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ZIPs vs. Self Extracting Archives

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John T. Haller
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ZIPs vs. Self Extracting Archives

I'm considering switching from ZIPs to self-extracting archives for the app downloads. This wouldn't be an installer, just a standard self extractor created by 7-zip. Run the EXE, it asks where to extract to, you click OK. I think this will be easier for the less-technical end users. And it shouldn't impact any users on limited rights machines as it isn't an installer.

Any thoughts?

Deuce
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That'll work...

I see o problems with it.

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justin
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not sure

I think that it would be okay in the long run, but I'm just not sure about switching it over. Not sure why, but I'm just not sure.

-Justin

nm35
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Nice idea, but...

I like ZIP files the best.

It might be interesting to have a real installer for the Suite that lets you decide what file structure you want (portableAppName/, Data/ and Apps/, etc.) along with the standard ZIP file.

~nm35 {blog} {personal space}

Bruce Pascoe
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Yeah, I think I'd rather stick with the .zip files. Novices are scared away by zip utilities, yes, but in my experience they're also scared away by folder navigation. So even if you made a more user-friendly install process, they'll still likely have trouble getting at the application.

Frankly, the portable applications just aren't well suited for computer novices. Don't try to force them to be.

John T. Haller
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Experimenting...

I'm doing a self-extracting archive of Portable VLC for the current release to try it out. It's a 7-zip self extractor, so you can open it up directly in 7-zip like you would a .7z file if you're so inclined.

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nm35
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My 2 cents

I like being able to open the file directly from the download link in Firefox. EXE files can't be opened that way, while ZIPs can.

How about you provide ZIPs and EXEs?

~nm35 {blog} {personal space}

Bruce Pascoe
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You beat me to it, nm35. I was about to say the same thing.

Although I'm not sure it would be wise for John to provide two archives for the same application, though. I wasn't even going to suggest that. He's already said OpenOffice.org alone takes forever to upload. Now he has to go through that twice?

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Doubtful

That's double the uploading. And it takes too long as it is. Plus the self extractors wind up being much smaller than zips can be. And for the geeks among us (well, all of us), there's 7-zip which can open em right up as if they were ZIPs.

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nm35
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Yeah...

I see your point. Keep it as EXEs then.

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guspasho
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Just make sure that if you

Just make sure that if you do a portable zip program that you put it in a self-extractor!

Ashes for Tears
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eh?

eh?

guspasho
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I mean

If John releases a Portable 7zip or Portable WinRAR program, he should release it in a self-extracting archive. Too often I've been stymied by foreign computers that don't have any archiver programs installed to unzip something, and it would be embarrasing if that something ever ended up being the WinRAR installer.

Bruce Pascoe
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I'd think he would. It would be kind of stupid to release a compression program inside of a compressed archive that you need the compression program to open...

jugatsu
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The only problem, from a

The only problem, from a downloaders point of view is control.
With a zip file you can see the file list, sizes, folder structure before you extract.
With a zip program a user is most likely familar with it so has control over it i.e. where to extract to, folder structure etc
With an exe, a user just runs it and hopes for the best, hopes that there is no nasty virus etc.
I know thare are advantages to self extracting files but I recon portableapps.com should have mass appeal and stick with zips. imho.

Ryan McCue
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Well,

you could do what NSIS plugins do. Have a zip with an extracter and the files inside.
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John T. Haller
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ZIPs and the masses

You'd be amazed how many people don't know what to do with a ZIP when they download it.

And the virus issue is really a non-issue. You're scanning everything you download. A ZIP would have EXEs in it and has to be scanned either before or after extracting... before you use it. Scanning a self extracting archive with any major antivirus program scans both the archive and all the files in it.

The one issue is seeing the directory structure. And you can actually use 7-zip to open the EXE up like an archive if desired. Anything that supports 7z should be able to do that as well.

The other big benefit, besides not needing to know how to unzip, is that switching from ZIP to 7z self-extractor allows me to cut the download size of Portable OpenOffice.org from 86MB to 62.8MB.

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Go for it! Yours Steve

Go for it!

Yours

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Ryan McCue
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Helleleuyah!

(or however it's spelt)
Finally I might be able to download.
Has anyone noticed that Download Statusbar, when used with AVG command line scanner, opens the file, then scans it?
Stupid huh.
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Thox
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With a zip file...

With a zip file you can see the file list, sizes, folder structure before you extract.
With a zip program a user is most likely familar with it so has control over it i.e. where to extract to, folder structure etc

This is also true for self extracting archives.

nm35
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...

