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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

NYC Will Replace Its Largest Fossil Fuel Plant With Wind Power
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: New York City's largest fossil-fuel plant, which powers 20% of the city, will be replaced with offshore wind power. Ravenswood Generating Station is the New York City fossil fuel plant that will become an offshore wind hub. It's a 2,480-megawatt (MW) power plant in Long Island City, Queens, across from Roosevelt Island, and it's the Big Apple's largest power plant. Rise Light & Power, a New York based energy asset manager and developer that holds Ravenswood as its core asset, is submitting a proposal today, with support from community and state leaders, to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in response to the state's offshore wind solicitation. In a nutshell, the 27-acre waterfront oil and gas industrial site is going to be converted into a clean energy hub that will power one-fifth of New York City with offshore wind power. The Ravenswood offshore wind project will reuse existing physical and electrical infrastructure, and that's going to save New York ratepayers money. An HVDC conductor cable will be brought onshore at the existing power plant site. The cable will interconnect via underground HVAC cables to the NYISO bulk electric system at existing substations adjacent to the site. It will also become an offshore wind operations and maintenance hub that will support the just transition of the existing fossil fuel plant workforce, and drive economic investment into a historically underserved community. Rise Light & Power states that the project will, with training programs and job opportunities, justly transition and upskill Ravenswood's current Local 1-2 UWUA union workers.

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A Robot Was Scheduled To Argue In Court, Then Came the Jail Threats
schwit1 shares a report from NPR: A British man who planned to have a "robot lawyer" help a defendant fight a traffic ticket has dropped the effort after receiving threats of possible prosecution and jail time. [...] The first-ever AI-powered legal defense was set to take place in California on Feb. 22, but not anymore. As word got out, an uneasy buzz began to swirl among various state bar officials, according to Browder. He says angry letters began to pour in. "Multiple state bar associations have threatened us," Browder said. "One even said a referral to the district attorney's office and prosecution and prison time would be possible." In particular, Browder said one state bar official noted that the unauthorized practice of law is a misdemeanor in some states punishable up to six months in county jail. "Even if it wouldn't happen, the threat of criminal charges was enough to give it up," [said Joshua Browden, the CEO of the New York-based startup DoNotPay]. "The letters have become so frequent that we thought it was just a distraction and that we should move on." State bar associations license and regulate attorneys, as a way to ensure people hire lawyers who understand the law. Browder refused to cite which state bar associations in particular sent letters, and what official made the threat of possible prosecution, saying his startup, DoNotPay, is under investigation by multiple state bar associations, including California's. "The truth is, most people can't afford lawyers," he said. "This could've shifted the balance and allowed people to use tools like ChatGPT in the courtroom that maybe could've helped them win cases." "I think calling the tool a 'robot lawyer' really riled a lot of lawyers up," Browder said. "But I think they're missing the forest for the trees. Technology is advancing and courtroom rules are very outdated."

