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Foxconn buys Belkin for $866M (techcrunch.com)
411 points by Rifu on Mar 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 129 comments

> You probably know Belkin for its various lines of accessories, peripherals, and assorted consumer electronics; Linksys, surely the most recognizable router brand, is a subsidiary.

Apparently Cisco sold Linksys to Belkin in 2013. That's news to me.

Cisco had money burning a hole in their pocket and bought a some consumer stuff and then had no idea what to do with it ... so they sold most of it off, or simply discontinued it (like flip video).

That's Cisco's R&D model. Buy smaller companies with interesting tech and see if their products stick. If they do, great. If not, spit them out via sale or shut them down.

Hardly unique to Cisco. Every major tech company, yes even Apple, operate they try to sustain their existence beyond their initial success.

The parent commenter is saying that Cisco essentially doesn't do much outside of the acquisition.

Companies like Google or Apple do a lot of work to integrate the existing software or hardware into their lineup (e.g. Google Voice, Google Doc, Siri, Siri music search)

Not the first time they entered and then abandoned the consumer space.

Once upon a time, they made NICs.

Yup, they took their corporate video conferencing products and tried to make a consumer version (Umi I think it was) that while cheaper than the cooperate product were still absurdly expensive.

This was all while Skype pretty well established .... it was pure insanity.

And now we have WebEx and they're trying to make a Slack competitor.

Oh man WebEx is crazy clunky software. I used it regularly for years and never got comfortable with it ... let alone that it ran in fits and starts for everyone.

Not using webEx was one of the things I actually looked forward to when I lost my last job. It's crazy that would occur to me.

Had to use WebEx on a client call once. Had to install two different packages because audio was "provided by Comcast". It was the only time ever that I saw the video, but couldn't get audio, so a coworker had to update me on Slack in real time so I knew what I was watching. Horrible.

WebEx is such an abomination of software I will never use it again.

guess what, if you use the WebEx chat program it saves your entire history in an encrypted sqlite db that you can't access after your company stops using WebEx.

Are you talking about the Cisco Spark chat program? If so, I can completely believe it. That thing is a piece of garbage.

I don't think so. It was a previous program that I guess they discontinued. The real story is that WebEx chat client was auto-upgraded to something called "WebEx Jabber" and there was definitely a server storage aspect of chats. But no plan for what to do with locally stored chats. Sucks to lose your chat history, lots of gems in there.

I use WebEx daily and have almost no issues. That said, I work for a very large company and we have our own instance, so maybe we have something custom.

Once upon a time they made damn good NICs.

they discontinued flip video because after the acquisition they didn’t really understand the consumer and then GoPro came and they got wreckt

Generally speaking Cisco has largely blown the whole consumer business... repeatedly.

They just don't understand it, they're not built to run it.

They spent a ton on flip during the rise of the smartphone. Every executive probabbly had a device in their pocket that would replace the company they were buying for crazy money.

I still use my flip. It's my favorite little camcorder.

My wife uses it every day at her internship where she has to record her patients for class and supervision. She isn't allowed to use a network connected device to do the recording for HIPAA compliance.

I think the bigger problem was cellphones, especially the iPhone, gaining the ability to record decent video.

Flip filled a convenient niche for a few years until the 3GS came along with video support, after which it was useless for many consumers. This was the only reason I bought a Flip, and the only reason anyone else I know with one did.

Similarly, I think the first mainstream smartphones to record HD video wasn't until 2010. Again flip had a small window with their HD models before cellphones killed them again.

At least GoPro have (had?) a good story around their mounts and waterproofing, there was nothing in my opinion a Flip did that cellphones didn't very quickly do better.

This is true. I think the iPhone did the same thing to Garmin GPS and other single-purpose hardware companies. They all lost so much of their market.

Apple already knew people were buying and would continue to buy these things, and their innovation was just putting it all into one device. So you could buy a Garmin GPS and a Flip video camera, and end up spending $300-$500 total and carry 2 devices around, or you could just buy an iPhone 3GS for $199 and also make phone calls with it.

I'm still trying to figure out the $1,000 price tag of an iPhone nowadays however. Where is the substance behind that price? (And I own an iPhone, apple watch, iPad Pro, a Macbook Pro, and a Macbook air, so I really doo appreciate a good product, just can't comprehend the value proposition of a $1000 iPhone.)

