Why WPS needs to be part of your Corporate BI Stack

Recently, I’ve been talking to a few customers about why they decided to bring WPS into the company. After all, these firms have lots of money and talent. They can pretty much license any software they feel they need as long as it gets the job done. Of course, there are constraints due to pricing and training, but for the most part, these companies have free reign.

Below are the four major topics that everyone has touched on. Remember, these are large firms that are stalwarts in the analytics field offering products and services that are dependent on their IT and business staffs to generate revenue.

Innovation

WPS is rapidly growing and introducing additional procedures to the product. The customers that I have spoken with have all stated that WPS contains all the PROCS that they need to access, analyze and report on the data. Remember, we are talking about Fortune 500 companies here so that says a lot about how fleshed out the product is at this point.

Efficiency in Licensing

If you are a large corporation, it is likely that you have offices overseas. Licensing WPS is a dream compared to our competitors. There’s no multiple sales teams to have to work with and no differentiated licensing.

Also mentioned was that ALL the library modules are included in the price. There is no longer any confusion on what is part of the product.

Cost Reductions

It’s well known that WPS is a high value low cost alternative to the SAS System. Whether considering expanding the footprint with workstations or servers, WPS is an extremely competitive proposition. This is especially true on the server side. Since WPS is priced so competitively, even small workgroups can easily afford a server for their department.

Sole Source provider

One of the most interesting responses I received, and one that caught my attention (especially from a risk mitigation perspective) was that they didn’t want to find themselves beholden to a single source supplier of the language. I asked why they were concerned about that issue specifically. The three major points brought up are:

  1. They lacked flexibility in how they could use the product to deliver data, analytics and reports to their customers.
  2. They could take advantage of new concepts and features as they are introduced across two platforms.
  3. Fear that they would be held hostage in pricing negotiations. With a multiple providers, they felt they had leverage if they chose to not expand their footprint with the sole source provider.

 

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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More Concerns about Tucson and the State of the Economy

In the last blog post, we discussed issues around opening a western office in Tucson, Az. I have received four emails and two phone calls about the blog post and whether we thought our experience should be construed as the “norm.” One caller who is local to Tucson (and God bless him for taking the time to call and discuss) explained at great length the disconnect between Tucson and the city of Phoenix and the declining quality of life in Tucson.

That conversation got me thinking about some parallel cities where the same thing seems to have happened. That is, the local economy went downhill and how peer communities viewed the situation. Take a look at Columbus, Ohio and Cleveland Ohio. It’s so similar to how Tucson and Phoenix view themselves that it’s Eeerrie (Erie, get it?)

Columbus is the state capital, lots of white collar jobs and some light manufacturing. Columbus is home to The Ohio State University and Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle is the world’s largest privately held think tank and employs 22,000 people. It’s also home to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Having lived in Columbus for 30+ years, I can tell you that the people viewed Cleveland as part joke and part social welfare entity that really didn’t do much for the rest of the state. Cleveland was (and still is) dominated by democrats who’s agenda was to disperse as much social welfare as they could get their hands on. Cleveland’s reputation was so poor in Columbus that there was little serious contemplation about how the state could help the city. It found itself in a downward spiral and still has not been able to reconcile its union bias and liberal leanings to the rest of the state or rest of the country.

Now let’s drive two hours east from Cleveland and see what has happened to Pittsburgh. If there’s any single city that can be called the comeback city, it’s Pittsburgh, Pa. Here is a city (actually the whole regional area) that took an economic hit that was devastating. The bottom fell out of the demand for domestically produced steel. The city was on the ropes in so many ways but found a way to remake themselves just to survive. And boy have they. They have become a tremendously prosperous city.

Pittsburgh remade itself by utilizing the local universities. Carnegie Melon and the University of Pittsburgh are both powerhouse research institutions. Along with Duquesne University, Pittsburgh became an education and research Mecca. People in Tucson, most notably Regina Romero should take note of this. My understanding from reading articles on the Web and talking to business owners is that Ms. Romero (a Ward 1 Councilor) was instrumental in undermining Grand Canyon University and submarined the universities decision to not locate in Tucson. They have located in Phoenix and have invested over $400 million dollars ($400,000,000) in buildings, classrooms, dorms, etc… Just think about how many local jobs this would have created for Tucson. Here again we have a liberal political body that just seems happy to live in the 5th or 6th poorest city in the country. It’s just total ineptness.

