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High Definition Radio and New Content Alternatives 305

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-to-buy-a-wider-radio dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Many people are aware that satellite radio is a viable consumer option thanks to massive marketing campaigns. What many people do not know is that an alternative, High Definition Radio, exists in most major US markets. IBM DeveloperWorks explains how HD Radio works and why the masses may soon be scrambling to adopt this technology and expand it to alternative content as fast as possible."
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High Definition Radio and New Content Alternatives

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  • by porkUpine (623110) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:56PM (#15482013)
    But it is still BLOATED with commercials!!! Give me my XM @ $9.95 a month with no (or VERY limited) commercials any day!
    • by EL_mal0 (777947) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:21PM (#15482252)

      One day, your precious (almost) commercial-free satellite radio content will go the way of commercial-free cable TV content. Prices will go up, and amount of content will go down owinf to commercials creep in "to pay the bills".

      Looks into crystal ball
      I predict that in the not-too distant future satellite radio stations will be just like their terrestrial ancestors.

      • One day, your precious (almost) commercial-free satellite radio content will go the way of commercial-free cable TV content. Prices will go up, and amount of content will go down owinf to commercials creep in "to pay the bills".

        I wish I had mod points. When I buy a newspaper or magazine, I get ads. When I pay for cable, I get ads. When my brother in law pays for AOL, he gets ads. Go to the Movies recently? Yep, you pay at the door and then still get ads. Ok, ok, at least public radio and TV don't have
        • You're right. There's a good chance that ads will show up in increasing numbers on satellite radio in the future. It won't be soon -- XM tried it, with less than 5 minutes per hour of ads, and even those were mostly for their own programming, and quickly took them off of all the music stations.

          But what's your point in pointing this out? Does the fact that things may change in the future somehow make XM or Sirius a less attractive proposition now?

          If it gets to the point where they're no longer worth the s
          • Re:Your point? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by EL_mal0 (777947)

            But what's your point in pointing this out? Does the fact that things may change in the future somehow make XM or Sirius a less attractive proposition now?

            The innevitable encroachment of commercials to sattelite radio doesn't change the fact that it's great now. However, the point of bringing it up is that people use the lack of mind-numbing commercials as the major selling point of sattelite radio (see original post). I'd bet that in the future, when commercials have discovered and populated this frontie

    • by multisync (218450)
      Give me Radio Paradise [radioparadise.com]: commercial free, listener supported and a great format. I use Streamripper [sourceforge.net] to record it and play back later in the car.
    • But it is still BLOATED with commercials!!! Give me my XM @ $9.95 a month with no (or VERY limited) commercials any day!

      a) Think that's gonna last forever? XM is several billion in the hole, and neither them nor Sirius has had a profitable quarter yet. Right now, they're doing a US-Soviet Union style cold war, spending like drunken Republicans until one of them goes bankrupt. At that time, the winner will be able to capture the whole market, and will then start raising subscription fees, and having limite

      • by jerw134 (409531) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @04:52PM (#15482924)
        I'm quite interested in HD Radio's "bitstreams 4-6 times the size" of satellite. On XM, the average bitrate of a music channel is 40kbps. HD Radio (IBOC) offers a total bitrate of 96kbps per station. So right there, you're nowhere near 4-6 times the bitrate of satellite. Add to that the fact that the HD Radio signal will be split most of the time into two or even three chunks for the HD2 and HD3 streams, and that bandwidth is looking pretty small. Plus, XM isn't working on surround sound, they already have it. It's called XM HD Surround, and it's available on a few channels using receivers with the proper decoder.

        So, on an HD Radio station that is not serving up any subchannels, the sound quality can easily blow away satellite. But once you start adding the HD2 and HD3 subchannels to the mix, which most stations will do, the sound quality argument falls apart.
        • by Shelled (81123)
          "So, on an HD Radio station that is not serving up any subchannels, the sound quality can easily blow away satellite."

