| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 447, 12 March 2012
Welcome to this year's 11th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Sabayon Linux is an invitingly pleasant distribution to review. With its cutting-edge features, latest software and a variety of editions, it rarely ceases to amaze and the project's latest release, version 8, is no exception. This week's feature article takes a look at the distribution's Xfce edition which combines a wide range of excellent software with a more traditional desktop look and feel. In the news section, Arch Linux developers celebrate the distro's 10th birthday by recalling the beginnings of their involvements in the project, Klaus Knopper announces the upcoming release of KNOPPIX 7.0 featuring a recent Linux kernel and updated software packages, and Mark Shuttleworth thanks the Ubuntu user community for support during the distribution's ambitious transition from a desktop-focused system to a more consumer-oriented entity. Also in this issue, an update in the Secure Boot saga, an introduction to a security and hacking distribution from India, and the usual round of new distro submissions, including a renewed effort showcasing the latest Window Maker in a live CD. Happy reading!
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|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
A look at Sabayon Linux 8|
The Sabayon Linux distribution is a Gentoo-based project which attempts to provide a cutting-edge user experience which "just works". The project provides several editions, the main ones being the GNOME, KDE, Xfce and Core flavours. Each edition is available in 32-bit and 64-bit builds so the hardest hurdle to cross is figuring out which ISO we want to download. I opted for the Xfce edition which, if you've been following my reviews of late, you'll notice is becoming a bit of a trend. Recently I've been finding GNOME 3 too unpleasant and cumbersome to use and, while I enjoy the features of KDE, I'll be the first to admit it's a bit on the heavy side. More and more I'm finding Xfce provides my ideal balance of features and performance.
The 32-bit Xfce Sabayon Linux ISO image is fairly large, weighing in at 1.4 GB. Booting from the disc brings up a menu asking if we'd like to try the live environment, launch the graphical installer, launch a text installer or boot from the local drive. I opted to try the live environment and was brought to an Xfce desktop. There's a lot of grey in evidence. The application menu sits at the top of the screen and the task switcher sits at the bottom. On the desktop we find icons for navigating the file system, donating to the project, opening a web page to the project's documentation and launching the installer.
Sabayon Linux uses the Anaconda system installer, the same one used by the Fedora project. It starts off asking us which language we prefer to use, then it gets us to confirm our keyboard layout. We're asked to enter a hostname for our computer and then select our time zone. The next screen prompts us to set a password for the root account and then we're asked to create a regular user account. Then we get into partitioning. Anaconda supports a wide range of disk layouts and we can use it to set up RAID environments, LVM and most Linux partition types, including Btrfs. Unlike recent Fedora releases Sabayon's installer doesn't force us to use the ext4 file system for the root partition, nor are we required to set up an extra partition for GPT. The final screen of the installer asks us to confirm we want to install a boot loader and then the installer begins copying its files to the local hard drive.
Sabayon Linux 8 - the system installer
(full image size: 196kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Once the installation is complete we can boot into Sabayon Linux and we're presented with a graphical login screen. Logging in we find the same Xfce environment, but with the installer's desktop icon swapped out for the distribution's package manager. The Xfce desktop largely stays out of the way and leaves us to explore without distractions. The only notifications I ever saw were to let me know when wireless network connections were available and when security updates were ready to be downloaded. The environment uses a good deal of grey, making for a somber, no-nonsense interface.
The Sabayon Linux distribution comes with a collection of popular applications. Peering into the application menu we find the Midori web browser, the Transmission BitTorrent client and the XChat IRC chat client. The menu also includes an entry for opening Midori in private browsing mode, convenient for those who don't want to leave a trail of browsing history behind them. We find a copy of LibreOffice, a PDF viewer, the Cheese webcam utility, the Exaile audio player and the Totem video player. The distribution comes with popular media codecs giving us the ability to play most multimedia files out of the box. The Flash browser plugin is included too. We're given the GNU Image Manipulation Program, the Shotwell photo manager and a text editor.
