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Welcome to PCNS - Affordable PC Service

On Site PC Service for Dallas, Richardson, Allen, and McKinney, for home and small business.  If your small business has 10 or fewer PC's you may be a good fit for my business.  Unlike larger operations who want to sign you up with contracts and commitments, I offer a "pay as you go" service.

By far the two biggest single requests I receive by new customers:

1.  Malware removal:  Malware removal is getting increasingly difficult to remove.  I have an about 85% success rate in removing the nasty, rootkit and mbr based malware, on occasion it is necessary to do a windows reinstallation.  I make every effort at avoiding this, because often times your PC has to be taken off site while Windows is reinstalled.  Furthermore, I find, especially with home users, less then half of the general public actually makes their Windows recovery DVD's.  While I stock many older Operating Systems, to reload your PC (provided you have the COA sticker on the unit), I don't have all of them.  Vista 64 bit edition is such an example.  The labor charge for a Windows reinstallation will not cost more than $150 labor (plus malware software, if we decide to move you over to something like Webroot Secure Anywhere).   If you do not have your Recovery DVD's you would have to purchase a Windows 7 license, in addition to the recovery fees.  In addition, I can't make software appear out of thin air.  If you have borrowed or bootleg software I cannot reinstall software without the original media, I can't reload it if you don't have it available.  You should weigh the repair costs with the age of the PC.  Often times repair costs can approach the price of replacing the PC.

2.  Hard Drive Failure:  I stock a few laptop and desktop hard drives.  I have a good success rate with retrieving your information off the drive onto the new drive.  However, you should never depend on any service provider's claims of data recover as an excuse not to back up your data.  If you make backups, the job is infinitely easier and can cost significatly less.  I implore all customers to backup to an External Hard Drive AND Offsite backup source, such as Mozy, Carbonite, or Ibackup.   There are instances when your hard drive may become completely inaccessible, and may require professional clean room data recovery, such as Kroll On Track, or Drivesavers.com.  Be aware, this kind of data recovery is medical-grade expensive, and usually in the range of $2,000 and up.

Feel free to keep reading, the rest of this page are recent service highlights.  These are technical notes I've documented while encountering various customer issues.

April 28, 2015: Don't chunk that HP Probook 4520s Laptop just yet

Adopted a lightning struck Probook 4520s. Got a second hand motherboard for it, and a new CPU, and ram, and dvd writer (lightning pretty much toasted everything). Then I got the infamous Intel Video super slow performance problem, where just using the computer for more than a few minutes, video write speeds would slow dramatically. Nothing resolved this, not Hi Color or 256 Color settings, not even a completely clean Windows 7 Pro reinstallation, battery or AC operation made no difference.

After much to do about nothing I noticed the Intel Video chip under the palmrest was getting quite warm. I wondered if this had something to do with the overheating, so I decided to take a really radical step. I modified the inside plastic shrouding to accomodate a 1/4" thick copper slab. I found the copper slab from an old desktop AMD heat sink, the copper portion was screwed into the larger aluminum heat sink. I had to trim the copper slab a bit to fit - wow that took a while, then I carefully cut the chassis sub assembly open, exposing the video chip. I then applied silver heat sink compound to the big copper slab and removed the alumimum heat sink assembly, and replaced it with this huge slab.

I'm pleased to report the problem has been solved. Apparently the Intel video chip overheats in this model, a lot, it's amazing how hot this copper slab gets, this is a good sign, it means it's pulling the heat out of the video chip.

Laserjet 2605dn Formatter

August 21, 2014: Don't chunk that HP Color Laserjet 2605dn just yet

Numerous complaints on the web, with Error 79, described as a "firmware error" A user here locally grew tired of it, so he bought a new canon color laser printer. He gave me his old HP for disposal. Got some time to look at it last night, and indeed, it prints one page, then errors out and reboots - Error 79. Then it completely stops until you turn it off, let it rest, and turn it back on, for only a few more pages it prints, then Error 79, and nothing. No swelled capacitors on the main power supply board.

I noticed the big square chip on the formatter board gets so hot you can't hold a finger to it, so this gave me the thought - what about the chip overheating?

Laserjet 2605dn Formatter

So I had a chipset cooler for a pc motherboard, passive, no power, but very large. So far it seems after about 5 days operation it's printed without difficulty, printing at various times, so maybe we're looking at a chip overheat issue.

