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                    Archive for Jul 2002


                    You Can't Outsource City Hall

                    In this article in CIO Magazine, Tom Field says: Outsourcing is a proven business strategy in the private sector, so why can't it work in City Hall? The article proffers several opinions. I have my own. First, many of the high-profile, failed outsourcing projects I'm aware of tried to outsource the whole thing. Let's just outsource the whole IT department so we don't have to worry about it. The problem is that IT is fundamental to business and the vendor may be great at delivering basic services and probably even application development, but they likely won't be great at adding value to agency mission
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                    CS Lecture Series at UVSC

                    I've been asked to kick off the Utah Valley State College Computer Science Department's Invited Lecture Series. The lecture is at 5pm on August 28th. I'll probably talk on web services.
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                    Third Day at the Western CIO Summit

                    Here is my trip report from my third day at the Western CIO Summit. The VoiceStream GSM card that I've been testig was a big let down. It dropped connection after about 4 minutes very consistently. At first I though it was the location, but I've tested it in Denver since then with the same result.
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                    Second Day at Western CIO Summit

                    Here is my trip report from my second day at the Western CIO Summit sponsored by Western Information Technology Council.
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                    First Day at Western CIO Summit

                    Here is my trip report from my first day at the Western CIO Summit in Breckenridge, CO.
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                    Speaking of Open Source in Utah Government: A New Blog

                    Joe Leary is a member of our Division of Information Technology Services and he has taken up my challenge and created a blog about his work. He is one of the poeple who is most involved in the use of open source in Utah state government. So far, I'm getting off pretty cheap. I hope that I have to shell out a little more! I'd love nothing more than to have 50 to 100 blogs going from the Utah IT community. Then I'll buy a google appliance and point it at them and see what kind of good stuff we
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                    Friday at OSCON

                    Here is the trip report from my third day at OSCON. I'll be updating the story from time to time throughout the day.
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                    Barriers to Open Source in Government

                    We didn't get a chance to really talk about the barriers to using open source in government at our panel, so I decided at least, I'd post them here for anyone who's interested. Broadly, they fall into (1) technical issues, (2) perception issues, and (3) cultural issues. Of the three, the last is the most difficult to overcome. Here are some specifics: Sales droids. I could spend all day every day talking to salespeople from one company or another. Some of them are quite useful to me from an educational standpoint and some of them aren't. They all want to
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                    Thursday at OSCON

                    Here is the trip report from my second day at OSCON. I'll be updating the story from time to time throughout the day.
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                    Wednesday at OSCON

                    Here is my trip report from my first day at OSCON.
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                    WiFi Frustrations

                    I finally made it to the OSCON conference in San Diego. I'm listening to Matt Sergeant talk about "Why SOAP Sucks, Why SOAP Rocks." A pretty interesting talk. Along the way, I've had some WiFi frustrations. First, I got associated in the Delta Crown Room in Salt Lake City, but couldn't find a DHCP server. Either it wasn't meant for public use or it was broken. Next, I couldn't get into a room above the 8th floor at the Sheraton, so no in-room broadband connections. The final straw was that on the conference floor, I got associated, but my machine
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                    True to Ourselves

                    Dave writes in People with good hearts: Being kind to each other doesn't have to interfere with being true to ourselves; please let's do the extra work to find out where the anger is coming from, and try not to be angry at someone, esp not me. [Scripting News] I'd change his first sentence a little to read: "Being kind to each other is being true to ourselves." I say that because if you can listen to what you know you should do (i.e. be true to yourself), you'll be kind. Is easy to take things personal that aren't and
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                    Short notes points out an

                    Short notes points out an article on XML and Semantic Transparency by Robin Cover that says just what I've been saying on XML and semantics. Should be required reading for anyone using XML.
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                    Comments on Staying Sane

                    I just read Clemens Vasters Staying sane in an XML Web Services World. While there are some good things in there that I do agree with (like the immutability of XML Schema) I disagree strongly with his philosophical statements on semantics. In particular, he says: Using XML, we express semantics in a well defined way. and XML Schema is based on semantics. If the underlying semantics change so that they are largely incompatible with the previous semantics, the Schema changes and becomes a new one, even if it would be technically sufficient to express the new semantics. This is just not true. XML
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                    Wal-Mart CIO Interview

