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'[OT] Apologies to Olin'
2008\06\26@075817 by Lindy Mayfield

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Some years ago I had the best time programming microchips in assembler
and making motors turn and serial connections to my PC, and things like
that.  The electronics required were very simple.  A resistor here and
there (with a guess at the value) to connect LED's.  I couldn't continue
because where I live now doesn't have the space for me to have a place
to work.  I still have the passion though.



This is quite obvious to you, but it's taken me a LONG time to realize.
Electronics is difficult and requires a lot of training, knowledge of
many things including the math, and experience.  You don't just learn
the basics and expect to understand and design circuits.



I have an excuse, though it may be lame.  Since I was young and up to
now I've read books about electronics.  They all explain the different
components - resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, etc. - and how
they work with nice diagrams showing the flow of electrons and so on.
Like the Mimms book.  Some of the books have some sample circuits to put
together.  



And all along I assumed all I had to do was understand what these books
told me and I would understand everything I needed to know about
electronics.  I've recently realized how ignorant an assumption that
was.



I've been working with computers for over 25 years and when I started I
only knew a fraction of what I know now, and even now I only know a
fraction of what there is to know.  Why I thought electronics was
different I don't know.  I think it was because I missed that chapter in
all the beginner books I read.



Olin was very kind to try to help me understand, but unfortunately I
wasn't ready.  I really appreciate his kindness, though. Hopefully some
day I'll get back into it.  In the meantime I'm happy just to lurk and
marvel at the things I don't understand.



-Lindy

2008\06\26@081114 by Jinx

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Good post Lindy

2008\06\26@085610 by James Nick Sears

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On Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 7:57 AM, Lindy Mayfield
<spam_OUTlindy.mayfieldTakeThisOuTspamssf.sas.com> wrote:
> Olin was very kind to try to help me understand

I smell a shill!!!


Just kidding!

(Seriously, just kidding!)

-n.

2008\06\26@101906 by Rolf

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Lindy Mayfield wrote:
> Some years ago I had the best time programming microchips in assembler
> and making motors turn and serial connections to my PC, and things like
> that.  The electronics required were very simple.  A resistor here and
> there (with a guess at the value) to connect LED's.  I couldn't continue
> because where I live now doesn't have the space for me to have a place
> to work.  I still have the passion though.
>
[snip]

{Quote hidden}

Nice post, Lindy.

But, I have a very similar history to yours, except I have only 15 years
in computers. At the same time you were learning on the list I was too.
Maybe just a small step ahead of you.

Still, just a keen interest in electronics, and maybe some more space
than you to play...

but, my experience with Olin is different. At the exact time he was
being nice to you, he was being horrible to me.... In a post in the
"Analysis of Olin's EUSB2 Circuit" ..... after a full day of discussion
on his 'analyze the circuit challenge' originally posted in the thread
'Re: [EE:] How do you create and understand circuits? (i.e. why am i
sostoopid)' where he invites you to 'If you want a exercise, take a look
at the schematic to my USBProg PIC'

I spent the next few hours 'shadowing' you as you worked through some of
the details in the circuit... then, a day later, after you re-posted the
challenge, and were struggling to come up with an answer, I figured, as
a newbie, I would post what I thought the circuit did. I started the
post with:

Hi Lindy, I am somewhat new to this as well, and I had a stab at
understanding it.

Olin took exception to me making that post, after he expressly said it
was open to 'beginners'.

to quote him:
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Rolf wrote:

> > Briefly, the way it works is that the inductor (L1) ...
>

Sigh.  I had expected that everyone understood this was a learning exercise
for Lindy and others somewhat new to electronics, and that the best way for
them to learn would be to have them figure out pieces themselves with
guidance as needed to "walk them down the garden path".  Just telling them
how it works defeats this purpose, at least until they've spent some
reasonable effort to figure it out themselves and got close enough.  The
best way to learn something is to figure it out yourself.  Not only does
that make it stick in the brain, it also provides a pride of accomplishment
and a desire to continue onto the the next hurdle.  Each hurdle must be a
challenge, but attainable with a little work.  Place one big hurdle at the
end and the student will get scared off being overwhelmed, feel inadequate
("I'll never get this!") and possibly not come back.  Take down all the
hurdles and the student just walks along too easily with no necessity to
learn anything.  I thought this to be self-evident, but alas not.

