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It's Take Control's first anniversary, so we're celebrating with a 50% off sale and a recap of our first year accomplishments. Adam also explains how you can reclaim and start using your personal XNS name (Remember XNS? It's back!), now called an "i-name." Releases from Apple include refreshed iBooks, a single-processor Power Mac G5, and a larger Xserve RAID, along with Apple Remote Desktop 2.1. Lastly, Adam tees off on clueless lawyers, we shed the light of reality on the malicious Opener shell script, and you can enter to win copies of Marketcircle's DayLite in DealBITS this week.
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Opener's Existence Encourages Password Care -- Over the last few days, news of a malicious shell script known as "Opener" has appeared on MacInTouch, and several news organizations picking up the report have incorrectly started calling it a virus. It's not a virus, and frankly, it's not even that big of a concern. Opener is a shell script that, if installed and activated on a Mac, turns on file sharing and remote login, disables the firewall, extracts passwords, creates an admin-level user, installs a password sniffer, and more. That sounds bad, but Opener can't do any of these things unless someone with an administrator password or physical access to the Mac installs and runs it. More to the point, if someone has your administrator password or physical access to your Mac, Opener is just one of many possible worries.
So, unpleasant though it is, Opener doesn't really change much about maintaining a secure Mac. Make sure to install Apple's security updates as they're released, since some plug holes that could allow the necessary root access for a cracker. Be sure your administrator password can't be guessed easily. And most important, never enter your administrator password when prompted unless you know why it is being requested and trust the source of the request (a Trojan Horse carrying Opener could be extremely dangerous). In my mind, this is Apple's largest mistake with security; I'm prompted for my administrator password so often that it's easy to enter it reflexively, without considering who's asking and why. [ACE]
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Every small customer-oriented business I've seen starts out relying on standard tools for calendaring and contacts, and establishing policies for tracking sales, prospects, and business relationships of all sorts. And in every case, that approach eventually self-destructs, usually at the worst possible time. That's when organizations either create a custom solution (which itself often falls down at some point) or turn to what's called a customer relationship management (CRM) package like Marketcircle's DayLite.
Using an elegant Aqua interface, DayLite provides a highly flexible and interlinked contact database that you can share with everyone in the company or with just appropriate people. Contacts contain role and relationship fields, and you can attach notes, URLs, and file references to contacts - and if that's not enough, you can define extra custom fields. Calendar events can be linked to contacts and to projects, and you can group sets of tasks and appointments into sets for easier linking. Activities can have billing rates attached to them, and any DayLite object can have a task timer that tracks time and billings. DayLite's opportunity tracking features help you share leads around the organization, identify which colleagues are involved in a given deal, visualize its progress, and forecast revenue. DayLite is a full client-server system that can be accessed over the Internet (good for telecommuting employees) or through a VPN. The server runs on any Mac with Mac OS X 10.2 or later, and records are locked during editing to prevent conflicts. You can synchronize contacts and events with Palm OS handhelds, and those who work with their laptops on the road can take an offline copy and synchronize changes upon returning. It's a complete package and is available only for Mac OS X.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's been a year since we released our first Take Control ebook, Joe Kissell's "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther," and I want to commemorate the anniversary in two ways: first by announcing a one-week 50 percent off sale and second by telling you about what we've learned after a year in the brave new world of electronic book publishing. To take advantage of the sale, just place an order and use coupon code CPN41024TC1 (the second link below enters it automatically for you) to cut your order total - whether it's for one book or all of them - in half. Feel free to share the code with friends, colleagues, and small woodland creatures, but it will be good only until 01-Nov-04.
In creating the Take Control series, we hoped to come up with a new model for writing books about using computers. The previous system, we thought, had too many inefficiencies: readers had to wait too long to get important information, authors had to work too hard for little pay in order to assemble the information into too-long books, and books turned obsolete all too quickly. By putting together what Tonya and I have learned over years of writing, editing, customer support, Web design, and more, plus assembling a great team of writers and editors, we hoped to demonstrate that real people could create real publications for real readers and have it really work, in a way that was fun and cost-effective for everyone. We think we have succeeded so far, though our vision still exceeds our accomplishments. Here, then, is a report on what we've done and a look ahead at what comes next.