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Even Reality TV Hosts Are Being Replaced By Robots
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard, written by Katie Way: MILF Manor is a reality TV show made to be dissected on the internet. Everything, from its ripped-from-30-Rock title to the Oedipal set-up of mothers and their sons thrown into the same "dating pool," is so patently outrageous that it boomerangs back into normalcy -- of course these mothers need to participate in a blindfolded contest to identify their sons by their abs alone. But MILF Manor's most understated quirk is the one that sticks out to me: There's no tanned, vaguely handsome man with veneers and a dress shirt directing the festivities. Instead, contestants receive alerts and directions via text, on iPhones in magenta cases that seem to be provided by the producers. Like more and more reality TV competition shows, there's no actual host. By my estimation, Netflix's The Circle kicked the trend off in 2020. Its contestants, who compete to create the most lovable social media presence in physical isolation, receive prompts and challenges from a big-screen TV in their living quarters. Pressure Cooker, a more recent offering from the streaming giant, is a cooking competition show where the host is replaced by a kitchen ticket printer: Competitions receive challenge instructions and the results of game-ending votes in the same way chefs take orders from their diners. The Button, a YouTube speed dating series by the production company Cut, goes a step further with the introduction of a large talking button that cracks jokes and prompts daters to ask each other cringe-worthy questions until one of them presses it, ending the date and sending in another option. Why axe the role of host when it's been a staple of the formula for so long? It could be a sign of the recession. Reality TV competition shows are famously among the cheapest television to produce, but if I've learned anything about business, it's that executives have never met a corner they're not dying to cut. It could also be that the role of reality TV host is not attracting the same iconic cultural figures it once was, when the subgenre exploded in popularity in the early 2000s. [...] At the core, though, I believe there's something more insidious at play: Robots are once again stealing jobs from red-blooded human workers. Only this time, instead of factory linemen or fast food cashiers, these laborers are C-List comedians and guys who are incredibly symmetrical but not quite hot. (Again, Jeff Probst, I am not talking about you!) Sure, I know machine intelligence doesn't experience emotion -- yet! -- and I know that all of these robo-hosts are likely operated by producers -- for now! But isn't toying with people in a high-stress, high-stakes situation, the exact job description of a reality competition host, the absolute dream gig for a robot? Seems a little too perfect. "Experts already predict that AI and machine learning could replace people working as couriers, investment analysts, and customer service representatives," concludes Way. "Adding reality competition show hosts to that list means the creep into our cultural landscape has already started, which is a distinctly scary thought, in my book. Our flesh is weak, our MILFs are fragile, and we are so, so vulnerable to the clinical calculations of our machine overlords -- uh, I mean, hosts."

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Senator Manchin Aims To Close Battery Loophole Around $7,500 EV Tax Credit
Senator Joe Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has introduced a new bill that squashes a small loophole around the Inflation Reduction Act's (IRA) $7,500 EV tax credit. Engadget reports: The new credits are restricted to cars with final assembly in the US, as well as those with a certain amount of North American battery content (an amount that increases every year). But, the U.S. Treasury has delayed its final rules on battery guidance until March, which means EVs with foreign batteries can still receive the full $7,500 in credits until then. Manchin's legislation, dubbed the American Vehicle Security Act (AVSA), would push the battery requirement back to January 1st. "It is unacceptable that the U.S. Treasury has failed to issue updated guidance for the 30D electric vehicle tax credits and continues to make the full $7,500 credits available without meeting all of the clear requirements included in the Inflation Reduction Act," Manchin wrote a statement. "The Treasury Department failed to meet the statutory deadline of December 31, 2022, to release guidance for the 30D credit and have created an opportunity to circumvent stringent supply chain requirements included in the IRA. The IRA is first-and-foremost an energy security bill, and the EV tax credits were designed to grow domestic manufacturing and reduce our reliance on foreign supply chains for the critical minerals needed to produce EV batteries." Autoblog notes that the AVSA doesn't patch the other IRA loophole, which also allows for the full credit for leased cars built outside of the U.S.

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Tens of Millions Without Power In Pakistan As National Grid Fails
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Pakistan's national grid suffered a major breakdown, leaving millions of people without electricity for the second time in three months and highlighting the infrastructural weakness of the heavily indebted nation. The energy minister, Khurram Dastgir, said the outage on Monday was caused by a large voltage surge in the south of the grid, which affected the entire network. Supplies were being partially restored from north to the south, he added, nearly six hours after factories, hospitals and schools reported outages. The grid should be fully functioning by 10pm (1700 GMT), Dastgir said, adding: "We are trying our utmost to achieve restoration before that." Like much of the national infrastructure, Pakistan's grid needs an upgrade that the government says it can ill afford. Pakistan has enough installed power capacity to meet demand, but it lacks resources to run its oil-and-gas powered plants -- and the sector is so heavily in debt that it cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines. "We have been adding capacity, but we have been doing so without improving transmission infrastructure," Fahad Rauf, the head of research at Karachi-based brokerage Ismail Iqbal Industries, said.