In this photo it's just tie wrapped, if this works I'll try something more stable as a mount. I am using the Silver heat sink goop between the chip and the heatsink.

Aug 10, 2014: Outlook 2013 and Imap Email accounts - a Poor Combination 

It is well documented that Outlook 2013 and Imap have consternation. I believe Outlook 2013 was rushed to market in a push to "let's make our email client look and function good on a tablet" and while Microsoft made significant (some call it severely negative) changes to the user interface they did nothing "under the hood" to make it a better email client.  Best advice I can give is consider Outlook 2010, part of Office 2010, which can still be found on the web.  Better yet, as I've seen some odd Imap problems with Outlook 2010, try Office 2007, which can be found at bargain basement prices on the web (though it goes end of life soon).

Oddly, Outlook 2013 creates OST files for Imap accounts, this was previously exclusive to Exchange email accounts, I suggest exporting the entire contents of your "troubled" Imap box into a PST (as a minimum), exiting Outlook, then renaming the OST file, and restarting Outlook 2013. This will cause Outlook to create a new OST file, and (unfortunately) recopy all server side emails back to your hard drive.  An observed trouble spot seems to be if you previously had a POP/SMTP setup, and you convert to a IMAP setup without completely purging your email settings AND your Outlook Profile completely causes Outlook to include folders in the main OST file that have nothing to do with IMAP sync - those being your Contact, Calendar, and Tasks folder.  The reason for backing up your OST is to be able to recover the contents of your "old" email PST - email folders which do NOT get synced in the IMAP process.   Remember, IMAP only syncs email folders, it does not sync Contacts and Calendar. This article and video suggests how to go about doing this:


This article, meanwhile, is a blow by blow account of all the Imap problems users are experiencing.


My educated guess is that like Windows 8, Office 2013 went "too radical" and we're going to see a toning down, a de-emphasis, if you will, of the "tablet slanted" Office and return to a more tradition desktop look and feel of office. It could be strategically marketed, "The less radical Office 2016, just the way you like it. Because we know the difference between innovation and rocking the boat."

By the way, if you haven't checked out Open Office, you should, they smartly designed their menu interface "traditional" with toolbars to the right of the document, thus giving you more editable area, taking advantage of wide screen monitors. Yet Microsoft continues with their big horizontal ribbon.  News, Microsoft, square monitors have all but faded from the marketplace!

April 21, 2013: More incidents - Windows 7 with black screen and mouse arrow, nothing more.  

I've now seen this on perhaps half a dozen pc's, all of had different causes and situations. One was caused by a bad signature update if you owned the paid version of MalwareBytes, see this link:  http://forums.malwarebytes.org/index.php?showtopic=125138

Another instance - a laptop user had a bad battery and a bad power plug from their Gateway power brick, this caused Windows 7 to go off randomly, to the point they got the login screen, and when they logged in they were met with a black screen with a mouse arrow.  Disconnecting the hard drive and placing it in a clean computer doing general cleanup (temp files cleanup, a chkdsk (no malware/viruses/rootkits were found)) made the system start working as expected.

Another instance - a black screen with a mouse arrow was observed, cusory looks with a bootable cd found traces of malware - some very bad stuff, and numerous cleanups with Malwarebytes and Hitman pro were needed to clean up this computer.

Unrelated, perhaps not?  Sophos reports April 2013's kb2823324 patch conflicts with some Antivirus utilities, and can cause blue screen crashes.  Microsoft recommends removing this patch from your Windows 7 PC.


December 4, 2012: AT&T's push with UVerse DSL Service for DFW residents

AT&T is quietly approaching customers with a "deal" for 3 or 6 megabit AT&T UVerse DSL.  This may lead you to believe that it is Fiber based Internet, because of the "Uverse" branding.  Sometimes they'll even lower your rate if you switch, sometimes your fee won't change (but the data rate increases).

This is AT&T's new ADSL2+ service.  It is extended length copper wire DSL.  This is not fiber. AT&T is attempting to convert numerous customers to the new service in the DFW area.  The rollout has not been trouble free.  Many of my AT&T customers who converted are having chronic Internet problems as a result of switching.  This may be a forced upgrade.

