Microsoft Ends Groove Music Pass

If you really have to have music from Microsoft, they suggest Spotify…

In a week when it seems nearly everything is coming to an end except how people are arguing gun control and NFL protests, comes additional news out of Redmond that Microsoft’s music offering, Groove Music Pass, is being shut down. Microsoft is killing the service and offering customers “a seamless transition to Spotify.” Microsoft will also remove all music from its Windows Store as well.

Microsoft is trying to be positive about this development, offering the following spin, according to Microsoft GM Jerry Johnson,

“We’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our partnership with Spotify to bring the world’s largest music streaming service to our Groove Music Pass customers. Groove Music Pass customers can easily move all their curated playlists and collections directly into Spotify.”

On 2017-12-31, Microsoft will shut down Groove Music Pass completely. At that time, anyone with any time lift on their subscription, will get a prorated refund, directly from Microsoft.

Groove Music Pass

Music is also being removed from the Windows Store. However, Microsoft has indicated they will continue to sell movies, TV shows and ebooks. The Groove Music app will still be offered as part of Windows 10, but users won’t be able to stream or otherwise access subscription based content with the app. Instead the app will play music on your hard drive, or will stream music you have stored on Microsoft OneDrive.

Groove Music Pass has always felt like a me-too effort out of Microsoft. The service never really had an identity of its own and the service always felt forced in my opinion. Microsoft never really got behind the service, and never really did anything to make it stand out in a market that seems dominated by Apple and other streaming services, including Spotify.

The only problem with streaming services like Spotify, is that you can’t upload your own music to the service. You get the Spotify catalog and that’s it. Some have indicated that it might be nice if Spotify could play music from a file sync service like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, but as far as I can tell, that isn’t in the cards.

Microsoft and music have always had issues. For some reason, they just haven’t had anyone on their team that had any kind of real vision for the service, or the Store, or really anything to do with Music at all. Its unfortunate. They’ve nearly always had their feet wet when it comes to music; but all they seem to have gotten is soggy socks.

They’ve had one giant miscue after another with ALL kinds of content when it comes to ecosystem based content. Just ask any (former) Zune owner. They’ll tell you how big of a cluster bump this has been in the Microsoft camp.

Its certainly NOT been pretty.

Did you have a Groove Music Pass? Did you even know Microsoft HAD music in their Windows Store? Is this something that you think the world will miss, or will Spotify struly, uh… hit the spot?

Let me know your thoughts! Give me your take on this development in the Discussion area below. I’d love to hear from you, especially if you had a Groove Music Pass, or if you think the loss of the service will create a hole that needs to be filled with some other MS based service.

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Audials Music Rocket

Get your monthly music fix with Audials Music Rocket, one of the best players available anywhere.

I’ve been a singer/ songwriter and musician most of my life. To say that I have the music in me is a bit of an understatement. Thanks, in no small measure, to the 128GB iPhone 7 Plus in my life, I’ve got my entire digital music collection with me all the time, every day, out loud. And loud it is, as I love listening to tunes while driving. It’s what I do…

Finding new music, however, can be difficult at times. Yes, there are streaming tools like Pandora and Spotify, you can get access to new streaming titles, but as I’ve said before, I like to own my music and not just lease (read: stream) it. That’s probably the biggest reason why I’m such a fan of Audials Music Rocket for Windows. It gives you access to a huge music library that you can download for free; and its available for a PC near you.

Audials Music Rocket allows you to find and download new music, fast, legally and for free. With it, you can listen to internet radio stations, podcasts and music TV broadcasts. The application offers fast downloads and will even do video to audio conversion from well-known music portals on the fly. You can save music in MP3, WMA or AAC file formats, legally and free of charge.

Audials Music Rocket will create a playlist of songs automatically once you tell it your favorite type of music, by identifying a “reference song.” Its Top Songs feature then creates the playlist to match your taste in music. With its auto play mode, AMR will automatically play that music for you, too

With its Wish List feature, Audials Music Rocket can monitor thousands of radio stations and music sites automatically. Whether you’re looking for singles, whole albums or an entire discography, AMR can find it and send you an alert when the station or site is updated. You can also use the app to update ID3 compatible song tags, album images and song lyrics, prior to adding them to your music collection.