          Faint praise. In a world in which most music lovers listen to low or no compression audio through decent electronics, we in the radio industry are rushing to provide an sonic experience I avoid on-line. As an industry we're slitting our own throats, and doing it for no other reason than the ability to program more channels of generice tripe in dramatically lower audio quality within the sam

        • I'm quite interested in HD Radio's "bitstreams 4-6 times the size" of satellite. On XM, the average bitrate of a music channel is 40kbps. HD Radio (IBOC) offers a total bitrate of 96kbps per station. So right there, you're nowhere near 4-6 times the bitrate of satellite. Add to that the fact that the HD Radio signal will be split most of the time into two or even three chunks for the HD2 and HD3 streams, and that bandwidth is looking pretty small.

          "Average bitrate", eh? How about some actual numbers, then?

      • HD Radio delivers 96Kbps at it's best right now. The all digital mode promises more, but we've got to get folks to give up their analog radios first. That's gonna take a really long time. Long enough that the issue will remain relevant where the viability of both new technologies is concerned.

        Additionally, most stations are giving up the higher 96Kbps bitrates in trade for multiple streams that range from 32Kbps to 64Kbps. This is on par with Satellite and does not differentate the two in a significant way.

  • by mustafap (452510) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:56PM (#15482019) Homepage
    Another nail in the coffin of Standard English. We might as well start speaking C++.
  • by Churla (936633) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:56PM (#15482021)
    The only stations in the DFW market I've heard utter a peep about digital radio are the ones that are all already owned by the big conglomerate media powerhouses. I don't think TFAs concept of this helping out any kind of independent will gain any traction.

    On the other hand it is a fully digital signal without paying a monthly subscription fee.
    • In the Boise, ID market, KBSX and KBSU are digital. KBSS in Sun Valley is digital, too. They're all public radio, so maybe your local public radio stations are digital, too. They didn't make a big fuss about it here for some reason.

      Of course, NPR in glorious HD Radio is...well...talk.

      -h-
      • That's another point for why I don't bother with HD radio or XM/Sirrus. As I mentioned to my wife once. I listen to one station, it's local, and it's all talk. Why exactly do I need any of this other technology?

        • You don't, you won't buy it, and frankly, neither will a whole lot of other people.

          I can't even think of the last time I intentionally bought a (FM, broadcast band) radio. I'm almost certain that most of my non-techie friends probably can't; to most people, radios are things that come built-in to your car, or your CD player, or your clock radio, or occasionally separately in some small package you can carry around. But generally they're cheap, built-in devices.

          I don't think you're going to get people to spe
      • Of course, NPR in glorious HD Radio is...well...talk.

        Oh, that's just the start... I work for an all-news/talk NPR station that is now in HD, and we're looking at HD2 - giving digital multicasting, data streaming, etc... So, tune into us for long in-depth reporting, get bored when we start fundraising, so press a button and a buffered traffic and weather report comes out (updated every 5 minutes, say), and then return seamlessly to the show.

  • DAB? DRM? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kitsune818 (927302) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:57PM (#15482022)
    I don't think digital radio is a very big "surprise" to Europeans. There are over 50 DAB channels in London alone. 30 countries use it IIRC..

    Why the US has to be different once again I haven't figured out.
    • DAB has had no impact on the radio market though.

      The promise of better quality didn't happen because the stations all overcompressed so much a lot of their stuff is on a par with AM.

      Digital radio is also available cheaper via DTT (£40 for a TV receiver that does radio, vs. £80 for just a radio..or you can stick with £5 for your FM radio that you probably have already).

      Not met anyone with a DAB set yet.. they won't get wide adoption until they're as cheap as standard radios.
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:59PM (#15482036) Homepage Journal
    I don't see the motivation for HD radio right now - the receivers are WAY to expensive for what you get.

    If you are in your car, you won't be able to tell the difference between HD Radio and plain-old FM Multiplex (unless your car is so well soundproofed that it poses a danger to everyone else on the road because you cannot hear horns/emergency vehicles/etc.)

    If you are at home, for the cost of an HD setup you can get a HELL of a lot of music, or listen to sat radio.

