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Arrington's Web Tablet Nearly Ready For Launch? 140

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wouldn't-it-be-nice dept.
narramissic writes "The 'dead simple and dirt cheap' touchscreen Web tablet that Michael Arrington of TechCrunch set out to build last July seems to be nearing completion, writes blogger Peter Smith. 'The CrunchPad is a Linux-based touchscreen tablet using a browser-based UI. When you turn the unit on, it boots right into the webkit-based browser. There's a pop-up virtual keyboard for entering URLs and such (you wouldn't want to do any significant typing on it) and scrolling is via swiping the screen. When Arrington first visualized the project he was shooting for a $200 price point, then discovered that a $299 price was more realistic.'"
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Arrington's Web Tablet Nearly Ready For Launch?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I would have got a first post, but I was typing on a web tablet.
    • by MaerD (954222)
      It's got to be better then typing on my cellphone. T9 or other predictive texts only help if you and the cell phone know how to spell the word you want.
  • by acb (2797)

    whether there'll be a last.fm client for it.

    • by notarockstar1979 (1521239) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:16PM (#28210953) Journal
      No, but if anyone reads much Techcrunch you'll know that there will almost certainly be a few dozen Twitter clients, and it will probably be the default browser homepage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by linhares (1241614)
      In fact, there should be a "web client". The idea is to remain in a browser at all times (except for skype). But what techcrunch screwed up royally here is that they did not use android. That would have given them the latest codebase from a megacorp to have what? A nice screen keyboard (I know it's an oxymoron, jokers), 3g, and other important stuff... such as the browser. Job would have been much easier with Android. It might also have much more perceived safety in the long run.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maxume (22995)

        If they keep their goal (promise?) to open up the hardware and Android makes more sense, it will happen pretty quickly.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Not going with Android was a genuine idiot move. The Android user base is growing so aggressively it's turning Windows Mobile phones into Android phones. That's right, it's not just growing market share, it's stealing it. (I just hope this comes to my HTC Fuze one day; it is already on a related phone.)

        Until someone actually comes up with something better than Android, supporting it is probably the best way to go by far.

        • by atamido (1020905)

          I don't know, the design goals seem to be very different from Android. For this, they need an extremely thin OS that will provide an interface to display, input, and network. On top of that, there is a single application, a web browser. Reducing the number of APIs, size of the kernel, and background processes are all things that make a lot of sense for this type of project.

          Using Android would have been easier, and it would have provided a lot other applications, but that would have been orthogonal to the

  • by Renderer of Evil (604742) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:10PM (#28210875) Homepage

    Gartner has projected that in the next 5 years about half of all internet bloggers will paper launch their own internet tablets, because it's the next logical step.

  • Looks great but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nursie (632944) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:11PM (#28210893)

    A cursory glance through TFA and the main post it links to do not reveal the specs of the device.

    What's the platform? What sort of connectivity does it have?

    • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:53PM (#28211495)

      Earlier prototypes used an Atom CPU, I doubt that's changed. And the connectivity is some sort of wifi, presumably g, maybe n.

      It looks like a neat device, and I'm definitely interested in the cheap lightweight tablet form factor and market niche. But when I think about purchasing it I can't help comparing it in my head to the super-sized iPod tablet Apple is rumored to be working on.
      The crunchpad's 12" screen is nice compared to the 8-10" expected from apple, but the atom and big screen are going to make for really crappy battery life compared to an ARM based 8-10" solution, and the Apple version will be able to do more than just web surf (a version of the iPhone SDK and app store seems inevitable). However, while the crunchpad may have missed it's $200 price target in favor of $300, the rumors of Apple's $600+ price point were never in that league to begin with.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ARM9 @ 600mHZ, 512MB Ram, Linux 2.6. Wifi connectivity (B, G, and N). X is used for the display, so it should be about 5 minutes before you can use this as a remote X client. 10 minutes and it will be replacing $2000 wacom tablets.
  • Tech Support? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by siloko (1133863) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:12PM (#28210895)
    a webbased OS sitting on a homebrew touchscreen - sounds rock solid to me!
    • by Jamamala (983884)
      I think this is probably designed for people who don't need tech support. I'm hoping they do one better and let us put whatever we want on there.
      • "I'm hoping they do one better and let us put whatever we want on there."
        You write that as if they had any say in what software I run.
      • by dangitman (862676)
        People who don't need tech support? All three of them? Wow, what a market! Even if you're tech savvy, are you really going to buy a product that likely has no support avenues if you get a broken one? Are you really going to be happy fixing that new device you paid for yourself?
  • Nokia (Score:1, Interesting)