You do realize that no iPhone ever has cost $199 and that the price was subsidized right?

The 16GB iPhone 3GS debuted for $199 with a contract from AT&T.

People were still going to have mobile phone contracts. The smartphone replaced their cell phone just like it replaced their Garmin GPS and their Flip video camera and their pocket planner. It was a compelling proposition.

Which is a shame because Belkin equipment was crap

The only good Belkin product I have ever seen is their 12 outlet power strip. As a network engineer everything they make with an Ethernet/wifi interface is complete shit. But this is not really news, D-Link, Netgear, many of their competitors are also junk.

I did not have any issues with their router. But that's not what I remember Belkin for:

I was in conversation with their customer service on the phone and it disconnected. Frustrated, cause it meant I had to call them back and there was no guarantee that I would get the same agent again, I gave up calling them. However, in 5 minutes, I got a call back from them - the same agent called me back and did manage to resolve my issue.

This was in India and prior to that, such service was unheard of (and not many still have that even today).

The device did not give me much trouble so I don't completely agree with the above.

India or otherwise that's basically rare.

That's kind of the curse of the consumer market. When it comes to that kind of appliance, consumers care about sticker price above all. It's a brutal race to the bottom.

I worked at Meraki, and institutionally we were deathly scared of dealing with that market; we were perfectly happy to stay in the enterprise market, where buyers were actually willing to pay for quality.

Every Belkin product I owned was garbage... but just like you I ran across a couple power strips that are surprisingly good.

I don't know if they bought someone who knew what they were doing with power strips or what, but .... i'm still using them.

I have a lot of these:


My theory is that they are good because electrical safety is something that is actually regulated. UL and CE certification to sell as a consumer device. Whereas there is no penalty or regulation for shitty routers with shit firmware.

Yup that is it, the other models are pretty capable too. I like your theory, that makes sense. Guys behind the power strips can pull the old "Nope can't cheap out here, there are standards!" While the guys working on the POS USB hub or dongle or whatever can't say the same.

> UL and CE certification to sell as a consumer device.


> CE marking does not provide any specific information to the consumer. It is not a quality assurance declaration, it does not show evidence of third-party testing, and it should not be confused with any independent certification mark of the type issued by international or European notified test bodies.

That’s not entirely correct. The CE Mark is a representation by the manufacturer / authorised representative that the device conforms to all relevant European directives, including the electrical safety ones (which typically require additional marks and third party verification).

You are absolutely right. I meant the TÜV test mark for Europe. I'm more familiar with us-canada stuff.


There's also the CCC mark for the Chinese market.

I think it's something of a natural progression with accessory companies.

Their core competency is something innocuous like mousepads and power strips. Then they advance into more delicate and complicated electronics and the wheels fall off the wagon.

It reminds me of the early and mid-1980's when office supply companies decided that they should branch out from selling paper to making floppy disks. They were cheap, especially in bulk, but over time they had a much higher failure rate.

Eventually the only brands you could count on to work properly were BASF, 3M, Elephant Memory Systems, and IBM. (And probably a couple of others)

To contrast, every Linksys product I have owned it fantastic, so long as you flash DD-WRT/tomato/etc.

My main complaint with Belkin is that you don't have that option.

Their power strips are pretty good, not so for another stuff I tried

Well, the only Thunderbolt 2 to HDMI adapter I've used that actually worked well (and I tried 2 others .. they're expensive too, I must have spent ~$150 in the process) was the Belkin ones. The others didn't, for whatever reason, work when both Thunderbolt 2 ports were in use and the internal display was also turned on (on my '14 MBP).

Other dongles for example randomly lost one of the color channels, had noisy output, occasionally flickered black or didn't work when waking up from sleep.

Surely you're talking about MiniDP->HDMI adapters? Thunderbolt2 is also MiniDP, I'm not sure why a TB2>HDMI adapter would even exist.

I actually got good mileage out of Netgear stuff, but two years ago I changed it out with an ASUS Router (AC66U) and I've been happy. They originally weren't aggressive with security flaws, but they've righted the ship on that.

D-Link gear is hot garbage.

Do you have any recommendations for alternatives?

