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'newbie conflicting'
1999\08\25@200856 by Justin Headley

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face
ok, i'll make this quick, i have no idea were to get started in
microcontrollers. To put it bluntly, i don't even have a basic
understanding of electronics. I've read a couple beginner's books but i
don't know more than very simple digital stuff, although i know a good
deal about simple analog stuff. I was thinking that maybe i could get a
stamp to start out on, since they seem more user-friendly than PICs,
since i actually had some trouble programming pascal, so if i have
trouble in pascal, then i know i'll have trouble writing a program in
ASM or hex, or binary, or whatever. I like basic and i like how stamps
are set up, they look like they have a good introduction to it, but it
seems kinda pricey, that is why i am thinking about pics, since i know
all the professionals use them, and they're much more powerful than
stamps, but the complexedy of them turns me off. I've tried several
newsgroups about this and none of them can give me a straight answer
about what i should try, so can you?
This is my first day on this group so sorry if something like this is in
an faq or something, ps where's the faq

--
Last night as I lay in bed looking at the stars I thought: "Where the
hell is the ceiling?!"

1999\08\25@203432 by Sean H. Breheny

face picon face
Hi Justin,

First off,let me welcome you to the rewarding world of electronics in
general,and especially PICs. You will find this list to be your single BEST
resource for all things electronic, again especially PICs. I say this from
my own experiences here.

If you have any real perseverence (and it sounds as if you do, from the
number of people you have asked), I think the best thing for you to do is
to set yourself up with a PIC 16F84 (about $5), an inexpensive pre-built
PIC programmer (about $50), a 16F84 datasheet (free, from Microchip's web
page), a solderless breadboard, a crystal, two capacitors, a resistor, and
an LED (all together about $10). With these materials and the help of this
list, you should have the most basic PIC test program (to blink an LED on
and off) running in a day or two.
Ain introductory PIC book would probably also be a good idea.

Once you have this working, you will at least know the basics of how you
hook up a PIC. You can then use the introductory PIC book to learn
assembly. Think of a simple program to write (i.e., to blink the LED 5
times and then wait 2 seconds ,for example) and try to do it.

PIC assembly programming is different than programming in ASM for most
micros because a successful,working program can consist of a very small
number of simple instructions (10,for example).

Here are a few sites to visit to look for possible sources for the above
materials:

DigiKey http://www.digikey.com
Wirz Electronics http://www.wirz.com
MicroEngineering Labs (makers of the EPIC programmer,my favorite
inexpensive programmer) http://www.melabs.com/mel/home.htm
ProPic2 http://www.propic2.com
Microchip (the PIC's manufacturer) http://www.microchip.com

There are many,many others and I'm sure some people on this list will offer
some more.

I have used the Basic Stamp and it might speed up some people's learning
process by a small amount of time, but I don't think it is worth the
expense in this case.

If you are looking for a transitional language between BASIC and ASM, C is
definately the choice. PASCAL is somewhat similar,but not quite as
low-level. I think that PIC asm is so simple to learn use,however, that it
probably wouldn't be worth learning C first,although learning C is a very
good idea in general.

Sean





At 07:56 PM 5/1/99 -0400, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

| Sean Breheny
| Amateur Radio Callsign: KA3YXM
| Electrical Engineering Student
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1999\08\25@205016 by Erik Reikes

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face
At 07:56 PM 5/1/99 -0400, you wrote:
>ok, i'll make this quick, i have no idea were to get started in
>microcontrollers. To put it bluntly, i don't even have a basic
>understanding of electronics. I've read a couple beginner's books but i
>don't know more than very simple digital stuff, although i know a good
>deal about simple analog stuff. I was thinking that maybe i could get a
>stamp to start out on, since they seem more user-friendly than PICs,
>since i actually had some trouble programming pascal, so if i have
>trouble in pascal, then i know i'll have trouble writing a program in
>ASM or hex, or binary, or whatever. I like basic and i like how stamps
>are set up, they look like they have a good introduction to it, but it

I think you're going to get a lot further with a stamp than you would
starting out with PIC's.  While its not impossible to go 0-Assembler over
night, it can be quite a daunting task.  The price of getting started with
stamps and getting started with PIC's is probably quite similar.  A
hobbiest pic programmer itself is about 100-200 bucks.  While pic micros
are much cheaper, for R&D and quickee one offs, I still use stamps myself.
Its just plain old simpler to deal with.