Many of my ADSL2+ customers report more problems, outages, and latency issues with this new service, so I'm writing if you get such an offer from AT&T (have you checked your sbcglobal.net account lately for any announcements from AT&T?) you should not make any snap decisions. Pay close attention - if AT&T requires a 12 month commitment, you could be in for 12 months of problems.  Check alternate Internet providers - Time Warner, Verizon, Charter, Clear, Century Link, etc., if you get this announcement.  There seems to be a correlation between ADSL2+ reliability and the age of the infrastructure, so say your home is in a very old neighborhood reliability is relative to the old wiring, which typically causes more problems.  In addition, the Motorola NVG-510 Router seems to be very problem prone.

In a Nutshell:

Traditional AT&T DSL: Slow but steady and dependable
AT&T UVerse DSL - ADSL2+: Fast but flaky

Nov 26, 2012: Samsung vs. Godaddy

Since my move to godaddy, I reconfigured my Samsung Messenger 3 phone due to new smtp/pop settings. Couldn't make it work. Got on line with samsung support, they said the feature phone samsung 3 automatically probes mail, pop, and smtp (.company.com). If it doesn't resolve, it fails. Samsung's solution - talk to isp (because godaddy uses pop.secureserver.net and smtpout.securesever.net, not the more traditional mail.pcnsdfw.com and smtp.pcnsdfw.com (like Network Solutions did, and it worked).

Contacted Godaddy - they said it's a samsung problem: "Thank you for contacting Online Support. I understand that you are having issues setting up email on your phone. We have no way to adjust what settings the email uses. You would have to contact the phone provider for specific setup information on that phone and a way to setup the incoming and outgoing servers"

Solution - to access email server settings in a sch-r380 Messenger you have to configure at least one email account that works - using on of the pre-defined server settings, in this case you can choose Sbcglobal, Verizon, Aol, Yahoo, Charter, or what I used - Gmail. Once one account is successfully created you create an additional account, in this case pcnsdfw.com in the "Other Pop" section. When it can't verify smtp settings it will walk you through entering more details, including incoming and outgoing servers, port numbers and whether to use authentication.

Verdict: Godaddy is correct, Samsung fail. Samsung Support Technicians don't know their own product.

Nov 15, 2012: Goodbye Network Solutions, Hello GoDaddy!

First off, Network Solutions, if you're reading this - despite the rave reviews (and more negative reviews are popping up) at top10hosts.net with Network Solutions, I decided to leave after 5 years.  More in 2012 NS has experienced severe email problems, this website was down a number of times - I estimate 6 times in 2012 - (nothing, pcnsdfw.com completely off the grid), ftp file transfers (when they weren't periodically changing ftp passwords without any notification) to my website were skiddish.

Some days FTP just didn't work, this is despite connecting through different Internet connections. Godaddy isn't perfect, back this summer they suffered from a major DNS redirection attack - but they fessed up and credited their customers. Network Solutions, during three weeks of intermittent email problems - which affected my business - did nothing.  I have several larger customers on Network Solutions, who have no significant issues - I think Network Solutions takes better care of their larger customers while smaller customers, like pcnsdfw.com are in the back of the bus.  

Spamming and blacklisting are significant problems with Network Solutions. Network Solutions has a limit of 3,000 smtp relays per day, versus 250 per hour for Godaddy.   This seems to indicate Network Solutions encourages business customers to send out large blasts of email.  All it takes is one receipient who does not like receiving the message and with as little as one click of the "report as spam button" their email server is blacklisted, which in turn (on a shared hosting service) suddenly your email messages are blacklisted.   This is because blacklisting is ip address (not domain name) specific.  GoDaddy, on the other hand, since you can send only 250 relays per hour makes the customer think twice, because they can't send 2,500 email messages at a time, it has to be broken up into 10 pieces, which is too much work, and this policy may cause the customer to use a email list service like iContact or Constant Contact.  

In fairness, Network Solutions is not the ONLY issue.  Yes, the customer is partly to blame!  Customers may have vulnerable Form Mail Scripts on their website, which spammers take advantage of, they blast out 4,000 emails per hour and that causes blacklisting.  Users install too weak passwords on their email account and consequently it gets hacked by a spammer and they start blasting junk email.  In this case, Network Solutions allows 3,000 emails at one time makes Network Solutions more inviting for hackers to hack customer email accounts more than GoDaddy since the reward is 3,000 smtp relays versus 250 per hour for Godaddy.  Secure your passwords!  PCNS recommends at least 16 character passwords!