Supporters of Ms. Romero are quick to say this was a misstep on her part and the larger council. I have to disagree. My definition of a misstep is that a mistake took place, something was overlooked, that it was unintentional. This was a deliberate act and Ms. Romero and the larger council were all purposefully part of this decision. Btw, the city didn’t want to let go of a golf course called the El Rio Golf Course where GCU wanted to build. Anyone who has visited Southern Arizona knows that there is no shortage of golf courses in the area. But there is a shortage of is water and golf courses consume an incredible amount of water. Go figure what the real reason is here but I suspect that Ms. Romero and the council are pretty much against religious universities and this was their way of thwarting Grand Canyon University opening a religious based school in Tucson.

I want to point out to the powers that are in Tucson that there are huge benefits beyond just the economic when you bring in companies and universities that are highly educated. You see, many of these organizations have programs that encourage employees to get involved in schools. Many companies actually adopt schools. These folks come into the class room and discuss careers, they tutor students in math, science and reading, they teach business skills. These services you get for almost nothing. Perhaps just a handshake and a “Thank You.”

So what happened with Pittsburgh? Companies have flocked to the region setting up research centers and local offices. They all want to be part of the technology and growth that comes out of the area. Computer Science, Robotics and Health Research is a big piece of this and both CMU, University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region are well situated to take full advantage of this sector of engineering, manufacturing and science. If you have any doubts about Pittsburgh’s comeback and don’t want to spend days reading about it, check out this blog: http://pittsburghcomeback.blogspot.com/

What is so interesting to me is how much Pittsburgh has cleaned itself up. The technology companies that are now in Pittsburgh are typically low environmental impact and high wage organizations. You still see some brown fields but those are quickly being eradicated. You don’t see smog like you did in the 60’s and 70’s and it’s a very pleasant place to live and visit.

For the city of Tucson and Southern Arizona, the loss of IBM and Grand Canyon University is irreversible. The horses have left the barn so to speak. Getting organizations like this to locate to your community are probably once-in-a-lifetime events. If opportunities like this do come up again, don’t blow it. If you do, Tucson is going to start looking like Flint, or Detroit Michigan.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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Possible Office Expansion – Westward Ho!

As a company, we’ve been looking at expanding our footprint to the Western United States. Some reasons for it are purely selfish, a few are health related and some of the reasons deal with doing business with organizations that are two or three hours different in terms of time with the Eastern United States.

I want to start writing a few blog posts about this endeavor. We’ve been looking at opening an office in Tucson, AZ and even though the geography is strikingly beautiful, the realities of opening a business in Tucson is strikingly difficult.

Tucson is not very business friendly.

True. This city is known for its open hostility to businesses. This is well known out in the Western United States but not so much back in the Midwest or Eastern U.S. Tucson is basically a resort town with a few limited large businesses. The large employers seem to be University of Arizona, Raytheon (a missile systems developer), a medical complex and City and County Government. Note how many of the mentioned are either government entities or are attached to government funding. In other words, they tend not to create or produce capital but instead consume capital.

University of Arizona (UA) is probably the jewel in the city. But what is sad is that the vast majority of students who graduate from UA, cannot find a job in Tucson. They are forced to look for work in Phoenix, Los Angeles and the State of Texas. I guess there’s nothing smarter than spending the money to educate them and then throwing them out of the nest to seek work and develop products elsewhere!

Taxes are a mess. We still have not figured out what kind of states sales tax we would have to charge if we opened a business in Tucson. Each jurisdiction has a different sales tax rate and figuring out what your jurisdiction is (Tucson incorporated, unincorporated, are you north or south of River Road) is really tough. We’ve called twice and gotten two different answers. It also seems that sales taxes or Transaction Privileges Tax can change from month-to-month. If you go to the Tucsonaz.gov website, you will see tax tables for February and March.

As a small business or mid-sized business, we don’t want to spend our time trying to figure out how much the privilege costs us to sell a product from month-to-month. Also, when you compete nationally as well as globally, taxes have a big impact on your customers. Taxes have to be passed through to the customer if you want to survive.

The Transaction Privilege Tax Sales taxes is very high. Local municipalities add their own tax on to the state tax and when combined can be astronomical! In Tucson, you pay 8.1% sales tax. Probably one of the highest in the country.

There’s also a huge disconnect between the politicians/bureaucrats and the small business owners here in Tucson. We’ve talked to lots of small and mid-sized business owners and upper level managers, and just about every person we’ve talked with has felt that city and county government is a significant hindrance to the success of Tucson and the business economy.