Get the stamp development system without the documentation (its online),
but make sure and get one of parallaxes carrier boards.  They make life a
lot simpler.  Once you get the hang of the Stamp and/or hit a performance
limitation you can move up.  There is quite a steep learning curve starting
with limited knowledge and going straight to an embedded micro system.  The
truth of the matter is that starting out there isn't a lot you can do with
a PIC that can't be done with a STAMP.  Some of the things you will miss
are the flexibility of the different PIC micros and some real time
intensive features like interrupts and direct access to clocks.

Well, good luck.  If you decide you must learn PIC's from the start, I'd go
with the 16F84 as you won't need an eraser and I believe can build your own
programmer.

-E

1999\08\25@210932 by Nick Taylor

picon face
Hello Justin - -

For sure some will say to start with a PIC, others will insist that
the BASIC Stamp is the only way to go.  Listen to all of them, but
before you commit your time and cash please read what Prof. Anderson
has to say on the subject.
     http://www.phanderson.com/stamp/stamp-pic.html
Good luck and enjoy,
- Nick -

Justin Headley wrote:
[snip]
> ok, i'll make this quick, i have no idea were to get started in
> microcontrollers.

1999\08\25@211133 by Thomas Brandon
flavicon
picon face
First of, good luck, I hope you find the MCU world as interesting as I have.

See Peter H. Anderson's article Working with Stamps and PICs
(http://www.phanderson.com/stamp/stamp-pic.html) for an extensive discussion
of the relative merits of PICs and Basic Stamp style devices (covers other
BASIC stamp like devices as well). I was ready to go out and buy a Stamp
until I read this page (which isn't anti stamp in any way, in fact the
author likes many of the Stamp related products). I would suggest that
learning ASM for the PIC isn't exceptionally hard. There's not very many
instructions to use, and IMHO if you understand the PIC instructions you
will gain a much better understanding of why the PIC works the way it does
(or doesn't work the way you want it to). Of course I've had a fair ammount
of informal (and less formal) programming experience. Can write VB, Java and
a bit of MIPS ASM and C so PIC ASM's at about the same level as BASIC in my
book.

I got this link originally from Ross Bencina (a fellow PICLister's) DIY MIDI
Controllers using PIC Microcontrollers and Basic Stamps
(http://www.audiomulch.com/midipic/) which was the page that opened my eyes
to the wonderful world of PICs. I was thinking, I'm not paying hundreds for
a couple of MIDI knobs, started searching for DIY MIDI. After much fruitless
searching I found Ross's page jam packed with useful MIDI/PIC/Stamp info. If
you have any interest in MIDI, check it out. Thanks Ross.

I also have a copy of Myke Predko's Programming And Customising The PIC
which is a good book for a beginner to PIC's (and MCU's in general). Don't
know about the ASM stuff as I knew MIPS ASM so had no troubles, but it gives
a very good description of the PIC archetecture from a low level.

Tom.
----- Original Message -----
From: Justin Headley <.....jheadleyKILLspamspam@spam@CENTRALVA.NET>
Subject: newbie conflicting


> ok, i'll make this quick, i have no idea were to get started in
> microcontrollers
<SNIP>
> I was thinking that maybe i could get a stamp to start out on,
> since they seem more user-friendly than PICs,

1999\08\25@225630 by Bob Drzyzgula

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I'll add my couple of cents:

* I've never used a stamp or any BASIC-based uC, but I
will say that I don't imagine that assembler is *really*
that much harder. One of the big things MPASM has going
for it is that it really is a tiny language; there isn't
all that much to learn in the way of instructions and
everything from there on is idiom, i.e. the conventional
ways of combining instructions to do useful work. In this
regard, I'd recommend the "Easy PIC'n" book from Square
1. That book is well-focused on walking the beginner
through several examples of how to write simple programs
in MPASM.  I think that *any* programming environment
takes some getting used to; you might as well start with
the one that doesn't cost you any money and which will get
you closest to the hardware. If you do go this way, I'd
suggest taking a look at the stuff that Micro Engineering
Labs -- http://www.melabs.com/mel/home.htm -- has to offer;
among other things, they now offer a pre-made "84-on-board"
printed circuit board (called the "PICproto S1") to help
you get started with the Square 1 books. I also will highly
recommend their EPIC programmer -- the programming software
that comes with it is awesome.

