Raspberry Pi Blog

This is the official Raspberry Pi blog for news and updates from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, education initiatives, community projects and more!

The MagPi issue 36 is here and we’re in print!

It’s with an almost rude amount of excitement I can announce that issue 36 of the Official Raspberry Pi Magazine, The MagPi, is here!

It’s bigger and – dare I say it – better than ever too, with 100 pages of amazing projects, interviews, features, tutorials and reviews.

Click the pic to buy the print edition from the Swag Store today & have it delivered to your door.

Click the pic to buy the print edition from the Swag Store today & have it delivered to your door.

It’s not just here in the virtual – download your free PDF edition today – sense, though. It’s also here in the physical – take me to the smallest room of the house – sense too.

As of today UK readers can pop to a local branch of WHSmith or a newsagents to buy the magazine RIGHT NOW for £5.99.

US readers will be able to pick it up from Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in two short weeks (or just grab a copy from the Swag Store).

Click to see everything in the current issue

Click to see everything in the current issue

One of my favourite articles from #36 is Minecraft Splat, which is a multiplayer Raspberry Pi-remake of Nintendo’s modern classic, Splatoon, made in Minecraft Pi. Martin ‘Minecraft‘ O’Hanlon (of stuffaboutcode.com fame) kindly agreed to give it a shot for us and he delivered in spades. If you enjoy that, you’re sure to love Adventures in Minecraft, which he co-wrote with The MagPi’s Technical Editor David Whale.

#36_Minecraft Splat

Minecraft Splat makes for some great multiplayer mayhem!

Subscribe today!
If you’d like to subscribe to the print magazine it’s really rather easy. All you need to do is call +44(0)1202 586848 or visit The MagPi Subscriptions site.

You can save up to 25% on the cover price and have it delivered to your door before it even hits store shelves. If you order while the first issue is still on sale, you’ll get issue 36 sent out straight away. 

Also, if you’re a teacher, after school club leader, part of an educational scheme or simply want to horde as many issues as possible (we don’t mind), you’re entitled to a massive discounts on multiple copies. Please let us know and we’ll be happy to help.

It’s free – now and forever
Finally, it’s very important for me to stress that The MagPi is a Creative Commons publication. This means it’s free to download and share in PDF format.

Why bother buying it at all? Well, like the Raspberry Pi itself, all the proceeds of The MagPi magazine are channelled back into the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK charity dedicated to making affordable, programmable computers available to everyone, all over the world.

We think it’s important that children and adults from all walks of life have access to the internet and applications, and have the opportunity to learn to code if they want to. We hope you feel the same way.

The Raspberry Pi makes all of this possible and I very much hope The MagPi Magazine helps make it fun.

19 Comments

Bike computer for the myopic

We found this video titled “Build a better bike computer” at IEEE Spectrum. Gordon, Pi Towers’ resident pro bike racer and mountain bike nutcase (ask him to show you his X-rays some time) demurs: he says (I quote): “That’s big and stupid”. Gordon also shaves his legs, and says that he wants to fill his bike frame with helium; his cycling needs are the needs of the few.

The rest of us rather liked this Kindle bike hack.

This build uses the Kindle as a display – but, rather than sending information straight to the display, publishes speed, distance, and navigation data to a webpage, which the Kindle’s experimental browser then reads on the hoof  fly wheel. Thanks are due to David Schneider, the mind behind; David, please ignore Gordon. He’s a curmudgeon.

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DDR meets the Simon game

Back in the heady days of the late ’90s, a number of my friends and fellow students were irritatingly good at Dance Dance Revolution. They devoted countless hours to it, and carried on earnest and lengthy discussions about technique. So I can feel only gratitude that this appealing crossover wasn’t around to further detain their attention.

Uberdam Cavaletti teaches computing at a professional training school in Xanxerê, Brazil, where each year they hold an event to show off projects the students have been working on. Last year one of these projects involved a Raspberry Pi, a DDR-style platform and a much older electronic game.