...if you use 7-zip or another ZIP app that can open SFX archives.

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Ryan McCue
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Well,

Alot of them can, cause alot of them actually use 7zip with a fancy interface (WinRAR).
I use WinRAR.
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Bruce Pascoe
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WinRAR may support 7-Zip (last time I checked it didn't), but either way, this is false. WinRAR uses a proprietary format (RAR) by default, not 7z.

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7zip opens RAR

To the best of my knowledge.
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Bruce Pascoe
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Maybe so, but it's still not just "7-Zip with a fancy interface." It's a completely different product, and like I said, its default format is the proprietary RAR.

gertrude (not verified)
If you go self extracting,

If you go self extracting, why don't you use instant apps (instant apps extract themselves automatically and then launch).
It's proably the most user friendly way to "install" an app I've ever seen. Just copy the instant app where you want it to be, and click it.

Bruce Pascoe
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Here's the trouble...

There are two problems with that solution.

1) The issue of saving settings. To be truly portable, the application should retain its settings and still be able to remember them even if you move to another machine. "Instant" applications rule this out, since the settings would end up being stored in the local Temp directory. This problem can be solved with some clever code, but it's generally not worth the effort because of reason #2...

2) What about large applications? Something like, say OpenOffice.org. That program is huge! This means every time you want to run it, you have to wait for the self-extracting archive to finish extracting before you can run it, and if your system has a limited amount of RAM, you can expect a lot of disk thrashing as the operating system will start to use the swap file extensively halfway through the extraction process.

blw (not verified)
can't download .exe files

This isn't really a huge issue, but I'm behind a firewall at my workplace which blocks .EXE files. I can, however, download .ZIPs, and once or twice I've been able to get myself or someone else out of a bind by downloading an application at work and start using it right away. I've also, however, had situations where the one application I needed was only downloadable as an .EXE file and I've had to run home to download it.

I can see the need for self-extracting files, but for the reasons posted elsewhere in this thread and because of my firewall issue, I'm still in favor of .ZIPs.

John T. Haller
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One or the Other

Unfortunately, due to time constraints and slow upload speeds, we have to do one or the other. The pros of EXEs:

- Faster uploads (for me)
- Smaller downloads (especially for people with limited bandwidth... which is more of the world than I thought)
- Easier installs (for people unfamiliar with ZIP)

Outweigh the cons:

- blocked by some firewalls
- can't see what's inside it (you actually can with 7-zip and many popular ZIP programs)

Plus, very few admins block EXE downloads at the firewall but not ZIPs. If you just block EXEs, you're not really preventing or protecting anything.

That said, perhaps I'll start uploading some ZIPs to the SourceForge project pages as time permits (read: at night). They'll lag the real releases a bit, but I'll put them up there.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

blw (not verified)
Yeah, I've wondered...

Yeah, I've wondered why .ZIPs aren't blocked at my workplace. I don't want to ask because I don't want any discussions to lead to .ZIPs being blocked. Smile

Anyway, I see that having .ZIPs would probably only benefit a very few of us and I don't think it should be a high priority. I'm grateful just to have them at all, however I need to download them. Thanks for all of your hard work!

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Adding em in

I'll add em in as time and upload bandwidth permits. I'll make a link just below the download button for them. I've done it for VLC so you guys can check it out:

https://portableapps.com/apps/audio_video/media_players/portable_vlc

This work for people?

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Bruce Pascoe
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Hmm.

Most people will probably miss that ".zip" link. It's so small. Should be a bit more obvious, I think.

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Nope, not supposed to be obvious

Most people don't need a zip. Heck, lots of people don't even know what one is. This is a secondary format, only for those that want it and know they're looking for it... it isn't supposed to be obvious. And it may not be available for an app as it is released, just when I get around to the zip package.

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Bruce Pascoe
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Umm, okay, but...

I'm not even sure that I would know to look for a link that just says ".zip", even if I was actually looking for the .zip file. Years of experience with the internet has taught me to look for links saying "download zipped version" or something along those lines. In any case, a link that just says ".zip" isn't entirely clear as to what its purpose is, even to us computer-savvy people. However, something like ".zip archive" (not a huge change from what you have) would be.

John T. Haller
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No Room

There's really no room with the current layout. And I'm not going to give it equal treatment with the EXE downloads (like a 2nd download button) since the primary interest is the self extractor.

Firefox is only available as an exe. Even FileZilla, which is only of interest to us geeks... and a slightly geekier segment of geeks at that (those that need FTP), sees 10x more downloads of the EXE than the ZIP.