    by mschoolbus (627182)
    Just buy a Nokia N8x0. I am willing to bet you can pick up an n800 for well under $200. The N810 is a bit more but has a slideout qwerty keypad. Its a nice web browser, or portable video screen with great battery life.

    Lets stop reinventing the wheel and use what hardware and software is already out there!
    • by IANAAC (692242)
      I have an N800 and it's a great pocketable device. But it doesn't really do what I want, that is, hang a panel on the kitchen wall, for browsing, music and video.

      I also have a Pepper Pad 3 - that came close (and it's still in the kitchen, albeit on the countertop), but there is no decent distribution for it.

      The Crunchpad looks like it would fit the bill, and looks good too. Hung on the wall it could be a digital picture frame too.

    • by LodCrappo (705968)

      the nokia n8xx are pretty cheap now. they make a very nice ultra portable, good for web browsing, email, IM, watching movies, music, etc. with the 810 model or a bluetooth keyboard they are usable for terminal sessions and a litle bit of work.

      I don't use mine much when at home, but its great for travelling.

    • by Arathrael (742381)
      The thing about the Nokia is, it only has a 800x480 resolution (I believe - correct me if I'm wrong). That's fine for some purposes, but if I'm reading a lengthy document, or trying to look at a large detailed image* I find that 800x480 is a low enough resolution to be irritating. That's what's put me off getting one.

      This device looks like it has a 12" screen with a 1280x800 resolution (might be a bit less, I'm just estimating), so it has the potential to be more appropriate for some kinds of usage. Depen
      • by LodCrappo (705968)

        you are correct about the resolution. due to the n800s small size, this makes it a very high dpi screen. things look great, and text is very easy to read, but you are also right that the size is just too small for extended reading or viewing. the n800 is a compromise, if you need something very small (fit in pocket.. well some pockets) then its one of your best options at the moment, but if you can handle a larger device then probably you would want something else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fallingcow (213461)

      The N8x0 is tiny.

      I want this tablet thing as a portable (around the house) media player. It's big enough for two people (myself and my wife) to watch comfortably, has pretty high resolution, and wireless connectivity.

      Select your movie from the file server via VLC's web interface, fire up VLC, connect to the stream, set it up on its stand, and enjoy a movie in any room that doesn't already have a screen. We use our laptops for this kind of thing now, but a tablet would be much, much better.

      Want music in an

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "Just buy a Nokia N8x0. I am willing to bet you can pick up an n800 for well under $200. "

      You're comparing apples with oranges? The Nokia N8x0 has a 4.1" screen [amazon.com]. It's in a different class than a web tablet with a 12" LCD. The Nokia's competition is the similarly priced Apple Touch.

      The Fujitsu T4010 is a better competitor. [mobiletechreview.com] 12" LCD, 1.6ghz, ram upgradeable to 2gb, 60+ gb hard drive, touchscreen, 4 lbs, boots XP in 30 seconds [youtube.com]. It's a few years old so you should be able to find one for $300.
  • by LodCrappo (705968) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:14PM (#28210935) Homepage

    I don't see what is compelling or really even interesting about this product. A netbook for the same money is a far more capable device.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:24PM (#28211059)

      When I think of industrial design, impeccable user-interface, rock-solid software, and industry leading portable products I immediately think of Michael Arringon. A blogger on TechCrunch.