Just the Stats, Ma'am -- We had high hopes for Take Control, since all the assumptions we'd made about how we would create and sell the ebooks seemed sound - but the reality has gone way beyond our expectations. Since 24-Oct-03, we've published 12 titles in English, 5 of which have been translated into Japanese, German, or Dutch. For those 17 individual ebooks, we've released 20 free updates that ranged from a fix of a few typos to a 63-page addition. We've sold nearly 24,000 ebooks, with "Take Control of Upgrading to Panther" leading the way at nearly 6,500 copies. And as of this week, we've published three paper collections of our ebooks with Peachpit Press; the full-color "Take Control of Apple Mail" and "Take Control of Your AirPort Network" should now be joining "Take Control of Panther" on bookstore shelves.
Although our books have retained very much the same look and feel from the beginning, thanks to Tonya's efforts in designing a highly readable template in Word, we've made a number of small changes as we become more comfortable with how the electronic medium differs from what we're used to in the physical book world. We've also made numerous infrastructure changes, the most notable of which was working with eSellerate for the sales process. Though perfection is always unattainable, eSellerate has worked out extremely well for us, far better than the immense hassle of maintaining our own merchant account, and I can recommend them for anyone looking to sell goods online (for the record, we were also happy with Kagi, the original Web store we used; the reason for our switch was related to dealing with the custom situation of having our own merchant account). Many of the other changes we've made have taken advantage of Web Crossing's numerous features and complete programmability; I've created a number of systems in Web Crossing that saved us huge amounts of effort when releasing updates, notifying people of new books, providing free ebooks to purchasers of our paper books, and more.
Looking Toward 2005 -- With our first year of hard work on the basics and adrenaline rushes for each book release behind us, it's time to think about where to focus for the coming year. All our sales so far have been through our own site, so we're looking into working with other retailers as a way of introducing more people to our books. The partnership with Peachpit Press to publish print collections was the first major step in that direction, and we're having conversations with a variety of companies about reselling the ebooks. (Needless to say, if you're interested in reselling, contact me.)
One easy way reselling can happen right now is through eSellerate's affiliate program, which enables you to sell not just our ebooks, but many other products from companies that use eSellerate. eSellerate's program is a bit clumsier than others I've used, and there are two important things to remember. First, you must sign up to sell a product on the affiliate Web site; you can't just build a custom URL on your own. Second, it's a good idea to sign up to sell all our ebooks, since you receive the 10 percent affiliate percentage on only those you've added to your account. As with all affiliate programs, success requires carrying a lot of products and matching that with a lot of traffic. If you're interested, sign up below.
Another area in which we hope to focus is the back end aspect of producing ebooks. We've learned a ton about creating good PDFs over the last year, and although none of it is rocket science, I'm less surprised than I used to be at the paucity of well-done PDFs. The fact of the matter is that good PDF creation and manipulation tools are sorely lacking, particularly in Mac OS X (PDF Enhancer from PDF Sages and Apago is a notable exception, as is PDFpen from SmileOnMyMac). Without decent tools, very few people have expended the energy to develop the necessary knowledge of how to create good PDFs, and what knowledge people do have tends to be highly specific and thus not generally applicable. I've read a number of books about PDF, and almost universally, they merely describe what's obvious from the (often annoying) interface in Acrobat Professional. Some level of manual intervention will likely always be necessary, but we're hoping to identify and eliminate many of the tedious aspects of making PDFs.
Along with our PDF efforts, we've been creating processes for how we develop, write, edit, and publish a title. Our next goal is to figure out how to package and train others in those processes so less of the nitty-gritty exists only in our heads and so our authors can move from concept to finished ebook more quickly and easily. Lots of authors have contacted us about wanting to write Take Control titles, but we've been too overwhelmed with our existing authors and projects to take on more. We hope that we can restart discussions with those authors to bring you expert advice on even more diverse topics - it would be nice to double our title count for the next year.
