Tuesday, September 9, 2014

  From AncestryInsider Blog dated Sept 9, 2014 at http://www.ancestryinsider.org/

Family Tree Magazine’s 101 Best Genealogy Websites for 2014

The Ancestry Insider is one of Family Tree Magazine's 101 Best Websites for 2014.A friend tells me that the Ancestry Insider is honored this year on the Family Tree Magazine list of the 101 Best Genealogy Websites for 2014! I visited their website and, sure enough, there I was! There are many, many websites better than mine, so it is a pleasure to be named. The Ancestry Insider was one of the five websites mentioned in the “Best Genealogy News” category, alongside Dick Eastman, Dear Myrtle, Lisa Louise Cooke, and the RootsWeb massive set of mailing list, where you can here the news about pretty much any subject, locale, or surname.
David A. Fryxell put the list together again this year.
Click the category below to see the best websites from that category:
This is especially meaningful because the editors at Family Tree Magazine provided encouragement to me in this newsletter’s earliest stages, when I was painfully aware of my ragged writing. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them. Thank you, Family Tree Magazine!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Master Genealogist to be Discontinued

 This article can be viewed directly from Eastman Genealogical Newsletter July 29, 2014 at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/07/29/the-master-genealogist-to-be-discontinued/


 The Master Genealogist to be Discontinued

Sad news! The following announcement was made today by Bob Velke, the owner of Wholly Genes, Inc.:
I am sad to report that the decision has been made to discontinue The Master Genealogist (“TMG”).
While thousands of TMG users appreciate the program’s many powerful features that are unmatched in other software, the market for those advanced features has proved to be insufficient to support the infrastructure that is necessary to support it and continue development. A variety of my own health issues have also contributed to this decision as I have fewer opportunities to focus on the things that would be necessary to develop and market the program.
There is every reason to believe that TMG will continue to work for existing users for the foreseeable future but official support will end at the end of 2014, although we may release some more bug fixes (but no new features) before that. In the interest of those who may want to communicate their data to family members or upgrade to the latest release, we will continue to sell the full product and updates through September with the understanding that product development has been discontinued.
After the end of the year, I expect to maintain the support forum which would be available for user-to-user support. Other online support forums, including the TMG-L mailing list, are also available to users.
For 25 years, TMG has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of genealogical software and promoted the highest principles of scholarship in record-keeping and reporting. It has encouraged users to expect more from their family tree software, especially in the area of source citations, and the industry has responded by setting new and higher standards in its suite of “standard features.” To lesser degrees, programs have begun to emulate some of TMG’s other innovative features, including its powerful filtering/searching functions, flags, customizable screen layouts, shared events (i.e., witnesses), and narrative output options.
As genealogical data has become more sophisticated, researchers have been increasingly confronted with the many limitations of GEDCOM in transferring that data. For more than two decades, our GenBridge technology has demonstrated that much more complete and accurate transfers can be achieved through direct imports. Other family tree programs have implemented the GenBridge technology or developed similar direct-import strategies, resulting in the preservation of precious data for countless researchers.
I am proud of the leadership role that TMG has played in the evolution of genealogical software and I encourage TMG users to continue to press developers to raise their standards and implement features that allow researchers to do the same.
In the interest of preserving users’ data, I have released a document that details TMG’s internal file structure and I will make GenBridge available for free to developers who wish to produce a direct import from TMG insofar as their programs support the same features.
It goes without saying that this has been a painful decision and is a significant milestone for me. TMG has been a major part of my life for more than 25 years and it is not easy to let it go. I recognize too and regret the degree to which it may leave researchers uneasy about the future of their data and the prospects for their research tools. I am taking a necessary step back from the genealogical community but with the hope that my contribution to it has left researchers better equipped to accomplish their research goals.
Bob Velke
Wholly Genes, Inc.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

South Dakota Receives More Than $294K to Digitize Historic Newspapers

South Dakota Receives More Than $294K to Digitize Historic Newspapers

South Dakota has been granted more than $294,000 in federal funds to digitize 100,000 pages of historic state newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. The funds will help preserve and promote South Dakota’s rich history.

Brief details may be found in the Washington Times at http://goo.gl/UDyiCj.

