You Pick Two with a Side of NOBODY!

February 18, 2015 7:21pm
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paneraThis isn’t an advertisement … I wish it was … but I’ve got to say that I’m kind of loving Panera’s new Rapid Pick-Up service, and I think my recent orders reflect that because lately we’ve been eating out from Panera at least once a week as opposed to maybe once a month or whatever in the past.

The biggest selling point by far is simply put – I don’t have to interact with anyone to get food anymore!

I order on the app, pay on the app, drive to the restaurant down the street from me, and without fail every time there’s my order just waiting patiently on the pick-up shelf for me! No stupid pagers, no haggling with the cashier to see if they’re willing to make the sandwich that I want on a given day – just in and out.

Anti-social Scott LOVES Panera Rapid Pick-Up!!!

It also doesn’t hurt that parking at my nearest Panera absolutely sucks. It’s in an outdoor mall where apparently people getting to the mall was an afterthought and so even if their own parking lot was actually big enough for the store, you’ve got people from eighteen other mall stores bogarting spaces when they’re not even eating at Panera in the first place!

I seriously used to spend so much time circling parking lots that I’d be absolutely fuming by the time I finally made my way into the store … not exactly getting your customers started off on the right foot! But as for the Rapid Pick-Up spaces up front, surprisingly I’ve yet to see people really abusing them yet and there’s always been at least one open when I pull up … I’m literally in the store less than a minute, so if they can keep those spots dedicated for pick-up only it’ll be a godsend…

And lastly, I’ve also been enjoying the new program because it seems to give me a little more elbow room to experiment with their menu, whereas when I’m standing there in line and there are half a dozen soccer Moms behind me, I kind of feel obliged to just pick something off of the menu and get out of the way! But the app gives me all the time I need to browse and consider my options … I wonder how many people realize that not only can you pretty much get your sandwich on any kind of bread that they have, but you can also swap out sauces, cheeses, and even meats.

Lately I’ve been doing their Steak & White Cheddar, but I get it with BBQ sauce instead of horseradish and a different kind of bread, too. It’s nice to actually have options when there are so many things on their menu that are almost, but not quite what you’re in the mood for eating! 😉

So anyways, we ended up ordering from there tonight and I felt compelled to write a bit about a company actually doing good. It’s nice to have an option that’s as fast or faster than fast food, but considerably healthier.

Now if Red Robin next door could jump on the same bandwagon… 😀

a few more thoughts about FF: ATB

November 17, 2014 12:38am
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So despite my entirely negative review about a month ago, admittedly I’ve still been playing this sporadically here and there – I suppose you could say that morbid curiosity will do that to you.

I guess I wanted to see what other characters and monsters made appearances from the series, and ultimately how they ended it. I also really wanted to see at least one character from my favorite Final Fantasy of all-time (IV – Paladin Cecil, represent!), but apparently that just wasn’t in the cards for me.

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I figure I probably pumped maybe $20 or so into the game total, spanning a couple of hourglass purchases because you get to a point where you can’t beat any of the bosses without either using them or waiting a day and a half to replenish your characters several times, and also maybe 15 or so “Premium Characters” out of the hope that eventually I would pull somebody that I actually liked!

Ended up getting Terra, Celes, and Locke from FFVI and Tifa, Aeris, and Red XIII from FFVII, but not a single solitary character from FFIV!!!

I’ve read that Cecil, Kain, and Rydia are the picks from FFIV – any of whom would’ve been cool, but no…

Anyways, I guess I’m done with it now, in that I’ve hit Level 99 and there’s no where else to go, and the end bosses still typically require a party refresh so there’s no way that I’m paying for the other worlds plus another pack of hourglasses to beat those, too. It’s too bad because the graphics and the character content deserve so much better – with six months time you could make a pretty cool, little game out of this that you could charge $9.99 for as a premium title based on everyone’s nostalgia for their favorite characters and monsters from the series.

