Four for 4

minsweeperhatchCreeknet, is one of four project pilots being operated as part of the MAZI initiative which will bring together components for a neighborhood network toolkit. This will feature a guide for those establishing or improving on open wireless and offline collaborative systems, advising on cost effective hardware and open source software solutions, whilst refining tactics and tutorials.

To help co-ordinate and explore the many options, we worked with MAZI partner University of Thessaly, Greece, to establish a suite of software to test and use in our local networks. mazi-ballsEtherpad is a collaborative writing tool and OwnCloud is a document and media management system. UTH role is to co-ordinate and consolidate toolkit components and the first prototype, on a RaspberryPi disk image is available for testing featuring these and small selection of complimentary applications. In the simplest mode, presents a ‘stand alone’ wireless access point running webserver and other local services to promote working together. Without internet connection, any requests for webpages are redirected to local webpages listing services and describing options.

During recent workshop at the Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin, we heard about progress of MAZI pilot ‘Common Ground‘ during launch of Neighborhood Academy building in the garden. Their prototype ‘interview station’ enables one 2 one interview recording and publishing process. listenin-acadamyCompleted interviews are published directly to their offline server prototype  for review and comment by those visiting the garden academy. The same combination of powerful software options and offline network server was in use during the recent Unmonastery at Kokkinopolis, a two week meeting in the Olympus mountains in Greece where it was first tested by them for communal exchange and interaction.

The ‘Creeknet’ pilot began in April 2016 describing first impressions and identified groups from the local area whom SPC have worked with in the past, to propose key issues and ideas to explore.faircharmestatese8There are many aspects to consider, changes to the built environment here are continuing at a rapid rate, some groups are being sidelined with conditions for living and working in the area facing disruptive challenges as well as opportunities.

Our role as advocate for user owned and operated information infrastructures is well known in the area. SPC worked with individuals, neighborhoods and local businesses from 2001 on a series of DIY low tech network projects, last represented by OWN, the open wireless network established 2008. listenin-terryToday the effects of population churn, rise of portable computing, concerns for personal security as well as long term exposure to the elements have reduced the operational status of OWN to a shadow of it’s former self.

The afterglow of positive experiences gained over eight years is now being rekindled with the prospect of renewed offline network development, expressing a passion for the ‘local’, celebrating neighborhood news and wider collaboration. The access to broadband provided by OWN in the area, needs re-doubling if it is to serve the co-ordination demands of MAZI ‘offline’ network development and monitoring of process. This process is now underway with new connections being upgraded between Deckspace in Greenwich and Minesweeper on the creek. newcreeklowFrom there we will continue to redistribute access to locations of activity nearby.

Monumental civil engineering and relentless apartment block building is underway throughout the area, bringing changes to the environment for everyone. For some it will mean the end of affordable rents for both domestic and workspaces. For others, this area of London is where overheads are still comparatively low. It will certainly result in increased traffic, noise and pressure on services, a transformation in the mix of people and expectations.

Pollution concerns over quality of water, air and electrosmog, processing of rubbish and recycling urgently seek answers. The Creekside Education Trust and other Deptford Creek groups creekbridgecementworksare already working on the creeknet MAZI pilot to build on existing relationships and operate more effective information sharing and neighborhood network solutions. With these issues in mind early installations will include a range of passive environmental sensing of sound, light and radio.

The opportunity for social interaction in the area is limited to the few publicly accessible parks, pathways and the remaining pubs alongside west and eastern banks of the creek. A few new public areas have being created which have yet to be understood and adopted. For example the new footbridge at the mouth of the Deptford Creek, completes the Thames path between Deptford and Greenwich, a perfect place to focus attention and operate a MAZI zone.


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just about to get a lift

just about to get a lift

After reading much of the Unmonastery website about their activities in Athens and Matera, I was very excited by the invitation to join them for an Unconvention in Kokkinopolis.

Remote it was. The  journey from Thessaloniki to Katerini was negotiated well, though just as our small group complemented ourselves on good progress, were told that the last bus toward our destination had departed. Welcome to rural Greece!

