Discus Systems PLC - IT Support Company in Birmingham West midlands
0800 880 3360

Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 12th Apr 2011
This is the third time in a week that Victor Parsons finds himself staring at the insides of the same Proliant ML330.
'It's buggered, ain't it?' Charlie Shufflebottom, MD of Here2There Removals, leans over Victor's shoulder and stares as he unscrews the housing containing the hard drives.
'No. Mr Shufflebottom. It's old, that's all.'
'Don't be daft, son. It's only ten years or so since we bought it.'
2001, thinks Victor. Same year I left school and joined Discus. Windows 98, Windows 2000. Ah, nostalgia.
'Well. if it ain't buggered when's it going to be fixed?'
'That depends, Mr Shufflebottom.'
'Depends? Depends on what?'
'Depends on whether the disk is f—, I mean not working.'
'How long will it take to get it working, son?' I've a business to run, you know. Time is money, as they say.'
Twitching, Victor runs his finger around his collar. 'It may not be that simple. I'll find Derek and tell him about the problem with the backup.'
'Derek? Derek Snodgrass? That lazy so-and-so. I got rid of him, he was always fiddling with the computers.'
Victor rolls his eyes. 'He 's an IT manager, Mr Shufflebottom. That is . . . was . . . his job.'
'Don't get lippy with me, young man. Anyway, where's the backup when it's at home?'
'You deaf? The backup . . . show me where it is.'
'But it's not—'
'Is that it?'
'No that's the PSU.'
'The what?'
'The power supply unit.'
'What does that do?'
Victor sighs, rubs his neck with a sweaty palm.
It's going to be a long day.
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 12th Apr 2011
Microsoft in their wisdom gives you a pop up box usually when your wireless has a low or weak signal. This is obviously a sign things need to improve... but have you ever wondered how? - It is basically telling you that the connection isn't good enough for a reliable or good qualitly signal and therefore will give you bad performance or low speeds. Sometimes your signal for your wireless will be completely lost in certain parts of your house!
So how do we do something about this? - try these few tips and tricks below. The tips will increase the wireless range. They will also improve the overall performance as well as reliability of the wireless network.
  1. Reposition the router to a central location in the house - For example the centre of the house.
  2. Place the router away from any large objects or walls.
  3. Make sure the router is raised - ie not on the floor
  4. Place the router away from anything which is metal.
  5. Keep it away from the Microwave! 
  6. When purchasing or speccing up your router ensure you look to upgrade the aeriel or antenna to a hi-gain ariel. If you use the standard aeirel you'll have your wireless signal directed to outside the house, with a hi-gain one it is designed to focus its signal actually at the device you want to connect to and from!
  7. Upgrade machines wireless network adapter with a new USB version (Laptops which have built-in wireless normally contain outstanding antennas. They do not usually require to be upgraded.)
  8. Add a wireless repeater to extend the signal range.
  9. Change the wireless channel/frenqency to increase its signal strength. You can do that through the configuration page of the router. The computer will detect the new channel itself.
  10. Reduce wireless interference by avoiding wireless electronics which use the 2.4GHz frequency. You should use cordless phones which use the 900MHz or 5.8GHz frequencies.
  11. Update your firmware updates for your router through the manufacturer's website. Update your network adapter driver through the Windows Update feature of Windows 7 and Vista or visit the website www.update.microsoft.com for Windows XP.
  12. Upgrade 802.11b devices to 802.11g or buy a new 802.11 g equipment. It is five times faster than an 802.11b device.
All sounds a bit too technical? - we can help! call us free on 0800 880 3360 and speak to a member of our support team.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 11th Apr 2011
People who make a lot of online transactions, are popular online and who respond to most of the emails they receive are at the highest risk for being duped by malicious phishers, according to a multi-university study.
That's because they don't focus properly and so make decisions about what to do with emails based on simple cues embedded within rather than analyzing their entire contents, say researchers at the University of Buffalo, Brock University, Ball State University and the University of Texas, Arlington.
