by Jason Snell & friends

1Password’s brand new extension goes further ↦

1Password Extension

Calling myself a 1Password zealot might be overselling it a tad: I love the app, though I’m sure I don’t even take advantage of half of the features it has.

However, the iOS app does have an absolutely killer extension that makes filling in passwords on Safari a breeze.1 AgileBits just added a bunch more features that kick the extension up a notch, including filling in personal information, filling in credit cards, and creating a new login for the site you’re on, if for example you’re signing up for a new service. (That’s a screenshot of the extension above, not the app itself.)

It’s hard to believe that anybody reading Six Colors is not already a 1Password user, but if you’ve been holding back, well, why?


  1. Honestly, I’d expected to see more extensions developed for iOS after the release of iOS 8. 1Password’s remains, in my opinion, the example par excellence. ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Notes and podcasts from Ireland

Busy day today at the Úll conference, and the Úll talk show—hosted by Guy English and yours truly in an encore performance from a year ago—is yet to come. Busy day.

Also today, Myke Hurley and I recorded and released a new episode of Upgrade that discusses our reactions to the first half of the new Steve Jobs book, the value of meeting people in person, and whether I’m embracing the iPhone 6 Plus during my extended use of it in my travels in this part of the world. So if you’re missing my voluminous writing on the site, listen to my voluminous talking instead. (Tomorrow we’ll record an extra Clockwise and I’ll probably guest on the iMore podcast as well.)

It’s been a long trip and I’ve still got a few more days to go. I’m definitely missing home, but Úll has been great so far, and you can watch live sessions if you follow the @ullstream Twitter account. The location, in Killarney in county Kerry, is spectacular. It’s rainy and windy and the different patterns on the surface of the lake right outside the hotel are beautiful to watch. In other words, just another day in Ireland…

Úll venue view.

A photo posted by Jason Snell (@jsnell) on


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Spectre trailer gets declassified ↦

As Six Colors’s Chief Espionage Movie Correspondent1, it is my duty to direct your attention to the first trailer for Spectre.

It’s clear that Spectre picks up on where Skyfall left off, with a shot of the ruined MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross and an allusion to a secret in Bond’s history discovered at Skyfall itself. And, of course, there’s that last voiceover from a distinctly shadowy Christoph Waltz, playing a character named Oberhauser (rumored to be…something more), who appears to be connected with the titular organization.

Also, I was remiss in not linking the Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation trailer, so let’s call this a two-for-one deal.


  1. Jason’s in another country, so I figure that gives me license to make up whatever title I want. ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Sponsor: Doxie Mobile Scanners ↦

My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring Six Colors this week. The Doxie Go mobile scanner scans your paper automatically, with no computer required—it’s got a built-in rechargable battery, memory, and Wi-Fi. Then it syncs back to the Doxie app running on your Mac or iOS device, letting you save scans, share them, or send them to the cloud.

The IRS has even gotten with the program: It accepts scanned receipts. So there’s never been a better time to overthrow the tyranny of paper.


John Gruber interviews the authors of ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ ↦

Recorded live at an Apple Store, it’s Daring Fireball’s John Gruber interviewing the authors of “Becoming Steve Jobs”. Available in video and audio versions.


Instapaper update adds tweet shots, background updates, speed reading

Getting ready to send a Tweet Shot.

On Thursday Betaworks released Instapaper 6.2, an update to the venerable iOS app that adds a bunch of intriguing new features.

I’ve been a fan of Instapaper since the early days—I first heard of it when I read Ben Boychuk’s review in Macworld in 2008, long before I had ever heard of Marco Arment. These days I mostly use the service to send digests of stories to my Kindle, though if I’m stuck somewhere with just my iPhone or iPad, I will also read stories directly on those devices.

The new version adds support for Tweet Shots, that growing trend in which people quote an article they like by attaching an image containing some of the article’s text to a tweet1. Instapaper does an excellent job with this, reformatting the text you selected so that it fits in most Twitter image previews. Other apps such as OneShot do this too, but it’s a perfect fit with Instapaper’s role as a tool for reading interesting things.