In additon, MPLAB really is a darned good resource, and
one cool thing is that you can get started with it without
spending *any* money. You can download MPLAB, write and
assemble some programs, and run them on the simulator
to see how they work, trace execution, set breakpoints and
examine register contents, etc. Microchip provides extensive
documentation on all aspects of the PIC, and you can learn
a great deal about them before you decide how to spend
your money.

* I'll offer some herasy here and suggest that you also
consider at the AVR chips from Atmel (http://www.atmel.com).
These are available for reasonable cost from a couple
of distributers: http://www.pioneerstandard.com and
http://www.marshall.com. The STK200 "starter kit" is an
unbelievable value; for $49, you get not only an AVR chip
with 8KB of program memory (you get the 40-pin AT90S8515
chip) but also the assembler, a CD with full documentation,
and a PC programming cable and a development/programming
board fully decked out with switches and lights so
that you can fully learn to program the chip without
ever having to touch a soldering iron, and all the chip
signals brought out to headers so that you can solder
up experiments to your heart's content. Atmel also has
a simulator similar to the one in MPLAB, it is part
of the "AVR Studio"... download the version 2.0 from
Atmel's website.  You can purchase the STK200 online at
www.marshall.com/dynamic/pdpage?m=atm&p=ATSTK200-
and find out more about it and some related products
at http://www.kanda-systems.com/ I'm not aware of a starting
kit of equivalent value for any other microcontroller,
the PIC or the Basic Stamp included.  With the AVR,
you'll probably start out with assembler as well (get
the free IAR assembler, though, and chuck Atmel's), but
there are other choices as well; check out the "third
party" link page off Atmel's AVR page.

That being said, the primary downside of the AVR is that
this is the best electronics-related mailing list in the
world, and it's about PICs, not AVRs :-) There are
AVR mailing lists, but they are less active.

* Another alternative choice to consider is an old,
clunker of a PC. Peter Anderson's page has been
mentioned a couple of times already, but I'll mention it
again because it deserves it: http://www.phanderson.com/
Mr (Dr?) Anderson has written, with his students,
two books entitled "Use of a PC Printer Port for Control
and Data Acquisition" (Volume 1 and Volume 2). These
books are fascinating and take you through several
experiments that you can do with the parallel port of
a PC (given all the stuff he has you hook up, it isn't
recommended that you use your good PC... better to
get an old one from Goodwill or some place like that...
Computer Geeks -- http://www.compgeeks.com -- usually has
old 80486-based PCs for about $50.)  One thing about
Anderson's approach is that he has you do the stuff in
the C programming language. You'll probably wind up
getting sidetracked on learning C before you can get
too far, but that would be time well spent: C is as
close as you will ever come to a universal programming
language, I am not aware of *any* microcontroller or
microprocessor architecture for which there is not
a C compiler available. Anderson's programs are tested
with a different compiler, but I would be quite surprised
if they wouldn't generally work with the Pacific C
Compiler, available free for educational use from
Hi-Tech Software  -- http://www.htsoft.com -- Pacific
C being available for free is yet another fantastic
value, because it really is a full professional-quality
compiler; for commercial use it costs $175.

I imagine that you're completely confused by now,
being bombarded with advice like this. I'm sure that
you'll straighten it all out eventually, but, given
your interest, I'd also say that the only real
mistake you can make is to not start with *something*.
Just about anything you try will be one more step
down the road to a lifetime of learning and fun.

Damn, I did it again. Three cents worth.

--Bob

--
============================================================
Bob Drzyzgula                             It's not a problem
bobspamKILLspamdrzyzgula.org                until something bad happens
============================================================

1999\08\26@002804 by Matthew Fries

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Hey guys, did you hear that? He said that "All the professionals use (Stamps)".