Reprinted from Eastman's Genealogy Newsletter July 23, 2014 at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/07/23/south-dakota-receives-more-than-294k-to-digitize-historic-newspapers/

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Phishing, Scams, Viruses and Trojan Horses – How to Protect Your Computer

 Please see FamilySearch Blog at https://familysearch.org/blog/en/phishing-scams-viruses-trojan-horses-how-to-protect-computer/ to view this article

Phishing, Scams, Viruses and Trojan Horses – How to Protect Your Computer

Computer Virus
Trojan Horse

Also, 5 rules to help prevent the above problems.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Scanner in Your Pocket or Purse

The Scanner in Your Pocket or Purse 

Genealogists have lots of uses for scanners. We like to make digital images of information from books, court records, old maps, and even records found on microfilm. High quality portable scanners are inexpensive these days, typically $50 and up. You can occasionally find them at even lower prices if you watch the sales. However, convenience is always an issue. Do you really want to carry a portable scanner with you at all times just in case you happen to encounter something you want to digitize?
Actually, you probably already have such a scanner with you every time you leave the house.
Today’s Apple and Android smartphones typically have excellent, high-quality digital cameras built in. These make terrific scanners. Need to digitize a record in the deed books or the receipt you just received from a fast food restaurant? Make sure you have good lighting and snap a picture of it. I have been doing that for years and find it works well.
The handheld cell phone’s camera may not create images that look as good as those produced by a good flatbed scanner. You might not want to scan documents or photographs you later wish to publish in a book. However, the images are always more than “good enough” for my personal notes. I also travel a lot and I used to collect all sorts of pieces of paper as receipts from restaurants, taxi cabs, shuttle buses, and more. Keeping paper receipts for tax purposes results in a mountain of paper receipts of all shapes and sizes. I find it much easier to store and retrieve the receipts electronically. I snap a picture, file it, and then throw the paper copy away. I have read that the Internal Revenue Service actually prefers digital images when doing an audit. The IRS auditors also do not like to wrestle with hundreds of pieces of paper, they find digital images easier to work with.
For some time, I simply snapped pictures and saved them to various folders in my desktop computer’s hard drive, along with backup copies in the cloud. However, using a specialized app installed in the cell phone results in additional convenience and often also results in higher quality images. Some have automatic page edge detection so that all you save is the paper, not the surrounding background. Others create PDF files as well as the more common JPG images. Some even feature direct upload to Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote so that the user doesn’t have to remember to do that manually at a later date.
Best of all, using a cell phone camera to digitize images does not harm the paper being digitized. Most other scanners require placing the old or delicate piece of paper into the scanner and, worst of all, some scanners move the document being scanned through a series of rollers. Never attempt to do that with anything fragile! Even sending a photograph through rollers that bend the item being scanned can result in damage to the photograph. Using a cell phone’s camera avoids those problems as the cell phone never touches the item being digitized.
All of today’s “cell phone scanning” apps are much cheaper than buying an additional scanner. All the apps I am about to describe are available in the Apple iPhone and iPad App Store or in the Google Play Store for Android systems.
iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch
Of all the available cell phone “scanning” apps, my favorite is TurboScan for the iPhone. This $1.99 product allows the user to create multiple-page PDFs, as well as JPEGs. It provides edge detection and adjustable contrast settings for the camera’s settings. The images of color photographs captured by TurboScan are not high quality but does create excellent black-and-white reproductions of documents and even of faded cash register receipts. It includes a “SureScan 3x” feature which merges three exposures, an excellent tool for use in low-light situations. The results typically are much better than the simple photographs you snap without using specialized software.
Scanner Pro for iPhone and iPad is probably the “top of the line” portable scanning app. It is the most expensive of the apps I have seen with a price tag of a mighty $6.99. (Do you really still want to buy a scanner for $50 or more?) Scanner Pro includes real-time border detection for better framing as well as iCloud sync for keeping your scans backed up and in sync with your devices and direct upload to Dropbox, Google Drive and Evernote. If you need an app that does everything, Scanner Pro is probably it.
CamScanner+ is a $4.99 app for iPhone and iPad that allows the user to fax scans directly (for a fee), tag entries, collaborate, identify text and even set a passcode to secure your private documents. There’s a free version available that uses advertisements and watermarks your scans, among other limitations. I believe it works well but I abandoned FAXing years ago so I don’t use CamScanner+ . However, if you still use a FAX machine, CamScanner+ may be a good choice for you.
CamScanner+ is also available for Android devices. A free version is available that watermarks your scans and limits some of the app’s more useful features. In effect, the free version is useful as a free trial but not something you would want to keep and use regularly. Who wants scanned images with watermarks prominently displayed? You can try out the free version and, if you decide you like it, then pay $4.99 for a full-featured version without watermarks.
Mobile Document Scanner, also known as MDScanner, sells for $4.99. It features multi-page support. That is, instead of having to take 10 pictures of a 10-page document and then having to store them as 10 separate files, Mobile Document Scanner allows the user to take the 10 different pictures and then stores the result in one larger file that contains all 10 pages. It also includes edge detection of each document and a range of processing options for making text, pictures or whiteboard drawings stand out. I believe the Android user will find Mobile Document Scanner to be an excellent choice for digitizing all sorts of documents you encounter while out and about.
Whatever your choice of software, using a cell phone’s camera provides a lot of capability in a convenient package you probably already have with you. On your next trip to a library or archive that allows scanning or picture taking, try using your cell phone’s camera. I suspect you will like the results.