Separate the function of wifi and router. My home office, which is bottlenecked by the docsis3.0 last mile, is on a Ubiquiti edgerouter-x ($46) router. And then a single ubnt UAP-AC 2X2 MIMO, dual band 802.11ac AP ($79).

The OS on the ubnt edgerouter series is a fork of vyatta, which is Debian based.

Also for people who know what they are doing, a mikrotik rb3011 would be a good choice.

I've generally found the Ubiquiti hardware to be a fair bit better than Mikrotik stuff (way better forwarding speeds with the accelerated Cavium processors in the EdgeRouters - except the ER-X, which doesn't have the hardware offload but is still useful). I find their web UI far less confusing too. I know some guys who have used Mikrotiks a lot and swear by it, but unless you're already experienced with Mikrotik interfaces I'd recommend the Ubiquiti.

They also have a really good command line interface - which is lucky, because the biggest downside with the Ubiquitis is that some (generally more obscure and advanced) features can't be configured through the web UI.

> Also for people who know what they are doing

The recommendation for the rb3011; or winbox and routerOS in general?

While it is not perfect. I do not know of other vendors with open docs like the mikrotik wiki[0].

With winbox, wiki, and not to bad cli. I feel it a good starting point for non network engineers. Better then horrible web interface or arcane cli interface.

Any recommendations for someone that want to learn to know what they are doing?

[0]: https://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Main_Page

Asus+Merlin firmware is what I am running now. Stable, with enough features included out of the box. Compared to the bundled horror from the TelCo I get nearly 3x wifi performance on -ac.

In the ski lodge, OpenWRT and a $20 TP-Link have uptime measured in years by now. OpenWRT is awesome.

Uptime in years mean you have no security - there has been a couple of horrible WPA2 faults fixed in the last year.

Problem with OpenWRT is that most people run it on garbage consumer-grade hardware.

As opposed to what, more expensive Ubiquiti hardware that uses the same processors and radios?

The intentions of the developers are good, but just try getting full kernel level documentation out of a company like Broadcom.

There's a bunch of 'reference' devices that runs OpenWRT well. The list is pretty long


I personally had good experiences with TP-Link Archer C7 and GL Networks mini-routers.

That page is impossible.

I love Asus networking products.

The N generation like the RT-N12 is dirt cheap now. I deploy them in client offices and they have uptime measured in years.

It's not WiFi Ac and I don't care. It stays stable, has guest WiFi networks, and usable firmware.

Netgate router board with a mSATA drive and PFSense for the router. Ubiquiti APs for wireless. Run the Ubiquiti unifi software from a Docker image on your workstation or home server. Cisco SG-nnn series switches.

Their USB-C docks for macbook pro works great. A lot better than other usb-c alternatives.

We also used the previous version for older macbooks with thunderbolt and never had a problem with them.

What do you recommend for a simple home network with a few computers and mobile devices?

Ubiquiti or Mikrotik

"prosummer" brands

I second Mikrotik. I think my little home AP for my small house was $50 and it's absolutely great.

Everything that runs OpenWRT is usually a good choice. TP-Link?

The worst router I’ve ever seen was a D-Link. I was in a position where I had to provide support for it, and in the end I gave up and bought them an ASUS with my own money. It ended up being worth it, just in terms of time and aggravation saved. The software and firmware on the D-Link were garbage, and so was the actual build.

I stopped using D-Link equipment after I had to work with an IP camera that would choke on the cron'ed FTP upload if the server welcome message had more than three lines. Fewer than three lines and everything was great. But when it tired to upload to a server that responded with more than three lines and the camera ate itself.

Ubiquiti ftw

After a brief romance with VyOS and RPi based APs, Ubiquiti came along and swept me off my feet

Currently using their gear throughout a 300-ish person office. Easy to setup, no issues that weren’t our fault in the first place.

Great kit for startup and growing type situations

We use the Ubiquity Stuff and are also mostly happy, but it's not really as Enterprise-Grade as it tries to sell itself as.

We use the Ubiquity Security Gateway Pro and have for over a year now issues with it's WAN Fallback. In the beginning it simply wouldn't Fallback at all, after lot's of Customer Service and three patches it actually did it's thing, but since then whenever the fallback happened our whole connection got instable until the USG is restarted. Once we even had issues because the USG thought WAN was down because it couldn't reach Ubiquity's Ping site (It was down) and so the connection started flip-flopping between two stable connections.

