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Sony Television Entertainment

Sony DVR Useless After Rovi Stops TV Guide OnScreen 321

Posted by Soulskill
from the lifetime-service-assuming-a-very-short-life dept.
New submitter speedlaw writes "Rovi has just announced that they are stopping the TV Guide OnScreen service as of April 13th, 2013. This was announced via the service itself. This is an on-air listing service that provides listings over the air, as part of an OTA TV signal. Many devices, notably the Sony HDD 250 and 500 Digital Video Recorders, will no longer function without the clock-set data this stream provides. When other companies decide to stop supporting something, they don't make older systems useless. Worse, Sony never came out with another DVR in the U.S. market. Why do we have to rent them? How do we get Sony or Rovi to provide at least a software patch to set the clock so the DVR can at least retain 1980s VCR functionality? Sony admits there is no fix. A thread on AVS forums has a bunch of information on TV Guide OnScreen. The TV stations who broadcast the data have been ordered by Rovi to disconnect the data inserters and ship them back. I have a TiVo, and yes, I know all about HTPC, but this data stream was 'lifetime listings' like TiVo has 'lifetime listings' — now that Rovi is looking to cut service, my two DVR units are about to become useless."
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Sony DVR Useless After Rovi Stops TV Guide OnScreen

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:20AM (#41948039)

    Why don't the channels just broadcast the programme data alongside the actual programming? That's how they do it here, in the DVB-T streams. A full week's worth of programming and programme descriptions, transmitted over the air.

    • by jonwil (467024) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:25AM (#41948055)

      Thats what happens here in Australia too, the networks broadcast program data over-the-air through the DVB-T streams. How far into the future depends on the network but all of them do it.

      • by nabsltd (1313397) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:03PM (#41950169)

        One of the issues with this method is that each channel only sends its own guide data, as they have no incentive to let you know what is showing on other channels. This is the way it is done in the US.

        The problem is that to see what's on another channel, your TV has to tune to that channel. If the TV has enough memory and the channels send data for long enough, the TV can just do this sort of tuning when it is "turned off" and it would work fine. But, without memory or extended guide data, there is no way to check the guide for channels that you are not watching without stopping viewing of live TV.

        A DVR should always have plenty of memory, and if it has more than one tuner then most of the time you shouldn't have an issue even without extended guide data, but without extended data, there would be times that shows would not record because all tuners were in use for current recordings and could not be used to see what's coming up.

    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:39AM (#41948231)

      It probably violates someone's copyright or patent. Or that's what they think may be the case. Better be safe than sorry, consumers be damned. They're anyway supposed to just consume the advertising with intermittant fragments of some mildly entertaining show, instead fo recording it and remove the ads.

    • by maxwell demon (590494) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @06:26AM (#41948503) Journal

      Actually the very first VCR my parent's owned got the programming directly from teletext. You could go to the page where the program is listed, select the page, and it would take the data directly from that page and store it (and it even got the correct VPS times that way, in cases they differed from scheduled times). That was before the invention of ShowView, the system which presumably was making programming your VCR so simple. I've never understood why entering a seemingly arbitrary number should be more easy than just selecting directly from the program table. Indeed, that was the easiest to program VCR I've ever come across, and superior to all the systems which came later, without exceptions. And it worked perfectly for more than a decade (apart from a nasty Y2K bug which you had to work around by lying about the year) until the VCR stopped working correctly (and it was not the programming part that failed)

      And of course, if the stations had ever stopped to provide programming data over teletext, the VCR had also the option to enter everything manually.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:10AM (#41948617) Homepage

      You don't state where you are but they also broadcast the data on DVB-T in the UK, and the Sony recorders are still next to useless. They used some proprietary data source that died a few years ago and now the best you can manage is 1980s VCR like functionality where you program the clock and then a recording time and channel. Not exactly the experience you expect with a high end high price DVR.

      • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:31AM (#41948665)

        If you think this is bad wait a couple of more years for smart tv's to start needing these kinds of updates.

        People expect their tv's to last 10+ years without a simple software update some of those tv's won't be working right.

        • by segedunum (883035) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @12:14PM (#41949863)

          If you think this is bad wait a couple of more years for smart tv's to start needing these kinds of updates.

          I know. I'm wandering around various stores laughing at these 'Smart TVs' with stuff like YouTube and Netflix on them and thinking to myself 'What happens when this needs a major update in a couple of years, someone changes their interfaces or Netflix goes bust?'. It'll also be a cold day in hell before I plug an ethernet cable into a TV and give it access to the internet. I hate to be cynical, but us technical people always know this crap goes badly wrong.