There is a sub-menu dedicated to providing links to various parts of the project's website, including the forums, bug tracker and documentation. Network connections are handled by Network Manager and the GPPP dialer is included in the application menu. Further digging turns up a graphical firewall configuration tool, a printer manager and the distribution's "Entropy Store" package manager. Looking further we find WINE is included for running Windows applications and the GNU Compiler Collection is installed for developers. Some Java packages are installed, but trying to run Java programs results in an error and it appears as though the Java installation isn't complete. There is a menu entry for an e-mail client, but the launcher points to a program which isn't installed. All of this sits on top of the 3.2 version of the Linux kernel.
Sabayon Linux 8 - running various applications
(full image size: 212kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
I ran the distribution on two machines, my HP laptop (dual-core 2 GHz CPU, 3 GB of RAM, Intel video card) and a desktop box (2.5 GHz CPU, 2 GB of RAM, NVIDIA video card). In both cases Sabayon Linux correctly detected and handled all of my hardware. My display was set to its maximum resolution, my Intel wireless card was picked up and a notification appeared on the desktop letting me know the operating system had detected networks within range. Sound volume was turned down to a low setting on both machines, but audio worked without any problems. Generally I found logging into the desktop used around 150 - 160 MB of memory. Boot times were a bit slow on both machines, however once the user was logged in desktop responsiveness was very good.
The Sabayon package manager is called Entropy Store, though the "store" doesn't sell anything, all of the software is freely available from the project's repositories. The package manager has a simple layout with buttons or tabs across the top of the window and an information pane at the bottom. Clicking on the various buttons will show us pending updates, all available packages, search results and queued operations. Add, remove and update actions are collected and then launched in batches. While the software manager works and provides all the required functionality, I didn't take to it. Part of this was due to the application's speed, or lack of. Start-up times were slow and calculating actions took longer than I would expect from most other package managers. When I first started using Sabayon I'd try to open the Entropy Store and kept getting put off as the system was syncing the repositories and wouldn't allow any use of the package manager until it finished its current task. I also found the process of right-clicking on items to select/unselect them to be less intuitive than the usual left-click used by other managers. Everything in the package manager works, it just takes some time to get used to Sabayon's way of doing things.
My general impression of Sabayon Linux 8 is that it lives up to its stated goal of "just works", at least most of the time. My hardware was properly detected, all the codecs, Flash and applications for common tasks are included. I had no trouble with the installer nor the Xfce desktop. Boot times were a bit slow, but otherwise performance was good. I like that the distribution comes in many flavours and fans of GNOME, KDE and Xfce are provided for -- as are people who want to start with a core install and build from there. I'm not thrilled about the Entropy Store as I find it to be a bit sluggish and the array of colours, tabs and data packed into the application feels like overkill. Otherwise my only complaint came from some applications not being provided with the default Xfce desktop. Having a volume control in the system tray would be nice, as would having a graphical tool for managing user accounts. I didn't see an archive manager in the application menu either and the launcher for the e-mail client doesn't work. Little touches like that would move Sabayon from being a good experience to being an excellent experience. Not having these items isn't a big deal, missing software can be installed, but it would be nice to have these things straight out of the gate.
Sabayon Linux 8 - connecting to and browsing the net
(full image size: 376kB, screen resolution 1366x768 pixels)
Still, if I'm going to pick at the minor scratches on this gem I feel it's only right to praise some of its nicer aspects too. For instance, on the application menu there's a sub-menu containing links to various parts of the Sabayon Linux website. This makes it easy to find documentation, go directly to the bug tracker and open the forums. There's also a link which will open a connection to the project's IRC support channel, which is a nice touch. I like they've made it possible for Anaconda to select any Linux file system for the root partition, even when we're installing from the live environment. The distribution is fairly cutting edge with lots of new software and it all appears to work, I didn't run into any stability problems. All in all, I think Sabayon 8 is a good release. I feel it improves on the previous releases and does a good job of being user-friendly. As I mentioned above there are some minor things I'd like to see added or improved, but I didn't encounter any serious bugs. It's a distribution well worth giving a try.
