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  1. #1
    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    story of stuff - planned obsolescence

    I noticed the other day that Aaron made reference to planned obsolescence in one of the threads, and it got me thinking about a link that was sent to me. The video is about 20 minutes long. It's very interesting and in my opinion, worth watching.

    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    As carfree individuals, does planned obsolescence really ____ you off? And I don't just mean with respect to bikes and parts. I mean everything. And as consumers, are we really aware of it? Or do most of us not really care?
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  2. #2
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    There's planned obsolescence and there's poor workmanship. Both of them disturb me because they both cost me money. Here are a few examples:

    • My computer, six years old, is starting to show its limitations. It still runs very well, but there are a lot of software limitations I'm facing. I'm also having trouble on some Internet sites, even though I'm on high-speed. The processor isn't fast enough. The cost of a computer is significant. I'll have to plan for this purchase.

    • My winter bike is around 20 years old. Part sizes that were common in the late 1980s are almost impossible to find now. Right now, it's not a problem but if I need to do some work on the headset, I'm in for a challenge. I could replace this bike, but again, I don't want to spend a lot of money on it. Besides, I like the design for a winter and commuting bike.

    • I bought a printer/scanner a couple of years ago. It's causing problems but I can't get it repaired. I have to throw it out and replace it. Although it was a good brand name and worked well, the actual construction seemed flimsy. At work, we purchased a printer a few years ago. It didn't get a lot of use but today it's a large and expensive doorstop.

    • I've seen some consumer electronics which are so poorly built they can only last a couple of years under mild regular use.
    Life is good.

  3. #3
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    I regret the way that some great and unique products first become unavailable to buy, then become very hard to maintain for lack of compatible parts. You see this in bicycles of course, but also in electronics. One nice thing about the Internet is how people can get together to self-support some of the great older products, and how you can use it to find stuff that's no longer in production.

  4. #4
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    I can agree with a lot of whats said on there, but some stuff, like computers, have not seen planned obsolescence (well, maybe prebuilt ones like Dell and Apple with proprietary hardware have). For a novice user, it may seem so, computers, software, and the like have come soooo far in the past 20 years, the past 10 years, and even the past 5 years. It'd be ridiculous to have the same components for more than a few years if you want to be even close cutting edge or even stay with the pack. If you don't need to be, an older computer will work fine. A decent computer from 6-8 years ago upgraded with more RAM will suit more people fine, but if you need to use newer software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop and work on large projects, forget about it.

    But all in all, a great video. Lays a lot out there I'll probably send this to a few people.
    Quote Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
    Cheating: a symptom of the problem.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerseysbest View Post
    I can agree with a lot of whats said on there, but some stuff, like computers, have not seen planned obsolescence (well, maybe prebuilt ones like Dell and Apple with proprietary hardware have). For a novice user, it may seem so, computers, software, and the like have come soooo far in the past 20 years, the past 10 years, and even the past 5 years. It'd be ridiculous to have the same components for more than a few years if you want to be even close cutting edge or even stay with the pack. If you don't need to be, an older computer will work fine. A decent computer from 6-8 years ago upgraded with more RAM will suit more people fine, but if you need to use newer software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop and work on large projects, forget about it.

    But all in all, a great video. Lays a lot out there I'll probably send this to a few people.
    Obsolescence happens when something which still works is no longer practical to use because of its limitations. That happens all the time in the world of computers.

    If you're using the latest version of a popular software program and I'm a few versions back, I may have trouble opening your document. This means I have to either upgrade my software or find a workaround solution. Most times, this will force me to upgrade, even if I don't want to do so, since the workarounds seldom work well. That's a form of obsolescence.

    On the Internet, I'm seeing more and more web sites which require relatively recent software. These are sites with video and sites with animation added. If I'm not relatively current, there are places on the net which are closed to me. That's another form of obsolescence.

    I upgraded my operating system a few years ago. To do this, I had to borrow a DVD drive to run the install disks since my computer doesn't have one. That was when System 10.4 came out for the Mac. If I want System 10.5, I can't install it on my computer since it's no longer supported. So far, this hasn't caused me trouble, but I'll soon notice it when software or add-ons will not work with anything less than the current version.