Besides that the Ubiquity Needle is now firmly stuck into the arm of our Admins and all the Network Gear we buy is from Ubiquity.

Yikes that is poor, you'd think they'd have at least a few big sites (not all on aws either) to validate connectivity problems against, or at least make it configurable. Doesn't Google have a connectivity validation site on an anycast ip replicate across their global DCs?

Haven’t had a single issue with my Ubiquiti AP in 2 years. None of the other consumer-grade APs even came close, I had issues with all of them (Netgear, Linksys/Cisco, AVM, Zyxel, TP-Link, MicroTik, even Apple Airport), and I wasn’t buying the lowend models either.

Most needed reboots as they’d stop working from time to time, many had flaxy Wifi or sudden long network lags for no reason, and the MicroTik even bricked itself requiring a reflash of the firmware.

Things might be different when it comes to enterprise gear.

Yup, every piece of “home user” gear I’ve tried has needed regular reboots, or failed in ~24 months.

I mean I was purposefully stress testing and can be a heavy user. Maybe it works fine for grandma doing some email and Facebook on an iPad

After great feels using it at work, setup Ubiquiti kit at home two years ago and only rebooted it when I decided to move the APs to improve signal coverage on the far end of our house.

For $100-ish an AP these days (my home units are the UniFi AP-AC Long Range on Amazon), I don’t see any reason to buy anything else

What was your experience with Raspberry Pi APs? I set one up for Americans traveling abroad on the original Pi B model and couldn’t get any reliability for the life of me. The VPN constantly broke down because of WiFi sleep issues.

Wondering if things are better with newer hardware.

Raspberry Pis are horrible for that use case. I would suggest getting something like a TP-link WR810N or something from GL-inet if want a larger flash.

If raspberry Pi's CPU performance is absolutely necessary, use an Ethernet cable with WR810N.

That was years ago at this point, we were using RPi 2s.

It became rather untenable once that office hit ~30 people.

There were external factors that had us accepting defeat. Picked up some used Ruckus gear on the cheap, which helped but wasn’t that nice to use

Indeed. I've had more failures than I can tolerate with Belkin, Linksys, D-Link, Zyxel, TP-Link, Asus, ZTE, Huawei. They all tire up eventually - even if they work initially, the equipment runs hot and fails in a few months.

Some of them obey the Law of Plastic Box: a device in a plastic box does one thing but not more than that. A Huawei router is OK if I just do routing, no WLAN, and put a TP-Link box as a WLAN beside it. Etc.

The only exceptions I have had in consumer-priced equipment is Ubiquity, which is great, and a small Finnish company called Telewell (which make cheap plastic things in China but strangely has never failed for me). The UI with Telewell is still the typical consumer-grade Web UI.

Damn, I didn't know Foxconn was the 4th larges IT company with 726k employees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_informatio...

Almost all are factory employees assembling iPhones and the like. Not sure if I would consider that IT employment like a lot of the others on that list (Amazon's is also inflated quite a bit with warehouse and retail/grocery staff).

Apple too. Retail AFAIK is the largest division.

The number doesn't seem right. Because I know Foxconn has over 1M employees, and at one point it was close to two million.

May be those numbers are Full time employees?

*And in case you are wondering if it is those foxconn robots taking jobs. No it is not. Not in any significant number.

Same order of magnitudes as all of the UK NHS. Wow!

726k is 4th ?

ranked by revenue. By employee count, it is the largest

that’s how you know it’s heavily inflated by manual labor / factory staff

>"The list is limited to companies with annual revenues exceeding US$50 billion."

It is a little disconcerting that Foxconn (subject to deep Chinese government overreach) will now own Linksys

Foxconn is Taiwanese like Asus, Acer, Gigabyte, MSI, MediaTek, D-Link, and HTC. Both Asus and D-Link are major router makers as well.

Also fun fact, nearly all routers use the same chips from Boardcom. The majority of differences between routers is just firmware and packaging, the guts are all the same.

> The majority of differences between routers is just firmware and packaging, the guts are all the same.

The firmware is the part you really have to worry about, though. But the proper solution is to simply never run the vendor's firmware on a consumer grade router, because none of them are any good at assembling and securing a Linux distribution.