    Now, *IF* they were *replacing* radio stations with a pure digital block, then I could begin to see the advantage.

    But I fear this will be just like HDTV - the broadcasters will use it to transmit FIVE TIMES THE COMMERCIALS! not actually transmit really good content.

    Now, *if* auto makers start shipping HD radio in cars by default (or at least as part of the top of the line radio systems)....
    • If you are in your car, you won't be able to tell the difference between HD Radio and plain-old FM Multiplex (unless your car is so well soundproofed that it poses a danger to everyone else on the road because you cannot hear horns/emergency vehicles/etc.)

      Not true - in addition to higher quality audio and the potential for surround sound, HD Radio has error checking built in, so you don't get multipath interference effects (picket-fencing).

      Now, *IF* they were *replacing* radio stations with a pure digit

  • by sesshomaru (173381) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:00PM (#15482044) Journal
    Shouldn't that be "High Fidelity Radio?"

    Definition: Sharpness of an image (as seen by the clarity of detail) formed by an optical system. Definitions of definition on the Web [google.com]

    Fidelity: A term used to describe the accuracy of recording, reproduction, or general quality of audio processing. Definitions of fidelity on the Web [google.com]

    • Yeah, well, we got WiFi, so HD radio seems like a minor mistake. Besides, it's too late now...
    • Oooh! Hi-fi radio...waitaminute!
    • Shouldn't that be "High Fidelity Radio?"

      Sess, Baby... can I call you "Sess"?... anyway... Sess... what you clearly don't understand here is that "fidelity" is so nineteen-sixties. This is a new age! And we're not talking Aquarius. Har! Sess, Baby... the consumer is hip and modern. Its the Information Age and they want new, new, new. "High definition" is a term they already know. It's all the rage in television and that's just the bleeding-edge, early adopter, high-profit target in consumer electron

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @04:09PM (#15482626)
      They just grabbed the nearest buzzword and tossed it in front of "radio". Just lucky it didn't end up being "AJAX radio".
    • Shouldn't that be "High Fidelity Radio?"

      Marketers market, they know little to nothing about what they are marketing.

      They came up with "High Definition Radio" because it sounded cool like "High Definition TV".

      Kinda like how many of the analog speakers in the 80s and 90s were marketed as "digital" when they were not.

  • I won't pay for anything until I get Launchcast in my car. Having the ability to access tons of stations and rate songs is where its at. If I don't like a song... *poof* I'll never hear it again! It's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Also, I can have a mix of music from rock to classical on one station. Satellite and HD radio can't do that.

    http://psychicfreaks.com/ [psychicfreaks.com]
    • Launchcast is a great system. I used to run it almost constantly at my old job. Always heard music I liked, or new music that fit my preferences, after a few months I rarely had to rate a song/albumn/artist to 0.

      -Rick
  • Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:02PM (#15482058)
    What many people do not know is that an alternative, High Definition Radio [GC], exists in most major US markets.

    People aren't buying satillite for higher quality (although it IS), they are buying it for content (O&A, Stern, etc) and for commercial free music. Not just commerical free, but typically genres that are totally ignored by traditional radio and in a censor free format.
    • Re:Not really (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonnythan (79727)
      XM and Sirius music stations are *lower* quality than FM. This is widely known.

      The sound quality is roughly on par with 96kbps MP3. Comparing to a 128kbps MP3 makes it obvious that the MP3 has higher sound quality.
      • So is DAB. And 'HD' Radio probably will be too.

        Which one do you think the broadcasters will do?

        1. Transmit the same number of channels at much higher quality.
        2. Transmit 10* as many channels at the same or lower quality allowing them to massively increase their advertising revenue for negligible cost.

        We've been through this is europe already. The answer is 2.
      • XM and Sirius music stations are *lower* quality than FM. This is widely known.

        The sound quality is roughly on par with 96kbps MP3. Comparing to a 128kbps MP3 makes it obvious that the MP3 has higher sound quality.

        Worse than that, particularly the XM/Sirius talk stations. They know they can get away with a much lower bitrate, so they do - between 12-24 kbps.