|Miscellaneous News (by Ladislav Bodnar)
Ten years of Arch Linux, KNOPPIX 7.0, Ubuntu marketing talk
Arch Linux has always been a modest, unpretentious project, almost completely void of marketing, hype and dramatic claims - yet, it has managed to turn into an important and respected piece in the Linux distribution ecosystem. Yesterday (Sunday) the project celebrated ten years since the inaugural release of version 0.1 by Judd Vinet, the distribution's founder and lead developer at the time. Although Judd is no longer with Arch, the current developer team has been celebrating the birthday with a succession of posts on Planet Arch Linux. Allan McRae: "Today marks the 10 year anniversary since the first release of Arch Linux. I have been involved in Arch for only about half that time, but I thought it might be quite interesting to make a time-line of the major things I remember being involved with in my history with Arch Linux." Dave Reisner: "Arch Linux turns 10 today. It's pretty spunky for a pre-teen!" Pierre Schmitz: "Ten years ago Judd released the first version of Arch Linux. This is quite an age for a Linux distribution and we are still rolling." Ionuț Mircea Bîru: "Happy birthday Arch Linux!" Andrea Scarpino: "Today Arch celebrates its 10th birthday. Allan had a very nice idea writing something about his years as archer; Pierre already did the same, and I'm going to do write something about mine years in this great distro." Daniel Isenmann: "Ten years ago Judd Vinet released the first public version of Arch Linux."
* * * * *
The days when KNOPPIX was the only live CD with automatic hardware detection and configuration are long gone, but the project's developer, Klaus Knopper, continues to provide new versions on a regular basis. The next update will be version 7.0, but unless you are a Linux Magazine subscriber, you'll need to patiently wait for a public release. What can we expect in the new KNOPPIX 7.0?: "Version 7.0 of KNOPPIX is based on the usual picks from Debian stable ('Squeeze') and testing ('Wheezy'), with newer package versions especially for desktop applications. It uses kernel 3.2.4 and X.Org 7.6 (core 22.214.171.1241) for supporting current computers; experimental free Nouveau graphics modules supporting NVIDIA cards, accelerated graphics via kernel mode settings (KMS); LibreOffice 3.4.5; Chromium 16.0.912.77 and Firefox/Iceweasel 10.0 web browsers; optional 64-bit kernel via boot option 'knoppix64', supporting systems with more than 4 GB of RAM and chroot to 64-bit installations for system rescue tasks; boot option "grub", for starting a bootloader shell in system rescue tasks; ADRIANE version 1.4 of the audio desktop framework, now using cuneiform as engine for text recognition of scanned texts, enhanced support for several cellphone models via gammu (SMS function)."
KNOPPIX 7.0 - a publicly available version is expected shortly
(full image size: 595kB, screen resolution 1280x1024 pixels)
* * * * *
Ubuntu's Unity interface has received a fair amount of coverage in the computing media, both positive and negative. However, as one might expect, project founder Mark Shuttleworth prefers to focus on the superlative characteristics of his brainchild, always happy to claim some interesting "firsts": "For the first time with Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, real desktop user experience innovation is available on a full production-ready enterprise-certified free software platform, free of charge, well before it shows up in Windows or Mac OS X. It's not 'job done' by any means, but it's a milestone. Achieving that milestone has tested the courage and commitment of the Ubuntu community – we had to move from being followers and integrators, to being designers and shapers of the platform, together with upstreams who are excited to be part of that shift and passionate about bringing goodness to a wide audience. It's right for us to design experiences and help upstreams get those experiences to be amazing, because we are closest to the user; we are the last mile, the last to touch the code, and the first to get the bug report or feedback from most users."
Not everybody agrees with the above assessment, though. As Bruce Byfield notes in "Watching the Future of Canonical", the increasing focus on marketing talk emanating from the project's leader is a radical departure from the community-oriented approach in Ubuntu's early days: If Canonical has larger plans for some unique money maker, for obvious reasons it has yet to reveal what that might be. Instead, Canonical seems intent on exploring every possible niche, with an interface usable on every hardware platform, a cloud carrier, Ubuntu TV, an Android port, and probably several others that I haven't immediately remembered. This is a strategy I have seen before in other companies seeking profits. Often, it is a last-ditch strategy of desperation, and I see no reason to think Canonical is an exception, especially since announcements of Canonical's entry into these niches appear to be coming faster and faster. Why is this strategy desperate? Because, in many of the niches being explored by Canonical, major competitors are already established -- for instance, Amazon in the cloud, and Apple TV in smart televisions."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
An update in the Secure Boot saga
Last year we covered the concept of secure booting, its challenges and potential issues to open-source operating systems. At the time there was concern the Microsoft Windows 8 certification process would make it very difficult for consumers to install alternative operating systems, such as Linux, on their computers. Last week the Free Software Foundation sent out an update and it contains both good and bad news.