Beer eased the drama and inspired us to hitch the rest of the way. With network /data connection, battery power fading fast, signs were made to hitch along the only road to the mountains. At last we were picked up, the kind fellow had a usb lead to recharge phones – all working out.

There followed an hour of going steadily up and around tight bends, visiting a mountainside water fountain and passing many beehives. We piled out at a crossroads which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but not far from a very very big bull!

the schools we stayed in.

the school we stayed in.

Our destination was the Unmonastic space, previously a primary school, now a stopover for fell runners the unplugged. No kitchen, so great meals and tsipouro were provided at a nearby friendly taverna., is the mountain area community network built in 2014. Fourteen villages are now linked together and share internet connection currently provided by Larissa University, some 70km away. Ubiquiti 5ghz is used for backbone infrastructure, then connection is made public using 2.4 ghz open mesh access points. A wide range of locally hosted services and solutions to support farming, mountain living and tourism throughout the area are possible as a result, but it’s still early days!

The main signal from Larissa is received at a large parabolic dish on a garage roof in Sarantaporo and then relayed from village to village. Sparse use of wifi in the area means very good signal to noise which is great for link quality; in other words, even though we were downhill and tucked away from neighbourhood access point, we could get a usable  connection for email and a bit of web access.

tai chi on a mountain, anyone?

tai chi on a mountain, anyone?

As part of the introduction to the Unmonastic style of daily routine, we had a timetable. Each early morning we awoke to tapping ‘bells’, got ready and walked up to a stony football ground and did some tai chi, which was great. Finally, a group of people wanting to exercise and practice – on the side of a mountain!

The UnMon rituals were definitely a way to get everyone up early (with such a great view it was worth it), and days were filled with looking around the village, discussing the potential for using a larger unused school as a potential Unmonastic space.  This offered potential as refuge, for working people visiting the area and beyond to take in the views, walk in the lush forests, see the fireflies at night. In exchange, help rebuild the school buildings to be functional again – promote cultural and language exchange, digital literacy and coding.  Perhaps, English sessions would be popular, for supporting tourism or would some turf on their stony football field be a better option?

I also started conversations about MAZI options, trying out the school network, a Raspberry pi with a Lime survey system, Etherpad and Owncloud; with varying results. Etherpad is not very useful at presenting previous notes, the polling system needed more questions to be useful as an evaluation tool, IMG_1479Owncloud was quite useful as a repository of images and the recording of the singing from the local Orthodox church.

On our visits we were shown the local museum, the little park/viewing platform, and visited other tavernas. The village overall was very quiet, even with the numerous tavernas. Mostly older folk in residence, with only a few children to be seen. We collectively found out that most of the younger generations have gone to the towns and cities, leaving a situation I would say is themed across many rural areas, no matter what country. Interestingly, the presence of internet access hadn’t yet changed this dynamic, as the elderly residents saw little use or need for it and like so many of their generations, didn’t have the skills to utilize it either. Famously it’s the grandchildren who have made the best of these improvements, forging links with aging relatives in summer months and retaining the link on return to the cities.

Giorgio sharing knowledgeGiorgos was a local climber living nearby and gave a us much information about the area – at this point I realised that a MAZI initiative could be to establish a repository of local oral history to engage their offspring and visitors in village heritage; the locals were Greek speaking 2nd or 3rd generation Vlachs from Romania. We were also told by the elder running the museum that the British and Germans fought in the area too. It seems that some locals had started a web site, and needed help with putting it together. This is where the digitally skilled members of the Unmonastery could get involved.

bountiful st.John's Wort

Panayotis Antoniadis had suggesting harvesting the bountiful St.John’s Wort growing in the area and infusing into olive oil for market. The flower has a reputation for helping with depression and soothing anxiety. An irony of this proposal, is that some of the remaining bored youth take to drink and drugs, causing social problems, according to Giorgios.  Perhaps processing and sale could contribute to local economy and improve employment prospects or improve the mood for some.

Only there a week and each day was filled, it felt that much more time had passed by. Accumulated sleep deprivation from early mornings and late nights was setting in, so my silences grew longer. Doubt set in about being about to communicate coherently, so became quiet for a change. Perhaps the red oil from St.John may have helped. Having just about managed to learn Greek for yes and no plus a single swear word, my community engagement was limited. Should I decide to return for the longer haul? The harsh winters there would be a challenge, though learning Greek would be tougher. Definitely worth a second visit anyway.

