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Technology & Nerdy News

Oct 05

Dear Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm Mountain Time

Guest post by David K.

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when my dad brought home the first computer I would ever use, a Mac Classic I believe, for summer from the high school where he worked. My first memory of using a computer was playing the black and white version of The Oregon Trail. Fast forward a few years and I was in school, always the first to finish my classwork so I could play Word Munchers or Number Munchers on the Apple IIe we had. I was already hooked. For the rest of my life, computers would be one of my biggest passions. I convinced my parents to get our first home computer (a lowly Performa 475) and then later to upgrade (a Performa 630). I had a subscription to MacWorld and MacAddict. I was a member of Guy Kawasaki’s Evangelist mailing list. For my 17th birthday I asked for (and got) a copy of MacOS 8 for our home computer. Even in those dark years when you were away from the company, I was an Apple fan. Thanks for coming back by the way, it got SO MUCH BETTER!

My passion followed me to college, where I had MY first Mac, a PowerMacintosh G3 tower. I even had a couple Apple posters on the walls in my dorm room. Two years later when my brother went to college he got my G3 and I upgraded to a shiny new G4 tower. From there it kept going. A G4 iMac, a G5 iMac, and my current iMac a Core2 Duo machine. I’ve owned every model of iPhone since the first one, and I use my iPad more than my desktop computer. I’ve followed the keynotes, watched the videos, and truly enjoyed using your products, so many of them ground breaking, over the years.

But I think my favorite moment relating to Apple technology happened just this summer. Earlier this spring my nephew was born, the first in a new generation of our family. He and his parents were living in Chicago at the time so it was hard for the whole family to get to see him in person, especially my elderly grandparents, whose health isn’t what it used to be. While visiting them in California this summer, someone, I can’t recall who, remarked that it was too bad we didn’t have a fast enough computer or internet connection (they still only have dial up!) to do a video chat so they could see and interact with their great grandson for the first time in something other than pictures. At that moment it hit me, we DID have a way to do it. I had my iPhone 4, and a healthy 3G connection at their house! We made the arrangements and one afternoon we got Grandma and Grandpa together in the kitchen together, made the call and then I handed them my iPhone. It was, as you would say, a truly magical moment. The joy on their faces as they saw their great grandson in action for the first time, as they talked to him, listened to him make those cute noises babies make, and saw him moving around, it was like the weight of their age lifted off their shoulders for those few minutes.

So for inspiring me to a life of passion about computers I thank you, but my biggest thanks is for helping to enable moments like the ones my grandparents were able to share with my nephew. That story and millions of others like it are the legacy you have left behind. Today we lost a true visionary, your family lost a loved one, and we all mourn for that loss, but we also celebrate the creations you have helped usher in that have changed and enriched our lives. I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet you, but even without that personal connection you have touched my life and so many others. Thank you Steve. Rest in peace.

Oct 05

R.I.P., Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm Mountain Time

Apple co-founder, chairman and (until very recently) CEO Steve Jobs, whose inventions repeatedly changed the world as we know it, died today of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 56.

His death prompted massive news coverage (totally overshadowing Sarah Palin’s decision not to run for president) and an overwhelming outpouring of public grief more typical of a head of state’s death than a corporate CEO’s. But of course, Jobs was no ordinary CEO. He was — well, I’ll let President Obama say it:

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.

On that last point, I am one of the many who learned of Jobs’s death on an Apple device. The above screenshot was taken with my iPhone a few minutes later, but here’s a shot of the actual breaking-news moment — a push notification from my CNBC app, superimposed over the Mandel Initiative podcast, which I was listening to on my drive home:

;(

One more reaction for you, from none other than Bill Gates:

I’m truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’ death. Melinda and I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to everyone Steve has touched through his work.

Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.

R.I.P., Steve Jobs.

P.S. Above, a more personal reflection by David K.

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Aug 24

Steve Jobs steps down

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm Mountain Time

Guest post by David K.

Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of the company he founded 35 years ago, and saved from the brink of collapse when he returned in 1997 with Apple’s aquisition of NeXT. No specific reason was given for the resignation, but Jobs had been on a partial medical leave for a while now. He has has bouts of pancreatic cancer and related health complications from it.

Jobs will continue to be employed by Apple and will serve as chairman of the board. Current COO Tim Cook, who in Steve’s absence both now and in the past has assumed the CEO duties, will be the new CEO of the company.