Let's get him!



At 07:56 PM 5/1/99 -0400, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Remove the BALONEY from my email address.
-----------------------------------------------------
Matthew Fries       Minneapolis, MN    USA
.....freezeKILLspamspam.....baloneyvisi.com

"Quit eating all my *STUFF*!" - The Tick

1999\08\26@004453 by Eric Oliver

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Justin,

You've gotten some very good advice, but I'll throw in my $.01 worth since
I was on your position not too long ago. First it's not clear whether
you're just starting in electronics or already have some electronics
experience and are simply moving into uCs.

If your just getting started, tooling up can be an expensive proposition
even without adding uCs into the picture.  Over the last year I've spent
quite a bit (~$1,500) buying things like a good DMM, soldering iron, chips,
clips, protoboards, discrete components, programmers, blah, blah, blah.

I bought a Stamp for the same reason you are considering them. It seemed
like a quick way to get my feet wet.  Unfortunately, the project I had in
mind was too much for the Stamp to handle ( mainly because the Stamp has no
interrupts and I was dropping chars on my serial receive ) and it's now
collecting dust.

Here's my advice. _If_ you have the money, go with the PIC and buy a
commercial programmer that can handle a wide range of PICs.  There are also
BASIC compilers available for the PIC if that's the route you wish to go.
There are several freeware C and Pascal compilers available but
unfortunately most of these support only a small subset of the PIC line (
PIC16F84 ).

The CCS C compiler is a decent compiler for the money ( about $99 ) but
many on this list will tell you that it's buggy.

The 16F84 is a popular chip to start with, but it lacks peripherals like
PWM, USARTs, capture ports, etc.  I have no experience with it, but the new
16F877 has generated quite a bit of excitement on this list lately. My
understanding is that it's very similar to the 84 but adds some sorely
needed features.

To further complicate matters, there are many uC manufacturers making
inroads against the PIC.  The two most notable are the Scenix chips and the
Atmel AVR.  The general consensus seems to be that these chips offer more
performance/features for the price, but available info/support groups are
not nearly as prolific as for the PIC.  I personally have been leaning
toward the AVR chips because they offer so much more than the PIC for so
much less. However, I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable going
straight into AVRs without the experience I've gained by using PICs.

Here's the route I finally settled on.  First, I bought a PICStart Plus at
roughly $200. I chose this programmer because it supports every PIC chip
that I'm aware of.  Second, I bought the CCS compiler because 1) I've been
programming in C for years 2) the price was right and 3) it supported a
broad range of chips ( but not all ). With a programmer and a compiler,
datasheets and MPLAB ( free from MicroChip ), a few discreets and
electronics tools and your ready to let the smoke out of a few PICs !

Good luck and welcome to the list !

Eric


On Saturday, May 01, 1999 6:57 PM, Justin Headley
[SMTP:EraseMEjheadleyspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTCENTRALVA.NET] wrote:
{Quote hidden}

1999\08\26@020817 by David Boone

flavicon
face
I'm also a newbie.  I'm desperately wanting to actually play with some PICs,
but so far I've been having fun w/ the simulator and am learning ASM.  What
my question is, how well do those "extra low-cost" programmers work?  I've
seen several stages, some with only 1 resistor, others with several components
and more and more complicated...  I want to play but I don't want to pay :)
If I get a PIC or two and the oscilator, will I be good to go?  Or will I waste

time trying to get one of the cheap programmers working?

Thanks!
David Boone


{Quote hidden}

1999\08\26@064808 by Bob Drzyzgula

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face
On Wed, Aug 25, 1999 at 11:05:35PM -0700, David Boone wrote:
> I'm also a newbie.  I'm desperately wanting to actually play with some PICs,
> but so far I've been having fun w/ the simulator and am learning ASM.  What
> my question is, how well do those "extra low-cost" programmers work?  I've
> seen several stages, some with only 1 resistor, others with several components
> and more and more complicated...  I want to play but I don't want to pay :)
> If I get a PIC or two and the oscilator, will I be good to go?  Or will I wast
e
> time trying to get one of the cheap programmers working?