                    Wal-Mart is the world's largest company and one which has consistently used technology as a competitive advantage. In this article, their CIO talks about how they manage IT systems. He lists three key philosophies behind his IT strategy: The first philosophy is to run a centralized information system for our operations all over the world, and we run that from Arkansas. The second is to have common systems and common platforms. The third is to be merchants first and technologists second. In this day of XML standards, one might question why someone cares about (1) and (2) until you start asking
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                    Doonesbury on WiFi

                    This Doonesbury strip appeared Sunday. All you need is an iPAQ (or a laptop, although its hard to walk with) and NetStumbler. I just went to the NetStumbler site to get the URL to link here and see that they have the same cartoon on their homepage. As an aside, the NetStumber homepage appears to be a Slash site being operated as a blog.
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                    O'Reilly Open Source Conference

                    I'm going to the O'Reilly Open Source convention in San Diego Wednesday through Friday. I'll be participating on the panel on open source in government (go figure). Drop me a line if you're in the mood to talk in person. We'll get together and talk about ID or web services or even WiFi on trains.
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                    Single Sign-On at Utah.gov

                    One of the features we'd like to introduce on www.utah.gov in the near future is personalization. The issue is a real one because, like a large consumer portal, we have hundreds of services and thousands of constituencies. There's no way a single front page, no matter how well designed, can serve all of those needs. What a rancher in Juab county wants from utah.gov is likely very different from the needs of a single mother of two in Murray City. The basis for any personalization, form-filling, etc. is ID and user profiles. A few years ago, that meant designing a
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                    Product Management

                    Dave McNamee is one of the first Utah IT employees to take me up on my offer get started on weblogs. Dave is a product manager in the Information Technology Services division. One of the first things I did when I took the job as CIO for Utah was to try to introduce the concept of product management. While it might seem funny to think of government as having "products," the discipline's concepts for developing software and online services to meet business needs are as applicable here as they are anywhere. I wrote a white paper on the subject as
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                    WiFi and Mass Transit

                    One of the great things about my job is that there are lots of interesting opportunities. For example, I had a meeting with the Utah Transit Authority today. We were discussing wide area networks for connecting up busses, police cruisers, and other field workers (of which we have a lot). This is a challenge when 80% of your land area contains less that 20% of the population. Still, there's some interesting things happening there. More on that subject later. While we were talking, we got around to WiFi. UTA has plans to install WiFi access points at the stations along the
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                    Enterprise Development in Utah

                    On Wednesday, I spoke to the enterprise development group on my principles for enabling web services. The enterprise development group, or eDG as they call themselves is a group of specialists from across our IT organizations that meet regularly to share expertise and develop some de facto standards for multi-tiered applications in Utah. I'm very supportive of these kinds of groups since I think they represent our best hope at building community in an IT organization that is best described as "sprawling." We have talented experts buried deep within the organization and, often, the biggest problem we face is being
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                    Amazon Web Services and REST

                    A few days ago, Amazon announced their web services program. Unfortunately, I had two days without much time to play. Tonight I finally had a little time. Amazon's progam supports both a SOAP/RPC model and a RESTful model. Using the RESTful model, I cobbled up the Amazon results box on the right side of this page. This is the XSL file that I used and this is the URL I called. A few observations: My task was made more difficult by the lack of good error messages from Amazon. Note the the XSL file specifically passes error messages through. At
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                    US House of Representatives and XML

                    The US House of Representatives has made a significant effort in developing DTDs for describing bills. My authority as Utah CIO doesn't extend to the Utah Legislature (you can tell from their URL), but I'd still love to see them adopt something like the House standards. They might be able to just use the House DTDs directly. A recent article in Government Computer News writes about the House XML efforts.
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                    Lindon Moves Ahead with UTOPIA