      Where few dozen companies with multi-million dollar R&D budgets have failed, one man who posts internet rumors in his underwear will succeed.

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Where few dozen companies with multi-million dollar R&D budgets have failed, one man who posts internet rumors in his underwear will succeed.

        Ha... I will undercut his market by blogging in my bathrobe! Underwear? We don't need no stinkin' underwear!

      • by Kozz (7764)

        In a world where few dozen companies with multi-million dollar R&D budgets have failed, one man who posts internet rumors in his underwear will succeed.

        Fixed that for you. (at least I like it better that way)

    • Agreed, a general purpose netbook tablet can't be too far away anyway.

      The lack of a keyboard does marginalise it as a $US300 single purpose gadget, as in Nokia's Maemo offerings. For that price an iPhone?

    • by phorest (877315)
      A netbook may be more capable, but I have a 10" ViewSonic Airpanel and believe me a netbook is very uncomfortable to use laying down on your back. Also too I find the web almost unusable on a widescreen format screen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by StikyPad (445176)

        *Anything* is uncomfortable to use when laying on your back. Hell, most people's arms get tired of holding up a paperback in about 30 seconds. The unfortunate issue with the touchpad device is that it appears that the only comfortable position to use it in, is the one featured on the product page [techcrunch.com].

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          *Anything* is uncomfortable to use when laying on your back.

          You're obviously not doing it right.

    • Kiosk - many uses (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Drinian (621383)
      One use I'd deploy right now is a scheduling kiosk for our fleet. We have a fleet of vehicles and we use pen and paper to schedule their use. I'd love to install one of these next to the key box and have a networked scheduling web app running on it. That way if you're at the key box you can schedule or you could do it from your workstation. Or I could put one next to a common space phone and set it to browse our intranet. Or use it as a wall mounted closed circuit tv monitor. All kinds of uses...
      • by LodCrappo (705968)

        those things can be done with a variety of existing devices, devices that have been available for years and with broad support from established companies. in fact, many companies already do what you're talking about with the vehicle scheduling. they also do timeclocks, security camera monitoring etc. all with existing devices.

        • by jra (5600)

          Yes, but those are all $2000 devices. Not $200 devices.

          I'm right behind him in line to use it in semi-embedded implementations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tbuskey (135499)

      Think of it as a Kindle with:
      Color
      Openness
      WiFi instead of Cell

      • by dannycim (442761)

        Think of it as a Kindle with:
        Color
        Openness
        WiFi instead of Cell

        ... and no battery life to speak of.

      • And no Kindle books.
        Or e-Ink display.
        Or Whispernet connectivity.
        Or in fact any features of the Kindle except for being thin and having a screen that can show text.

        Why not think of it as an ultra-thin web appliance instead? The two are not even close to each other in function or design.

      • by nametaken (610866)

        That's a good way to put it... that list fixes everything wrong with the Kindle, and makes it cheaper.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      I don't see what is compelling or really even interesting about this product. A netbook for the same money is a far more capable device.

      WiFi? Larger screen than an iPhone? Lame.

      • by LodCrappo (705968)

        not sure i understand what you're saying. both a netbook and this tablet have wifi and larger screens than an iphone. is that lame?

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      I don't see what is compelling or really even interesting about this product. A netbook for the same money is a far more capable device.

      Exactly my thoughts too. It would be different if this device was filling a specific niche (i.e. Kindle e-reader), and had very little market share to compete with, but at THAT price, it's damn near competing with every other portable hardware device that has a browser and a keyboard.

      And the "we'll build the hardware and offer specialized customized apps and a developer kit" idea is pretty much a dead end with the popularity of the Apple store. And once they release an iPod touch in a netbook form factor.

    • A touch screen tablet is interesting , a clam shell design able to be used either in touch screen mode or regular clamshell would be even better. I don't like the idea of touch screen only due to the damage it would get just being carried round.

      I'm just looking for a better netbook really, a bigger screen isnt an improvement but increased versatility is.
       