  • Yay! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    CD quality commericals, I can't wait. I'm still waiting for HD Radio - DRM Edition.
  • Bitrate (Score:3, Informative)

    by ncw (59013) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:04PM (#15482072) Homepage

    That article was all very interesting in a "how do I squeeze yet another subcarrier in" sort of way, but it didn't actually mention what bitrate it is going to transmitted did it?

    Wikipedia has this to say which clears it up a bit

    In hybrid mode, the AM version can carry 36 kilobits per second of data for the main audio channel, while FM stations can carry information at 96 kbit/s. HD Radio can also be used to carry multiple distinct audio services, called multicasting but actually more like multiplexing. Secondary channels, such as for weather, traffic, or a radio reading service, can be added this way, though it may reduce the audio quality of all channels on a station. Datacasting is also possible, and RDS-like metadata about the program and station are included in the standard. Stations may eventually go all-digital, meaning they could no longer be heard on a regular radio.
    Interesting to preserve backwards compatibility, but not as technically innovative as DAB...
  • If you're going to be buying a new radio anyway, you might as well get Sirius satellite radio [sirius.com].

    I have 67 channels of commercial-free music, plus tons of non-music entertainment channels, comedy, sports and other channels at my fingertips. I trust them to provide worthwhile content much more than I trust Clear Channel.

  • by sootman (158191) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:04PM (#15482083) Homepage Journal
    I bet HD radio will be as much of a sensation as SACDs, with adoption rates possibly greater than MiniDisc and DAT combined!
    • Given the Billions DAT made as a professional studio medium, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

      To all the DAT bashers out there, get a clue, DAT was basically the DLT or LTO or of the Pro audio world for over a decade. Just because you weren't jamming to it in paren't basement, doesn't mean it was a failure anymore than "Tape is Dead," get it? Back on topic however, I predict exactly 0 demand for higher definition radio. FM is fine by 90+% of the population. In fact I think a more apt quip might be, I pr

  • New Technology (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bym051d (980242)
    Same crappy programming. Can't they figure out, it's not the sound quality of satellite radio, it's the programming.
  • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:08PM (#15482116)
    See, even the Slashdot editors fell for the "HD Radio" scam. The "HD" doesn't stand for anything, much less "High Definition". In fact in-band digital radio sounds much worse than analog FM radio. The CODEC sounds so bad that the FCC came close to not approving it. Only strong lobbying by iBiquity, the holders of the patents on the CODEC, convinced the FCC to approve.

    HD Radio has many many problems, notably that its sideband transmission scheme crowds out adjacent low-power FM stations. Basically, it's Clear Channel's master plan to finally kill off the local competition. Oh, and guess who is a major investor in iBiquity and its patent portfolio? Yeah, Clear Channel.

    So have fun with your "HD" Radio. It's a great way to crowd three times as many commercials and mindless corporate pop music crap into the same FM band, while destroying local stations, implementing DRM, and removing fair-use rights. Joy!
    • Speaking of crowding out the low-power FM stations, all of the short-range iPod and Satellite FM transmitters are REALLY getting on my nerves. I have a two-hour-each-way drive each week, and it's hard enough listening to my chosen stations over that range of highway without the increasingly common 5-30 second interruptions by some pop music crap that happens to be driving along near my car.

      Pretty soon, the usefulness of broadcast radio will be gone, and everyone will *have* to subscribe to some DRM'ed d

      • Buy your own iPod transmitter and click on "Psycho shower scene sound.mp3" in your iPod every time you hear BS.
        • You've got a milliwatt transmitter. They've got a milliwatt transmitter. Theirs is 1m from the antenna, yours is 10m from the antenna.

          You could rig an illegal high-power transmitter. That'd be quite funny - iPirate Radio!

    • You are thinking about the applications of the original codec at AM IBOC rates, which have been resolved. The FM codec never had a problem because of the higher data rates.