Oct 13, 2012: Reviving a Dimension 4700c

Had a customer with a new PC setup, a Dell XPS 8500, with Core i7, and 2 Terabyte Seagate Hard drive.  His old PC, a Dell Dimension 4700c, a Pentium 4 2.8 Ghz PC had a squirrel cage fan that was running at full tilt - like 5,000+ rpm's, and it sounded like a jet.  Long story short, I inspected the motherboard and found the usual suspects - 8 swelling and leaking 1800uf/6.3 volt electrolytic capacitors around the CPU.  Desoldered them, drilled out the solder holes with a Dremel, and installed new Nichicon 1800uf 16 Volt capacitors, and all is well.  Fit was tight as the new capacitors were larger and pulling the old caps with the Dell Silver Solder board is a pain, and it requires a very hot soldering iron. Now this should make a good 2nd pc for someone who is on a very tight budget.

Aug 3, 2012: LG Flatron 22" LCD Flat Screen - Nice quality but cheap build quality

I am often astonished how cheaply things can be made.  Case in point today, the LG LCD Flat Screen, 22", model #W2252TQ, circa 2009.  Most flat screens have a steel internal frame from which the inverter, power supply and video signal circuit boards mount.  I was amazed how the main group of electronics were held simply by the pressing together of the exterior plastics, and a angled bracket not screwed down to any chassis piece, as there was no chassis frame.  The rear plastic shell screwed to the lower piece.   Pictures here.

July 15, 2012: Vista Black Screen with movable mouse cursor after Logon (nothing else)

While the HP pc in question (Vista x64 Sp2 Home Edition) had some traces of Vundo in the Registry, it would still hang after signon with the user password, seeing a "Please Wait" box splash box pop up for 10 to 15 seconds preceding the logon, then the screen goes black and nothing after that (except the mouse arrow cursor, which you could still move around - so the pc was NOT locked down or frozen..  I removed Avast free edition, that didn't help.  What solved it for me was removing Dotnet Framework 4.0.  Then I restarted, went to Windows Update (Start, type Windows update, and select it), click Check for Updates.  Windows will try to reinstall Dotnet 4.0 Framework.  Do not allow it.  Instead, just right click it and hide the update.   You won't be able to do this if you have an application that requires Dotnet Framework 4.0.   I was able to remove Dotnet Framework 4.0 in safe mode by using the Registry tweak that allows the Windows Installer to run in Safe mode.  
Additional clues which may help:


July 8, 2012: The Days of Fixing your own Macbook Pro is coming to an End

The new Retina displayed Macbook Pro is one of the most difficult laptops to disassemble.   Apple glued the battery into the laptop, that is, once you get its case open with Apple's proprietary Pentalobe screws.  Ram is soldered onto the motherboard.  That's pretty strong faith, especially since memory is removable in Lenovo, HP, and Dell Laptops (not to mention the battery).  Even the Panasonic Toughbook wisely sockets their memory.   This is because Ram fails on occassion.  Buyers should plan on having a 2nd Macbook Pro laptop, instead of a standard steel cased magnetic hard drive (or SSD) which you can rig into an old Mac, it's a proprietary circuit board, so short of a second Macbook Pro, (say in the case of a bad motherboard or memory) there's no way to recover your information.   You need the second Macbook Pro because when a motherboard fails (or the Lithium Polymer battery fails, or the Ram fails), your friendly Apple Store in Dallas has to send the laptop to San Antonio for repair.  Be prepared, you'll be laptop-less for a while.

"The Retina display assembly is completely fused, and there's no glass protecting it.   If anything ever fails inside the display, you will need to replace the entire extremely expensive assembly."


June 17, 2012: Dell Optiplex 320 Trouble

The intermittent bootup failure of a Dell Optiplex 320 (their mini-tower in this case) where you hear 1 long 5 short beeps or sometimes you get the dreaded orange power light just by plugging it in is not a bad motherboard but swelled electrolytic capacitors in the Dell LiteOn oem 350 watt power supply.  A generic ATX Power supply powered it on just fine - even the screw holes for the power supply matched.  Out of curiosity I recapped six swelled capacitors I found on the power supply board and so far it's been running all night without difficulty, whereas before it wouldn't even post.  I don't normally do this kind of repair, it was more scientific curiosity, because my client has about a 6 of these older Optiplex 320's I kind of know what to expect as other units slowly start to fail.