--Courtesy of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter  15 June 2014

Who Do You Think You Are TV series on TLC July 23 8 pm EDT

Who Do You Think You Are?’s Fifth Season on U.S. television Premieres on July 23

TLC Network has signed on for another season of Shed Media US-produced Who Do You Think You Are?, will return with six new episodes this summer. The series, which delves into the ancestral history of public figures and celebrities, will feature contributors including Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lauren Graham, Kelsey Grammer, Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen McAdams, and Cynthia Nixon.
The fifth season premieres on July 23 at 9 p.m. EST/PST. Check your local listings for the channel near you.

--Courtesty of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter dated 15 June 2014 at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/06/14/who-do-you-think-you-ares-fifth-season-on-u-s-television-premieres-on-july-23/

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Death of Microfilm -- Dick Eastman Post 30 May 2014

The Death of Microfilm [not if the original agreements do not allow the film to be digitized (reproduced)!]

Genealogists love microfilm. Visit any genealogy library anywhere, and you will see genealogists in darkened rooms, hunched over microfilm viewers, trying to solve the puzzles of their family trees. I have taken several pictures of genealogists sitting at rows of microfilm readers. However, I suspect that within ten years those pictures will become collectors’ items, recalling an era that exists only as distant memories in the minds of “the old-timers.” You see, microfilm and microfiche are about to disappear.
Many of the manufacturers of microfilm and microfiche equipment have already disappeared or else have switched their production lines to other products.
The problem is economics: microfilm is expensive. Those who wish to preserve data find it faster, easier, and cheaper to scan documents on computer scanners and then make the information available as disk images than it is to do the same thing on microfilm. Hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies, and others have already made the switch from microfilm to digital imaging. Genealogists are among the very few still using microfilm and even that number is dropping rapidly.
The demand for microfilm and microfiche equipment is dwindling. Without demand, manufacturers no longer can afford to manufacture the necessary equipment. Microfilm cameras and viewers are becoming as uncommon as buggy whips.
Microfilm cameras are almost impossible to purchase today, except perhaps for used units on eBay or at some garage sale. Twenty years ago, Bell and Howell manufactured thousands of microfilm cameras each year. Ten years ago, production had dropped to hundreds per year. Since then, the company has ceased manufacturing microfilm cameras and dropped them from the product catalog, all because of decreasing sales. Most of Bell and Howell’s competitors have also stopped manufacturing microfilm and microfiche equipment.
Without cameras, no one is going to be producing new microfilms. We genealogists are going to be limited to the microfilms that were filmed years ago. However, this assumes that microfilm copying equipment is still available. The fact is that even that even microfilm duplication equipment is disappearing. The duplication equipment already in place requires maintenance and occasional spare parts. Those parts are rapidly becoming unavailable.
Of course, in order to make copies, you also must be able to purchase rolls of unexposed film. I am told that supplies of new film is also disappearing as demand drops. All the major manufacturers of microfilm have dropped out of that business although a few specialty manufacturers still sell new microfilm. Prices for unexposed rolls of microfilm are now four times the price of a few years ago, or higher.
Within a decade, it will be difficult or perhaps impossible to obtain a copy of an old microfilm, even to replace a worn-out copy of a microfilm you already own. Nobody will have the equipment or the rolls of unexposed film with which to make copies!
In addition, making a copy of a microfilm introduces fuzziness, or what the engineers call “visual noise.” Then, making a copy of that copy introduces further loss of image; copying that copy adds still more, and so on and so forth. However, a copy of a digital image is identical to the original. You can make copies of copies of copies of digital images, and each new image is identical to the original with no signal loss. Making and copying digital images is faster, more cost-effective, and easier than doing the same with microfilm.
For years, genealogists have proclaimed that digital images will never replace microfilm because “the media (computer disks, tapes, etc.) doesn’t last long.” CD-ROM disks last only 25 years or so. Floppies don’t even last that long.
The genealogists who make those claims are ignoring one very simple and cost-effective solution: copy the images to new, fresh media every few years. Remember that each digital copy is identical to the original, unlike microfilm. A digital copy of a copy of a copy is still as good as the original.
With images stored on disk, it is almost trivial to copy the images to new disks periodically. If technology changes, such as DVD disks replacing CD disks or Blu-ray disks replacing DVD disks, the old images are simply copied to new media. If file formats change, the old formats are easily converted to whatever new formats become popular.