Jul 05

An old New York Times article predicting, in broad terms, the rise and impact of the Internet, published on the day Becky was born — June 14, 1982 — is making the rounds on Twitter tonight. The article reports on an NSF-affiliated study that, once you get past the silly names (“teletext and videotex”), is remarkably prescient in many ways. Lede:

A report commissioned by the National Science Foundation and made public today speculates that by the end of this century electronic information technology will have transformed American home, business, manufacturing, school, family and political life.

The report suggests that one-way and two-way home information systems, called teletext and videotex, will penetrate deeply into daily life, with an effect on society as profound as those of the automobile and commercial television earlier in this century.

More:

”Videotex systems create opportunities for individuals to exercise much greater choice over the information available to them,” the researchers wrote. ”Individuals may be able to use videotex systems to create their own newspapers, design their own curricula, compile their own consumer guides.

”On the other hand, because of the complexity and sophistication of these systems, they create new dangers of manipulation or social engineering, either for political or economic gain. Similarly, at the same time that these systems will bring a greatly increased flow of information and services into the home, they will also carry a stream of information out of the home about the preferences and behavior of its occupants.”

The report stressed what it called ”transformative effects” of the new technology, the largely unintended and unanticipated social side effects. … Such effects, it added, were likely to become apparent in home and family life, in the consumer marketplace, in the business office and in politics.

Read the whole thing.

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Jun 09

The Apple mothership is coming

Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm Mountain Time

Guest post by David K.

Apple products often look like they are from the future, and Steve Jobs is going to take that same design approach to the design of Apple’s new campus in Cupertino.

Apple Mothership

The massive new building (roughly as large as the pentagon, although only consisting of a single ring) would house up to 13,000 employees in a four story structure featuring curved glass windows around the entire building. Existing surface parking would be moved underground allowing for an increase the amount of green space on the 150 acre plot of land from 20% to 80%. Thats one way to think different.

If approved by the City of Cupertino (and it looks like it will be) they would break ground next year with completion scheduled for 2015.

May 24

I was definitely holding it wrong

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 8:31 pm Mountain Time

This afternoon, eleven months to the day after I got my first iPhone, I broke it:

iPhone broken

D’OH!!! #PANIC!!!

I was listening to a tornado coverage on an Oklahoma radio station, KRMG, via TuneIn Radio, when my earbuds’ cord got caught on something and, when I made a sudden movement, the iPhone went flying out of my hand and landed 2 or 3 feet away, and maybe 4 feet down, on the blacktop of the parking lot, face-down. BOOM.

Thankfully, it’s insured via a rider on my homeowner’s policy, so if all goes well, I’ll be able to replace it for just a $50 deductible. Still, what a pain in the butt.

P.S. It still works, by the way!

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Apr 21

Big Brother Jobs is watching you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm Mountain Time

No doubt you’ve heard about the latest Apple security/privacy controversy, whereby it’s been revealed that iPhones, ever since the release of iOS4 last summer, have been automatically and secretly creating a hidden (but unencrypted) file called “consolidated.db,” which keeps a running log of the phone’s location — apparently using cell towers and WiFi network data, not GPS — timestamped down to the second.

There’s no indication that this data is shared with Apple or anyone else (rather, it is simply stored on your phone and, after you sync said phone, your computer), but privacy advocates are nevertheless understandably freaking out, fearing that the data could be accessed and abused by a jealous spouse, a wannabe criminal, the government, or perhaps Apple itself (at some point in the future).

This feature/bug/breach/plot was discovered by a pair of nerds programmers, who have created a free downloadable program that you can use to look at your own location data on a map. Naturally, in keeping with the trend, I couldn’t resist…

iphone tracker2

I don’t mind sharing that map (which I’ve helpfully annotated) because, really, you can’t see anything on it that’s particularly private or significant. For instance, you can’t tell exactly where I live, nor even the neighborhood — just that I clearly live somewhere in Denver (duh). Nor does it show any secret travels by yours truly (probably because I don’t have any). It’s pretty unremarkable, really, except for a few basketball and football trips, and professional excursions to Vail and Colorado Springs.

Moreover, what’s really striking about the map is just how freakin’ imprecise it is.

Continue reading »

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Apr 07

I want iTunes for live sports radio

Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 8:44 am Mountain Time

Why isn’t there an iTunes-like service where I can go online with my iPhone, find the local radio broadcast for basically any sporting event, and pay $0.99 per game to listen to it? Maybe not for sports like Major League Baseball that already have fairly advanced systems for listening/watching online, but for other sports? Like college basketball and football, say? This should exist!