 

I really have to admit that I didn’t want to like AMR. I’m very picky about my music apps and as such don’t venture too far from the OS or device defaults. I don’t even do a lot with Pandora, Spotify, Shazam, Last.fm or Lala. However, I was really, very pleasantly surprised by Audials Music Rocket. I really like this app; and you should, too.

The app provides a number of different ways to do new music discovery. It provides a wish list function that will also update you when new items matching your likes are found. You can download all the music to your PC and sync it to your device and update your iTunes music library as well. This… this was a very pleasant surprise, and now has me doing music discovery from my Windows machines.

While the app is a little on the expensive side for a modern desktop app, its easily offset by all of the new music you’re going to get and find. If this isn’t part of your default Windows setup, it should be. Stop what you’re doing and download the app now. You won’t be disappointed.

DOWNLOAD Audials Music Rocket

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Popular MP3 Music Players

Time to get your groove on with these popular MP3 player downloads!

Introduction
Music is a huge motivator for me. If there’s one thing that I know I need on a daily basis, it’s a healthy injection of my tunes. In many cases, this is most easily remedied by firing up Music on my iPhone, and I’m good to go. However, this doesn’t always work, especially when you’re in an interior room or office in a Chicago high rise and you can’t get a cell signal when you don’t have any music stored on your phone.

That’s when you need a different music player download to save the day.

mp3 music players

MP3 music players on your PC or Mac can come in a few different forms and types; and it’s important that we outline the differences.

 

  • Streaming Apps – the type of player that will play music only via an active internet connection. Music is not stored or cataloged locally
  • Local Music Players – the type of player that will play only local copies of music files. Music is stored and cataloged locally

Why are they so important? That’s simple – Music downloads and sales. Streaming music player apps make it very easy for listeners to discover new music, as it functions very much like traditional radio. Listeners can find music and listen to it in a “try before you buy” environment. Some services offer purchase links to artists and songs directly within the app, the idea behind all of this, however, is sales. Both streaming services and record labels are hoping that after you find new music, you’ll either purchase a subscription to the service, or you go and buy and download the album or tracks you’re interested in.

Apple’s Steve Jobs once said that people don’t want to rent music (the streaming app model), they want to own it (the local music player model). There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Streaming services make music discovery very easy, but require an active internet connection to play content. No internet, no tunes. With a streaming service, content isn’t stored, locally, saving on local device storage. You have rights to play and listen to songs as long as you subscribe to the service. You cannot burn any music to CD’s. All music is protected by DRM (digital rights management).

With a local music player, you can play what you have, anytime, anywhere; but finding new music by new artists is risky and expensive, as you only get approximately 30 seconds or less of preview time for each song you may be interested in. If you want more, you have to buy the song; and by then, (if you don’t like it) it’s too late. You can only carry as much music with you as you have available space. You can (usually) burn any music you own to as many CD’s as you like. All music is normally DRM free.

We’ve pulled some of the best MP3 music player app downloads for your consideration. I think you’ll find these mobile app downloads to your liking; but let’s take a look and see what they are…

Spotify
spotify_logoSpotify will tell you that music is social. This is perhaps one of the most popular, streaming mp3 music downloads available on the internet today. With Spotify, you have access to literally, millions of music tracks. All you have to do is search and then play.

Music discovery is made easy with Spotify. Your music library literally spans millions of tracks, and Spotify is available on your smartphone, your PC or your Mac. Because music is social, once you’ve discovered the music, Spotify makes it easy to share what you’ve found with friends and family right over Facebook, so you’re more than likely going to be able to see and hear with others are listening to, too.

Think of Spotify as an internet radio; but with a couple of cool features. You can share what you’re listening to, and if you don’t like something, you can always skip the track and move forward in the play list. There are , however a few limitations:

  • You get unlimited serial streaming on a free account, but only for the first 6 months.
  • Spotify Free is ad supported
  • Starting on month 7, you get 2.5 hours of streaming per week (up to 10 hours a month)
  • Starting on month 7, you can only play any one track 5 times with a free account. Remaining plays can be seen by right clicking the track.