Depends on how cheap you mean by really cheap. There are
some very low-cost designs that are limited to the 16F84
that can be a little flaky and hard to get right. But
there are reasonably low-cost designs like the Micro
Engineering Labs EPIC (available from Jameco for $60)
and the PICall from DIY that are more reliable and will
support a wide range of PICs.

--Bob

--
============================================================
Bob Drzyzgula                             It's not a problem
bobspamspam_OUTdrzyzgula.org                until something bad happens
============================================================

1999\08\26@065018 by Bob Drzyzgula

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face
C'mon Matthew, he said all the professionals use *PICs*.
I think he was trying to butter us up.

--Bob

On Wed, Aug 25, 1999 at 11:12:12PM -0500, Matthew Fries wrote:
> Hey guys, did you hear that? He said that "All the professionals use (Stamps)"
.
>
> Let's get him!

--
============================================================
Bob Drzyzgula                             It's not a problem
@spam@bobKILLspamspamdrzyzgula.org                until something bad happens
============================================================

1999\08\26@104017 by Dan Creagan

flavicon
face
I started to respond to this one with a great deal of information that
essentially has been covered (probably better) by others.

However, I watch people approach learning things like this (almost like
this) on a regular basis and my approach is to always believe them when they
say they are weak in an area.  In this case, I believe you when you say you
are weak in programming skills and have no background in electronics. The
surest path (IMHO) would be to go the Stamp route. A Stamp is fine for
beginning and for follow on. I still use them - one is running a test cycle
on a motor controller on my bench right now.

When I'm trying to do something for the very first time, I try to insure a
success.  I really don't think I could recommend someone to start playing in
PICs until they understood a little electronics and felt comfortable in
programming at least one high level language (besides BASIC). Justin, you
would find huge support for Stamps, tons of projects, and once you got it
all together, could move on.

If you are still not sure try this:

Get the book Programming and Customizing the BASIC Stamp Computer by Scott
Edwards, ISBN 0-07-913683-4 (hc). It is available in some libraries and it
costs about $40 or so if you want to buy it.  It goes through everything you
need to know to set up the Stamp and it will give you a feel for whether a
Stamp is your cup of tea.  It is a great starting point that will not cause
you to invest a bunch of money.  If you are still not sure, get the Easy Pic
'n book and compare the two.  You know what your capabilities are and you
should be able to decide after reading the two.

Dan

OK.. now for the wild card.  I could almost recommend the BasicX development
kit for a new person with no electronics background. It is VERY easy to get
going (as easy as a Stamp) but it has soooo much more going for it.
Unfortunately, it is not as well supported so you are on your own on most
projects. The cost is $49 and it is one of the best deals on the net.
http://www.basicx.com is the URL.

1999\08\26@113531 by eplus1

flavicon
face
Dan, If there is only one valuable thing I have learned in my life it is
this: You cannot succeed without experience and you cannot gain experience
without failing.

Caring
   Trying  ---------- NO
     | Failure        |
     NO--> Experience V
                Success

... and since, as this diagram clearly shows, failure is a necessary step
which can not be avoided on the road to Success, Justin, my best advice to
you, at this point, is to fail as often and as memorably as possible (with
out damaging others, of course).

James Newton, webmaster http://get.to/techref
(hint: you can add your own private info to the techref)
KILLspamjamesnewtonKILLspamspamgeocities.com
1-619-652-0593 phoneÊ



{Original Message removed}

1999\08\26@114147 by John Mitchell

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face
On Thu, 26 Aug 1999, James Newton wrote:

> Dan, If there is only one valuable thing I have learned in my life it is
> this: You cannot succeed without experience and you cannot gain experience
> without failing.


Yep.  If you spend 20 hours trying to build a common part that can be had
for $3, that's called "experience" :)

My junkbox-transistor H-bridge isnt very pretty, and doesnt work very
well, so it's a "failure."  But, I learned a *lot*, so it's a Success!