Lastly, aside from some extremely welcome coverage for individual books in various Macintosh news sites and one major article about Take Control in Wired News (later picked up by Slashdot), we've primarily focused on the TidBITS audience (a sensible move, given the interested and highly discerning nature of the average TidBITS reader). But Apple keeps selling about 750,000 Macs every quarter, and I've heard that nearly 50 percent of sales at the Apple Stores are to people new to the Mac, so that tells me there are a lot of users out there we could be helping, if only we could reach them. Figuring out how to market effectively outside our core TidBITS audience is also a major goal for next year, and we're open to ideas beyond the obvious; Take Control is about doing things differently.
Let me close, then, with a round of thanks to all of you who have purchased our ebooks; your support and kind words have helped sustain us through all too many long nights. And from Tonya and myself, special thanks to the authors, editors, and translators who helped make this first year a reality, in particular Joe Kissell, Matt Neuburg, Kirk McElhearn, Glenn Fleishman, Tom Negrino, Jeff Tolbert, and Caroline Rose. If we keep it fun and always remember the goal of helping people regain control of their computers, the world will be a better place for us all.
by TidBITS Staff <email@example.com>
Each new iBook model has begged the question: "Should I buy a PowerBook or an iBook?" The PowerBook line has been the professional workhorse, with more slots and options than the education- and consumer-directed iBook. But the iBook hasn't trailed far behind in speed and basic features, making it appealing to people who don't need the fastest processor and features such as a PC Card slot. Last week, Apple nudged the specifications of the latest iBook configuration closer to the current PowerBook lineup, forcing potential Mac laptop buyers to reevaluate the question.
At the same time, Apple also reintroduced a single-processor Power Mac G5 configuration and added more storage to its top Xserve RAID configuration.
New iBook G4 -- The new iBooks bump up a variety of system specifications, but the most notable feature is the inclusion of AirPort Extreme cards in all models, not just the top-end one. Previously, adding the card to the AirPort-capable models was an $80 add-on. All models also support an optional internal Bluetooth module for $50.
The entry-level 12-inch model now starts at $1,000, a $100 price cut from the previous low-end configuration. It includes a 1.2 GHz PowerPC G4 processor, 256 MB of RAM, and a 30 GB hard drive. Two 14-inch models, priced at $1,300 and $1,500, come with 1.33 GHz PowerPC G4 processors, 256 MB of RAM, and 60 GB hard drives. The higher-priced model includes a SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW), while the other models include Combo Drives (DVD/CD-RW). They also come pre-installed with iLife '04.
Single-Processor Power Mac G5 -- Apple must have heard the word: having the cheapest entry-level Power Mac priced at $2,000 was restricting the market. The company has added a single-processor 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5 to its lineup, priced at $1,500. The primary difference between it and the dual-1.8 GHz model (aside from the lack of the second procossor, of course) is a 600 MHz frontside bus, compared to the dual model's 900 MHz frontside bus. This shouldn't mean much for performance given the single processor disadvantage.
A Bigger Can of Xserve RAID -- Just in case you need to store a few billion more photos, Apple has bumped the Xserve RAID storage unit's top configuration from 3.5 terabytes (a terabyte is 1,024 GB; or approximately 1 trillion bytes) to 5.6 TB. The cost for this large configuration is $13,000.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Apple recently released version 2.1 of Apple Remote Desktop, adding a slew of new and improved features (see "Passing the Remote to Apple Remote Desktop 2.0" in TidBITS-746). You can now control and observe remote computers in full-screen mode, and you can also now control and observe both screens of computers that have multiple monitors attached. In such situations, both screens appear in a single window, which may require that you turn off the Fit Screen in Window option and scroll around to access the full extended Desktop. In control mode, Remote Desktop now passes scroll wheel and right-click events to the remote Mac, reducing the need to change working habits. Apple also claims improved support for third party VNC viewers and VNC servers, though I haven't tested the various programs I'd had trouble with before.
