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New MacBook Air
Matt Cashore, Photographer
South Bend | IN | USA | Posted: 5:05 PM on 10.21.10
->> Not much bigger than an iPad and has an actual keyboard and USB connectors. Maybe this is the ├╝ber-lightweight road-warrior photo editing/sending machine we've been looking for?
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Damen Jackson, Photographer
Chicago | Il | United States | Posted: 6:24 PM on 10.21.10
->> I own the original. Useful, but does not travel well, at least for photographers. And slow.

Still can't figure out why no Firewire.
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 9:11 PM on 10.21.10
->> You definitely will need to get all the upgrades: the fastest processor and largest memory for it to be effective and be sure to copy your images off immediately. The top processor upgrade is not much slower than the current 13-inch MBPro which works pretty well on assignments.

But I'm definitely interested in playing with one to see how it feels and how I think it will hold up on assignment usage.

I'm getting to be one of those guys where anything to reduce the weight and bulk in the bag is a good thing.

And the no firewire: probably because this is aimed at consumers and business travelers, not power users. Too bad the USB isn't USB3.0, though. That would be fun to work with in ingesting cards.
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
| | | Posted: 10:20 PM on 10.21.10
->> A client I field test travel tools for is interested in the new MacBook Air for their field teams. My biggest concern right now is that the fastest processor is slower than the 13" MacBook Pro that is a year old, and the fastest processor is only available with the 256gb HD.

This forces buyers to buy the larger hard drive to be able to upgrade to the faster (yet still not fast enough) processor.
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 11:53 PM on 10.21.10
->> I still think my 9 inch Dell Hackintosh is better than this-especially for $250!
Lighter and just as fast, opens RAW, and I have photoshop CS4 and Photo Mechanic and Fetch, and weighs about 2 pounds.
I am waiting for the IPAD to come out that can hold all this with out the use of applications.
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 10:43 AM on 10.22.10
->> The new MB Air is a faster processor than the Dell Mini 9 (the Dell is a 1.6ghz Atom and the base Apple a 1.6 ghz Core 2 Duo, faster chip) and the Apple can be loaded with twice the RAM.

I think this may be a computer to watch. Yes, right now the fastest processor is not as fast as the 13-inch MBP, but if it turns out to be a popular seller, then there is more incentive for Apple to keep increasing the processor speeds. The older Air sold OK but was probably not in the numbers showing the need for constant refreshes so it was left to languish a bit. It may be a while before you see any if the "i" processors in the Air, but if the form factor proves popular then the speed will come.
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Jim Colburn, Photo Editor, Photographer
McAllen | TX | USA | Posted: 12:33 PM on 10.22.10
->> I'm in lust with the 11 inch model. It looks as though it'd fit in the back pocket of a Domke bag.

Even with the slow processor and 64Gb of "hard drive" it'd be great for on-the-road work. Bring along a couple of 32 Gb flash drives and your extra storage capacity is right there.
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Adam Cairns, Photographer
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 4:06 PM on 10.22.10
->> Speaking in terms that we're used to, isn't processor speed basically the equivalent to megapixel count? An 8mp camera phone isn't going to perform as well as an 8mp dSLR. There are more factors than just the megapixel or gigahertz number. As I understand it, a 1.6ghz processor in the MBA with a SSD flash drive and fast graphics card will actually perform much better than a 1.6ghz processor in an older Macbook with optical hard drive and older graphics card. Can anyone verify this?
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Andrew Fielding, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 4:12 PM on 10.22.10
->> Adadm, we don't have optical hard drives, non SSD drives are not optical, they are magnetic. A lot of it depends on the logic board layout and the RAM, and cache. There are many factors to consider. My guess is that the top of the line MBA will perform similarly to last years middle of the road 13 inch MBP which I have and works pretty decently for most stuff.
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Kevin Steele, Photographer
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 8:28 PM on 10.22.10
->> Wait for the application tests and benchmarks to see if it is useful running LR, CS5. Memory is more important than CPU speed for much of CS5 - you would want to max the RAM (4GB?) if you bought one. Most of my work is done on the Mac Tower but my old MacBook was feeling very slow when I had to process and edit in the field recently....If it is fast enough for a "field machine" where I can just keep the key apps I need and only the files I need to load, edit, process and send from the shoot then this looks attractive..if it fast enough.
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Glenn Matsumura, Photographer
Redwood City | CA | United States | Posted: 9:06 PM on 10.22.10
->> Here's an early review of the new 2010 MacBook Air:
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
| | | Posted: 12:51 PM on 10.23.10
->> While I may still end up having to test the MacBook Air for a specific client, I am significantly irked that Apple has removed the back lit keyboard as well as the infrared that was standard in the original MacBook Air.