I think it’s time to move on to something different. I even tried taking a few screenshots of the cooler monsters that we fought, but half the time the battlefield is so convoluted once attacks start flying that you can’t even pause to appreciate the individual attacks that any one character does. Oh well – I suppose sometimes that’s the way the Atma Weapon crumbles…

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48 Hours with my New iPhone

November 13, 2014 4:55pm
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After nearly a month and a half wait because apparently I’m not the only one who ordered one of these shiny, new iPhone 6s, they finally came in the mail Tuesday morning and the upgrade from my old phone was surprisingly seamless for both me and my wife’s phones, and I’ve got to say that I’m kind of loving it in a few ways that I hadn’t really been expecting!

So before this update, we were actually both still on our original iPhone 4s that we got when the iPhone first came to Verizon back in 2011. I had been through two of them, with one replaced literally days before the 1-year warranty was to expire, and even with my replacement now a couple of years later the lock button no longer works.

Remember this?

I hadn’t really put much thought into it because $300 x2 wasn’t exactly cash that we just had lying around, and then Verizon went and did this $200 for any iPhone trade-in, and here we are! It’s funny to look back and see that only three years ago I wrote this little love letter about getting my first iPhone, but now it’s time to throw that one to the curb and frankly, so far I think I made the right choice with putting the old horse down! 😉

What I like about the new phone…

  • Touch ID is a DREAM!!! I thought it was going to be terrible and pointless like most consumer-grade fingerprint ID hardware is, but they did a really good job with it when you consider the application for a phone. Despite my better judgment, I never had a PIN setup on my old phone because they’re a pain in the ass to enter whenever you want to do a single thing on it, but Touch ID makes it super simple – I ended up scanning in both index fingers and thumbs so no matter how I’m holding it, it’s easy to enter and so far it works great. And granted, in reality it may not be MacGyver-proof security, but for the random cases of somebody coming across my phone and not having my finger handy, it’s good enough for me!
  • It’s nice to feel speed again! Facebook in particular had gotten pretty horrible to use on my old phone, but it updates and posts like new again with a processor that’s several generations newer and twice as much RAM as my iPhone 4 used to have. I’ve already found myself re-exploring apps that I’d downloaded before and never really used while I was cleaning out some of the ones that I didn’t want. Plus, the camera is significantly better, so for those excited about what I eat for dinner but who were tired of straining through the darkness to see what anything was, look out!
  • It FEELS like a new phone. Because to be honest, I never really got amped up about the iPhone 4S or 5 because aside from a slightly larger display and better hardware, the previous upgrades didn’t really feel like new phones to me – or at least not enough to warrant dropping another $600 to replace both of ours. And I didn’t think that I’d like the new curved form factor to this one, but it’s really kind of growing on me – the screen is a third bigger, but not too big like some of the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones and even the iPhone 6 Plus, and my biggest critique is really that the lock button moved … which I suppose that I’ll get used to considering that mine’s been broken and I’ve been using AssistiveTouch for the last six months anyways!

In a way I feel kind of spoiled right now because it looks like this might not be the only splurging that we’re doing technology-wise this year and between now and Christmas I’ll likely have a couple of other new toys to play with that I’m really looking forward to as well! Then again, I suppose if I look back over the last couple of years, tech has really been kind of quiet in my life whereas I used to be building computers and rewiring home theater equipment and fighting with my home network all of the time! So it’s also been fun to re-explore technology over the last couple of days as I get used to the latest computer that I carry around in my pocket everywhere I go, giving me instant access to information, people, games, and so much more.

Siri: Living in the future is awesome! :mrgreen:

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I stumbled across this game late last night thinking it might be kind of cool, but it turns out … it’s not.

The idea is simple enough – it’s just the heroes and monsters from the Final Fantasy series fighting and the more you play, the more characters you can unlock to put in your party. Except that you’re not really fighting in the sense that you’ve grown to expect from the various games in the series. To “fight,” you simply swipe the character and he does his attack action, then gets back in line to wait his turn again.

