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APC Recalls 2.1 Million UPS Units 264

Controlio writes "Check your cubicles. APC has recalled two of its Back-UPS CS models, the Back-UPS CS 350 and Back-UPS CS 500, in both the 120 volt and 230-volt flavors. The units were sold between November of 2000 and December of 2002. The affected units have the potential to overheat, melting the outer casing and causing a potential fire hazard. Yikes."
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APC Recalls 2.1 Million UPS Units

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  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:03AM (#5100401) Homepage Journal
    These returned UPS's will be resold as UFS's

    Unstoppable Fire Supplies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    WEST KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 14, 2003 -- American Power Conversion (Nasdaq: APCC) (APC), in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, today announced a voluntary recall of two models in its Back-UPS® CS uninterruptible power supply (UPS) line due to potential safety issues that may result in overheating and represent a potential fire hazard. The total number of affected devices being recalled worldwide is approximately 2.1 million with approximately 900,000 devices recalled in the United States.
    APC has received eight reports worldwide of units overheating resulting in the melting of the unit's outer casing, six of which occurred in the United States. Three of the reported incidents resulted in minor property damage. No injuries have been reported.
    The recall is limited to two specific models in APC's Back-UPS CS product line - the Back-UPS CS 350 and the Back-UPS CS 500, in both 120-volt and 230-volt models. The affected units were manufactured between November 2000 and December 2002. The units were sold primarily through computer and electrical distribution, catalog and retail outlets worldwide.
    Consumers with affected units can identify them by the model markings on the front of the unit and by the serial numbers located on the bottom of the unit. Only units with serial numbers having the first six characters in the following ranges are affected:
    AB0048 through AB0251
    BB0104 through BB0251
    JB0125 through JB0251
    Any units with an "R" at the end of the serial number are not part of the recall.
    APC recommends that the user immediately remove the UPS unit from service by turning off all connected equipment, turning the UPS unit off, and then unplugging the unit from the electrical outlet.
    To learn more about the recall action and the process for replacing the affected units, users should visit www.apc.com or call 866 APC-RELY (866 272-7359).
    APC has been working closely with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other appropriate parties in this action, which does not affect any other APC devices.
    "We remain highly confident in the overall safety and reliability of all of our products, and have been working diligently to ensure that this action results in a minimum inconvenience to our customers and channel partners," said Rodger B. Dowdell, Jr., APC president and CEO.
  • Nooooo!!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by oateater ( 593228 ) <{oateater} {at} {nerdclub.net}> on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:05AM (#5100408) Homepage
    Why do I have to return my huge brown truck??!?!?! WHY!!!!



    ooooohhhhhh UPS "UNITS"!, my battery backup. I won't miss that at all, thank god i can keep my truck.
  • UPS (Score:4, Funny)

    by ez76 ( 322080 ) <slashdot AT e76 DOT us> on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:05AM (#5100409) Homepage
    Unexpected
    Pyrotechnics
    Show
    • Re:UPS (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Unpleasant
      Plastic
      Smell
    • by Wee ( 17189 )
      Amazing
      Plastic
      Conflagration

      -B

    • Arsonists
      Passing for a
      Corportation

      Automatic
      Pyre
      Creators

      A
      Piece of
      Crap

      Ugly
      Pile of
      Slag

      Unexplained
      Pillar of
      Smoke

      Update
      Policy
      Soon
  • by Dr. Photo ( 640363 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:07AM (#5100415) Journal
    Hah!

    "Uninterruptible," my ass!

  • Tell me again what the U stands for?

    Jason
    ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
  • Uh oh (Score:3, Funny)

    by CountZero007 ( 39755 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:11AM (#5100430)
    I can't tell which model mine is, all thw text melted off...
  • Thank heavens that a) My mother-in-law does not read slashdot and b) knows that I have one of these. She is convinced that any machine left turned on is a fire hazard. Now this would just add fuel to her ... oops :)
  • by Hubert_Shrump ( 256081 ) <cobranet.gmail@com> on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:13AM (#5100441) Journal
    When the lights go out - I don't know about you - but I want to huddle around the UPS, tell ghost stories, and roast marshmallows.