"In December, Microsoft apparently conceded to public pressure by quietly updating the Windows 8 logo certification requirements with a mandate that a desktop computer user must be able to control (and disable) the Secure Boot feature on any Windows 8 computer that is not based on ARM technology. This looks like a victory for free software users, as it will allow a person to install GNU/Linux or other free software operating system in place of Windows 8.
But, this is no time for celebration, because Microsoft has also added a treacherous mandate for makers of ARM-based computers -- such as a tablets, netbooks, and smartphones -- requiring them to build their machines with Restricted Boot technology. Such computers are designed to lock a user into only being able to run Windows 8, absolutely preventing her from being able to install a free software operating system on her computer. Since smartphones and tablets are some of the most commonly used computers, it's vital that we get straightforward and clear information about this threat out to the public."
A more complete statement and explanation on the potential benefits and problems associated with secure boot technology can be found on the Free Software Foundation's website.
As the FSF's statement says, computers using the ARM architecture are becoming much more common. Cell phones, tablets and energy efficient servers use ARM and these devices are likely to become more popular with time. The requirement demanded by Microsoft's hardware certification (page 116) would mean many devices would be locked down and it would be nearly impossible to install alternative operating systems on purchased hardware. As the Free Software Foundation rightly points out, secure booting is desirable, but restricted booting is not. They invite concerned individuals to sign a statement which would ask hardware manufactures to respect the freedoms of their customers.
|Released Last Week
IPFire 2.11 Core 57
Arne Fitzenreiter has announced the release of IPFire 2.11 Core 57, the latest update of the project's specialist distribution for firewalls: "Today, we are releasing Core Update 57 for IPFire 2.11. It is again a minor bug-fix and security update. These components have been updated to address various security issues or potential DDoS attacks - PHP security update to 5.3.10, Apache security update to 2.2.22, Squid, update to 3.1.19. Miscellaneous changes: a bug in the GUI of the outgoing firewall which automatically disabled a rule after it has been edited was fixed; Vim now works better on remote consoles like PuTTY; the welcome banner that is shown to Cisco's Road Warrior VPN client is now customized and says 'Welcome to IPFire - An Open Source Firewall Solution'." See the complete release announcement for more information.
Johnny Hughes has announced the release of CentOS 5.8: "We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of CentOS 5.8 for the i386 and x86_64 architectures. CentOS 5.8 is the eighth update to the CentOS 5 distribution series. It contains a lot of bug fixes, updates and new functionality. Known issues: as of CentOS 5.7 the installation kit is split into two DVDs; there is a MultiLib issue with dbus-1.1.2-16 (i386 and x86_64) - they can not be installed at the same time due to a conflict of the file /etc/dbus-1/system.conf; there is a known issue with the tg3 kernel driver using VLANs (802.1q) and at least one Broadcom chipset; there is a known issue with the smartmontools and the 2.6.18-308 kernel where 'hard drives behind a SAS controller can get dropped'; there is a known issue with the latest nfs-utils in EL 5.8 where invalid warnings are given on NFS mounts for rpc.idmapd and/or rpc.gssd." Read the release announcement and the more detailed release notes for further information.
Linux Mint 12 "LXDE"
Clement Lefebvre has announced the release of Linux Mint 12 "LXDE" edition, a fast and lightweight variant of the popular Ubuntu-based distribution: "The team is proud to announce the release of Linux Mint 12 LXDE. Linux Mint 12 LXDE comes with updated software and brings refinements and new features to make your desktop even more comfortable to use. This is the first release of Linux Mint using hybrid ISO images. Traditionally, tools such as 'Startup Disk Creator' or 'UNetbootin' were needed to install Linux Mint via USB. With hybrid images, you can simply use the 'dd' command or a graphical front-end to make a bootable USB which acts exactly like a live DVD. Linux Mint 12 features the following upstream components: Ubuntu 11.10, Linux kernel 3.0, LXDE 0.5.0." Read the brief release announcement and the more informative what's new page for further details.