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That’s all that everybody does, so it’s literally the equivalent of holding down the A button until the battle is over and XP is awarded.

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The whole game is basically just a ploy to get you to buy DLC, except that even that is random and in the two $0.99 purchases that I made, I got two random characters from games that I’ve never played. Awesome.

I get that the game can’t be a little more complicated without being a lot more complicated – I would’ve loved to see a setup where I could build a party from FFIV and FFVI characters and then pit them against the four elemental fiends from the first game – that would be cool, and I think if the game auto-leveled them appropriately on the spot you could still get a balanced fight out of all of the characters.

But I want to control their actual actions, too. In this game, every character is one hit and they’re out, which is fine for a throwaway game but the Final Fantasy series is loaded with rich characters and diverse abilities – to whittle these guys down to a single move that defines what they do is insulting to the series that created them.

This could’ve been a neat game with a whole lot of nostalgia factor, but instead it’s just blatant cash grab for in-app purchases where the creative process both begins and ends at the Premium Character Shop. 🙁

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iPhone Self-Repair Fail

July 11, 2014 6:04pm
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A couple of months ago, the lock button on my iPhone stopped working.

Only having a few actual buttons on the phone, you don’t really realize how much you use something until you no longer have it. In this case, it never quite dawned on me that any time I go to set down my phone or put it back in my pocket, I hit that button first to prevent myself from accidentally butt dialing someone or playing a very unaware game of Angry Birds in my pocket.

There is a workaround where you can turn on AssistiveTouch that basically gives you a new menu with all of the physical actions you would normally do with your phone, but it’s kind of a pain in the ass and it now takes me three taps to lock my phone whereas before I could lock it as it was going into my pocket without a second thought.

Admittedly the phone is getting pretty old – I got it as a warranty replacement just inside of my first year, so even this device is 2.5 years old at this point. Unfortunately, my wife’s phone is still the original, making hers 3.5 years old and it’s kind of hard for me to run off and get mine replaced at the first sign of trouble when hers has had random issues (out of warranty) and we haven’t done anything about them yet…

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So anyways, I thought I’d try my hand at fixing the thing myself. I replaced a hard drive in one of my old iPods very long ago, so how bad could it be, right?!

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As it turns out, iPhones are really complicated on the inside and all of the parts are extraordinarily tiny!!!

I first tried this video that talked about inserting a piece of paper where the button sits, and then even this video that shows how to locate and activate the button with a needle, but after about an hour of frustration, several scraps of paper, and one broken needle, I still can’t seem to find the stupid thing and I’m not about to pull out every last component like some other videos have shown.

It looks like it’ll probably finally be time for us to upgrade to new phones when the iPhone 6 comes out … presumably in just a few months??? 😕

Rocket Ranger Takes Flight on iOS!

February 9, 2014 12:12pm
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…he just can’t steer worth a damn once you get him in the air…

…or have him on the ground…

…grrrrrr…

I was playing a rather frustrating game of Defender of the Crown earlier this morning and on a whim, I thought that maybe I’d check to see if Cinemaware has ever said anything new about possibly re-releasing this other childhood favorite of mine to iOS, and despite some initial issues with getting it to come up in the App Store, it turns out that they did!

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The soundtrack is still identical to that iconic music from yesteryear. And the graphics still look just as great as they did in 320×200 when they were kind of revolutionary for their time. Admittedly the audio did jitter a little from time to time, but it’s hard to tell if that was the game’s fault or the device’s fault, seeing as my iPhone is pretty well packed to the gills these days…

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…but sadly, the only real problem with this game is the same thing that plagues its last port of Defender, too – the controls are pretty much abysmal and they make the game almost impossible to play. Although I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of Defender – at least when it’s not being buggy and forcing me to retreat when it hangs on a 40-to-8 siege in my favor, I couldn’t even get through a full game of Rocket Ranger because I just got so frustrated trying to manage the controls.