  > > The majority of differences between routers is just firmware and packaging, the guts are all the same.
  > The firmware is the part you really have to worry about, though
Professional quality routers often use ASICs to handle most of the processing, which is quite a bit faster, engineered to perform at specific workloads, and is more reliable. [1] Big iron gear are often specialized versions of blade servers. [2] And tons of software controls go into the CPU and software design to protect against firmware hacks, reverse-engineering, data exfiltration, counterfeit parts, insecure connections, license tampering, and hardening against internal compromise. [3] Aside from the CPUs and other guts inside the router, newer Cisco gear supports network adapters from Broadcom, Intel and QLogic.

[1] https://blogs.cisco.com/wireless/not-all-802-11ac-aps-are-cr... [2] https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/servers-unified-compu... [3] https://www.design-reuse.com/articles/20671/security-embedde...

You can see an open source version of "big iron" networking gear, both hardware [1] and software [2]. They also use ASICs for most of the work and run Linux on the host CPU (so they can be managed like normal servers).

[1] https://code.facebook.com/posts/843620439027582/facebook-ope... [2] https://github.com/facebook/fboss

> Our Wedge top-of-rack switch follows this basic design and uses a single Broadcom Trident II ASIC

The chassis may be open-source but the guts of that thing is a (high-end Broadcom chip, just like everyone else.

I don't think Belkin/Linksys operates in those market segments. It doesn't appear that they have any rackmount routers at the moment, just a tiny VPN router and some rackmount Ethernet switches. The rest is WiFi routers that are unlikely to have any significant hardware acceleration beyond a built-in Ethernet switch with basic NAT capability. There's not much separation between data plane and control plane in those products.

Just check if they are compatible with dd-wrt or openwrt and flash it with opensource build.

Much easier than flashing cell phone and the open source version normally has more features also.

It's such a shame that when using OpenWRT everything runs as root...

OpenWRT is still trying to support devices with 8MB of storage, so they can't go overboard and start incorporating Docker or anything like that. But some services do run as separate users: on my routers, dnsmasq and avahi aren't running as root. What other services would you like to see isolated?

I didn't know that. Sounds like they are moving in the right direction. One important component that should not run as root is the web server.

Generally speaking, I agree that a web server shouldn't be running as root. But when the sole purpose of that web server is to provide root-level control over the system, is there really much security to be gained by running that process as a different user? That "unprivileged" process is still going to have some mechanism for causing arbitrary commands to run as root.

I can imagine that you might have an unprivileged server presenting just the log-in page, then proxying to a privileged server that is started once the administrator is authenticated. But that doesn't get you much more security, and it probably does strain the resources of low-end routers. A small, auditable server may be better than a more complicated system, especially since it is trivial for more paranoid users to disable/uninstall the web server and just use SSH (which nobody seems to mind running as root).

Ah TIL, with their factories being in Shenzhen, I thought they were HQ’ed there. This still doesn’t rule out government strong arming though.

The firmware is mostly the same as well.

It's a RoC

Taiwan and China are quite distinct. It is not at all like Hong Kong and China.

Details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-Strait_relations


Right? I know it's not completely analogous, but the federal government blocks a US company (Qualcomm) from buying another American company (Broadcom) over concerns about the Chinese somehow (which I still don't fully understand), but allows a Taiwanese company to buy an American network hardware division? I guess the government doesn't give a shit about consumer products.

> the federal government blocks a US company (Qualcomm) from buying another American company (Broadcom) over concerns about the Chinese somehow (which I still don't fully understand)

I'm not saying that Trump's executive order is justified (and the market predicted that Qualcomm would reject a hostile takeover attempt) but you have a few things wrong there.

1. The acquisition would be the other way around (as in Broadcom taking over Qualcomm)

2. Broadcom's parent company is a Singaporean entity. So yes, it's an American company but its parent company is Singaporean.

3. Broadcom's M&A strategy is very short sighted. It usually strips the acquisition target's R&D costs and improves its bottom line in the short term.

4. Qualcomm has a pseudo monopoly on mobile chips. All high end mobile phones use their chips. If it loses out on its future 5G technology due to a shrinking R&D budget, US loses its market dominance possibly for good.