While I don't use the IR, I use the back lit keyboard on my MacBook Pro constantly when working at night with the lights out, working in dim lit conference hauls, overnight flights, etc etc etc.

While I tends to type without looking at my keyboard, I do look for function keys and when editing photos or other non-typing functions (now that I think about it, I do glance at the keyboard when typing, although I don't know why.)

For me, no back lit keyboard with black keys is a huge mistake for Apple, especially when its available on the original version of the MacBook Air.
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Adam Cairns, Photographer
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 5:11 PM on 10.24.10
->> @Andrew, Magnetic hard drive is what I meant. I apparently had "optical drive" in my head after reading about the lack of a DVD drive. Guess we'll just have to wait for some early adopters to review the laptop's real-world performance.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 11:58 AM on 10.25.10
->> I ordered the 11" with 4GB RAM. While the 1.4 GHz CPU is definitely on the slow side, I'm attracted to the smaller form factor for travel purposes as it's pretty much exactly the size I've been hoping Apple would offer for the past 5 years.

Comments on some tech forums I've visited suggest that the use of the relatively old CPUs was in part due to Intel's recent lockout of NVIDIA's integrated graphics on all their 'i' series chips. Apparently the NVIDIA integrated graphics are better than Intel's and the only way to incorporate this option is through the use of the older Core 2 chips. It may also partly explain why the 13" MBP also uses Core 2 rather than i3 chips because neither it or the MBA can accommodate a separate graphics chip due to space constraints.

While 1.4 GHz will be on the slow side compared, I think the biggest bottleneck will be USB 2 when ingesting images and offloading to an external hard drive. USB 3 would have been nice, but perhaps it's still too new as not even the recently refreshed iMacs or Mac Pros have it. There could be factors such as how USB is integrated into the components and whether a USB 3 option would fit in the MBA's limited space, or if it would even be possible to integrate with the older CPUs. But I'm just guessing... At least there are now two USB ports.

I also have a hunch that the timing of this update was influenced a lot by the iPad, in that it was intentionally timed now, several months after the iPad, to allow maximum iPad sales. While the iPad is in the iPhone/iPod realm, there is some overlap and I was somewhat tempted to get an iPad simply for travel purposes when all I'd primarily would want is web connectivity. I'm glad I held off as the MBA is for me a much more attractive option that allows the use of native photo apps such as Photoshop and Photo Mechanic for those times when I will need to do some photo editing on it.
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Matt Cashore, Photographer
South Bend | IN | USA | Posted: 3:00 PM on 10.25.10
->> Ron, would you be so kind as to post your impressions on the MBA once you've been able to give it a thorough shakedown?
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 10:36 PM on 10.25.10
->> Early benchmarks show despite the seemingly "slow" processors they perform better than the previous Airs and in many tasks about the same as the 13-inch MB Pro.
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Grace Chiu, Photographer
Ottawa | ON | Canada | Posted: 3:31 AM on 10.26.10
->> Is it at least faster than a netbook with an Intel Atom processor & 1Gb of RAM? If so, I'm ditching my netbook for a new Air as soon as I get home.
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George Bridges, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | USA | Posted: 10:14 AM on 10.26.10
->> I haven't seen comparisons but I have an Asus Netbook and a 13-inch MB Pro. If these tests are true that the new Air is almost as fast as the small MBP, then the Air is a Corvette and the netbook is a Chevette.
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Ed Wolfstein, Photographer, Assistant
Burlington | VT | USA | Posted: 12:01 PM on 10.26.10
->> Here's a recent Geekbench comparison:
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T.J. Hamilton, Photographer
Grand Rapids | MI | USA | Posted: 1:48 PM on 10.26.10
->> I'm not sure, but to use it for video shouldn't it be 2.0 ghz?
Otherwise it would work for me on the still side. I'd love it for the weight...but would like a 15" screen instead. Storage isn't that much an issue, I'd carry a couple large usb sticks for storage.
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T.J. Hamilton, Photographer
Grand Rapids | MI | USA | Posted: 1:51 PM on 10.26.10
->> Doh', nevermind... I forgot I use firewire to import from video camera...
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Chuck Yadmark, Photographer
Ann Arbor | MI | United States | Posted: 10:10 PM on 10.26.10
->> Grace, I am typing with one right now and I can tell you it is way way faster than a netbook with an Intel Atom Proc with 1GB of RAM
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 7:13 PM on 10.29.10
->> I received an 11" 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM and 128GB drive MBA today and have been using it for a few hours now, getting it set up, and typing this on it.