Spotify Premium ($10 per month) provides the following benefits:

  • You get the ability to shuffle through any playlist or to shuffle play ANY available track
  • Spotify Premium doesn’t display or pause music play with ads
  • If you bump into a track you don’t care for, you get the ability to skip through them all
  • Spotify Premium no longer requires an internet connection to play music. You can download any and all tracks you like and can listen to them offline, in HD audio.

DJ Mix Lite
This next MP3 music download is going to be very popular with college students and to aspiring and professional DJ’s who like to mix their own playlists for parties and such. DJ Mix Lite helps you enjoy the music you already have by synchronizing the beats of one song to another and then reducing the playback gap between them.

The app supports WAV, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis (*.ogg) files. You can line up a number of different files between dual play windows, match the beats and then string your songs together on the fly. Music mixing is automatic, but users do have some control over how things mix.

The app and interface are rather simple, and thankfully, doesn’t require any professional mixing experience as other DJ tools might. The app does come with a graphic equalizer, so you can at least control the fidelity of the music you’re mixing.

Users wishing to have a finer control of the mixing, with perhaps custom effects and fades will find DJ Mix Lite a bit too simple for their tastes, but the app is free and it’s a decent, fun app…for what it does.


Wimpy MP3 Player
There’s not a lot of call for this anymore – it’s no longer 1990-blah-blah-blah; but should you need it, it’s here. If you need to embed an MP3 file into a webpage, Wimpy MP3 Player is a decent tool.

Wimpy MP3 Player can stream an entire folder full of MP3 files from your web site. This is especially helpful if you’re a musician or DJ and are trying to sell an album or feature an artist, or a custom mix of tracks. The app now supports JavaScript and HTML5 and will play video as well as audio.

The app works on any and all devices, has custom skins and is built on pure JavaScript, CSS and HTML5 to insure compatibility with any and all web browsers, from every desktop and mobile platform. While the app is free, it does display a watermark in the player. If you wish to remove the watermark, a quick $25 payment will get you the license file you need to remove it.


Media Monkey
MM3-LogoIf you’re like me, you’ve got music files everywhere. When you have the music in you, it’s a song-a-palooza all day, every day. This is why applications like Media Monkey are so important. Media Monkey is a “complete” audio file manager. It allows you to collect all of your music, playlists, podcasts and audio files in one place.

Media Monkey will scan your computer and all connected external devices for audio files. If needed, the app will let users choose which drives to scan for content, allowing them to fully manage the scanning experience. Catalogued content can be categorized and grouped in play lists, sorted, tagged, dated, etc. and viewed in any order the user wishes.

Unlike other apps which require drives to be connected to the host all the time, files may be stored on portable devices, CD’s, on local or remote network drives, or even another computer. Media Monkey will manage the content regardless of its location. Media Monkey can rip content on CD’s and can synch it to your iDevice of choice or any other portable, audio device.

Media Monkey for Windows will also allow you to play back your MP3 files; but only has basic VCR and audio controls, including volume and equalizer. If you’ve got an Android device, you can get its companion Android player via Google Play.

Media Monkey is free, but if you’re looking for enhanced features, including on the fly audio/ video conversions for sync, DLNA sharing and burns or up to 48x on the CD/ DVD/ DB burner, or bit perfect rips, then you may want to pop for Media Monkey Gold at $24.95.


AL Song
alsong-1-9Back in the early days of Windows, if you wanted to play any kind of audio file and you wanted to play it with a really GOOD player, you used WinAmp. Today, WinAmp belongs to Radionomy, after they acquired it from AOL. It’s gone through the wringer a bit, and while it still has sparks of greatness, its looking a little long in the tooth (or llama lips…).

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path and want something with a familiar look and feel, but with more current code, then you might want to take a look at AL Song. AL Song has all the basic features of WinAmp, but it can also be used as a karaoke machine, natively.