    At my workplace, when we switched to newer application software for our page design work, we ended up replacing our computers as well. The new software wouldn't run on the older machines. The software is okay, but the old software had some great advantages I don't have any longer. And the new software has a few features I neither want nor need, but can't disable. The old machines, while still in good working order, could not be salvaged.
    Life is good.

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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinninwheels View Post
    I noticed the other day that Aaron made reference to planned obsolescence in one of the threads, and it got me thinking about a link that was sent to me. The video is about 20 minutes long. It's very interesting and in my opinion, worth watching.

    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    As carfree individuals, does planned obsolescence really ____ you off? And I don't just mean with respect to bikes and parts. I mean everything. And as consumers, are we really aware of it? Or do most of us not really care?
    It is a great short film. I show it to my students. And its thesis is so blindingly obvious that I'm surprised that most people never, ever even think about it.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  7. #7
    Spelling Snob Hobartlemagne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinninwheels View Post
    I noticed the other day that Aaron made reference to planned obsolescence in one of the threads, and it got me thinking about a link that was sent to me. The video is about 20 minutes long. It's very interesting and in my opinion, worth watching.

    http://www.storyofstuff.com/

    As carfree individuals, does planned obsolescence really ____ you off? And I don't just mean with respect to bikes and parts. I mean everything. And as consumers, are we really aware of it? Or do most of us not really care?
    That film is depressing.

    The first rule of flats is You don't talk about flats!

  8. #8
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I think that in the computer world it isn't so much planned obsolescence as it is advancing technology...kind of like the difference between a 1914 Model T Ford and a 2007 Honda Civic. The computer technology just moved forward a lot faster than the automotive did. However I do agree it is frustrating to have something that won't work because it isn't backwards compatible (something the MicroCrap is infamous for) I have a real issue with purchasing a product, using it, wearing it out, then wanting to buy a similar replacement only to find that it doesn't exist in its original simpler form or the replacement is the "same" but a cheaply built copy. Most recent case was my electric razor. I have had a Braun 3612 that I have been using for over 7 years. I have been able to buy replacement parts fairly easily up until this past year. I cracked the housing on the razor just before Christmas this year. Finally found a replacement (same model number) but it is cheaply built and doesn't run nearly as well as the original. Time to look for a different brand/style I guess.

    Aaron
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

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    Couldn't agree more. However I have some advice for those who are annoyed at computer obsolescence: switch to Linux. It'll be a headache until you get your documents converted to open formats and learn how to use the system, but from then on you'll be able to keep even the oldest computer working forever. I'm still using the same computer I bought for college (gulp 14 years ago), albeit with a networking card and CD drive it didn't come with. I helped my father resurect a computer he found in a dumpster using Unbutu.

    The best part is that even though I've upgraded the version or flavor of Linux a few times the computer is still as fast as it ever was. Whereas with every new windows or mac machine I use, even though the amount of RAM and processor speed climbs ever higher, seems slower than the last.

    One thing though: I purposefully don't by electronic gadgets to do things that a simpler mechanical gadget is just as good at. For example I use this razor http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000979.php this thing is so well made my great grandchildren could be showing their kids how to use it.

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    Jeez, that was a major downer. I noticed they advise using a refillable coffee mug/thermos, however, even that has drawbacks. I bought one from Sbux, only to have them recall it a few months later. So much for trying to cut down on waste! *Sigh.*

  11. #11
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerseysbest View Post
    ...but if you need to use newer software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop and work on large projects, forget about it...
    Unless you need the new features, constant updating rarely makes much sense. A local computer magazine run a test a couple of years ago, where they did their own page layout on an ancient MacPlus vs. their normal Mac workstation. Both machines had latest possible OS and PageMaker. Both did the job, and in about the same time too.

    I have an elderly relative who didn't want to replace his PowerMac 7300. I kept it running for him, just to see how much more service I could squeeze out of it. There were some considerations that limited the options (most notably he wouldn't consider any other OS, so BSD and Linux were out), but even so it run for years. Finally, I couldn't find a browser version that would be up to his bank's online service specs, and yet run on the old Mac OS. With that, the 7300 was retired to text processing. He now has a Mac Mini.