Initial impressions are that it's solid and feels heavier than its size would indicate. I'm coming from an early 2008 2.2 GHz MacBook (white plastic with Firewire) with 4GB RAM and a recently installed Seagate 500GB 'hybrid' drive (it has a small amount of flash storage to speed up access to regularly used files).

I haven't really put the MBA through much CPU intensive processes, other than trying a few RAW conversions, a Handbrake conversion and some Photo Mechanic browsing. When the CPU is taxed, the fan will spin up but it didn't seem distractingly loud and otherwise while surfing the net the MBA is quieter than all the other stuff running where I am right now. Holding it to my ear I can barely hear what is probably the fan. The underside warms up somewhat, but so far it hasn't come close to being uncomfortably warm. My MB on the other hand is outright hot along the bottom and I have to keep it on a tray if I want to use it on my lap.

Browsing Canon IDIV files in Photo Mechanic is a touch slower than my MB. If PM hasn't cached a full rez preview, it takes around 2-3 seconds for it to render at 100% view. Otherwise it feels pretty responsive. Mark IV RAW conversions with Canon's DPP take around 30 seconds, which is about the same as my MacBook, but remember that it has a nearly 3 year old Core 2 Duo CPU...

1080P playback of Mark IV files in QuickTime is smooth, whereas my MB is jittery.

The screen seems decent though I'm not a display expert. It seems similar to the MacBook, but that means it is probably a bit over saturated. I tried calibrating it with my Eye One Display2 calibrator, but it didn't do a good job, resulting in a strong magenta cast each time. For now I'm leaving it set to the default calibration, which appears a bit cooler than on my MacBook and other stations. There is a fairly strong color and brightness shift if viewing from a low or high angle. Color seems to hold better when viewing from either side, but the screen will no longer look evenly illuminated. The 11" MBA screen's pixel count is slightly higher than the MB's 13", but being only 11" means that the pixel density is higher and everything on screen is smaller, such as text. But it's crisp.

I think the biggest issue I'll have is transferring files to and from it, especially 20-30GB folders. Because of the relatively limited internal storage I anticipate that I'll be offloading to portable USB drives quite frequently when traveling. There are really only three options: USB, ethernet via the USB adapter and wifi. Wifi is very slow and when I tried it, it didn't seem to hold a steady transfer rate. It would do a 10 second burst at 2MB/s then 'rest' for a while. The ethernet dongle is only 10/100T (megabit) as opposed to 1000T (gigabit), likely because of it being a USB restriction. Transfer speeds were around 11MB/s. USB transfer to an external drive was around 38MB/s. With my MB I had been transferring over gigabit ethernet and hitting around 60MB/s...

Battery: I charged it fully then ran it on battery while mostly doing web stuff along with some brief photo tests where the CPUs were fully stressed. I only ran it down to 20% and would guess I had it on battery for around 3 hours. Most of that time the display was on maximum brightness and set not to automatically dim and screen sleep was set to 15 minutes, meaning it was on most of that time. That's better than my MB, but I suppose time will tell if it's indicative of general performance. I hope it can last over 4 hours.