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Knitted out

GSMboardThe quest for suitable, sustainable network equipment is an ongoing and fascinating one.  New products with great capabilities, low cost and power, compactness and accessibility, hold much promise.

gprsshieldThe first to catch my eye during a recent visit to Raylab is this GPRS shield v1.0. It’s a compact and versatile board featuring audio I/O, generic GSM module and 12 GPIOs. It is also fully compatible with Arduino modules so that existing controllers, radios and sensor packs fit right in!

featherfront featherbackNext on the desk was long awaited Huzzah! IoT ‘feather‘ which Alexei ordered some weeks ago and so popular it’s rarely in stock. Preliminary test returns simple but reassuring responses.. This tiny board boasts memory, processor very low power consumption and frilled with many connection options, amazing value at £12.

OpenWRTSocfrontA third product blinking innocently away across the desk,  had been delivered just that afternoon. is a fully featured mini OpenWRT SoC (system on chip) module with ethernet and USB dock, wireless and RAM enough to make itself indispensable. £40 ish.

Our MAZIzone assignment to identify and utilise the best of options for neighborhood activities and network development have already drawn us close to a series of interesting options for environment sensing , information storage and energy management. It’s a fragmented story so far, but one that we are bringing into focus, piece by piece.

When we next link up with guys at University of Thessaloniki research department in Volos there will be much to discuss. They have been working with a selection of off the shelf and custom pico beelabkitpc boards and adapters to interface a wide range of environment sensors to track temperature to radiation and drive Bluetooth, Zigbee, Wifi and LTE radios.

Julian Kingston is veteran ship engineer and beekeeper on Deptford Creek. We hope he will be able to link up his hives to monitoring equipment that enables a closer watch on the health of his swarms during the winter and alert him to changing conditions throughout the year. Urban bees produce great honey and the wide range of creekside wild flowers supply the quality nectar his bees seek.

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Apocryphal ecstatic

Conservative-Apocalypse-coverThis Thursday 7th July is the first pubic screening of ‘Chemi Bebia‘ (1929) with Funki Porcini soundtrack and launch event for his new LP and boxset ‘Conservative Apocalypse‘. Its at the BFI on London SouthBank where James will also show and tell about this new work and meet you in the bar for a dance off with DJ Food.

We all met up at the Mycelia event in April with Imogen Heap and friends, where research into the mechanics of music publishing, royalty collection and distribution, exploring future roles for musicians and supporters of live and recorded performance was in full flow. serveimogenThey shared the sense that as with all things, our networked lives continue to impact on preconceptions of law, autonomy and faith in institutions. Not only are the giants of PRS, MCPS and PPL attempting to consolidate the re-sculpted landscape but musicians, publishers and promoters are all seeking out a role for themselves as curators and campaigners for further decentralisation of control and fair reward.

On the other hand a revolution is underway in the hands of some very musically talented and creative digital innovators. The ODI has enlisted livecoding pioneer Alex Maclean as resident artist and his work. The do not miss event on 15th July ‘Thinking Out Loud‘ will feature his work with 10 collaborators, explore capture and encoding of data, along with fresh information, code and technology installations.

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The brexit debacle has so far proved to be a substantial distraction from much else going on this week. However, work toward the first of many MAZI reports to satisfy conditions for EU support, has been completed on time. MarknGarethOUOur academic partners at the Open University now have an additional part time researcher (Gareth) in post to help prepare the ground work for the next phase of neighborhood engagement which SPC are for preparing now. Here is Mark pointing out the Minesweeper floatilla on the creek.

weatherscape3We haven’t had many visitors to the recent Brookmill Park Monday meetups, though great progress has been made with those attending to clean and prepare the space for Redstart Arts who take up residence later this summer. Their current exhibition at the Deptford Lounge is result of 8 months work with learning disability artists and called ‘weatherSCAPE’. It has been installed in the 4 story atrium space there, very impressive!