  • Just as well I'm a habitual procrastinator ... I bought an APC UPS about a year ago and never got around to plugging it in! Saved by my own laziness!
  • by shotgunefx ( 239460 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:17AM (#5100452) Journal
    Having a ton of equipment in my house, I had on occasion wondered if something like that could happen. A couple months back I had a netgear hub start acting whacky, later that day I heard a loud crack which at first I thought was a gunshot.

    It turns out it was the powersupply exploding. The plastic top blew off hard enough to make a mark in the ceiling. Examaning the supply, it looks like it was a tiny chip in the adapter. Part of it was not melted so much as cauliflower looking like a silicon STD. Perhaps they were made by Innova [yahoo.com]?

    This was only my second experience of something frying in all my years of computing but I do wonder what the actual rates of this type of failures.
    -
    • by Dougthebug ( 625695 ) <dgray.ucsc@edu> on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:25AM (#5100473) Homepage
      Usualy when a power supply blows its because of an overcharged capacator. Toms hardware [tomshardware.com] had a review of a few dozen power supplies a few months back, he found that aparently alot of manufactures are overrating their supplies max wattage. Some of the blowouts he described sound pretty similar to what you mentioned (loud pop). Might want to see if your dead power supply was on his bad list.
    • I have had a PS burn out... nothing spectacular, just a quick crackle, a puff of smoke, and that was the end of it.

      I found myself the proud owner of one dead Fortron Source 550W power supply (almost brand new, only 250W of load on it when it burned out). I know that company makes tons of PS units, and as far as I know, they are generally considered OK hardware... my luck to get the bad one.

      I typically only buy known, good, brand-name stuff, and my thinking at the time was that an oversized power supply would last longer under the same load conditions... Yeah, well... maybe not.

      I don't own one of those defective UPS's; out of sheer dumb luck I dodged that bullet and bought a Belkin unit instead (the guts of it could be APC for all I know). Heh... maybe I'd better go look.

      • I found myself the proud owner of one dead Fortron Source 550W power supply (almost brand new, only 250W of load on it when it burned out). I know that company makes tons of PS units, and as far as I know, they are generally considered OK hardware... my luck to get the bad one.

        I'm sorry, but you obviously don't belong on Slashdot. Get outta here.

        What? Don't want to leave? Ok, I'll tell you the proper Slashdot response:

        1. Assume that since you had a bad unit, all the units the company produces must be shit.
        2. Set up a web page documenting just how bad their products are with your experience as the only prrof. Be sure to post an email address so other users can send you their anecdotal stories of mishaps with the product and include these on your web site as proof that the company produces shit.
        3. Constantly search the newsgroups, Amazon and other such product reviews, and slash dot for the mention of the company that made your product.
        4. Once found, proceed to scream about what shitty products the company makes and point people to your site as proof of just how many people are experiencing problems.
        5. NEVER acknowledge that all companies, regarless of reputation, produce the occasional defective product.

  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre@NosPam.geekbiker.net> on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:21AM (#5100462) Homepage Journal
    APC doesn't release the communications protocals used in their UPSes, so they must be reverse engineered to work with NUT [exploits.org] (Network UPS Tool). MGE UPS Systems [mgeups.com] fully supports open source, releasing all their protocals and even donating a few units to the developers. MGE does cost more, unfortunately, but at least they don't include the self-destruct feature found in some APC models.

  • Thermal overload?!? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They don't have a thermal overload sensor?!? I had an old 1200VA (not APC) that was cooled by a fan. The fan only kicked in while it was on battery power or while it was charging (because it ran warmer during those periods). One night, the power went out and the fan didn't kick in. The UPS got hotter and hotter until...the thermal switch tripped and the unit shut down.