AL Song has its own content database and can synch song lyrics directly with the song. Should you not be able to synch lyrics to your song of choice, due to the song being too new, AL Song also includes a lyric editor and a language learner. While listening to lyrics, if you bump into a section of the song that you can’t understand very well, the language learner will help you listen and carefully pull the right words from the song by creating a song loop and going back through it over and over again. It even includes a pitch meter and a speed dial so that you can slow things down to a point where you can understand what’s being said. You can even play the loop backwards, if it will help.

AL Song has a full album editor, allowing you to pull content in from different sources, edit the album metadata and artwork. The songs will be saved in SAB format. This will allow you to listen to any song by just clicking on it like on a hyperlink from a website. This means that the interface of the album that you had created is active and works like a player.

AL Song also includes an internet radio player. As long as you know the URL of the stream and have enough bandwidth to handle the broadcast as well as your other online needs, you should be ready to go. You can even broadcast your own radio stations, bandwidth permitting.


Conclusion
Music is one of the biggest motivators I’ve ever bumped into. Its primal. Its tribal. People begin and end relationships because of music likes, dislikes, shared tastes, etc. It can change and alter moods and can do so without you even knowing your listening to it. Music moves the entire planet and can define an entire historical age…

Most people that I know, not only have a great deal to say about their music, but also about their choice of MP3 player app download as well. There are some good choices here. Some of them are all about synchronization. Some are about music discovery and streaming. Others are about playing on your mobile device or on your Mac or PC. Regardless of where you stand on type of device or even type of mobile app download, you need to be able to take your music with you and then listen to it how, where and when you want.

Do you use one of these MP3 music player apps? Do you use another not covered here? I’d love to hear from you regarding what works best for you. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area and tell me about the ways you enjoy YOUR favorite music?

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What’s the Big Deal Around Streaming Services?

For artists, labels, and the service itself it’s about monetization. For consumer’s it’s about something else entirely…

Recently Taylor Swift announced that she was taking ALL of her music off of Spotify. To put it bluntly, she wasn’t happy about how she was getting paid for people listening to her music. With a new album coming out, I don’t blame her. She’s got a lot of work put into her music – a lot of feeling, blood, sweat, TEARS – and she’s not getting compensated for much of it. The labels usually take most of the money when it comes to album sales, and artists like Taylor, really only make pennies per play from a streaming service.

streaming

I was listening to MacBreak Weekly and they started talking about Beats Music and Apple, and of course, the whole issue with Taylor got brought up and NOBODY, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE on the show understands why streaming services are having such a hard time getting off the ground.

First they thought it was pricing… they chewed on that for a while and then touched on ownership of the actual songs or downloaded music… when that didn’t produce a definitive answer, well, unfortunately, I arrived at my appointment and had to turn the car radio off and didn’t get to finish the show, but no one gets why consumers are jumping all over this, and to me, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Hello…?! Mobile broadband consumption.

The issue on the consumer side has nothing to do with the labels, has nothing to do with the artists and has absolutely nothing to do with the streaming service. Honestly, they’re just like any other content store. You can pretty much get the digital music you want and like there like you can on iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. In the end, it really doesn’t matter WHERE you get it.

The big problem isn’t even ubiquitous connectivity. No one cares if the Cloud evaporates or not in this case. When you combine mobile broadband and Wi-Fi together, you’re pretty much gonna have an internet connection, especially in urban areas like New York, Chicago, L.A., or any other big city. The problem is mobile bandwidth… It’s not free like (most) Wi-Fi is.

Yes, an OK, free Wi-Fi connection is likely available on nearly every street corner in a big city or other urban area. And you may be able to survive on free Wi-Fi between Starbucks, AT&T, Xfintiy free Wi-Fi access points; or any other store, or retail POS location that offers unsecured (or known, connectable) Wi-Fi access points. The problem is that THEY aren’t ubiquitous.

Which brings us back to the whole mobile broadband thing… Streaming services rely on an internet connection to provide you with music. It used to be, back in the day, that your place of work didn’t mind you playing a WinAmp station on your PC as long as you had a set of headphones. You could listen to music at your desk at work all day long. It was great! That is, until the IT department caught wind of how much bandwidth everyone was using up while listening to music all day; and then they blocked the service… No more music for you!