      There are other interesting aspects of HD Radio as well. NPR is using the HD radio technology on FM mainly to provide multiple audio streams per station to meet the needs of different audiences, rather than enhanced audio quality.
    • HD Radio has many many problems, notably that its sideband transmission scheme crowds out adjacent low-power FM stations. Basically, it's Clear Channel's master plan to finally kill off the local competition. Oh, and guess who is a major investor in iBiquity and its patent portfolio? Yeah, Clear Channel.

      When I read HD Radio being described as something not many people know about, I figured it must be because the author has the luck of not listening to any Clear Channel radio stations. Little wonder Clear

  • HD does not matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mullen (14656) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:11PM (#15482155)
    HD radio does not matter because the content still sucks. 18 minutes of commercials during 60 minutes of play is not good, no matter how good it sounds.

    Satellite is still better because I can get it anywhere in the US, Canada and Northern Mexico (Assuming you are in the US), you never have to hunt for "good" stations while on the road, there are no or very few commercials (Howard Stern is 3 or 6 minutes per hour, if that) and the content is MUCH MUCH better.

    The problem is that normal radio or HD radio is pretty much broadcasting crap. No matter how good it sounds, it is still crap.
    • Wow, you pay $15 a month to get commercial-free radio but Howard Stern still has commercials? That sucks.
      • by Mullen (14656)
        3 or 6 minutes of commericals per hour, if that (That's worst case). It is really less than that and the guy has to take a break.

        I don't think much of it to be honest and I listen every day.

        It's also $13 per month not $15.
    • Satellite is still better because I can get it anywhere in the US, Canada and Northern Mexico (Assuming you are in the US), you never have to hunt for "good" stations while on the road, there are no or very few commercials (Howard Stern is 3 or 6 minutes per hour, if that) and the content is MUCH MUCH better.

      The problem is that normal radio or HD radio is pretty much broadcasting crap. No matter how good it sounds, it is still crap.


      There's usually one or two stations in an area that play decent content with
      • "Also, I like the fact that with normal radio I can hear local news, events, sports, traffic, whatever."

        It's a good thing that you'll still have your normal radio around, then, isn't it? I don't go to CNN to hear my local news, and I don't go to XM to hear local traffic and weather.

        "If you want just music out of your radio, you can get an iPod for really cheap these days."

        Let me know how often that iPod plays a song you haven't heard before, or a song you've managed to completely forget about. Or any song
  • As noted in TFA, the UK have plunged into DAB for digital radio provision - however as enthusiastic for "HD Radio" as the article is, I doubt that the UK [or the rest of Europe for that matter] will switch to this IBOC malarky.

    It has taken a lot of effort to get people to make the jump to digital [for both radio and tv...], and switching to yet another format simply won't work, if it requires new things for people to buy.

    OFCOM [the UK version of the FCC, if you like] seems to be leaning towards possibly int
  • uh-huh, sure. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bunions (970377) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:15PM (#15482196)
    from TFA: "Because HD radio builds on existing listening habits, and requires only a modest hardware upgrade, it could be the vehicle for the dissemination of truly alternative programming."

    They said the same thing about cable TV.

    As long as the FCC keeps such a tight rein on who gets to set up a transmitter, we'll always have the same schlock on the radio, HD or otherwise.
    • They said the same thing about cable TV.

      Certainly cable isn't the greatest, but don't you think it has gone a long way towards giving people more choice? Granted, most of cable is dominated by big companies (who also buy out the smaller ones that come along), but most people went from 3-4 channels in the 60s to 40 or so channels in the 80s, and now with digital cable, 100+. You might think 90% are crap, but you have a greater number left in that 10% these days.

      That said, I gave up cable a year ago and got
  • Downside to HD Radio (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mean Variance (913229) <mean.variance@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:15PM (#15482197)
    I haven't heard HD (as it's too inconvenient at this point to bother). However, I follow a Usenet group that is dominated mostly by radio engineers - along with the typical set of Usenet freaks. The majority of opinions is that it's an expensive, hyped technology under the control of a single company, iBiquity, that is wooing the radio conglomerates without providing much of a real benefit.