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Bruce Pascoe
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That could be because...

If you're talking about the regular version of FileZilla (non-portable), then that makes perfect sense. If I download an application to install locally, I want, at the very least, for Start menu entries to be created for that application. In that context, downloading the EXE version and letting it do the work makes more sense than downloading the zipped one and creating those entries myself--especially since if I let the installer do the work, I get a convenient "uninstall" entry in Add/Remove Programs that I wouldn't have otherwise.

But anyway, no, I'd never expect you to create a separate download button for the .zip versions. I wouldn't even think about doing that, even if it was my website. The tiny link is fine... I'm just pointing out that a link that merely says ".zip" is pretty vague. I don't expect the link to stick out like a sore thumb, but I do expect its purpose to be clear once I find it. Do you see where I'm coming from here?

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I do, but

I do, but, as I said, there's no room in the current layout. And I'm not going to redo the layout to add something in I was originally not even planning on providing and that won't be used much.

Remember, the only reason I'm providing ZIPs is for people you can't use the EXEs due to firewall issues.

That said, I do see what you mean... so I'll work on a way to get it in a bit better when I have some time.

Sometimes, the impossible can become possible, if you're awesome!

blw (not verified)
the .ZIP link's fine

I understand Bruce's comments, but I think the small .ZIP links are fine as they are. John: Thanks again - I really appreciate it.

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Have Somebody Else Zip

I'm not super-familiar with Sourceforge, but I'm under the impressional that more than one person can have upload privlages.

Surely an active member here could extract the .exe, re-zip it, and then upload it to Sourceforge. It would take slightly longer to appear and wouldn't be as easy to find as the .exe, but anybody who knows how to unzip and cares about this issue (I'm one) can figure out how to download alternative releases on Sourceforge.

This way John would spend less time and bandwidth while those interested would still have access.

John, would you be willing to allow somebody to do this? And do we have any volunteers with an established record?

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Yeah

but it may not be necessary. I've been doing ZIP packages for each release and it hasn't been a big deal. The only app the bandwidth will be annoying with is Portable OpenOffice.org... and I leave time for that already. And I'm trying to do the zip builds at the same time so the few people that have a poorly-configured firewall aren't left high and dry.

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Bruce Pascoe
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...

I just noticed you made the .zip link clearer. It now says "ZIP Download", which is far more descriptive than ".zip". Thank you. However, I think something like "ZIP Archive" or "as a ZIP file" would be better, but that's just my personal preference. It's your website, after all. Smile What matters is that I can tell right away what "Zip Download" means.

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Working on it...

You were right that ".zip" just wasn't clear enough. I'm altering "Rate This App" to "Rate This" which clears enough room for "Zip Download", although I was debating "Download Zip" as well. I don't know that "as a ZIP" would be clearer... but there is a title on the link if you hover over it that says "Download as a zip archive".

Thanks for being insistant on the label. Ultimately, it will be better for the users.

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Bruce Pascoe
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Don't mention it.

I am, above all, a UI person. I may not be able to find the inspiration to finish a huge project, but I can design a damn nice-looking interface when I have to. As such, I'm altruistic by nature, so I've always thought of the users first, long before my own interests.

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7-zip + Resource Hacker

I use 7-zip to create the self extractors and then resource hacker to swap the icons with the onces I've extracted from the original programs.

Glad you like the look of them. That's part of the goal. Even though they're open source and free, I'm trying to make them look as professional as possible for users.

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Bruce Pascoe
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Wow, that actually worked?

If I try doing that with an Inno Setup installer, I'd get a CRC error when trying to run the modified executable. Thankfully, the latest versions of IS support changing the icon.

zacharyliu
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.exe IS .zip

If your problem is that you want to extract a .zip file instead of a .zip (not download problems) then just download the .exe and rename it to .zip!

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comment

If you only want 1 download, then only make the .zip avalible and put a note about how to make a self-extracting version (see ".exe IS .zip" above)

Bruce Pascoe
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...

I must say, you're a little late to the party. In any case, what you're saying makes absolutely no sense. Shock Once someone downloaded the ZIP version, why would they then go through an extra step to make a self extractor out of it before finally unzipping it? Once you have to ZIP open, you might as well just extract it to its final location and get it over with.

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Zip is the standard

Zip is the standard compression format. It's sad. Sad

Vintage!