A Tweet Shot from Instapaper.

To use the feature, you just select some text in Instapaper, tap the Share icon, and then tap Tweet Shot. The standard iOS tweet sheet appears, and you can add a text comment if you like, and then post it along with a link to the actual article and the image containing the highlighted text.

Also new to Instapaper is a feature I’ve dreamed about for some time, since Apple added the ability for regular apps to receive invisible push notifications with requests to update content. Now when you add an item to Instapaper, the Instapaper web service will try to connect to your iOS devices and tell them to download that article. (The company says this feature is pretty reliable on Wi-Fi, less so on cellular.) The benefit is that when you open Instapaper, there’s no waiting for stories to download—they’ve already downloaded in the background. If you’ve opened Instapaper after you’ve gotten on the train and there’s no longer any cellular service, or after you’ve taken your iPad out of the house when there’s no wi-fi around, you’ve felt the pain of not having Instapaper update itself automatically in the background. Now it can, and that’s good. (Instapaper competitor Pocket added this feature quite a while ago.)

Other new features in Instapaper 6.2 include a speed-reading feature that shows you one word at a time in rapid-fire fashion. Some people swear by this approach to reading, though it’s never fit with how I read. And I only realized today that as of Instapaper 6.1, released late last year, Instapaper picked up Handoff support—so if you’ve got Instapaper open on your iOS device when you bring a story to your computer, you can click on the Safari icon in the Dock and pick up reading right where you left off.

Instapaper is a free app with an optional $3/month or $30/year premium plan, which adds support for full-text search, unlimited highlights and speed-reading articles, third-party app support, and the Send to Kindle feature.


  1. I know a lot of people dislike this trend, because it goes against Twitter’s 140-character limit. I agree that people using images to write longer tweets is not a great trend, but for quoting an article that you’re linking to in the tweet? I’m okay with it. ↩


Amazon now offering unlimited cloud storage space

Fraser Speirs put it best on Twitter, reacting to the news that Amazon will offer unlimited cloud storage plans:

Apple tried to get ahead of the curve when it announced its new cloud storage tiers at last year’s WWDC, and while the new plans took effect last fall, they’ve already been outpaced. Here we are just six months later, and Amazon’s upping the game by offering unlimited photo storage for the same amount that Apple offers 25GB of iCloud storage space: $12 a year. And $60 a year for unlimited storage, period. All of this before iCloud Photo Library even officially gets off the ground.

Now, cloud storage is one of what the MBAs would call one of Amazon’s “core competencies.” Its S3 service is widely considered among the most solid and scalable content-hosting platforms around. So it’s not shocking that Amazon feels like it’s strong enough in this area that it can offer unlimited storage. But more importantly, what Amazon has realized is that the key factor, when it comes to photos, is peace of mind. Ensuring that for a dollar a month is a steal.

I’ve long advocated that Apple ought to exempt backups of iOS devices from its storage limits, because nobody should ever feel like they can’t afford (financially or space-wise) to back up their devices. Photo storage is perhaps even more crucial—of all the things that we store digitally, they’re the ones we have the most sentimental attachment to, and they’re irreplaceable.1

Traditionally, Apple’s been slow to change its cloud storage limits with the times; I don’t know if the company feels like it can afford to offer unlimited photo storage—whether for free or for a price that’s competitive with what Amazon’s offering. It certainly doesn’t need to: for one thing, Apple still has the advantage of offering a built-in, seamless photo solution2; most people probably aren’t going to take the time to download and set up a third-party app and service, even from as big a name as Amazon.3

But offering an unlimited photo storage option would engender a heck of a lot of goodwill. And, frankly, ensuring not just convenient access to all your photos but also that you don’t have to worry about which memories you can afford to back up is a message that befits the company that’s not only the world’s largest and most profitable, but also continually insists it puts its customers first.