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What Happens When an AI Generates Designs for PC Cases?
Someone on Reddit used the Midjourney AI image generator to create "a selection of 28 fantastically alluring case designs" for the Mini ITX PC, reports Tom's Hardware:Our sample gallery of the AI-generated Mini ITX PCs embedded above features quite a few designs that are rather rotund. This isn't a bias of the AI; instead, Hybective admits he has a fondness for Wheatley (the AI robot from the Portal franchise) and has wanted a spherical PC ever since casting eyes on the Games Sphere (a GameCube parody) in teen sitcom Drake & Josh.... For his shared Mini ITX PC case images, the Redditor says he commonly used 'spherical' as one of the inputs into Midjourney. More specifically, at least some of the images were generated with the prompt "Sphere ITX PC build hyper realistic," or similar.

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Hobbyist's Experiment Creates a Self-Soldering Circuit Board
Long-time Slashdot reader wonkavader found a video on YouTube where, at the 2:50 mark, there's time-lapse footage of soldering paste magically melting into place. The secret?Many circuit boards include a grounded plane as a layer. This doesn't have to be a big unbroken expanse of copper — it can be a long snake to reduce the copper used. Well, if you run 9 volts through that long snake, it acts as a resistor and heats up the board enough to melt solder paste. Electronics engineer Carl Bugeja has made a board which controls the 9 volt input to keep the temperature on the desired curve for the solder. This is an interesting home-brew project which seems like it might someday make a pleasant, expected feature in kits. Hackaday is impressed by the possibilities too:Surface mount components have been a game changer for the electronics hobbyist, but doing reflow soldering right requires some way to evenly heat the board. You might need to buy a commercial reflow oven — you can cobble one together from an old toaster oven, after all — but you still need something, because it's not like a PCB is going to solder itself. Right? Wrong. At least if you're Carl Bugeja, who came up with a clever way to make his PCBs self-soldering.... The quality of the soldering seems very similar to what you'd see from a reflow oven.... After soldering, the now-useless heating element is converted into a ground plane for the circuit by breaking off the terminals and soldering on a couple of zero ohm resistors to short the coil to ground. It's an open source project, with all files available on GitHub. "This is really clever," tweeted Adrian Bowyer, inventor of the open source 3D printer the RepRap Project. In the video Bugeja compares reflow soldering to pizza-making. (If the circuit board is the underlying dough, then the electronics on top are the toppings, with the solder paste representing the sauce that keeps them in place. "The oven's heat is what bonds these individual items together.") But by that logic making a self-soldering circuit is "like putting the oven in the dough and making it edible."

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Automation Caused More than Half America's Income Inequality Since 1980, Study Claims
A newly published study co-authored by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu "quantifies the extent to which automation has contributed to income inequality in the U.S.," reports SciTechDaily, "simply by replacing workers with technology — whether self-checkout machines, call-center systems, assembly-line technology, or other devices."Over the last four decades, the income gap between more- and less-educated workers has grown significantly; the study finds that automation accounts for more than half of that increase. "This single one variable ... explains 50 to 70 percent of the changes or variation between group inequality from 1980 to about 2016," Acemoglu says.... Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, an assistant professor of economics at Boston University, used U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics on the extent to which human labor was used in 49 industries from 1987 to 2016, as well as data on machinery and software adopted in that time. The scholars also used data they had previously compiled about the adoption of robots in the U.S. from 1993 to 2014. In previous studies, Acemoglu and Restrepo have found that robots have by themselves replaced a substantial number of workers in the U.S., helped some firms dominate their industries, and contributed to inequality.At the same time, the scholars used U.S. Census Bureau metrics, including its American Community Survey data, to track worker outcomes during this time for roughly 500 demographic subgroups... By examining the links between changes in business practices alongside changes in labor market outcomes, the study can estimate what impact automation has had on workers. Ultimately, Acemoglu and Restrepo conclude that the effects have been profound. Since 1980, for instance, they estimate that automation has reduced the wages of men without a high school degree by 8.8 percent and women without a high school degree by 2.3 percent, adjusted for inflation. Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for sharing the article.