LATEST PHISHING THREAT: 'We regret to inform you': The Epsilon breach letters you don't want to see
People are most susceptible if they read so many emails that they don't have the time to accurately weigh whether they are spam, the researchers say. Contributing to this problem are receiving a lot of emails, responding a lot of emails, maintaining many online relationships and conducting lots of online transactions.
Authors of spam have tapped into the psyche of the email recipient to exploit basic human weaknesses, the researchers say. Statements indicating urgency -- disaster relief, security of bank accounts, free tickets -- distract recipients and make them more likely to miss indicators that the email isn't legitimate, they say.
There are steps email users can take. The researchers offer tips on reducing the likelihood of being duped, starting with spam blockers. "By way of prevention, we found that spam blockers are imperative to reduce the number of unnecessary emails individuals receive that could potentially clutter their information processing and judgment," says Professor Arun Vishwanath, of the UB Department of Communication.
They suggest using many email accounts, each dedicated to a single purpose -- banking, personal correspondence, etc. -- so off-topic spam seems out of place. For instance, if banking spam shows up in the personal account, it will stand out, the researchers say, making the recipient consider it more carefully.
The researchers say setting aside a regular time for handling different email accounts also helps recipient focus and be less susceptible to phishing.
Tim Greene
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 4th Apr 2011
Identity theft has saddled thousands of children with debt, sometimes for years before they ever discover their personal information has been stolen, a study says.
Within a database of 42,232 children that was compiled by an identity-protection business, 4,311 -- 10.2% -- had someone else using their Social Security numbers, according to "Child Identity Theft," a report by Richard Power, a distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon Cylab.
MORE ON THE PROBLEM: FTC: ID theft again tops consumer complaints
In one case, a 17-year-old girl's Social Security number was used by eight different people to amass $725,000 in debt. In another case, a 14-year-old boy had a 10-year-old credit history that included a mortgage on a $605,000 house, according to information supplied to Power by the identity-protection firm All Clear ID.
The study analyzed the types of documents on which the Social Security numbers appeared, and it found that 70% were loan or credit card applications, 18% utility bills, 5% property assessments, deeds, mortgages and foreclosures, 4% driver's licenses and 2% vehicle registration.
While 1 in 10 children in the database had their identities stolen, only 0.2% of the adults fell victim in the same way, Power says, and that stark contrast raises questions. "Are child Social Security numbers a hot commodity?" Power writes. "Are cyber criminals and other fraudsters seeking them out? Are child IDs preferable for fraudsters?"
The answer is that he doesn't know, and can't know until there is a study that is designed to compile results that can be extrapolated to the general population. Power says he and others at Carnegie Mellon University are considering such a study, but none is planned yet.
Meanwhile, it doesn't make a lot of difference what percentage of children's IDs are stolen, Power says. If you're the one it happens to, it's a nightmare, and most people don't even consider it as a possibility. "The other dimension is to raise awareness of this as an issue," he says.
In some cases parents with bad credit ratings use their children's Social Security numbers to open accounts with utility companies so they can get water and electricity without intending to harm the children's credit, Holland says. In other cases, criminals use the number to profit. Some are used by people in the country illegally who are trying to establish credit, and buy houses and cars.
The database used for the study was all the people under 18 that were listed in All Clear ID's 800,000-plus database of people whose personally identifiable information had been compromised. The firm is hired by businesses that suffer data breaches and want to extend some protection to those who could become victims, says Bo Holland, All Clear ID's CEO.
In most cases, identities endangered by data breaches do not fall under systematic attack, Holland says. The identities are compromised, but don't appear to be taken by someone who then actively tries to capitalize on them. Names that fell under targeted attacks were dropped from the database used for the study, he says.
Tim Greene
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 30th Mar 2011

Samsung Syncmaster 18.5"

£79.99 + VAT

 including free delivery!

Samsung SyncMaster E1920N 18.5"Wide 5ms Tilt LCD TFT

Samsung SyncmasterHigh performance monitors are now here for everyone. The Samsung 20 series LCD displays. Designed for the style-conscious, with narrow bezels and sleek necks. It features a fast 5 ms response time and 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for clearer, more detailed pictures. Enjoy maximum convenience with exclusive Magic technologies that come standard. MagicAngle lets you see images perfectly from any angle, MagicEco can cut power consumption in half and the MagicReturn feature will automatically manage your dual-monitor content. They're monitors that help you work smarter.