    --J
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

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  12. #12
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by bike2math View Post
    Couldn't agree more. However I have some advice for those who are annoyed at computer obsolescence: switch to Linux...
    Slackware Linux user here, since '95. Linux has its own inconveniences, but there's no planned obsolescence built in. Programs that were written as long ago as the '70s run just like they were intended. That's not important for the consumer market but it's great if you are a scientific or computing professional. If you want to write programs in any of a thousand computer languages, all the tools are free.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juha View Post
    Unless you need the new features, constant updating rarely makes much sense.
    I agree with you, but the problem is sharing projects with people who have the newer versions. At some point, you have to upgrade yourself so you can work with other people.

  14. #14
    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    Whether computers are designed with planned obsolescence in mind, or they merely fall to the wayside because of technical/software advancements, this may be more difficult to eradicate than it appears. And I'm not picking issue with advancements that we have made over the years per se. It's just that some times things are just so shoddily built, it really makes you wonder if we've really advanced so far or not.

    I've now lived in two major cities (Toronto and Vancouver) that have had problems with respect to where they are (will be) dumping their garbage/waste. They are running out of room and the general public may not seem to be aware of this, or care for that matter. Granted there may be a lot of things that are responsible for this, but really, is this just not a symptom of our priorities, or lack there of, in our society?

    It just seems that with our current population, and our consumption of products and resources within this finite system, there will come a time when this will have to be addressed. And corporations shouldn't be allowed to shurk their responsibility. Sure they can say that they are only supplying what the market demands, but somewhere along the line, people/society/business have to start standing up and making choices with the bigger picture in mind - rather than just the health of the statement of operations/balance sheet.

    Though some may find this depressing, I find it a positive thing. Acknowledging that we have a problem, is the first step towards actually correcting it. And the more people know, and are educated with respect to options and choices, the better off we will be.

    And I think that as consumers, we have to shift our buying habits so that the marketplace will adjust to this new paradigm.
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  15. #15
    i like mud discosaurus's Avatar
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    How we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world. I try to make decisions based on whether or not I want to contribute to a certain product, policy, or company's business practices.

    I have to accept that electronics will be obsolete within a few years, or less. For that reason I don't buy or own a lot of tech gadgets, but a few essential (to me). I have a basic phone, a decent PC, an iPod, and an old digital camera. That's it.

    On the other hand, for things that can, and should, last a long time, I buy the very best that I can afford. Things like hand tools, cookware, good furniture, knives, dishes, if I buy quality and take care of it I can hand them down to my grandkids someday.

    Then there's that weird middle ground where it's all compromises. That's where bikes fall in. They don't last forever; parts wear out and have to be replaced. Every component is a compromise of durability, price, and performance. They don't ever wear out completely, as a whole, but they get to a point (which is different for everyone, depending on patience, finances, mechanical skills) where it's not worth the time and money investment to keep it running. Time to make compromises. A few things I own fall into this category, bikes of course, car, sewing machine, PC.

    The only thing that I would completely give up on is the car, because I can't wrench it myself. The others I can. Auto work is insanely expensive, and I don't understand enough about how the things work to make sound decisions on maintenance and repairs. Ideally, by the time I have to make that decision about my current car I'll be at a position in my life where I can get rid of it without replacing it. It's funny that the car is the one consumer product I spend the most money on, and the thing I know the least about. No, not funny at all. A little disturbing, actually.

  16. #16
    i like mud discosaurus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinninwheels View Post
    Though some may find this depressing, I find it a positive thing. Acknowledging that we have a problem, is the first step towards actually correcting it. And the more people know, and are educated with respect to options and choices, the better off we will be.

    And I think that as consumers, we have to shift our buying habits so that the marketplace will adjust to this new paradigm.
    Word.

    I think that video, and this discussion, is more encouraging and inspiring than depressing.