                    I live in a small city called Lindon with about 6000 residents. Tonight the City Council had a vote on whether or not to move forward to the second phase (feasibility study) portion of the UTOPIA (broadband) project. Going into the meeting, word was that the council was going to disapprove it 3-1. I'm a fan of the project and said so tonight. Kelly Phillipps, CTO of Center 7, one of the city's high tech businesses and hopeful network services provider for UTOPIA, also spoke in favor of the city's participation. In the end, they approved the approximately $40,000 necessary to participate
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                    An Open Offer to Utah State IT Employees

                    I believe that the 900 or so IT employees of the State of Utah would benefit from speaking and listening to each other more. I think we need groups of specialists inside various departments to communicate with others in their specialty and without. Consequently, I'd like to see more people writing blogs and communicating their ideas through an open forum like the one blogs engender. To that end, I'm willing to pay the licensing fee to Userland for the first 100 employees who start a blog. Here are the conditions: Download the software and begin using on the 30-day free trial. I'd
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                    XLANG and WSFL: Syntactic Arsenic

                    An Infoworld article by Jon Udell says: XML is a lousy syntax for programming languages, and BizTalk developers have longed for something more programmer-friendly. For XLANG users, help is on the way, according to Dave Wascha, lead product manager for BizTalk at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft. XML should be used to specify service choreography, he says, but it need not be used to implement it. A conventional syntax can do this more naturally, as Microsoft has shown in experiments using C#. To which I would have to say: "AMEN." It seems that the world has gone XML crazy lately. Because of
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                    NY Times Article on Warchalking

                    This article by Glenn Fleishmann in the NY Times quotes me on warchalking. Meanwhile, the wheels of technology rollout in a large organization grind slowly, slowly, slowly.
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                    Anarchy and Infrastructure

                    Doc Searls has an absolutely fantastic slide show on his site from his talk at the June JabberConf. Very compelling...
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                    Mainframe Linux

                    Jon Udell writes: IBM's mainframe Linux hosting service. A few months back I researched and wrote a story on mainframe Linux. ... I continue to find this technology alliance fascinating. Moving parts are the enemy, in my mind. The fewer the better. Provisioning a server farm in software, rather than as a collection of physical blades, seems like a great idea. The mainframe always had the raw virtualization capability, now in Linux it has something that's really worth virtualizing. One outcome, as this story notes, is a new kind of competition for the RackSpaces of the world: ... [Jon's Radio] We have 4 large mainframes
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                    Google! DayPop! This is my

                    Google! DayPop! This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Salt Lake, Lindon, Phil, Male, 41-45!
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                    Darwin John Gets a New Job

                    The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that the FBI has hired Darwin John, CIO for the LDS Church, as the new CIO for the FBI. I think Darwin will do a great job there. Working for the two organizations will probably be similar in a number of ways. FBI CIO sounds like a very fun job. Best of luck Darwin! Update: Here's a CNET interview with Darwin.
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                    GIS to the Rescue

                    An article in Fortune discusses IT and Homeland Security: It's a very bad day in Galveston, Texas, home to one of the world's densest concentrations of petrochemical plants. An airborne plume of hydrofluoric acid--stuff so nasty it can dissolve glass--is spreading from a railroad tank car blown up in a terrorist attack. Public-safety officials are in a scramble to understand the scope of the disaster and how to protect the population. Fortunately they've got a geographic information system, or GIS, to get a handle on the crisis and respond to it--fast. If you're not familiar with GIS software, its used
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                    SICP Online

                    Kenneth Hunt informs me that SICP is available online. Thanks!
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                    Federal Funding Process

                    An Information Week article says: The manner in which the federal government funds some state IT projects is at odds with the way states are implementing common IT architectures back home, state CIOs complained to a congressional panel on Tuesday. Specifically, the IT systems bolster state-run social-service programs, including food stamps, child welfare, child-support enforcement, and Medicaid. We continually fight this problem. The ADP process has good intentions: ensure money is spent on what it was appropriated for. On the other hand, as Aldona says: "It's clear that the [ADP] process strongly discourages using federal program funds to create common
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                    Digital ID World Conference