  • by Bicx (1042846) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:18PM (#28210985)
    Don't get me wrong: I love the simplicity of the idea. However, if for $300 I am only able to surf the web, I would go for a netbook instead. Sure, netbooks lack the style and aesthetic appeal of a big touchscreen, but you have a real keyboard, a real OS, and you can use it for many different tasks (as much as you can with a tiny screen and keyboard anyway).

    However, I may have been sold if the price had stayed at $200.
    • Perhaps you should develop such a device yourself with a target of $100, and when that becomes very difficult, settle on the price point of $200.
    • I'm glad to see I'm not alone in this. I have a very clear perception of the prices these small devices would be worth to me and I think they're all still about a $100 overpriced at the moment.

      • I would pay up to $100 (preferrably less) for a device that's strictly an ebook reader: up to 500g weight (a bit over 1 pound), 6+ hours of running battery life (AA or ability to plug directly into mains), 6-10in screen (grayscale LCD is fine too, I'm not fussy), SD card slot, ability to choose from several fonts and
  • After reading some of this story this device sounds like a large Ipod Touch without all the fancy Apple applications. I agree with the previous poster that a netbook would make a far better choice for this price. When they make a netbook around 190 bucks that is versatile enough I may get one. With most projects he wanted to keep the cost down but that is easier said then done.
  • by afxgrin (208686)

    It needs a stylus for writing notes, if possible, directly onto a webpage. :-)

    I hope a PDF viewer is included. Being able to write on the PDF file would be A++++ awesome.

    Just like some simple program that stores what I'm writing into a JPG file, and it gets associated to the file or page I'm viewing. So it gets overlaid on the document.

    If it replaces a notepad, while allowing me to surf the net, I'm sold.

    • Check out the iLead ebook reader [irextechnologies.com]. Expensive, but exactly fits what you're asking for. I'm saving up for one myself.

      • by afxgrin (208686)

        Umm - that thing is like $700!! That's ridiculous.

        At that price I'd expect a colour display as well. I'll keep an eye out for it though, hopefully the price comes down quickly.... thanks for the link.

  • Reality bumped the price by $100. :)

    • Clearly all we need do, then, is start a project to develop a computer that we pay the user $99 to use.
  • by phorest (877315) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:35PM (#28211225) Journal

    Wow, I am hoping to see this sometime soon as my 10" ViewSonic AirPanel [viewsonic.com] SmartDisplay [wikipedia.org] is getting a little long in the tooth. Still running 902.11B standard! It's slow with today's web but it is the most convenient item in my stable to browse the web away from my office-chair. I can watch TV, read/mod posts on slashdot -or- news on the web -or- read books & tweak my network from the comfort of my couch.

    Yeah, it runs Windows CE but everything isn't perfect. Still it's very light, doesn't need a stylus to click on a link or button (though has one). The only way it could be the browser tool even better would be an external Home, Forward and Back buttons in a convenient place on the frame somewhere.

    I recently got a Dell Mini10 as a present and a netbook will never replace a small tablet for the way I use the airpanel.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:42PM (#28211323) Homepage

    The second link from the slashdot summary, describing the current product, is extremely short, and is essentially the same text as the slashdot summary. A longer and better article is here [techcrunch.com]. This [techcrunch.com] page has technical specs: 12-inch touchscreen (1024x768 4:3), via nano, 1 GB ram, 4 GB flash, wifi, accelerometer, camera, 3 lb, currently running ubuntu.

    Sorry, but $300 is not "dirt cheap," IMO. Zareason.com or system76.com will routinely sell you a full-featured desktop system for $300. WalMart and Sears have sold desktop machines like the Everex gPC as cheap as $200. Target has had the eeePC for $280. This is not even something you'd want to use as a full-function computer, so I'd say $300 is actually pretty expensive. Of course some people may be willing to pay for style or convenience. But as far as convenience, I'm not convinced I'd want something portable like this that didn't have a lid to protect the screen.