…and that pretty much killed it for every other music service you might want to listen to at the office since then, too. As soon as packet sniffers at the office alerted the network admin that someone was listening to streaming music or audio, it got cut off; but again, mobile broadband fixed that…and it was ok until the Cloud Computing trend started to get real popular and mobile carriers did the same thing that the office did – started sniffing packets to see what was eating up all of the bandwidth on their network.

Once they figured out that people were streaming audio, video and other consumer content through their networks, they didn’t cut us off like the office network admins did… No, no, no… Please! This is America…

No, they did what any good and greedy company would do – they decided to kill all of the unlimited data plans and started charging users based on bandwidth limits. Then when you reached that limit, they’d either cut you off, charged you overage fees or shuttled you to a different network that throttled your service speed and you couldn’t stream content as well.

See… the problem with streaming services isn’t that consumers don’t like the content, or that they don’t like paying for it. The problem is that mobile bandwidth is expensive and your monthly allotment is extremely limited.

For example, I have 15GB of mobile bandwidth; but that allotment is shared between three different numbers on my mobile, AT&T account. Mobile streaming services use a LOT of bandwidth and pump a great deal of data over the network. Any time someone starts pushing a lot of audio or video through their handset, I can tell. I usually get a text message that I’m running low; and then, I usually call my daughter and tell her to find a Wi-Fi network to connect to or to stop listening to iTunes Radio or to Spotify or whatever else she might be doing.

My wife usually doesn’t bother with streaming content, and neither do I… I’d rather use the bandwidth or FaceTime calls or for data intensive applications like Facebook (uploading and downloading pictures and videos of my granddaughter, for example…) or something else; and then, I’m going to do my best to find a usable Wi-Fi network with some decent through-put.

So, let’s get this into some real perspective – the reason why music streaming services are having problems – at the heart of it all… the lack of customers – isn’t an issue with the artist, labels, content or even the price of the service. It has everything to do with the fact that mobile broadband is expensive and that the mobile carriers are screwing the day lights out of their customers when it comes to paying for it.

If the RIAA, MPAA and any other annoying lobbying organization wants to do the consumer a favor (so that in the end, THEY (the lobbying orgs) make some real money), have them go after the mobile carriers. They could use some pressure to either lower the price of their data plans, or perhaps they can cut deals that would make streaming audio and video free on a mobile network… I can guarantee the American consumer won’t complain about that…

That is, until they realize that the amount of money flowing back and forth between the mobile carriers, the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. could resolve the National Debt inside of a couple of weeks…

So what do you think? Are music streaming services like iTunes Radio, Spotify, Beats Music, Tidal, or Google Play Music something that you’re interested in? Do you think they are the future of the music industry? Will the music industry be able to find a consumer pricing friendly model that allows labels, artists and the streaming service to make money without pissing off the consumer because of the amount of mobile data it uses? Will they be able to find a way to make the mobile carriers cooperate, or will everything revert back to playing music from a local copy on either a PC, Mac or mobile device?

Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area below, and give me your thoughts. I know that there are a LOT of differing opinions out there, and I’d love to hear them. If you have a compelling question or point, I’d love to develop another article around it, so speak up and let me know what you have to say!

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Download and listen to your kind of music with SoundFrost

Icon-SoundFrostOver the past 15 or so years, the face of the music industry has dramatically changed. MP3 files, digital music players, peer to peer sharing networks and copyright infringement lawsuits filed by the RIAA were unknown words, items and happenings until the iPod hit the streets and remade the music industry. The same thing is happening today with applications like Pandora, Spotify and the new, iTunes Radio.  However, if indie music is more to your  less than mainstream tastes then you need to take a long hard look at SoundFrost. It’s a music searching and playback tool for Windows.

SoundFrost helps provide users with free access to music. SoundFrost searches, provides for online playback as well as download of music on PC.  The app supports nine different audio formats – MP3, WAV, FLAC, OGG, WMA, AAC, AIFF, AU, and AC3. Support for these many different formats enables you to play SoundFrost discovered music on all types of media devices: pc, laptop, tablet pc, smartphone, mobile phone, as well as your portable media player.