Qualcomm/Broadcom was mostly just political grandstanding

I stopped buying linksys products a long time ago. Moved on to Netgear and Asus.

But, doesn't Foxconn already manufacture a bunch of American products?

46% of Foxconn revenue comes from Apple (they manufacture iPhones) also Kindles, Xbox, PlayStation 4, Wii U, BlackBerries, lots of of Google's hardware, many Cisco's routers etc.

pretty much all of them except for some high end gears such as cisco routers...

Sure, but they own the firmware now though

Just today I contacted Belkin live support for a usb-c gigabit Ethernet adapter that stopped working 1 month in. They are shipping me a replacement.

My previous experience was with a router that would occasionally fail under load (e.g., torrents), requiring a restart. They sent a replacement for that, too, but I never found a use for an unreliable router.

Neat. Belkin was pretty crap about 7 years or so ago but they raised their game I find in the last couple years. They are pretty solid with decent prices now.

I think there is a pretty good market for smart home accessories, various wifi enabled devices like powerstrips, lights, cameras, locks, alarm systems, etc. With Belkin's Walmart distribution network and their low costs, I think it may be something they could target well.

last belkin items I had were:

* an outlet multipler/usb charging thing - died

* lighting cables of various lengths - all died

maybe I have bad luck, but it seems to me like they are still making garbage.

If you want good quality third party chargers and USB cables - buy Anker

If Anker is so great, why don't they have TÜV/CCC/UL certified power supplies?


Sorry for the hideous URL, but Anker absolutey does have UL certified power supplies. To my knowledge they're CCC compliant as I believe they're sold in China and as far as I cant tell, that's a requirement. TÜV I'm not so sure about, but I was under the impression they were more of an 3rd-party way to get CE certified (which Anker products already are).

I get being cautious about power supplies - but Anker is legitimate.

Process of certification is heavy on cash, need some weird certifications? Price of products will increase and customers will be hurt as a result (just to make some minor portion of customers happy).

I don't buy it. As long as their products aren't certified, I won't buy them. Besides when you look at the reviews on Amazon, some of their chargers allegedly catch fire or start to smell like burning plastic...

Their products are obviously CE certified and some of them are PSE certified. Good enough for me.

Edit: Needless to say, certifications are bullshit anyway, it's just a waiver for lawyers - Samsung Galaxy Note 7 had all possible certification, yet it was as more dangerous than any Anker product.

CE isn't a certification. It is a standard that suppliers claim to adhere to. It relies entirely on their word, but is not verified at all.

Can second this. They're well reviewed, do well and last long.

Was it Foxconn that was blocked from acquiring an American company earlier this month? Is this acquisition a order of magnitude smaller?

Is it strange that this wasn’t blocked as well?

I think you're referring to Broadcom trying to acquire Qualcomm. Very different situation. This is a good breakdown of why that was blocked: https://stratechery.com/2018/qualcomm-national-security-and-...

According to sources, Foxconn really didn't want to buy Belkin but that's all they had at the store.

foxconn makes routers for all the vendors I think, e.g. dlink.netgear,belkin...now Belkin might push its competitors away from Foxconn's assembly lines

Just confirmed with my relative who works ta Belkin, Dubai. They just finished call with them.. and news is already leaked.

i honestly would think that Belkin would be worth something in the billions. they are the qtip of computer cables.

Hm. I wonder what will happen to Linksys supporting open source WiFi drivers now for their WRT/ACS routers.

Did they ever make meaningful contributions? I recall when they first revived the WRT branding, they promised open-source support for the Marvell chipsets they were now using, but it took an extremely long time for any code to show up, and it was far from being in a state to upstream. I haven't paid close attention since then, but I don't recall running across any mention that Linksys was directly helping improve the open-source Marvell drivers.

It's not upstreamed, but it's regularly updated: https://github.com/kaloz/mwlwifi

I think @yuhhaurlin works for Linksys, but I'm not sure.

Does Belkin own Kensington and former joystick brand Gravis too?

Good thing for Netgear

> best known for manufacturing practically everything in the world

Huh? I thought they manufacture iPhone chips and that's it. Now they buy peripherals because iphone itself won't make enough profit growth anymore to give top management the multi-million-dollar bonuses they are used to.

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