    • hey, that shutdown feature costs at LEAST 0.1$..
      or they might have just situated it badly. ..or the fire hazard is because something might heat up very quickly(catching instant fire)..

      i dunno.. i'm still a bit woozy form tasting black adder raw cask 11y(islay) last night...
  • Ugh, ive put these in a few small offices around the last two years, but I recognize them more by LOOK rather then by serial #. I know Im setting myself up for a goatse, but what do these models look like?
    • It must be late because it took me three or four reads to see its talking about the CS models. I know its in the title of the linked page, but its 1:30 AM here and my day started out at 8am with a lady who was worried because "her computer [was] broadcasting an IP address."

      http://www.apcc.com/products/family/index.cfm?id =1 7

      (PS, if you hate it when a link is not a link, get phoenix and the text link extension. Id give you the link but yea...)
    • black smoke...bad smell....some flames [precision.com].... Shreiking secretaries running away from the source of all this combustion. You'll know them when you see them.

      jokes aside...me thinks you should visit the manuf. website, and learn how to read S/N/s :) - I'm sure your new-found dedication to safety will be appreciated by all concerned.
  • by bonsai_kitty ( 636771 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:29AM (#5100486) Journal
    I think I *could* give it to my boss.... Because I really do miss that nifty red StreamLine stapler he stole (mumbles something).
  • by bogie ( 31020 )
    I have a CS350 on my server that's been running constantly for about a year now. Hopefully the recall is painless....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2003 @02:32AM (#5100492)
    What is the shipping charge for weight of 2.1 million UPS units? Both directions...

    Yikes...
    • Unless they are shipped directly from a factory, which is unlikely, replacement units will be first shipped to a distribution hub...then out to victims...I mean owners.

      And these things are heavy! Like 15 or 20 kilos. The freight costs are no joke.

      Then there is the bill for the corrective marketing....then the income drop due to bad public image...then the personal injury lawsuits...

      Remember, kids...when the marketing guy wants you to scalp R & D and just get the darn thing out the door...think about this incident and tell the genius to walk a pier.
      • I think the replacement units are going to be without the battery, making them significantly lighter to ship.

        The instructions you get when registering your recalled unit for replacement tell you to remove the battery to use it in the replacement unit.
    • Then again, what percentage of customers will even bother to participate in the recall?
  • I've had the privilege of using APC products for the network used by a home business run by a relative.

    Most of them have worked admirably for years.

    One, however, didn't. When looking for the cause of strange computer behavior, I found the UPS half-melted, just as the article describes. I don't recall the model offhand; it had a form factor similar to the VS line, but was pitched as an "office" UPS.

    Needless to say, I haven't touched that particular line since.

    I've had similar things occur with multi-purpose wall warts (specified current ratings apparently aren't).

    Yet another reason to keep spares handy.
  • UPS for Dummies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zelph ( 628698 )
    'Was checking their press announcement [apcc.com] and found this quote: "APC recommends that the user immediately remove the UPS unit from service by turning off all connected equipment, turning the UPS unit off, and then unplugging the unit from the electrical outlet." Umm... really, if you own a UPS and you need that information, you shouldn't own a computer, let alone an UPS.
    • 'Was checking their press announcement [apcc.com] and found this quote: "APC recommends that the user immediately remove the UPS unit from service by turning off all connected equipment, turning the UPS unit off, and then unplugging the unit from the electrical outlet." Umm... really, if you own a UPS and you need that information, you shouldn't own a computer, let alone an UPS.

      Yes, but of course, that won't stop the stupid people from suing if their UPS catches on fire. Lowest common denominator, minus a bit, instructionsn are legal de rigeur nowadays.

      -Rob

  • Just Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by merauder ( 518514 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @03:01AM (#5100579)
    I just happend to have one here at home, matching serial number and everything. Since their server seems to be also melted at the moment, what exactly is involved in shipping these back? Are the shipping charges refunded, do I go through the retailer I purchased it from? *sigh*
    • Re:Just Great (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cipster ( 623378 )
      To learn more about the recall action and the process for replacing the affected units, users should visit www.apc.com or call 866 APC-RELY (866 272-7359).
      You could try their ironically spelled phone number. My guess is though you will have to go through 7 menus and wait on hold for a while before you can actually talk to someone. Good luck
      • Re:Just Great (Score:2, Interesting)

        To learn more about the recall action and the process for replacing the affected units, users should visit www.apc.com or call 866 APC-RELY (866 272-7359).