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Rodney Brooks Reviews 5-Year-Old Predictions, Makes New Ones on Crypto, Metaverse, Robots, AI
The Los Angeles Times explores an interesting exercise in prognisticating about the future. In 2018 robotics entrepreneur Rodney Brooks made a list of predictions about hot tech topics like robots, space travel, and AI, "and promised to review them every year until Jan. 1, 2050, when, if he's still alive, he will have just turned 95."His goal was to "inject some reality into what I saw as irrational exuberance." Each prediction carried a time frame — something would either have occurred by a given date, or no earlier than a given date, or "not in my lifetime." Brooks published his fifth annual scorecard on New Year's Day. The majority of his predictions have been spot-on, though this time around he confessed to thinking that he, too, had allowed hype to make him too optimistic about some developments.... People have been "trained by Moore's Law" to expect technologies to continue improving at ever-faster rates, Brooks told me.... That tempts people, even experts, to underestimate how difficult it may be to reach a chosen goal, whether self-aware robots or living on Mars. "They don't understand how hard it might have been to get there," he told me, "so they assume that it will keep getting better and better...." This year, 14 of his original predictions are deemed accurate, whether because they happened within the time frame he projected or failed to happen before the deadline he set. Among them are driverless package delivery services in a major U.S. city, which he predicted wouldn't happen before 2023; it hasn't happened yet. On space travel and space tourism, he predicted a suborbital launch of humans by a private company would happen by 2018; Virgin Atlantic beat the deadline with such a flight on Dec. 13, 2018. He conjectured that space flights with a few handfuls of paying customers wouldn't happen before 2020; regular flights at a rate of more than once a week not before 2022 (though perhaps by 2026); and the transport of two paying customers around the moon no earlier than 2020. All those deadlines have passed, making the predictions accurate. Only three flights with paying customers happened in 2022, showing there's "a long way to go to get to sub-weekly flights," Brooks observes. "My current belief is that things will go, overall, even slower than I thought five years ago," Brooks writes. "That is not to say that there has not been great progress in all three fields, but it has not been as overwhelmingly inevitable as the tech zeitgeist thought on January 1st, 2018." (For example, Brooks writes that self-driving taxis are "decades away from profitability".) And this year he's also graced us with new predictions responding to current hype:"The metaverse ain't going anywhere, despite the tens of billions of dollars poured in. If anything like the metaverse succeeds it will from a new small player, a small team, that is not yoked down by an existing behemoth."" Crypto, as in all the currencies out there now, are going to fade away and lose their remaining value. Crypto may rise again but it needs a new set of algorithms and capability for scaling. The most likely path is that existing national currencies will morph into crypto currency as contactless payment become common in more and more countries. It may lead to one of the existing national currencies becoming much more accessible world wide."No car company is going to produce a humanoid robot that will change manufacturing at all. Dexterity is a long way off, and innovations in manufacturing will take very different functional and process forms, perhaps hardly seeming at all like a robot from popular imagination."" Large language models may find a niche, but they are not the foundation for generally intelligent systems. Their novelty will wear off as people try to build real scalable systems with them and find it very difficult to deliver on the hype.""There will be human drivers on our roads for decades to come."And Brooks had this to say about ChatGPT. "People are making the same mistake that they have made again and again and again, completely misjudging some new AI demo as the sign that everything in the world has changed. It hasn't."