    In addition, there is apparently a big problem with interference, referred to as "hash" by the posters.

    http://groups.google.com/group/ba.broadcast/search ?group=ba.broadcast&q=iboc [google.com]

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:16PM (#15482202)
    Somehow paying $10 or $15 a month just to get radio (even if it is commercial free and digital) seems like another recurring cost I can live without.

    I imagine there's enough people that think like me to make any free digital radio the defacto standard/most popular.
     
    • There's ~12M people (and increasing) that would disagree with you. The $12.95/mo I spend on my Sirius is well worth the selection of channels I can get anywhere I drive. The free streaming over the web is is nice too.
  • Ummm.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by porkUpine (623110)
    Will they be able to say "FUCK" now that it's digital? :)
    • That's another good thing about satellite.

      Although the FCC doesn't think people are strong enough to hear an impolite word, neither Sirius and XM will destroy a good song by bleeping out words.

  • HD radio? Will I be able to hear the pixels with my Everglide S500 headphones? [slashdot.org]
  • Coming when? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rueger (210566) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @03:32PM (#15482326) Homepage
    Thus far HD radio (yes, the "HD" stands for nothing, not "High Definition") has been a bomb because

    a) it's nearly impossible to buy an HD Radio
    b) the ones that you can find are several hundred dollars
    c) XM and Sirius got there first
    d) the quality is not necessarily better enough to interest people
    e) There are significant reception and quality problems.

    Sure, the broadcast trades keep talking about HD as The Next Big Thing, but really no-one has figured how to sell it to the public. For 95% of people FM is more than OK, and besides, everyone already has an FM radio that has more or less the same programming.

    Heck, even HD radio owners aren't all that impressed [hear2.com].

    As has been pointed out by some commentators [hear2.com]:

    Fundamentally, everybody needs to understand that folks generally don't buy a radio. They buy things that contain radios. Clocks, alarms, cars, CD players, the stray mp3 player, you name it.
  • Satalite radio is not gaining popularity because it's digital, no one really cares that it's digital. The sound quality is the same as a strong FM signal.

    What they care about is that:
    1. Music is commercial free
    2. The content is very well grouped and partitioned by genre and not TOP 40.
    3. The audio is uncensored.

    The end quote was such a load, "Who will be the HD radio Howard Stern?", no one thats who. Because HD Radio is the same station broadcast on the same frequency, only digitally. Who cares. This is BS
  • What's more interesting is that now even terrestrial broadcast will be pushed into the pay arena and you'll still have to put up with ads.

    And the likes of Clear Channel and Infinity have problems differentiating formats for their owned stations. Who believes that they won't just time shift content on the additional channels?
  • The article implies that HD radio will open new and exciting opportunities for variety and choices. Well, that opportunity was always there for regular radio as well. How is the introduction of HD going to change anything about what content will be played? The same owners will own the HD portion as well. I assume in all but maybe the largest metro areas, there were still FM stations available. I remember in the recent past, the existing conglomerate national station owners lobbied the FCC which eventua
  • I've been researching this tech for a long time now. For those wanting some more accurate information than is contained in this fluff article, see the link below for a good backgrounder on the technology (it's my blog, just to be clear) and some early predictions that have so far been in line with the technology evolution to date:

    http://www.opengeek.org/2005/03/hd-radio-thoughts- speculation-and.html [opengeek.org]

    Wanting to know what it sounds like? It's not really high-defintion as it is low noise. You can find audio samples of HD radio as well as samples from a lot of other comparable technologies here:

    http://www.opengeek.org/2005/03/hd-radio-analog-fm -mp3-and-ogg-audio.html [opengeek.org]

    Have some samples to add? Get hold of me and I'll get them up.

    I collected these samples and wrote the paper linked above out of personal interest. I'm not employed, nor have an interest in either Ibiquity or the radio industry in general. Just joe listener wondering how badly his radio will get hosed! (Short answer, FM mode is no biggie --either people will like it or not. AM mode sucks hard and will make a mess of the medium. Knife the baby quick!)

    Enjoy!

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