Highlights of the Samsung SyncMaster E1920N 18.5"Wide 5ms Tilt LCD TFT

  • LCD Monitor 18.5"
  • 16:9 Tilt Widescreen
  • 5ms response time
  • Matrix Brightness - 250cd/m2
  • Contrast - 50,000:1
  • Resolution - 1260 x 768
  • Connector - D-SUB
  • Weight - 3.45KG
  • Dimensions - 179.8 x 443.4 x 355
Call now to avoid disapointment - 0800 880 3360
Damien Biddulph
Discus Systems plc 
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Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 29th Mar 2011
I like to think that most of us who use computers are reasonably bright and responsible. So I get really irritated by the mindset of some technology vendors who insist that treating us like children is not only okay, but also the responsible thing for them to do.
Update Java and You May Get Annoying McAfee Scanner Too
I spoke to various engineers from anti-virus companies last week about a bizarre incident that caused a fair amount of pain to Windows users who meant to install a Java update and got stuck with an annoying security update that they neither wanted nor needed.
I'll get to the details in a bit, but I was struck by this remark: "I want it (the AV program) to be so simple my mother won't have a problem with it," said one engineer. Aside from the implicit sexism and ageism (who says older women can't be as competent as younger men?) the answer reeked of the patronizing users needed to be protected from themselves attitude I find so irritating.
Last week's incident began when some Windows users opted to install a routine update to Java, a programming language Oracle inherited when it purchased Sun Microsystems. For some reason, Oracle decided to bundle McAfee Security Scan Plus along with the Java update. The software is installed by default unless you notice and uncheck a little box to opt out.
The security program checks the PC to see if it has antivirus and firewall software installed and if they're both up-to-date. Various popup windows open from time to time and you're prompted to accept licensing terms, all of which use up system resources, slowing the PC down. The only way to get away from the darn thing is to uninstall it using the Windows control panel.
It turns out that Adobe did the same thing, bundling the scan program with some updates to its Reader application. Queried by our colleagues at Computerworld, a McAfee spokesman said: "McAfee believes it's better to be protected than unprotected, therefore we are offering this as a default." Translation: We don't trust you to do it yourself.
This incident has more lessons in it than a high school algebra textbook, not the least of which is the aforementioned patronizing attitude of tech vendors. Fortunately, it also suggests as few actions that you can take to avoid this sort of nonsense.
1. Pay attention before, during and after you download
My one-time colleague Andrew Brandt, a former tech journalist now working for Webroot, a security vendor, warns that the practice of stealth bundling is becoming all too common. A number of companies make a living by striking deals with vendors and tricking user into downloading all sorts of junk.
For example, you may see a big button on a Web site that looks like it will play a video when you click it. When you do, it brings up a cheesy flash animation that says you need a particular codec to run it. If you say okay, you'll go through a number of confusing steps and wind up with a copy of Real Player as well as a codec (an application that lets you play video) on your PC. Real Player has its good points, but it also winds up creating a lot of system-slowing traffic by frequently grabbing information from the Web and pushing it to you.
Generally you can defend yourself by paying attention before you download anything. In particular, says Brandt, look at the fine print and various boxes that are usually checked by default, meaning you've agreed to something you may not like at all.
2. Get a better look at your PC's processes
Brandt suggests downloading a free program from Microsoft called Process Explorer, which is, as he puts it, "is like Task Manager" but stronger. I tried it and it works well, showing you what processes are running, a little bit about what they do, and how much memory and CPU power they are taking up. The program gives you the option to kill the process and related stuff it has spawned, a really handy feature that will help you spot junk you didn't know was there. Be warned though: You want to be careful about anything from Microsoft, because killing Windows-related processes can cause serious problems.