Much of the Brookmill conversation so far, has been concerned with how to improve on use of the park and encourage a wider appreciation and support for the events and activities organised by the ‘friends’ group.brookmilpicnic Last weekend YT joined the Picnic and met with near neighbors as well as some more familiar faces. There was great interest in the MAZI activation initiative using the park keepers building and many questions on what and how might be possible. We sat in dappled light beneath a giant London plain tree with it’s bat and bird boxes, adjacent to the large pond with resident heron and frolicking water birds, to share stories, savories and cakes!

CETlowpointLater this month we will meet again with MAZI partners Common Ground in Berlin to review progress of the new Prinzessinnengarten building in progress  and enjoy the bloom of midsummer. Terry Edwards has been in a battle with slugs at the small gardens in Crossfields Estate he tends and will join us on the trip this time.

Here in Deptford there is no shortage of building work underway as seen here in this site view adjacent to CET. DLRovercreekDirectly opposite, preparations for the Tideway tunnel excavation are also advancing quickly. Intensive building work in progress on both sides of the creek reach are reaching crisis point as project increasingly coincide and collide. Any plans for environment monitoring, neighborhood awareness and useful responses may be foiled if we don’t make some rapid progress before long.

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YT visited Mobile City Garden early in June to attend EcoDA collaborative workshops  held as part of Co-designing resilience project. Hackney wick based Public Works Group hosted the group of locals, garden volunteers and representatives from Mobilecitygarden02other projects partners to consider ‘urban resilience’ within the context of the Mobile Garden City and how it relates to their current interests and garden activities.


We sat together in an open top shipping container (chilly) and each took turns responding to questions and offered insights of our own. The focus was very much on the needs and activities of the garden but also allowed for consideration of related activities of attendees. One thread of discussion investigated how to add public information systems offering wireless access that direct traffic to inform on general garden updates and biogas status. This was followed with some tasty home grown soup, bread and cake before we retreated from the rain!

Dr Davide Poggio is involved in the biogas processing prototype on the site which has a link with biogas pilot ISABEL in Humberside. A dedicated container on site holds the methane processing unit with gas reservoir in construction adjacent. Mobilecitygarden-NoelSolar panels provide the electrical energy required to activate the pumps and sustain good conditions for gas production.

Local volunteer to the garden project Noel was my very knowledgeable and helpful guide, pointing out with the aid of this site plan where the various elements of the project linked together. There is a large garden nursery area where a wide range of vegetables are grown for use in food production at the on site cafe. I also spotted an outdoor theatre, clay pizza oven and bicycle workshop.. will return soon.

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Babbling book

IMG_20151004_163719As part of ongoing research into the Deptford Mazi zone, we have begun conversations with Friends of Brookmill Park and hope to hold meet-ups there in coming months. Their slice of green starts as Brookmill Park by Elverson Road and ends as Broadway Fields by Deptford Bridge with the DLR running alongside.

TbrookmillparkfromSLhe friends group was activated in 2015 to liaise with Glendale services management and co-ordinate communicate park activities, eg. nature watch and clean-ups of the Ravensbourne river that runs through the park and into the creek. During a recent low tide walk with Creekside Education Trust we heard how old trolleys and carpets provide ideal micro environments to shelter young fish down stream! IMG_20151004_163614So, how much cleaning should be done?

The park is a mixture of natural and gardened areas, pathways and trees all need maintenance. There is a genuine sense of ‘getting things done’ as the group work with the park visitors and keepers, new bins on the way apparently and funding is available to refurbish the play area. BrookmillLodgeRegular bat walks and dawn chorus sessions are proving very popular and bird boxes have been installed recently. Redstart Arts soon begin workshops at the park keepers lodge and there is also picnic planned for the Saturday 25th June, please bring chairs, marquees and facepaint.

The Steven Lawrence Trust building is situated between Brookmill Park and Broadway Fields. It was built in 2008 on the site of a Thames Water pumping works which restricted the footprint of the new building of two sections with a 1st floor linking bridge between. SL-deptfordbridgeDuring our visit, Larwood showed us around the internal spaces and talked about it’s regular users and tenants. slcfoyerThere are several well serviced areas for meetings, workshops and social events overlooking the creek.