          If I want this shit I will plug my computer into the TV. In the meantime just display the damn picture on the screen.

          • by rworne (538610) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:03PM (#41950165) Homepage

            You do not need to wait a couple of years. I purchased a Samsung TV (LN-750B model - although not for the smart TV functions) and they promised all sorts of applets for the TV. Netflix being one of them.

            9 months later, a new model comes out and Samsung releases a firmware update for my model. What does it do? Locks the set to the last available firmware and makes it unmodifiable. Then they drop all support.

            Netflix never appeared for it either. Better to have an expensive "dumb" TV and a cheap smart box to attach to it.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              same. I have the LN40B630. There was I think only a couple firmware updates since I bought it. Same with my LG Blu Ray player, and the last one of which farked up my DVD quality.

          • by nabsltd (1313397) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @01:15PM (#41950259)

            It'll also be a cold day in hell before I plug an ethernet cable into a TV and give it access to the internet.

            My TV has an Ethernet connection and can do things like show YouTube and Netflix. I don't care about any of those extras because other cheaper devices can also do this for me.

            But, the Ethernet connection does give me an easy way to apply updates (one has already improved picture quality), and stream media from a PC. The TV also has a web browser that is good enough to allow basic browsing, and works pretty well if you add a bluetooth keyboard. With bookmarks, you can do things like check the local weather without even needing a keyboard. This means that you can do some things without having to have another device involved. You can also control the TV using an Android or iOS app.

            So, yeah, when they stop supporting the TV with updates, some of this functionality will stop, but there is a lot that an Ethernet connection gives you that will never go away.

    • by _xeno_ (155264) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:28AM (#41948661) Homepage Journal

      These days? Because if they did that, then people could record the shows, and skip the ads. And that would be terrible.

      At least if you're a TV network who wants to milk the most ad money you possibly can. Don't forget, getting up to go to the bathroom during the commercials is theft.

    • by sirwired (27582) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @08:46AM (#41948861)

      The data is available, and broadcast, alongside ATSC signals via the PSIP system. But this particular box chose to use the proprietary system instead; I believe it provided data much farther out than the PSIP data.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:23AM (#41948045) Journal

    Hello...it's Sony. You should be surprised that it worked this long.

    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:39AM (#41948097)
      Exactly. It's hard to name another company that treats its customers worse than Sony. Those who buy Sony products have to know that they're going to be screwed sooner or later, it's just part of Sony's corporate DNA to leave their customers holding the bag. They just don't care, so why buy from them? It's like handing your money to the bully and asking for abuse.
      • by symbolset (646467) *
        Sony's motto does seem to be "buy our stuff because it doesn't work with your other stuff." Memory stick, really?
    • by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david...clarke@@@hrgeneralist...ca> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:44AM (#41948113)

      Hello...it's Sony. You should be surprised that it worked this long.

      Sometimes it's a good thing when Sony products die. It means they stop spying on you.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Wish there were a +1000 insightful mod.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sony used to be the brand of high quality products. All my old Sony tape players and other hardware still works. It can take awhile for people to lose their impressions of a company, especially if they don't understand why their devices stop working. "Computer tech just does that sometimes"

      • by spasm (79260)

        Yeah, it's funny - you can almost guess the age of someone based on their opinion of Sony. Those of us who were buying electronic gadgets in the '80s still have a memory of Sony as making some of the best quality consumer electronics, and being innovative as well. Those who weren't old enough to be buying consumer electronics until the mid 90s and beyond know Sony only as an insane DRM machine.

    • That was my thought. You bought a Sony product and are surprised when they screw you over? I thought that was why people bought Sony, to be screwed over.
    • Hey, my Sony remote for the Sony TV I bought failed within 18 months, but Sony said "We don't make that remote anymore!"

      Sony is a Dinosaur; headed for quick extinction.

    • by ilguido (1704434)
      My Sony cd/dvd player dvp-s535d [videohelp.com] still works and I bought it 12 years ago.
  • rms is right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MadTinfoilHatter (940931) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:24AM (#41948049)
    This is why proprietary software is a bad thing and we should avoid products like this.
    • by schitso (2541028)
      Now try to get the common consumer to understand that.
      • by kimvette (919543)

        More importantly, try to get the common consumer to care.

        • Well, this should certainly help. When someone asks you "Why doesn't my Sony work any more?" The answer is "Cos it used closed source software?" Then you can explain it. If they are too thick to understand, then the answer is "That is what Sony is like"
          • Doesn't work. To them, it's just you searching for excuses because you're too dumb to fix it.

            After all, you're just you, but Sony, that's a big company where a lot of very smart people made that piece of crap you're now struggling to get to work. People still think that products are made with the intention to serve them, not their maker.