I'm really dissappointed that people either didn't get this, or understand
so little about teaching even though it should be intuitive.  I guess I
shouldn't be surprised with over 1000 people on this list, since all it
takes is one or two to ruin it.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Basically, Olin can be nice, and can be nasty. You got lucky.

As it happens, I learned a great deal from that example, and before
Olin's rude 'comeback', I held him in high esteem. Now I am more cynical
when it comes to his motives.

Rolf

P.S. Olin does not subscribe to [OT] postings, so I have cc'd him directly.

2008\06\26@105706 by Lindy Mayfield

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What I meant to say was it took me about 30 years to realize that the beginning books on electronics I read weren't enough and that beating myself up for not "getting" it was in vain.

I totally didn't mean to say anything personal about anyone one way or another.

A discussion about how to get from beginner to the next step to someone knowledgeable about electronics is, IMHO, a better discussion.

Am I wrong here? -  
When reading mathematics books they seem to spend about a page on the basics (if that much) before jumping right into the difficult stuff.  For electronics it seems to me that the approach is similar.  I haven't found any good books that take a beginner slowly to each next step.  (If there is, I'd love to buy it!)  It's possible, too, that I just don't get it.  Yet.

If you study music, say piano, then you go baby step by baby step from beginner.  When learning computer languages the approaches are similar.  Little by little.

Anyway, I'm still trying.  That can't be all bad.

-----Original Message-----
From: .....piclist-bouncesKILLspamspam@spam@mit.edu [piclist-bouncesspamKILLspammit.edu] On Behalf Of Rolf
Sent: 26. kesäkuuta 2008 17:19
To: Microcontroller discussion list - Public.; .....olin_piclistKILLspamspam.....embedinc.com
Subject: Re: [OT] Apologies to Olin

Rolf wrote:
</snip>

2008\06\26@105729 by Lindy Mayfield

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What I meant to say was it took me about 30 years to realize that the beginning books on electronics I read weren't enough and that beating myself up for not "getting" it was in vain.

I totally didn't mean to say anything personal about anyone one way or another.

A discussion about how to get from beginner to the next step to someone knowledgeable about electronics is, IMHO, a better discussion.

Am I wrong here? -  
When reading mathematics books they seem to spend about a page on the basics (if that much) before jumping right into the difficult stuff.  For electronics it seems to me that the approach is similar.  I haven't found any good books that take a beginner slowly to each next step.  (If there is, I'd love to buy it!)  It's possible, too, that I just don't get it.  Yet.

If you study music, say piano, then you go baby step by baby step from beginner.  When learning computer languages the approaches are similar.  Little by little.

Anyway, I'm still trying.  That can't be all bad.

-----Original Message-----
From: EraseMEpiclist-bouncesspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTmit.edu [piclist-bouncesspamspam_OUTmit.edu] On Behalf Of Rolf
Sent: 26. kesäkuuta 2008 17:19
To: Microcontroller discussion list - Public.; @spam@olin_piclistKILLspamspamembedinc.com
Subject: Re: [OT] Apologies to Olin

Rolf wrote:
</snip>

2008\06\26@110655 by Wouter van Ooijen

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> I'm really dissappointed that people either didn't get this, or understand
> so little about teaching even though it should be intuitive.  I guess I
> shouldn't be surprised with over 1000 people on this list, since all it
> takes is one or two to ruin it.
>
> ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>
> Basically, Olin can be nice, and can be nasty. You got lucky.