A blogger on the web (sorry I can't find the link) stated bootup failures of 320's can be caused by oxidation of the motherboard where the screws mount the motherboard to the chassis, resulting in poor grounding connections.  Though this motherboard had some tarnished looking points of contact, (which I cleaned up), it was NOT the source of the problem.

June 1, 2012: Windows Vista Revisited

Many PC's in the refurbished channel (corporate HP and Dell Desktops) have Vista Business COA Stickers.   I think it's worth a second look.  You get about 3 more years before it sunsets (3 more years than Windows XP) and you don't have to spend $150 buying Windows 7.

May 14, 2012: To Windows my Mac, or not to, that is the Question

New Appleland trouble.   You can't always depend on Parallels on a Mac to provide a seamless Windows 7 experience.  A problem with emailing service work orders from some vertical market software running Parallels, as I discovered, was an application issue.  Don't always bet that your software provider is going to support your running their software from a Mac in a virtualized Parallels or VMWare Fusion software.  Sometimes it just isn't completely functional.

March 25, 2012: Apple iPhone, to Sync or not to Sync?

Things not as happy in iPhone Land as you may have been lead to believe.  Though revolutionary in design, iPhones are not problem free when it comes to local Syncing.

February 10, 2012: ZeroAccess Rootkit Spells Serious Trouble

I expect this thread to be quite long and detailed, so I'm posting it on a separate web page.   The ZeroAccess rootkit is one of the most complex and advanced rootkits on the web today.  

January 2, 2012: Long live Windows XP

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of Windows XP, Microsoft wishes you'd move off XP faster to Windows 7.  Granted, Windows 7 Professional has some nice features, but would I throw the XP baby out with the bath water, just to get Windows 7?  I continue cleaning up malware infections off Windows 7 PC's.  Windows 7 64 bit is impressively fast - provided you throw a fast, quad core processor in the mix.  But so is an XP box, even with an older generation quad core.  I recently installed an AMD Phenom x4 9750 in a lowly Dell Optiplex 740, which has Windows XP Pro.  I replaced a slowish AMD Athlon 64 x2 4000+ dual core processor. This quad core processor has given it a new boost in life, and it should give me at least two more years service life.  On another PC, I installed XP on a SSD, and I am seeing blazingly fast performance improvements.

Dec 20, 2011:  New Antivirus Product Shows Promise

Traditionally my attitude regarding antivirus security software is "pick your poison." While they do protect your PC the cost - performance slowdowns, popups, false positives, and unyielding firewalls.  In the thick I've discovered a new Antivirus product which installs in less than 15 seconds, and shows promise.

I have deployed Webroot's Secure Anywhere base Antivirus product on a small handful of PC's.  This is based on the underlying technology of PrevX, a European software firm Webroot acquired in 2011.  PrevX was the only software at one of my client's Classroom lab that blocked every malicious attack in the computer lab over a one year period and survived unscathed.  Competitive products GFI's Vipre Antivirus, and Symantec, both of which missed infections, GFI's product was running with active malware in memory, while the Symantec Antivirus PC's had registry and file traces left behind.

PC Magazine Review: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2393678,00.asp

Dec 11, 2011:  Bit Defender 2012 and Trusteer Rapport blue screens

Trusteer Rapport is security software which major banks distribute - such as Bank of America and BBVA Compass Bank.  It prevents copy/paste hijacking, wherein someone can get your on-line banking passwords if you copy and paste your username/password onto your on line bank account.  However with Bit Defender 2012 Antivirus Plus it can cause a blue screen stop error.  Needless to say, if you use Trusteer Rapport you'll want to find an AV application that is compatible.

Forum Thread: http://forum.bitdefender.com/index.php?showtopic=29864
Compatible security applications: http://consumers.trusteer.com/compatibility-other-security-software

December 7, 2011 - Reasons to pass on Facebook

A handful of people inquire why myself or my company are NOT on Facebook.   I thought I'd address this.