  17. #17
    Senior Member jimisnowhere's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by discosaurus View Post

    Then there's that weird middle ground where it's all compromises. That's where bikes fall in. They don't last forever; parts wear out and have to be replaced. Every component is a compromise of durability, price, and performance. They don't ever wear out completely, as a whole, but they get to a point (which is different for everyone, depending on patience, finances, mechanical skills) where it's not worth the time and money investment to keep it running.

    In these situations you donate parts to used bike shops that are still operative but you've lost patience with so people who don't mind imperfect stuff can use them.
    I can ride the solarcycle with no hands.

  18. #18
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy View Post
    Slackware Linux user here, since '95. Linux has its own inconveniences, but there's no planned obsolescence built in. Programs that were written as long ago as the '70s run just like they were intended. That's not important for the consumer market but it's great if you are a scientific or computing professional. If you want to write programs in any of a thousand computer languages, all the tools are free.
    I think there may be a few users move to Linux after Microsoft's latest operating system...Vista. This is a new take on planned obsolescence. It is completely broken right from the get go... no need for any planning.

  19. #19
    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse View Post
    I can change the world, and I will lead by example.CE
    I fixed that for you...
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  20. #20
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    The old machines, while still in good working order, could not be salvaged.
    Negative... just because your organization, or you personally couldn't use the machines doesn't make them worthless... I love old, retired computers... especially from mid-size companies.... they are SO easy to put to new uses... whether that be as non-GUI linux boxes (Servers, routers, etc), or with added memory and a fully functional Linux operating system.

    At my last position I took an old computer system that was slated to be recycled and turned it into a filtering firewall and router... it increased our security at least 10 fold, reduced trouble calls, and took me from having to format and reinstall about 2-3 computers a month to only having to do one in TWELVE months. Do you have any idea how many thousands of dollars that one 'worthless' computer saved the company? (It served for more than 2 and a half years as a router/firewall while I was there... and to my knowledge is still functioning to this day!)

    Yup. Totally obsolete.
    Last edited by bmclaughlin807; 01-25-08 at 12:24 AM.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  21. #21
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    I think that in the computer world it isn't so much planned obsolescence as it is advancing technology...kind of like the difference between a 1914 Model T Ford and a 2007 Honda Civic.
    I have to disagree here... But, it depends on how you look at computers... if you're a Microsoft or Apple junkie, then planned obsolescence IS the name of the game.

    Months before Vista came out Bill Gates was giving a presentation... one of the 'features' that he touted was that Vista would drive a whole new round of computer sales....

    I have SERIOUS issues with a software company that advertises their product to the world as driving new hardware sales.
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  22. #22
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmclaughlin807 View Post
    I have to disagree here... But, it depends on how you look at computers... if you're a Microsoft or Apple junkie, then planned obsolescence IS the name of the game.

    Months before Vista came out Bill Gates was giving a presentation... one of the 'features' that he touted was that Vista would drive a whole new round of computer sales....

    I have SERIOUS issues with a software company that advertises their product to the world as driving new hardware sales.
    I have 2 points and a question:

    1. Bikes do not necessarily have to fit into the planned obsolescence paradigm. Compared to almost all other consumer products, bikes are fairly permanent. Many people are still happily riding bikes built in the 1970s. My bike was built in the early 1990s, and I've already decided that I like the frame so much that I will keep it until I die, and just replace the components as they wear out. (Maybe that unbelieveably stupid handlebar gear shifter will need to go a bit sooner, though...)

    2. Vista isn't that bad; I've not had any serious trouble with it. It does not appear to be much of an improvement over XP in any way, though, so I'm sort of wondering what the point is.

    Okay, the question: I'm not a computer person. I use computers, and actually enjoy the technology on a very basic level, but I don't want to put a lot of time, energy or money into it. I believe the computing environment should be like central heating: it should work flawlessly when you want it to, and you shouldn't have to think about it all that much. I've never even seen Linux; is it an OS that can make this dream of mine a reality? Or should I continue to send bales of my hard-earned money to Redmond and Palo Alto?
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    Okay, the question: I'm not a computer person. I use computers, and actually enjoy the technology on a very basic level, but I don't want to put a lot of time, energy or money into it. I believe the computing environment should be like central heating: it should work flawlessly when you want it to, and you shouldn't have to think about it all that much. I've never even seen Linux; is it an OS that can make this dream of mine a reality? Or should I continue to send bales of my hard-earned money to Redmond and Palo Alto?
    There is definitely a learning curve to them; it will take awhile before you are completely comfortable. And you may need to use google in order to do something like install new software. But
    I think if you were to go with one of the flavors aimed at personal computing users, you would, after the initial break in period find yourself wondering why you hadn't switched before.