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          This is about messaging, and the message has to be simple: "Sony stuff doesn't work with your other stuff because they want to sell you more Sony stuff." And if you want to, you can replace the word "Sony" there with the word "Microsoft". This is a strategy that used to work, and they both still use it, and it doesn't work any more.
    • Re:rms is right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Onymous Coward (97719) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:08AM (#41948161) Homepage

      In particular, this situation indicates why tivoized [wikipedia.org] systems are a bad thing and why the GPLv3 was necessary. Not that this system had GPL'd software in it necessarily, but if it had, it would have needed the updated, v3 license to allow customers to run their own mods to make the hardware work for them.

      Oh, wait. Are the Sony HDD 250 and 500 DVR systems digital signature-locked to prevent modified software from operating?

      • by fatphil (181876)
        > tivoized systems are a bad thing

        Exactly. I find myself someties sticking out as being one of the most pro-GPLv3 people I know (I hang around with a lot of open source software contributors), and it's when situations like this occur that I can point to the flag I'm standing under, and say "This is why I am here - I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so".
    • Re:rms is right (Score:4, Insightful)

      by theNetImp (190602) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:42AM (#41948239)

      Proprietary software isn't the problem here, proprietary APIs are. If there was an open API that could be switched too this wouldn't be an issue.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        This is the classic "I can't fix my own printer" problem that inspired RMS to propagate Free Software.

        Of course the problem is proprietary softare and systems that cannot be serviced by the end user.

  • by detritus. (46421) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:26AM (#41948061)

    There should be a mandate that if you want to be a dick and no longer choose to support the software of an obsolete product you sold to maintain core functionality, you should forfeit the source code. At the very least, make it legal to reverse engineer and distribute fixes/functionality without fear of retribution. This is going to become much more common in the future unless someone does something.

    • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:19AM (#41948637) Homepage

      Yes - I agree, if you don't support it at least make the source code available.

      I recently upgraded from CentOS5 to CentOS6. I have a 4 year old Brother printer/scanner, the RPMs for the drivers would not install (wrong [old] version of glibc & similar). Brother tech support tried to be helpful, but no - it was no longer sold and they would not create new RPMs. With a bit of fiddling I was able to get it to work - but a naive user would not have [I am not being rude about some people].

      I will never buy a Brother product again - 4 years is not that old for a bit of hardware; if they don't maintain their drivers I will not take the risk of being left with working but unusable hardware; neither will I support a company that leaves its customers in the lurch.

      • Unfortunately, 4 years isn't all that bad these days. Lacie has dropped support for 1 year old drives, G-Drives (now Hitachi) dropped support for their expensive externals after 2 years.

        Their answer? We'll give you a 10% discount on some new stuff from us.

        Rinse, lather, repeat.

    • Actually, our copyright law makes reverse engineering "for the intention to create or maintain interoperability" legal. If yours doesn't, it's time to give your politicians a kick in the rear.

    • by Zadaz (950521)

      Great idea... but that's just not going to work either.

      Very few projects can simply open up their code without getting into all kinds of legal trouble. Third party libraries, distribution agreements, confidentiality agreements, licenses, employment contracts, etc ad infinitum. Some of this can be negotiated around, some can't. None of it can happen without people willing to put in the time and energy (and money) to do it.*

      And I don't believe the government should be intervening in business to place them in

  • COTS versus embedded (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:30AM (#41948067)

    This is why you buy COTS hardware instead of embedded solutions, guys. You can always upgrade the software on your own if you have to, but if you can't get to the firmware, then there's no telling if there's some dependancy or requirement to an outside source that you've overlooked. People have been building their own PVRs for years now, and many open source solutions like XMBC have matured to the point where they offer multiple service providers on a wide variety of cheap hardware.

    And here's another reason people pirate: I know that I'll always have my video files on my harddrive. They're in a video container format that's been industry standard for years. There are no commercials, no external dependancies, and will play on almost any computer. I can't get that with Netflix -- once, I was halfway through watching a series on 'instant play' when they yanked the entire series. It's no longer available because of some obscure licensing issue that I wasn't informed of until after it was gone. When you rely on "legal" solutions, you're conceding that they have the right and ability to terminate your access at any time. That's also why I don't watch cable TV: It's encrypted and I can't record it. I can't go back and watch it again, and it may never be available again. With pirated content, I know exactly when it'll be available once I have it: Forever.

  • You're in America (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:30AM (#41948069)

    Cant you just sue them?