DDR Simon game

The starting point for Uberdam, his colleagues and students was Simon, a compelling game from the late 1970s in which players had to press coloured buttons to replicate increasingly complex sequences displayed by the device. They were running an existing Python clone of this game, Simulate by Al Sweigart, on a Raspberry Pi; Uberdam’s class had the idea of allowing a player to use their feet to play, instead of a keyboard and mouse.

In their DDR-alike version, a Raspberry Pi displays the sequence for the player to replicate via a projector, and capacitive sensors underneath the coloured platform detect steps, allowing the Pi to check the player’s performance.

There’s more about the game in Uberdam’s blog post (in Portuguese); I first spotted it in Hackaday’s piece.

Meanwhile, if you like the idea of making your own electronic games, you don’t need heaps of experience. In the Make section of our free resources you can find out how to make a Sweet Shop Reaction Game using Scratch and a Quick Reaction Game using Python, both great places to start!

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Attend a Picademy@Google in Birmingham

This year we’ve seen an explosion of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators thanks to the number of free teacher training events called ‘Picademy’ that we’ve been able to facilitate. Aside from our own in-house training, there have been five regional Picademies, three of which have taken place in Google’s Digital Garage in Leeds. Thanks to the generosity of Google.org, we are able to offer even more continuing professional development opportunities to educators, this time in Birmingham!

digital-garage-birmingham

Picademy will be awesome at the new Google Digital Garage Birmingham!

Picademy@Google is for classroom teachers of any subject at primary, secondary or post-16 level. The courses and workshops in Leeds are run by renowned community member Les Pounder, who gives much of his time to helping adults and children create weird and wonderful projects. You may have seen some of his Picademy work on Twitter recently.

Picademy@Google Birmingham will be every bit as good! Highly regarded community member, Minecraft wizard, and creator of stuff about code Martin O’Hanlon will be leading teachers across a diamond block path to Raspberry Pi enlightenment. Here he is doing his best Steve impression:

IMG_5082

Martin was at the venue for the launch and said:

The opening of the Google Digital Garage at the Library of Birmingham was a great event attended by Eileen Naughton, MD of Google UK and Ireland, and Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The venue is incredible and it’s really exciting to be able to use this amazing space to bring Picademy to Birmingham – opening up the opportunity to teachers across the West Midlands to get the benefit of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s free CPD course.

All our training events in Birmingham will take place at the latest Google Digital Garage inside Birmingham Library, and are completely free to attend. If you are interested in take part and becoming a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, please complete this form. The following dates are available:

  • 27th – 28th August
  • 1st – 2nd October
  • 2nd – 3rd November
  • 7th – 8th December
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Pneumatic tooth fairy

With the expanding global population, Jeff “BabyWrassler” Highsmith realised, the Tooth Fairy is probably finding it tough to keep on top of her job. He decided to help her out with a tooth transportation system using pneumatic tubes, controlled by a Raspberry Pi. This wonderful video is brought to us by Make:

Jeff’s past projects include his older son’s Mission Control Desk and his younger child’s bedroom Apollo Mission. We desperately envy these children.

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Pigeon Pi

By day, Robert Threet is a systems manager at the University of  Southern Indiana in Evansville. But when he’s not knee-deep in network hardware, he races homing pigeons.

Credit: Robert Threet

Credit: Robert Threet

Pigeon racing, which I’d always thought was the preserve of people from the north of England with flat caps and whippets (calm yourselves, commenters: my granddad was a man from the north of England with a flat cap – no whippets – and his friends were all over this stuff; budgie shows, too) turns out to have a following in the USA as well.

Things are far more sophisticated than they were when I was a kid. Back in the 70s when my Granddad’s friends were racing, each pigeon carried a little removable rubber ring around its ankle matching the unique number on a permanent band fitted when the pigeon was a chick. The rubber band was collected manually and logged when the pigeon arrived back at its loft by placing it in a special compartment in a pigeon clock, which stamped a piece of paper with the time. I was never allowed to touch one of these endlessly fascinating pigeon clocks, and they’ve always been objects of mystery – I was really chuffed when researching this post to find that a giant database of the things exists.