I's say you (Rolf) did something that Olin did not like, and Olin
expressed that. You comment a lot on the lack of 'niceness' in Olin's
reply, but how about the basic message: he was disappointed that someone
spoiled the challenge before the intended audience had enough time to
work out the answer for themselves. Like spoiling a joke by jelling the
punch line too early. Do you disagree with that?

--

Wouter van Ooijen

-- -------------------------------------------
Van Ooijen Technische Informatica: http://www.voti.nl
consultancy, development, PICmicro products
docent Hogeschool van Utrecht: http://www.voti.nl/hvu

2008\06\26@115147 by Alan B. Pearce

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>A discussion about how to get from beginner to the next step
>to someone knowledgeable about electronics is, IMHO, a better
>discussion.
>
>Am I wrong here? -
>When reading mathematics books they seem to spend about a page
>on the basics (if that much) before jumping right into the difficult
>stuff.  For electronics it seems to me that the approach is similar.
>I haven't found any good books that take a beginner slowly to each
>next step.  (If there is, I'd love to buy it!)  It's possible, too,
>that I just don't get it.  Yet.
>
>If you study music, say piano, then you go baby step by baby step
>from beginner.  When learning computer languages the approaches
>are similar.  Little by little.

One of the problems with electronics is that the components you see, and are
annotated on a schematic, are not all the components in the circuit. With
practically everything else that you study (except perhaps atomic and
quantum physics) there are no stray 'invisible' components that can really
FU your day. This is the area where many people get themselves into strife
when knocking up circuits on a prototyping board. Other things like supply
bypass capacitors can also have effects that people don't appreciate.

I remember a colleague who should really have known a lot better, hooking
the ground terminal on the front panel of an oscilloscope to the ground of a
computer he was looking to do some serving on, using about 3' of hook-up
wire, removing the ground lead from the scope probe because it was in the
way, and then wondering why he could not see any signals that he knew were
there, clocking at 20MHz. The big open loop just put so much 50Hz hum on the
screen that the signal he was looking for was totally swamped. Unfortunately
this is the sort of thing that does catch beginners out - after all a piece
of wire is just that, forgetting that it becomes a turn on a transformer of
a magnetic field that envelopes the environment that is full of 50Hz
interference.

It is the same with any schematic diagram - one of the journeyman when I was
doing my apprenticeship said that it wasn't the components that they showed
on the application note schematics, but the invisible stray ones they didn't
show, that mattered or caught you out.

2008\06\26@115155 by Per Linne

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Yes really!
Thank you!
He deserves lots of them...

PerL

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jinx" <KILLspamjoecolquittKILLspamspamclear.net.nz>
To: "Microcontroller discussion list - Public." <RemoveMEpiclistTakeThisOuTspammit.edu>
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2008 9:10 AM
Subject: Re: [OT] Apologies to Olin


> Good post Lindy
>
> --

2008\06\26@122848 by Thomas C. Sefranek

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-----Original Message-----
From: spamBeGonepiclist-bouncesspamBeGonespammit.edu [TakeThisOuTpiclist-bouncesEraseMEspamspam_OUTmit.edu] On Behalf Of
Alan B. Pearce
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2008 11:51 AM
To: Microcontroller discussion list - Public.
Subject: Re: [OT] Apologies to Olin


{Quote hidden}

I did that with an early color "Computer", and BLEW out EVERYTHING.
It had a HOT chassis!  If you don't know what a hot chassis is,...
Be glad you live in an age where that is no longer allowed for sale.

Tom

 *
 |  __O    Thomas C. Sefranek  RemoveMEWA1RHPspamTakeThisOuTARRL.NET
 |_-\<,_   Amateur Radio Operator: WA1RHP
 (*)/ (*)  Bicycle mobile on 145.41MHz PL74.4

ARRL Instructor, Technical Specialist, VE Contact.
hamradio.cmcorp.com/inventory/Inventory.html
http://www.harvardrepeater.org

2008\06\26@141701 by Sean Breheny

face picon face
Hi Lindy,

You might try "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill. It was
written to teach undergraduate physics students how to do practical
electronics stuff for experiments. However, it has much wider
application. If you are somewhat science/math oriented but a total
nubie at electronics, it should be just the right thing for you.