Bruce Pascoe
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I think Zip is still preferred for its speed. Deflate is one of the fastest compression algorithms around, even with its maximum settings, while still giving a decent compression ratio. I don't find that 7-Zip compression (which takes way longer than deflate, even at its lowest setting) gains me much--unless you're talking about downloads for dial-up users, saving a few extra KB (or MB, depending on the size of the data set to be compressed) isn't that big a deal, especially with the size of drives today.

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Gzip is quite fast for its

Gzip is quite fast for its compression ability (rivals 7z LZMA most of the time with binaries). Bzip2 isn't as good as 7z PPMd with text, but is faster. If I have a large file on my old computer, I use one of those over zip. Zip's speed is no excuse for its horrible compression ability.

www.maximumcompression.com is good site for comparing compression formats. WinRK seems to be number one, but it's propietary.

Vintage!

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Very rarely do I need to upload an archive file on the internet, and the ones I do are tiny to begin with (a few hundred KB, maybe a meg at most). There's no sense in using a slower compression format just to shave off a few extra KB. Additionally, I have a 120 GB HD in my machine, so I don't have need of super-compact archives for backups, either. Hence, I use Zip--usually at its lowest compression setting--because it's the fastest.

Besides, more and more file formats (case in point: PNG) are compressed these days, and lots of developers are UPXing their executables now, as well. Archive compression is becoming less and less effective. What we need is a compression format that can further compress files that are already compressed. Such an algorithm doesn't exist yet. Try compressing a PNG with 7-Zip. Doesn't work well, does it? PNG is compressed with deflate, which is admittedly far inferior to LZMA. If 7-Zip can't get those smaller, what hope does it have in compressing real-world applications that contain lots of already-compressed files?

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Distribution

Compression is still very relavent for distribution. The OpenOffice.org 2.0.3 files, after being UPXed (all EXE/DLL) and 7-zipped (all JARs, max level), are still 174mb. When compressed into a 7-zip self extractor, it's only 64.5mb. Quite a big difference. And very handy for distribution. Incidentally, a ZIP of the same files weighs in at 88.4mb.

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Wow.

I'd like to know how that's possible. If you compress a 7zipped archive with LZMA, it's obviously not going to make a dent in the file's size (you can't apply the same compression algorithm to the same file twice and expect to see a change with the second pass). UPXed executables don't generally compress well, either, regardless of compression type. There must have some other highly compressible files in there besides the binaries.

Anyway, I just realized something. There's really nothing wrong with the deflate algorithm; it's just that the Zip format (which uses deflate) lacks solid compression. You'd be amazed how much difference solid compression can make, even with an inferior algorithm.

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John T. Haller
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UPX vs 7-zip

A UPXed EXE or DLL still need to be able to run. And include all of it's external hooks, etc so that other EXEs and DLLs can utilize it. A 7-zipped EXE doesn't need to worry about that... it just needs to be packaged. soffice.exe, for example, doesn't UPX well... it ends up about the same size (2.22MB). You can zip it down to 618KB. You can 7-zip it down to 293KB.

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UPXed executables don't

UPXed executables don't generally compress well, either, regardless of compression type. There must have some other highly compressible files in there besides the binaries.

The image files, and some others. I don't have OOo with me, so I can't say for sure which files are compressed a lot.

Vintage!

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You mean the images aren't already in a compressed format? Shame on the OOo developers! :lol:

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They are in a compressed

They are in a compressed format. But they can be compressed even more. Mostly gifs in there, IIRC.

Vintage!

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Hmm. That's surprising. I just took 161KB worth of PNGs and did a test run through 7-zip using the Ultra compression level; only shaved off about 5KB. And PNG only uses deflate. Compression may work to some extent on already-compressed files, but it's guaranteed to work much better if you give it uncompressed ones. Smile

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I had an archive full of

I had an archive full of wave files, but I converted them to mp3 (128kbps, IIRC), and got a smaller archive size. And only getting 5kb from 161kb of PNGs isn't surprising. There is a lot of space being taken up by image files in OOo.

Vintage!

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You can't really compare archived mp3s to archived WAVs. Not only is mp3 a compressed format, but it discards information in the encoding process to get the file even smaller. Otherwise you'd never be able to have a 128kbps mp3. Wink What I meant with "archiving uncompressed files is better than archiving compressed ones" is in the situation where you compress one lossless format into another. It generally doesn't gain you as much as if you were using the identical uncompressed version. Obviously, though, that's not always an option--as is the case of OO.org.

Anyway, this is a stupid argument and we should stop before the thread ends up with three or four pages. Two is bad enough. :lol:

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Joined: 2006-04-07 08:44
We just got sidetracked with

We just got sidetracked with OOo.

Vintage!

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