        You could try their ironically spelled phone number.

        You mean perhaps the ironic spelling of 866-ARCS-FLY? :-)

        As an aside, does anyone know of any very small (in size, va rating, and cost) ups's that have both serial and usb connections, spacing for 2 transformers plus 1 non-transformer plug, avr of some sort, separate phone line and ethernet surge protection built in, (that is, you can plug in a phone line and an ethernet connection at the same time), have some sort of smart signaling ("line power down and battery low--you better shut down now"; "okay, give me 2 minutes, then shut off my power whether or not wall power has come up, and keep me shut down until you've had reliable power for a while"), *and* that are properly documented by the manufacturer and work with some sort of open source ups software under linux?

        I'm finding it hard to find any ups's that meet even half of those criterion, much less all of them.

        • That's a lot of stuff... holy cow...

          And I'm not trying to flame or be rude with this comment... bear with me... but why do you need ethernet surge protection? In my situation I have 2 lines run out to the garage (detached) so I can play drums/guitar etc, but they're buried deep (6 feet) and grounded....

          I've always wondered if surge protection would help....
          • Re:Just Great (Score:2, Insightful)

            That's a lot of stuff... holy cow...

            And I'm not trying to flame or be rude with this comment... bear with me... but why do you need ethernet surge protection? In my situation I have 2 lines run out to the garage (detached) so I can play drums/guitar etc, but they're buried deep (6 feet) and grounded....

            I've always wondered if surge protection would help....

            It's for a bunch of different machines set up at client locations. Your ethernet cables might be burried 6 feet deep, but theirs could be wrapped around a lightning rod somewhere for all I know.

            BTW the need for both phone and ethernet surge protection is because I'll be using phone lines as a backup for data syncs, if my client's network is down, or if they don't have a network.

            The dual surge protection requirement is one of the less serious requirements--you can always buy an additional phone line/ethernet surge protection wall-wart type of thing to cover for one or the other not being there--but it's kind of ugly.

            However, the big thing for me is to make sure the UPS behavior actually really does work correctly. For instance, if the UPS looses power and goes battery-low, and the system shuts down but the power comes back on during the shutdown process, the UPS had better still cut power for a short while, so the machines have an actual powerloss and then poweron to start them up again. Not every ups and software combination does this correctly all the time.

  • "You sunk my battleship!"

    Gotta look up how to do the recall thing for 2 units here...

    I guess that $20 UPS deal wasn't.
  • Oh, wait, that's the Two Hours' Earlier's Slashdot Article [slashdot.org]. Some CERN folks built a sauna in the remains of a dead Saab. [home.cern.ch] One of their problems was how to heat it; this seems like it should do just fine. That's the kind of synergy you get in the open-source movement....
  • Consumers with affected units can identify them by the model markings on the front of the unit and by the serial numbers located on the bottom of the unit.

    If the unit already is on fire and the outer casing has melted, please try to extinguish before checking the serial number. Do not try to lift burning unit to check serial number. Failure to follow these directions may lead to injury.

  • Nothing tops when Apple had to recall those PowerBooks shipped with bad batteries. That model lives forever in the hearts of techs, dubbed "the hindenbook".

    I suppose this incident will be forever remembered by whatever fire-related acronym for UPS is funniest. My vote is for "Unexpected Pyrotechnics Show". Hah!
    • Re:Funny name? (Score:2, Informative)

      Nothing tops when Apple had to recall those PowerBooks shipped with bad batteries.

      The 5300 may have been a crappy PowerBook, however they were never recalled due to batteries - 2 battery units overheated (neither caught fire) whilst being tested at Apple, and none of the problem Sony batteries were ever shipped to customers. An extended warranty (9 years IIRC) program was introduced to handle other problems with this model - the screen hinges were lousy, the plastics would often split, and there were was a rash of models with bad motherboards.