Petter Reinholdtsen has announced the release of Skolelinux 6.0.4, a Debian-based specialist distribution for schools, also known as "Debian Edu": "The Debian Edu Team is pleased to announce the release of Debian Edu 'Squeeze' 6.0.4+r0. Debian Edu (aka 'Skolelinux') is a Debian Pure Blend specifically targeted at schools and educational institutions, and provides a completely configured school network environment out of the box. It covers PXE installation, PXE booting for diskless machines, and setup for a school server, for stationary workstations, and for workstations that can be taken away from the school network. Several educational applications like Celestia, Dr. Geo, GCompris, GeoGebra, Kalzium, KGeography and Solfege are included in the default desktop setup. Besides including everything provided by the fourth update of Debian 'Squeeze' (6.0.4), this new release of Debian Edu introduces some interesting improvements." Continue reading the release announcement to learn more.
Skolelinux 6.0.4 - a major new release from the Debian Edu team
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* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
* * * * *
This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 19 March 2012.
Jesse Smith and Ladislav Bodnar
|• Issue 554 (2014-04-14): Review of FreeNAS, OpenSSL bug, Fedora.next, Robolinux Stealth VM, measuring memory|
|• Issue 553 (2014-04-07): Puppy 5.7 "Slacko", end of Ubuntu One, file encryption with GPG|
|• Issue 552 (2014-03-31): Tanglu 1.0, Ubuntu GNOME LTS, SliTaz for ARM|
|• Issue 551 (2014-03-24): Linux Mint "Debian" 201403, call for end to proprietary firmware, LVM|
|• Issue 550 (2014-03-17): Review of NixOS 13.10, Lubuntu seeking feedback, Android-x86 4.4-rc1 impressions|
|• Issue 549 (2014-03-10): ClearOS 6.5 and UCS 3.2, Gentoo interview, Ubuntu app contest, Into the Core|
|• Issue 548 (2014-03-03): Review of Mageia 4, FreeBSD console driver, filtering web content, Pitivi fundraiser|
|• Issue 547 (2014-02-24): Chakra 2014.02, Ubuntu privacy, preventing unwanted remote logins|
|• Issue 546 (2014-02-17): Review of PC-BSD 10.0, Red Flag closure, Ubuntu and systemd, SlackE18, Fedora book review|
|• Issue 545 (2014-02-10): Impressions of FreeBSD 10.0, Debian votes systemd, Ubuntu file manager, server security|
|• Issue 544 (2014-02-03): Netrunner 13.12, openSUSE future, Ubuntu Touch in emulator, running commands in multiple places|
|• Issue 543 (2014-01-27): Review of Korora 20, FreeBSD 10.0, DNF, ZFS rescue CD, Bridge Linux interview|
|• Issue 542 (2014-01-20): QupZilla, Ubuntu with MATE, Arch on Raspberry Pi, best applications|
|• Issue 541 (2014-01-13): openSUSE 13.1 and Zentyal 3.3, CentOS joins Red Hat, Bodhi on Chromebooks|
|• Issue 540 (2014-01-06): SMS 2.0.6 and SME Server 8.0, Hawaii desktop, PHR statistics 2013, more on multi-part archives|
|• Issue 539 (2013-12-23): Centrych 12.04.3, Fedora 20 and its spins, dividing archives across multiple discs|
|• Issue 538 (2013-12-16): Mint 16 review, RHEL and CentOS 7 plans, SteamOS, Windows XP replacement suggestions|
|• Issue 537 (2013-12-09): OpenMandriva 2013.0, Gentoo developer interview, project Neon, Linux Mint and security|
|• Issue 536 (2013-12-02): Impressions of openSUSE 13.1, Ubuntu Touch, FreeBSD 10 delay, troubleshooting OS lock-ups|