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Can California's Power Grid Handle a 15x Increase in Electric Cars?
California state officials "claim that the 12.5 million electric vehicles expected on California's roads in 2035 will not strain the grid," writes the nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization Cal Matters. "But their confidence that the state can avoid brownouts relies on a best-case — some say unrealistic — scenario: massive and rapid construction of offshore wind and solar farms, and drivers charging their cars in off-peak hours...."Powering the vehicles means the state must triple the amount of electricity produced and deploy new solar and wind energy at almost five times the pace of the past decade.... Adding even more pressure, the state's last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, is slated to shut down in 2030.... To provide enough electricity, California must: - Convince drivers to charge their cars during off-peak hours: With new discounted rates, utilities are urging residents to avoid charging their cars between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. But many people don't have unrestricted access to chargers at their jobs or homes. - Build solar and wind at an unprecedented pace: Shifting to all renewables requires at least 6 gigawatts of new resources a year for the next 25 years — a pace that's never been met before. - Develop a giant new industry: State officials predict that offshore wind farms will provide enough power for about 1.5 million homes by 2030 and 25 million homes by 2045. But no such projects are in the works yet. Planning them, obtaining an array of permits and construction could take at least seven to eight years. - Build 15 times more public chargers: About 1.2 million chargers will be needed for the 8 million electric cars expected in California by 2030. Currently, about 80,000 public chargers operate statewide, with another estimated 17,000 on the way, according to state data. - Expand vehicle-to-grid technology: State officials hope electric cars will send energy back to the grid when electricity is in high demand, but the technology is new and has not been tested in electric cars. Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for submitting the story.

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First Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Certified For Use In US
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified the design for what will be the United States' first small modular nuclear reactor. The Associated Press reports: The rule that certifies the design was published Thursday in the Federal Register. It means that companies seeking to build and operate a nuclear power plant can pick the design for a 50-megawatt, advanced light-water small modular nuclear reactor by Oregon-based NuScale Power and apply to the NRC for a license. It's the final determination that the design is acceptable for use, so it can't be legally challenged during the licensing process when someone applies to build and operate a nuclear power plant, NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell said Friday. The rule becomes effective in late February. The U.S. Energy Department said the newly approved design "equips the nation with a new clean power source to help drive down" planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. It's the seventh nuclear reactor design cleared for use in the United States. The rest are for traditional, large, light-water reactors. Diane Hughes, NuScale's vice president of marketing and communications, said the design certification is a historic step forward toward a clean energy future and makes the company's VOYGR power plant a near-term deployable solution for customers. The first small modular reactor design application package included over 2 million pages of supporting materials, Hughes added. "NuScale has also applied to the NRC for approval of a larger design, at 77 megawatts per module, and the agency is checking the application for completeness before starting a full review," adds the report.

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Intel, AMD Just Created a Headache for Datacenters
An anonymous reader shares a report: In pursuit of ever-higher compute density, chipmakers are juicing their chips with more and more power, and according to the Uptime Institute, this could spell trouble for many legacy datacenters ill equipped to handle new, higher wattage systems. AMD's Epyc 4 Genoa server processors announced late last year, and Intel's long-awaited fourth-gen Xeon Scalable silicon released earlier this month, are the duo's most powerful and power-hungry chips to date, sucking down 400W and 350W respectively, at least at the upper end of the product stack. The higher TDP arrives in lock step with higher core counts and clock speeds than previous CPU cores from either vendor. It's now possible to cram more than 192 x64 cores into your typical 2U dual socket system, something that just five years ago would have required at least three nodes. However, as Uptime noted, many legacy datacenters were not designed to accommodate systems this power dense. A single dual-socket system from either vendor can easily exceed a kilowatt, and depending on the kinds of accelerators being deployed in these systems, boxen can consume well in excess of that figure. The rapid trend towards hotter, more power dense systems upends decades-old assumptions about datacenter capacity planning, according to Uptime, which added: "This trend will soon reach a point when it starts to destabilize existing facility design assumptions." A typical rack remains under 10kW of design capacity, the analysts note. But with modern systems trending toward higher compute density and by extension power density, that's no longer adequate. While Uptime notes that for new builds, datacenter operators can optimize for higher rack power densities, they still need to account for 10 to 15 years of headroom. As a result, datacenter operators must speculate as the long-term power and cooling demands which invites the risk of under or over building. With that said, Uptime estimates that within a few years a quarter rack will reach 10kW of consumption. That works out to approximately 1kW per rack unit for a standard 42U rack.