The trust faces considerable challenges to cover operational overheads and development of a public program. As a consequence, several small companies currently rent the work spaces available throughout the building. We heard about ‘IT-house‘ who offer technical support for the trust and a game design and software development company Playback Interactive. Radio project Mi-Soul occupy the annex building connected by elevated walkway.

broadwayfieldsThe river passes alongside in a narrow channel here, which is bridged with two unused concrete walkways. The tangle of manufactured and organic rubbish found downstream is not washed in by tide, or the result of local dumping but gets dragged along by river surges carrying fish, fauna and shopping trolleys from Lewisham and beyond. A small footbridge leads over to the basketball courts and open space of Broadway fields, where kids can skate and play together. More images here

The area is subject to more than one Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy*. These legal agreements between local authorities and developers, link planning permissions to planning obligations for environmental development and social improvements. For example, a new residential development can place extra pressure on the social, physical and economic infrastructure which already exists in a certain area. A planning obligation will aim to balance the pressure created by the new development with improvements to the surrounding area ensuring that where possible the development would make a positive contribution to the local area and community. BroolmillPicnicThere are many such agreements in place in Greenwich and Lewisham as a result of planning permissions and building projects along the creek, but perhaps more could be done locally to track and evaluate.

See you at the picnic!

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Party ark

pitpnxd logoYT often cycles through Fordham Park in New Cross, on the way to and from the organisers meetings at NXL learning for this years Party in the Park.

This years festival will be held on Saturday 3rd September from noon till 9pm. Your contribution and support is needed now, please see the web crowd funding appeal !

It will take a several days to build the temporary infrastructure needed to host the many performance stages and community stalls, provide sanitation, signage and arrange for electricity, water and refuse services. Once the festival is over the park must be returned to it’s tidy self. So there is a call for volunteers, to help prepare the park, guide and support on the day, then clear up after, which we hope you will be able to help with.

Several of those who were actively involved in the successful 2013 and 2014 event, formed a constituted group this year, to organise the festival again and build continuity for future events. Many local organisations and social groups will collaborate to stage music, performance and entertain kids! Expect a wide range of stalls offering food, clothes and books, toys and treasures. They will also present information about neighborhood activities, through a series of installations around the park, with special attention focused on housing.

Deptford urban free festivals were held on Fordham Park from 1989 at a very small scale for local people until 1995, eventually attracting people from all over London in such numbers that further events were not permitted*. The park was extensively refurbished in 2010 following the reactivation of Moonshot centre and Deptford Green secondary school which has been rebuilt adjacent to the park, rounding off a grand transformation in appearance and improving usability for all.

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Energising Interest

Web_SELCElogoThe Ashmead junior school in our road at home, has recently had solar panels installed on it’s roof space by SELCE.  Cooperative entrepreneurs formed ‘South East London Community Energy’ in 2015 to ensure the mutual benefits of renewable energy and reduced operational costs for local schools, whilst offering realistic proposal for anyone interested, even with minimal funds to invest.

Best-roof-shot-by-Selim-Korycki-768x512A successful campaign to raise the initial £250k by end of 2015, made it possible for the first four installations to have been activated already. Despite reduction in the feed-in tariff for those collecting more than they use, SELCE was able to ‘pre-accredit’ a further four local community buildings before the rate cut. A second shares issue to underwrite those costs is due to start shortly and will still be able to offer investors annual interest of around 4%.

GCDA support cooperative development in the Greenwich area. They offer project development and training for catering and health initiatives, host MIG kitchens and operate WCCC community centre in Woolwich! GCDA also support community empowerment projects locally and SELCE are currently based in their incubator office.

msclusterThough our initial work with Minesweeper Collective as part of Mazi project pilot in Deptford Creek, we have talked a lot about how improvements to energy infrastructure could have a huge impact on quality of life and sustainability for those living on boats or otherwise off-grid. Wind turbines and solar collectors have long been used in these situations where fixed land connections for mains power are scarce. Harvested energy is stored in large batteries which need monitoring and management then safe, low loss re-distribution.