3. Learn how to control your anti-virus programs
Because the anti-virus makers are sure you need them hovering like Tiger Moms, all sorts of stuff is turned on by default in these programs. Fortunately, many of the programs have controls that let you adjust what they're doing - if you can find them.
Webroot, for example, has a "gamer mode" that turns off a lot of the checking it normally does. If you think Webroot is getting in the way, just pretend you're a gamer. You will, of course, lose some of the protection you're paying for, but thats the kind of tradeoff adults should think about.
Symantec's nearly ubiquitous Norton program doesn't have a corresponding feature (or if it does, I haven't seen it) and it can be a little hard to find some of the controls. But they are there. For example, the program does a background security check of your system at regular intervals, and because it looks at so much of your hard drive, it takes a while and slows things down. So go to "settings" and click on "computer scans" and you'll a label that says "scan scheduled." That's not as explicit as it might be, but click on it and you'll get to a menu that lets you schedule the scan for a time, like 3 a.m., when you're probably not using your computer.
With plenty of other settings you can also tweak, it's worth poking around any AV program. Look at the help files or go online to see what other users of the program have to say.
4. Check out lightweight alternatives
Joshua Corman, a research director at the 451 Group, gets even more irritated with security programs than I do. He says that some popular anti- virus programs create more problems than they solve, which is to say that the system slowdown they cause may be worse than the slowdown a virus or other malware might provoke. And he likens the fee that people pay to companies like Symantec for ongoing updates and protection to a tax, or as he puts it "the $50 security tax."
Still, he's careful to say that he's not suggesting you kill your anti-virus programs. He notes that there are a number of lightweight programs out there that are cheap, or even free (Microsoft Security Essentials, for example) that give decent protection. He adds, though, that the larger programs may provide more complete protection, so you need to decide if you're willing to make the tradeoff.
5. Don't use more than one security program
If one security program gives decent protection, wouldn't it be even better to run two or even three? Not at all. In fact running multiple security programs not only isn't necessary, but also can lead to annoying system problems.
New PCs often come with an AV program thrown into the mix. Or you may download one via one of those bundles we talked about and forget that it's running. Multiple programs can trip over each other, or at the very least, suck up even more system resources. Check your hard disk for them by looking in the Windows Control panel and delete the ones you don't want.
Bill Snyder
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 29th Mar 2011
The PRIMERGY RX200 server gains pole position in VMware’s latest industry benchmark
We are pleased to announce that our PRIMERGY RX200 S6 rack server holds pole position in VMware’s new VMmark V2.0 industry benchmark, (which is now extended to measure servers on both performance and scalability for applications running in virtualized environments in a multi-host virtual environment).
The world-record holding RX300 S6 tops TCP-E price performance
benchmarks as Fujitsu claims top 4 spots
PRIMERGY RX rack servers have retained all three top slots in TPC-E price-performance tests for more than two months, making Fujitsu the first vendor to sustain triple top results in two and a half years. The RX300 S6 which is currently ranked 1st, holds the TPC-E benchmark world record for best price/performance in online transactional database processing (OLTP).
To read the full press release please click here
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 28th Mar 2011
You may not want to think about your taxes until Tax Day on April 15, but online scammers are already plotting to separate you from your tax refund and your identity. Scams for the 2011 tax season include promises of tax credits for charitable donations to disaster relief in Japan, malware-laden Websites optimized for search engines, dangerous e-mail, and so-called 'likejacking' techniques found on the social network Facebook.
About 19 million people have already filed their taxes at home in 2011, an increase of almost 6 percent from the year previous, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Consequently, this time of year is ripe for tax-related online scams. Crooks know that taxpayers are looking for information on deductions and tax laws. They know that this is the time of year when taxpayers submit personal information online and store sensitive financial documents on their hard drives.
Jennifer Torode, a spokesperson for the security firm Sophos, says that most of us wait until the last minute to file our tax forms. Scammers know this and "take advantage over the next few weeks to find ways to lure frantic filers into their webs," she says.
Here are five tips to help you avoid getting ensnared by tax scammers this tax season.