One thing that I can’t stand is for folks to criticize and not offer suggestions or some possible solutions to the issues. So here are a few to start the discussion.

Suggestions for Improvement

The City has to become more business friendly. They are not going to be able to grow or even sustain the current economy unless they can bring in business from the outside. They cannot grow the economy to the level they need by developing the existing businesses.

Create a One Stop Business Center where potential companies can go to get the correct answers on what taxes they have to pay, the amount of sales taxes they have to pay, the licensing that is required, and other filing requirements. The city and county should set up a little store front that is in conjunction with companies like Comcast, Bank of America, the phone company, Office Max/Office Depot where there is an all-in-one business center. Here you can find out what kind of licensing, permits and taxes that you will be required to attain and pay. The private sector companies can have a small footprint to help new and even existing companies find out about services that they will most likely need and to sign them up. What company doesn’t need internet and banking services? We have not been able to locate such a source and as such, feel that the risks are quite high that we would miss something and be liable for fines and penalties.

Tucson should take a look at neighboring communities and see what is working for them. We see a huge difference between Oro Valley or the city of Marana in contrast to Tucson in terms of business climate and health. We have been steered many times to these communities by realtors, lawyers and bankers as the place you want to be in locating a small or midsized business.

Accentuate the positive. Craft a national story about how the educational resources (UA) is an asset to growing technology businesses. Talk about what kind of research is being done at the local level and by small businesses in the area. Talk up success stories. Discuss the low cost to lease office space.

Advertise in major publications like Fortune, Forbes and Bloomberg about Tucson and the business opportunities and the resources available in Tucson.

Do something about the sour state of education in the area. Elementary and High School is poorly funded. Same goes for community colleges. As a matter of fact, we just learned that the state of Arizona has stopped all funding of community colleges except for one county. As a business owner, I don’t want to have pay to attract talent from other states and help pay relocation costs. Support for education has to become a priority over support for state prisons.

Take advantage of the contacts and expertise of the Snow Birds and other wealth that is located in the Catalina Foothills. There is some amazing wealth in the Foothills. We’ve met folks who have run and sold large businesses who spend time in the Foothills who are worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. They grimace and grin almost as if it’s sport at the missteps that the city and county have taken in the last decade or two as it pertains to creating a viable and sustaining local economy. These folks are amazingly well networked and have the ability to move businesses here as well as encourage businesses to locate here.

Poach businesses from other States. Property taxes are very low in Arizona. Businesses are sensitive to labor rates, real estate costs, property taxes and educational resources for their employees as well as for the growth of the business. Tucson needs to set up a highly visible group that does nothing but pursue large companies to relocate to the area. Start raiding California for the technology companies by offering tax incentives as well as building an environment for cross-pollination of ideas, networking, concierge services for new businesses, free site location services, seven day permit approvals, etc…

Finally

The two questions I have to ask Tucson is “Does a Liberal leaning political government mean that it has to be at odds over the creation of jobs or even synonymous with the lack of jobs? Is there a conflict over creation of wealth by attracting small and mid-sized businesses and does that inherently mean that there’s an ever expanding gap of those who have vs. those who have not?” It doesn’t appear to be that way for liberal cities like San Francisco or Seattle, but it does seem that way for Tucson.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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WPS on a Dell Tablet

One of the things I believe we all see is the tremendous emergence of mobile hardware and software. We see it on phones the most but we also see it on tablets. I’m very intrigued at the moment on tablets that can run Windows applications and has enough connectivity options to be able to use it in an office for taking notes, making presentations, etc..

About a year ago, I bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro running Windows 8 (now 8.1) with 2GB of RAM and internal storage of 32GB. I slipped in a 64GB Micro SDHC card for some additional storage. Today I would buy a 128GB card since prices have fallen so much instead of the 64GB card. I also bought a Dell Bluetooth keyboard for it as an accessory. The keyboard makes it much easier to use for any serious work rather than use the virtual or software keyboard.

IMG_2034

The Dell Venue 8 PRO has an Atom 1.8GHZ Quad Core processor. It does amazingly well for the most part. The only issues I tend to notice is that sometimes there’s a slight hesitation using the browser and loading web pages. I’m not sure if it is the internet connection or the processor but it doesn’t happen enough to be too bothersome.