1955 Jundes pigeon clock. Click image to view at the Pigeon Clock Museum.

1955 Jundes pigeon clock. Click image to view at the Pigeon Clock Museum.

Nowadays, the pigeons are kitted out with RFID tags, and counted in by an electronic clock.  The pigeons race over distances between 300 and 500 miles, depending on age and experience. Pigeons belonging to a number of different racers all start at the same location, and fly back to their home lofts. The lofts’ GPS coordinates are taken, and used to calculate the distance flown. The pigeon with the best yards-per-minute score overall wins the race.

What does this have to do with Robert Threet in Indiana? Robert has been using a Raspberry Pi to augment the pigeon experience. Whenever one of his own pigeons arrives back in the loft after a race, a Raspberry Pi (which he also uses to monitor weather and the temperature conditions in the loft) uses a motion detector to trigger a camera, so each bird gets a photo-finish.

Robert plans to set the Pi up to automatically tweet those pictures, but for now, there’s a problem: his WiFi doesn’t extend to the pigeon loft. Please drop us a line when your setup is tweeting, Robert (as opposed to cooing softly); we’d love to be able to watch what your pigeons are doing.

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Roberts R300 Reinvention

Liz: today’s guest post comes from Gordon at IQAudIO, who makes and sells audio accessories for the Pi, which we really, really like – with one of his DACs you can turn your Pi into a proper audiophile-approved piece of kit. Gordon had made a project we really liked the look (and sound) of when we last saw him, so I asked him to write it up. Over to Gordon:

When my grandmother passed away many years ago I was asked if there was anything of hers I’d like to have in order to remember her by. The choice at the time was pretty easy for me – her bright red Roberts radio. This radio sat on her kitchen worktop, and whenever we visited I was always being told off for touching it, tuning it to some other radio station and spinning the whole thing around on its turntable base far too quickly.

The radio, somewhat the worse for wear.

The radio, somewhat the worse for wear.

My grandmother was affectionately called “Granny Hi-Tech”, simply because she was always the first to get hold of gadgets, most of which I assume she bought having seen them being demonstrated at the large department store in Glasgow where she worked during the 1960’s and 70’s.

The original intention on receiving the Roberts radio was to get it working again and keep everything authentic, but I really didn’t know where to start, so it was placed in a box and forgotten about. It’s moved house with us six times since, and was rediscovered, grubby and broken, during our last house move eight months ago.

A bit of a state

I did finally find a spare wet afternoon, but on taking the radio from the box and giving it a good look over, it was obvious I’d been seeing it through rose tinted glasses – it was much worse than expected, and although I may have been able to restore the inner workings, what stations can you pick up on Long and Medium Wave these days?

It was decided that a sympathetic transplant was called for, keeping the aesthetics of the original radio but delivering a modern music playback solution. Some parts of the radio were okay, some terrible and overall it had lost that lovely red colour that I fondly remembered. One of the dials had lost its brass cover, the grill was dented, the Roberts logo was yellow and broken, and the inside had corrosion in places.

A Roberts R300 with Airplay

I could have bought a cheap bluetooth speaker and transplanted the workings into the R300, but I wanted the original radio buttons to work as expected (on/off, volume) and wanted it to have some real musicality to surprise. I also wanted the ability to have synchronous playback across the house with my other HiFi systems. Overall it should look and feel like an original Vintage 1960s radio but in terms of audio performance I wanted it to sound awesome.

Enter the Raspberry Pi

There are several add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi, and we develop and sell a few of these ourselves. For this transplant I used our Pi-DigiAMP+. This Raspberry Pi HAT board takes the digital audio signals (I2S) from the Pi’s 40-way header, and delivers high-quality stereo audio up to 192MHz/24bit resolution – you just need to add speakers and a suitable power input to complete the job. The DigiAMP+ is designed to drive bookshelf or larger speakers – we usually pair it with QAcoustics 2010i or 3020 speakers, and it sounds simply brilliant. We demonstrated this very combination at the recent CamJam and also at the Recursion Computer show in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

dac

The IQaudIO Pi-DigiAMP+ can run from 5v -> 18v, and has on-board circuitry to power the Raspberry Pi too. Here we have used a 15v/3.3amp power brick from XP Power – this will allow the Pi-DigiAMP+ to deliver 2x20watts into 4ohm speakers, with a little less into 8ohm drive units – more than enough for a bedroom or kitchen radio.