Other improvements include multiple line output from Send Unix Command; this makes Send Unix Command significantly more useful for managing remote Macs without having to initiate an SSH session (which still isn't something Remote Desktop can help you do). The Install Package command can now detect whether a package needs to restart the destination Mac and will optionally do so after installation. Remote data collection has been improved, and Apple also improved printing of hardware and software reports. Although Apple says that Remote Desktop 2.1 features "improved file copy for networked home directories," it's unfortunately no easier to copy files to or from remote machines in normal usage. Minor enhancements include improved client authentication using Active Directory and two additional directory services groups, better column sorting in the Remote Desktop Admin application, saving of settings if the Admin quits unexpectedly, and saving of the ordering of network scanners.
You must upgrade the Remote Desktop client software as well, although that's easily done with the Upgrade Client Software command in the Manage menu; the Remote Desktop Admin application upgrades the client software on its Mac on launch. However, the Remote Desktop Admin application complained about the fact that my Remote Desktop client software (which was turned off at the time) wasn't up-to-date on the first launch (I had to force quit the admin application), and for two tries after that, wouldn't launch if the Remote Desktop client was turned off. To avoid this and other weirdnesses, I recommend enabling the Remote Desktop client software before installing.
Apple Remote Desktop 2.1 is a free update; it's an 18.5 MB download via Software Update, or you can download the admin application (16.4 MB) and the client (7.1 MB) separately. Both parts require Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
Some of you may remember that in the first few days after moving TidBITS Talk to Web Crossing, a couple of pieces of spam snuck through to the list before I figured out how to block all the different ways it could get in. As a result of those mistakes and mistakes on the part of SpamCop subscribers who reported us as spammers, we were added to the SpamCop blacklist for about two days. It was annoying and troublesome, to say the least, but at least there weren't any lawyers involved.
Over the last few weeks in particular, I've noticed that the spam that Postini quarantines for me every day has changed significantly in flavor. The naughty bits have largely disappeared, to be replaced with, oddly enough, spam advertising likely fake versions of Rolex watches. The fact that spammers are flogging expensive watches to gazillions of email users is strange enough on its own. Pretty much everyone I know who wants a Rolex already has a perfectly functional watch that they like, and how many watches is any sane person likely to purchase in his or her lifetime? But, to paraphrase a line from Arlo Guthrie's 18-minute song "Alice's Restaurant," watches aren't exactly what I came to tell you about.
See, it turns out that other mailing lists have suffered the same kind of problem that TidBITS Talk did during those few days, and one of these fake-Rolex spam messages made it through to the FreeS/WAN list (FreeS/WAN is an implementation of the secure tunneling IPSec technology for Linux). The next message in the FreeS/WAN list is also spam; I suspect they were reconfiguring things and failed to lock down the list properly for a short while. You would think that everyone on the list would be annoyed, and that the whole unseemly episode would end with everyone cursing the spammer. But you would be wrong.
Since the FreeS/WAN list is archived on the Web, Rolex Watch U.S.A., Inc. (remember Rolex? It's an article about Rolex) found the post in searches for the counterfeiters of Rolex watches. It's obvious to anyone over the age of 13 (and probably lots of people under that age) that the spam appearing in the FreeS/WAN archive is something that happened to the FreeS/WAN list, not something that the FreeS/WAN list intentionally propagated. It was an accident, and an unfortunate one at that. But obvious though this is, a group of highly paid attorneys hired by Rolex couldn't figure this out and sent a cease-and-desist letter (undoubtedly accompanied by twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one) to John Gilmore telling him that, as the person who registered the freeswan.org domain, he could be liable for damages up to $1,000,000 for posting content that violated the Rolex trademark, promoted counterfeiting, and diluted Rolex's intellectual property rights. Now that's adding injury to insult! First spam makes it through to a list you run, and then you're threatened by lawyers because of it.
The site maintaining the FreeS/WAN list archives is currently down, so I can't tell if John Gilmore removed the offending spam from the list archives or not, but the link I gave previously from the Web Archive shows that one way or another, that message is going to live forever, even in conjunction with the FreeS/WAN list. It's stupid, of course, since no one other than the spammer even wanted the message to exist at all, much less be archived forever, but that's just the way the Internet works. There's no stuffing the spam genie back into the bottle.