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Boston Dynamics' Latest Atlas Video Demos a Robot That Can Run, Jump and Now Grab and Throw
Boston Dynamics released a demo of its humanoid robot Atlas, showing it pick up and deliver a bag of tools to a construction worker. While Atlas could already run and jump over complex terrain, the new hands, or rudimentary grippers, "give the robot new life," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The claw-like gripper consists of one fixed finger and one moving finger. Boston Dynamics says the grippers were designed for heavy lifting tasks and were first demonstrated in a Super Bowl commercial where Atlas held a keg over its head. The videos released today show the grippers picking up construction lumber and a nylon tool bag. Next, the Atlas picks up a 2x8 and places it between two boxes to form a bridge. The Atlas then picks up a bag of tools and dashes over the bridge and through construction scaffolding. But the tool bag needs to go to the second level of the structure -- something Atlas apparently realized and quickly throws the bag a considerable distance. Boston Dynamics describes this final maneuver: 'Atlas' concluding move, an inverted 540-degree, multi-axis flip, adds asymmetry to the robot's movement, making it a much more difficult skill than previously performed parkour." A behind the scenes video describing how Atlas is able to recognize and interact with objects is also available on YouTube.

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Apple Indefinitely Postpones Launch of AR Glasses
Apple has postponed the launch of its lightweight augmented-reality glasses indefinitely due to technical challenges, but is still planning to unveil its first mixed-reality headset this year, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday. Reuters reports: The iPhone maker's mixed-reality headset - which combines both augmented and virtual reality -- is set to launch in this year's spring event, Bloomberg said, adding that the device will cost around $3,000. Apple's mixed-reality device would compete with the likes of Meta Platforms' Quest Pro virtual and mixed-reality headset, which it launched late last year for $1,500, half of the Apple device's reported price. The Cupertino, California-based company now plans to focus on lowering the price of the follow-up version of its mixed-reality device, expected as soon as 2024 or early 2025, instead of working on the AR glasses, according to the report. Apple will aim to do so by using chips on par with those in the iPhone rather than components found in higher-end Mac computers.

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British Battery Start-Up Files For Bankruptcy
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the New York Times: Britishvolt, a prominent battery start-up that generated enthusiasm from British politicians but never commercially produced a battery, filed for insolvency on Tuesday. The collapse deals a blow to Britain's ambitions to develop low-carbon businesses to replace some of the trade lost under Brexit. It also threatens the future of Britain's auto industry, which requires domestic sources of electric batteries if it is to thrive. Founded in 2019, Britishvolt promoted itself as a British domestic champion. It had plans to build a 3.8 billion pound (or $4.7 billion) battery factory near Blyth in northeast England, creating 3,000 jobs. Despite forming partnerships with companies like the carmaker Aston Martin and Glencore, the commodities trading house, it failed to raise enough money to either construct the factory or perfect its battery technologies. The company said Tuesday that it was forced into administration, analogous to filing for bankruptcy. On Tuesday, all but 26 of the 232 employees at Britishvolt's main unit learned that they had lost their jobs. The insolvency raises important questions about the future of the British auto industry. The government is pushing carmakers to rapidly convert to building electric cars, with a ban on sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered cars beginning 2030. The idea is to both meet far-reaching targets on reducing emissions and to keep pace with an enormous shift to electric cars that is rippling through the global auto industry. Experts, though, say Britain does not have sufficient sources lined up to build the batteries that make up a high proportion of the contents of electric vehicles. Ideally, these devices should be made near car assembly plants in order to meet local content rules and because they are heavy and costly to ship.

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