      Unfortunately it's become an urban legend that Apple shipped some kind of burning PowerBook - but they didn't. You must be thinking of Compaq (had to recall 55,000 batteries from their Armada laptops), Dell (about 30,000 batteries from the Latitude and Inspiron models), or IBM (about 220,000 ThinkPad power adapters).
  • Best URL (Score:5, Informative)

    by breser ( 16790 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @03:52AM (#5100683) Homepage
    As usual slashdot provides the worst URL for the story. The URL in the story is simply the press release. This is their main site about it [apc.com], has much better information about how to identify if your UPS is part of the recall... and links to a nice FAQ. Of course I'm still wondering what type of unit they will replace mine with.
    • Hopefully one made out of asbestos, or with some good old-fashioned don't-start-a-fire circuitry built in.
    • Looks like they are simply replacing the casing: they ship you a new case, you use the old battery from the recalled case, then ship back the old case.
      • You realize that the new case also includes all the electronics necessary to do all the AC to DC and DC to AC conversion and voltage step up and step down, don't you? There's no such thing as a 120 Volt 60 Hz Alternating Current battery.
  • by darkwhite ( 139802 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @03:54AM (#5100689)
    Funny, I have a Back-UPS Office 280 that also melted like this. Apparently it blew a thermistor. At first I thought the smell was from my 30-year-old amplifier, but after some spectacular pyrotechnics and a small blackout, it became apparent that it was indeed the UPS which was sitting right behind it.

    Granted, there was somewhere between 1x and 1.5x its rated capacity plugged into it, but still, a properly designed unit should either turn off or withstand such abuse.
  • by breser ( 16790 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @03:58AM (#5100697) Homepage
    If you have apcupsd setup and the cable hooked up you can use the following command to find out your serial number:
    apcaccess | grep SERIALNO
  • by hyperactiveman ( 58467 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @05:28AM (#5100870) Homepage
    Just checked the CS 500 under my desk and sure enough mine is one of the ones in the recall.

    Here's the more detailed page with instructions [apcc.com] to finding out if your's is one of them.

    And the recall instructions [apcc.com] I got once I registered my UPS.

    Looks like all they are doing is replacing the "dangerous" unit with a "safe" unit of the same model, as they ask you to remove the battery from the recall unit and reuse it in the replacement unit.

    I was kinda hoping to get a fresh battery with this recall. But then this does save them a hell lot in shipping considering how heavy the batteries are. With 2.1 million unit, every ounce saved amounts to quite a bit of money.

    Hopefully I get a replacement soon, power at my apartment sucks.
    • I'm not totally certain, but this may have happened to me a few years ago when I worked at ISP and had one of these under my desk. It basically started to smoke and burn and you could smell sodre in the whole building. We called them up and the response we got was that they'd never heard of one of them doing that before. I believe they sent us a new one under warranty. I wonder how many blew up before they issued the recall.
  • Two ADM trojans, and now this...

  • One problem a UPS has that a power supply doesn't have is the battery will continnue to dump energy into whatever is getting hot.

    I bet whoever at APC designed this has a severe pucker factor right now. Their butt has puckered up and gripped the seat cushion. Yessir.
  • Wait exactly two weeks, then hit our power plants.

    Thanks, APC.

  • Let me guess, APC is also making the batteries for Dell laptops bound for South Africa.
  • JACK (V.O.)
    I'm a recall coordinator. My job is
    to apply the formula. It's a story
    problem.

    TECHNICIAN #1
    Here's where the infant went through
    the windshield. Three points.

    JACK (V.O.)
    A new car built by my company leaves
    somewhere traveling at 60 miles per
    hour. The rear differential locks up.

    TECHNICIAN #2
    The teenager's braces around the
    backseat ashtray would make a good
    "anti-smoking" ad.

    JACK (V.O.)
    The car crashes and burns with
    everyone trapped inside. Now: do we
    initiate a recall?

    TECHNICIAN #1
    The father must've been huge. See
    how the fat burnt into the driver's
    seat with his polyester shirt? Very
    "modern art."

    JACK (V.O.)
    Take the number of vehicles in the
    field, (A), and multiply it by the
    probable rate of failure, (B), then
    multiply the result by the average
    out-of-court settlement, (C). A
    times B times C equals X...