  • Something as simple as moving lunarium into the rocket pack to fly to the initial battle with the zeppelin over the Atlantic took upwards of 5 minutes just to get right … and when I finally got out there, I blew up the zeppelin with my first shot on the last screen because I could barely dodge the missiles, let alone actually aim at the gondola.
  • The War Room drove me absolutely nuts with the way that they let the cursor loop around from one side to another (did it really do that in the original game?!), and the individual countries were so tough to click on that I could actually place them and then check in later because that’s how long it would take me to center in on the others to hear from each of them.
  • Takeoff … I won’t really comment on because I tended to suck at it using a joystick, too. In this version I nailed my very first one, then failed horribly at each subsequent takeoff.
  • Dogfights … I didn’t realize that you could trigger these other than in Germany, but I ended up doing like three of them on accident and each one got a little worse as I actually tried to maneuver instead of simply hiding out at the bottom of the screen. At the end of the day, the controls are super sensitive and a simple tap sent Rocket Ranger flying across the screen, all too often right into enemy fire…

really wanted this game to be awesome and I was pretty excited when I actually saw that it was available for downloadand only $1.99 is a hell of a bargain! But these guys have got to put more effort into their controls because right now it feels like they’re just pooping nostalgia onto the iPhone because they own the IP, and it kind of takes the piss out of your nostalgia when you sit down to play and it looks and sounds just like the real thing, but the feel is so out of whack that it leaves you wanting to send my phone flying through the air because at least you have some control of the direction that it will take!

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I suppose at least they got rid of the terrible top and bottom banners that clogged the screen in Defender.

And it seems like they’ve added a save state, in that if you close the app, you’re prompted to resume your game when you open it again.

And I’ll even hand it to them for a clever way to handle the decoder wheel, although it would’ve been more efficient if they made the button only appear at times when you actually need the codes instead of hovering over the screen literally all the time…

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But regardless, as much as the controls in Defender were a pain in the ass to learn how to direct the mouse, at least the bulk of that game is all menus and planning, so it’s not really a huge deal if it takes an extra few seconds to get where you need to be. Rocket Ranger’s controls, on the other hand, between being far too sensitive and also just plain inaccurate make this a port where I’m kind of glad that I don’t have anymore Cinemaware titles to look forward to because at this rate, they’re all just going to end up being shit anyways…  😥

It’s really a shame because they have the potential to be so much more.

iPads in the Movie Theater? No thanks.

September 12, 2013 10:33pm
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This seems like … an ill-conceived idea at best.

(via Yahoo! Games)

Granted, I think it’s a neat idea at home, but it seems like theater-wide use would have a couple of issues:

  • Dozens of people playing on their iPads all at once is going to get pretty noisy, even if the app itself has no volume.
  • Movies at the theater are expensive enough as it is without factoring in distractions from the app and other people that might diminish one’s enjoyment of the movie itself.

And I get that this is pushing more of a community experience with sing-a-longs or whatever, and kids movies typically aren’t as engaging as what I would expect from an adult movie, but it just really seems like this is a new feature better left for DVD or Blu-Ray. Of course that said, there’s probably a relatively small percentage of users who actually watch additional features on their Blu-Ray/DVD purchases as it is, and lest we not forget that Disney has really been pushing hard to re-release in theaters a lot of their older content anyways.

I don’t see this particular one going very far, although thankfully even if it does, the chances of me getting stuck in a movie theater with a bunch of kids pounding away on their Moms’ iPads in the middle of the afternoon is slim to none anyways…

The Legacy of the iPhone, and the New iPhone 5C

September 12, 2013 10:26pm
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I find myself wondering about Apple every once in a while.

I’m sure a lot of people do, and quite probably the same exact quandary, too – will the company continue to innovate after the passing of Steve Jobs.

It’s been almost two years since Apple’s founder and resurrector died, and there have been two new versions of the iconic device that has been the iPhone since his death. And it’s interesting to look down the improvements that the device has seen over the years as we ask ourselves, “Is it still getting more and more amazing???”