Using the Raspberry Pi allows us to take advantage of the many Linux-based music playback solutions available. We could have gone for Volumio, RuneAudio, Moode, PiCorePlayer, Pi MusicBox, Max2Play or others; but for this build we went with Mike Brady’s Shairport Sync. Mike is a computer science lecturer at Trinity College Dublin and has posted his source code on GitHub making it easy to build and modify if needed. We’ve been running Raspberry Pi-based Shairport Sync systems for a while with great reliability and ease of use. Thanks Mike!

Remove the unnecessary and rework the rest

Taking the radio to pieces was pretty simple; there were none of those annoying plastic clips you break when attempting to open a modern device. Here it’s mostly wood screws with the occasional brass nut and bolt. We carefully removed the innards and stripped down the radio to its bare components, unsoldered the 60s electronics and removed protruding and unnecessary metal that would make the overall transition more difficult.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.39.25

Obviously, a 40-year-old paper mono speaker wasn’t going to cut the mustard, so we removed that too, replacing it with a pair (to give us both left and right channels) of full range Balanced Mode Radiator (BMRs) drive units – not only do these fit in the available space, but they sound good too.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.42.21

Now left with a bare carcass, it needed a good old clean and polish, but what we didn’t expect was for the carrying handle’s leather strap to disintegrate, which was one of the key aesthetics, along with the base turntable, we really wanted to keep. A quick Google search and subsequent calls to Roberts themselves resulted in some replacement (but modern) parts being received next day, although we ended up only using the new silver “Roberts” logo, as the beautiful replacement red handle was just too big a colour difference.

Rebuilding the radio was just like a Haynes manual (refitting is the reverse sequence to removal). We cut an MDF support panel for the speaker drive units.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.42.21

 

The analog volume potentiometer of the original was replaced with a simple 3-pin rotary encoder, wired to the Pi’s GPIO.  We used the sample code from the IQaudio GitHub repository to take the Rotary Encoder pulses and convert them into Linux ALSA volume commands.

Adding the Raspberry Pi and Pi-DigiAMP+ was the easiest part. The speakers were connected to the Pi-DigiAMP+ and the Official Raspberry Pi WiFi Dongle was added.

pianddac

From the outside you wouldn’t know anything had changed, and to keep the functionality of the radio’s Off/Long Wave/Medium Wave selector, we wired it in-line to the positive power from the external power brick. Selecting either Long Wave or Medium Wave powers the Pi-DigiAMP+ and Pi, while selecting Off cuts the power to both – we added a simple power barrel connector onto the back of the radio so it wasn’t always tethered and didn’t have a flying lead.

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 12.50.42

Finally, we replaced the wooden wedges and measured up the display window (ordering another to be laser-cut from www.podbox.co.uk at the same time). We also added some sound damping from an old speaker we had lying around. The handle was repaired using some similar covered vinyl.

finished

As with all good builds, there were a few extra pieces left over…

ewaste

How does it sound?

Surprisingly good, way better than expected. It really makes us smile streaming Deezer/Apple Music to radio that’s nearly half a century old. Having the physical volume control just adds an extra retro feel too.

What’s left to do?

Having used the Raspberry Pi/IQaudio Radio for a while now, we’ve decided there are a few additional tweaks to perform when we find the time. These include:

  • Tuning Knob: We need to make the tuning dial do something. This may end up driving some RGB LEDs, delivering mood lighting OR capturing the dial’s position (via ADC), and converting that into one of several fixed radio streams, selecting each in turn simply by “re-tuning.”
  • Power LED: Although we do tend to leave the radio powered up permanently, it would be good to know if the kids have turned it off rather than the toaster.
  • The radio’s handle/strap needs work and this is where we’ll likely take the modern replacement purchased from Roberts Radio and re-colour it to match the original radio’s dulled finish. We’ve even found a shop called RevivedRadios on Etsy who can recover the Roberts radio in your chosen fabric. [Liz interjects – goddammit, I wish I hadn’t clicked that link. I really want one of those now.]
  • Better WiFi signal: Although we’ve got good range already with the Official USB dongle placed in the radio’s enclosure, it may be worth exposing the Raspberry Pi’s USB socket on the back of the radio case (for better signal reception) along with the Ethernet socket, allowing for direct network connection in suitable locations.
  • EQ/Bass boost: We could look at diving into the Pi-DigiAMP+’s integrated DSP and program it to get the best from the BMR drive units in the Roberts Radio case.
  • Battery operation: I’m thinking of adding a battery power source and charging circuit. It’s just too nice a radio to have it tied to a mains socket – it also stops me being able to spin the radio around and around listening to music as I did 40 years ago!

Parts list

  • Your Gran’s vintage radio
  • 1x Raspberry Pi
  • 1x Official Raspberry Pi USB WiFi adapter
  • 1x IQaudIO Pi-DigiAMP+
  • 1x XP Power 15v power supply (VEH60US15 / VEF50US15 or similar)
  • 1x ALPHA 3 pin Rotary Encoder (RE160F-40E3-20A-24P)
  • 2x HiWave 2x12w BMR speakers (RS Online stock no: 761-4265)
  • 1x 2.5mm / 5.5mm Barrel power socket ( DC-008-B-R)
  • SD card with Mike Brady’s Shairport Sync (available pre-configured with rotary encoder volume support from iqaudio.com/downloads)
  • Some wire
  • Some basic soldering skills
26 Comments

Bedbot – furniture with a tech twist

Fine woodwork has always been a mystery to me. I blame the church summer camp I went to when I was nine, where the boys got to build wooden doorknockers shaped like woodpeckers, and the girls – you guessed it – got to paint them with flowers. (This also meant that half the children didn’t get to take a doorknocker home with them at the end of the week. Very poorly thought out, Rev H.)

I once made a shelf to go inside an airing cupboard.

Perhaps I assign too much value to things I could never, ever contemplate making myself. But I’ve a suspicion that the rest of you will also think this project is pretty darn amazing: here is Bedbot, created by Peter Roca, the sort of person who can casually say, “The drawer front is a ¾″ thick piece of curly maple that I had laying around”.

bedbot

Peter calls Bedbot a Daytime Initialisation Assistant. In short, Bedbot is there to ease Peter from sleep into a state of energised morning wakefulness. It is a very over-engineered alarm clock.

insideCLose

 

Peter did a gorgeous job of constructing the furniture itself. He then designed and built the hardware that lives inside Bedbot, wrote the software (which includes a rather snazzy user interface in QT), put in a touchscreen from Adafruit, and an OLED screen to tell the time with.

Peter says:

It tells time
It can wake me up in the morning
It can play FM radio (f*** AM)
It can play internet audio streams
It can play audio from a headphone jack in the back
Anything else you can think of that requires the internet, speakers, a touchscreen or a radio antenna.

main

He’s made an online Board Explorer to show you around the hardware (beware: this won’t work on mobile devices) which is well worth your time. There’s also video of Bedbot in action which we can’t embed here, which Peter has made part of his exceptionally thorough build diary and writeup – go and check it out. You’ll find all the software he used on GitHub.

Thanks for the writeup, Peter – we love it. It’s a beautiful object: we hope it continues to cheer up your mornings for a long time to come.

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A new board member

Sherry Coutu CBE has been a member of the board of Raspberry Pi Trading for a couple of years now; she’s an exceptionally valuable member of the team, and we’re very grateful to her for donating her time  and expertise to our organisation.

Sherry_Coutu_011

 

Today we’re really excited to be welcoming Sherry to join the board of the Raspberry Pi Foundation as well, so she’s now going to be working across both the trading and charitable sides of the organisation. Sherry’s extraordinary. This month she was placed in the top ten of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in Tech list. She sits on the board of the London Stock Exchange (when she and Joanna Shields were taken on, they were the first women to be appointed); she’s also on the boards of Zoopla, the University of Cambridge‘s Finance Board, Cambridge Assessment, Cambridge University Press, and Cambridge Temperature Concepts. And because she’s somehow managed to cram more hours into the day than the rest of us are given by nature, she’s also on the advisory boards of Linkedin, the Natural History Museum and the Royal Society.