Sean


On Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 10:56 AM, Lindy Mayfield
<lindy.mayfieldEraseMEspam.....ssf.sas.com> wrote:
{Quote hidden}

>

2008\06\26@155620 by Lindy Mayfield

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What a great book.  It was recommended to me a couple of years ago by someone on this list.  I just thumbed through it a bit and am awed by how much information is in there.

{Original Message removed}

2008\06\26@163518 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On Jun 26, 2008, at 7:56 AM, Lindy Mayfield wrote:

> it took me about 30 years to realize that the beginning books on  
> electronics I read weren't enough and that beating myself up for  
> not "getting" it was in vain.

That's really a shame, since my perception is that you can understand  
quite a lot of "practical" electronics without understanding much  
more than Ohm's law and the "beginning" description of basic  
components.  I mean, senior year of my EE program, we analyzed a 555  
timer IC at the transistor level, but I don't think I see why it  
takes much training to understand it at the "logical block" level  
presented in most data sheets...

Perhaps it's one of those "legacy educational" things; the Powers  
That Be are so intrenched in teaching EE in the old ways (calculus,  
physics, more calculus, etc) that no one has even tried to do it  
differently...  Every once in a while you find someone who is "self-
taught" and effective without that background. but it's rare...

BillW

2008\06\26@191404 by Xiaofan Chen

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On Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 4:34 AM, William Chops Westfield <RemoveMEwestfwTakeThisOuTspamspammac.com> wrote:
> Perhaps it's one of those "legacy educational" things; the Powers
> That Be are so intrenched in teaching EE in the old ways (calculus,
> physics, more calculus, etc) that no one has even tried to do it
> differently...  Every once in a while you find someone who is "self-
> taught" and effective without that background. but it's rare...
>

Maybe it has more to do with typical corporate HR policy and
career ladder. It is difficult for a self-taught to enter the
door of a company as an engineer...

As for education, I think that is the right way to teach EE.
You need some calculus and physics to understand EE.
If you compare young European students and US students,
European students often have better theoretical background
but they still can catch up with the practical aspect very fast
with the training in the university.

Xiaofan

2008\06\26@213159 by John Chung

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My interest is very wide. From computers*my day job* to electronics. Most of the subjects being taught in school does not make the student realize the importance of the subject. There are classic books to contemporary works. I believe you know the distinction. Ex: "The Unix Programming Environment"

For electronics it has a very long history and some what harder to find out which are the classic books. Michael Faraday book is a very good example of electricity experiments. You will be able to piece the theories together.

John Chung


PS: I do find 2 kinds of technical ppl. Those that can teach and those that try to teach.






--- On Thu, 6/26/08, Lindy Mayfield <EraseMElindy.mayfieldspamspamspamBeGonessf.sas.com> wrote:

{Quote hidden}

> -

2008\06\27@022134 by David Meiklejohn

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Xiaofan wrote:
>
> On Fri, Jun 27, 2008 at 4:34 AM, William Chops Westfield <@spam@westfw@spam@spamspam_OUTmac.com>
> wrote:
>> Perhaps it's one of those "legacy educational" things; the Powers
>> That Be are so intrenched in teaching EE in the old ways (calculus,
>> physics, more calculus, etc) that no one has even tried to do it
>> differently...  Every once in a while you find someone who is "self-
>> taught" and effective without that background. but it's rare...
>
> Maybe it has more to do with typical corporate HR policy and
> career ladder. It is difficult for a self-taught to enter the
> door of a company as an engineer...