  • (2007) First Generation iPhone – 2G connectivity, no 3rd party apps, blew us all away
  • (2008) iPhone 3G – 3G connectivity, GPS, introduction of the App Store
  • (2009) iPhone 3GS – essentially a hardware upgrade
  • (2010) iPhone 4 (GSM version) – added retina display, gyroscope, FaceTime, and a new design
  • (2011) iPhone 4 (CDMA version) – added CDMA support, personal hotspot
  • (2011) iPhone 4S – hardware upgrade, iCloud, Siri
  • Steve Jobs passed away the day after the iPhone 4S was launched
  • (2012) iPhone 5 – 4G connectivity, better hardware
  • (2013) iPhone 5S / 5C – 64-bit processor, Touch ID

Maybe just not enough time has passed yet, but it feels to me like some of these cool, new features that have broken new ground for the iPhone are slowing down. I mean, I honestly don’t even really consider Touch ID to be a worthwhile feature on account of how horrible fingerprint security actually is, although for what it’s worth I did tend to discount Siri, too. But are we just reaching the limits of what technology we can cram into these little, handheld devices?

That honestly might be part of it – if you look over the iPhone’s 7-year history, there were three upgrades in wireless connectivity in its lifespan, mostly because of where the mobile ecosystem happened to be when the phone came on the market – 3G was gaining heavy saturation and talks of 4G had already begun, but nowadays you don’t hear so much about increased wireless capacity anymore. If anything, carriers are looking to offload wireless data back onto wi-fi networks, which the iPhone has supported since day 1.

So maybe the next evolution for the iPhone isn’t in pushing the mobile device itself much further, but in integration with all of the other electronic devices around our home – most obviously being our TV and our computer, since Apple already has products in both markets. Near-field communication still hasn’t really picked up yet, but I remember seeing a pretty cool video a while back where a girl sets her phone down on a desk and everything on the device becomes readily available to her desktop PC. We might still be a ways away from digital glass, but I would think that bridging the gap between mobile and desktop shouldn’t be that big of an issue…

…that is, if people actually want it…

But I guess with this latest offering of the iPhone 5C, it makes me start to wonder if Apple knows what the people want from them anymore, or what they want the people to want from them, to butcher a Steve Jobs quote just a bit. Yes, I’m one of the people who think that the iPhone 5C, in its multitude of new colors, does a disservice to the brand by making it seem cheap. Which is funny, because it’s not – it’s really only $100 less than the regular iPhone 5S, but by offering up a bubblegum pack of flavors for us to choose from, it takes a step away from the iPhone looking like the premium device that it is and instead makes it seem like something that every teenager should have in their pocket.

Case in point – just look at the 5S and the 5C side by side…

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There’s no denying that the new white & gold iPhone is a very sweet looking phoneI was never bowled over when the white iPhone was first introduced, but the latest design might actually force me to make a decision when I finally replace my phone whether to go with the same black that I’ve had or switch over to something different. It looks like something a celebrity would carry.

The 5C, on the other hand, to me looks like a kid’s toy. Or maybe something that your girlfriend might use because she doesn’t want a fancy, full-featured smartphone like you have. It doesn’t scream premium product to me, even though still priced in the same vicinity. And the sad part of it is, it doesn’t really even make sense why it exists in the first place.

People bought the iPhone because it looked different, and because it looked sleek and sexy, even if it wasn’t technically the most advanced smartphone available. How many kids and girlfriends were already walking around with an iPhone because it was the cool phone to have before all of these new colors??? Demand exploded when Apple finally released the white iPhone because everyone had been limited to black up until then, but more importantly, because it still looked incredibly sharp even in white.