  1. It’s weird, because I don’t think video holds the same appeal. Yes, there are some that might be held at the same level—your wedding, your kid’s first steps, etc.—but I think that the major factor is that we don’t watch old videos nearly as much as we look at our old photos. ↩

  2. Or, at least, that’s its goal. It remains to be seen if iCloud Photo Library will deliver on that.  ↩

  3. Unless there is a major failure when iCloud Photo Library launches, à la iOS 6’s Maps, which sent people in droves to Google Maps.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Napkin 1.5 update fills in the outline (or not)

Napkin

As a tech writer, I do a lot of image markup, especially involving screenshots. In general, Flying Meat’s Acorn is my image editor of choice, but I also really like Aged & Distilled’s Napkin, for its particular focus on common markup options, like callouts, shapes, and arrows.1 The company just released a big version 1.5 update to the app, which is available for $40 from the Mac App Store.

Funny story: Last week, I wanted to find a way to highlight a portion of the image I used in my story about Wi-Fi troubleshooting, so I fired up Napkin. Unfortunately, what I wanted to do—make a rectangular outline around part of an image—proved to not be possible, as the shape tool only let you create objects that were filled. The very next day, and without any mention of this shortcoming to anybody, I got my hands on a preview version of Napkin 1.5, which adds that exact feature. Either a true instance of serendipity, or the Aged & Distilled folks are keeping their eye on me. Spoooooooky.

There are a lot of other improvements in Napkin 1.5, including blurring and pixelation—a must for posting screenshots, which all too often unavoidably include personal information—third-party sharing support, cropping, and more. Let’s face it: my screenshot markup needs aren’t diminishing anytime soon, and Napkin’s updates mean that it’s a lot more likely to be the first choice in my arsenal.


  1. In the interest of full disclosure, Aged & Distilled’s two principals, Guy English and Chris Parrish, are both friends. I spoke all four years of the Çingleton conference that Guy helped run, he and I do a regular podcast on The Incomparable, and he’s guested on my other shows.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


When do Apple products stop getting thinner? ↦

Over at Macworld, I wrote a column about Apple’s continuing quest for thickness and wonder about what might finally grind it to a halt:

This approach has served Apple well, and customers seem to like thinner, lighter things, too. And yet I keep wondering where this trend ends. Let’s assume that a future MacBook won’t be a single atom thick, capable of slicing your enemies in two like the knives in Snow Crash. How thin is too thin?


Apple TV channel support ↦

One of the problems of our modern technological devices is that they’re usually the intersection of work from multiple companies. So who do you turn to when things don’t work as expected?

This is a big problem for Android: When your Samsung phone has issues, who do you call? Samsung? Google? Your cell provider? Generally, Apple’s had less of a problem in this arena, given their insistence on controlling the whole widget, but even it’s working with cell networks and, increasingly, content providers. That means points of failure that are sometimes beyond Apple’s control. And what customers really love is being shunted from one long on-hold phone call to another.

So it’s nice to see Cupertino trying to simplify that process at least a little bit by providing a handy knowledge base document that breaks down who to contact—and how to contact them—for every single channel on the Apple TV. It even includes information on which services are available where1, and what the cost, if any, is.

Not to read too much into the tea leaves, either, but this also seems like the kind of thing that’s good to have in place should you decide to launch your own TV service at some point in the not too distant future.


  1. Interesting things I gleaned from this article. 1) NHL’s channel is available worldwide, except in Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden…because they really like hockey there, I guess? 2) CNN weirdly has Canada listed but crossed out. Which seems kind of passive aggressive.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Steven Spielberg directing Ready Player One ↦

Way, way back in 2011, we talked about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One on episode 66 of The Incomparable, and now not only are they making it into a movie, but Steven Spielberg is apparently set to direct. Which is a little wacky, since the book references Spielberg works like the Indiana Jones series and E.T. Then again, Spielberg hasn’t been shy about going back to the well—*cough* *cough* Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Either way, there’s probably no one better than Spielberg to capture the retro ’80s vibe of the book—and I think many of us suggested it might actually make a better movie than novel.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Fantastical 2 goes beyond the menu bar

Fantastical

Today Flexibits is releasing Fantastical 2, a $50 Yosemite-only calendar app that’s a huge upgrade from the first version of Fantastical. I’ve been using it as my main calendar app for the last couple of months, and I’ve been impressed. (The app is on an introductory sale in the Mac App Store for $40 for launch day.)