    "Dirt cheap" is going to be ARM-based computers retailing for $50-100, which we'll probably have within a few years.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I think it means dirt cheap FOR A 12" TABLET, which it most certainly is.
    • $300 is dirt cheap for an x86 PC with a touchscreen that huge.

      See: http://www.logicsupply.com/categories/panel_pc [logicsupply.com]

      I'm sorry that you're not the target market. (Actually, I'm not either; I own 3 desktops :P ) Just be aware that although you don't find it useful or affordable, that doesn't discount the market entirely.

      I mean, people pay $200 for a Chumby, and $240 for a PSP with $60 worth of hardware in it. This thing probably has $250 worth of hardware. It really is very affordable, if you require a touchscre

  • what I could really use is a clamshell computer (think Samsung Alias 2 [slashphone.com]) strapped to my forearm. (Like Turanga Leela, but real.)

  • I just checked out the newest presentation video of this thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jP-0Nce5oTQ , and it is quite an interesting product.

    Of course the application as a browser only thing is a bit too little.

    For the folks who asked what the underlying OS is: Linux + webkit
    Specs: no idea, not much.

    Now what would be really great: a sane interface API for this thing and the possibility to write apps for it + wlan + bluetooth. Then it would be quite a viable niche product (for cool people only) who fo
    • by atamido (1020905)

      The first thing I thought when I read about this is that it would make an excellent home remote. There are some far less interesting remotes that cost more out there than this. Of course, it'd need an IR port, or you would need a server with an IR blaster. But if there were a way to use it, it would be pretty cool.

  • I'm legally blind, so this is something I've been waiting for, for ages.

    If I can stick Ubuntu, or anything with a customizable UI on, with a browser / pdf reader that lets me put large, white text on a black background.. surf and read ebooks.. I'm sold.

    • Accessibility (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zogger (617870)

      As long as you brought up being legally blind, I wonder if you have tried the various flavors of text to speech and speech to text, etc? Asking because I think a vocal user interface that worked *well* would be very nice for some people. Example, being a boomer myself, I am aware that in our aging population arthritis in the fingers is a reality, and most devices today (because rapid innovation is geared way more towards the youth market, despite the aging population being larger and having a lot more dispo

      • by n1hilist (997601)

        I don't need text to speech, infact I hate it, I jsut have trouble with small text and blaring white screens with dark text.

        If the device is about 1kg (2.2lbs?) then it'd be perfect.

        I agree with the input you mentioned, esp with netbooks and tiny keys. One solution would be speech recognition, and maybe an oldschool trackerball for the mouse.

        But for me personally, a 12" screen is sweet. Just hope it's not heavy.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @01:08PM (#28211707) Homepage

    Think of it as a mobile platform for mostly-output applications. eBook reader. Web browser. PowerPoint. TV and movies. Maps. Things where input is minimal.

    That's the proper positioning for this - as a content delivery platform with a screen big enough to be useful. There's a market for that.

  • by raydias (898043) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @01:13PM (#28211769) Homepage
    If the CrunchPad can build services and have the hardware cost subsidized (like cell phones) then the price could be reduced or even possible free. - Mobile phone companies can offer it with built in 3G - Partner with E-Schoolbook, E-Magazine, E-Newspaper companies - Google may be interested now that they have thrown their hat into the E-Book arena - Look at Hospitals, Schools, Government agencies to use this for data entry - imagine going to a doctors appointment and being handed the CrunchPad to update medical records, views records, check on prescriptions all while waiting for the appointment. With the push to modernize records to reduce costs this device could take advantage of web apps to streamline processes. - Newspapers are in a crunch to find new ways to profit. This device can be linked into a subscription with advertising being dynamically assigned by content. Just a few possible ways to reduce the hardware cost while still building a profit model.
  • Cost (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rm999 (775449) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @01:22PM (#28211869)

    "When Arrington first visualized the project he was shooting for a $200 price point, then discovered that a $299 price was more realistic"

    Why do so many people make this same mistake? I think it is hubris - the idea that "I'm smarter than everyone else in the industry, and I have ideas that none of them do". One of the worst PR moves is to drastically raise your estimated price, in this case by 50%. And in the end, the promised price point of 200 dollars was necessary; for 300 dollars, I can get a fully-featured netbook or iPod touch.