The new 5Cs don’t look sharp to me. They feel like a callback to the colorful iMacs of the late ’90s, with the reminder that Apple didn’t have any iconic products when Steve Jobs returned and revived the company in part with the new iMac design. They really had nothing to lose, nowhere to go but up … but now here in 2013, they’ve come a long way, they still command the most popular smartphone brand in the world, and seeing a company that’s been known over the last 15 years for its design flailing a bit certainly has me concerned.

If it’s that lower price point that they’re after, I feel like they’ve sure got a weird way of going after it because the iPhone 5C doesn’t make itself all that much more affordable than its counterparts, and besides, if cheaper is the goal then what’s wrong with what they’ve done in the past by discounting older models like the iPhone 4S, which you can now get for a dollar on contract, as compared to the $199 2-year contract price for the newer 5S.

I’m certainly not ready to throw in the towel on the brand or anything – honestly, I’m still on my original iPhone 4 that I raved about getting 3 years ago, but I guess the thing is that when I eventually am ready to upgrade or if I’m forced to when this phone finally bites the dust, I want there to be something new in the latest iPhone that makes me go, “Awesome – I’ve gotta have that!” like I did with the phone that I have now. I want to be blown away by the advances that have been made since I bought this phone in 2011, and that’s going to take more than faster wireless speeds that my carrier is hungry to restrict and better hardware that doesn’t really present anything new, but is simply better for the sake of improvement.

I’m ready to be wow’ed by the next big thing, and I hope that Apple still ends up being the one to tell us how we just can’t live without it. The thing is, I guess I’m just skeptical that the next big thing is going to come in the shade of coral, and the iPhone 5C feels like a distraction from what Apple could really be working towards.

Final Fantasy … a mobile verdict

January 14, 2013 12:58am
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So after my little review of the Nintendo DS version of my all-time favorite video game last week, I actually discovered an iPhone version of pretty much the exact same game. I spent some time playing around with it this weekend and as excited as I am to see a considerable catalog of Final Fantasy games now being ported to iOS, ultimately I think I’ve come to one conclusion…

…I don’t think I want to play an in-depth RPG on a handheld device.

I mean, the game looks great on my iPhone and I think the increased resolution vs. the DS did those updated graphics much better justice, but it’s still just not quite the same. And I think I’m quite ready to admit that it may just very well be that I’m getting older and I can’t stare at a 3.5″ screen for three hours on end anymore! When I play RPGs, I typically dive in for several hours at a time – snacks are involved, and a comfy spot on the couch, and mobile gaming just doesn’t provide that same experience for me.

Plus, for those long stretches I don’t really think that touch is the best interface for the controls … battles seem to take a lot longer than if I were able to just press A repeatedly through all of the battle screens when we’re strong enough to not need special abilities, but still need the XP to move on anyways.

Plus, I’ll be 100% honest – the increased difficulty I guess does kinda bug me because the result ends up being a different game for me than the nostalgic one that I remember. When I play FFIV, I’m not really looking for a new challenge – I’m looking to revisit an old favorite; if I wanted a new challenge, I’d play a new game. So yeah, it makes me not want to put time into it when I find myself getting slaughtered in areas that have never been overly challenging in the past.

In fact, I didn’t even make it through the Waterfall Cave with this go around – the screenshot you see below is about as far as I got before calling it a day. Maybe if it were a bigger screen like an iPad, though not likely still because of the controls … I think I’ve come to the conclusion that mobile RPGs just aren’t right for me. It’s too bad because there seems to be a ton of new/classic RPG content on handheld devices that I’d otherwise probably really enjoy, but let’s face it, if I didn’t enjoy the experience all that much with my favorite game of all-time, then what are the chances of me really being able to get into something new that I haven’t already loved since I was 12 years-old? 🙁

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So all of that said … I guess I’m seeking recommendations for console-based RPGs that I should give a try … unless perhaps some of these others end up pulling what Rock Star thankfully did for the GTA series and ends up releasing their handheld titles as console versions years after the fact. I know that the graphics won’t exactly be the same, but some of us are getting older and need that 52″ screen in order to see everything that’s going on! 😉

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