With that process in place, the life expectancy of digital images becomes almost infinite. In fact, any well-managed data center already makes backup copies on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. If the images are available online, they are already being copied regularly to (new) backup copies. Who cares about the life expectancy of the original disks when you always have a fresh copy on a new disk?
Any archive charged with storing a collection of images will find the periodic copying of digital images to be much cheaper than trying to maintain a large collection of microfilm images. In short, digital imaging ensures that future generations can have the same access that you and I enjoy, something not possible with microfilms.
The next equipment to disappear will be microfilm viewers.
Go to any large genealogy library today, and you will still see rows of microfilm viewers. I hope those libraries take good care of them. Ten or twenty years ago several major companies produced microfilm and microfiche viewers. Several small companies still manufacture viewers today although most of the “big names” in the business have dropped out. The small specialty manufacturers of today cannot depend on genealogists alone for future sales. Sooner or later, they will also drop out as their customer base disappears. I am guessing that you will not be able to purchase a new microfilm viewer ten years from now. Even worse, you won’t even be able to purchase spare parts for the worn-out units your library already owns.
Within the genealogy world, FamilySearch, an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), has traditionally been the biggest user of microfilm equipment. With this huge investment already made in microfilm, you might expect the LDS Church to continue using microfilm forever. That’s not true, according to numerous announcements made in recent years. FamilySearch is already moving away from microfilm, replacing it as fast as possible with digital images, mostly made from the old microfilms.
The printed books in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City are also being copied to digital images whenever copyright agreements with the authors allow. The result is that many more books are now available (by looking on computer screens) than ever before. The Library simply isn’t big enough to store all the printed copies but storage space is almost a non-issue with digital versions. Even better, the books may be viewed by patrons many thousands of miles away, again where copyright agreements allow.
To be sure, the LDS Church still owns quite few microfilm cameras but no longer uses them to film old records at various locations around the world. Nobody has been able to purchase new cameras for years. The units that were in use kept wearing out, and the original manufacturers no longer sell spare parts. For a while the Mormon Church even contracted with small machine shops to make spare parts for the cameras, but that soon became cost-ineffective.
The LDS Church has now moved to digital imaging. The focus has shifted from microfilm to making digital images on site – in the original repositories – with no microfilm involved. The acquisition teams use a laptop PC and a scanner in much the same manner as you and I do at home, although the scanner is more sophisticated and ruggedized than the typical unit sold to consumers.
A separate activity involves the conversion of the millions of reels of existing microfilm created over the years by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to digital images. That effort has been underway for several years.
To be sure, millions of rolls of microfilm already exist, and they will not disappear overnight. We will continue to see microfilm readers in libraries for several more years. However, as new microfilms become unavailable, replacements of existing microfilms also become unavailable. As the reels of microfilm become scratched from use, replacements will not be available. As the microfilm viewers wear out and replacements are no longer available, the result will be inevitable.
Luckily, digital images are faster, more cost-effective, cheaper, and more practical. With periodic copying, digital images have infinite “shelf life.” They are also easier to “send” to Family History Centers around the world and to other libraries.
The price of a new PC for use by library patrons has now dropped to under $500 while a new microfilm viewer designed for heavy-duty library usage, if you can find one, costs $1,000 or more. Even better, it is relatively cheap to allow library patrons to view digital images from their homes, something that is much more difficult with microfilm. The superior quality and availability, along with the lower cost of production, maintenance, and duplication, are a boon to us genealogists as well as those who follow in our footsteps.
Within a few years, some of us will be telling newcomers, “I remember the good old days when we had to hand-crank microfilm viewers. There was none of this modern stuff where everything appeared on a computer screen.”
Would you please hand me my slippers and cane? I’m going to go sit in my rocking chair and look at my old (digital) pictures of genealogists sitting at rows of microfilm readers.