Not sure what else to mention for now. Overall I like it for the primary reason I purchased it - size and weight. Considering that performance seems to be fairly close to my MB it's at least not a huge step back in that regard.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 7:21 PM on 10.29.10
->> One other thing that might be a problem for photographers... the MBA does not have a Kensington lock port. Considering it's compact size and weight combined with the cachet of it being an Apple product, it's not something I would feel comfortable leaving unlocked and unattended in most photo work rooms and press boxes...
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Steve Ueckert, Photographer
Houston | TX | | Posted: 10:01 PM on 10.29.10
->> Ron--

Perhaps a PacSafe is in order.
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Bob Stanton, Photographer
Palo Alto | CA | USA | Posted: 3:28 PM on 10.31.10
->> I bought the 13", 2GB, 256 to use as work travel machine--light duty email, web, and office app work. I decided to try it out at an NHL game last night and was pleasantly surprised. Have an MacBook Pro I5 and a Mac Pro tower as baselines. I read the techie reviews and appreciate the issues of a slower processor, limited ram and weaker battery life. Also, editing on a 13" is not optimal.

However, I would urge anyone considering an Air to try one first if they can. While from a hardware engineer's view the Air has limits, in real life usage they seem minimal to me. Also it 'depends' on what you plan to use it for: if you simply have to rip through a shoot and upload it, the new Air is pretty nice; if you are doing heavy video, then the Air's limits may be a problem--especially if you only own one computer.

Observations thus far.

Negatives (show stoppers for some)

1.) You have to like carrying around adapter cables. You need one for wired ethernet. With two USB ports: you might want a hub too--a mouse and a card reader, where do you plug that ethernet adapter into?

2.) Transferring cards on USB 2.0 is slower than Firewire...but not terrible if you have a newer card reader and cards. I was surprised how fast it was.

3.) Like the person said above, getting stuff off the machine can be slow. I transfer to a portable hard drive as back-up and then uploaded on my home tower ok.

4.) Like prior Airs, you get to spend more to carry around a DVD writer. I actually didn't have one last night and downloaded photoshop over my wireless at home--SLOW. You need one to setup bootcamp.

5.) 256G's of SSD maybe too small. I you run a big windows partition and carry video files around, you will run out of space pretty fast.

Positives (other than cool factor--btw, I worked at Apple for a long time so am biased and you shouldn't trust anything I say)

1.) Faster than it should be given the specs. Photoshop loads in seconds and runs faster than I thought. Actions on small folders (30-50 images) ran nicely--maybe a second or so slower than the MacBook Pro I5, but I didn't notice.

I 'know' I should have bought a 4 Gig Dram model, and you should too for $100 more. But damn if I wasn't surprised how quick it ran Photoshop for my simple needs--I wasn't running any other apps other than the browser at the time. I do think the I5 MacBook Pro is more sluggish. It takes more time to get the App loaded and even with 4g's of ram, that spinning drive slows it down at certain points. If you already have an SSD in your MacBook Pro, you probably won't see the improvement with the Air. An integrated SSD changes how one should evaluate the whole processor, dram, drive equation.

2.) Battery life not bad. I forgot the power adapter last night--downloaded and edited between periods and sent stock stuff up after the game. still had tons of life left. It has a deep sleep mode that kicks in after awhile, so it turned on this morning with still life in it.

3.) Ethernet adapter transfers speed okay--they ask us to use the hardwired line to upload here, and the files just flew out. But the lines are good. REALLY wished Apple put this on board. I can see myself losing this stupid thing and getting stuck in a wireless traffic jam.

4.) Light--almost too light, if that is possible. Sturdy on a table, but I could see myself dropping it if not careful.

5.) The screen is not bad--1400 x 900 on 13 works pretty good. Move the dock to the side and use full screen to edit and all of a sudden 13" seems a lot bigger. I actually didn't notice any diff between the 15" I5.

So, I will use the Air more than I thought. The Macbook Pro I5, may take a hike at a certain point. We'll see.
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Jim Colburn, Photo Editor, Photographer
McAllen | TX | USA | Posted: 6:32 PM on 10.31.10
->> Just going over things with my wife, the owner of a new 11" MacBook Air (yes, I am jealous) about cases, etc. and it seems that PortaBrace may have a sleeve that would be prefect. It's one of their padded pouches (1 x 8 x 12) at

PortaBrace list them as a set of three for $40 but maybe someone sells them individually.
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Eric Francis, Photographer
Omaha | NE | United States | Posted: 12:43 AM on 11.01.10
->> Is anyone using Aperture or LR3 on it yet?
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Michael Springfield, Photographer, Photo Editor
Smyrna (Atlanta) | GA | USA | Posted: 6:39 AM on 11.01.10
->> I bit the bullet and picked up a 13", 2.13, 4 Gig, 256 Gig the other day at my local Apple store. After spending several days living with it I will have to say that I am very impressed. While it will not replace my 27" i5 iMac for major editing it will be a no compromise travel laptop.