So here we have some idiot lawyers sending cease-and-desist letters to completely innocent and unrelated people, presumably charging Rolex by the hour to do so and costing Rolex untold loss of good will in the process. What's worse, it's highly unlikely that the operator of a mailing list archive could really be held liable for allowing a spammer to post; see the FAQ entries at Chilling Effects for details.
In the end, to Rolex, and even more to the law firm of Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP, I would say this.
"Kids, we don't like your kind, and we're going to send your cease-and-desist letter off to the Web Archive. And friends, somewhere in the Internet, enshrined in some database, is a study in black and white of that cease-and-desist letter. And the only reason I'm writing you this article now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's post a note to the nearest blog, just write right in and say, 'Counsel, you can't get what you want with pointless strong-arm tactics.' You know, if one person, just one person does it, they may think he's really sick and they won't listen. And if two people, two people do it, with trackback, they may think they're both faggots and they won't listen to either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people posting a note about a similar situation on their blogs? They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day posting notes about strong-arm legal tactics? And friends, they may think it's a movement. And that's what it is, the Rolex Spam Anti-Massacree Movement, and all you got to do to join is post a note on your blog the next time a pointless cease-and-desist letter comes around on the net."
Arlo, if you're reading this, my apologies for mangling your verse, and everyone else, if you have so far led a benighted life that doesn't include having heard "Alice's Restaurant" yet, go buy the album (unfortunately not available at the iTunes Music Store yet). And to be clear, I realize there's nothing new about these cease-and-desist letters; this one pushed my buttons because of what happened with TidBITS Talk and because of all the Rolex spam filling my Postini quarantine.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Remember XNS? It was the platform for simplifying and securing the exchange of data over the Internet that I helped launch just over four years ago. Back then, I was acting as chairman of the non-profit governance organization XNSORG, which was working with XNS's developer, Seattle-based OneName Corporation, to manage and promote XNS. Despite an incredible amount of effort on the part of many people, the stars were not aligned for XNS to succeed, and the 40,000 XNS names that were registered for free have gone unused since then.
Thanks to the dogged persistence of Drummond Reed, who developed XNS's initial foundation, and a few other key supporters, XNS is back, although with many new names and faces (I resigned from XNSORG in May 2004). XNS itself has been split into two parts: XRI (eXtensible Resource Identifier) and XDI (XRI Data Interchange). XNSORG has changed its identity to match, now calling itself XDI.ORG. In surviving the dot-com implosion, OneName has gone through a number of reorganizations and is now Cordance Corporation.
Most important from the standpoint of the 40,000 people who registered personal XNS names, you can reclaim your free XNS name (now called an "i-name") and take advantage of a new privacy-protecting personal contact page that lets people use your i-name to contact you without revealing your email address to spam trawlers. Cordance is sending email to every XNS personal name registrant about this, but between spam filters and the age of these email addresses, the bounce rate on the mail is likely to be extremely high, so don't be offended if you don't hear directly. Instead, consider this article your notification, and if you know anyone else who registered a personal XNS name, let them know they can reclaim and start using it again as well. To start the process of reclaiming your XNS name, visit this page at 2idi, the identity services company acting as the first "i-broker" for i-names. The second link provides legal details surrounding the conversion of an XNS personal name to an i-name.
(If you don't want to reclaim your XNS name, just ignore the mail from Cordance and all the data from the XNS registry will be deleted after the 90-day conversion program ends.)
eXplaining XRI, XDI, I-names, and I-brokers -- The changes made in the transition away from XNS and XNSORG improve things in two important ways. First, as we discovered, it's nearly impossible to create a new standards organization from scratch, and since the entire point of standards is that everyone agrees to them, it makes a lot more sense to work with existing standards organizations. As a result, the core technologies that lay under XNS now reside with OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), a non-profit, international consortium that focuses on standards relating to electronic commerce. Second, XNS was split into two separate parts: XRI (eXtensible Resource Identifier) and XDI (XRI Data Interchange). XRI is a protocol for identifying any abstract object in a location-, application-, and transport-independent fashion, and XDI is a Web service for distributed data sharing using XRIs. The first link below explains more about XRI and XDI; the next two links are the formal OASIS technical specifications.