In an era of digitization, why does NARA continue to microfilm records?
Northeast Document Preservation Center:
Heritage Archives archival microfilm company: Why Microfilm?
A simple Google search shows dozens of companies selling microfilm, scanners, and related supplies. Millions of rolls of microfilm exist in thousands of archives throughout the world. Microfilm isn’t going to disappear “in a few years.”
One holdup to this disappearance of microfilm is whether the film owners have rights to publish records in a different format. It’s possible a contract FamilySearch signed 40 years ago only allows for microfilm reproduction. If the archive isn’t willing to negotiate a new contract, the only way to view those records externally may be to view the film copy. Didn’t something similar happen with the old FamilySearch dos program and the Scotland church records?
You mention the cost savings of digital, but fail to address the cost to convert existing microfilm records to digital. “A separate activity involves the conversion of the millions of reels of existing microfilm created over the years by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to digital images. That effort has ben underway for several years.” The deep pockets of LDS enable that to be undertaken. Most small to mid-size public institutions do not have the time, money, personnel or resources to undertake that scale of a project.
What is the process to convert microfilm to a digital image, assuming the paper record is no longer available?
I just hope that all the records that currently are only available on microfilm at the smaller repositories – like county departments – get digitized before the ability to read the documents disappears. We recently looked for records at the local Register of Wills – who had the microfilm but no reader, as their old reader “broke.” Fortunately, the local library still has a reader (& it’s a small town, so it was OK to take the microfilm from one building to another). Unfortunately, before it broke, the old Register’s reader had badly scratched the emulsion on the film. No one seemed to know if the records/film had been digitized.
Couple of issues here. One is the challange of getting documents now onto digitized media from either where the originals are held or copies. It is not yet clear if a lot of libraries are going to either convert their holdings, replace the holdings with digital images or just not do either and eventialy withdraw the microfilm (and the things on it) from circulation because the present equipment becomes unrepairable.
There are cases (don’t ask it will cause trouble) where institutions said they copied stuff to microfilm but don’t seem to have done so as it doesn’t appear to exist and then the originals managed to get “recycled”. I shouldn’t even get into the issue of things like developed x-ray film (and other types of film) being processed to reclaim the silver.
Sorry about all the negative waves. Its been an interesting couple of weeks with things like a church cemetery with a beautiful website but you are not going to be allowed to view the sacrimental records (baptism as alternative or supportive of birth records with “sponsors” who could be relatives/actual records of marriages with such little things like witnesses and sometimes parents) and the “little” challenge that the church seems not to have plot cards for a lot of plots (which you can’t look at in any case because two whole families with different surnames are in there per the town but as there are no headstones, the people are no in the website for the cemetery….arrrrgh
Dick, from the standpoint of technological advancement, your argument makes sense. However, as the assistant director at a medium-sized library with a very representative genealogy/local history collection, including microfilm of every extant newspaper published in our community, our observation is that it’s not about technology, but digital rights. We own, on microfilm, newspaper images for our community dating back to the mid-1870s. If we didn’t have microfilm, our institution would be at the mercy of vendors offering access (not ownership) to those images, at a price unaffordable to us, and generally to the great majority of public libraries, even if we grouped ourselves together into consortia to pool resources. It should also be noted that, while images for many pre-1923 newspapers are available, and many late-20th century papers were born digital and print, digital images from the period in between are often scarce. So, be careful what you wish for–while the technology exists to ease microform technology into the museum, the economic model has yet to evolve for access to a significant segment of digital content, for mid-20th century newspapers especially, at a reasonable cost to genealogists.