- j

1999\08\26@142610 by Dan Creagan

flavicon
face
You are certainly correct in the abstract case.  However,
Justin will have plenty of failures putting together a Stamp
project, but the possibility of overall success will be
greater if what he says about his qualification is true. It
really is just a matter of playing the best odds.  I have
seen many students walk away from the techy areas because
they couldn't succeed early on.  I have seen many more who
just needed a few early successes to become motivated to
really nail the courses.  Indeed, bridging success to
success is one of the foundations of education that (I
think) is generally accepted. Bridging failure to failure is
a more obscure axiom that I have rarely heard 8).

(My Humble Opinion comes in throughout the following): In
both your case and mine, we are assuming a bit about
Justin's capability.  In the end, it has to be up to the
individual and that's why I presented the scenario that
would have the best chance of success for what I assumed
Justin's experience to be .  Justin may very well be capable
of handling the PIC scenario - but just in case his
experience isn't quite right for PICs, the Stamp will offer
an alternative way to that goal.

Dan


{Original Message removed}

1999\08\26@143038 by Jack Shidemantle

flavicon
face
Let me throw my oar in the water here. I just finished a project using a
PIC12C509 and another with the F84 for my employer. The problem is we had a
software guy that did all the coding, I just did the hardware. Now that guy
is no longer available so it's up to me to learn some software for future
projects.  After reading this stuff I just convinced my boss to let me
order PBP and a Stamp2 (which I just did).  I'm sure I'll be in here with
lots of questions.  Thanks for all the good input. I've been on this list
for a year now, not participated a whole lot, but sure have learned a
bunch. I hope in the future I'll be able to return some input to the group.



                   Matthew Fries
                   <freeze@VISI.C        To:     RemoveMEPICLISTTakeThisOuTspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU
                   OM>                   cc:
                   Sent by: pic          Subject:     Re: newbie conflicting
                   microcontrolle
                   r discussion
                   list
                   <PICLIST@MITVM
                   A.MIT.EDU>


                   08/26/99 12:12
                   AM
                   Please respond
                   to pic
                   microcontrolle
                   r discussion
                   list





Hey guys, did you hear that? He said that "All the professionals use
(Stamps)".

Let's get him!



At 07:56 PM 5/1/99 -0400, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

Remove the BALONEY from my email address.
-----------------------------------------------------
Matthew Fries       Minneapolis, MN    USA
spamBeGonefreezespamBeGonespambaloneyvisi.com

"Quit eating all my *STUFF*!" - The Tick

1999\08\26@172112 by steveb

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face
> ok, i'll make this quick, i have no idea were to get started in
> microcontrollers. To put it bluntly, i don't even have a basic
> understanding of electronics.

Just in case you are still counting votes, I'd strongly recommend
getting a Stamp and the carrier board. While you can save a few
dollars by downloading the PDF, the spiral bound printed manual is
easier to work with and cheaper than printing 450 pages (IMHO).

Everything about the stamp is set up as a learning tool. There's
plenty of support in mailing lists, books, examples, etc.
So that gets your foot in the door.

If you then move into PICs / assembler, you have something to compare
against. For example, the Stamp has an RCTIME statement. You can try
and duplicate what that does in assembler and learn in the process.

I've been doing this embedded stuff for about 15 years and got a
Stamp a couple of years ago. It is one of the most useful tools I
have. While I do all the real work with assemblers, compilers, scope,
CAD, etc, the Stamp is great for all those extra little bits of
circuit stimuli during development. For example, if you have a
startup problem just hook up the Stamp to the reset line and tell it
to pulse it every second. No contact bounce, no messy patch board
falling onto your circuit, battery powered so it can be floating at
whatever voltage your circuit needs. I find it so useful for those
things that otherwise would take an hour or two to knock
something together and then use for 5 minutes.

Comparing that to all the various evaluation boards and things that
just gather dust, I don't think that you can go wrong buying one.

Steve.

======================================================
Steve Baldwin                Electronic Product Design
TLA Microsystems Ltd         Microcontroller Specialists
PO Box 15-680, New Lynn      http://www.tla.co.nz
Auckland, New Zealand        ph  +64 9 820-2221
email: TakeThisOuTstevebEraseMEspamspam_OUTtla.co.nz      fax +64 9 820-1929
======================================================

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