Phew.

Thanks Sherry – we’re really glad you’ve come on board on the Foundation side of the organisation too. It’s terrific to be able to have access to your skills across the whole spectrum of what we do here at Raspberry Pi, and we’re looking forward to working more with you.

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Welcoming our new CEO

Liz: As regular readers will know, Raspberry Pi is a charity. We’re split into two parts: the Raspberry Pi Foundation is the charitable body, and it owns Raspberry Pi Trading, the part of the organisation that develops the hardware you all buy. All the profit we make in Raspberry Pi Trading goes straight to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, where it’s spent on our charitable aims.

Philip Colligan is the new Chief Executive Officer of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, working with Eben, who remains CEO of Raspberry Pi Trading. He’s been here for two weeks now, and he’s already got us all very excited about the direction he’s taking the organisation in. Here’s Philip to tell you what he’s been up to. Welcome Philip: we’re so glad you’ve joined us!

As I come to the end of my first couple of weeks as the newest member of the Raspberry Pi team, I wanted to write a quick blog post to say a big thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome.

Philip "please crop out my shorts" Colligan, mid-meeting

Philip “please crop out my shorts” Colligan, mid-meeting. (He’s the one on the right.)

In many ways, arriving at the Raspberry Pi Foundation feels more like joining a community than starting a new job. Ever since Liz announced my appointment on this blog at the end of April, I’ve been inundated with good wishes and offers of help from people from all sorts of backgrounds who have been inspired by Raspberry Pi. From volunteer activists to the CEOs of multi-national businesses, the openness and generosity I’ve experienced in these first few weeks has been humbling. Thank you.

It’s been a whirlwind of meeting people and learning as much as I can.  Some highlights:

  • Joining the judges of Astro Pi – our competition for kids to run experiments on a Raspberry Pi that we’re putting on the International Space Station (ISS).  It’s all possible because of our friends at the UK Space Agency and the UK’s first astronaut in 25 years, Major Tim Peake. Seriously though: a Raspberry Pi on the space station running experiments written by school kids. How cool is that?
  • Attending Picademy – our teacher training programme – at Pi Towers in Cambridge. Not only did I get to see the Foundation team in action (and they are awesome by the way), but I got to join an amazing group of 30 primary and secondary teachers as they came up with creative ideas to bring digital making into the classroom. Brilliant.
  • Hanging out at CamJam – the Cambridge Raspberry Jam – with my seven-year-old son. OK, this is cheating a bit because it happened a few weeks before I started, but it was a great introduction to the community of makers in Cambridge, and I am looking forward to meeting more of you at Jams across the UK and internationally.  My son loved it and can’t wait for the Pi Wars robot competition later this year.

And I’m already blown away by the incredible range of projects that are being powered by the Raspberry Pi. Nature cameras, weather stations, art installations, robot gardeners, beer brewing kits – I’ve heard stories of people all over the world using the Raspberry Pi to solve problems, have fun and learn new skills.

I’ve also been out and about meeting the other organisations that are part of this growing movement to get young people involved in computing and digital making – Code Club, Apps for Good, Coder Dojo, Freeformers and Computing at School – hearing about the great work they’re doing and cooking up plans for future collaborations.

All that and I managed to find the toilets and only set off the office burglar alarm once.  A busy first couple of weeks, and a great start to my induction into the Raspberry Pi community.

One of my main jobs over the next couple of months is to lead a process to map out the next stage of the Foundation’s development. A bit like the Raspberry Pi itself, we’re small but we’ve got huge potential.

And in much the same way that the community has shaped the development of the hardware and software, I want to make sure that the community shapes the development of the Foundation and helps us realise that potential. 

More to follow on that shortly. In the meantime, please get in touch and let me know what you think, show off your awesome projects or just point me at things I should see or read. 

@philipcolligan

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