|• Issue 535 (2013-11-25): GhostBSD 3.5, Debian and MATE, Ubuntu 14.04 features, security updates|
|• Issue 534 (2013-11-18): Review of OpenBSD 5.4, Fedora on ARM, menu names vs command-line names|
|• Issue 533 (2013-11-11): Point Linux 2.2, Pisi update, Debian and Xfce, Bruno Cornec interview|
|• Issue 532 (2013-11-04): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.10, Debian's init, FreeBSD's PKG-NG, Linux on ARM|
|• Issue 531 (2013-10-28): PC-BSD 9.2, openSUSE testing, nftables, upgrade pros and cons|
|• Issue 530 (2013-10-21): Kwheezy 1.2, DPL interview, Zenwalk's future, keeping up with vulnerabilities|
|• Issue 529 (2013-10-14): Ubuntu's Mir, dmesg and photorec tips, Tiny Tiny RSS|
|• Issue 528 (2013-10-07): Semplice 5, Haiku package management, Klaus Knopper interview, making custom distro|
|• Issue 527 (2013-09-30): Tiny Core Linux 5.0, SteamOS, moving operating system to new computer|
|• Issue 526 (2013-09-23): Look at ArchBang 2013.09.01, BSD Now, kernel stats, command-line tips|
|• Issue 525 (2013-09-16): The Official Ubuntu Server Book, FreeBSD 10 and OpenBSD 5.4, Skype alternatives|
|• Issue 524 (2013-09-09): Look at LXLE 12.04.3, Ubuntu's new package format, Secure Boot and dual-booting|
|• Issue 523 (2013-09-02): OpenIndiana 151a8, openSUSE "Evergreen", GNOME and DuckDuckGo, running apps from RAM|
|• Issue 522 (2013-08-26): Look at gNewSense 3.0, Ubuntu Edge fundraising failure, exploring GPL|
|• Issue 521 (2013-08-19): Review of Korora 19, Fedora considers return to "Core", Haiku package management|
|• Issue 520 (2013-08-12): Salix OS 14.0.1 "KDE", Xubuntu experiments with XMir, managing passwords with KeePass|
|• Issue 519 (2013-08-05): Review of Porteus 2.0, Kubuntu lays out plans for Wayland adoption, adjusting system swappiness|
|• Issue 518 (2013-07-29): MidnightBSD 0.4, Razor-qt, Ubuntu Edge, mounting infected drives|
|• Issue 517 (2013-07-22): Zorin OS 7 "Lite", Slackware turns 20, UbuntuForums compromise, Raspbian as home server, Tor|
|• Issue 516 (2013-07-15): Review of Fedora 19 "KDE", Shuttleworth on Mir, Seth Vidal, Kingsoft Office for Linux|
|• Issue 515 (2013-07-08): Whonix 0.5.6 and Deepin 12.12, MintBox, processor capabilities, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Issue 514 (2013-07-01): Peppermint Four, Mir, Mandriva forks, ThinkPenguin on libre hardware|
|• Issue 513 (2013-06-24): Look at ROSA, PC-BSD updates, Xen4CentOS6, Slacko vs Precise, Mageia interview, shells|
|• Issue 512 (2013-06-17): Trisquel 6.0, RHEL 7 with GNOME Classic, from Linux to FreeBSD, first look at Wayland|
|• Issue 511 (2013-06-10): Mint 15 impressions, GNOME Classic, Ubuntu Community portal, Absolute OpenBSD|
|• Issue 510 (2013-06-03): Impressions of aptosid 2013-01, Wayland comes to Raspberry Pi, maintaining DNS settings|
|• Issue 509 (2013-05-27): Mageia 3, Debian GNU/Hurd, RebeccaBlackOS with Wayland, ports|
|• Issue 508 (2013-05-20): Review of Debian 7.0, interviews with Clement Lefebvre and Gaël Duval, scripting with xdotool|
|• Issue 507 (2013-05-13): Impressions of Calculate Linux, 13.4, Ubuntu's portable packages, mintDrivers|
|• Issue 506 (2013-05-06): Ubuntu and Kubuntu 13.04, Debian "Wheezy", Slackware on systemd, distros for Raspberry Pi|
|• Full list of all issues|
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