1. Japan Quake Scam
Among the newest scams for 2011 are bogus e-mail messages promising a tax credit applicable to your 2010 tax return if you make a charitable donation to Japan earthquake relief, according to McAfee consultant and identity theft expert Robert Siciliano. "The scam is based on the ruse being similar to a real law passed last year regarding Haiti," Siciliano said. In January 2010, Congress passed the Haiti Assistance Income Tax Incentive Act that allowed taxpayers to contribute to Haiti relief from January 11 to March 1, 2010 and claim it on their 2009 tax return. So far, the government has not established any retroactive tax rules involving this year's relief effort for Japan.
Tip: You can find many earthquake relief scams online; however, it's not clear how prevalent this particular scam is. For more information on how to make tax-deductible donations safely and effectively, consult this notice on IRS.gov.
2. Gone Phishing
One of the most popular ways to scam people during tax season is to set up Websites that look as if they are an official IRS site or a legitimate tax preparation service. "We have seen some scammers pretending to be tax preparation services, abusing brand names such as TurboTax, to obtain people's personal details," said Richard Wang, manager for Sophos Labs.
Other sites are designed to trick you into downloading a PDF file laden with malware, according to Jeff Horne, director of threat research for the security company Webroot. Horne also warns that sites may try to sneak malware onto your machine using a technique called a "drive-by download." Such sites contain code looking for exploits in your browser that will enable them to download malware onto your system without your knowledge. Merely by using a vulnerable browser to visit a site, you can be victimized with bad guys wielding this technique.
Once tax-related malware is loaded on your machine, it can set up a keylogger to track everything you type into your computer, or it can search your saved documents for keywords related to tax season such as "social security" or "1040."
Tip: The best defense against drive-by downloads is to make sure that you always use the latest version of a modern Web browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
3. Black Hat SEO
One of the tricks that crooks use to lure victims into a scam is to optimize their sites for Google searches, a technique known as "black hat SEO" (the acronym stands for "search engine optimization"). Horne suspects that these sites use resources such as Google Trends and Google Insights to discover the types of tax-related searches people are requesting. Once criminals have figured out some of the more popular keywords for this year's tax searches it's not difficult for them to optimize their bogus sites for search engines.
Tip: "Never use search engines to search for tax documents," Horne said. Instead, go directly to the government site (such as IRS.gov, USA.gov, or an individual state government site ending in '.gov') to look for tax forms and other tax information.
4. Likejacking
Facebook and other social networking sites are major targets for online scammers looking to make a quick buck off tax season. Horne says that Webroot has seen some examples of 'likejacking' in which scammers try to trick you into 'liking' their scam site on Facebook. Achieving this objective may involve hiding a Facebook "Like" button under another button on a third-party Website or exploiting a weakness in your browser by using a few snippets of JavaScript to press the Like button for you.
Once you "like" the site, an external link will show up in your Facebook news feed with a scam message such as, "I just got $500 by using this free tax preparation service." Friends who see that message may be tempted to click the link leading them to a phishing site or a spam site looking to increase its ad revenue by generating Web traffic.Note, however, that some legitimate tax preparation services are promoted on Facebook by institutions such as universities as well by individual friends.
Tip: Don't choose a tax preparation service on the basis of Facebook message attributed to a friend. At the very least, talk to the friend directly to confirm that he or she endorses the service.
5. Phony E-Mail
Despite a high degree of public awareness about the dangers of spam e-mail, online scammers find this method profitable enough to keep using it. One trick to watch out for is a message supposedly from the IRS asking you to download a tax form.Another is an attempt to lure you to a phony Website to claim a refund. Once you're at the site, you may fall victim to a drive-by download or the site may ask you to divulge your social security number in order to see details of your supposed refund.
Tip: The IRS will never send you an e-mail message with a request for your personal information or with tax forms attached.
Protect Yourself Tips
With so many scams going around, it's difficult to know how to keep yourself safe online. However, Horne identifies six steps that you can take to thwart the bad guys:
1. Before you do your taxes, make sure that your antivirus software is up-to-date. That way, your program will be on the lookout for the latest known threats.