  • Can't dvrs be progrmmed manually, like video cassette recorder owners used to do? Sure, the convienence is gone, but recordings can still be made, can't they?. Buying "Lifetime service" does you no good when companies seem to be able to change it's service at any time. Sometimes, companies lie, and misrepresent their products to get us to buy them. Color me shocked!
  • Bashing onwards (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mathness (145187) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @03:41AM (#41948107) Homepage

    Is this meant to be another bash SONY because they are "evil" "article"?

    Before you head down that line, note that:

    - Rovi (corporation) used to be called Macrovision.
    - This is for a (free?) Over The Air service.
    - No link to the Rovi announcement or their reasoning.
    - Affects any device and service relying on Rovi and their data.

    It seems to me this is just another move to get people onto cable where media companies can exert more control over content (and the people watching) and rake in more money.

    • Re:Bashing onwards (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bfandreas (603438) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @09:30AM (#41948953)

      Rovi (corporation) used to be called Macrovision.

      That snippet alone would have explained about eveything. Why was this omitted in the submission? So basically Sony built a system that relied completely on a service provided by Macrovision and the customers got completely screwed over?

      I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

  • by dokebi (624663)

    Dude, Sony discontinued this product 7 years ago. I'm sure you've gotten your money's worth out of it.

    Think about it this way: If it died of hardware failure instead, would you be so upset? Likely not.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have a VCR that's over 20 years old that still works fine. Weird thing is, it's a Sony.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The problem is it didn't suffer a hardware failure. This is like if your car suddenly stopped working because Ford wants to sell you a new one. Yes the engine could've died, but it didn't, it would still work just as well as yesterday if they didn't put the equivalent of a time bomb in the software.

      Were the customers aware of this time bomb on the moment of purchase? And I don't mean hiding it in legaleze, was it written in the box that the device would stop working in 2012?

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Dude, Sony discontinued this product 7 years ago. I'm sure you've gotten your money's worth out of it."

      They told us before: "It's not a trick, it's a Sony! "

    • by ByteSlicer (735276) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @06:00AM (#41948421)

      The Mayans even predicted this long time ago: the calendar support will end in 2012...

      • Yeah, but I guess its life cycle is reasonably longer than "lifetime warranty".

        And I mean the USER'S lifetime.

    • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @06:05AM (#41948429) Journal

      Dude, Sony discontinued this product 7 years ago. I'm sure you've gotten your money's worth out of it.

      Think about it this way: If it died of hardware failure instead, would you be so upset? Likely not.

      The appliance that heats my home is 50 years old. The manufacturer has been out of business since before I was born. Thank God they didn't have this mentality or I'd be in big trouble right now. Remember that the next time you're considering a Sony product. I do. I grew up with everything Sony, but ever since they took functionality away from my PS3, over and over, I make a conscious choice not to buy their products. Even if I don't see a suitable alternative (which sometimes does happen with mid-range headphones), I'll leave the store without buying anything. Every time. You might say I got my money's worth out of the company, so I'm done with it.

    • Sony TVs lasted 10-20 yrs. So, yeah, 7 years sounds 3-13 years short.
    • by SpzToid (869795) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:11AM (#41948623)

      No, I think this should ding Sony's 'green rating', because of a too-short lifespan and no little-to-none recycling-to-keep-in-use options. Is everyone expected to suddenly buy a new TV set every now and then? Gimme a break. All Sony has to do is allow user-mods to happen. Imagine if a classic car owner was not allowed to 3d-print the broken dashboard controller-thing just to keep it alive. I dunno, something like a plastic turn-signal lock doo-hickey which otherwise makes the car illegal (except when hand-signals are used). Same difference.

      http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/cool-it/Campaign-analysis/Guide-to-Greener-Electronics [greenpeace.org].

      Admittedly I am biased because I see an old PC, and I think, 'will it run linux?'

      But then again, this is Sony that refuses even the U.S. Military the right to run linux on their paid-for playstations. Apple lost its soul a long time ago, and Sony continues to show them the way.

    • Why accept this? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @07:27AM (#41948659)

      Why do you so readily accept electronic end of life as being normal?

      My SEGA Mastersystem still works.
      My SNES still works (and you can still buy controllers for them too).
      My sound system is much older than 10 years.
      I still have a working CRT TV, and a working VCR.

      Incidentally my grandma has several working pieces of electronic equipment from World War 2.

      Why are you so quick to accept that electronics need an end of life, and especially one so short? This is not the death of the medium which the DVR uses like say the move from analogue to digital TV was. This is a piece of gear with a really poor design flaw that for some reason depended on a proprietary 3rd party signal to work. Why would you accept that this 3rd party should decide when you can no longer use your electronics?