The original Fantastical has lived in my Mac’s menu bar since it first arrived on the scene. Its claim to fame was its ability to accept natural-language input for events, but it was also a well designed drop-down calendar that let me consult my schedule for the next day or two with a quick keystroke. It replaced the venerable MenuCalendarClock in my menu bar. And yes, I’ve absolutely gotten used to pressing a keyboard shortcut and typing out a quick phrase like “briefing call 1pm tomorrow” and knowing that Fantastical will drop an event on my calendar in the right place.

As you might expect from the price, Fantastical 2’s sights are set a bit higher. While you can set the app to behave just as the original version did—as a drop-down adjunct to another, larger calendar app—this app is designed to replace your other Calendar apps, the same role Fantastical serves in its excellent iPhone and iPad versions.

In addition to the classic drop-down calendar, which is still there, Fantastical 2 has a full calendar window, providing the features you’d expect plus a few you might not, such as configurable calendar sets that you can toggle between with a keystroke. (Or, cleverly, the app can toggle them based on your location, so certain calendars appear only when you’re in certain places.) Flexibits also wrote their own CalDAV engine, separate from Apple’s calendar services, so that it can stand on its own. There’s also a Today widget so you can view Fantastical information in Notification Center, and support for Action and Share Extensions.

When I asked Michael Simmons of Flexibits what the motivation was to take Fantastical from a calendar adjunct to a replacement, he said that the original goal of Fantastical in 2011 was “to fix iCal” by providing quick access and natural-language input. (Apple later added text input in an update to Calendar, but Apple’s approach has never measured up to Fantastical’s—even now, if I type “phone call tomorrow at 8 for 2 hours” into Calendar, it will try to make a one-hour-long event.)

Fantastical 2’s goal, Simmons says, “is to fix Fantastical itself. I love using the menu bar, but a lot of times I found myself going into Calendar to do things I just couldn’t do in Fantastical. I’d want to use the week view, the year view, get a bigger view, or maybe I just wanted to focus.” The result is a full app that definitely brings to mind the iOS version of Fantastical and is, to my eye, a more attractive design than the one offered by Calendar.

Fantastical 2 also adds Japanese support—and keep in mind, adding language support to Fantastical doesn’t just mean localizing the text in the app. Because it uses natural-language input, Fantastical has to learn how people describe calendar events in their native languages. Simmons said that some of the groundwork Flexibits has laid with the Mac version will probably show up in the iOS versions of Fantastical sometime later this year, too. An update is coming sooner to add Handoff support to those apps, which Fantastical 2 already supports.

Talking to Simmons, it’s clear that Flexibits doesn’t think the launch of Fantastical 2 as the end of a project, but as the beginning. “We have so much planned,” he said. There’s a lot more Fantastical development yet to come. In the meantime, Fantastical 2 has replaced Calendar on my Mac.


Meet the podcasters

DSCF1017.jpg

We had a great time last night at our Upgrade podcast meetup. A large group (someone claimed 65?!) showed up and hung around. People kept bringing us drinks. We were there for five and a half hours. It still wasn’t enough time to properly talk to everyone. Our voices are raw. It was fantastic.

Thank you, London podcast fans!


Apple Watch and OLED displays ↦

Craig Hockenberry of The Iconfactory provides some good background on how OLED displays work and how that may inform Apple’s design choices on the Apple Watch:

One of my first impressions of the Apple Watch user interface was that it used a lot of black. This makes the face of the device feel more expansive because you can’t see the edges. But more importantly, those black pixels are saving power and extending the life of the display. It’s rare that engineering and design goals can align so perfectly.

Because OLEDs only use energy when pixels are lit up, devices with predominantly black interfaces can last longer.