One of the really cool things is that it has Miracast technology built into the tablet. With Miracast, I can “beam” my screen to another screen, such as a TV or Workstation Monitor so others can see what is on the tablet. This is very convenient and Miracast works well. Especially if you are using Microsoft’s Miracast dongle.

Since I bought this as a Christmas present for myself (I needed a toy) I decided to load WPS on the tablet to see if I could actually get it to work and see if it is useable. I’m happy to report that it works quite well. Of course, the primary issue that prevents serious work on a large dataset is the small memory footprint. But that too can be overcome.

I like to take my tablet out on to the patio or to the pool early in the morning or in the late afternoons. At both places I have WiFi access so I can check email and browse the web. But using WPS Link (software that comes with WPS that allows you to connect to a server running WPS) I can submit my jobs to the server and run extremely large jobs. With WPS Link, I submit my code to the remote server and get the log and listing right back into the WPS Workbench.

Since the WPS installation package is relatively compact, taking only 342MB on my tablet, it is great that it takes so little space and Note that Windows 8.1 on the Dell Tablet is 32-bit so you need to install WPS 32-bit. I can still run and monitor any jobs or tasks that I have submitted. One nice thing with WPS Link is that I have the option of storing my WPS source programs either on the tablet or on the remote server.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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SAS Increases Prices for Workstation Product

Just noticed that SAS raised their prices for desktops. The 2014 price for a single workstation was $8700 for the first year and has increased to $9,000. This is for the Analytics Pro product and only available on Windows Workstations. Note that SAS does not sell workstation licenses for Apple’s OS X operating system because it doesn’t support OS X natively. SAS also increased the license fees for individual access engines from $3,000 to $3,100 USD.

The $9,000 price also does not include any Access Engines used to interface into databases such as Oracle, MySQL, DB2, etc…

The price increase is 3.44% and when you factor in annual inflation for 2014 (.76%) it seems rather odd that they would have an increase. Actually, by the time you get done adding two access engines (say ODBC and one other) you are looking at first year fees of $15,200. That’s a lot of money!

Our product pricing for 2015 for the WPS Workstation product here in the US has held steady. There are many reasons for this including currency issues and obtaining scales of economy are some of the reasons behind this. Remember, I’m only referring to US pricing.

If you are interested in what WPS has to offer in v3.1 on Windows and Mac Workstations, take a look at the document WPS for Workstations v3.1 to see what a bang for the buck that WPS is for any organization.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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Utilities for Reading and Writing Excel

Here at MineQuest Business Analytics, we us Windows desktops and servers, Linux servers and Apple’s OS X on the desktop. As a Value Added Reseller I can tell you that a lot of WPS applications are run and are being developed on these platforms. Mainly due to pricing of hardware and software (commodity x86 CPU’s), most of our sales relate to Windows and Linux as it pertains to WPS software.

One issue that I run into is that reading an Excel file is a piece of cake on Windows, it’s not so easy on OS X or Linux. It seems that Microsoft doesn’t support an ODBC driver on OS X to read Excel. That does seem strange since they have an Office product that runs on OS X.

We have developed a utility to read and write Excel files for the three platforms that were mentioned above. We are currently writing the documentation for the utilities so that will take another week perhaps. MineQuest will be releasing these utilities to MineQuest’s customers as a free add-on just for ordering their WPS licenses through us. If you procured your WPS licenses through another reseller or through World Programming LTD directly, there is a small one time charge to acquire these macros.

We will also provide the source code to these two utilities (ReadExcel and WriteExcel) so that developers can enhance and modify the code themselves. The support for the product will only be to update code that was developed by others to enhance the product.

If you want to use the utilities in a product that you or your company will be selling, then you will be required to have a commercial license. There is a small charge for a commercial license so that you can redistribute the product in your own application.

Note that these utilities are not designed to work in SAS. They are specific to WPS.

The utility to read an Excel workbook is a simple macro call.

          %ReadExcel( data = mydataset,
                      Workbook = “c:\temp\testbook1.xlsx”,
                      Sheet = “sheet1″);

Where

Data is the name of the WPS/WPD data set you want to create.
Workbook is the name of the Excel Workbook you want to read the data from.
Sheet is the name of the sheet in the workbook from which you want to read the data from.

The utility to write an Excel Workbook is just as simple.