                    I've been invited to speak at the Digital ID World conference in Denver on October 9-11th. Identity and identity management is something I've written about before on these pages. The ironic thing is that state governments issue what is now considered the gold standard of identity for most purposes: the driver's license. Yet, state's don't consider themselves to be in the identity business. We have abdicated that responsibility to private companies. This may be OK, but we should pay attention to what is really happening: we're changing a fundamental model for identity, even if that model has been ad hoc
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                    Guardian on Warchalking

                    This article in the Guardian quotes my weblog. Interesting all the press that warchalking has generated.
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                    Book Review

                    Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - 2nd Editionby Harold Abelson, Gerald Jay Sussman (Contributor), Julie Sussman (Contributor) I was just reading Gordon Weakliem's weblog and noticed that he'd gotten interested in Scheme and was reading the Little Schemer. I've read the Little Schemer and its OK, but Sussman and Abelson's "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" has to be the best. It was used for years at MIT as the introductory text for computing. I've used it to teach hundreds of students in introductory computer science and programming language courses and think its the finest computer science text ever
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                    eGovernment and Ownership

                    John Patrick writes: A trailer for towing motorcycles to and from always seemed like a good idea to me. Getting the trailer was the easy part. Registering it at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Connecticut was the hard part. First I rode to Danbury -- a half hour ride. Then I stood in line for ten minutes to get a form and a ticket with a number on it -- just like at the deli. My number was 462. The wait began. This is a great eGovernment project. The reason: its relatively hard. Gotta love a challenge. Renewing a registration
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                    Business Week Online on Warchalking

                    Business Week Online interviewed me last week on the Warchalking craze. Their article quotes me in one paragraph, or at least semi-quotes me. By the time a 15 minute conversation makes it down to one paragraph enough detail is lost that it sounds like we'll be installing 2000 WAPs next week. Our roll-out will be a little more conservative than that. Call this the "vision."
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                    IM and REST: First Class Events?

                    After posting the previous piece about IM and REST, I happened to see a reference to work DJ Admans is doing with weblog updates and Jabber on Scripting News. The basic idea, as I understand it, is to use Jabber in lieu of something like MQSeries or JMS to notify people of changes to weblogs. I see the usefulness of that: remember those discussions in your undergraduate architecture class about polling vs. interrupts? News aggregators function by polling their RSS feeds. If everyone on the net used news aggregators and subscribed to hundreds of channels and wanted near realtime notification of
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                    IM and REST

                    Technology review has a nice introductory article on the problems with IM in the enterprise. Says the article: But today that promise is stymied by IM software packages that use their own proprietary protocols. "The whole IM scene is as factionalized as Afghanistan," says Rob Batchelder, research director at Gartner, a technology research firm in Stamford, CT. My main concern is how to use IM behind the firewall with security, logging, etc. at a price that gives an ROI I can see without using a microscope. I've been playing with jabber lately and have been pretty impressed. I've haven't even
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                    PTO Woes and Government IT

                    In a Government Computing News article entitled: PTO: No One Should Trust Our Systems, the following appears: If disaster struck the Patent and Trademark Office's data center today, the agency would be without access to its records for nearly four years and would have to spend $550 million to regenerate them from tape backups. I think Utah is better off than that, much better; but the basic issue that leads up to this mess is at the heart of most problems with IT in government: the funding process. The problem comes down to a sophie's choice: If you leave IT funding in
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                    Privacy and Public Policy

                    The July issue of Communications of the ACM arrived today and as I thumbed through it, I started reading an article about the ever expanding network of local and federal databases. The article discusses the potential problems with such data linking and retells some sad tales about the abuse of such networks. This is a tricky issue for me: my job is linking all that information! The issue of course is not a technology issue, but a public policy issue. Utah passed legislation last year to protect the privacy of data that we collect for personalization purposes on our web site. In general, however,
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                    Blogging and Oliver Sacks

                    I'm just reading the article in the April 2002 issue of Wired on Oliver Sacks. One part of the article talks about Sacks' communications with a Russine neuropsychologist named Luria via snail mail. My first thought was how inefficient one to one snail mail correspondence is for advancing knowledge; blogging works much better. Its hard for me to remember my pre-Internet life (I started using the 'net in 1986) and how utterly disconnected I must have been.
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                    Blogs as Lab Notebooks