As things stand now, I can use an app like TuneIn Radio (either through its “RadioTime Sports” feature, or its “Browse Local Radio” feature) to find a handful of games, sometimes. But it’s a total crapshoot, and often the local station that broadcasts the game I want to hear doesn’t stream its game broadcast at all, presumably because of licensing agreements or whatever. That’s stupid! Instead of locking me out, make me pay! Create a centralized system for this sort of thing, make it intuitive and simple, and people will use it. If the price were an iTunes-like $0.99 or $1.29, or hell, probably even $1.99, I — and a lot of other sports fans — would drop that kind of money repeatedly, without really thinking about it. I demand that someone fill this market niche!

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Jul 10

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a cat

Saturday, July 10, 2010 at 9:13 pm Mountain Time

…but on iChatr, a.k.a. ChatRoulette for FaceTime on the iPhone 4, it’s kind of obvious.

P.S. A bit later, Toby got rickrolled:

Continue reading »

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Jun 28

iPhone 4 thoughts

Monday, June 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm Mountain Time

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After five days as an iPhone 4 owner, here — as promised — are a few of my miscellaneous thoughts about the device:

It’s awesome. I mean, this has to be bullet point number one, right? Having never owned any smartphone before, it’s like I’ve stumbled directly into nerd nirvana with this thing. It’s mind-blowingly incredible in so many different ways. My biggest concern about the phone has nothing to do with its antenna (which hasn’t been a problem for me as of yet), or crappy AT&T service (ditto, for the most part), or the fear or its glass shattering (although, that too; see final bullet point). It’s that my iPhone is so awesome, it will send me into a permanent A.D.D. state from which I’ll never recover. :P But seriously, it rocks.

The Retina Display makes everything else look primitive. And that includes the screen on my MacBook Pro, which is itself a pretty advanced piece of electronics. But, previewing this post on said MacBook, when I look at those shrunken-down screenshot graphics at the top of this post, all I can see is… pixels. On the iPhone’s display, everything looks absolutely perfect — and as a user, you’re completely and immediately spoiled by it. The remarkable thing about this is, it’s not like anyone was really complaining about the previous generation of iPhones having poor resolution. But now I pick up my iPod touch, and it looks like something from a bygone era, based solely on its screen, which felt totally adequate a week ago. In short, Apple is going to have to start making Retina Displays for everything now.

That thing I said about iOS4 folders being “ugly”? Totally not true on the iPhone 4, thanks to Retina Display. The dang things look beautiful. As you can see in my screenshots, I’ve got eight folders all bunched together at the top of my second screen, and it doesn’t bother me at all. I can easily see what every mini-icon is; the screen is that awesome.

The Wi-Fi range is amazing. This isn’t something I was even considering before I bought it, but as an iPod touch owner for the last several months, who has pretty much memorized which wireless networks I can pick up from the various locations that I regularly frequent in my daily life, it’s extremely noticeable just how much more range this thing has. This was, actually, the very first “OMG!” moment for me with the phone: when I walked out of the AT&T Store immediately after buying it on Thursday, the phone asked me if I wanted to join the Home Depot’s free Wi-Fi network. The Home Depot is clear across two parking lots from the AT&T Store, roughly three football fields away. With the iPod touch, I had to be within maybe a dozen parking spots of the Home Depot’s front door. With the iPhone, I can pick up the signal from, like, an order of magnitude further away. Granted, I don’t know if there would be enough signal strength at that distance to do much — I didn’t actually try — but even the fact that my phone knew there was a Home Depot Wi-Fi network from that distance is impressive to me. And the impressiveness of the Wi-Fi range has been borne out repeatedly since then.

It’s like a liberated iPod touch. In the few short months since I got my iPod touch through a bank promotion, I had come to really love that little device, but I never realized — I mean really, viscerally realized — how limiting it was until I got an iPhone. Like I said above, the iPod touch forced me to pretty much memorize where I could get a Wi-Fi signal, since, being that I’m not much of a gamer, basically everything I want to do with the touch (aside from playing music) requires Internet. Then suddenly my iPod touch was replaced by an iPhone, and it was like, HOLY S***, WOW, I don’t need Wi-Fi anymore!!! (Except for FaceTime, which feels like being in iPod touch world again.) This seems totally mundane and obvious, but it completely changes the way I relate to my phone. If I’d never owned the touch, I’d be discovering all these new amazing apps and whatnot, and being like, holy cow, this whole iOS thing is incredible! But instead, I already knew that (although, the iPhone is way, WAY faster than my 2G iPod touch, and of course prettier, thanks to Retina Display), and the feeling I get is rather different: it’s like this incredible technology has been liberated, released from its Wi-FI prison and set free to work its magic even when I’m, say, walking from the parking lot to the office, or strolling to the Farmer’s Market on a Sunday morning.