2. Be careful about which browser you use when dealing with tax-related information online. Make sure that you are using the most recent version of your browser so that you have the latest security patches. Using Mozilla's Firefox running the popular add-on NoScript to defend against drive-by downloads is a good idea. And if you are among the 3 percent of online Americans still using Internet Explorer 6, dump it for the latest version of IE available for your operating system--or use a different popular browser such as Chrome or Firefox.
3. Never use a search engine to look for government documents. Instead, go directly to sites such as IRS.gov, USA.gov, or individual state government sites ending in .gov, and search for forms there.
4. Never open or download attachments included with messages claiming to be from the IRS. The wisest course may be to refrain from opening any unsolicited tax-related e-mail message, as some poisoned messages use HTML to exploit weaknesses in your browser and initiate a drive-by download.
5. Never do your taxes over an unencrypted wireless connection such as free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. At home, even if you use the latest wireless security encryption standards such as WPA2 there, you are better off breaking out the LAN cable and using a wired connection when dealing with sensitive financial information.
6. Once you're finished filing your taxes for this year, make sure that you move all of your tax-related files for safe keeping to a USB key, an external hard drive, or some other form of removable storage. Then wipe all tax files off your computer's hard drive. Tax-related malware may lurk online long after tax season is over, according to Horne. If you happen to get infected, and you've stored your tax forms in a special folder on your PC, it won't take much for a scammer to steal your identity.
Ian Paul
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 28th Mar 2011
One in 7 information technology companies have not reported data breaches or losses to outside government agencies, authorities or stockholders.
In addition, only 3 out of 10 said they report all data breaches and losses suffered related to intellectual property, while 1 in 10 organizations will only report data breaches and losses that they are legally obliged to report, and no more. Six in 10 said they currently "pick and choose" the breaches and losses of sensitive data they decide to report, "depending on how they feel about them."
Those were some of the key findings from a McAfee and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) survey that queried 1,000 technology managers in the U.S., United Kingdom, Japan, China, India, Brazil and the Middle East on questions about intellectual property and security.
The report, entitled "Underground Economies: Intellectual Capital and Sensitive Corporate Data Now the Latest Cybercrime Currency," said the main reasons for not disclosing data breaches are fear of media coverage, damage to the brand and shareholder value. "The admission of a significant vulnerability could flag other attackers so very few companies are willing to be public about intellectual capital losses," the report says (see "'Political' cyberattacks hit half of large companies").
John Dasher, senior director of data protection at McAfee, said that "losing some of your crown jewels" would in theory be considered a matter that should be disclosed to shareholders as important information of material interest or for other legal reasons.
"But most of them aren't reporting," says Scott Aken, vice president for cyberoperations at SAIC, who called the survey results surprising. Another finding of the survey, that about 25% of the organizations "had a merger or acquisition or product rollout stopped by a data breach," was also a surprise to Aken. "Sometimes companies don't know they had a data breach and only find out months later," he said. It disrupts operations.
The report also says the economic recession has impacted how organizations are looking at where they store sensitive data such as intellectual property, proprietary information and trade secrets.
"More than half of organizations studied are reassessing the risks of processing data outside of their home country due to the economic downturn, compared to 4 in 10 in 2008," the report states. Countries that have "leniency in privacy and notification laws" are attractive to organizations. But 9 out of 10 organizations that store sensitive information abroad do view some countries as safer than others. China, Russia and Pakistan were considered the least safe, while the U.K., Germany and the U.S. were seen as the safest.
The McAfee/SAIC report argues that the target of cybercriminals is shifting from stealing things like credit cards and Social Security numbers to sensitive and proprietary content that can be sold on the underground market to foreign competitors or governments
Ellen Messmer
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Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 22nd Mar 2011
Discus Systems launches 'The Discus Diviner'
Tuesday, 22nd March 2011
Discus Systems today launched a revitalised customer newsletter. A mixture of humour (The IT Support Guy), company news, what's happening in IT, and Damien's 'Tips 'n Tricks', the Diviner seeks to be engaging and informative.
The Diviner will be published monthly.
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