XRIs come in two forms: machine-friendly "i-numbers" and human-friendly "i-names." I-numbers are a bit like IP numbers in that they're designed to be efficient for use by network routers; however, i-numbers are permanent: once a resource has been identified by an i-number, that i-number will never be used for anything else. (In contrast, IP numbers are constantly being reassigned.) In contrast, i-names are easier for people to remember and use, and they resolve to i-numbers - they're more akin to DNS names. For today, you can think of an i-name as your persistent digital identity. Your email address may change as you switch ISPs or change jobs, your phone number may change as you move, but your i-name will always point back to you because it's a location-, application-, and transport-independent XRI. XDI comes into the picture with bidirectional links between i-names, which are governed by "link contracts." Link contracts can address authority, authentication, authorization, privacy, usage control, synchronization, termination, and more.
All this comes together in the personal contact page service that i-broker 2idi makes available to all i-name owners for free. A personal contact page provides a contact form much like other Web-based contact forms. However, because the personal contact page uses an i-name, not an email address, there's no way a spam trawler can extract an address from the HTML source. And, to prevent automated form fillers, the user can require that the person filling out the form respond to an email confirmation message; it's much like the way most mailing lists require email confirmation of subscriptions to eliminate bogus subscriptions. Of course, if the person trying to contact you has an i-name as well, the email confirmation isn't necessary, since the fact that someone has an i-name means that they've gone through the confirmation process elsewhere. When the form is submitted, your i-broker handles sending the email to you, so you can be sure that everything goes through a trusted third party.
Assuming all goes well (the reclamation program opens at 5 PM Pacific today (25-Oct-04), so I haven't yet been able to reclaim my name officially), you'll be able to contact me via my personal contact page at this link.
We had a service a little like this with XNS, although it was limited to displaying information, much like an electronic business card. The personal contact page is much more useful, and I'm pleased that the folks working on i-names put the effort into making sure that everyone who reclaims a personal XNS name can put it to good use right away.
I-Names for the Rest of Us -- For those who didn't register a personal XNS name back in 2000, you can still get an i-name, though it's not free. For $25, the first 150,000 users can register an i-name for a 50-year period, complete with 1 year of free hosting from 2idi. This Early Global Services program is actually a fund-raiser - XDI.ORG sponsor Identity Commons and XDI.ORG will use all the proceeds after expenses to build open source software for additional identity and data sharing services.
One thing that sets today's Early Global Services program apart from our efforts four years ago is that there are a lot more communities interested in participating (and thus encouraging their members to register i-names) with about 15 confirmed (though not yet all listed) and some big names in the wings. I'm pleased to see this level of enthusiasm, though I'm not surprised, since the problems of establishing and maintaining a persistent identity (for objects and digital abstractions as well as people) has become all the more obvious over the last few years.
Looking Forward -- I'm not going to make any grandiose predictions about how everyone and everything will have and be using i-names soon. Any new technology faces an uphill battle for acceptance in today's Internet, and although the combination of XRI and XDI offers some compelling features, people dislike change, even when it's for the better. Nonetheless, I wish the best of luck to Drummond and all the others who have poured untold hours into the effort to provide the world with a method of identifying abstract objects and sharing data between them in a secure, accountable way. If that's a topic that interests you as well, I strongly encourage you to check out what XDI.ORG is up to.
by TidBITS Staff <email@example.com>
The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be much faster.
The Tyranny of Email -- You probably rely on email for your daily communication, but is it taking up too much of your time? When is communication a distraction? And can you really afford to quit your email client? (4 messages)
iChat archiving -- With all the text generated by iChat instant messaging, how do you find an old conversation? (5 messages)
Bookmarks in Preview? One reader, who uses Preview to read her Take Control ebooks, wonders if the program can be bookmarked in much the same way you put a scrap of paper in a physical book. (4 messages)
Issues with Office 2004 SP1 -- Readers discuss the changes in Microsoft's latest service pack update for Office 2004. (2 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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