For now, Phone, Camera, Mail and iPod win the Dock wars. On the iPod touch, it was pretty simple to figure out which apps belonged on my Dock. If anything, there was an abundance of space down there, such that I ended up putting Photos in the Dock, even though I rarely used it, along with the three must-haves: Safari, Music and Mail. But the iPhone changes the equation completely, and it’s suddenly much harder to choose four Dock apps. I put a lot of thought into it. Now, Phone clearly has to be there, plus there’s Camera and Messages to consider, and Maps also has a claim to the Dock, given how useful it is with connectivity everywhere. In the end, as you can see at the top of this post, I went with Phone, Camera, Mail and iPod, with Safari in the top left-hand corner of the home screen, and Messages, Maps and Photos filling out that top row. My thinking is that, although I use Safari a lot, I don’t need instant access to it, from anywhere on the phone, as often as I do the other four. Same for Messages and Maps. But it was a close call. I’m curious, fellow iPhone owners: what four apps do you have on your Dock?

The camera rocks. It doesn’t actually take better pictures than the A95, due to the lack of an optical zoom and (more importantly, as it turns out) the slowish shutter speed and slight delay in snapping a photo. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fast for a camera phone, but I still end up with a fair number of blurry pictures when I’m trying to snap pictures of the kids. (Babies and toddlers have a way of not sitting still.) Having said that, it’s most definitely a good enough camera to replace the A95 as my point-and-shoot camera of first resort, thus retiring the belt pack from regular use. And, more excitingly, it is way, way better as a video camera than the A95. The video quality is great, which means a lot more cute kiddo videos to share with family, and generally more videos of everything. I can’t tell you excited I am to have a little videocamera like this in my pocket, at all times.

Last but not least, I’m terrified of breaking it. Today I almost spilled orange juice on my iPhone, and Becky dropped hers on our concrete patio. (It didn’t shatter, thank goodness.) Yesterday, while on a technical support call with Apple, of all things, I nearly dropped my iPhone from six feet onto our hardwood floor, saved only by an improbable combination of my knee and arm somehow half-catching it, and the earphones managing to stay in the jack. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of insurance to buy, so until I buy it, I’m to be on pins and needles with this thing. Argh. Why, Apple, why such fragile beauty?

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Jun 27

iPhone 4 video test

Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 1:46 pm Mountain Time

[NOTE: I bumped this up from 9:06 AM, since it's both higher video quality and a more pleasing top-of-the-homepage image than the clip of my ugly mug. :) -ed.]

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Jun 27

Sunscreen triggers iPhone antenna issue

Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm Mountain Time

(Video taken this morning with the iPhone’s front-facing camera.)

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Jun 25

More iPhone launch day photos

Friday, June 25, 2010 at 10:21 pm Mountain Time

IMG_3049.JPG

I still owe y’all some more detailed observations/thoughts on my new iPhone, which I’ll try to post at some point soon. In the mean time, here are some more of my photos of iPhone 4 launch day yesterday.

They include, of course, shots from my early-morning pilgrimage to the AT&T Store, but also from my two subsequent visits to the Cherry Creek Mall — home of the nearest Apple Store — where I was shopping for accessories. In stark contrast to the 4-person “line” that I waited in, the line to get into the Apple Store was unreal, even on into the evening.

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It seems the marketing hype worked. Again. :)

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The two photos immediately above were taken with the iPhone’s camera, incidentally.

Finally, here’s a screenshot of a FaceTime test between my phone and Becky’s phone (with yours truly on both ends of the conversation):

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Oh — the t-shirt I’m wearing? That’s the “OMG FREE T-SHIRT” I tweeted about. They gave ‘em away to we unnecessarily-waiting-in-line folks at the AT&T Store. I was a bit less excited once I saw the shirt and realized it was an AT&T shirt, rather than an “iPhone shirt” per se, but still.

Again, more photos here.

P.S. After the jump, a very big photo (taken with Becky’s iPhone) of me looking very happy with my new toy.

Continue reading »

Jun 25

Farewell, belt pack

Friday, June 25, 2010 at 7:21 am Mountain Time

As anticipated, the belt pack camera is gone. Well… okay, it’s not quite “gone”; it’s in my briefcase. But the point is, it’s not on my belt! The iPhone camera is officially my new point-and-shoot of first resort. And those horrible grainy Sprint cell-phone photo moblog posts (e.g.) are a thing of the past.