      • I think his apology would probably be his age. I, too, am from a time when TVs lasted 20 years+ and a used car of 10 years of age wasn't something where you're surprised if it still starts on a cold and/or rainy day, when computers were "current" for about 5 or even more years (let's be frank here, what was the lifetime of the C64? I wouldn't be surprised if it ruled for close to a decade).

        Today I should consider myself lucky if my TV still runs after 3 years, if my car doesn't break down before its 7 year

        • by Carrot007 (37198)

          and a used car of 10 years of age wasn't something where you're surprised if it still starts on a cold and/or rainy day

          You were making sense up until this point.

          Old cars rusted and the engine wore out. On the other hand modern engines tend to go forever and the cars no longer rust due to the materials used. However if you don't look after the rest then the car will become useless but that is true of any mechanical device which needs regular servicing to keep running, this was true then as well just that the car engine would die or the car rust away first!

          Of course you could only be 16, in which case your other points did no

    • Dude, Sony discontinued this product 7 years ago. I'm sure you've gotten your money's worth out of it.

      Think about it this way: If it died of hardware failure instead, would you be so upset? Likely not.

      There is no good reason for electronics to arbitrarily fail unless a component burns out. This 'fail' is designed into the product, to force consumers to buy new. Hey, it's good for the economy that whatever you buy is meant to last for only a pre-determined finite time.

      Now maybe the younger generations are used to (and accept) this way of doing business. Us older neckbeards know different. Electronic things lasted, they were built to. I had Sony walkmans that were high-quality builds, you had to try

    • Think about it this way: If it died of hardware failure instead, would you be so upset? Likely not.

      But in this case, it's like the hardware failed only because the company sent a goon to your house to smash it.

    • by fa2k (881632)

      You're on to something, but it's not the same as HW failure. It's a new model that has come about after the internet, where they sell a physical item + a service, where the servie is often free. It's similar to providing software updates, but it's different in that when the service ends, the product is useless.

      The expectation should be somewhere between shutting it down right after the warranty ends, and keeping it running forever. Don't know what's fair.

  • Just don't buy them (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bazman (4849) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @04:26AM (#41948219) Journal

    I bought a Sony DVR/DVD player about four years ago. It booted up with a choice of EPGs - a plain one, and one with additional functionality and adverts. Yes, half the screen was occupied by ads. After getting annoyed with that after about two microseconds I switched to the plain one.

    After a couple of years it started misbehaving, as these things do, telling me that the only thing on TV was 'No Channel Information'. So I thought I'd switch back and see how bad the ad-ridden one was. So I found the setting deep in the unexplored regions of the menu system and flipped.

    Same old ad-ridden screen, except this time the ads were blank placeholders. I reckon nobody wanted to advertise there, since nobody was using the annoying EPG...

    I did an upgrade from a new OS via a DVD from the Sony web site and it fixed most of the EPG blankness, but the thing has been pretty flakey from day one. I think the initial flakeyness is controlled to be just enough that you don't know if its your own fault for not reading the instructions or if it is genuine faults. Products are always released when the cost in fixing the bugs is more than the cost of handling support calls, right?

    Anyway, no more Sony for me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2012 @05:32AM (#41948365)

    Rovi uses patents to make money of stuff like DVRs, EPGs and copy protection. I guess they could be called a 'patent troll'. More DVRs sold equals more money for Rovi.

    Rovi was born as Macrovision, the VCR copy protect signal. That was compulsory on video cards. So if you have a computer with composite of S-VHS out you probably paid Rovi half a dollar for that.

  • Everyone could always use another paperweight.
  • Yet another reason on a very long list of reasons to not buy Sony products.

  • You bought Sony. Even if you are new here you would done a search for "Sony" before investing in any of their products. They are really, really bad news for anyone favoring openness.

  • I have been using a panasonic DVR for about six years now. When I was with DirecTV it used to get the programming through TVGoS and everything was fine. Later when I switched to Verizon FiOS, I lost the TV guide on screen. What made it very painful was that Panasonic DVR does not have an ability to set the clock directly. It relies on this TVGoS to set the clock. So my DVR has been drifting without clock reset for years now. I am using the old VCR like interface to pick the date and time to record the show.
  • I understand that the OP already purchased the devices, but it seems to me the simpler and more reliable solution is to simply rent the devices where possible from your cable or satellite provider. When the device goes bad, they swap it out for a new one. If they decide to stop supporting a device, you don't pay for it any longer. No headaches and at around $10 - $15 per month per DVR it seems to be the better option.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @05:14PM (#41951785)
    I heard these DVR's ran Linux. Can't someone just sue for GPL infringement and get the source code that way?

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