          %WriteExcel( data = a,
                       Workbook =   “c:\excelutils\data\testworkbook.xlsx”,
                       Sheet = “sheet1″,
                       Datefmt = mm/dd/yyyy,
                       javamemsize = 500m,
                       Replace = TRUE);

Where

   Data is the WPS/WPD data set that you want to write out to Excel.
   Workbook is the name and location of the workbook you want to create.
   Sheet is the name of the sheet in the workbook that you want to create.
   Datefmt is the format that you want the date fields to look like.
   Javamemsize is the amount of memory you want to allocate to java (optional).
   Replace is whether you want to delete the existing workbook before creating the new workbook.

What I like about these two utilities is that you can use the exact same syntax across all three OS platforms to create an Excel Workbook. If you are creating or already have a product (i.e. a vertical market application) in WPS, you can open up your product to other platforms without changing any code.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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Some thoughts on a rainy Monday

The more I use Linux, the more I come around to understand just how much I can do with it. As a matter of fact, I could easily do without Widows and switch 100% of the way over to Linux if I wanted. The desktop(s) and business applications have really gotten that good.

Windows 8 just soured me on the whole MS ecosystem. When they bolted on the Metro interface on a server OS — that was the last straw for me. Who ever made that decision to strap on a touch interface to a server should be let go. Shown the door. Asked to leave…

I have Apple hardware here in the office, and it runs well, but I just have not been able to embrace it like so many others have. Apple makes some fine hardware and there’s a load of support for Office productivity applications as well as analytical apps. WPS runs quite well on OS X as well as R. As a matter of fact, I see a lot of R users who work on OS X as there preferred platform.

But Linux, and specifically Ubuntu 12.04 and 14.04 have been especially good. I don’t have memory issues when I run large simulations in R that require a lot of RAM. With Windows, that is often a problem, trying to allocate a large block of memory and there’s not sufficient contiguous memory to hold a large array, vector or data frame. The memory management is significantly different under Linux than under Windows.

Use of NVidia’s CUDA framework seems to be predominantly used on Linux and not Windows. I’m not sure why that is to be honest.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles stating that MS is working feverishly trying to get Windows 9 out the door. No doubt (at least in my mind) it has to do with the terrible Metro interface and people staying away in hoards. Of course, you can slap Start8 by Stardock on Windows 8 and it makes it useable by implementing the start button, and kudos to Stardock for doing such a thing, but I still can’t find a way to embrace MS on the desktop any longer.

An interesting phenomena that I have been witnessing is how much analytical and scientific development has been happening over the years on the Linux platforms. There are a lot of tools out there that are helpful if you are a data scientist or working with “BIG DATA” as it pertains to Linux. My experiences in reselling WPS is that there is an equal amount of interest (perhaps more) in using Linux on servers than in running Windows servers. Cost is one factor but performance is also a factor. Linux often out performs Windows Servers dollar for dollar and CPU second to CPU second.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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Post Installation Steps for WPS Workstations

We recently wrote a short technical document on a set of post installation steps that MineQuest Business Analytics recommends after you install WPS on your workstation. We are often asked what needs to be done after WPS is installed to get the greatest performance out of WPS without too much hassle.

The document walks you through modifying your WPS configuration file, moving your work folder to another drive, why you want to install R (for using PROC R of course!), creating an autoexec.sas file, turning out write caching and a few other pointers. You don’t need to to all of the suggestions, after all they are just suggestions, but they are useful modifications that will enable you to get more out of WPS on your workstation.

You can find the document “Post Installation Steps for WPS Workstations” in the Papers Section of the MineQuest website.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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WPS Release 3.1.1 now Available

For those who are unaware, World Programming had a small release this month, version 3.1.1. This is mostly a maintenance release but it does include PROC CORRESP.

A few other things of interest, is that v3.1.1 includes the NOSPARSE and OUTEXPECT options in PROC FREQ as well as the RAND function. Finally, PROC LOGISTIC also includes the LINK-GLOGIT parameter.

MineQuest Business Analytics strongly suggests that you upgrade your existing version of WPS to version 3.1.1 to make sure you have all the maintenance and stability enhancements of the current release.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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WPS for Workstations

In the last few weeks, we put together a document that describes the World Programming System for workstations and desktops. The document describes some of the licensing behind WPS and what procedures and database engines are supported.

If you are considering a WPS solution and want some detailed background on the product before purchasing a WPS Workstation license, this document should help.

You can download the Product Overview from our website by clicking the link below.

Product Overview – WPS for Workstations (1.02MB PDF)

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

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