Farewell, belt pack

I realize this is old hat to long-time smartphone users, but it feels remarkable, and liberating, to have a single device suddenly and simultaneously replace my phone, camera, iPod and iPod touch. My pockets feel so empty!

Also: I LOVE the ability to listen to East Tennessee’s Own WDVX on my morning commute… in Denver. This morning, I caught the tail end of Freddy Smith’s show, including the gospel set. That was a daily staple for me when we lived in Knoxville. Nostalgia!

I’ll have more to say about the phone at some point, but for now, I’ll leave you with a w00t! w00t!

P.S. Flickr says my “photo was taken 2 hours ago using an Apple iPhone 3G.” Um, that’s not quite right! It was taken like 5 minutes ago, with an Apple iPhone 4. :)

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Jun 24

iPhone 4 live-tweeting

Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:13 am Mountain Time

IMG_3036

I’ve consolidated my live-tweeting of this morning’s iPhone 4 purchase below:

4:25 AM: At AT&T Store. No one else here. Heh. I suppose most pre-orders went directly to homes, and AT&T has no walk-in stock, so no line.

4:49 AM: There’s somebody else here, but he didn’t preorder, and store sign says no phones for non-preorderers til Tuesday, so he’ll probabaly leave.

5:24 AM: First guy left, but a new guy just arrived, and put his bag by the door to hold his spot. HOUSTON, WE HAVE A LINE.

5:30 AM: 5:30 AM. Sunrise over Denver. T MINUS 90 MINUTES TILL IPHONE 4 LAUNCH. #omg #nerd #unnecessarilywaitinginline

5:43 AM: Trying to post and respond to tweets with my ancient Sprint flip phone only reinforces what a good idea it is to finally get a damn iPhone.

5:48 AM: A third person is here. Two of us are sitting in our cars, one is sort of wandering around. It’s a “line” only in a loose, postmodern sense.

5:56 AM: AT&T Store employees are here! Wearing dorky AT&T shirts! Yay! (Because I’m waiting in line for a phone, but THEY’RE the dorks. Right.)

6:00 AM: ONE HOUR LEFT. Four people here now. I’m getting out of my car and getting in actual line. FEAR FIRE PHONE AWAKE!

6:21 AM: A fifth person just arrived to join the line. 40 MINUTES LEFT. … Anyone want to bring donuts to the Quebec Square AT&T Store? I’m hungry.

6:27 AM: Employee arriving at next-door Jimmy John’s: “It’s too early to be at work, let alone at a cell phone store. You guys are crazy.” #hesright

6:29 AM: Now 7 people in line, all listening to some sort of bizarre crypto-Euro-R&B remix of “Teddy Bear Picnic” on one guy’s car stereo. #wtf

6:30 AM: 30 MINUTES LEFT. Several non-preorder folks here, hoping for the best despite sign saying no extra phone stock till Tuesday.

6:37 AM: AT&T Store employee now verbally telling non-preorder people that they have no phones for them. I think line is about to partly disperse.

6:40 AM: I AM NOW FIRST IN LINE. #1 and #2, and all other non-preorder folks, left. Three of us remain, all preorderers. 20 MINUTES LEFT. #wheeeee

6:50 AM: Cherry Creek Apple Store, which has some extra phone stock, reportedly has a long line. Here, just 3 lonely pre-orderers. 10 MINUTES LEFT.

6:55 AM: Supposedly, **1500** people in line at Apple Store Cherry Creek, as of an hour ago. Here, we’re up to four people now. FIVE MINUTES LEFT.

6:58 AM: TWO MINUTES LEFT #omg

7:04 AM: I’M IN.

7:06 AM: My iPhones have been unboxed.

7:10 AM: AT&T Store having activation issues because they haven’t downloaded iTunes 9.2 to some of their computers. #OMG #LOL #incompetence #attsucks

7:13 AM: Becky’s & my iPhones, waiting to be activated. They’re purty. #nerdporn http://twitpic.com/1ziurp
twitpic photo

7:17 AM: OMG I’M GETTING A FREE T-SHIRT

7:20 AM: My Sprint phone is about to be deactivated so my phone number can transfer over. Next update will be from my new iPhone.

8:03 AM: OMG I OWN AN IPHONE! http://tweetphoto.com/28863844
My new iPhone 4

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