    CUT TO:

    INT. AIRPLANE CABIN - MOVING DOWN RUNWAY

    Jack is speaking to the BUSINESSWOMAN next to him.

    JACK
    If X is less than the cost of a
    recall, we don't do one.

    BUSISNESS WOMAN
    Are there a lot of these kinds of
    accidents?

    JACK
    Oh, you wouldn't believe.

  • We have found 26 of these recalled units at our facilites so far. Many thanks to the person who submitted this article and the editor who posted it!

    sPh
  • These models are part of the redesigned-for-costcutting versions. I've got an older version where the outlets on the back are standard off-the-shelf parts.

    This version (which I had to fix at my company) uses one molded plastic piece in the back for all the outlet holes (as opposed to one piece of plastic per outlet on ole' reliable). Essentially, they made their own outlets. That was our problem; the metal didn't grip the plugs nearly hard enough, so just a slight jiggle to the plug and the computer would turn off. Not too uninterruptable. Of course, we found out the hard way.

    So, I opened up my unit and took a flat-blade screwdriver (note to anyone that tries this - unplug it and remove the battery for cripes sake!) and put a little more tension on the plug-grippers. We'll see if I have to do that to the replacement unit, too...

    Anyone else had this problem?
    • Wouldn't it be easier to modify the plugs? If they're the folded over type, spread them a little with a knife blade, and if the solid piece of metal type, bend them just slightly out of parallel with each other or give each one a little bit of a curve. That way you don't void any warranty by opening the unit.
  • Not sure if it was an APC (though that sounds familiar). But my wife had a problem at work a couple years ago.

    Seems some fool programmer had plugged everything on his desk into the UPS - including a couple heating appliances (coffee maker and such). The unit began emitting acrid smoke and shut down.

    She unplugged it and took it outside. He brought it back in. It wasn't plugged in, but the smoke kept getting worse. Obviously it was in the process of catching fire. (Since she and the programmer weren't in the same command chain she went and got somebody who ranked him in his own hierarchy to get the box outside before the building went up.)

    A UPS SHOULD handle overloads by shutting down gracefully. And a UL approval rating SHOULD mean that the UL lab checked this model for this functionallity (or at least checked that it won't emit toxic gas or liquids, flame, or superheated gas, or high-velocity debris as a result of excessive load {let alone from being penetrated by a postal worker's bullet or a lifttruck's fork}.

    Did this model have a UL rating? Did UL screw up, or did APC change some element of the design (or have some defective component or manufacturing error)?
  • At an old job, we had a similar issue with Belkin power supplies. When plugging the first UPS in, it went up in smoke right away. We returned it, and got a second which demonstrated a similar smokeshow.

    With any power source or backup, it may be an idea to plug it in first... without attaching devices, in case a resulting short takes out your computers. That being said... I wonder if the warrantees on these surge bar's and UPS's are worth their weight.
    • You're supposed to plug them in with nothing plugged into them for several hours anyway to charge up the battery.
  • by egabber ( 642439 ) on Friday January 17, 2003 @03:23PM (#5104028)
    A few months ago, an APC UPS cost me everything I own in a huge blaze that almost destroyed my whole neighborhood. The fire fighters were able to pinpoint the starting point to my office/desk area and concluded the UPS as a possible ignition source. There was no load on the UPS at the time but it was plugged in with the inverter inside running. Its burning feeble plastic case ignited nearby paperwork and the rest was history. Gone were my home, all my possisions, years of art and software design. Most importantly was my beloved Great Dane Dirk whom I will never forget. I am still paying his medical bills on the attempts to save him. I hope the idiots that saved a few dollars by using a flammable plastic case instead of sheet metal will be made to pay for the losses of me and others. I am in Talent Oregon.
    • i emailed this to my father, at his company they have one of these on nearly every workstation. He emailed back that 2 weeks ago one of his employee's homes burned down, and the UPS is the suspected culprit.

      A few months ago in that very same office one of the UPS's begin emitting a high pitched whistle from within (described as a 'tea kettle' sound), likely very hot gases escaping.

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