December 4, 2011 - The new Lenovo Thinkpad T420S

I transferred a client's files from his old Dell D820 to a new Windows 7 x64 Professional on a Lenovo Thinkpad T420.  The customer purchased it from Lenovo direct, and ordered it with the 160 gig SSD.   While the startup and preboot (laptop powerup bios test, up to "starting windows") seemed a tad slow - it seems like my D630 does the self tests faster, starting Windows x64 is pretty quick, and once it settles down into the operating system, launching Word, Excel, and Outlook (Office 2010) is awesomely fast.   SSD's, in my opinion, should be phasing out magnetic hard drives ASAP - NOW is an ideal time, given the flooding problems in Thailand with hard drive supplier shortages.  The Lenovo has consistently high user reviews.  In contrast, Dell, with their Latitude e6420's, users have a much more polarized opinions.  One thing I'm not a fan of - whether it be Lenovo or Dell - the widening of laptop displays, making them shorter in height.  Things like web pages and portrait orientation for word processing this is less than ideal. I think I'll stick to my square screened XGA Panasonic Toughbook.

November 25, 2011 - A busy Thanksgiving

Had about half a dozen malware related calls all during the Thanksgiving weekend.  One was serious enough on a Vista PC to warrant a complete reinstallation.  Malware, contrary to popular belief never went away, despite the Russian credit card processor getting shut down.  The PC in question was a highly infected teenage son's laptop with Vista.  

October 15, 2011 - Corruption of Quickbooks 2011 Transaction Logs

This is an infrequent but show stopping problem.  It has the potential of shutting down Quickbooks for everyone on your network, because a corrupted DLG transaction file can shut down the database engine.  If you have multiple users accessing Company Files on your PC, or on a Server, or on a PC acting as a server and the Quickbooks database engine stops, nobody will be able to access any company on the server in multi-user mode.

This problem occurred with one of my customers with Quickbooks 2011 Premiere. It is not limited to the premiere edition or the 2011 edition.   They have their company files on a dedicated Windows 2003 server, and they run the software from their workstation. After trying some things on my own, I called Intuit, and 3 hours later going from Level 1 to Level 2 support we got it resolved. The traditional tools in quickbooks, such as Verify and Rebuild company files, as well as the standalone Quickbooks Company File Diagnostic Tool did not detect any problems with the company file.  This is because these tools are not designed to check the transaction log file. In case you are confronted with this issue, and no matter what you try the Quickbooks Database Engine stops, here are some things to try.

October 7, 2011 - When good ink goes bad

Use it or lose it.  A customer complaining about Canon print quality called me for help.   I suggested he open his printer and check out the ink tanks of his Canon i960 printer.   These are OEM Canon cartridges, never refilled, but the printer was rarely used.  Well you can see what happens to Canon ink!  Unlike wine, it does not get better with age.   At least many Canon Ink Cartridges are transparent so you can see the ink.

Bad Ink - Yikes!Good Ink
Canon Bad Yellow Ink Canon Good Yellow Ink

Windows 7 with Skull and Sword September 9, 2011 - Beware PC Buyers

On occasions I run into odd PC problems, a AMD Athlon based PC intermittently would not start Windows 7.   This PC contained a 80 gig PATA 5400 rpm hard drive, and a second Sata 160 gig drive - that's an odd combination.  It had a copy of Windows 7 Enterprise, and oddly when bringing up system properties there was a logo of a skeleton/sword.  Now that's odd.  Well first things, Windows 7 Enterprise is not available to the public, it's only available as a volume license to corporate customers.  If you buy a PC that has Windows 7 Enterprise most likely you're getting a copy of Windows which came from some large corporation, in which an employee (or thief) has acquired the product keys and a copy of the operating system, and is using it and selling it with systems.  The seller of the PC may not be the employee, it could have been obtained over a peer network or pirate website.  While it's genuine software, it's stolen software.  
Consumers purchasing this software should know, as the software phones home Microsoft could issue new product keys and place the leaked product key on the black list, so you may eventually see "This Software is Not Genuine."  Long story short, if you don't see a Windows COA (Certificate of Authenticity) sticker on the PC (which was the case here), or you see Skull/Sword (or other omnimous pictures in System Properties), you're getting ripped off.  If a computer deal seems too good to be true, it usually is.

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