Boattr project illustrates some of these issues with DIY solutions to regulate energy and integrate with on board computers and sensors. Various initiatives are underway to bring these issues together and offer complimentary tool for those setting up autonomous energy systems.

Recent pressure on housing in London has put fresh pressure on city waterways to supply power, process rubbish and curb water contamination resulting from increased numbers of river users. Canals across the UK are very active for the first time in generations yet infrastructure facilities remain limited. More could be done to share the wealth of information available between these isolated communities so MAZI will focus on some of these issues to further research and promote solutions locally.

Thames Tideway is a huge infrastructure project in progress along the length of the Thames to relieve sewerage load on several key vulnerable locations not least at the Greenwich Sewerage works adjacent to the creek. Their progress west to east will effect many users of the Thames and it’s tributaries. Understanding this, they have embarked on a charm offensive which has already visited the creek on several occasions to press for acknowledgement and make its case for worthwhile disruption. During the meeting with Friends of Deptford Creek discussion focussed on practical use of 500GT barges in the creek, the effects of dredging on the structure of the river ecology and swell effect of moving large boats on the smaller vessels moored there, not least the minesweeper cluster.


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Vexed, hashed and ported

tmp_9818-IMG_20160502_162516-595039255Battlemesh 09 was the latest in a series of intensive exchanges organised and attended by the prime of mesh firmware developers, hardware hackers and community activists – An international movement of open wireless network innovation with it’s root in the earliest moments of net culture.

tmp_9818-IMG_20160502_11302721601660More than 80 contributors from Korea, Colombia, India, Argentina and across Europe gathered at the Faculty of Engineering in the University of Porto (Portugal) for a week in the deep code of OLSR, Babel, B.A.T.M.A.N, BMX and Batman-ADV, each contenders for eternal glory!

All use the OpenWRT operating system first issued at the outbreak of contemporary mesh networking in 2004, when discovery of GPL code in the very affordable Linksys WRT54G router triggered release of it’s proprietary sources for open re-engineering.

battleovermassiveEach afternoon lightning talks and presentations were held in a space between the busy workgroups. We listened to memorable accounts from international groups and community actions, a film première of Sarantaporo documentary (Greece) and reviewed GNUnet and netJason projects two of many others listed in the packed event schedule. Our hosts even arranged us a cruise on the Douru River with spectacular views, bridges and fresh air!

bridgemeshWork progressed on setup of the Battlemesh ‘Wibed’ testbed, itself an ambitious and complex set of configurations, to allow for easy switching between competing firmware to enable monitoring of the 30 or so wireless routers now dotted about the university. Inevitable bugs obstructed completion but we start to see results at the eleventh hour, hoorah!

Key members of the OpenWRT developers group gathered to announce it’s community reboot as new project LEDE which resolves to shake off legacy constrictions in the operational structure of the old system. There was widespread delight mixed with a sense of some trepidation this news should schism the project. battleovertripOverall it seems, this is an overdue shift toward a more flexible approach to future development of firmware for embedded devices, so good luck with that!

battlegoesonOvershadowing the event for all this year is the news that FCC have followed steps taken at EU to legislate a lockdown of firmware on equipment (RED) featuring 5ghz wireless devices, so that critical weather and aviation radar systems cannot be compromised by non standard radio uses. New hardware will not permit firmware modification and improvements by community in the future will no longer be possible! It’s hard to follow the exact conditions that have lead to this unfortunate situation, certainly manufactures have taken flight and entirely re factored their products to adhere to the rules as they understand them, in fear of heavy fines should they fail.

Suspicions were voiced, that telecom interests have influenced authorities to revise controls allowing them capture pubic access spectrum for more exclusive commercial uses. Here is the joint statement from the wireless network community, more needs to be done to highlight the situation.

fingerpalaceOn  route out of Porto, YT met a group taking the ‘Worst Tour‘, visiting the islands of workers housing and gardens between the 6 fingers of city blocks spanning out from the centre. worsttourguideConcerns for neighbourhood networks prevail as the hollowing out of city and its communities continues.

These fresh insights and final adventures capped a week of many memorable contrasts some images of which can be seen here

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