided that effective on your filing of this suit that we shall prepare our legal defence fund by selling worldwide rights of Tivo Patents to TGC, and be making an IPO listing on the Hang Seng of TGC, divesting ourselves of our 40% holdings."

"Naturally, their investors will want TGC to come out with the kind of features we think in the long term would hurt the Studios. One popular feature would be to copy files without any encryption. This actually could be accomplished as a minor software upgrade that could be sold as a chinese product to all current Tivo owners...."

"Lord knows what other things that TGC might come up with, since they don't have the same spirit of cooperation that Tivo has tried to foster with the Studios."

"TGC may be your worst nightmare come true, and as a Chinese company employing thousands of workers you will find it very difficult to establish any kind of leverage on them, short of attempting to block import of one of America's most beloved products."

"But of course you understand our position. We will require funds to defend ourselves and will have no choice."

"But maybe we can work out some sort of alternate arrangement instead...."

"Get back to me when you have discussed it with your handlers, Good Day."
 

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Did you look into Universal Scientific much? (The folks doing the manufacturing?) Interestingly, they have a plant in Mexico which I presume they can use for assembly and thereby use Nafta to get the cheapest import price into North American markets.

I didn't look far enough to verify the theory that this setup would allow them to do board and component manufacture in PRC, TGC management and engineering in Taiwan, and assembly in Mexico.

If it is true what Zeo said, such a structure would allow the new CC HD Tivo to achieve extremely low price points.
 
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