Yes - I'm an IT manager, so in IT, not EE, but the same applies.  I hire
developers, and I am much more likely to hire one with a "proper" CS
degree, than someone who is self-taught.  Why?  Because I don't want a
talented cowboy, who thinks he knows it all.  I want someone who thinks in
a structured way about problems.  Specific skills are easily enough
learned - if someone has the right approach, I can send them on a course
to bring them up to date on language XYZ.  I just find that those with a
formal education produce better results (quality), in the long run,
particularly when working as a team.

> As for education, I think that is the right way to teach EE.
> You need some calculus and physics to understand EE.
> If you compare young European students and US students,
> European students often have better theoretical background
> but they still can catch up with the practical aspect very fast
> with the training in the university.

Yes - I agree that some things (like a 555 timer) can be used quite well,
most of the time, with only a "block-level" view of them.  But - how would
you ever understand how inductors behave, without knowing what di/dt
means?
Or, speaking of 'i' (but let's make it 'j') - I remember being impressed,
in 2nd year (Americans call it sophomore, I think?), how useful complex
numbers are - how elegant the concept of complex impedances is, and how
nicely it all works out.  Or seeing how useful Laplace and Fourier
transforms were.  Never mind the horrors of control theory, from 3rd
year...

The maths (math, for Americans) provides a basis that makes it much easier
to understand what's going on.  There is a difference between being an
engineer and a technician - it's about depth of knowledge.  And, as I
wrote about developers above, approach.  The neat thing ("cool", these
days?) about engineering is being able to actually calculate the right
answer from available data, instead of randomly trying stuff until it
works, and hoping for the best.  While of course understanding that
practice often doesn't match the theory - but also, hopefully, also
appreciating why it doesn't (as in the comments about earth loops and
such).


David Meiklejohn

2008\06\27@024454 by David Meiklejohn

face
flavicon
face
Lindy wrote:
>
> A discussion about how to get from beginner to the next step to someone
> knowledgeable about electronics is, IMHO, a better discussion.
>
> Am I wrong here? -
> When reading mathematics books they seem to spend about a page on the
> basics (if that much) before jumping right into the difficult stuff.  For
> electronics it seems to me that the approach is similar.  I haven't found
> any good books that take a beginner slowly to each next step.  (If there
> is, I'd love to buy it!)  It's possible, too, that I just don't get it.
> Yet.
>
> If you study music, say piano, then you go baby step by baby step from
> beginner.  When learning computer languages the approaches are similar.
> Little by little.

I don't have answers to this, just an observation.  When I was a lad,
electronics was my hobby.  I guess, had I been born later, it would have
been computing (which probably explains why the hobby has become an old
person's game - but I digress).  Anyway, I read electronics magazines and
used to enjoy making things - usually circuits out of those magazines.  I
knew the basics of what each component did, knew Ohms law, but - that took
me only so far.  I doubt I would even have gotten to the point that I
could design something in any way complex.  There was a barrier I couldn't
really see past.

And then I finished school and studied electrical engineering.  It was
hard work (but much was fun, as well).  And toward the end of it, in my
last year, a friend of mine asked if I had any idea how to build a video
digitiser (using the components of the late '80s), and I sat down for a
couple of hours and sketched out a circuit that we turned into a
moderately successful commercial product:
http://www.nickm.launch.net.au/ProjectArchive/rascan.html

In the few years I had been at university, something had "clicked" for me
- I was far more capable than before.  Well, one would hope so, I guess!
But I have no idea what "baby steps" had been taken to get from A to B.

So - other than doing an EE degree, I don't have an answer.  I suspect
that it is simply a big step to climb.


David Meiklejohn


2008\06\27@033742 by Lindy Mayfield

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Exactly!  I really appreciate that because it is just how I feel.  

I've been working with IBM mainframes for about 25 years now and all along the way, every now and then, something just clicks.  