SF-02

SoundFrost gives users to over 10 million songs from a number of different genres and styles.  On top of that SoundFrost offers high-speed download of music files with no quality loss. The app gives users the ability to create a playlist, drag and drop songs, provides for random playback, repeat of playlist or songs and provides for a great experience. The app will also convert YouTube videos to 18 different media formats.

SoundFrost tries a great deal to look like iTunes but doesn’t come close to iTunes at all. The app is an OK music search and playback tool, but not great.  The worst part of SoundFrost is its install routine, which wants to install 3-4 different pieces of junk-ware or add-ons that most users won’t want.  You’ll have to pay close attention to what the install routine wants to do in order to insure that none of it gets installed if all you want is SoundFrost and nothing more.

download SoundFrost

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Raspberry Pi gets its own Appstore

The tiny Raspberry Pi computer is the latest device to get its own app store. The Pi Store opened for custom on 17th December contains a range of apps from games to developers’ tools. Currently there are twenty five apps available to download in the Pi Store, but this number is expected to grow significantly in the coming months.

The Pi Store is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Indie City – operators of an online marketplace for independent game developers – and Velocix. The foundation launched the store with the aim to enable “young people to share their creations with a wider audience, and maybe to make a little pocket money”. Currently all apps are free to download except Storm in a Teacup. Storm in a Teacup features 50 levels of physics based puzzles and is priced at £1.99.

The range of apps on the Pi Store is already diverse. There are five games on offer including Freeciv which is an open source empire-building strategy game. OpenTTD, the popular open source transport simulation game can also be found in the store. Despotify is a Spotify client for the Raspberry Pi and is free to download, however users need a Spotify Premium account to use the app. LibreOffice brings an extensive suite of office applications to the Raspberry Pi and is compatible with Microsoft Office files. There are also several apps intended to assist Raspberry Pi developers. The Pi Store is also intended to be the hope of “Pi-related” media including the MagPi e-magazine and tutorials produced from the community.

The Raspberry Pi has widely been regarded as a success since its launch earlier in the year. Amateur and professional developers alike have written and ported a wide range of applications to run on the system but until now there has been no obvious place to find or distribute these applications. The Pi Store changes this and will greatly simplify the experience for developers and users.

A blog post on the Raspberry Pi foundation website encourages the community of Raspberry Pi users to embrace the store. The community has been asked to submit their own projects to populate the store and to review and rate the apps already on offer. The store features a clever recommendation engine which will learn about you and your preferences as you rate, review and download apps. These recommendations will improve as you interact more and more with the store.

The Pi store itself is easily browsed and well constructed. Apps can be found through their category or through their tags. There is also useful search and sort functions in the store. All apps on the store have a content rating so users know whether the content is appropriate for the recipient. Given that the Raspberry Pi is based upon an open source platform all apps also detail their associated licences so users are aware if they can modify or redistribute the app.

To download apps from the store, Raspberry Pi users must first download the Raspberry Pi Store application. Users can download the application from Raspberry Pi’s official download page.

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Find tons of free multimedia content with Audials One

In today’s fast paced world of content consumption, finding plentiful, LEGALLY available audio and video can be a problem.  Ripping CD’s for your digital music player has become common place and acceptable, but yanking movies from DVD’s is still somewhat of a no-no. Downloading MP3’s and the like from the digital store of your choice is ok, but can be expensive if you have a large “appetite.” This is the main reason why I like Audials One. It’s a content engine for Windows.

Audials helps you find the music you’re looking for when you need and want it.  All you really need to do is enter a preferred genre, artist, album or song title, and Audials will provide you with your desired music. You can record the audio from one of the 60,000 Internet radio stations or via direct download from a website.

Whenever you stream to music from a website or separate stream player, Audials can record that music for you and then automatically save it for you as an MP3. No matter if it is a streaming service like Simfy or a music portal such as Last.fm, Grooveshark or Spotify.  Audials makes recording that music easy.

If movies are your thing, then Audials is your way to the silver plated screen.  It magically displays a button next to videos and films in any browser or stream player that lets you record it. Just click the button with your mouse and Audials automatically saves the video. Audials records movies from online video queues, media queues or even from video streaming services; and then automatically saves the subsequent files in the desired file format for all of your playback devices.

download Audials One

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