    My suggestion to people who are thinking of trying it but really aren't sure, is to find a computer someone else considers trash and try it out on that before you nuke your windows box. That though is the big advantage of this OS, it can work on the newest or oldest computer hardware.

    Either way you go you should switch to Open Office on whatever machine you are using. Microsoft purposefully stops allowing their office product to use the oldest versions of their own files. Redmond has made planned obsolesence something of an art form.

  24. #24
    reductio ad absurdum ericy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    I have 2 points and a question:

    1. Bikes do not necessarily have to fit into the planned obsolescence paradigm. Compared to almost all other consumer products, bikes are fairly permanent. Many people are still happily riding bikes built in the 1970s. My bike was built in the early 1990s, and I've already decided that I like the frame so much that I will keep it until I die, and just replace the components as they wear out. (Maybe that unbelieveably stupid handlebar gear shifter will need to go a bit sooner, though...)
    I still have a bike that I bought in the mid 80's, and I was starting to have trouble finding parts. Tires, mainly, but I have no doubt there would be others if it needed more work.

    I bought another about 3 years ago

    2. Vista isn't that bad; I've not had any serious trouble with it. It does not appear to be much of an improvement over XP in any way, though, so I'm sort of wondering what the point is.
    We do software development at work, and everyone hates Vista. Yes, they needed to do some security work to XP to reduce problems with viruses and all that, but the thing is such a bloated pig that I cannot fathom why people would want it. The same security features are ones that MacOS has had for years.

    Okay, the question: I'm not a computer person. I use computers, and actually enjoy the technology on a very basic level, but I don't want to put a lot of time, energy or money into it. I believe the computing environment should be like central heating: it should work flawlessly when you want it to, and you shouldn't have to think about it all that much. I've never even seen Linux; is it an OS that can make this dream of mine a reality? Or should I continue to send bales of my hard-earned money to Redmond and Palo Alto?
    It depends a lot on what you use the computer for, really.

  25. #25
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    +1 on the Linux machines! with open source software. I set up a 1990's Compaq Pressario laptop with Debian Linux and it ran circles around my brand new Dell D610. Unfortunately the motherboard has since gone Tango Uniform...Linux does take a bit of a learning curve but is well worth it IMHO.

    As far as things like shaving...my preference is actually my Rolls Razor (of which I have several), but electric is for convenience only, but given it's issues I may start using the Rolls more often. BTW parts and repairs are still available for a 60+ year old razor!

    My taste in bicycles runs from the early 1900's tecnology (Sturmey-Archer hubs) thru about the mid 70's. After that it is primarily flash and dash type stuff. I haven't seen any great technology breakthroughs. And all the people that think aluminum is new to bikes...Caminade was building small production run bikes back in the 1930's. And IIRC wasn't the Bowden Space Liner made out of some form of plastic?

    I really suspect the problems are A) Forced Consumerism and B) Greed (make it cheap and sell a bunch of them) I have a real tendency to look for the most durable product I can find even if the cost is two or three times what a disposable version would run. To me the worst problem with the cheap crap is the filling of landfills with thrown out stuff, the list is endless, as well the fact most of it is produced in a country that cares little about the environment and the damage they are causing.

    Aaron
    Last edited by wahoonc; 01-25-08 at 08:23 AM.
    Webshots is bailing out, if you find any of my posts with corrupt picture files and want to see them corrected please let me know. :(

    ISO: A late 1980's Giant Iguana MTB frameset (or complete bike) 23" Red with yellow graphics.

    "Cycling should be a way of life, not a hobby.
    RIDE, YOU FOOL, RIDE!"
    _Nicodemus

    "Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred
    Which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?"
    _krazygluon

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