    And I'd like to add that there are several examples of companies promising a great price, and then actually delivering on it (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tata_Nano [wikipedia.org])

    • by leoc (4746)

      I think it is hubris - the idea that "I'm smarter than everyone else in the industry, and I have ideas that none of them do".

      Wow. Hubris? Really?

      There is a long [linux.org] history [hp.com] of people [wikipedia.org] doing stuff they personally find cool and interesting and succeeding wildly at it. Sure there are also a lot of failures, but you cannot succeed without taking risks, and it is pretty pathetic to see that your lame attitude is so prevalent these days.

      This web tablet may fail terribly, or it might succeed wildly, but thank Dog th

    • by nametaken (610866)

      Netbooks and the iPod touch are very different products from each other, and both are very different from a large touch screen tablet pc running debian.

    • by pbhj (607776)

      And in the end, the promised price point of 200 dollars was necessary; for 300 dollars, I can get a fully-featured netbook or iPod touch.

      Can you get a 12" / 30cm touch screen for that price? I've tried and been unsuccessful, £300 is the price in the UK, that's not a portable device that's just the screen.

      Granted this probably means $300 for a touchscreen in the US, but getting a wifi / 3g enabled portable net device with a touchscreen for that price seems pretty awesome to me. If they were available in the UK for $300 I'd have one now and use it as a POS terminal and / or demoing websites to clients.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @03:01PM (#28213309)
    What am I going to do with this closetful of $300 single-purpose devices?

    Let's see, I have a $300 Kindle for e-books, a $300 CrunchPad for Web pages...

    Maybe I'll sell them all and get a $300 Netbook that does all of those things. Maybe not quite as well, but all of those things and a helluva lot more.
    • by pbhj (607776)

      Let's see, I have a $300 Kindle for e-books, a $300 CrunchPad for Web pages...

      This may come as a suprise to you but you can read books via the www.

      You can also do photoshop, do banking, listen to music, make phone calls, read your email, watch videos, watch TV ... in fact just about anything you'd need a screen for. Crunchpad has a USB input too so you can use it to power your mobile rocket launcher. Not enough on board power? Just use it as a slim client using VNC over 'net.

      • And I can do that and MORE, easier, on a typical netbook. Your argument is kind of flat.
        • by pbhj (607776)

          Wow that came across a bit like marketing spiel, I swear I have not connections with the crunchpad, it's got my inner gadgeteer really excited though:

          I've never seen a netbook with a 12" touchscreen.

          12" is laptop territory. I've never seen a laptop with a touchscreen.

          So we're talking tablets from about $700 USD (a lot more for thin form factor). If all I need it for is to access a webpage and I can do that and save $400 USD I don't see that as being a flat argument (especially as dollar costs are usually th

          • 12" is pretty borderline. But in any case, they were making laptops with touchscreens 8 years ago. And many since. Quite a number, in fact, were made so that you could turn the screen around and fold it down over the keyboard to make it into a tablet PC. How could you possibly have missed them all?
            • by pbhj (607776)

              12" is pretty borderline. But in any case, they were making laptops with touchscreens 8 years ago. And many since. Quite a number, in fact, were made so that you could turn the screen around and fold it down over the keyboard to make it into a tablet PC. How could you possibly have missed them all?

              The ones that flip-rotate I grouped under tablet PC. I genuinely have never seen a laptop with a touchscreen advertised or in real life. Perhaps they were high ticket, which I have to dismiss as I don't have much money.

              Still where are the tablet PCs for $300, I'll get one ... a link (eg amazon, affiliate if you like) would be lovely, thanks.

  • For a full screen browser, with that performance, with those limitations on what can be done with it, I wouldn't pay $299. I might pay $199.

    The first thing that someone will do is tear it down and install ubuntu on it.

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