                    Jim McGee writes: So, here's a gedanken experiment for you. Setup each incoming Ph.D. or Master's candidate with a weblog at the beginning of their program. Coach them to use the weblog as a lab notebook of their developing intellectual capital. Use your own weblog to comment on their work and their thinking. Where do you think these students will be after several years of sustained and steady writing? How many will have already started to establish reputations as serious thinkers? I teach a course on enterprise computing. I used Slash last year on the course homepage and loved it.
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                    Jabber

                    I got jabber running on my test server. I've had trouble getting the SSL support going, but its on the way (netstat -ar shows jabberd listening on port 5223 and openssl successfully retrieves the cert from jabberd). The abundance of clients is good. With SSL, my security concerns are slackened and it logs on the server and client sides. Not bad. This may be the right IM tool for the enterprise.
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                    Enabling Web Services

                    Not surprisingly, the State of Utah has a large amount of data and much of it is public. Some of the data that holds the most interest to people is already available on our web site for searching. For example, you can verify the validity of a professional license. My plan is to enable web services by ensuring that anytime we make data available we do it in a way that produces at least XML and that URIs work for all queries (yes, RESTian principles are at play here). Let's face it, if we're going to build an application that
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                    Content Management

                    Here is the draft of a paper on content management that will be distributed to all the employees of the state in our monthly electronic newsletter. The paper discusses content management, RSS, aggregators, metadata, portals and personalization. One of my first goals is to get the newsletter into our content management system and subscribge to its RSS feed. Dave Fletcher is in charge of the newsletter and recently started blogging, so there's hope!
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                    Recent Magazine Articles

                    Oct. 1, 2001 Issue of CIO Magazine: You Can Go Home Again. An article about CIO's who worked for dot coms. May 2002 Issue of Government Technology Magazine: Secrets of a Successful IT Campaign. An article about leading change in government IT organizations. Jan 31, 2002 Issue of VARBusiness Magazine: Getting Wired: Utah CIO Tells How. An interview where they actually quoted me verbatim. Sometimes that's good.
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                    REST and Hyperlinks

                    Back in May, Jon Udell wrote a column in Infoworld called "Hyperlinks Matter." I was fascinated by the column and that is really what led me to start a BLOG (OK, so I get sidetracked easily). I just finished reading the two xml.com articles by Paul Prescod [1] [2] on REST and the light has finally gone on about why I liked the "Hyperlinks Matter" column. REST proponents make a powerful argument about why the web works and why we shouldn't be so quick to give up on some important concepts (like URIs) that have served so well. I think
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                    OReilly Open Source Conference

                    I'll be participating on a panel at the OReilly Open Source conference at the end of the month. The panel is on open source software in government. I've always been a big believer in open source and have tied to introduce it in my organization as we can. A good example is snort, an intrusion detection tool. We were going to pay someone a lot of money for something not half as good simply because there was an assumption that the open source software somehow "wasn't acceptable."
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                    CRLs Matter When Certs Matter

                    Jon Udell writes: Mozilla does CRL right. Last night, as an experiment, I revoked one of my Thawte Freemail certificates. Today I sent myself a message signed with that now-bogus cert. Few people have ever used an S/MIME cert. Still fewer, I am sure, have explored how email software deals with a CRL (certificate revocation list). ... [Jon's Radio] CRLs are something I didn't pay much attention to until we started using digital certificates for things that really mattered (like law enforcement). This is interesting information and its not surprising, I guess that Mozilla does it right.
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                    Fall COMDEX

                    I've been asked to speak on a panel at COMDEX in the fall. The topic will be "Evaluating New Tools: How to Tell Which Hot, Breakthrough Products Will Stick" and it will be on Monday November 11th from 2:30-3:45. I think the short answer is "throw them at the wall." Surprisingly, even though I live close to Las Vegas and fly my own plane (so its only a few hours away), I've never made it to COMDEX. This will give me the excuse I've been looking for.
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