What just clicked for me about electronics is that the learning process is basically the same.  I can explain computer programs in terms of reading and writing memory, logical statements, and arithmetic operations.  But it is a very long way from that to writing complex applications.  

One big difference is that computers are my profession while I only slightly dabble in EE.  If it were the other way round I'd probably be good with electronics and struggling with the programming aspect of it.

{Original Message removed}

2008\06\27@063131 by Dennis Crawley

picon face
On Thursday, June 26, 2008 3:16 PM [GMT-3=CET],
Sean Breheny  wrote:

> Hi Lindy,
>
> You might try "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill. It was
> written to teach undergraduate physics students how to do practical
> electronics stuff for experiments. However, it has much wider
> application. If you are somewhat science/math oriented but a total
> nubie at electronics, it should be just the right thing for you.
>
> Sean
>
>
> On Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 10:56 AM, Lindy Mayfield wrote:
>><snip>
>> For electronics it seems to me that the approach is similar.  I haven't
>> found any good books that take a beginner slowly to each next step.  (If
>> there is, I'd love to buy it!)  It's possible, too, that I just don't
>> get it.  Yet.

My suggestion is to read Chapter by chapter two books:
"Introductory circuit analysis" and "Ciruit Theory" both by Robert Boylestad
The next step you can read Horowitz, NOT before. If you still need the step
by step thing.

Regards,
Dennis




2008\06\28@075123 by Peter

picon face

Lindy Mayfield <lindy.mayfield <at> ssf.sas.com> writes:
> One big difference is that computers are my profession while I only slightly
dabble in EE.  If it were the
> other way round I'd probably be good with electronics and struggling with the
programming aspect of it.

Electronics and IT share two major features: complexity and precision. The
former demands the latter. But the understanding/modeling side is very similar.
A complex circuit is just a mesh that can be represented as a sparse matrix and
computed using specific rules for the nodes (for example Spice does that, and
NEC2 does it for RF circuits and antennas). It's just a glorified state machine.
Don't be fooled by the 'analog' character of the system not being modeled
properly by an inherently digital steady state model. Everything has a finite
resolution eventually. This is the same as an algorythm represented by a
connected graph in IT, and modeled by an automaton walking it. So if one learns
the rules well enough one can master both CS and EE. Of course there is no
replacement for a degree program in CS or in EE. It's the huge volume of
information that causes problems for 'casual' students, together with the
commercial (non-engineering/physics) oriented information available from
contemporary books and other sources.

Peter


2008\06\28@120528 by Lindy Mayfield

flavicon
face
Thanks Dennis.  I have the first one.  Best book on electronics (for me that is) I've ever seen.

Is the second one called "Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory" by Boylestad and Nashelsky?  

Lindy

-----Original Message-----
From: spamBeGonepiclist-bouncesspamKILLspammit.edu [.....piclist-bouncesspam_OUTspammit.edu] On Behalf Of Dennis Crawley
Sent: 27. kesäkuuta 2008 13:34
To: Microcontroller discussion list - Public.
Subject: Re: [OT] Apologies to Olin


My suggestion is to read Chapter by chapter two books:
"Introductory circuit analysis" and "Ciruit Theory" both by Robert Boylestad
The next step you can read Horowitz, NOT before. If you still need the step
by step thing.

Regards,
Dennis

2008\06\28@184140 by Dennis Crawley

picon face
On Saturday, June 28, 2008 1:05 PM [GMT-3=CET],
Lindy Mayfield  wrote:

> Thanks Dennis.  I have the first one.  Best book on electronics (for me
> that is) I've ever seen.
>
> Is the second one called "Electronic Devices and Circuit Theory" by
> Boylestad and Nashelsky?

Yes, that one. If that is just very basic for you (not for me I must read
and do excercises every day), you can jump to schaums collection to do some
filter problems or buy some EE handbooks.

This science ever ends... And when I feel that I know the diode curves, a
tunnel diode appears or a pin diode, or whatever.

Dennis



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