I second Bob's Pros and Cons. Bob, the answer to the mouse/card reader/ethernet problem is to go with a Bluetooth mouse. The Air found the mouse from my iMac with no problem.

I have found image transfers to be a little quicker by going through an Apple Airport Extreme's wireless N than the USB Ethernet but that may just be my experience.

Transfers from the built in SD reader is quick enough. Battery life seems to be as good as advertised. I have had it for 5 days now and have only had to charge the battery twice. I have about 15 or so hours of usage so far and still have 75% battery left on charge #2.

Photoshop CS4 and LR2 are quick and responsive. As others have stated it feels much faster than the CPU speeds you would expect.

Anyone want to buy an original Air or a 17" MBP? They will just be collecting dust in my office with the addition of the new Air.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 12:21 AM on 11.03.10
->> Jim, for now I'm using a couple Domke 15" wraps. One 15" is slightly too small to fully enclose the 11" MBA, but I'd guess that a single 19" wrap would work fine.

Over the weekend I shot a game and edited around 2500 images afterwards. The slowest part of the process was ingesting via the USB card reader. I tend to have a lot of apps running while working and learned that the MBA will speed up image previews somewhat in Photo Mechanic if I quit any other apps that are eating into CPU usage more than a few percent while idle (Firefox was in the 20% range, probably because I had a number of tabs open and some probably contained Flash content). But I never got to the point where I could quickly flip through more than a couple images before it would delay a second or so to render the preview, which of course slowed editing somewhat. This might be more an issue with the 1.4 GHz base CPU and where the faster options available on the 13" version are more suitable.

It was pretty evident that any task that was drive dependent, such as loading a large contact sheet, either in Photo Mechanic or DPP, saving recipe changes to many files in DPP, renaming in PM were faster on the MBA than I was accustomed to with my MB's 500 GB 7200 rpm drive. As mentioned by others, apps load quickly and overall feel snappy.

I'm not sure if it was my hotel or the MBA, but the wifi seemed pretty finicky. Now that I'm using it at home again, the wireless connection seems better, but still not as good as I would expect. Maybe it doesn't like my wifi router... so I've been using it with the USB ethernet dongle instead.

I still haven't gotten a solid feel for average battery life of the 11", but would guess at between 3-4 hours.

The weight reduction has been very welcome. There were times I had to double check I didn't forget the MBA because the backpack felt too light.

Overall I didn't feel excessively constrained by the MBA but I think it will be at least one more generation before it's really to where it should be in terms of CPU horsepower, storage capacity and interface speeds (USB 3) for serious photo editing. I wouldn't be surprised to see the MacBook Pros and MBA eventually merge.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 2:20 PM on 12.03.10
->> Just an update - using UDMA compatible USB CF card readers has improved ingest speed to around 35MB/s, which is about what I was getting with FW400 on my MacBook.

I also installed Lightroom and it's working pretty well. Adjustments are more responsive than I expected and the app is comfortable to work with. The exception is that it sometimes bogs down for a second or two during transform/rotate adjustments. Loading the full rez preview can also range from a couple seconds to around 8-10 depending on how busy the machine is.

It's not a speed demon when outputting full rez 16 or 18MP files from RAW, but does seem to be about 2x faster than Canon's DPP with Mark IV files (which means around 15 seconds per file in LR).

All in all it is definitely usable and on the whole, the MBA has been a wonderful travel experience.
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Felipe Dana, Photographer
Rio de Janeiro | RJ | Brazil | Posted: 4:26 PM on 12.03.10
->> I got the 1.6ghz 128gb ssd 4gb ram 11" version for light travel and I gotta say that it amazed me... I really didn't expect much from it but it's surprisingly fast. sure it's not as fast as a macbook pro i5/i7 for photo editing but it's certainly usable and the OS itself is a lot snappier (probably due the 128gb ssd).
I also second Bob's Pros and Cons... overall I'm very pleased with the little MBA and admit that I'm using it on assignments much more often than what I planned to.
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Thread Title: New MacBook Air
Thread Started By: Matt Cashore
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