Down the street from Championship Vinyl ↦

I’m staying with friends in London not too far away from Nick Hornby’s house. Hornby is one of my very favorite writers, thanks to the first two books of his I read. “Fever Pitch” is the best book I have read about the psychology of sports fandom, and made me a fan of the English football club Arsenal1. His “High Fidelity” is a novel about pop culture obsession and much more, and is one of my all-time favorites. (The movie’s pretty great too.)

Writing about Neil Young and vinyl records reminded me of a piece Hornby wrote for Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter in which he imagines what life would be like now for Rob, “High Fidelity’s” protagonist, who ran a record store called Championship Vinyl:

So maybe we need those record-store guys; maybe the reason so many of them are still around is that, without them, the whole system grinds to a halt. If you own all the music ever recorded in the entire history of the world, then who are you? Those people queuing outside their local independent on Record Store Day want to be known.

It’s true, there’s been a resurgence of interest in vinyl. I’d like to think that Rob would still have a vinyl collection but, in the spirit of his journey of personal growth, he would have moved on from his record store to some other career.

And seriously, go read “High Fidelity.”


  1. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I’m stuck now… ↩


Steven Levy: ‘The war over who Steve Jobs was’ ↦

Speaking of “Becoming Steve Jobs,” here’s some interesting perspective from Steven Levy:

Isaacson’s eponymous biography of Jobs became a publishing phenomenon, selling over a million copies and making Isaacson himself somewhat of a celebrity. But privately, those closest to Jobs complained that Isaacson’s portrait focused too heavily on the Apple CEO’s worst behavior, and failed to present a 360-degree view of the person they knew.

Only now, over three years later, has their dissatisfaction become public. In a February New Yorker profile, Apple’s design wizard Jony Ive conspicuously insisted that, while sometimes withering, Jobs’s harsh criticisms of his employees’ work were not personal attacks, but simply the result of impatient candor. As for Isaacson’s book, Ive was quoted as saying, “My regard couldn’t be any lower.”

From Macworld (he was a monthly columnist in the early ’90s) to Newsweek to Wired, and including his books “Insanely Great” and “The Perfect Thing,” Levy is one of the very best writers to have covered Apple.

[via Viticci]


Steve and Neil: The vinyl showdown

Neil Young
Neil Young at D: Dive Into Media in 2012. Photo courtesy WSJ/AllThingsD.

Fast Company keeps spooling out excerpts from “Becoming Steve Jobs,” the book (out tomorrow) by technology reporter Brent Schlender and Fast Company’s Rick Tetzeli that’s being touted as the less disappointing alternative to Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs.”1

The latest excerpt to catch my eye is about Neil Young:

I knew that Steve enjoyed listening to records on vinyl from time to time, so I agreed to call him to see if he’d like to get the LPs2. Steve answered the phone on the second ring, and I explained what I was calling about. We had talked about Neil’s criticisms a year or so before, and I thought this might soften his grudge.

And?

Fat chance. “F— Neil Young,” he snapped, “and f— his records. You keep them.” End of conversation.

This anecdote made me laugh, because I was at the D: Dive Into Media conference in 2012 when Young bemoaned the state of compressed music and told his version of this same story.

“I was talking to Steve about it,” Young said. “We were working on it.”

Hmm.

That Young interview is also amusing because it really seems to be the genesis of the Pono Player, Young’s weird lossless music player project. As I wrote in 2012:

Young doesn’t have a company to plug or a solution to the problem. In fact, he turned to the largely well-heeled audience at the conference as said he needed “a rich guy, someone out there” to lead the charge for better music quality. But he did say he had been talking to one particular rich guy: Steve Jobs.

I don’t know anything about how Pono was founded, but was that rich guy in the audience that day?

In any event, I’m with Steve Jobs on this one. Most people can’t tell the difference between audio compressed using today’s high-bit-rate encoding methods, especially considering where people listen to music and the equipment they use. I’m skeptical that high-resolution lossless audio files like those used by Pono can really be differentiated from lower-resolution lossless files, and even high-bit-rate lossy files.