    Don, what you described is probably the biggest problem of all today with microfilm: the legal issues.
    The technical issues are clear and most everyone I talk to in the microfilm business tells similar stories: microfilm is going away. I have discussed this with senior officials at FamilySearch, as well as with people at the National Archives and Records Administration, The National Archives of Great Britain, NewsBank, (a company that is digitizing thousands of old newspaper images that are on microfilm or on the original paper), ProQuest (another company that is digitizing thousands of old newspaper images that are on microfilm or still on the original paper), Footnote (later acquired by Ancestry.com and re-named Fold3, a company that is digitizing millions of old documents from both paper and microfilm), at the American Antiquarian Society (believed to be the largest repository of historic American newspapers) and from a company I won’t name that contracts microfilm conversion work for most of the other organizations I just mentioned. All of them tell similar stories about the obsolescence of microfilm.
    Some predict that new rolls of blank microfilm will become unavailable within five years while other believe it will be twenty years. Whatever number you choose to believe, the results are the same.
    The technology solution is simple but the legal complexities confuse me. There are all sorts of concerns about copyrights and about contractual issues between the companies that made the original microfilms and the organizations that hired them to do so. I am not an attorney so I won’t write about the legal issues. However, I am aware that it is a serious problem, especially for those who do not hold the rights to reproduce the microfilms they already own.
This period of transition from microfilm to online digital versions of historical records is presenting problems for researchers who rely heavily on records that seem to be low priority to be digitized and are paying steeper film rental fees to the Family History Library just as their local Family History Centers have stopped maintaining their viewers. If you need a viewer that takes a high-magnification lens, you’re even more out of luck — two out of the three viewers at my FHC that do this weren’t functioning on my last visits; the one remaining machine is the only one from which patrons can scan or print record copies, so patrons must compete for that one machine. With several dozen films on permanent loan that I can’t move from that FHC to one with working equipment and limited hours for access, it’s challenging to carry out one’s own research, not to mention trying to help others. Digitization can’t come soon enough, and in the meantime, Family History Centers have a responsibility to maintain adequate viewer resources so patrons can actually use the microfilms they’ve paid for.
Our library holds over 1,500 rolls of microfilm. We bought 2 digital readers last year. We won’t be getting rid of anything for the forseeable future.
While you joke about the desire to crank through a microfilm, I’d much rather have that option than viewing browse only digital images on my home computer. I can locate an index in the middle of a collection very quickly with microfilm. The same process is painfully long when guessing at the location and waiting for the screen to refresh as I page through the digital version. Until all the digital collections are indexed, I’ll happily continue to use microfilm.
I agree with Nancy. Whizzing through a microfilm on a reader to get to the exact page is so much easier than the “hunt and peck” method of locating that page on the computer. On the other hand, I was at the Family History Library recently and the two microfilms I needed were already being used by others. I was so happy to find those films had been digitized, and that I could use the computer to read the records, even though it was not as fast as using the microfilm reader.


LOCATION: From I-29, take Brookings Exit and then west, through 2 stop lights to 22nd Ave S stop light, then turn left going south onto 22nd. On the left or east side of 22nd, just south of the Hospital, turn left into parking lot next -- Click on Location above or on this link for Online map

Nearby eateries-- Click Here

Click on and drag the map below to see the other eateries. Hover over a marker to see the names of the eateries. The workshop is just south of the pink area and north of Larson Park--turn in just north of Yorkshire Drive.

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