I’m open to the idea that trained listeners in controlled environments with the very best audio equipment may be able to tell the difference… but at that point we’re talking about the most esoteric use case possible.

As for Young’s claims that compression takes away 95 percent of music’s “nutritional value” and that, somehow, you can just feel the difference between vinyl and an MP3, well, it all strikes me as pseudo-scientific hogwash.


  1. I haven’t read the book yet. I’ve pre-ordered it and plan on reading it on my train journey to Scotland later this week. ↩

  2. Interestingly, Schlender is the first-person narrator of “Becoming Steve Jobs.”  ↩


Sponsor: Igloo ↦

My thanks to Igloo for sponsoring Six Colors this week.

Igloo is “the intranet you’ll actually like” for a reason. It’s customizable, responsive, and lets teams work better together—sharing files, coordinating calendars, providing status updates, and managing projects. Their latest upgrade, Viking, gives users more control over how they interact with documents, gather feedback and make changes.

If you sign up now, you can try Igloo for free for as long as you want.


Where’s Jason?

isles

Back when I worked in an office with a team of people, and it was the Friday afternoon before I was about to vanish from the office for a while, I’d send out an email titled “Where’s Jason?” with all my travel details. Well, I don’t work in an office anymore, but I do need to let the readers of this site know what’s going on.

Next week I’ll be in England and Scotland. On Monday (March 23) at 6 p.m. you can find me and my Upgrade podcast co-host Myke Hurley hanging out at the Big Chill House in Kings Cross. It’s an informal meet-up, so if you’re in central London and want to stop by and say hello—or is it hullo?—please do. You can tell me you read Six Colours and I’ll try not to stare at that extra “u” you slipped in there.

I’ll probably be kicking around Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday night, March 26. Look to Twitter to see if my whereabouts might involve getting a pint somewhere. (It almost certainly will.) I’ll also probably be hanging out somewhere in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday night, March 28.

The following week I’ll be in Killarney, Ireland for the Úll conference. Last year’s Úll was an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to this year’s event. My ancestry is almost entirely1 English, Scottish, and Irish—these are my people. There’s black tea and dark beer and really, what could be better?

This is my first major trip since I started Six Colors. Posting may be light, but I’ve asked Dan Moren to keep an eye on things and I’m expecting to write as I travel. With any luck, site readers won’t notice much difference, other than items being posted much earlier than normal.


  1. Except, of course, for my direct male ancestor, Gose Heinrich Schnell, who emigrated to America from Darmstadt, Germany around 1735. ↩


Wish List: Settings search for iOS

Settings on iOS

Let’s try an easy one this week. Ever tried to find an obscure feature in iOS’s Settings app? Sure, you might be able to reason it out, but sometimes it’s just annoying as heck to have to scroll and tap your way through a lengthy list of items just to find the one thing you’re looking for. (I’m looking at you, Notifications section.1)

Especially because OS X has already shown us an easy and elegant way to handle this. Launch System Preferences on your Mac, and you’ll see a search box at the top. Type any term into that box and not only will you get suggestions for the feature you might be looking for, but you’ll also see a little spotlight shining down on the related preference panes. As you continue to refine your search, the spotlight isolates the pane in question, and selecting that term and hitting return takes you right to it.

System Preferences

So why not offer the same feature in iOS’s Settings app? Let us pull a search field down from the top of the screen—just as we might in Mail or Notes—and enter a term, then provide some shortcuts that take us directly to the right section. Likewise, letting users search for a specific pane in Spotlight would help—another feature that exists in OS X.

Spotlight

For those of us who frequently delve into Settings, this may not be a huge issue, but it could be a real boon to those who don’t like even opening the Settings app without someone to guide them. iOS is generally easier and more friendly than OS X, but this is one place where it definitely seems to lag behind


  1. Admittedly, tweaking Notifications for an app got a lot easier in iOS 8 with the “unified” Settings screen. Now you can browse the alphabetical list of apps at the top level of Settings and then access Notifications through that. But the Usage section that tracks how much space apps are taking up could still use a similar improvement.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


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